Thursday, November 18, 2021

Brainstorm 255: Business & Leadership Books

This week’s Brainstorm has 4 books related to business and leadership. There are tons of books on business out there, and tons more on leadership, but I picked these four as ones that, to me, stand out from the rest of the crowd for their intended audience. Click on the title to see my full review and any content notes/trigger warnings. 

Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid by Mikaila Ulmer

The autobiography of Mikaila Ulmer who after being stung twice in one summer by bees when she was 4 learned more about them at the prompting of her parents, discovered bees are important and in danger, and came up with the idea to start a lemonade stand that incorporated honey to raise money to save bees while also earning herself money for a doll. From her little lemonade stand at 4 1/2, Mikaila grew her lemonade business to the point of bottling and selling it in Whole Foods grocery stores, appearing on Shark Tank, and using proceeds to start a nonprofit to benefit bees and bee education. As Mikaila shares her story, she includes key business principles every entrepreneur needs to know and gives other young people advice on how to start their own businesses.

If you know any young people interested in starting their own business, this is the book to hand them to inspire them and give them practical tools to get started.

Target Readers:

Autobiography Fans, Wannabe Entrepreneurs, Inspirational True Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers

Earn It (A Moneybunny Book) by Cinders McLeod

Bun wants to be a famous singer when she grows up. She asks her mom how to get famous, but she's a little disheartened. Working to earn and then paying for music lessons seems like a lot. Will it be worth it?

Instead of necessarily talking about how much she earns and how much music lessons cost, this book talks in the end about intangibles. How working hard to earn something, like a spot on a stage or a song produced with your name on it that others listen to, has extra value because of the work and money you put into it. The entire Moneybunny series is excellent for teaching kids money handling skills that will be applicable for their entire lives. My favorite book in the series is Give It, which explains the concept of using some of your money to help others. A perfect read as we head into the holiday season.

Target Readers:

Wannabe Entrepreneurs, Dreamers, Delayed Gratification Learners, Money Handling Learners, Rabbit Lovers, Picture Book Readers

Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It by Adam Savage

Adam Savage relates lessons he's learned over the years of being a maker, a person tackling big projects, an underling, a co-worker, and a boss. He shares tips on how to stay on top of big projects from list making to the pros of deadlines. He also talks about the necessity of both positive and negative feedback to help teams work better and everyone to grow professionally. He then talks about various methods of shop organization and finding a method that works for you, and finishes with some tips on glue, cardboard, and other maker tools.

Yes, Adam shares stories from making Mythbusters and other movies, TV shows, and commercials he did special effects or props for, but this is much more about him sharing things he's learned over the years. And those lessons are great advice. I was thrilled with his chapters on project management and leadership tips. They were excellent.

Target Readers:

Makers, Project Tacklers, Anyone Part of a Team, Leaders, Mythbuster Fans, Nonfiction Fans, Autobiography Fans, Adult Readers (though approachable and recommended to YA Readers).

What Does It Mean to be an Entrepreneur? by Rana DiOrio & Emma D. Dryden, ill. by Ken Min

Simple text clarifies what an entrepreneur is not, defines what an entrepreneur is, and outlines what it takes to be a successful one.

The concepts outlined are brought to life in the illustrations with a girl seeing a problem (messy dog), brainstorming a solution, revising when confronted with issues, and finally setting up a business (from washing machine through several re-workings to a robot dog washing contraption). This is very well put together in a way kids can easily grasp.

Target Readers:

Wannabe Entrepreneurs, Problem Solvers, Curious Kids, Nonfiction Fans, Picture Book Readers

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Brainstorm 254: East Germany & the Berlin Wall

This past week on Nov 9 we celebrated 32 years since the Berlin Wall came down. I thought it would be a great time to share nonfiction and fiction books about East Germany before or during the fall of the Wall. Click on the titles to see my full review and any content notes/trigger warnings for each book.

