Saturday, July 28, 2012

Booktalk: Touch Blue (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

Can you imagine if your school was at risk of being shut down if more kids did not attend? Yeah, I knew you’d like that.

But Tess, age 11, goes to school in a one-room schoolhouse on a small island off the coast of Maine. There’s just a handful of other kids who attend her tiny school, because Tess’s island doesn’t have that many children. Tess’s mom is the teacher. And when you live on small island, school is one of the things that keeps you busy and entertained. The school is part of Tess’s life, along with the lobster boats, the ocean, the salt breeze, the sea birds, and the ferry.

Yet the state of Maine won’t fund her school and keep it open unless more kids attend. But where will Tess’s tiny island get more kids? No new families are moving to their island, but several families have a cool idea – adopt some foster children who need a good home.

So Tess’s family decides to adopt a 13-year-old redheaded boy named Aaron. Aaron has been moved from family to family, and it’s about time he gets a solid, loving family. Tess is really, really excited. She’s always wanted an older brother.

But when Tess takes Aaron around the island, he seems unimpressed. And when he sees their little one-room school, he actually says, “I can’t believe I had to quit my jazz band to come here.” He doesn’t seem to like the other islanders, and he rarely smiles. Tess has a problem. How do you get someone to love an island if he’s determined to hate it?

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord. 186 p. New York: Scholastic, 2010. Virginia Readers’ Choice (Elementary/Intermediate) for 2012-2013. This title would also work well for middle schoolers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Booktalk: Swim the Fly (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

High schooler Matt Gratton is a decent swimmer, but not when it comes to the butterfly stroke, possibly the hardest stroke out there to master. He himself admits that he looks like “a palsied whippet struggling for its life”(41) when he swims it. But Matt would do anything for a hot girl, especially a hot girl named Kelly. She’s impressed that he volunteered to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the fly) in a major meet. Matt and his friends, Sean and Coop, would do a lot to impress girls. Their major goal for the summer is to see a naked girl: a live one. They even hide in a closet at a party, but it backfires majorly, although they might have prevented a pregnancy, who knows. Intelligent strategy is not their strong point. Matt’s buddy Sean even intentionally pigged out on junk food just so he could barf in the pool, on purpose. Actually, that did get Matt out of swimming the fly, so it wasn’t totally stupid. How much of a fool is Matt going to be at the final meet? And will the girl of his dreams ever see anything in him at all? Swim the Fly by Don Calame.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame. 345 p. Candlewick Press, 2009. Virginia Readers' Choice (High School) for 2012-2013. Contains mature references.

Swim the Fly