“Is he running for his life…or running from it?” asks a caption gracing the cover of “Ghost,” the latest middle grade from author Jason Reynolds (“As Brave As You”).
“He” is Castle Crenshaw, but you can just call him Ghost. After all, he’s all but invisible to most people. ‘Cept maybe Mr. Charles, the guy who works at the convenience store where he and Mom hid on the worst night of their lives. And his small family, who he barely sees. And maybe Brandon, the school bully. He can’t seem to get Ghost out of his brain whenever he sees him. Talk about world’s record for Most Invisible Kid.
Ghost walks home after school one day on his normal route, quietly watching in the shadows, occasionally making fun of the gym rats or admiring the ball players on the courts. An anger boils slowly inside him as he spits sunflower seeds into the street. This time, he sees something else—the fenced in track behind the ball courts actually has people on it. Kids practicing running—PRACTICING RUNNING! As if it needs to be practiced. Ha! He chews on more seeds—and then spits them out one by one. Ghost knows how to run. He doesn’t need to practice at all. He could beat that tall kid they call Lu. He wouldn’t need to be on the team, just beat him in a race. Ghost hops the fence, ignoring all the calls of “This is a private practice” and challenges Lu. Ghost’s performance in the race earns him the coach’s calling card—an invitation, but to what? Can Ghost outrun his problems or will they end up catching up to him?
This is hands down the best book I’ve read so far for summer reading. I read Reynolds’s earlier Middle Grade work, “As Brave As You,” last October. His character development fascinated me throughout both books. In “Ghost,” there’s certainly more to every character than meets the eye. The book opens with memories of Ghost and his mom running from his violent father, but we learn later that Ghost sort of loves his father, even with all his obvious faults. One of my favorite scenes from the book is when Ghost remembers how he and his dad used to eat sunflower seeds together. It’s short, but it drives home the point that you can have memories of a person (both good and bad), but those memories don’t necessarily define your opinion of that person.
Characters other than Ghost: I loved Coach Brody and the supporting cast, which is why I’ll be reading the next books in the series. I really liked how Lu, Patina and Sunny all interacted with one another, but my favorite character besides Ghost was probably Coach Brody. He is definitely more than a coach, but Reynolds is careful not to let the kids idolize him. I hope to explore more about his life in the next books while I hear the other teammates’ stories.
Patina, you’re up next.
Five out of Five stars.
Have you read this book? What books would you recommend I read? Put your comments down below!
I just wanted to take some time and write a little about what I’ve been doing lately since I’m finishing up some books.
First off, I read “The Forever Tree” by Tereasa Surratt and Donna Lukas; Illustrated by Nicola Slater. I picked this book because the illustrations really caught my eye and it looked like a fun picture book to read. The story involves a tree and its various inhabitants (partying squirrels, watchful raccoons, space cadet chipmunks) as they deal with the very real possibility that a couple of humans might ruin their lives. But instead of hurting the tree, the animals find that the grandfather and his granddaughter want to put a rope swing around it. All is well until more humans come. The animals worry. But then, after a little while, there are picnics under the tree. And there are games and parties. Except, after that, the tree gets old and sick. Other humans want to cut it down. The animals conspire to put up a big fight. The tree’s favorite humans are outraged. Though they can’t talk to one another, creature and human seem to agree: “Something beautiful is always worth saving,” even if you have to change it in order to help it live on. A fun and innovative take on “The Giving Tree,” this book is a sweet way to help a child understand the meaning of change without being too preachy or sad. Four out of five stars.
“Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses” by Kimberly and James Dean
My mother, who was an amazing kindergarten teacher, loved to read “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes” by James Dean and Eric Litwin to her class at the beginning of the school year. If you haven’t heard of this cool cat, you probably should check out his first book, mentioned above. Pete is a very cool character who is based on James Dean’s real cat. Because of this, I can only imagine the real “Pete” is a very chill boy (or girl). Much like Jonathan London (“Froggy” series), Marc Brown (“Arthur”), or even the Berenstains, Dean has the gift of talking to children about complex issues like attitude adjustment without being too obvious. In “Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses,” Pete, the normally cool cat, is feeling pretty down until a friend gives him a pair of “magic sunglasses.” As one might predict, Pete’s outlook instantly changes and he sees the sun shining, hears birds chir—but wait!—what happens when Pete falls off his skateboard and the magic sunglasses break? How will Pete get back to being his cool self if he can’t remember how to feel happy? The magic sunglasses were his only chance…or so he thought. Though this book isn’t quite as neat as “I Love My White Shoes,” it’s a pretty good addition to a series that helps kids deal with feelings in a difficult world. Plus, Pete, as always, is a stellar cat. If I ever have a cat, I hope he’ll be similar to Pete. Four out of five stars.
