Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.

Leave a comment

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Image from

Image from

Green, J. (2012). The fault in our stars. New York: Dutton Books. ISBN: 9780525478812

Annotation: Hazel has terminal thyroid cancer and has to drag around an oxygen tank. At a cancer kids support group, she meets Augustus Waters who changes her life.

Reaction: So let’s talk about The Fault in Our Stars. DO NOT read this book if you don’t enjoy crying your eyeballs out at the end of the story. That is not a spoiler. This is a book about kids with cancer. Let’s not even pretend like you’re not going to cry. First we meet Hazel, the narrator, who tells us up front that she’s got terminal cancer. So you spend the book preparing for her death and some sort of third person post death epilogue and girding yourself for that inevitable moment when she can fight no longer. But when the end comes, it’s SO MUCH WORSE than you could ever have imagined. Completely heartbreaking and shattering and JOHN GREEN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!

This guy, he’s a freaking phenomenal story teller: funny and smart and quick witted and snarky, but man oh man. The only other book that I’ve read by him, Looking for Alaska, which is also so so so great and which I highly recommend, ALSO made me cry and cry and cry and cry. (It also dealt with death by motor vehicle less than a year after my older sister was killed in a hit and run, so your mileage may vary with the crying in this one.) I’m a little scared to read more of his books because what if they’re ALL heartbreaking and tragic?! I’m gonna have to suck it up, though, because I think he’s too good to miss out on.

He writes teens that are relatable and real. They’re kids you might have known or might wish you had as friends, and they’re dealing with some stuff. In this one, Hazel and Augustus refuse to let their cancer get in the way of having a life and doing the things they want to do, even if it isn’t exactly normal teen stuff. These two, and their friend Isaac, and all the other kids from cancer support group have been through more pain and suffering than most adults ever have to deal with. And Green shows them dealing with it like real people, flawed and angry and hurt and completely infuriated by the injustice of it all.

Just a note: I listened to the audiobook of this, narrated by Kate Rudd, and I really enjoyed it.

I would recommend this book to EVERYONE (mature readers only!), and it’s totally in my Top Ten Favorites.

Odyssey Award (2013)
Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction (2012)
ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee (2012)
The Inky Awards for Silver Inky (2012)
Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014)

Author’s Website


Leave a comment

The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence

Image from

Image from

Lawrence, C. (2011). The case of the deadly desperadoes. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 9781444001693

Annotation: P.K. Pinkerton walks into his family home just after his foster parents have been murdered by desperados disguised as Indians, and now they’re after him. What does P.K. have that has the most dangerous man around after him?

Reaction: I love a good western, so I was pretty excited when I first saw this at the library. It took me some time to get into this story, but I think I was trying to read at least three other books at the time, so the slow start was not necessarily the fault of the story. P.K. has a “Thorn” that means he cannot read other people’s emotions and has to rely on a list of facial expressions his foster mother gave him to give him an idea of the difference between happy, sad, angry and surprised. Thankfully, P.K. is also blessed with a perfect memory and good detecting skills. These attributes make me think that P.K. falls somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, though that is never explicitly stated.

As an adolescent boy on his own for the first time, P.K. has to navigate the lawless streets of Virginia City, Nevada and figure who he can trust in order to stay one step ahead of Whittlin’ Walt, the baddest, meanest, scariest desperado in the territory. His adventures take him all over the town and down into a mine shaft, which is where the story starts with P.K. writing down an account of everything that had happened so far. Once he gets to Virginia City, the story really gets going and each narrow miss makes the reader wonder how P.K. will ever get out of THIS mess?

I would recommend this book for readers who love adventure or westerns or stories where girls pretend to be boys (is P.K. a girl pretending to be a boy? Or a boy pretending to be a girl pretending to be a boy? That’s not a question Lawrence ever fully answers) or for kids who need or want to see a representation of a hero who is probably on the Autism Spectrum.

Author’s Website

Leave a comment

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Image from

Image from

Lanagan, M. (2012). The brides of Rollrock Island. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN: 9780857560339

Annotation: After being mistreated her entire life, Misskaella discovers the magic to bringing humans out of seals, and she makes bargains with the men of Rollrock Island to give them seal wives.

Reaction: I really love Margo Lanagan. She’s got a great storytelling voice, and this really beautiful, descriptive prose that is magical and wonderful. A previous novel of hers, Tender Morsels, was involved in the early 2011 Bitch Media Book List kerfluffle. That book was beautiful and poignant and a little heartbreaking and made me want to read more of Lanagan.

This book did not disappoint. Lanagan tells this story through six different narrators, over the course of two generations. Through these narrators, which include Misskaella (the witch), one of the daughters who abandons the island after the seal wives arrive, and a seal son, the reader is given the full account of what happened on Rollrock Island. I love that Lanagan includes Misskaella’s perspective, in addition to other townsfolk. She makes the witch a sympathetic character and as much a protagonist as any of the other narrators, so that even when the other narrators describe her cruelty and humiliation of everyone, the reader doesn’t forget how Misskaella came to that place. It creates tension as the reader tries to reconcile the girl who suffered with the witch who causes suffering.

This is a book for teenagers and lovers of folktales. Lanagan examines the animal nature within humans and the consequences when someone binds the two natures together. She tells the story of how a community can be torn apart and then rebuilt stronger than before.

I loved this book. I love selkie stories; they’re not used overly often in literature, so it’s always fun for me to read a new selkie perspective, and Lanagan gives readers a really beautiful, heartbreaking one. She takes that folktale and looks at it from all angles, creating really complex characters. Her writing is haunting and really sticks with me even after I finish reading.

