Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

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Waiting For the Moment to Arrive:

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
with illustrations by Betsy Peterschmidt
(HarperCollins Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 8-12)

Starred Review – Kirkus
Junior Literary Guild Selection
The Independent Booksellers Association – Kids’ Next Pick for Spring 2015.

Blackbird-Fly-cvr.jpgI love the Beatles! I am a truly devoted fan, so when I came across Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut middle grade fiction novel, Blackbird Fly, I knew I was in for a treat. What I didn’t expect is that the book would address, with truthfulness and clarity, so many of the difficult issues of being in middle school.

After the death of her father when she was four-years-old, Apple Yengko and her mother immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. Apple’s one possession that belonged to her father is his tape of Abbey Road. Now that Apple is in middle school nothing is like what it was in elementary school. In middle school there are now mean girls who used to be Apple’s friends, new friends to make, and Apple is trying to discover who she really is meant to be when she is unexpectedly set apart from the crowd.

More than anything Apple wants to fit in at school, but maybe even equal to that longing is how much Apple really wants a guitar. When social pressures begin to mount up at school, Apple sees no way out of the veritable tornado of difficult times which include being placed on the “Dog Log” at school, a list that the boys make of the ugliest girls. Listening to The Beatles becomes Apple’s way of coping with the changing times she finds herself in. Luckily for Apple her new friends help her to find a way out of all the chaos. She learns that with music and a little help from her friends she can tackle this tough time.

This touching tribute to the power of music to transform a bad time into a better one and how much a true friend can help you had me nodding in agreement many times. I remember these middle school days very well. Who does not remember the days when you just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere, and when friends suddenly turned into popularity seekers? Blackbird Fly speaks right to the middle school student I was.

The message of the book is one that all middle school students should hear. Find out who your true friends are. Find out what you stand for and the kind of person you want to be. Find your passion in life. Follow the truth and be truthful with others. These are hard lessons to learn, but Erin Entrada Kelly presents a sympathetic heroine who is so easy to relate to. Apple is just learning to navigate the tricky waters of growing up. Kelly writes her character so well. Apple is not perfect, but she is trying her best to find her way. I was rooting for this character all the way through the book and the plot kept me so gripped that I read it in one sitting. It’s very seldom that I’ve read a book so perfectly pitched to the middle grade experience that I would hand it to a girl that age and say, “Here, take this book and you will learn so much about the time you are going through. Use this as a guide.” Blackbird Fly is that book.

References to the Beatles are sprinkled thoughout the book. Even though Apple’s favorite Beatle is George, I can still identify with this character. The best Beatle is of course Paul, but I’m open to debate. Still, you don’t have to be a Beatles fan to understand that sometimes you just want to fly away from difficult situations, but you need to learn how to, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” The moment you were waiting to arrive might come after a difficult time. However, if you can be strong like Apple is and stand for what you believe in then I promise you the moment you were waiting for will finally arrive. Blackbird Fly can be pre-ordered now and will be available on 3/24/15.

– Reviewed by Hilary Taber


Ava and Pip by Carol Weston

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Ava and Pip by Carol Weston is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

Enter the giveaway, too! Tomorrow we’ll be sharing a guest post by Carol Weston.

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Ava and Pip by Carol Weston, Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, © 2014.

Ava and Pip(Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $15.99; ages 8-12), is a book rich with characters, storylines, and themes. It is simultaneously a word nerd’s vocabulary haven, a parent’s guide to sibling dynamics, and a cautionary (and ultimately uplifting) tale about the power of words.

Enter to win a copy of the book by clicking here. Please include your name and address and write Ava and Pip in the subject line. Giveaway ends at midnight PST, on March 13, 2014. Entrants from US and Canada only. Winner selected and notified on March 14th. Please like us on Facebook for an extra entry. Good luck!

Ava Wren is an outgoing ten-year old whose world is full of words. Her father is a playwright, and the whole family constantly plays palindrome and homonym word games. She even has a special souvenir pen that her father brought from Ireland. As full as Ava’s life is, all is not well. Ava loves her older sister, Pip, but is frustrated by Pip’s introverted nature and the resulting attention Pip receives from their parents. When a new girl, Bea, throws a party on the same night that Pip does, Ava decides to “help” her sister by submitting a story about a mean new girl who steals other people’s friends. What Ava doesn’t realize is that people aren’t always what they may seem and that her story is about to have bigger consequences than she imagined. Carol Weston does a wonderful job of seeing the world from a young female’s perspective. That’s no surprise, as Ms. Weston is an advice columnist for Girl’s Life. This insight allows her to present the situations, feelings, and vernacular of both the adults and adolescents authentically.