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

Noah's parents show up one day in the middle of March after school in a rental. They speed him off to the airport, informing him that his mom has been granted permission to do her doctoral research comparing speech defects and education in the US with East Germany. (And FYI, readers, it's 1989.) So they are off to Berlin and Noah will finally get to use that German he's been learning. Then his parents start getting weird. They tell him they've lied about his name. It's not Noah Keller on his birth certificate, it's Jonah Brown, so from now on he's Jonah. His parents have new - or old - names too. What?! And another thing about that birth certificate, the birthday is different too. And for that matter, if asked, he grew up in a different town from Oasis, Virginia. Mind spinning to remember all his new info and new rules (such as talk as little as possible about the past and don't talk about anything important in the new house) Noah is on a flight (yes, Noah, because he still thinks of himself that way). Upon arriving in Berlin, Noah's mom is soon off doing her research. His dad says he's going to write an amazing novel about a mink farmer crime sleuth while they're there. Noah wants to go to school, but because of his stutter, they at first deny him. Most kids would love not going to school, but Noah quickly grows bored...and lonely. There's no one for him to be friends with. But one day he meets a girl from the apartment downstairs, Claudia. There's mysteries about Claudia. Like where are her parents? Why does she live with her grandmother? Which gets Noah thinking about other mysteries, like why did mom burn the picture of her 4th birthday before they came, and why did they change their names to come here? East Germany is such a strange place, especially in 1989.

This is a slow burn plot that explores life with a stutter, life in East Germany in 1989, and how hard it is to uncover secrets in a land overflowing with secrets. Nesbet herself spent time doing doctoral research in East Germany's Berlin in 1989, so she didn’t just research this stuff, she lived it.

Target Readers:

Friendship Story Fans, Historical Fiction Fans, Slow Burn Thriller Fans, Those Interested in Stuttering Characters, Mystery Fans, Middle Grade Readers


The Collapse: the Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall by Mary Elise Sarotte

Mary Elise Sarotte takes readers through all the tiny little incidents, accidents, and unprecedented choices that happened at just the right time and were capitalised on so that the opening of the Berlin Wall happened when no one knew it would, not the East Germany authorities, not the Western intelligence agents, not even the reform movements inside East Germany.

Sarotte has obviously done her research. Years and years of research and interviews and scouring of primary documents. And the story she tells is crazy! If someone wrote this as fiction they'd be accused of using too many crazy coincidences or deus ex machina moments. The potential for horrible violence was there and even ordered, but it never happened. Peaceful protests instead of chaotic violence, miscommunication at the highest levels, and unprecedented ignoring of orders worked together in ways no one could have predicted. When you read it all together it seems nothing short of miraculous.

Target Readers:

History Fans, Reluctant History Readers, Engaging Nonfiction Fans, Adult Readers (though approachable to YA and even high reading middle graders)

Flight for Freedom: the Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany by Kristen Fulton, ill. by Torben Kuhlmann

A picture book biography of the Wetzels, what life in East Germany was like for them, and how they and another family made a hot air balloon and escaped to the West.

This was a nostalgic read for me as I remember watching a film retelling this amazing escape in elementary school (which must’ve been made immediately after the events). The picture book does a great job of relaying the basics of the difference between life in East and West Germany, and extensive back matter includes a lot more information on why the Berlin Wall went up, why people tried to escape over (and under) it, various methods that worked, and why the Wetzels didn't really open up about their escape until recently.

Target Readers:

Picture Book Biography Fans, Escape Story Fans, History Fans, Suspense Story Fans, Lower Grade/Middle Grade Readers

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The night East Germany put up the Berlin Wall, Gerta's father and middle brother, Dominic, were in the West scouting out options for the family there. Her mother had decided to stay behind with Gerta and her oldest brother, Fritz. But then the Wall went up, and suddenly Gerta's family was cut in half. Gerta's father had long been hounded by the East German police, the Stasi, for probable involvement in the resistance movement. It had made things challenging for the family. You would think that since he is stuck in the West, the rest of the family would be left alone, but that isn't the case. When a friend of Fritz tries to escape to the West, Fritz is brought in for questioning and he discovers that the Stasi have files on the entire family, even him and Gerta, and that there are microphones hidden in their apartment. Suddenly, Fritz loses his job, and soon he will have to join the East German military. On the way to school one day, Gerta glances towards the West and sees a familiar face on the platform that looks from the West into the East. It's her brother, and then her father. Her father does a strange dance, which Gerta first interprets as him being silly for her, but later she realizes it was a message. Papa wants her to tunnel. Later he manages to sneak a picture to her of an abandoned building. Eventually, Gerta finds it and starts her project. It is extremely dangerous, though. She knows if she is caught the very signs of digging will be a death sentence. She tries to cover it by gardening, but she suspects nosy neighbors are about to turn her in. Can she get her family to freedom before it is too late?

