Review: Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

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Ask any bibliophile what they think about banning books and you’re sure to get an earful.  At the very core of our being is the need to read anything and everything that we wish.  So when someone mentions banning a book based on a moral objection, that’s dangerous territory.

Amy Anne loves to read.  And she has one book that she loves to read above all others:  From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  She checks it out from the school library as often as she can.  In fact, she’d check it out every single time if she could.  When she goes to check it out one day, however, it’s not there.  To her dismay, she finds out that it’s been removed.  Banned, even.  Somebody somewhere decided that this most favorite book of hers, along with several others, isn’t appropriate for kids to read.

Thus begins Amy Anne’s mission.  She takes it upon herself to make sure that all the kids can read all the books.  Along the way she learns to voice her opinion, to make friends, and to follow her heart even when it’s not the easy thing to do.

Do parents have the right to choose what books they want their children to read?  Absolutely.  However, they don’t have the right to choose what books everyone else’s children are allowed to read.  It’s a slippery slope when one book is banned because somebody has an objection, and that message is driven home through this narrative.

I loved this book so very much.  Amy Anne is me when I was a kid in so many ways.  Losing herself in books, not speaking up because she didn’t want to cause trouble for anyone, she resonated deeply with me.  I only wish that the younger version of me had as much courage as she did to stand up for something she believed in.

*Note:  I’d recommend this one for middle school and up.  Although the message is appropriate for all ages, there is some mention of more mature content.

*Another note:  All of the books in this fictional story are books that have actually been challenged or banned at one time or another.

*One more note:  When I started this book, I had no idea that Amy Anne’s most favorite book in the whole wide world was also my most favorite book in the whole wide world when I was a kid.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Ban This Book

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Review: Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

51C-79dyymLJo Knowles is one of my favorite writers, one of those authors whose books are must-reads for me. So it’s a bit surprising that I’ve just recently gotten around to reading this older story. Such is the life of someone with a TBR list that’s longer than my lifespan is likely to be. But still, better late than never.

No action is without consequences, a lesson that Ellie learns the hard way when she becomes pregnant after “hooking up” at a party. It’s not the first time, but it’s the last time for a very long while. But that one night has repercussions for not just Ellie. Everyone in her inner circle is affected. Her best friend, Corinne, tries to help Ellie through what is easily the most difficult time in her young life. Her friend Caleb finds himself in a tough spot as Ellie’s friend but also a close friend of Josh, the baby’s father. And even Josh himself, an unlikeable character at first who gradually redeems himself.

This is an outstanding book. Because this is more than a story of an unintended teen pregnancy. It’s a story of dysfunctional families, ones that seem good on the surface but really aren’t. It’s a story of teenagers trying to fit in and find themselves. And it’s a story of young people trying to fill an inner void any way they can. Each and every character evokes emotion from the reader. Such is the brilliance of an author such as Jo Knowles. She makes us care about them all.

So this is a story that’s clearly meant for young adults. The question becomes, how young is too young? On the one hand, it’s pretty clear what’s going on in the back of the van at the beginning of the story. And there’s a good bit of drinking along with the fairly casual sex. But I believe these are very real issues facing today’s older teens. And for that reason, along with the fact that the author deals with it in a responsible way, I do feel that this would be an appropriate read for older teenagers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read the sequel…

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Jumping Off Swings

Review: The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal

20140309-221901.jpg As a blogger with a handful of blogger friends, I adored reading this fun and quirky novel about four women who blog. They become friends, and then much more than friends – emotional supporters, caretakers, heirs, protégés, mentors.

I took special interest in the romantic relationships the women had. One lost her spouse in a tragedy and was lost as to how to relate to her surviving daughter. Another suffered a break-up with a longtime boyfriend – I never thought she’d get over him! But Barbara O’Neal surprised me and put together a perfect, authentic goodbye. What strength Ruby had! A third woman tried to make inroads in her bad marriage, but her husband just sabotaged every effort. After some wishy-washy-ness and some unexpected magic, it all works out for Ginny, much to the chagrin of her arrogant husband.

O’Neal wrote characters I admire. All four of them had flaws, but they each took their dealt hand and played the game with honesty, vulnerability, and heart. Most importantly they stayed true to themselves, stood up for themselves, and made themselves paths for personal and professional success.

I’m not much one for magic, but the wonders of The All You Can Dream Buffet touched my soul and gave me a hankering for something, oh, lavender maybe.

–Calliope

Buy THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET