The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty
Random House Children’s Books, 2018
Bluebonnet nomination for 2019 – 2020
Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning, and this gave her genius-level math skills. Aged 12, she is technically ready for college, but she has to spend a year in middle school before that. It may sound improbable, but actually this is a very compelling and believable read. Middle school is tough to figure out, especially if you are hiding a massive secret, and your life is complicated with OCD. If you love dogs, right there is another great reason to pick up the book. The book just got better and better, and the end will blow you away.
Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle
Newbery Honor Award Winner for Afternoon of the Elves
Great read for MS!
Two friends, Ruben and Jeddy find a dead body washed up on the shore of Rhode Island. It is 1929, and Prohibition is in place. However, laws banning liquor have the inevitable and adverse effect of promoting its vibrant and illicit trade. The stakes are getting higher, and times are dangerous. Hijacking, war between the bootlegging gangs, betrayal, and other subterfuge make for an exciting story. Complex relationships and a complex topic will leave readers thinking about the wider implications of war on contraband. After the repeal of the laws banning liquor, “It had begun to sink in that the violence that came from keeping liquor out of people’s hands was a lot worse than the violence of people drinking to their heart’s content.”
This tale is masterfully told and has a great twist at the end. I highly recommend it for MS and up.
Kathryn Lasky is the Newbery Honor-winning author of many books including the Guardians of Ga’Hoole fantasy series, the Wolves of the Beyond series, A Time for Courage and several Dear America titles.
211 pages, MS and US
Night Witches is a novel of World War II. The Germans have surrounded Stalingrad. Valya, a sixteen year old Russian girl has been trained as a pilot by her father. The story starts out with the brutal murder of her mother. Left alone, Valya must now try and reunite with her sister, Tatyana, who is one of the fighter pilots of the Night Witch Brigade. Valya is determined to join up with the brigade and fight the Nazis. This book is based on thorough research and is a great read for those who love action, historical fiction, and a story featuring the first all-female air combat team.
Visit Kathryn Lasky’s website: http://www.kathrynlasky.com/
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults and Horn Book Finalist
456 pgs. (72 pages of Source Notes), photographs included.
Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony was captured on microfilm and then sent on a journey, crossing the majority of the world’s continents to reach Washington D.C. – a gift of thanks from the Russians to the Americans for their supply of armaments and food in the Russian struggle against the German Luftwaffe. On June 2nd, 1942, after traveling almost 20,000 miles, the unthinkable happens. The agent responsible for the safe delivery of the microfilm went to lunch and left it on his tray as he went out..
So begins a fascinating but devastating account of the period culminating in the German invasion of Russia and, in particular, the siege of Leningrad. I think that this book should be on everybody’s shelf. It is so well written and so expertly researched. One gets a very clear picture of both Hitler and Stalin, two maniacal dictators, both driven by “short-sighted, almost delirious, egotism”, and who inflicted inconceivable suffering on millions of people. This book unpacks the repercussions of their capricious malevolence.
In the midst of this, Anderson tells the miraculous story of Dmitri Shostakovich. He tells the story with compassion and understanding of the fragile and brilliant Russian composer.
Hands down, this was the best book I read this year.