Target Readers:

Slow Burn Thriller Fans, Historical Fiction Fans, Escape Story Fans, Family Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers

Wall by Tom Clohosy Cole

A story of a family separated by the Berlin Wall, and the boy's work to bring them back together.

This is a very quick and safe East/West Germany story for little kids that the author based on a combination of actual escapes.

Target Readers:

Safe Thriller Fans, Historical Fiction Fans, Escape Story Fans, Picture Book Readers

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Brainstorm 253: Into the Jungle We Go

Let’s go explore South and Central American rainforests with today’s nonfiction picks! Click on the titles to see my full reviews including any content notes and trigger warnings (which there definitely are for many of these…the jungle is not a friendly environment for many humans, just look at how many of these titles have 'lost' in them).

Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest (Scientists in the Field) by Sy Montgomery, photos by Keith Ellenbogen

Author Sy Montgomery and photographer Keith Ellenbogen join a group traveling up the Amazon led by aquarist Scott Dowd to learn about how the pet fish industry is actually helping the Amazon ecosystem and economy. Meet the people who catch the little tetras native to the Amazon and the village that even holds a festival in their honor every year.

This is a very unusual perspective on the pet trade, and a great look at the unique Amazon ecosystem and how economic factors are impacting it.

Note: Sy Montgomery has several books in the Scientists in the Field series set in South America. I decided to just pick one to highlight, but I also recommend checking out her The Tapir Scientist and The Tarantula Scientist which look at other South American animals and their ecosystems.

Target Readers:

Pet Fish Owners, Fish Lovers, Amazon Armchair Explorers, Amazon Ecosystem Studiers, Persuasive Writing Studiers, Nonfiction Fans, Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers 

Death on the River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon Adventure by Samantha Seiple

Former President Teddy Roosevelt was invited down to Brazil to give a series of lectures. While down there, he was invited to join an expedition to explore and map what was believed to be a new branch of the Amazon, the River of Doubt. Never one to say no to a good adventure, Teddy and his son Kermit joined the expedition led by renowned Brazilian explorer Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon. Instead of finding a nice easy river, though, the expedition encountered numerous difficulties and all of them were in danger of not making it out of the deep jungles of Brazil alive.

This is one crazy adventure. It’s a miracle anyone survived! I’d read this one before you read The Lost City of Z as Roosevelt’s misadventure is referenced several times in Grann’s book.

Target Readers:

Survival Story Fans, Adventure Fans, Amazon Armchair Explorers, Roosevelt History Fans, Thrilling Nonfiction Fans, Young Adult Readers (Adults will enjoy it too)

The Incredible Yet True Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt: the Greatest Inventor Naturalist Scientist Explorer Who Ever Lived by Volker Mehnert, ill. by Claudia Lieb, translated by Becky L. Crook

An illustrated middle grade biography of Baron Alexander Von Humboldt, famous Prussian explorer of the Americas in the early 1800s.

Humboldt was a daring explorer, who with his friend, Aimé Bonpland, a botanist, explored and mapped parts of South America in modern day Venezuela, Ecuador, Columbia, and Peru. They then spent time in Cuba and Mexico, before venturing up to say hello to the U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and speak about their travels for crowds before returning to Europe five years after they initially left. Humboldt had been a mining scientist in Prussia before his adventuring days, and he had a deep fascination with volcanoes. They think he knew more about them than anyone else during his time period. He and Aimé also likely set records for the highest mountain climb of the time, as well as discovering plants and animals previously unknown to Europeans. Their talks in Europe were extremely popular. I was pleased to discover that Humboldt had a surprisingly and refreshingly respectful attitude towards the indigenous cultures he came across and was outspoken against slavery before it was popular to do so.