The novella “Sea-Hearts,” the Australian published story which was expanded into The Brides of Rollrock Island, won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for novella.

Author’s Website

Leave a comment

Jibberwillies at Night by Rachel Vail

Image from

Vail, R., & Heo, Y. (ill.) (2008). Jibberwillies at night. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 9780439420709

Annotation: Katie is a happy child, who loves her family and friends, but sometimes, the Jibberwillies come at night and scare her away from sleeping.

Reaction: I heard about this book when I read a School Library Journal article about censorship, in which Jibberwillies was mentioned as not being included in a library’s collection because it increases children’s fears and worries. I have this banned book loving side of me that makes me want to read any children’s or teen books surrounded by controversy. Seriously, if you want me to read something, tell me about how it was banned by someone.

So, I immediately checked this book out from the library after reading that article. Upon reading it, I discovered that far from encouraging childhood fears and worries, this book is about a happy, loving little girl who sometimes can’t sleep because the Jibberwillies come and banish all happy thoughts. And then her mom comes and saves the day by throwing the Jibberwillies out the window so Katie can “comfortable [herself] to sleep.”

I think the scenes featuring the Jibberwillies might be very scary for children, and I don’t think this is a book I would read with a large group of kids (thinking about my future preschool storytimes). I think this book would be great read with a parent and a child, so they could talk about Jibberwillies and what Parent and Child could if the Jibberwillies ever showed up at bedtime.

The illustrations are happy, full of bright colors and fun patterns, which attracts the eye and would entertain children, though the pages depicting the Jibberwillies turn the colors and patterns menacing.

Media Used: ((tk)) – I have no idea what this is but the illustrations sort of look like they’re oils or acrylics.

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website: None

Leave a comment

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm

Image from

Holm, J. L., & Castaldi, E. (ill.) (2007). Middle school is worse than meatloaf: A year told through stuff. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780689852817

Annotation: Going into 7th grade, Ginny Davis has plans for an awesome year. Then life gets in the way, and she realizes that plans never work out the way they’re supposed.

Reaction: This was a really cute book about a 12 year old girl navigating 7th grade. Ginny’s experiences are fairly universal, regular life stuff that seems world ending when you’re that age. She has to deal with family, friends and school during the year. This is a book to which all girls that age can relate, and it’ll let them know that they’re not alone in their experiences. Sometimes life is tough, and the littlest problems can ruin your day.

Holm and Castaldi tell Ginny’s story through notes, receipts, school assignments and flyers. They let these pieces of her life give the reader a picture of her personality and the big events through the year. Often, they don’t fully explain what happened or go into too much detail, but they give us just enough to be able to fill in the blanks ourselves. I love the idea of using these papers that are often just “trash” create a story. The images are really slick. I would have liked them to have a little more depth and texture, but I think if I had read this when I was that age, I would have loved them.

Media Used: Illustrations digitally rendered

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website

1 Comment

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson

Image from

Woodson, J., & Talbott, H. (ill.) (2005). Show way. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 9780399237492

Annotation: The making of quilts to “Show Way” to freedom is a tradition passed through the author’s family for over 150 years, tying each woman to all the women who came before.

Reaction: This book was really powerful, and I love the way Woodson told her personal family history. I love the way quilting was passed down in her family and symbolized hope and African-Americans’ fight for freedom.

The art is beautiful and textured. Talbott really captured the patchwork of quilting and the importance of family and personal history. The quilt pieces are bright spots of color in often otherwise dark illustrations.

I think this book would be great as part of a 5th or 6th grade history unit. Woodson’s family history could spark really great discussion about heritage and honoring one’s roots.

Media Used: Multimedia, including watercolors, chalk, muslin, workshirts and bermuda shorts on Arches cold-press watercolor paper.

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website

Leave a comment

Zahra’s Paradise by Amir & Khalil

Image from

Amir & Khalil. (2011). Zahra’s Paradise. New York: First Second. ISBN: 9781596436428

Annotation: After the 2009 Iranian elections and subsequent protests, a 19 year old boy goes missing. This is the story of his family’s desperate search for him.

Reaction: I don’t know what to say about this book. I didn’t like it. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t take any pleasure from reading it, except the pleasure of reading a well crafted, riveting story. But I’m glad to have read it. I think it was worthwhile and important and I think more people should read it.

Amir and Khalil, writing under pseudonyms for safety reasons, created a story that, while fictional, is probably similar to what a lot of Iranian families went through after the 2009 election and protests. They capture the narrator and his mother’s desperation to find Mehdi after he never came home from the protests. The circles they have to run and the danger of asking too many questions just to find any information about him are ridiculous and heartbreaking.

I remember the tweets from protesters after the elections and the tweets from those outside Iran after the government cut off internet access. At the time, I didn’t quite realize just how brave and heroic the protesters were, but they faced imprisonment or worse for the chance at freedom.

I’ll admit to being a bit confused during the book occasionally simply because I don’t know anything about Iranian politics, but they have really helpful guides in the back (that I would totally have used while reading if I had known about them before I finished).

I would give this to mature readers, probably juniors and seniors in high school and above, but it’s especially for those who liked Persepolis. I think this would go with a high school current events unit really well, as it gives the reader a real sense of what Iran is like for regular people, and the additional context of a class discussion about the politics and modern history there would really be helpful.

Media Used: None listed

Book Website