“Fine,” I said. But it wasn’t fine. Sometimes it seems as if Mom cares more about Pip than about me. Pip, her precious firstborn. Here are three pieces of evidence:

1. Mom always buys Pip her favorite snacks (like pretzels and mangoes), but doesn’t buy me mine (like grapes and cheddar cheese).

2. Mom gives Pip an allowance, but I have to take the garbage out for nothing.

3. Mom praises Pip’s sketches more than my writing—not that I ever show her my writing, but still.

I didn’t even tell Mom that I got another 100 in spelling (or that I got a 79 on the math quiz).

Told in a diary form, Ava and Pip explores many dynamics: parent-child, siblings, friends, enemies, and even first crushes. Even words have a life of their own, which is what Ava discovers when her story gets more attention and not in a positive manner. This is an excellent book for children to read by themselves or for parents to read along with their children. Teachers and counselors can use the book as a discussion builder on the power of words and of misinterpretation. I give a Y-A-Y for Ava and Pip.

AVA AND PIP by Carol Weston – YouTube


Glitter Girl – A Guest Post by Authors Toni Runkle & Stephen Webb

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WHAT PRICE POPULARITY?
GLITTER GIRL GUEST BLOG & GIVEAWAY

Glitter Girl Book Cover

Glitter Girl by Toni Runkle and Stephen Webb, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013.

I’m delighted to turn this post over to guest bloggers,
Toni Runkle and Stephen Webb
(click here for website), authors of Glitter Girl
(Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $7.99, ages 10 and up, also available as an ebook). 
Runkle and Webb, writing partners for close to a decade, and parents of young daughters, also call Los Angeles home. Today they’ll be addressing an all too common tween topic which incidentally is the premise for their terrific debut middle grade novel, Glitter Girl, featuring Kat Connors. There’s lots of great stuff to glean from this post so read on.

Friendship and loyalty vs. popularity – what works, what doesn’t and why is this such a big issue for girls?

Now I ask you readers and parents of girls, who amongst you has not had to deal with this troublesome tween dilemma? Ahhh, if only I’d had this book to hand to my daughter when she went through the trials and tribulations of tweendom. But you can have it!

Click here now to enter for a chance to win a free copy of the book courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Giveaway ends December 16, 2013 at midnight PST. Be sure to write GLITTER GIRL in the subject line and include your address. You can also enter on Facebook by posting a comment, but you’ll need to LIKE us for entry to be valid. Good luck! – Ronna

LIFE IN THE FAB LANE

Hi! I’m Kat. Welcome to my blog. I may be from a small town but I’m also Glitter Girl Cosmetics’ newest trendsetter. Thanks to my flair for fashion and my popular style blog, I’ve been chosen to be an Alpha Girl, which means I get to try out all the Glitter Girl products before they hit the stores.

Forty-eight hours after she blogs about the goodies in the new line, every girl at Kat’s school is sporting the gear. Kat’s popularity skyrockets, but Jules—Kat’s BFF—seems to be the only one who’s not buying into the Glitter Girl lifestyle. Is Kat willing to sacrifice her friendship for life in the fab lane?

 

RUNKLE & WEBB: Ah, the friendship and loyalty vs. popularity question. The age-old decision faced by adolescent girls since the beginning of time. We’re pretty sure there are cave drawings in northern Spain depicting this struggle.

We are parents of young daughters so we have seen this struggle first hand. Also, despite what our daughters  may think, we used to be young once, and while that was many moons ago, the scars of adolescence still linger. It’s an exceptional person who doesn’t have them. Mythical, in fact.

This is because as kids reach adolescence, an emotional drama begins to unfold. They become more – no, actually they become painfully, self-aware.  They examine every detail of their being, down to the pores on their noses. They are trying to figure out who they are, where they belong – if they belong.  It can be a very difficult time. There is a great deal of insecurity. Add to the mix the emergence of the “mean girl mentality” that begins at about age 11 or 12 and continues into middle school and girls have a particularly rough road into their teen years.

So of course, what adolescent girl wouldn’t want to be popular? The allure of everyone knowing your name, looking up to you, even liking you – the idea of not only fitting in, but standing out – not only is it intoxicating, it allows you bypass all the angst that comes with being the misfit.
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