MrsK's K-8 Books Worth Reading

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Monday, October 18, 2021

2021 Middle School Picks


ISBN: 9781401296575
Publisher's Synopsis:
Ashley's latest set of presumably short-term foster parents are Kitch and Yuka Nolan. Like Ashley, Kitch happens to be an artist. Yuka, on the other hand, is a geneticist working for a very high-level tech company, one that's contracted out to work for the government and the military. And it's Yuka's latest top secret project that has her very concerned. Developed for the military, it's a set of body paints that, when applied to the wearer, grant them a wide range of special powers. Fearful that this invention will be misused, Yuka sneaks the set of paints home, substituting a dummy suitcase with an ordinary set of paints in their place.

From here, signals get crossed. Ashley comes home from school one day with her new friend Luke and, thinking that the Nolans have purchased a surprise gift for her upcoming birthday, finds the set of paints. Being an artist, Ashley naturally assumes these are for her. It isn't long before she realizes that she's stumbled upon something much bigger and a lot more dangerous. Although she uses her newly discovered powers for good, it's not long before the military becomes wise to what happened to their secret weapon. And this spells big trouble not only for Ashley, but for her newfound family and friends as well.

MrsK's Review:
Meet Ashley... she is "unafraid." With her father in prison, Ashley is once again placed into a new foster home. Thinking that this foster home will be just like all the others, she realizes that these foster parents have a talent for meeting her "wit" and "equalizing" her sass. She quickly discovers that there is a shared talent in this home, a talent that could provide a positive avenue beyond a temporary life.

Ashley's quick "wit" and sassy attitude has provided a bit of a "secret" identity. Yet, these foster parents are equipped to help Ashley challenge what she does with her artistic ability. Unfortunately, at what price will her choices lead her... astray or home.

What is great about this graphic novel is the weaving of Ashley's story as it is portrayed with the perfected art work of Gretel Lusky. Once you meet Ashley... your creative side is "uncapped."
A creative designed graphic novel that entertains the artist within.
Meet the Author:
As one of the industry’s top female writers, Jennifer Muro has quickly made a name for herself through the storylines she has crafted for TV projects over the last decade. Through her writing, Muro is on a mission to make women of all ages feel strong and empowered through the characters she creates, whether for drama, action or comedy.

ISBN: 9781338772814
Publisher's Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Ross Maloy just wants to be normal. Not to have a rare eye cancer, not to lose his hair, not to have to wear a weird hat or have a goopy eye full of ointment. Just normal. But with a sudden and horrifying diagnosis, Ross can't help standing out. His new life is medical treatments that feel straight out of a video game, vision loss in one eye, disappearing friends who don't know what to say to "the cancer kid," cruel bullying, and ultimately, friendships new and old that rise above everything.

Just when Ross starts to feel like he's losing his footing, he discovers how music, art, and true friends can change everything. Filled with Rob Harrell's comic panels (Batpig for the win!) and spot art, this novel brings effortless humor and hope to an unforgettable, uplifting story of survival.

MrsK's Review:
Meet Wink, he is a spirited 7th grader who meets his rare-eye cancer... head on! Most of us remember those crazy days of middle school. Those that soared... those that bullied... and those who remained affected by the "roller coasting" trauma of trying to fit in. Can you imagine what your life might be like when your one eye is always in a wink "oozing goo" at all times?

Wink is by no means willing to "give in" or "give up." With great "grit" he discovers that his inner hope and strength will bring a unity to many of those who walk the halls of his school. Abby is that first grade friend, you know that type of relationship that stands next to you without faltering. Isaac is a gamer, his view on life is in a different dimension. Frank is the tech who treats Wink with an open and honest acceptance, his goal is to bring updated music into Wink's life as a diversion while Wink is getting treatment. Neither of them anticipates how music transforms the horrible days of cancer into a journey beyond expectations. Jimmy, well he is that school "Vader" that torments you into a determination to meet him "eye-eye" and not back down!

This is a remarkable journey of strength, humorous cartoons, outrageous characters... and hope! An autobiography that you won't forget,
 Courageous strength!
When facing the unknown... how do you remain hopeful?
Meet the Author:

  Rob Harrell
wrote and drew the syndicated daily comic strip Big Top through 2007 and currently creates the long-running strip Adam@Home.

Harrell wrote and illustrated the graphic novel Monster on the Hill, published by Top Shelf. The story of a town with a down-on-his-luck monster, Monster was the inspiration for the animated movie Rumble (2021) from Paramount Pictures.

