Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

Ryan Hart is a girl who knows how to make sunshine even when things do not go smoothly in her life – her dad has lost his job, her family has to move to a smaller home, and her older brother bosses her around. She loves concocting new recipes with her mom and spending time with her friends, all the while trying to navigate the ups and downs of fourth grade. Ryan’s parents remind her that her name means “king” and she is determined to live up to her name and be a leader. Written by the Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson, Ways to Make Sunshine is the first book in a new series set in Portland, Oregon. Growing up in Portland, Renée Watson loved reading the Ramona Quimby books as a young girl and was inspired to create her own version of Ramona. In Ryan Hart, we have a positive new voice in children’s literature with more adventures to come. Back to Book Reviews

Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

This inspiring resource for middle-grade readers is organized as a dictionary; each entry presents a word related to creating a better world, such as ally, empathy, or respect. For each word, there is a poem, a quote from an inspiring person, a personal anecdote from the authors, and a "try it" prompt for an activity. This is a book I love because it’s so accessible, and allows the reader to explore all aspects of each concept.  Beautiful illustrations are the key to what makes this book a successful introduction to concepts children need to know about today. Back to Book Reviews

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

It was a joy to read this with my almost 12-year old daughter, the same age as the oldest sister telling the story. I think it's shares valuable 1960s history of the Black Panthers that includes how they helped communities and educated children. It provided rich discussions and understanding to what is happening today with Black Lives Matter. My daughter loved the characters and book - adults will like it, too. Back to Book Reviews

Chester by Melanie Watt

It is witty, funny, easy to read and creates an interesting way of reading as if the cat was messing with the story- easy to make the character’s personalities come to life! Back to Book Reviews

Ladybug Girl and Bingo by David Soman and Jacky Davis

A continuation of the story began in Ladybug Girl, Ladybug Girl and Bingo follows Lulu and her family on a camping trip. My daughter loves to read this book (and all Ladybug Girl books) over and over again. The illustrations are so well done, you can really see the full range of emotion on the characters' faces. With the nice illustrations and interesting plot, it isn't too annoying for the parent to do so! The title implies that it is about Lulu and her dog - which it is - but since the setting is the family going camping, it would be a good addition to a camping or outdoors themed reading list. We see Lulu being responsible for her dog, problem solving, being creative and curious, and family interactions - lots of good talking points for parents and children. So far, I would recommend any of the Ladybug Girl books for toddlers and preschoolers (we haven't read them all yet), but Ladybug Girl and Bingo is our favorite of the bunch. Back to Book Reviews

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

This book was enjoyed by an adult, pre-teen and an eight-year old while on a road trip. Even though it was written in 1978, the story seems timeless. We were captivated with trying to figure out the clues, and made our own guesses as to who the characters really were. The story was well written, and had us engaged until the end. Back to Book Reviews

The Wishing Well by Chris Colfer

Extremely well-written, ties in many of the fairy tales with relatable real-life characters, moves along quickly, lots of adventure, good character traits kids can identify with. Back to Book Reviews  

League of Archers by Eva Howard

Great character development, plot, and setting take place in this book as this is a spin off of many people's childhood favorite story "Robin Hood". With our own lives being beyond the false pretense of the classic fairy tales ending with " happily ever after"( just as in Robin Hood) ; the author allures you into the untold future of what might have truly happened to follow Robin Hoods legacy. By keeping old characters while blending in new characters that are more relatable to us "every day villagers", the events surrounding the Nottingham and Sherwood Forest area of England come alive again in a new thrilling and climatic way throughout this book. Moreover, the ending is not a disappointment or cliff hanger but an intriguing and inviting one that leads you to want to read more. Back to Book Reviews  

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red is the first book in a trilogy about a young woman named Gwyneth, who is suddenly swept up in a mysterious time travel society when it is revealed that she has inherited the time travel gene, rather than her perfect cousin Charlotte. Gideon is her time traveling counterpart. Gwyneth’s cousin Lucy and Gideon’s relative Paul stole one of the two time traveling devices and they have to follow a trail to find the missing time travel device. Things only get more mysterious as Gwyneth and Gideon travel to different eras to find out more! Back to Book Reviews  

Escape from Aleppo by N. H. Senzai

The Syrian civil war invades the calm and familiar lives of a young Syrian girl and her family in this novel. Bombs begin dropping nearby, and troops invade to turn their neighborhood into a battlefield and force them to flee their home. We experience the story from the young girl’s, Nadia’s, perspective as she survives a bomb’s near miss and becomes separated from her family. She must then find a way to survive the dangerous streets, the skirmish’s battlefield, to rejoin her family. While fleeing, she finds a mysterious old man and his donkey who guide her through the rubble and chaos, but as confusion rules the day, she is unsure whether she can completely trust him.  Is he protecting her and leading her to safety or using her as a human shield to protect himself? And how does he seem to know so many people? Nadia’s story brings to life the brutal circumstances from which the stream of Syrian are seeking refuge. Through her eyes we see the devastation and violence, we encounter the confusion of different factions of rebel groups, and, through her flashbacks, we learn about the events leading up to the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War. This is a great novel for anyone looking for a story about the current events in Syria. It is an engrossing read and would appeal to adults as well as children. Back to Book Reviews