Friday, April 28, 2017

Pennies for Hitler

French, Jackie. Pennies for Hitler. Read by Humphrey Bower. Bolinda Audio, 2012.

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Summary (from
Narrator Humphrey Bower brings Georg Mark’s childhood in Nazi Germany to life with precise German accents and phrases. As Georg becomes George to escape Nazi persecution, first in England and later in Australia, Bower presents realistic characterizations with English and Australian accents. The voices Bower creates for Georg’s Australian foster family, the Peaslakes, make them a memorable example of the indomitable will of ordinary citizens in wartime. Steady, appealing narration enhances this slowly building story of home and identity. Bower’s ability to capture the history and setting of Georg’s story makes French’s novel ideal for use in school as well as for general reading. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine [Published: JANUARY 2015]

My Thoughts
This book is fine for middle grades and up. It is a Holocaust story, and there are some gut wrenching moments, but the story is softened for a non-adult reader.

I was reading Salt to the Sea (another WWII story) when I started listening to this, (interesting how that happens sometimes), so I had to stop listening so that the two stories didn't blend together.

This is a story about a German boy who has an English father, so he is sent to England to live with an aunt. When London gets bombed, the aunt sends Georg to Australia to a foster home. Honestly, this was the first time I'd ever heard about this. I didn't know that several boats of children left England to sail to Canada or Australia.

In Australia, Georg finds a home with the very loving and caring Peaslakes. I was so glad to hear that this couple was kind and treated Georg as their own son (who was away at war). His new friend/cousin is named Mud. It was nice that they had each other.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Memory Book

Avery, Lara. The Memory Book. Little, Brown, and Company, 2016.
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Plot Summary (from book jacket)
     "Sammie McCoy is a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even the rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly steal her memories and then her health.
     So the memory book is born: a journal written to Sammie's future self, so she can remember everything from where she stashed her study guides to just how great it feels to have a best friend again. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime-crush Stuart, a gifted young writer home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood friend Cooper and the ridiculous lengths he will go to make her laugh. The memory book will ensure Sammie never forgets the most important parts of her life--the people who have broken her heart, those who have mended it--and most of all, that if she's going to die, she going to die living."

My Thoughts
I can't remember (ironic) how this book got on my pile...did I read something about it? Was the author going to be at NTTBF or TLA this year? Was there some Twitter buzz? Anyway, I spent the weekend with The Memory Book.

Sammie McCoy has a plan and a life threatening illness is NOT part of it! I haven't heard of Niemann-Pick Disease (NPC) before reading this book (I've since done some research). I don't have NPC, but I do keep this blog as my own recording of books read, so I could relate to the character in that way.

The story was cute, the idea is creative, but the thing I enjoyed most about it was finding the literary allusions. There were at least 10 of them (mostly overt), as I made a list. Some references I probably didn't catch.

I flagged the chapter where Sammie predicts what will happen at the National Debate Tournament. I'm going to show that to our debate coach.

Avery's story is believable (wonder if she was a debater in school?), but I really didn't like Stuart. He seemed too...unrealistic...maybe there are people like Stuart in the world, but for me, he could have been left out and still had the story line of Cooper and Sammie's renewed friendship (the jealous fight scene would be rewritten).

I liked that different people in Sammie's life were able to write/type in her memory book. (Sign of the times--journals are digital).

I should have expected the ending, but the setup was so sweet I was lulled.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Myers, Walter Dean. Juba! Read by Brandon Gill. Harper Audio, 2015.
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Summary (from

Myers's posthumously published novel, set in the 1840s, tells the story of William Henry Lane, a free black dancer known as Master Juba. Incorporating the Irish step dancing he saw around him as a child in Brooklyn with African and minstrel styles, Juba developed what came to be known as tap dancing and was celebrated in London, as well as New York, until his early death at 27. Sadly, the ambiance of the times and the exuberance of Juba's dancing don't translate well to audio, despite the efforts of narrator Brandon Gill. Listeners unfamiliar with old minstrel shows will miss the historical pictures in the print edition, and, though Juba and his friends are mostly well realized by Gill, the challenge of the Irish accents makes it sometimes problematic to determine which character is speaking. S.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine [Published: DECEMBER 2015]

My Thoughts
I have liked everything I've read by Walter Dean Myers, so I was happy this was an audiobook selection. Even though the above review slams the narration, I felt it was fine. I could follow along (but now I do want to see the historical pictures included in the print version).

This story didn't grab me like Monster, but I stuck with it so see what would happen to Juba.

The Hate U Give

Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Balzer + Bray, 2017.
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Summary (from
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter navigates between the poverty-stricken neighborhood she has grown up in and the upper-crust suburban prep school she attends. Her life is up-ended when she is the sole witness to a police officer shooting her best friend, Khalil, who turns out to have been unarmed during the confrontation – but may or may not have been a drug dealer. As Starr finds herself even more torn between the two vastly different worlds she inhabits, she also has to contend with speaking her truth and, in the process, trying to stay alive herself.

My Thoughts
When I first started hearing about this book, the plot synopsis did not appeal to me. I just didn't think I needed this book in my conservative, rural library. However, after hearing Angie Thomas at NTTBF17 discuss this book (and even read a bit from it!), I was glad I ordered it. As soon as it arrived in my library, I checked it out to read. I was not disappointed. This is not a fluffy read due to language and violence, which is part of what makes the story believable. The characters make the story relevant.

The title reference is on page 17 (which I didn't "see" until it was pointed out to me). There are pop culture references too, like the use of Tumblr.

The book is divided into five parts.  I wasn't sure I wanted to finish the book because I didn't know how I'd react to the outcome of the trial. I hoped that Thomas would make it end "happily ever after," but I also knew I didn't want her to manipulate the story to make that happen. I honestly wasn't sure how it would go.

I felt for Starr when she said realizes that what she thought she's do in a situation turns out to be the opposite of what she does. "I always said that if I saw it [a black person getting killed just for being black] happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. Now I am that person, and I'm too afraid to speak" (Thomas 35).  Starr had to find her voice and use it as her most powerful weapon.

There is humor in this book. For example, Starr's dad, a former gang member,--it's explained how he got out of "the life"--claims  Harry Potter is about gang theory. He makes good points. Some of Starr's descriptions of her neighbors are hilarious. Her neighbors also made me think about how communities come together at times. The description of herself at school versus the Garden Heights neighborhood Starr are funny (and realistic).

I thought it was ironic that I read this book the week of prom because there is prom episode in Starr's story.

This book made me think about a lot of things---which is what I think it is supposed to do. We often prejudge a person, situation, even a story line. As I read, I would catch myself thinking about my own comments, thoughts, and even actions (or lack of action) of "real life."

The story has good timing and didn't feel like it was over 400 pages (Yes, it's 444!).

Some quotations from the book:
Hailey & Starr "rode the waves of grief together" (Thomas 79).

"Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right"  (Thomas 154).

"Somebody's going to turn Mr. Lewis into a meme. He's making a fool out of himself and doesn't even know it" (Thomas 189).

"You have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them" (Thomas 264).