Wini Ashooh

The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito

The End of the Line

Robbie is in middle school and has a pretty typical life in The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito. His mom runs a day care business from their home, his dad goes to work, and his beloved Uncle Grant--almost ready for deployment to Iraq--trains with Robbie to run long distance. A new boy named Ryan comes to town and befriends Robbie, and Robbie reluctantly accepts Ryan's friendship. Ryan's home life is very different from Robbie's. His mother is in the "hospital," and he hasn't seen his younger sister in months. He lives with his grandparents in a dilapidated old house that is on the verge of being condemned-- so much so that his house is regarded by the other teens in town as a haunted house.  He rarely has any food available--certainly none to share when he has a friend over.

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of her family's SUV. She is sick and her stepmother has gone into the pharmacy to pick up her medicine.  She left the engine running because she was only going to be a minute. Griffin is in the parking lot of the shopping center looking for packages in cars that he can steal.  He sees the SUV with the engine running and he steals it. Cheyenne is still asleep in the back seat. She wakes up to find that she is in her car and it is being stolen. Griffin has no idea that Cheyenne is in the back. Oh yes, and one more thing....Cheyenne is blind in Girl, Stolen by April Henry.

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan has created a book with visually stimulating pictures and rich text in Lost and Found.  This book is a compilation of four stories addressing the concepts of loss and hope.  The tale is enhanced through the vivid and inventive illustrations accompanying the stories.  Tan's muted tones create sometimes somber settings juxtaposed with the vivid introduction of a surprise element.  For example, in the first story “The Red Tree,” Tan takes the reader on a melancholy journey through sadness and despair with a stunning surprise in the simplicity of a red leaf.  The reader finds herself thrust into a hopeful and encouraging element that compels the character to smile.

You Wish by Amanda Hubbard

You Wish by Amanda Hubbard

Kayla McHenry turned sixteen, and her Mom threw her a huge birthday party. That is what Kayla's mom does for a living --she puts together parties for people.  The only problem is that Kayla's mom never asked her what kind of party she wanted or if she even wanted one at all.  She didn't.  Besides all that, her best friend Nicole has become cute and popular and she is dating the guy Kayla is madly in love with ...Ben McKenzie.  In the book You Wish, by Amanda Hubbard, Kayla McHenry is 16 and miserable.  After the disappointing birthday party (the one that her best friend completely missed because she was on a date with her boyfriend), Kayla reminisces on the day and cavalierly wishes that all of her birthday wishes that she has ever made would come true. The next morning there is a bright pink pony in her yard. The next day her bedroom is full of gumballs.  After that her Raggedy Ann doll comes to life and wants to go everywhere with her, even to school. But wait there is more.  Did I mention that Ken shows up to take her out on a date? This brings to mind the phrase "be careful what you wish for."

The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine

The Absolute Value of Mike

The main character of the book The Absolute Value of Mike, by Kathryn Erskine, is the son of a brilliant but absent-minded mathematician.  Mike takes care of everything around the house.  He pays the bills and handles all the day-to-day activities of the household.   Although Mike's father is a mathematician, Mike suffers from a condition called dyscalculia, meaning that he has an inablity to process math problems.  Mike's father wants him to become an engineer, a career which requires a lot of math.  Mike does not want to disappoint his father, but he struggles with math because of his dyscalculia.  He doesn't know how to tell his father that he does not want to be an engineer.

Mike learns that his father is going to Romania for work, and that he will not be going with him.  The plan is to send Mike to live with his Great Aunt Moo and Great Uncle Poppy in Pennsylvania.  Mike has never met them, and he is not happy about this arrangement.  Upon his arrival  Mike soon realizes that Poppy and Moo need his help more than he needs theirs.  Poppy and Moo are living from Social Security check to Social Security check.  Their home is in disrepair, and they are terrible at managing their finances. 

Framed by Gordon Korman

Framed by Gordon Korman

You met Griffin Bing and his friends in Swindle and followed their escapades in Zoobreak.  Now Gordon Korman has brought the gang back in his latest installment--Framed.  Griffin always seems to find trouble even when he is not looking for it.  In this latest adventure, Cedarville Middle School has become the recipient of of a Super Bowl ring.  It is put on display in the school's trophy cabinet.  Suddenly, it goes missing. Griffin is held responsible for the heist. His friends decide to prove his innocence and set out to find the real thief.

