Friday, June 28, 2019

The Downstairs Girl

Image result for downstairs girl leeThe Downstairs Girl
Stacey Lee
Putnum, August, 2019 369 pages
Grades 7-Up
Historical Fiction

Seventeen year-old Jo Kuan has a secret. Unbeknownst to the good people of 1890's Atlanta, Jo and her segregate father, Old Jin, have been living in the basement of a local newspaper owner's house. Her whole life, Jo has ease-dropped on the family living above, wondering what it would be like to be a part of them. Chinese people in the south are not allowed to rent or own dwellings and live in a grey space between the privileged white folks and grossly discriminated against black folks. When Jo is fired from her job at a hat shop for being Chinese, she returns to the home for which Old Jin is a stable-hand and agrees to serve as a personal maid to her former playmate. The spoiled former friend, though disagreeable in nature, accidentally discloses secrets to Jo, resulting in an uncomfortable truce. Meanwhile, Jo anonymously begins to write an agony-aunt column for the paper belonging to her upstairs neighbors, which begins to trend. As segregation sweeps through the city and Jo, as well as some of her friends, are the target for ridicule and rudeness, she gets involved with the suffragettes, though they do not consider ladies of color to be of consequence to vote, even if the law is changed. As Jo navigates her tricky existence, secrets are revealed with dire consequences. Jo discovers family she never knew she had and decides to risk it all in order to hold onto those she loves.

Lee offers a well research novel featuring an often overlooked period in American History: The Gilded Age in the American south. The Civil War is over, Reconstruction is settling down, and the American government is back to allowing southern white folks to put anyone with African American blood in their place. But how about the Chinese? Southerners are not sure what to do about this group brought in to take over the work left by slaves and now no longer wanted. Readers will learn about the suffragette movement in the south, as well as how prejudice split it apart by race.  This book has an interesting plot with plenty of twists and turns. Jo discovers the secret behind her parentage and must delve into her inner strength in order to protect her loved ones. Family secrets are revealed and character's motivations are disclosed. The action builds up to a thrilling conclusion that will have readers on the edge of their seats. There is a gentle romance that remains within acceptable boundaries for middle school. The enticing cover will draw in readers and the story will hold their interest. An interesting tale with a lot to say highlighting a piece of America's past which is less than glowing, yet still has relevance today.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Look Both Ways

Image result for look both ways reynolds coverLook Both Ways: a Tale Told in Ten Blocks
Jason Reynolds
Simon & Schuster, Oct. 2019 168 pages
Grades 4-7
Short Stories/Realistic Fiction

Ten interwoven short stories relate the lives and times of a neighborhood of middle school children and some of the troubles they face. The stories all take place walking down different neighborhood blocks on the way home from school and the challenges and experiences to be had in this diverse urban community. Each story focuses on a different central character(s) and the reader gets an honest glimpse inside their world. Prior characters pop up in later stories and serve minor roles, showing how our lives are all interrelated. Reynolds highlights different struggles and issues within the stories such as a child with Sickle-cell disease, a mother bedridden with cancer, fear of dogs after an attack, confusing feelings about gender attraction, loneliness, bullying, poverty, and loss of a sibling. Throughout all of the hardships, these kids are working together to figure it out and make their world a better place, creating a heartwarming story with friendship at its center.

Jason Reynolds is currently the darling of KidLit. With good reason. I am a card-carrying member of the Jason Reynolds fan club for his hard-hitting honest stories and carefully crafted language. I was excited to get my hands on this book and, though it is a departure from his other writing to date, loved it! Reynolds manages to create developed characters who the reader will care about in a few short pages. Each story is a little work of art in its own right, yet all the stories synthesize together to create a cohesive whole. The book begins with an amazing hook about a school bus falling from the sky. I thought, based on this opening statement, that the book would lean towards the fantastical. After a few more breadcrumbs dropped throughout the narrative about the school bus, the mystery of that line is solved on the very last page. As usual, Reynolds writing is poetic and intentional. Chapter heading are the names of a different streets where the action takes place with a graphic illustration giving the reader a hint of what is to come. A character from each story is name dropped in the previous one, assisting with the interconnection of the tales. I love that Reynolds has groups of girls and boys together being friends without the separation of gender typical in this age group. There are some surprise endings and emotional moments. Teachers, especially, will find this title useful for classroom use. The book can be enjoyed by both boys and girls as there is a diverse range of characters involved offering something for everyone. A great book that is sure to have legs, this one will be on my best books list of the year for sure!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Forward Me Back to You

