Book review: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, by Jason Reynolds

Reynolds, Jason. Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781481438308. 188 pages. Ages 10-14. P8 Q8

This book is a set of ten separate short stories, but the characters are connected; they all go to the same school. Each chapter is titled with the name of a street, and the stories are about the kids walking home to that part of the neighborhood. There are chapters about friends, bullies, family drama and first loves, all told through the eyes of young people. Some are laugh out loud funny, and others are heart breaking. On Placer St. we meet the the Low Cuts, four friends with many things in common including qualifying for free lunch, and parents who were cancer survivors. These shared experiences made them tough, yet we learn how leaning on friends makes tough times better. The stories capture the social lives of inner city middle school students perfectly. Verdict: a great book for middle school and the J Fiction section of the library. Friends play such a huge role in the lives of middle schoolers and this book focuses on those important relationships.

December 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Once There Was a Story, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jane Dyer

Yolen, Jane. Once There Was a Story. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. Simon and Schuster, 2017. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-7172-6. 135 pages. Includes bibliography. Ages 4-10. P8/Q9

A well thought out and beautifully crafted book, Once There Was a Story is a collection of fairy tales and folk tales from around the world. Containing 30 short stories in all it includes classics, lesser known tales, and 2 of Jane Yolen’s original short stories. Jane Dyer’s accompanying illustrations are a wonderful addition which only adds to the quality of the book.

Verdict: This would make a wonderful addition to any elementary library. The stories are varied and entertaining and the quality of the book itself would make it a copy that could hold up through the years and many hands. The binding is well made and it is a good size for a read aloud book.

November 2018 review by Michelle Cottrell.

Book review: Because I Was a Girl: True Stories For Girls of all Ages, edited by Melissa de la Cruz

Because I Was a Girl: True Stories For Girls of all Ages. Edited by Melissa de la Cruz. Henry Holt and Company, 2017. $18.99. ISBN 9781250154460. 241 pages. Ages 12+. P7 Q7

Did you know that Monopoly was invented by Lizzie Magie Philips, originally called Landlord’s game, to critique big business? Describing each decade from the 1920’s to 2010’s, this book is filled with short autobiographical stories of women and the challenges they encountered and overcame. Each chapter is dedicated to a decade in American history and is preceded by a page of women’s history facts for that era. It is fascinating to see how women’s issues progressed from 1920 to 2010. The short chapters make it easy to pick and choose or read all the way through. The lives of these women show incredible strength to overcome obstacles. While the short stories show how the women overcome challenges, it seems like it emphasizes the challenge they have being a woman in direct comparison to the ease men in similar situations have had, rather than focusing on the hard work and resilience of these women. I would have enjoyed it more if the emphasis had been on the latter. A more accurate title would have been, Because I was a girl: How I made a difference in a man’s world. Additionally, while the author did a good job of including women from diverse racial backgrounds, the book would have been improved by including LGBT and disabled women.

Verdict:  I learned more about women in history and women related issues. Middle school and high school, or public libraries would benefit from this book.

February 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Taking Aim: Power and Pain, Teens and Guns, edited by Michael Cart

Cart, Michael, ed. Taking Aim: Power and Pain, Teens and Guns. HarperTeen, 2015. $17.99. ISBN: 9780062327352. 345p. Gr. 9-12. P6 Q10

Cart Taking AimThis is a poignant, painful, and insightful collection of short stories intended to provide multiple viewpoints on teens, guns, school shootings, hunting, etc. Editor Michael Cart introduces the collection and a prologue by Marc Aronson, Will Weaver, and Chris Crutcher poses the questions: “What are guns for? Where do they fit in our society?” Stories range from “lost boy joins gang” (“Roach”, by Walter Dean Myers) to “hunting holiday goes awry” (“Shoot”, by Gregory Galloway.) There are tales of “gun intoxication” (“Certified Deactivated”, by Chris Lynch) and a weird little graphic novel, “Love Packs Heat” by Eric Shanower, where Cupid encounters problems when he substitutes firepower for his traditional bow and arrows.   “Embraced by Raven Arms” is Tim Wynne-Jones account of what happens when guns and mental illness collide. All of the stories are bittersweet reminders of the pain guns can cause in the hands of teens, as there are no positive outcomes in any of these selections. This collection would be a great one to promote class discussion.

P6 Q10 Review by L.F., NHS Staff

[Editor’s note: Thirteen short stories explore the impact of guns on teens.]

Book review: Violent Ends

Violent Ends. Simon Pulse, 2015.  $17.99  ISBN: 9781481437455.   352p. Gr. 9-12. P5 Q6

Violent EndsThis book was about a boy named Kirby who shoots up a school, killing 6 and injuring 5 others. The story is told through 17 different points of view from people who knew Kirby and what happened to them after the shooting. This book was difficult to read, as 17 different authors write each point of view and it made the story more disjointed. Overall, the story line is very interesting and in-depth, with a lot of realistic dialog and emotions.

November 2015 review by K.W., NHS Senior

[Editor’s note: Eighteen authors of young adult works wrote seventeen short stories about a high school shooting in this anthology.  The points of view range from the shooter’s ex-girlfriend, to the boy who bullied him in first grade,  to a stalker, to the gun used in the murders, etc.]

Book review: Fat & Bones, by Larissa Theule, illustrated by Adam S. Doyle

Theule, Larissa. Fat & Bones and other stories. Ill. Adam S. Doyle. Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, 2014. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-0825-8. 103 pgs. Ages 8-12. P7Q7

Theule Fat & BonesFarmer Bald has died and chaos is running amok on the farm. The farmer’s skinny son, Bones, has had a long-running battle with a fairy named Fat, and with the farmer gone, they battle openly. The farmer’s wife and the farm animals are paying the price. That is where the other stories come into play.

This book was a cute blend of lessons to be learned and dark fantasy about the animals (think Animal Farm). It was one that everyone read on the camping trip and most everyone gave it a thumbs up.

[Editor’s note: other reviews compared this to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories and noted themes similar to some of the darker Grimms’ tales.]

Summer 2015 review by Kris Cooper.

Book review: Lucky dog: twelve tales of rescued dogs

Lucky dog: twelve tales of rescued dogs, Scholastic Press, 183 pgs. $15.99, ISBN:978-0-545-55451-0, Grades 3-5.  P 7, Q 8,

All the proceeds from this book are to go to Red Rover, which helps animals in need. 12 authors have written stories about dogs. Some are centered around the same rescue center. All of the stories will touch your hearts and some will bring tears to your eyes. September 2014 review by Carol Bernardi.

[Note: includes stories by Randi Barrow, Marlane Kennedy, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, Kirby Larson, C. Alexander London, Leslie Margolis, Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines Stephens, Ellen Miles, Michael Northrop, Teddy Slater, Tui T. Sutherland, and Allan Woodrow.]