Target Readers:

Biography Fans, Adventure Fans, Scientist Fans, Abolitionist Fans, Nonfiction Fans, Middle Grade Readers on up

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston managed to get in on a hunt for a rumored lost city in the dense jungle-blanketed mountains of Honduras. With new technology, Steve Elkins hoped to finally uncover the location of the legendary White City sometimes called the City of the Monkey God many previous explorers had claimed to have seen but no definitive location had been put on the map. Elkins gathered a team of scientists, journalists and film makers to work together on this project. Preston relates the various phases to the search, spanning multiple years and trips to Honduras, and what they uncovered. He then goes on to look at history and science to determine what likely happened to the residents of this city, while also sharing a run-in the expedition crew had with a nasty parasite and why the world needs to be more informed about the need for a cure to this parasite.

The parasite parts are not for the faint of heart, but I appreciate how Preston used his experiences to bring awareness to a health issue that thousands of others face regularly. LIDAR is a nifty tool, and the things they are finding with its help are pretty astounding but this also shows you why they aren’t just scanning the whole planet with it. It also gives you a much better perspective of how long archaeology takes. 

Target Readers:

Adventure Fans, Unsolved Real Mystery Fans, Honduras Setting Fans, Global Health Issues Awareness Story Fans, Nonfiction Fans, Adult Readers 

The Lost City of Z: a Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

Most authorities on civilization agreed that the Amazon couldn't support a large civilization in ancient times, but one man disagreed. Percy Fawcett was a repeat Amazon adventurer, former British military man, who guarded secrets he believed would lead him to a huge ancient city he called Z. He set off for Z with his son and a friend of his son in 1925 and never returned. Over 100 people have gone into the Amazon jungles in search of Fawcett and many of them have also disappeared. David Grann got wind of this story, and decided he would try and find out if Fawcett's Z existed, if the new open records of the Explorer's Society would give him extra insight into where Fawcett was headed (since it was a closely guarded secret), and if the truth was out there. Part biography of the adventurer Fawcett, part history of the exploration/mapping of the world and the Amazon in particular, and part travel/research adventure of Grann's search for the truth.

This is a fascinating read that I found very hard to put down. Grann is a gifted writer.

Target Readers:

Armchair Amazon Explorers, Adventure Fans, Unsolved Real Mystery Fans, Survival Story Fans, Nonfiction Fans, Adult Readers

Lost in the Amazon: a Battle for Survival in the Heart of the Rainforest (Lost) by Tod Olson

The true story of how a teenage girl, Juliane Koepcke, survived an airplane coming apart in the air over the Amazon and then made it through the jungle to human rescue.

The fact that Juliane survived the fall, let alone the jungle is astounding. Of course, not many other teenagers, or adults for that matter, would have had the background knowledge that Juliane did. Her parents were both scientists studying creatures in the Amazon, and she had experience getting around and surviving in the jungle. Without the background she had, I don't think she'd have survived her days in the jungle. The author actually makes this point too with the stories of other explorers through the years who didn't make it through the Amazon jungle or who had super rough experiences.

Target Readers:

Survival Story Fans, Disaster Story Fans, Nonfiction Fans, Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers

Over and Under the Rainforest (Over and Under) by Kate Messner, ill. by Christopher Silas Neal

Two brothers make their way home through the Costa Rican rainforest and identify the various animals they see along the way for readers.

A beautiful introduction to a rainforest for kids. There are some rather obscure animals included in here along with the expected rainforest stars.

Target Readers:

Rainforest Studiers, Animal Lovers, Art Lovers, Nonfiction Fans, Picture Book Readers

The Quest for Z: the True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzoli

A picture book biography of Percy Fawcett, a turn of the century British explorer who mapped many areas of the Amazon and disappeared into the jungle in a quest to find proof of an ancient major civilization in the Amazon which he referred to as Z.