Image result for forward me back to you coverForward Me Back to You
Mitali Perkins
FSG, 2019 432 pages
Grades 9-Up
Realistic Fiction

Multiple points of view trace the trip of three young people from the same church in Boston, who go on a trip to India to spend a summer volunteering with an agency who fights human trafficking. Katina (Kat) lives in California with her single mother. She is attacked in a deserted stairway by the school hotshot and fights him off using her trained Jujitsu moves. Still, when she can't get past the attack her mother sends her to an elderly family friend in Boston, where she connects with the old woman and learns about “Golden Ruling”. When the life altering trip to India presents itself, Kat decides to go and try to help some of the human trafficking victims by teaching them to defend themselves, hopefully finding peace within herself. Meanwhile, Robin is the adopted only child of a wealthy Boston family. He travels to India not only to help the agency, but to track down his birth mother. He feels an instant connection to the land of his origin and changes his name back to the original "Ravi".  Ravi spends the summer doing office work for the agency, training with a police officer to get in shape for physical rescues, and hunting down the orphanage in which he spent his first five years. The search does not go as planned, but he does find love in unexpected places, as well as a new confidence and direction in life. The summer turns out to be one of both growth and healing for the young narrators and changes their lives in permanent and irreversible ways.

Perkins, You Bring the Distance Near, is known for her books bridging American and Indian cultural. This story is no exception. Ravi demonstrates the journey of an Indian boy adopted into a white American family, who struggles to balance both parts of his identity. Kat is not Indian, yet finds healing in this distant land and the connections she makes there. Because of the nature of the human trafficking of children, though not graphically shown, this book is not for younger teens. Kat's attack is not as bad as it could have been, since she fights off the attacker, but is unsettling and affects her in monumental ways and will disturb readers. Jujitsu and the power of self-defense for woman is illustrated throughout the pages of the novel and may inspire readers to learn some moves themselves. The author demonstrates the "Golden Rule" philosophy of helping other people in order to help yourself and points out the powerful effects of volunteerism. It was refreshing to see the positive effects of organized religion in a world where it is generally perceived as evil and hurtful. Though the main characters are Christian, Perkins respectfully portrays all the religions of India and stresses the importance of being involved in a healthy religious community. All of the characters experience extreme growth throughout the pages of the books as they step out of their comfort zone, serve where they are led, encounter new and unexpected situations and discover the inner (and outer) strength they didn't know they possessed. This trip was a game-changer for the teens involved and will hopefully inspire readers to undertake service projects of their own.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Are You Listening?

Image result for are you listening walden coverAre You Listening?
Tillie Walden
First Second, September, 2019 305 pages
Grades 9-Up
Graphic Novel

Eighteen-year-old Bea is running away from home and pretty desperate. On the road she runs into a hometown acquaintance, Lou. In her late twenties, Lou is also getting away for a while to escape the grief of losing her mother. Lou gives Bea a ride and the two embark on a road trip through the back roads of Texas to visit Lou's aunt. Along the way they rescue a mysterious cat that is being hunted by a creepy group of men calling themselves The Office of Road Inquiry. The men seem other-worldly and the cat somehow connects to magic. Through the trip the two girls bond and get real with each other, dealing with the causes of their escapes from their small town. They help each other to heal, all while dodging the creepy guys, keeping the cat safe, visiting the aunt, and contending with rare Texas snow.

Tillie Walden leaves the world of ice skating as seen in her autobiographical graphic novel Spinning for a fantastical departure. Are You Listening starts out as a road trip novel and then introduces elements of magical realism. The girls are dealing with some big issues such as sexuality, rape, and the death of a loved one and find solace in both the open road and each other. Although it is revealed that both girls are gay, there is no romance, just great support and a sister-bond. This came as a relief to me since Lou is so much older and mature than Bea and romance felt inappropriate. The full-color comic illustrations do more than the words in conveying the story. They are beautiful and surreal and through the darkness of the nighttime road create a haunting atmosphere. Walden leaves full panels without words to give the reader time to digest and some panels are laid out creatively and unexpectedly. Because of the careful use of text, the book reads rather quickly and the lack of chapter dividers makes readers turn pages without stop. The magical bits add to the surrealism of the tale, yet I wasn't quite sure I got it. The significance of the magical cat went over my head and I never truly understood who the bad guys were and why they are hunting the cat  down. I don't thinks readers will get caught up in the details of the magic. They will enjoy the layered honesty, emotion, and mood of the story. A true work of art from a gifted graphic novelist.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Image result for guts telgemeier coverGuts
Raina Telgemeier
Scholastic, September, 2019, 213 pages
Grades 4-Up
Graphic Novel