Next, Harrell wrote the Life of Zarf trilogy of hybrid novels. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, they tell the story of Zarf Belford, a troll attending middle school in a fairy tale world.

Harrell’s next book is Wink, the funny but heartfelt story of Ross Maloy, a seventh-grader dealing with a horrible diagnosis and cancer treatments – all while trying to just blend in and survive middle school.

As an illustrator, Harrell has worked with clients including Mad, Simon and Schuster, American Greetings, Time, Inc. and Volkswagen. His figurative paintings have been shown in solo shows in San Francisco, Austin and Indianapolis.

ISBN: 9781481450164
Publisher's Synopsis:
Running. That's all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race -- and wins -- the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

MrsK's Review:
Meet Ghost a sunflower-seed-spitter who is, by circumstances, a runner. At this point in his life, Ghost only has Mr. Charles the local "country store" sunflower seed provider as a daily support. He is the one man that believes Ghost will one day set a world's record. Since that one night, when the man with the gun cocked it and fired... it was like his  "brain was going to pop" in his head and it was "enough to make his heart hiccup!" That was the night... Ghost became a runner!

Coach is dedicated to his team of runners. During practice, this runner appears with a "raw talent" for speed. Could this "ghost" of a runner learn how to become a team member? Not everyone has the fortitude to guide a collection of "troubled" runners into Junior Olympians. Not every runner can learn the difference of "running from" to "running with a goal."

Finding your "grit," that is what this series is all about. Jason Reynolds has a gift for weaving the best of every day into the possibilities of tomorrow! These runners aren't "unknown," they are recognizable because of their stories... and their heart. Coaching isn't always a "real-life" experience, not everyone encounters a coach who comes into your life and is dedicated to seeing you through the enormities of your life... yet, when an author can weave the wisdom of a coach in a book series... well that wisdom can change a readers perspective...
The first in a series about finding the "grit" within.
Meet the Author:
After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, Jason Reynolds moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.

ISBN: 9781338713589
Publisher's Synopsis:
Five years. That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, crisscrossing the nation. It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.

Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished - the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box - she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it...

MrsK's Review:
Meet Coyote, she's been on the road for 5 years. You see her life had a restart with her dad (Rodeo), in an old school bus... on the road... and "Once upon a time"... Coyote is the best storyteller when it comes to "real-life" twists and turns. Sometimes in life, life happens. It's part of everyone's journey. It's about the "how" you travel the path before you, not what's been available.

Coyote's story begins unfolding with that moment in her life when she has to "love" her father into returning to the place they once called home. Along the way, their bus becomes a traveler's unique ride to destinations unknown. Coyote and her dad have one rule for their traveler's, you must be able to answer Rodeo's three questions: favorite book; favorite place on earth; and favorite sandwich. If you think these are odd questions, well there's a whole lot of information that's given about someone's life when you're riding a school bus back home.

If you have ever taken a leap of faith, left your home unsure of what or how to restart your life, and or ever wondered what living on the road might be like... this is a reader's delight! It's like a quilt of storylines, characters, and settings that are "stitched" together with the threads of hope. A quilt of comfort!
 Truly a remarkable journey!
Coyote will remain an inspiration long after the last page.
Meet the Author:

Dan Gemeinhart lives in a small town smack dab in the middle of Washington state with his wife and three young daughters. He was lucky and grateful to be a teacher-librarian in an elementary school for thirteen years, where he got to share awesome books with awesome kids. He loves camping, cooking and traveling. He also plays guitar (badly) and reads (constantly). His house is always a mess. He is really pretty darn happy.
ISBN: 9781338053807
Publisher's Synopsis:
Chase's memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn't remember falling off the roof. He doesn't remember hitting his head. He doesn't, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he's Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return. Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him. One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets. Pretty soon, it's not only a question of who Chase is--it's a question of who he was . . . and who he's going to be.

MrsK's Review:
Meet Chase an generational football hero. Or so he thought! A select few in a "league all of their own." You probably know a group of middle schoolers who are living life in this "thoughtless" reality. That was Chase then. Chase now... well the only thing he remembers is falling and someone screaming.

Amnesia. How could he remember what that word means, yet not remember his name, who the lady and man standing at his hospital bed is? Can you imagine that type of scenario? As Chase recovers, his life only gets worse. Try to imagine what it would be like to return to school, only to see fellow students run from you. Imagine what it would be like to see fear in someone's eyes just because you said hello to them!

