Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sputnick's Guide To Life On Earth by Frank Cattrell Boyce


     Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce is a delicious mash-up of fantasy and realistic fiction. It is a rambunctious, funny and, at times, poignant story of a silent boy named Prez, an alien named Sputnik, a foster family and a forgetful grandfather.
         Prez doesn't talk . . . at least not to anyone at the summer foster home he is staying at on a farm in the country. But when Sputnik appears, things get a bit wonky! Who is he? Where did he come from and why in the world can he read Prez's mind?!
     Trip along on a fascinating ride as Sputnik tries to save planet Earth, marked for destruction, by creating a guide highlighting the top ten great things about Earth. He enlists the help of Prez but he and Sputnik don’t always agree on what is great on Earth and what isn't. Witness Sputnik's excitement and delight over the discovery of a remote control but how totally unimpressed he is with the Taj Mahal. 
     This book will resonate with children and adults alike and would be an ideal read aloud for classroom teachers. Students will relate to Prez's inner thoughts as he worries about his grandfather, tries to fit into a family for the duration of a summer only and be responsible for an unexpected alien that a family falls in love with, seeing him as a friendly and lovable dog. 
     Boyce Cantrell has hit a home run with Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth. Put this one on the top of your TBR lists for the summer - you won't be disappointed then give it to one of your favorite readers.
     Win your very own signed copy of Boyce Cantrell's superb new novel. Follow my blog, leave a comment if you already do and/or tweet and retweet about it, including @litcoachlou!


Monday, April 24, 2017


Anderson does it again!

       John David Anderson nails middle school relationships and interactions truthfully and poignantly in his second novel Posted. The struggles to find your place, your identity, your true self, amidst the turmoil of how truly cruel kids can be, is a tough job and one that most will keep to themselves – parents and teachers are not told. As I got deeper and deeper into Anderson’s newest novel, I was literally brought back to my own 8th grade year, .  . . the year my “friends” decided I was no longer part of their group and I was ostracized and not invited to any of the outside weekend activities organized by my former crowd. Just like that - I was out - and I had no idea why or what I did to warrant such treatment. It was a miserable year and I think everyone who has ever attend middle, or in my case, junior high school, will be able to identify with this superb novel.
        As this story opens we meet four friends, Frost, DeeDee, Bench & Wolf,  who have formed their own tribe and try to cover themselves with a cloak of invisibility, especially in the dreaded lunchroom. We all probably remember, where you sit and whom you sit with, make all the difference in the social status created by the middle school population. And don’t think you can just sit down with anyone – there is territory in a middle school cafeteria and lines that can never be crossed.
Frost, our narrator, nicknamed for Robert Frost after winning a poetry contest in 5th grade, feels safety in the four points that make up their invisible square of indifference and unity at their lunch table. Everything is tolerable, at least until a new student crashes their table, a girl no less, a girl named Rose Holland, who is like no girl they have ever met – not that they have met or talked to any. Rose is loud, brash, friendly and physically a very tall, big girl whose physique has led to many unpleasant nicknames including Moose. Rose Holland reminds me a bit of Star girl  by Jerry Spinelli, fearlessly marching to her own drummer.
     When phones are banned in school, students are lost without their social media accounts that cannot be accessed and used during school. But just as time is eternal, kids will always find a way and these kids are no different. Pretty soon post-it notes start slowly popping up on lockers, bathroom stalls, gym walls, more and more each day. Many are trite or kind but as I’m sure you are already inferring, many turned ugly and mean.
       The student population soon realizes the old aphorism, Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me, is just not true.  As we build up to the climax of this story (and make sure you are ready to read the last third of the book straight through in one sitting as you won’t be able to stop) we witness the blood that words can draw.
       Anderson is a master of character development. We know and sympathize with these kids and I bet everyone who reads this book will identify with at least one of these characters or will immediately remember students in their classes like these five. The first time I ever heard about “finding your tribe” was when speaking with the very talented E. B. Lewis at an NCTE conference in Boston. He said no matter what, kids would find their “tribe”, the people who accept them. This can be a good thing or a bad thing – depending on your tribe, but you will find it. As we all remember from tough experiences,   your tribe may change – members drop out or are added – a lesson our kids learn the hard way.
       This is an important book. Bullying and making fun of others has always been around but today, with the advent of social media, there are many more opportunities to antagonize – even outside of school.
Words are weapons and can be just as deadly.

Win a signed copy of Posted by John David Anderson either by tweeting about it - include me @litcoachlou or by joining my blog! 











Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold and Charles Santoso



I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reader copy, (ARC), from  @WaldenPondPress of A Boy Called Bat, written by Elana K. Arnold, with illustrations by Charles Santoso.This is a warm, tender, enchanting story of a third grade boy nicknamed Bat, for the initials in his name, which stand for Bixby Alexander Tam.
Bat’s mom is a veterinarian and Bat wants to be one when he grows up. He loves animals and finds that he can often relate to them better than people. Although it is never specifically mentioned, the reader will realize that Bat is not like every other 3rd grader. He has trouble making eye contact, occasionally flaps his arms when frustrated and struggles with any type of change, including every other weekend at his dad’s.
When Bat’s mom brings home an orphaned skunk, with the intention of fostering the baby kit until he can be returned to the wild, Bat has a different idea! He desperately wants to keep the baby skunk, now named Thor, as a pet, and sets out to convince his mother that he is old enough and responsible enough to do so.
Although on the surface it may appear to be an animal book, Arnold takes us into the world of a child on the autism spectrum and the difficulties these children face with every day life. Every reader will come away with a better understanding and appreciation for all differences, not just those experienced by children with autism.
 Many schools participate in a One Book One School program.  To embrace the notion that “everyone reads”, all the people in a school or even community, receive and read the same book. I think A Boy Called Bat would be a wonderful choice. It is a very well-told story and would definitely generate some important conversations.
This is a book that should grace the shelves of both elementary and middle schools and can be enjoyed by any age. You can find some additional teacher resources here: Teacher resources

Win a signed copy of this book by joining my blog, (litcoachlou.blogspot.com) or tweeting about this review on Twitter. (Earn two entries if you do both!) My handle is @litcoachlou and the raffle will close on Monday, April 3, 2017.