New Book Reviews
Reading Level: Grades 7+
Marcelo, a high school junior with a somewhat undefined precise location on the autism spectrum, is wildly looking forward to spending his summer working with the ponies at his school, Paterson. He will be the stable man for the school, and in the fall will be promoted to training the ponies to work with all types of disabled students. Marcelo is really looking forward to his summer and senior year at Paterson.
But his father, Arturo, has other plans. Arturo wants Marcelo to work at Arthuro's law firm, in the mail room - and Arturo wants Marcelo to switch to public school in the fall.
Marcelo is not given much choice about working at the law firm, but he is told that if he spends three summer months working at his father's law firm - in the "real world" - Arturo will let him choose whether to return to Paterson or continue at public school.
For Marcelo, three months in the "real world" sounds incredibly difficult as he does not know all the rules of living in that world. But working at the law firm is what Marcelo will have to do to ensure his return to Paterson, and so he accepts his father's offer.
As Marcelo's summer progresses, he begins to become more comfortable interacting with others, but when he uncovers a disturbing photograph relating to one of his father's big cases, Marcelo is unsure how to proceed.
Other books about teens on the autism spectrum:
Mindblind by Jennifer Roy
Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Reading Level: Grades 3-6
Henrietta Hornbuckle is a clown in Filbert's Traveling Clown Circus, and has been her whole life. Used to the travelling life, loving to watch the world pass her by as she tumbles and exaggerates movements and brings cheer and laughter to each town the circus visits. To Henrietta, circus life is a fluid, dynamic constant in her life. Then suddenly everything changes - Henrietta learns that the circus is in danger of closing, financial problems having finally become insurmountable. Furthermore, her mother, Hortense, wants to reconnect with her estranged sister Carlotta - a woman with an enormous house (the first Henrietta had ever entered) and a butler - a lavish, expansive lifestyle absurdly foreign to the young clown. Then the unthinkable happens, and Henrietta's jolly life is thrust away from everything she loves.
Reading Level: Grades 7+
Life on a reservation isn't great to begin with, but when Arnold (Junior) sees his mother's name written in his geometry textbook, it's the last straw. He flings the book angrily across the classroom... hitting the teacher square in the face.
Realizing that as long as he stayed on the reservation, he was doomed to live a depressing, boring reservation life with no opportunities, Arnold tells his parents he is going to transfer schools - to the all-white, all-rich high school twenty-two miles away.
And so it begins.
Cleverly written, amusingly illustrated, and with wholly rounded characters, Alexie's first young adult novel is deserving of its high praises.
Reading Level: Ages 4 - 6
Rhinoceros isn't a very fun pet - he doesn't really do much. The rhinoceros expert says that rhinos only really do two things: pop balloons, and poke holes in kites.
Not very good activities for a boy and a rhinoceros who want to go to the park... where there is a balloon man (rhino doesn't pay him a glance) and a bunch of kids flying kites (rhino doesn't care).
On the way home from the park, the boy and the rhino see two bank robbers getting away... in a hot air balloon and by kite!
Reading level: Grades 7+
Troy, a three hundred pound high school boy, is standing on the edge of a train platform, mock headlines running through his head (FAT KID MESSES UP) as he realizes he probably wouldn't even totally succeed at his own suicide, when a homeless drug addict legend from Troy's high school, saves his life. Obviously Troy owes Curt lunch after his rescue (according to Curt), and the odd pair strike up an awkward friendship. Curt, it seems, has decided that Troy is to be the new drummer for Curt's band. Only one problem.
Troy has never played the drums in his life.
Short, witty, laugh-out-loud chapters punctuated by Troy's FAT KID headlines and embodying a punk rock mentality, Fat Kid is sure to appeal.
Reading Level: Ages 3 and up
Floyd's kite gets stuck in a tree and he does everything he can think of to get it out. Unfortunately, what he can't do is think of an intelligent solution in this ridiculously absurd story that will appeal to the truly silly child in your life (or in you).
Reading Level: Grades 1 - 2
Max and Mo are a pair of school hamsters who remind us of certain library rodents we know you all love. Max and Mo share a habitat in the school's art room and watch the children participate in class. In each book they sneak out of their cage to have some fun of their own using a few basic art supplies. Each book has directions for an art project at the end. The only way this series could be made better would be if Max and Mo were gerbils instead of hamsters.
Reading Level: PreK-1
Ralph isn't a normal raccoon - he doesn't like being messy, or rude. So his parents ship him off to Bandit School, where Ralph is the worst student of all. He's just awful at everything, and when the term ends, his teacher assigns a competition - whoever has the largest sack of loot after vacation wins the Best Bandit prize. Ralph isn't interested, not one bit. He stays in his room reading over the break, not wanting to get in anyone's way. But then something happens on his way back to school, and Ralph becomes the best!
Reading Level: Grades 7+
Amber Appleton is the most optimistic, hopeful, cheerful girl you could meet. She divides her time between Father Chee and the Korean Divas for Christ (a group of Koren women learning to speak English through R&B music and Amber), the elderly at the local retirement home (where Amber engages in a cheerfulness-pessimism battle every Wednesday with Joan of Old),with the Franks Freak Force Federation (her four best friends brought together through group therapy and favorite teacher), with Private Jackson and Ms. Jenny (a Vietnam veteran/haiku poet and his dog), and with her own dog, Bobby Big Boy. Amber lives a full, vibrant life, enriching the lives of everyone she meets. And yet, Amber Appleton lives on a school bus with her alcoholic mother.
Despite her home and family situation, Amber's hopefulness and willingness to give her all to others never wavers, until the unthinkable happens, sending Amber into a deep, spiraling depression. Her faith, previously so strong and infallible, fractures, and Amber Appleton, previously a town rock star, loses herself.
The first half of this novel flies past quickly, Amber's cheerfully whirlwind lifestyle a welcome respite from some of the depressing (yet good!) YA books I've been reading lately. Amber's depressive state is expertly, sparsely written, her discussions with Father Chee about religion a welcome addition to current young adult literature, and the ultimate banding together of the town a heartwarming conclusion.