They say that Chase's amnesia won't last long. What type of  "grit" will Chase need as he follows his potential instead of what other's knew him to be before the fall? Let's just say, it will need a measure of determination and a lot of courage. With the help of those willing to trust his new personality, Chase learns how treating others matters. The hardest step will be learning to trust himself once he confronts who he was.

Why read this book? First it's written by Gordon Korman, a master author who knows all the methods in hooking his audience. Second, it's a writing perspective in which readers will begin re-thinking what their assumptions are about those they go to school with. Finally, it is just a great story about life and what works or doesn't work.
Restarting your life?
Facing who you were and who you are!

Meet the Author:

Gordon Korman wrote his first book, "This Can't be Happening at Macdonald Hall", when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in "The Sixth Grade Nickname Game", wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.
Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; they now live in Long Island with their three children. He has published more than 50 books.

So many books to explore:

MrsK's to-read book montage

Heartbreak Creek
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Each Little Bird that Sings
The Saturdays
Emily of Deep Valley

MrsK Books's favorite books »

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MrsK's Reading Bio

Reading is important! No questions asked, not even a blink of the eye from any student I grew up with. On the first day of the First grade, we were given our first books. Day two we all read aloud, round robin of course. Day three we were place in our first basal, now known as a lit circle group. Books were so important, publishers designed new curriculum so that every student was reading by the end of the first week. These early readers had images that looked like what we could see in the classroom, beyond the classroom, even on the big screen. Reading is important, throughout history every generation has believed that “Reading” opens up the world for endless possibilities.

I adore the 1950’s Dick and Jane books. Actually, most reading specialists and experienced (45+) educators believe that every student learned to read with Dick and Jane. Since these books are being re-issued, I have heard many parents, grandparents, and students claim that Dick and Jane stories of repetition does teach students to read.

Early influences from my mother influenced my desire to read. I would watch her read and we would go on “secret” excursions to the library. The library became my playground. I owned every book I could carry home, of course they needed to be taken back to their home after visiting with me for a week or two. My first book that I could pull off of the library shelf and read was, Father Bear Comes Home. I only saw my dad on Sundays for a few hours. I would pull this beginning reader off of the library shelf every week. Every week I would try to read the first chapter. Every week I got further in the story. My mom would let me check it out, only if I could read it myself (She didn’t like the illustrations therefore she didn’t want to take time to read it to me). One day, I pulled the book from the shelf and when mom came to get me from the children’s corner, I realized that I had read the whole story. I ran to the check out desk and the Librarian KERCHUNKED the checkout card. My mother, brother and neighbors read. My teachers read. We all read aloud all day long in school. The Priest read aloud every day at mass, even in Latin. Everybody in the Doctor’s office read. People on the bus read. Dad’s waiting in their cars as the Mom’s and children grocery shopped, read. In fact, once you could read and write, Sunset Magazine considered you a reader and sent you mail every day.

Reading is important; I’ve spent my life reading. I’ve traveled around the world and into space through books. My favorite genre is whichever book I have open at the time. Children’s Literature is my passion. Book clubbing is one of the best past times, especially if food is involved. In fact my friends of old are in a book club and we are about to embark on a beach trip to “read” and discuss our newest selection.

My “home-run” book story has helped every student find his or her own “home-run” reads. Every year, I have shared my, Father Bear Comes Home, and every year my students have brought in their “home-run” books. That’s the “diving board” into our Lit. Studies.

In “Growing Up Digital,” Tapscott’s insights into the new generations enthusiasm for the Net reminded me of my generation’s enthusiasm for reading, movies, TV, parties and our driving permits. The Net-Generation, as Tapscott describes, “are learning, playing, communicating, working, creating communities, and enforcing a social transformation.”
N-Geners are interactive “techies” who are always looking for a way to “work it” verses the TV Generation of “Baby Boomers” who started out looking for “how it works.” Reading development is tougher today, society moves too fast to invest their “non-working” free time into a book or even “home work.” Since I stepped into my own classroom, I have seen students being told to read, being forced to read, and threatened into reading. Homework is not any longer the vehicle for students to gain their future lifestyles or careers with. Yet, the Internet does create an enthusiasm for learning. Since I have been enrolled in these courses, I have used the computers in every subject. My students are using the newest technology in the classroom because I am giving them investigative sites to use as they learn from each other and books. I agree with Tapscott, in order to bridge the gap with this up and coming generation we must “live and learn with them.”

FTC Required Disclaimer: I receive these books from the publishers. I did not receive monetary compensation for these reviews. These reviews have been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at


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