The undisputed guru of graphic novels for kids, Telgemeier delves back into her childhood to offer another autobiographical story. Fourth grade Raina get hit hard with a stomach virus. After that encounter, she begins to develop chronic stomach aches and a constant fear of vomiting, which makes her stomach hurt even more. The pain and urgency of being near a bathroom has forced Raina to miss school and affects her social life. After a cycle of doctor visits, a diagnosis of IBS is determined and Raina begins work with a therapist to try to relieve some of her stress and anxiety. Meanwhile, fifth grade begins--and with it social interactions become even more complicated. Now puberty is rearing its ugly head and some girls are developing faster than others, leaving late bloomers, like Raina, behind. When her best friend finds out that her family is moving and befriends the class Queen Bee, Raina feels more alone than ever. How can she learn to cope in the tricky school social environment? And what if her classmates find out the truth about her medical condition and therapy?

Raina Telgemeier pioneered the current trend of graphic memoirs for young people, which has revolutionized the complete children's publishing industry. A new offering from Telgemeier is a big deal and with this new installment, fans will not be disappointed. Going back to her own childhood, Telgemeier talks about her struggles with IBS, anxiety, and digestion with an author's note at the end lending authenticity to the story. Many of today's young people, including one who lives in my house, suffer from anxiety and it manifests itself in many ways. Stomach problems and IBS are shared with many members of my family and it is a common problem. Guts will reassure readers that they are not alone and, perhaps, give them the courage to talk about it, instead of trying to hide. Warning to parents of younger readers: this book gets into puberty and talks about girls developing and getting their periods. At my library kids as young as six and seven read Telgemeier's books. If you are not ready to get into this discussion with your kids, you may want to put this book off for a while. That said, it is perfect for the target age group of older tweens and is reminiscent of the honesty of Are You There God Its Me Margaret and other titles by Judy Blume. The illustrations are, as always, spot-on, the full color is vibrant and eye-catching, and the simply designed panels easy to scan. A high-quality, personal story of which we come to expect from the author/illustrator.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Beverly Right Here

Image result for beverly right here coverBeverly Right Here
Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick, September, 2019 256 pages
Grades 5-8
Realistic Fiction

DiCamillo returns to the world of Ramie Nightingale to relate the story of the remaining Ranchero, Beverly. Beverly runs away from home and her alcoholic mother by hopping in her older cousin's truck and getting off in a small coastal Florida town. She immediately makes friends with an old lady in a trailer park named Iola, who invites her to move in. The two begin to help each other, both in practical matters and emotional hurts, as they share meals and play bingo. Beverly lands a job busing tables in a failing seafood restaurant and makes connections with the workers and the sad owner. Next, she befriends an emotionally damaged convenience store clerk named Elmer. As the two begin to open up and trust each other, a gentle romance develops. Beverly slowly begins to find acceptance and healing, as she puts her past and the death of her beloved dog behind her and figures out how to move slowly and mindfully into her future.

The master of middle grade, DiCamillo, rounds out her trio of books featuring a different Ranchero. The last to get her own story is Beverly and we experience the story directly through her eyes. Four years have passed since the original story, which confused me a bit because the narrative never came directly out and said it war four years later. Eventually I figured out that Beverly has matured from tween to teen, especially as the romance with Elmer develops. DiCamillo's strength always lies in her vivid folksie characters and this book is no exception. The crew from the restaurant, as well as Iola, Elmer, and Beverly herself are well developed and highly interesting. Not much happens within the plot, it is more of a situational character driven story. That said, I enjoyed my time spent in this pivotal chapter of Beverly's life and grew to care about the people within the pages, as I kept turning them. The story is set in the late 1970's, yet the time period is not instrumental to the plot and therefor I would not classify it as historical fiction. The book stands alone and no prior knowledge of the first two books in the trilogy is necessary. Readers who appreciate a thoughtful, quiet story will enjoy the time spent with Beverly and her new friends.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

Image result for my life ice cream sandwich coverMy Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich
Ibi Zombie
Dutton, August, 2019 252 pages
Grades 4-7
Realistic/Historical Fiction

