The Year Without a Summer - Review

The Year Without a Summer by Arlene Mark

Out August 16! 

Click to purchase! AffLink

Explosive volcanic eruptions are cool, really, cool. They inject ash into the stratosphere and deflect the sun’s rays. When eighth grader Jamie Fulton learns that snow fell in June in his hometown because of an eruption on the other side of the world, he’s psyched! He could have snowboarded if he’d lived back in 1815 during the year without a summer.

Clara Montalvo, who recently arrived at Jamie’s school after surviving Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, has a different take all this. She is astounded—and disturbed—by Jamie’s frenzied enthusiasm for what she considers an obvious disaster. The teens’ battling arguments cause science class disruption and create academic trouble: Jamie’s headed for a failing grade in science, and may not even graduate from eighth grade; Clara’s scholarship hopes are dashed. And school isn’t the only place where Jamie and Clara are facing hardship: as they quarrel whether natural disasters can be beneficial, their home lives are also unraveling. Uncertainty about Jamie’s wounded brother returning from Afghanistan and Clara’s unreachable father back in Puerto Rico forces the two vulnerable teens to share their worries and sadness. As their focus shifts from natural disasters to personal calamities to man-made climate changes, the teens take surprising steps that astonish them. Ultimately, through hard work and growing empathy for each other, as well as for their classmates’ distress over the climate change affecting their lives, Jamie and Clara empower themselves and the people they touch.

A historical fiction middle grade story that focuses on natural disasters, with environmental concerns woven in with two 8th grade protagonists. Jamie - with parents who are very hard on him in regards to his inability to care for anything other than the snowboarding team (like grades) and Clara whose family moved to the states from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. 

A lot of middle school problems that are common and something that students can relate to. A lot of topics are covered in the story. You do learn that the title of the book came from a catastrophic, real event, the 1815 Indonesian volcano that spewed enough ash to change the climate for many countries. 

A story that student who enjoy historical fiction/environmental issues will enjoy. Also anyone struggling with parents who they feel are "hard on them" but essentially just parenting and not wanting them to waste their potential.


Spark and the League of Ursus - Recommendation

 League of Ursus Series! Must HAVE! 

Action packed! Suspenseful! Imaginative! Representation!

Toy Story meets Stranger Things in this epic tale of warrior teddy bears and the children they protect.

Spark is not your average teddy bear. She’s soft and cuddly, sure, but she’s also a fierce warrior. At night she fulfills her sacred duty: to protect the household from monsters. But Spark’s owner Loretta is growing up and thinks she doesn’t need her old teddy anymore.

When a monster unlike any other descends on the quiet home, everything changes. Children are going missing, and the monster wants Loretta next. Only Spark can stop it. She must call upon the ancient League of Ursus—a secret alliance of teddy bears who are pledged to protect their human friends. Together with an Amazon-princess doll and a timid sock monkey, the bears are all that stands between our world and the one that lies beneath. It will be a heroic chapter in the history of the League . . . if the bears live to tell the tale.

An army of toys, a menacing threat, and a thrilling adventure collide in the high-stakes sequel to Spark and the League of Ursus.
Spark may be a cute and cuddly teddy bear, but she’s also a fierce protector. Weeks after rescuing her human owner—a budding young filmmaker named Loretta—from a hideous monster, everything seems to be returning to normal. But then Spark is summoned before the mysterious Grand Sleuth, the high council of teddy bears, who task her with a dangerous mission: locating the portal to the monster’s world.
During her daring quest, Spark discovers a terrible secret that changes everything. In order to keep Loretta and their whole town safe, she must enlist the help of her loyal toy friends and team up with an unexpected ally. As the menace grows, Spark realizes that Loretta has a hidden power that may be the key to saving them all . . .
This dark middle grade fantasy is perfect for fans of the Nightmares! series and Holly Black’s Doll Bones.

Series information and fun activities can be found here:

Activity Guide: Click Here 


Surely Surely Marisol Rainey - Review

 Surely Surely Marisol Rainey

Erin Entrada Kelly

I get asked so often for chapter books targeting younger age kiddos and I am so excited to share the second installation of Marisol Rainey's adventures! Marisol is one of the best characters for those beginning chapter book readers, as well as a great night time story to read with your child. 

“Anyone who has ever had trouble feeling brave will be empowered by Marisol.”—NBC News

Everyone loves sports . . . except Marisol! The stand-alone companion to Newbery Medal winner and New York Times–bestselling Erin Entrada Kelly’s Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey is an irresistible and humorous story about friendship, family, and fitting in. Fans of Clementine, Billy Miller Makes a Wish, and Ramona the Pest will find a new friend in Marisol.

Marisol Rainey’s two least-favorite things are radishes and gym class. She avoids radishes with very little trouble, but gym is another story—especially when Coach Decker announces that they will be learning to play kickball.

There are so many things that can go wrong in kickball. What if Marisol tries to kick the ball . . . but falls down? What if she tries to catch the ball and gets smacked in the nose? What if she’s the worst kickballer in the history of kickball? Marisol and her best friend Jada decide to get help from the most unlikely—and most annoying—athlete in the world: Marisol’s big brother, Oz.

Told in short chapters with illustrations by the author on almost every page, Erin Entrada Kelly’s stand-alone companion novel to Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey celebrates the small but mighty Marisol, the joys of friendship, the power of being different, and the triumph of persevering. Surely Surely Marisol Rainey is ideal for readers of Kevin Henkes, Meg Medina, Judy Blume, and Beverly Cleary.  

One of my favorite things of these stories are the illustrations. When I was teaching we always started the year in our writing journal of keeping lists - and from the very beginning kids are able to see Marisol's Favorites in a way that I know so many teachers as of their students to write it in their writing journal. (Also, the drawings are just so darn good!)
Marisol is such a fun and relatable character. Students of all ages are going through something, and sometimes all it takes is not feeling alone in those big moments. The idea that one on her list of LEAST favorite things is gym class. The reality is that so many students fear/dislike gym class and instead of understanding or respecting that emotion; society has always forced gym class as a MUST. Also, the constant comparison of siblings when one is better at sports vs the other - in this case, Marisol is wishing so much to be like her brother, Oz. Marisol struggles as her nemesis, Evie, points out her weaknesses, making Marisol feel even lower than before. As the story progresses, Marisol and her bff Jada, chalk up some courage to reach out to her brother, Oz, for some help in the kickball area. 
Small moments turning into big moments - something students of this age go through so often. Every part of Marisol Rainey books are relatable in more than one way. 
Highly recommend - a great/must have addition to those 1st-4th/5th grade classrooms. 




What are you most excited for this school year?