Griffin has an eclectic group of friends.  There is Ben Slovak, who suffers from narcolepsy and has a therapeutic ferret, and Savannah Drysdale, an avid animal enthusiast.  Logan is a budding actor, and Pitch is a super athlete.  Together with several other characters, the team assembles a sophisticated crime-busting enterprise as they attempt to identify the actual perp.  However, Griffin is sent to "JFK" - Jail for Kids. He is being framed for the crime. He has a reputation of being a trouble maker throughout his town of Cedarville. Even though the John F. Kennedy Alternative School is not a detention center, he is not supposed to see his friends. However, a pesky little detail like that never stopped Griffin.  There is a monitoring system installed in his home and when he ventures beyond the required boundaries a comic episode occurs.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

We are all very familiar with the atrocities engineered by Adolph Hitler, but less is heard about the atrocities that occurred at the direction of Joseph Stalin.  Twenty million people were murdered under his leadership.  In the book Between the Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys gives a very compelling account of the Soviet invasion of the country of Lithuania in 1941.  Lists of people who were considered enemies of the state were compliled, and these people were removed from their homes and workplaces.  These people were often professors, teachers, writers, artists, and librarians.  The men were sent to prison and the women and children to forced labor camps--some of which were located in Siberia and the Arctic Circle.  These individuals were separated from family members and forced to live under extremely harsh conditions with none of the comforts of home.  They were not given food or medical attention.  The women and children were shoved into railroad cars and sent away without ever being told where they were going.

The main character in this book is named Lina.  She, her mother, and her younger brother are removed by force from their home and sent to Siberia.  In Siberia, which is harsh enough to begin with, they have to scrounge for anything to eat.  Even one potato becomes a luxury for the prisoners.  Beets become a treat.  The prisoners are forced to dig with shovels which have no handles, and they sleep on the freezing cold floor of a shack.

Bystander by James Preller

Bystander

Eric is thirteen.  His family has moved to Long Island.  They are in a new place and he is in a new school, but all this happens without his Dad.  His Dad did not move with them.  He is elsewhere and suffering from depression.  In Bystander by James Preller, the reader sympathizes with Eric as he makes all these new adjustments in his new life.  He misses his dad, and his mom is very busy trying to create a typical life for her children.

Eric is the new kid in town and in school. He meets a group of middle schoolers while on the basketball court one day.  As the dynamics of the group reveal themselves, Eric is quick to realize that Griffin Connelly (the leader of the pack) is not such a nice guy.  In fact, he is a bully.  One of the main targets for his mean antics is David Hallenback.  David is under the mistaken assumption that he is part of the group and a friend of Griffin's.  That is not the case.

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Raphael is fourteen years old and living in an unnamed, third-world country in Andy Mulligan's book, Trash.  He and his friend Gardo spend most of their days picking through the huge trash pile looking for everyday items and food.   Raphael and Gardo know that when the trash is dumped from the wealthy part of town they will have a heyday.  Most of the children in Raphael's village drop out of school to spend their day sifting through the trash to help support their families.  Families see school as a waste of time when their children could be helping out in a more productive manner with the trash picking.

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin

In the book Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Maberry has created a post apocalyptic zombie infested world.  Benny Imura and his brother Tom live in a safe zone that is separated from the zombies by a fence.  They are constantly under threat of attack by the zombies.  Benny is fifteen and it is time for him to find an occupation.  After several failed attempts at employment he decides to learn his brother's trade which is bounty hunter.  Benny eventually learns that his brother is not a typical bounty hunter.  He does search for zombies but he is hired by family members with a special request.  Benny and Tom head out together beyond the safety of the fence.

Benny never knew his parents.  The night of the zombie apocalypse, Benny's father is infected and becomes a zombie.  His mother who has been injured, hands the baby Benny off to his older brother Tom and tells him to run. That is the last that they see of their parents.  Benny has believed for years that his brother is a coward.  That happened fourteen years ago.  Tom has been raising Benny ever since but their relationship is very strained.  As they work and travel together Benny learns more about his brother and the reality of that night.