Ebony Grace is sent from rural Alabama, where she lives with her mother and grandfather, to her father's house in 1980's Harlem. Harlem might as well be another planet to this space-crazy girl who spends most of her time in her "Imagination Station". Thrown into a world of double-dutch, junkies, early hip-hop, and break dancing, Ebony Grace struggle to make friends with the neighborhood gaggle of girls, the 9 Flavas Crew, who refer to her as an "ice cream sandwich": dark on the outside, yet white on the inside. Ebony Grace misses her grandfather, who is her best friend. The two spent many hours watching sci-fi shows and making up space adventures. When she calls the NASA base on which Grandpa works, she is informed that he is no longer employed there? Where is he? And why can't she get in touch with him on the phone? Meanwhile, Dad tries to encourage Ebony grace to fit in with the neighborhood girls and the 9 Flavas agree to allow her to join them on a trial basis, only she needs to stop acting so weird all the time. A big rapping/dance competition in the neighborhood could lead the crew to another contest at the Apollo with costumes from Dapper Dan’s, only the DJ (Ebony Grace's father) won't let girls compete. Ebony Grace decides to take matters in her own hands and do something drastic--with surprising results.

Critically acclaimed teen writer, Zoboi, offers her first book for middle grade in this realistic blast-from-the-past. Many readers will relate to Ebony Grace's inability to fit in and confusion with social cues. Kids who live in their own "Imagination-Station" will be reassured that they are not alone and find courage from Ebony Grace's refusal to hide her light under a bushel. The glimpse into 1980's Harlem was very interesting and will appeal to adults who lived through it or kids who are interested in the birth of hip-hop and rap. Unfortunately, many of the cultural references will sail over the heads of young readers and the setting boarders on nostalgia. The true story behind the reason for Ebony Grace being sent away is unclear from the plot and I expected a bigger reveal. I was fortunate enough to hear the author speak about this book, so I walked into it having a better understanding of the plight of African American NASA engineers in the 1980's, but this is not fully explained within the framework of the story. I read an advanced review copy, so possibly the final copy will include an author's note upon its August release, fleshing out Grandpa's situation. Full-page black and white illustrations that appear to be ripped from a comic book are interspersed, representing what is happening inside Ebony Grace's head, which will entice readers to keep turning pages and give the story an added layer of interest. Ebony Grace is a true individual and will inspire readers to be themselves and to tap into their own imaginations, even if the world thinks you are weird. This message is worth the time spent reading and will help the novel find its audience.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat

Image result for klawde evil alien warlord cat coverKlawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat
Johnny Marciano & Emily Chenoweth Robb Mommaerts, Illustrator
Penguin Workshop, 2019 223 pages
Grades 2-6
Science Fiction/Humor
Klawde Evil Alien Warlord Cat series #1

Alternating points of view relate the adventures of Klawde, an evil megalomaniac cat from outer space, and his new human, or, as Klawde refers to him, ogre, Raj. Klawde is stripped of his title of Lord High Emperor of the planet Lyttyrboks for being corrupt and cruel and exiled to the uncivilized planet Earth. Once landing on Earth Klawde needs to escape from the pouring rain and get his bearings. Enter Raj, who recently moved to a small town in Oregon from Brooklyn and is not happy. He is instantly cheered, however, to find Klawde meowing on his doormat. His parents, hoping to help their only child adjust to their new home, agree to let him keep Klawde, only the new pet is anything but docile. Despite clawing the entire family and making a mess of the new abode, Raj loves Klawde and he becomes part of the family. Meanwhile, Raj is forced to attend Nature Camp, where a crazed councilor leads the campers in activities of Hunger Games proportions. As Klawde ransacks Raj's new house looking for supplies to transport himself back to his home planet, the two become friends. Will Klawde make it back to Lyttyrboks? Will Raj survive Nature Camp? All will be revealed as this series opener rolls along to its hilarious conclusion.

Marciano and Chenoweth introduce a brand new heavily-illustrated series just right for the Captain Underpants crowd. The different takes on the same situation from Klawde’s evil point of view and sweet and innocent Raj’s, as well as the hilarious plot scenarios, will get readers giggling. Black and white with blue highlighted cartoon illustrations will further tickle the funny bone and add to the humor. Over the top? Maybe. Implausible? Most certainly, but this is exactly what the intended audience wants. To the author's credit, the humor in the book does not depend entirely on bathroom humor and contains truly funny bits. Also, since Klawde is a sophisticated cat, his vocabulary is a bit advanced, encouraging readers to pick up a few new words and they chuckle. It is refreshing to see a boy of Indian decent as the main character and not thrown in as a sidekick. Many of my readers will see themselves reflected in this character and will applaud the book all the more. Both voices are written completely distinctively and readers will have absolutely no problem discerning who is narrating. The action never stops and the chapters are short with cliff hangers, demanding that the book not be put down. Kids will read it in one setting and clamor for the next installment. Lucky for them number two, Enemies, was released simultaneously with two more volumes coming soon.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Oregon Trail: The Race to Chimney Rock