Pizzoli has done an admirable job of summarizing Fawcett's life and accomplishments for kids. He also manages to convey the dangers of jungle exploration without traumatizing readers.

Target Readers:

Unsolved Real Mystery Fans, Picture Book Biography Fans, Adventure Fans, Armchair Amazon Explorers, Nonfiction Fans, Lower Grade Readers

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Brainstorm 252: The Morbid Curiosity Mystery Trio

‘Tis the season to curl up with a good mystery. If finding a good mystery is your biggest case right now, I have some leads for you in this week’s Brainstorm. I’ve been stumbling upon more and more young lady sleuths I feel like who would make for grand friends if they only lived in the same time period. They are all British, all under-appreciated geniuses, and all suffer from “morbid curiosity” that just might be their undoing but that also makes them fabulous sleuths to follow around. And they are all tweens who have the mettle to solve murder mysteries (which are few and far between for tween sleuths). So let me introduce you to Aggie, Flavia, and Myrtle. Click on the book title to see my full review including any content notes/trigger warnings.

The Body under the Piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen, #1) by Marthe Jocelyn, ill. by Isabelle Follath

Aggie Morton is a most curious young lady. As in, she is curious about rather unusual things. Like just what happens after a body dies, where would one procure a particular poison, and who murdered Mrs Irma Eversham (whom Aggie just happened to be the first to see under the piano in the Mermaid Room on Saturday). The police are looking at dance instructor and sister-in-law of the deceased, Miss Marianne Eversham, but Aggie just knows Miss Marianne would never have done such a thing. With the help of her new acquaintance, Hector Perot, a refugee child from Belgium, Aggie is gathering clues to free Miss Marianne and discover who the real murderer could be.

In case you didn't guess from the title, characters, or subject matter, this is historical fiction mystery loosely based on Agatha Christie's childhood. I love how the author worked in so many nods to Agatha Christie's novels, and of course, Hector Perot reads just like a child version of Hercule Poirot. The second book in this series is a Christmas mystery I liked even better than this one, and I’m eagerly awaiting book 3 which is on order.

Target Readers:

Historical Fiction Fans, British Golden Age Mystery Fans, Agatha Christie Fans, Refugee Character Fans, Biographical Fiction Fans, Upper Middle Grade Readers (though YA & Adult readers who have read lots of Christie will get a lot out of this series too)

Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries, #1) by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Myrtle Hardcastle has trouble with being a Young Woman of Quality thanks to her morbid fascinations. While making Observations of the neighborhood. Myrtle realizes there is something very wrong at the Redgraves estate next door. No one is following their usual routine, and that is unheard of. It is so startling Myrtle makes a little call to the police, and sure enough they show up to discover the old lady next door, Miss Wodehouse is quite dead. Of course, Myrtle must go make her own Observations, and when her evidence fails to match up with that of the local police's ruling of death by heart attack, she must help them see the error of their ways. For Myrtle is quite convinced that someone did Miss Wodehouse in. But who? And why were her prize lilies destroyed? And where is her cat? With the help of her trusty governess, Miss Judson, Myrtle is determined to see justice served.

Myrtle stands out from the rest of this trio of ladies in that she has a trusty adult by her side to offer advice, guidance, and correction when she needs it. Miss Judson is not a hindrance to the fun at all, either. She is just as determined to get to the root of the mystery.

Target Readers:

Historical Fiction Fans, Forensics Fans, British Golden Age Mystery Fans, Middle Grade Readers (though many YA and adult readers will enjoy Myrtle too) 

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1) by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce goes outside early one morning only to find a stranger breathing his last words in their cucumbers. Normal 11 year old girls would have screamed and fled the scene, but Flavia is 100% intrigued and when her father is arrested for the crime, is soon trying to untangle the knots surrounding the stranger, a rare stamp, her father's old schoolmaster, and the dead man in the garden.

Flavia is one plucky, precocious girl with just the right touch of crazy misfit. In her case, the misfit comes in the form of not really connecting with her older sisters and of having a better understanding of Chemistry than most college graduates; the crazy comes in a penchant for poisons. (She’s also the only one in this trio marketed to the adult reader crowd instead of middle grade.) This series is set in 1950s England, an era that often gets ignored in mystery settings. 

