Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I am not ashamed to admit that I'm an awards hound. Give me a list of books that have either been shortlisted for or won an award, and I'll immediately go online and request copies from my local library. I am, however, ashamed to admit that I waited until Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me won the Newbery Medal to check it out even after Betsy Bird said way back in April, " ...this book is, pretty much, one of the best children's books I have ever read."

After FINALLY reading it, I have to agree with Ms. Bird and so many others around the blogosphere who love this book.

It's the late 70's, and sixth-grader Miranda spends much of her time helping her mother practice for The 25,000 Pyramid game show. Her best friend, Sal, has suddenly stopped talking to her, and to make her "normal" life even more complicated, she's started receiving mysterious messages that not only seem to predict the future but convince her that she must help prevent the deaths of her friend and the letter writer. But who are the letters coming from and can Miranda do what is asked of her?

To wrap this book up in a neat little bow is difficult because there is so much going on. Not only is it a mystery, but it's a coming of age novel where Miranda is forced to make new friends and step outside of her comfort zone for the first time in her life. It's not until the very end that you realize what exactly is going on, and you're tempted to read the book over again to look for the clues that are scattered throughout.

What is most impressive is that Rebecca Stead is able to weave the complex storyline together in a fairly short novel with beautifully-written prose. Miranda is a truly believable character who many kids will identify with. And the references to A Wrinkle in Time, the book Miranda has read over and over again, were delightful. Those familiar with A Wrinkle in Time will have fun finding the similarities between the book and what is going on in Miranda's life.

This is a book, I'd give to any tween who likes both realistic fiction and a bit of sci-fi and mystery. For the perfect gift for a young book lover, pair When You Reach Me with A Wrinkle in Time. 

Reading level: 9-12 | Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (2009) | ISBN: 978-0385737425 | Source: Purchased e-book

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Terra Cooper was born with a port wine stain that covers one cheek and has dealt with numerous surgeries and treatments to try to at least make it fade a bit her entire life. She's also dealt with numerous taunts from her peers and has resorted to wearing thick pancake makeup to cover it. Her verbally abusive and degrading father has managed to destroy anything that was left of her self-esteem. She doesn't think she's good enough to have a boyfriend that truly cares for her, so she settles for a self-absorbed jock who only really cares about his muscles. Then one day, by chance, Terra meets Jacob, somewhat of an outsider himself, and through him, she is finally able to accept herself and learn to heal.

To sum up this book in a short paragraph is so hard to do.  North of Beautiful is more than just about self-acceptance. It's a book about growth, healing, family, and self-discovery. Justina Chen Headley has done an amazing job with creating characters you love and characters you hate, but above all, creating characters who are real. Through Terra's journey, the reader is forced to think about what true beauty is and the power of thinking positively about yourself. Terra turns from someone who hides her true self into a courageous young woman who learns to love herself and accept who she is, flaws and all.

North of Beautiful is a beautifully-written and inspiring book that will appeal to many teens. I highly recommend it.

Reading Level: Young Adult | ISBN: 978-0316025065 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | Source: Purchased copy

The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review Policy


What types of books do you review?
I review books for children and young adults, an am especially interested in:
  • High-interest nonfiction for kids of all ages
  • Books, both fiction and nonfiction, featuring multicultural characters
  • Books geared specifically toward toddlers and babies 
  • Dystopian fiction, science-fiction, paranormal fiction for middle grade or young adults
  • Realistic/issue-based young adult fiction
I also review educational books and workbooks. 
    If you have a book that fits within these categories, please e-mail me at thewellreadchild AT gmail DOT com.

    Do you review PDFs or e-books?
    I will accept e-books of Middle Grade and Young Adult books that are compatible with a Kindle e-reader. I do not accept e-book versions of picture books. Part of the magic of reading is being able to flip through books and devour the material, especially if it's a book with illustrations.

    Do you review self-published books? 
    I accept self-published books for review on a case-by-case basis. If you have a self-published children's book, please e-mail me with a detailed description of your book and why you'd like me to consider it for review.  

    Can you guarantee a review?
    No. Acceptance of a book does not guarantee a review. Sometimes I choose not to review a book because it does not fit within The Well-Read Child's mission. I only spend time reviewing books that I feel children, young adults, and adults will find appealing or books about which I have something to say. I'm always honest in my reviews, so you may expect to see negative reviews from time to time.

    Do you review book aps? 
    Yes! I will review book aps that are downloadable on an iPhone or iPod touch. 

    E-mail me at thewellreadchild AT gmail DOT com.