Obe Devlin has problems. The eleven-year-old is still suffering from frequent nosebleeds, months after his ex-best friend Tommy punched him in the face. His parents don’t understand why he cares so much about cleaning up the polluted creek near their house. Then there’s that thing about Tommy and his new friends. And the housing developments are taking over what used to be the Devlin family’s private land. That’s all before a mysterious, plastic-eating, dog-like creature wanders near Obe’s favorite place—Devlin Creek.
When Obe first encounters the creature, later named Marvin Gardens, he doesn’t know whether to run or just stare. But after Marvin starts eating the plastic cups and bags littered around the area, Obe has two thoughts: A. He dreamed Marvin here and he’s crazy “because most people don’t believe in things like Bigfoot.” Or, B, maybe Marvin is the solution to all the pollution problems they’ve been studying in science class. After going back to the creek and seeing Marvin a few more times, Obe decides he’s not “crazy” and maybe there’s something to this idea that the creature could help the world. But first, Obe has to get someone to believe Marvin exists while still working out his other problems. It’s a lot for a sixth grader to handle, especially when the closest friend he has is, well, kind of like Bigfoot.
This is a book that I truly believe only Amy Sarig King could write. King, known in the YA world as A.S. King for her magical realism books like “Everybody Sees the Ants” and “Ask the Passengers” is masterful at getting a reader to believe in the seemingly impossible. When I opened this book, never having read a word of her other work, I wondered how this story would work. Would I be rooting for this character only for him to end up saying it was all a dream at the end? But A.S. King is too smart for that. She takes what could’ve been a preachy book about environmentalism and urban sprawl and turns it into a quiet contemplation on friendship, the changing world and one family’s place in American history.
I’ll be giving my review of “Me and Marvin Gardens” after I finish it later this week. The movie I watched this week was so terrible that I couldn’t follow the plot at all, despite good efforts from everyone involved. I hope to give you another movie review soon as well. Thanks for following my blog, as always.
It’s that time of year again, my friends. I’m gearing up for summer reading at my local library and I’ve got some great books on my list. I love the warm days of summer, going to the beach and definitely devouring any books I might come across. But it’s time to get organized. So, here, in no real order (except the first one), is my summer reading list. Comment as you see fit. Add any books you recommend in the comments. *indicates an award book from this year’s Illinois list.
Finish Golden Son by Pierce Brown. I’m loving this book so far and I hope to finish by the time the program officially starts at our library on June 1.
Booked* by Kwame Alexander
The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire #1) by Craig Johnson (I’m a huge Longmire TV show fan, so this is a must).
If I like the first Longmire, I’ll go on to the next ones.
The Iron Trial* by Holly Black
Unbound* by Ann Burg
The Girl With All the Gifts By M.R. Carey (not usually into horror, but this was recommended by a Stranger Things blog)
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel* by Firoozeh Dumas
Better Nate than Ever* by Tim Federle
We Will Not Be Silent* by Russell Freedman
Lily and Dunkin* by Donna Gephart
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
One Half From the East* by Nadia Hashimi
Paper Things* by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Me and Marvin Gardens* by A.S. King
March, Book 1* by John Lewis
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (I’ve never read it!)
Ghost* by Jason Reynolds (because he’s a genius, also)
Undefeated* by Steve Sheinkin
Falling Over Sideways* by Jordan Sonnenblick
Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story* by Caren Stelson
The Goldfish Boy* by Lisa Thompson (So, SO excited for this because it has a character with OCD)
Maybe a reprise of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle because I love it.
This is a pretty ambitious list, I realize. I probably won’t get all of it read. I might not even get half of it read, but I’ve learned the most important thing is to try, so look for these and other reviews coming later this summer/year. I may add some books. Some authors and books were not included from the Rebecca Caudill list just because I have already read them. I highly recommend reading Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere and Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. Here is the list in downloadable format. http://www.rebeccacaudill.org/images/2019/2019CaudillAuthorList.pdf
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” —To Kill A Mockingbird, Chapter 3
“A Different Pond,” like “To Kill A Mockingbird” before it, challenges the reader to abandon any assumptions they have about the world around them, especially the people in that world. The story is simple enough. It involves a family going out to fish at a small body of water near New York City. Simple enough. But soon the reader finds things aren’t always what they seem.
The boy and his family are refugees and the fishing trip takes place early in the morning, before school, before most other people in the city are even awake. He takes the reader on a journey down to the bait and tackle shop. They buy minnows that shine like silver. The fish make him smile even though he knows they will be used as bait for other, bigger fish. As father and son head down further to the pond, the reader becomes more aware of their relationship. The New York City skyline gleams from a distance, but the boy’s attentions are on his father, his hero with the callused hands whose sacrifices help him enjoy a new life. The child’s face, his expressions, the way he loves his dad’s accent (even if kids at school don’t), all of these things speak to the experience he has and the love between a father and son.
“A Different Pond” is truly stunning in its vivid pictures and its poetic description of home, family and undying hope for a better future.