Image result for oregon trail race chimney rock coverThe Oregon Trail: The Race to Chimney Rock
Jesse Wiley
HMH, 2018 150 pages
Grades 2-6
Historical Fiction/Adventure
Choose Your Own Trail series #1

First in a series of four books, HMH combines two popular blasts from the past: Choose Your Own Adventure and the classic computer game The Oregon Trail for a winning combination. Each volume of the series is split into a different leg of the trail, allowing the reader to eventually reach Oregon--if they make the right decisions. Each crossroads contains two choices leading the reader to a different page of the book. Many of the paths lead to tragedy and a brutal death (much as in the computer game) and death can come at any point. The average run through is five choices. The reader takes on the persona of the main character, a boy in 1850 who is heading on the trail with his family. The dangers include sickness, wild animals, natural disasters, and unforgiving terrain. The volume leads in with a map of the entire trail. The back contains real historic information, which if the reader takes to heart, better decisions will be made. Eventually the reader can take a variety of routes, finally landing on the one that will take them safely to Chimney Rock--and the next volume in the series.

This new series is sure to appeal to today's parents who grew up on Choose Your Own Adventure and logged hours on their old PCs playing Oregon Trail. Certainly, they will be attracted by the title and cover and buy this volume for their children, who may be unfamiliar with both the original book series and computer game. The cover even is pixelated, resembling the original game, further appeal to nostalgic parents. That said, kids who crack open this volume will find much to enjoy. Choose Your Own Adventure books are addictive and fun and will resonate with the current video game generation. Much as in the original game, many paths lead to death, which will provide exciting stakes for readers, who will to try to save themselves. Unlike the original book series, factual information is offered in the back of the volume, offering kids the opportunity to make the best choices, as well as educating them about Westward Expansion. Black and white cartoon illustrations are generously sprinkled throughout, further welcoming reluctant readers. The volumes in the series follow along the path of the trail, but readers do not necessarily need to read them in order. Great fun for even the most stubborn of readers, who will clamor for more and learn something along the way.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Our Castle by the Sea

Image result for our castle by the sea coverOur Castle by the Sea
Lucy Strange
Chicken House, 2019 321 pages
Grades 4-7
Historical Fiction/Mystery

Petra lives with her parents and older sister Magda in a lighthouse on the British Kent coast in the early days of World War II. Often called Pet, she feels that her name is short for "petrified", as she literally freezes when under pressure, turning into one of the legendary "sisters of stone" gracing the cliffs of her beloved beach. Life turns upside down as suspicion becomes directed towards her German mother. Eventually Mutti is arrested and taken to an internment camp, where she confesses to spying and aiding the Germans. Is she actually covering for someone else? Meanwhile, Magda is acting strange, sabotage is happening in her little town and Pa confesses secrets of his own. The battle of Dunkirk arrives and with it the challenge of rescuing stranded British soldiers. Pet's family must help the cause, crossing the channel in small fishing boats--with disastrous results. More secrets are revealed as Pet's family implodes and her personal danger increases. Who is the saboteur? Will Pet's family survive the war? All is revealed as this well-crafted piece of historical fiction unfolds.

What a great book! This is British author Strange's second middle grade novel to hit American shores and it is well worth the time spent reading. I knew very little about the Kent home-front and the Dunkirk rescue. I also did not know that the British forced their German and Italian born citizens into internment camps, much as we did shamefully with the Japanese. Although set eighty years ago, messages about racial prejudice and immigration, unfortunately, are still relevant today. Petra's story is exciting and adventurous. She attempts to uncover the German spy and in doing so walks into many dangerous situations, some of which take a dark turn. Surprises abound within the plot, keep pages turning and readers focused. The ending is satisfying, yet not without realistically permanent losses. Petra's challenges and personal growth will inspire young readers, as she pushes herself out of her comfort zone to help her family and conquers her fears. I feel as if the cover may not help the book and it could use some hand-selling, as it will be enjoyed by most readers who give it a try. That said, of the nineteen libraries in my consortium who picked it up, ten copies are out. Give to fans of The War Who Saved My Life or anyone interested in a different side of World War II.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Far Away

