Ms. Bartels Recommends
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Dr. Bales and I spent an entire lunch period talking about this book; she read it first and tried not to give me too much information on it before I plunged in. The LA Times called Edugyan's novel "intoxicating," and I have to agree. The story pulls in the reader from the first page and I had a hard time putting it down, even as I was on the very edge of uneasiness the entire four days I was reading it. Every physical journey Wash takes, every harrowing step of his life journey, makes it feel like everything around him is just one slight step away from utter destruction. The first two nights I was reading it, I couldn't read before I went to bed because the brutality of some of the scenes would work its way into my dreams. But I also spent an entire day and evening hunkered down in front of a fireplace, not talking to my friends, and encouraging them to go out and explore the town we were visiting so that I could finish it undisturbed; that is exactly the type of book it is. And the end? I'm still not sure what I think happened on that last page . . . the end is haunting.
"Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.
When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or 'Titch,' is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.
He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him.
What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.
From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again – and asks the question, what is true freedom?" ~ from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 10+
Ms. Ricker Recommends
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
I'm sure a lot of students will be able to sympathize with Lucy, a girl who would rather not attend middle school. Lucy's not worried about academics, but she's unsure of how to make friends and fit in. Lucy was struck by lightning four years earlier and, as a result, is now a math genius. She's been homeschooled since the incident and, although she's already passed the GED and gotten a perfect score on the Math SAT, she hasn't yet figured out how to socialize with kids her age, so her grandmother decides to enroll her in public middle school.
This book was an HM Newbery finalist and, although it follows a somewhat common homeschool-to-public school storyline and falls into some predictable YA/middle grade tropes, this book is a step above the rest. Lucy is such an endearing, yet flawed, character. In addition to being a math genius, her accident has also caused her to have some OCD tendencies that bring some fullness to the novel and reminded me a bit of last year's HM Newbery contender, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry. Although this did not place in the HM Newbery balloting, I think it was a worthy contender and students generally seemed to enjoy reading it.
"A lightning strike made Lucy, twelve, a math genius but, after years of homeschooling, her grandmother enrolls her in middle school and she learns that life is more than numbers." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 6+
Ms. Kazan Recommends
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
This non-fiction work is much more than just a detailed account of the fire that ravaged the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986. It's part detective story and part mystery, interspersed with investigative reporting, historical profiles of past librarians, and an examination of current librarians and their jobs. But, most poignantly, The Library Book is an homage to libraries themselves. However, you do not have to be a librarian or other type of bibliophile to enjoy this book, as Orlean makes a potentially dry subject come to life. Her chronicle of the Los Angeles Central Library is also a history lesson on a greater scale, as much of the library's evolution mirrors that of the country.
"Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Ms. Matlin Recommends
Check, Please! #Hockey (Book 1) by Ngozi Ukazu
Check, Please! was on a lot of "Things You Must Read in 2018" lists and I fully agree. I could tell you this comic is about a ton of things: hockey, first love, pie, college life, weird team nicknames; but really, it's about Eric "Bitty" Bittle, who is the most adorable fish-out-of-water you could ever hope to read about. Check, Please! was originally published as a webcomic, which means you can read it right now! And even better, once you finish the first volume (covering freshman and sophomore years), you can immediately dive into more adventures with Bitty and his teammates, who are all fascinating in their own ways (I'm kind of hoping for a spin-off series for Haus 2.0). I'm not a hockey person at all and this comic hasn't turned me into one, but I love the hockey-ese chapters with Ransom and Holster. This comic has me not only giggling but also emoting out loud. Ukazu's art style is beautifully clean and readable from the beginning and increases in technical skill throughout.
"Eric Bittle is a former Georgia junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and amateur patissier. But as accomplished as he is, nothing could prepare him for his freshman year of playing hockey at the prestigious Samwell University in Samwell, Massachusetts. It's nothing like co-ed club hockey back in the South! For one? There's checking. Second, there is Jack – his very attractive but moody captain. A collection of the first half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: # Hockey is the first in a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 8+