Book review: Lone Stars, by Mike Lupica

Lupica, Mike. Lone Stars. Philomel Books, 2017. 240p. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-0399172809. Gr. 7-9. P6 Q8

This book is about Clay, a young boy who overcomes his fear of playing football.  He and his friend Maddie also take time to help the coach (a former Dallas Cowboys player) cope with traumatic brain injuries he suffered while playing pro football.

Verdict: I liked this book; it’s an easy read that will appeal to anyone who is interested in sports.

April 2018 review by NHS student.

[Editor’s note: Other reviewers noted that, unlike other books by Mike Lupica, the sports action sometimes takes a back seat to emotional issues off the field. Unfortunately, the decision to have the children hide the coach’s symptoms may also hide some of the effects of cumulative brain traumas.  This new book by a well-known sports writer brings awareness to a growing problem for school and professional football programs.]


Book review: Joseph’s Grace, by Shelia P. Moses

Moses, Shelia P. Joseph’s Grace. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-3942-9. 153 p. Gr. 6 – 12. P7Q8

moses-josephs-graceJoseph’s cousin has recently been shot by his mom’s drug dealing boyfriend.  Joseph, a sophomore in high school, is dealing with that loss, along with his father’s deployment to Afghanistan.  Joseph hasn’t been able to speak to his father in over a year.  His mom is trying to avoid the family for she was the reason that Joseph’s cousin died.  He is in a battle to keep his family together… a battle that he fights by himself.

Review by student: S. I.-B.

Editor’s note: In this sequel to Joseph, Shelia P. Moses continues the story of Joseph Flood, now a sophmore in Durham, N.C., whose father has deployed to Iraq and whose mother is addicted to cocaine.  Now living with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Jasmine, Joseph tries to balance his new life.  As Joseph’s mother tries to get off drugs, her sometime boyfriend shows up and kills Jasmine, leaving the family struggling with their grief.  Other reviews note that although the characters are not well developed and the language is simplistic, the compelling story will appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys.


Book review: Until I Find Julian, by Patricia Reilly Giff

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Until I find Julian. Wendy Lamb Books, 201. 151 pgs. $16.95. ISBN:978-0-385-74482-9. Gr. 5+. P8 Q8

Giff Until I Find JulianThe race for the presidency of the United States has started and one of the topics that is being discussed is the eleven million undocumented immigrants here in the United States. There are many ideas that are being suggested to solve the problem. Whether we will ever be able to come up with an answer I don’t know. In this story, Julian has gained access to America illegally and has been sending money home to Mexico to help his family. When the letters and money stop coming, his family knows that something is wrong. Mateo, Julian’s younger brother, leaves to go to “El Norte” to cross the border into the USA. What the author delivers is a unique view of the hazards that people face on their journey to cross our border. Maybe the answer to this problem is to be better educated and to offer other means and access to those who want to gain admission to the USA. I loved this book because it did educate me and I gained a better understanding of the dangers that those eleven million may have faced.

November 2015 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: If You’re Reading This, by Trent Reedy

Reedy, Trent. If You’re Reading This. Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc., 2014. 296 pages. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-43342-6. Ages 12+. P7Q8

Reedy If Youre Reading ThisThis novel follows the story of Mike who is trapped between his overprotective mother, the inspiration of his dead father, and his own drive to fit in at school. Seven years after his father died in the war in Afghanistan, sixteen-year-old Mike starts receiving letters from him full of advice about growing up and being a man. During this time he also decides to take a risk and secretly go out for the football team against his mother’s wishes. The story revolves around a boy learning how to grow up without a father and suddenly finding that missing advice that he has so desperately needed. Although the story is not as sad as I was expecting, it definitely has moments were it pulls on the heart strings and makes you stop and think.

September 2015 review by Beverly Minard.

Book review: The Walled City, by Ryan Graudin

Graudin, Ryan. The Walled City. Little Brown and Company, 2014. $18.00. ISBN 9780316405058. 424 pgs. Ages 13+. P8Q7.

Graudin Walled CityThis book really captured my imagination, largely because of the fascinating setting. Dai, Jin, and Mei Yee are three teens who, for different reasons, find themselves in trouble in Hak Nam, the Walled City. The storylines of the three characters become connected, and in the end, they depend on each other for their survival. In the book, Hak Nam (which translates as City of Darkness) is a mysterious, dark, and dangerous place. It is a slum area which is physically walled off from Hong Kong itself, and is run by violent criminal gangs. The book takes the readers into a world of prostitution, drug use (opium and heroin), and violence, including a rape and murder. However, the description of the worst scenes isn’t terribly graphic. Sensitive readers will understand what is happening, however, and the book could be disturbing. Dai, Jin and Mei Yee need to get out of the Walled City- there is a real feeling of urgency as the book progresses to get them out before all is lost. At the end, the storylines come together and we understand how the three characters came to be in this dark place, and why there is such pressure for them to leave. I was left wanting more- more description of the place and more development of the characters. This book could have been developed into one of those thousand page epics. Despite this, it was a satisfying read.

As I said at the beginning, the best part of the book, for me, was the setting, which lead me to investigate Hak Nam. It was a real place- Kowloon Walled City filled a 6.5 square acre area and was home to almost 33,000 people living in buildings up to 13 stories high, until the 90’s when it was demolished by the Chinese government. It had no real government; neither Britain nor China really wanted to take it on, so just left it to run itself. Besides the criminal syndicate (the Triads), the Walled City was a home to unlicensed factories and clinics (especially dental for some reason). Along with all of the darkness and despair, there was a huge amount of creativity and innovation present in this place, and the anarchic system somehow survived.

If you’re interested in learning more, I found some great sources of background information: a youtube video ( , and two websites: and

May 2015 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Question of Miracles, by Elana K. Arnold

Arnold, Elana K. The Question of Miracles. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. $16.99 ISBN 9780544334649 233pgs. Grades 4 and up, P7Q8

Arnold Question of MiraclesElana K. Arnold’s debut novel for young readers is a beautiful novel about a girl grieving over a lost friend. There isn’t that many books like this out there with a theme of dealing with loss for younger audiences.   Arnold is able to create a character that my students would be able to relate to.   Iris, the main character, questions why her friend died and why she (Iris) was still living.   Arnold is able to portray a character that withstands clichés and puts adults in Iris’ life that don’t try to explain away death, but help her deal with the pain. A great interest for my students would be where the story takes place, Corvallis.   My students can relate to Iris’ disdain for the never-ending rain and would love that Iris lives in their backyard. I would recommend this book to any reader who loves realistic fiction or a student who struggles with life’s Question of Miracles.

May 2015 review by Jo Train.

Book review: The Summer Invitation, by Charlotte Silver

Silver Summer InvitationSilver, Charlotte. The Summer Invitation. Roaring Brook. 2014. $16.99. 182p. 978-1-59643-829-3. Ages 11-14:

Two San Francisco sisters, 14-year-old Franny and 17-year-old Valentine, spend a summer in Aunt Theo’s apartment in Greenwich Village where a young chaperone, Clover, teaches them about being glamorous and sophisticated. Quiet Franny narrates their adventures as she looks into “high-class” places and tells about Val’s boy-crazy desire to be more adventurous. The time of the setting is elusive—perhaps 1980s or early 1990s; it lacks a contemporary feel because Franny wanders around the city at night. The pacing is slow, and the audience is also not easily identified because most young people will not understand references such as Catherine Deneuve and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The summer was magical to the author and the characters, but perhaps not so much the readers. Even the romance doesn’t fit a 21st-century reader. P4Q8 December 2014 review by Nel Ward.