Orbiting Jupiter

Author: Gary D. Schmidt. Summary: When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him: Joseph almost killed a teacher. He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain. He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her. What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl. Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help. But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine. (Published Summary). My Thoughts: A story of bad decisions and worst consequences, told through the straight-forward, simple voice of a boy. Or, more optimistically, a story of love and responsibility and overcoming prejudice. Joseph made a very bad choice or two – at the age of thirteen, with only an abusive father to support him – but his response is multiple levels above many real-life men in similar situations. The moment he finds out that he’s a father, his one goal becomes finding his baby daughter, to love and care for her. Jack, his foster brother, must find bravery in a…

100 Cupboards
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 24, 2018

  100 Cupboards #1. Author: N. D. Wilson. Summary: Twelve-year-old Henry York is going to sleep one night when he hears a bump on the attic wall above his head. It’s an unfamiliar house—Henry is staying with his aunt, uncle, and three cousins—so he tries to ignore it. But the next night he wakes up with bits of plaster in his hair. Two knobs have broken through the wall, and one of them is slowly turning… Henry scrapes the plaster off the wall and discovers doors—ninety-nine cupboards of all different sizes and shapes. Through one he can hear the sound of falling rain. Through another he sees a glowing room—with a man strolling back and forth! Henry and his cousin Henrietta soon understand that these are not just cupboards. They are, in fact, portals to other worlds. My Thoughts: Hovering right between 2.5 and 3 stars. The story takes a while to get going, and while Henry is fairly interesting as a withdrawn, sheltered protagonist his behavior also seems inconsistent. Sometimes he’s totally shy and polite, sometimes he’s scared stiff of adventure, and sometimes he strips the wall of his borrowed bedroom apart without a second thought? He seems like…

The Knights of Crystallia
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 1, 2018

Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians #3. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: In this third Alcatraz adventure, Alcatraz Smedry has made it to the Free Kingdoms at last. Unfortunately, so have the evil Librarians–including his mother! Now Alcatraz has to find a traitor among the Knights of Crystallia, make up with his estranged father, and save one of the last bastions of the Free Kingdoms from the Evil Librarians. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Alcatraz has a few moments of seriousness for once. (Only a few. No worries.) They’re so quick, almost throwaway, that how you take them is entirely up to you: ignore them because he’s just messing with you, consider them to reveal a deeper side to Alcatraz, take them as morals – you can do anything. It’s very non-preachy, despite the bits on “the dangers of fame” and all that, which is great. I love the self-aware narrator trope. And Alcatraz is one of the best. With his evil manipulations of chapter breaks, which he’s not at all shy of explaining to us, his wandering monologues – how dare he malign fish sticks, by the way, what a flaw in my hero – and his overt, blatant foreshadowing, he becomes…