Target Readers:

1950s Historical Fiction Fans, Complicated Families Fans, Adult Readers (though approachable to YA)

Friday, October 15, 2021

Brainstorm 251: Survival Stories for Hatchet Fans

Some of you may have heard that Gary Paulsen, the author of Hatchet and many other books, died this week. In honor of an author who sparked a love of survival stories in so many generations of kids, I started a list of survival stories for today’s Brainstorm and realized I had WAY too many books on my list, and I needed to narrow it down. I’ve decided for today’s list I’ll stick with the books most like Hatchet, realistic fictional survival stories. I may do some future Brainstorms with the dystopian survival stories, true survival stories, war survival stories, North Korean survival stories, Amazon survival stories, etc. (Oh the subgenres of survival stories!) Obviously, the books in today’s Brainstorm are all good recommendations for readers who love survival stories and contemporary fiction so I won’t bother listing that in every single Target Readers section. Click on the titles to see my full review of each one including any content notes/trigger warnings.

The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling

It's Nora's birthday. Her dad has picked a slot canyon for them repel into and explore. Nora is super excited to be doing something somewhat normal with her father. She and her mom and dad used to go hiking and rock climbing all the time. But ever since the disaster on her last birthday, a disaster that ended her mom's life, they haven't done much, and her father has become more and more reclusive. He believes the only safe place is somewhere without any other people. Somewhere like a slot canyon in the middle of the desert. But danger lurks even in the absence of other people, and a flash flood comes and Nora and her dad are separated. The disaster makes all her anxiety and PTSD come to the surface. Can Nora conquer the Beast that stalks her in order to survive and be reunited with her dad?

An excellently written novel in verse that explores a lot of issues tactfully, features a desert-savvy girl, and moves at a good pace.

Target Readers:

Mental Health Story Fans, Canyoneering Fans, Desert Setting Fans, Novel in Verse Fans, Quick Read Fans, Middle Grade Readers

Cove by Cynan Jones

A man goes out in a kayak to spread his father's ashes in the cove. In order to not disturb some others on the beach, he decides to go further out than he intended and come back later. But during that time, a storm rolls in and the man is struck by lightning. He wakes up disoriented, with no clue how long he was knocked out, no sight of land, and suffering side-effects of being hit by lightning. Can he make it back to land?

The only reason I first noticed this book is that the cover had a note on it about the author winning a Welsh writing prize, and I couldn't think of another Welsh author I've read off the top of my head. It's a different little book that's less than 100 pages long.

Target Readers:

Sea Story Fans, Welsh Author Fans, Quiet/Introspective Story Fans, Quick Read Fans, Short Story Fans, Adult Readers (though approachable to well-read YA readers)

The Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens

Hannah lives in an idyllic remote community on Pelling island near Seattle. After school she heads over to one of her two neighbor's houses to babysit the Matlock kids while their mom goes to an art show in the city. Hannah is a little nervous as it is only her 2nd time babysitting ever. Just a little while after Ms. Matlock leaves, and Hannah is in the middle of a texting argument with her supposed best friend, a major earthquake hits. The Cascades never get earthquakes, or so Hannah thought. But they are definitely in the middle of one and its aftershocks now. Can Hannah and the two elementary-age Matlock kids survive on their own in their isolated community till help comes?

I could not put this one down! The characters are believable, likable kids in a very plausible situation, and they have to figure out some tricky situations all on their own.

Target Readers:

Natural Disaster Story Fans, Unputdownable Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Mark is tired of his life being controlled by illness. He's tired of putting on a brave face. He's tired of hiding tears. He's tired of making his parents cry. And so when the latest news comes from the doctor that the cancer is back again Mark grabs his dog and decides to go climb Mt. Rainier. He's thought this through enough that he leads a false trail for the police and his parents so he can actually make it there. The way to the mountain is rough, especially for someone as sick as Mark, but he's determined to die on his own terms. He did leave a note for his best friend Jessie, giving her a clue as to where he's gone. But he trusts her to keep his secret, just as he's trusted her to let him be real when no one else would. Jessie is tormented by this burden Mark has left on her shoulders. Is it best to let him have his desire, or should she tell his worried parents where he is? As Mark sets out to conquer the mountain, he finds unexpected things the trip brings up that he must confront to get at the honest truth.

