Just Finished: Two Highly Recommended Novels

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

Goodreads Summary: 
At the start of 1991, eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.

Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family survived bombings, food shortages, and constant fear. Ali and his brothers played soccer on the abandoned streets of their Basra neighborhood, wondering when or if their medic father would return from the war front. Cinematic, accessible, and timely, this is the story of one ordinary kid’s view of life during war.

I know what you are thinking, the title makes you question it, right? But, boy will it ever make you reconsider questioning a book title again. I found myself turing page after page of this book wanting to know more about Ali and his life in Iraq during the Gulf War. It's interesting to watch a young boys viewpoints of his own country, then ran by Suddam Hussein, and how he felt about America, where he desired to be desperately. I was reading this story as my husband was watching Lone Survivor and I couldn't help but find myself crying for both sides of the war. Those who are innocent and stuck in an environment where they are pegged as guilty. 

Ali's story is one that will resonate with young, middle grade students and will strike up conversations for days to come. Comes out in February 2018, but I highly recommend preordering this book so that the publishers know how desperately teachers want to instill empathy in their students. 

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora 

Goodreads Summary:

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL? 

For Arturo, summetime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela's restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo's apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn't notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti. 

The way that Pablo intertwines all of the history of Latin America into a story instilling the importance of family, and never giving up, speaks to your soul. This was such a heart print book for me in so many ways. I love the way that it makes you laugh, and still sneaks in some ways to make you cry. You will cry tears of sadness, and tears of happiness. Pablo makes sure that you remember to be proud of who you are, your family, and where you came from, and to never forget how hard you worked or your family worked to get to where you are. This book will speak to middle grade students who find themselves wondering about their voice and where they fit in with their crazy family or friends, and all while trying to understand what these feelings about a girl are and how to handle that. This book will be included in my 2018 Mock Newbery for next year. I can't wait to book talk with my students. This book is already out and if you teach grades 5-8, I highly recommend ordering. 

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