March 10th 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Julio's father defected from Cuba when he was playing a game in the US. Julio was devastated by the loss of his father, but still loves baseball and would like to get onto the junior Nacional team. Everyone knows about his father, though, and thinks that Julio is a bad flight risk, so the manager doesn't particularly want to take him on. With the help of his uncle, he and his cousin escape to Florida in a reworked vintage car. Will Julio's father come to his aid in the US? When Julio is on his journey, his father is pitching a crucial game for the Marlins. How will the father and son baseball players rekindle their relationship in the US?
Strengths: Volponi writes a great sports book that also includes social issues. Such a great mix for my avid sports readers. The game going on as Julio and his relatives are crossing the waters to the US is a spellbinding touch, and the views of modern day Cuba are really interesting.
Weaknesses: It helps to have background information on the Cuban situation, and I imagine many of my readers lack this, so a little more description of the political climate would have been helpful, but not strictly necessary.
What I really thought: I was so glad that this was middle school appropriate and will definitely buy a copy. Volponi can be a bit... looser with language than I like, so I always read his books before buying them.
Remember, #WeNeedDiverseBooks doesn't just cover race, religion or sexuality. It also covers a variety of lifestyles, mental conditions, and people who are just... different.
Hubbard, Kirsten. Watch the Sky.
7 April 2015, Disney-Hyperion
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Jory's mother suffers from migraines and is possibly agoraphobic. She met Caleb, Jory's stepdad, when he helped her when she was waitressing. A former military man, Caleb is controlling and convinced that something like an alien invasion mya take place, and he sees signs everywhere. He is also very paranoid about the govenment and anyone in authority. Even so, the family took in Kit, a girl with selective mutism that Jory found eating pumpkins out of the family's field. Add to the mix Jory's toddler half brother, and it's an interesting group. Jory has been homeschooled, but to deflect the interest of the government, he is sent to public school, where he enjoys being able to express himself a little. He even makes friends with Alice, and is intrigued by her easy going family life. When Caleb starts digging a pit in the canyon in preparation for whatever event he is fearing, Caleb gets little sleep and starts to fall behind in school. His teacher notices and calls home, bringing down Caleb's wrath. Things go from bad to worse. Highlight if you want spoilers: Kit meets Alice's mother, who calls children's services because Kit seems ill and Jory has indicated she isn't getting medical treatment; when they show up at the house, Caleb turns her over to them claiming they JUST found her, even though she had been there for years. The family heads down to the canyon; everyone starts to realize that Caleb is really
Strengths: Girls who like problem novels may like this one. Jory is not quite abused, but certainly not cared for well. Survivalists might like this because of Caleb's preparation. Does cover possible mental illness, although perhaps not in a constructive way.
Weaknesses: Really not sure who the audience for this is. Honestly, I just read it because it is realiztic fiction and might be nominated for the Cybils next year. I like this author's Ripple and You Wish, but this...
What I really think: Interesting, but sad, and offers no hope of redemption for anyone. Will probably not purchase, although I like this author.