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Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani and Sarah Hutt, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi, 162 pp, RL: Middle School

It rankles me when I see things marketed specifically to girls. Mostly because I am not the kind of girl those stereotypically "girl" things appeal to and neither is my daughter. And, probably, neither are millions of girls. But, the reality is that sometimes you need to use shorthand or symbols or certain colors to get a message across, to market an idea. And messages and ideas can be gender specific, as I learned when I read the introduction to Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani, founder of girls who code. While running for congress in 2010, Saujani visited many public schools and noticed that, in every computer lab, there were, "dozens of boys learning to code and training to be tech innovators. BUT THERE WERE BARELY ANY GIRLS!" Then she throws out this disturbing statistic: "By 2020, there will be 1.4 million open jobs in computing. These jobs are some of the country's highest-paying and fastest-growing career paths. B…
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Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code by Stacia Deutsch, 144 pp, RL 4

As I said in my review ofGirls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani , founder of https://girlswhocode.com/"target="_blank">girls who code, it rankles me when I see things marketed specifically to girls. But, after reading Saujani's intro to her book and doing a little research into the disparity between the growing number of jobs and low numbers of women working in the field of computer science, I am ALL IN! As Saujani says in her introduction toThe Friendship Code, "I realized that there was a need for books that described what it's like to actuallybea girl who codes. I always say, 'You can't be what you can't see.' And that's true for books, too! We need to read stories about girls who look like us in order to be inspired to try something new." As you can see by the cover illustration by http://alkemystudio.com/andrea-d-fernandez/"target="_blank">Andrea Fernandez, the characters in Th…

Colette's Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault

Isabelle Arsenault'sillustration style is unique and, with her new picture bookColette's Lost Petshe proves she is a unique storyteller as well. Colette's family moves to Mile End, a city neighborhood of apartment buildings, narrow back yards and alleys. With a firm and frustrated, "For the last time, NO PET!" her mother sends Colette out into the backyard and tells her to explore her new neighborhood. Running into two boys in the alley, Colette begins spinning a story about a lost pet she is looking for. The more questions the curious kids ask, the bigger the story gets, and the more kids get involved. Soon, Colette is part of a pack of kids winding through the neighborhood looking for her "truly amazing" lost pet. When Colette's mother calls her in for dinner, she sadly begins to comply. Maybe she thinks they know she was making up a story, maybe she thinks they won't want to be friends with her if she doesn't need them to help look for he…

Time Shifters by Chris Grine, 272 pp, RL 4

In 2014 I reviewed Chickenhare by Chris Grine and LOVED it. The hero, Chickenhare, is a curiosity, a mash-up creature who, along with his best buddy, a rare, bearded turtle named Abe, is handed off to a collector (and taxidermist) of exotic animals. Hopefully, someday, the sequel, Fire in the Hole, will be reissued with color by Graphix, just like Chickenhare was. Happily, Grine is working on a new series, Time Shifters, in the meantime.
Like Kazu Kibuishi's Amuletseries, Time Shifters begins with a tragedy. Luke and his older brother and best friend, Kyle, are exploring in the woods behind their home when an accident happens. A year later, and Luke is still grieving. But, when he sees a flash of light in the forest where his brother died, he heads out to investigate. Grine's illustration style is vivid, alternating between close-up emotional displays and detailed geographic illustrations.
Through a series of mishaps, Luke ends up with a device clamped onto his arm that allows t…

Apartment 1986 by Lisa Papademetrio, 272pp, RL 4

Confession: When I read the flap for Apartment 1986 by Lisa Papademetriou I thought I was in for a When You Reach Me time travel story and got really excited. And, while the man who lives in apartment 1986 really does love the 80s and collects all kinds of artifacts from that period, there is no mysterious time travel, just the mystery of families and frustrations.
And, while I am very glad that I read it, Apartment 1986 is the kind of book I usually pass on. Middle grade novels with first person narrators going through family struggles are hard to get right. I find they are either too solemn, too quirky or both. However, there is something about the voice of narrator Callie Vitalis that, even in her naivete, is charming. Maybe it's because, from the first page of the book, Callie is all about mindset, a concept that is huge in the educational world (and my house) and says things like, "I sort of flounce out of the store, and because I have been practicing my flouncing, I thin…

The Teacher's Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

The Teacher's Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora, is one of my favorite kind of books, one where the kids know better than the adult, but the adult is not presented as a buffoon. The student's in Mr. Stricter's class narrate the story, with understandable concern with Ohora's humor-filled illustrations bringing a retro feel to the book. I love Ohora's illustrations but, not wanting to give away too much about the surprise of the book, I haven't included too many illustrations here.
Black endpapers call to mind a blackboard where the life cycle of a frog has been drawn in chalk. Except for one small difference you have to make sure you don't miss. The Teacher's Pet begins, "On the day the science project hatched, our whole class was amazed. We'd never seen Mr. Stricter so excited. 'I always wanted a pet,' he said." Mr. Stricter tells his students they can keep one of the tadpoles for a class pet and they choose …

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder, 269 pp, RL 4

Before I begin writing my own review of a book often before I even begin reading a book, I will read a handful of other reviews from a few different sources I have found to be reliable. I didn't do that with Orphan Island, the newest book by Laurel Snyder, with evocative cover and map art by David Lichtfield. I just jumped right in, slate (mostly) blank, and I'm so glad I did. Orphan Island is so many things, stirs up so many feelings and calls to mind so many moments and memories. With her writing, her world building and her protagonist Jinny, Laurel Snyder reminded me more powerfully and intimately what it felt like to be at the cusp of adolescence more than any book I have ever read, more than any trip down Memory Lane flipping through a photo album. Reading Orphan Island made me remember what it felt like to be headed into a world I could could not see ahead of me, but only imagine. What it felt like to live in a world  - and a body - that seemed to be breaking apart and g…