Image result for far away lisa graff coverFar Away
Lisa Graff
Philomel, 2019 266 pages
Grades 4-6
Realistic Fiction

Caraway June (CJ) lives with her aunt Nic, a famous psychic who connects with spirits, traveling the country in a RV from show to show. Through Aunt Nic she communicates with her mother, who died in childbirth, yet still is around in spirit form. She misses her mother, but appreciates the relationship she still shares through Aunt Nic and the exciting life on the road, especially now that Aunt Nic's show is getting filmed for a reality TV show. It is CJ's twelfth birthday and Aunt Nic has startling news: her mother is going "far away" and will be out of range. CJ becomes determined to find the house where Nic and Mom grew up to search for "tethers" for Aunt Nic to use to still connect with Mom. Together with a teenage production assistant for the show, Jax, CJ embarks on an adventure taking her all over the state of California looking for clues to locate an object formally belonging to Mom. She finds such an object--and also finds surprises about her life that challenges everything that she knows is true. CJ must wade through the lies and deceptions surrounding her to get to the real facts about her family and Aunt Nic's gifts. She must also make choices about how she plans to proceed into her future and figure out the ethical path to follow.

I like Lisa Graff a lot. Her books are always interesting, heartwarming and fresh, yet all very different from each other. A young protagonist traveling the roads with a psychic aunt is reflective of popular culture, yet fresh to the world of middle grade fiction. Readers will enjoy the glimpse into CJ's life on the road, traveling around in the RV, being haphazardly home-schooled, and helping out with her aunt's show-biz career. The world of psychics is critically examined and Graff offers readers a message of caution. At first I thought this would be a paranormal story, but it turned out to be a slight mystery as CJ uncovers the secret behind her mother and aunt, and then it turns into a heart wrenching family story with no easy answers. CJ is an interesting character at a pivotal moment in her life. Her teen friend, Jax is also developed and intriguing. He suffers from anxiety, yet rises to the occasion when needed, demonstrating his strength and proving his loyalty as a friend. The book reads quickly, contains many surprises and will appeal to a large audience. Readers who enjoy the current trend of "problem novels" will be the obvious audience. Give to fans of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise for another road-trip/family problem novel or fans of the author.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Rising Water

Image result for rising water aronson coverRising Water: the story of the Thai Cave Rescue
Marc Aronson
Atheneum, 2019 148 pages
Grades 5-8

Last summer the world watched as twelve young student soccer players became trapped in a cave in Thailand. The rainy season started and it seemed as if there was no way they could get out, let alone survive. The Thai government put their best soldiers/Navy Seals on the job, but cave diving is a very specific activity and the job was too complex for them alone. Since children and teenagers were involved, the media grabbed hold of the story and it went viral. Cave divers from around the world raced to Thailand to assist in the rescue efforts, amassing into a super-cave diving team, representing a variety of nationalities and crossing many political barriers. The super-team first had to determine if the boys were still alive and then get them much needed food and supplies. Next came the complicated and dangerous rescue effort. The results were miraculous and joyful-yet not without significant costs. The aftermath of the rescue is also explored and how the experience changed the lives of the boys involved. The book concludes with extensive notes, bibliography, and index, as well as a comprehensive description of the author's writing and research process. A full color photo insert rounds out the volume, offering readers an image to flesh out the descriptive words.

How in the world did Marc Aronson pull this book together in less than one year? He is the premier writer of middle grade non-fiction, but this feat seems miraculous even for this veteran from the trenches. Much as he did with Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert, Aronson meticulously researched his subject manner and presents it in a conversational, yet unbiased, manner. The story is presented in a linear fashion and remains factual, even within the context of a narrative. At the end of the story the author highlights lessons learned from this experience: exposure to Thai culture, the abilities of countries around the world working together for a common cause peacefully, awareness of the plight of refugees, as some of the kids were considered "stateless" with no rights or privileges, and the power of the media to turn the public's attention to world needs. Aronson respectfully introduces us to the members of the Wild Boars (the name of the soccer team) without compromising their privacy. The reader experiences the power of teamwork, kindness and hope. Ultimately a heartwarming story of true-life survival, there are nail-biting moments that make for a great narrative and keep the pages turning. A great choice for book discussion with obvious curriculum connections, give to kids who love to read non-fiction or adults who don't have the patience for longer tomes.