This sounds like a horribly hard read, and in some ways it is but Gemeinhart was a wizard with his writing. It isn't as gut-wrenching as you think it might be. It is a pretty even-keeled look at what a person going through cancer experiences, but it is done in an exceedingly artful way. 

Target Readers:

Pediatric Cancer Story Fans, Mental Health Story Fans, Friendship Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

Victoria Secord is a musher, a sled dog racer. She grew up doing this with her dad and she's determined to win a race in his honor this year since he isn't around to win his own. When Victoria hears that Mr. Cook is possibly going to sell his sled dogs, she decides she can't miss the opportunity to snatch up some of his champions. Her mom won't drive her over, so she quickly decides to take a small team of dogs on some back trails. She throws in basic stuff she might need for an afternoon run and is off. Her plans for a quick trip are thrown for a loop when she comes across a guy who just wrapped his snowmobile around a tree and obviously needs help. She hauls him into the sled and listens to his directions to his place, only to be stopped by a blizzard bearing down on them quickly. Victoria gets them squared away to weather out the snow storm, figuring they'll be able to find Chris's place in the morning. But come morning, she finds out that Chris just moved to Alaska from Ontario yesterday, he couldn't find his way without blazing lights, oh, and he managed to get her only map caught on fire last night. Obviously Chris isn't going to be any help, so it's all up to Victoria to get them back to warmth and shelter. Without the map and in an area with no cell phone reception, though, that is going to be tricky. It'll be a battle against all the Alaskan winter wilderness can throw their way to see if they can survive.

If you're looking for a survival read that is on the cozier end of the spectrum, this is a great pick. It never gets too heavy, and even has moments of humor.

Target Readers:

Dog Lovers, Alaskan Setting Fans, Wintry Survival Fans, Light Romance Fans, Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers

Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth

Tash burns to see her people freed from the oppressive soldiers that enforce all the restrictive rules in Tibet and prevent them from singing traditional songs or even saying the name of the Dalai Lama. Tash’s parents work for the resistance. After a man sets himself on fire in the town square, the soldiers start cracking down on everyone they even remotely suspect of being involved in the resistance and throwing them in jail. Tash’s parents know they are next. As the soldiers come down their street, they sneak her out the back window and give her a backpack containing something very important the soldiers must not find. After their arrest, Tash starts to make her way to the one person she thinks can help, the Dalai Lama. Her best friend Sam joins her, and an old man in the village lets them borrow his yaks Eve and Bones. The two children must sneak out of the village, evade the soldiers, and find their way to India through the Himalayan passes to see if they can pass on whatever message the backpack contains and get help for their village.

I love the Tibetan/Himalayan setting of this story and the way it tactfully makes readers aware of the human rights issues going on there in recent years. Also, the yaks are great.

Target Readers:

Tibet/Himalaya Setting Fans, Wintry Survival Fans, Adventure Fans, Middle Grade Readers

Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick

The plan was for Sam to go to summer camp while his mom went to rehab to get her life back together. Sam made it to camp, but when wildfires break out he gets left behind when he ducks out of line to grab the phone he forgot. Now he's on a race against the flames through the Maine wilderness. After a few days he runs into Delphy, an older girl who was at another camp nearby. The two of them have to pull their know-how, grit, and resources to try and make it home.

I really liked how Sam and Delphy bonded in a quickly adopted little brother/big sister type of way. The story barely has a slow moment, but there is just enough time allotted to let Sam and Delphy work through their personal issues and experience some healthy growth.

Target Readers:

Natural Disaster Story Fans, Suspense Story Fans, Unlikely Friendship Fans, Fans of Stories about Kids with Parents in Rehab, Middle Grade Readers