First were a few dots in her vision, then glasses (not so cute), now clouds cover her view…
Mafalda’s eyesight is failing, and the list of things the Italian girl can do grows shorter by the week – no more having a best friend or counting stars at night.
No more playing soccer, as the black spots widen so she cannot see the ball coming toward the goal, no more walking home from school by herself.
She hates how people have already started treating her differently, hates 11th birthday presents coming many months early while she can still see their colors, hates having to move to a one-story house away from her cat…
Only Estella, the Romanian janitor at school, seems to understand how hard this all is for Mafalda and suggests making a list of things she doesn’t want to forget when she is blind.
As days pass, she must stand ever closer to see her favorite cherry tree… if only Mafalda could live in its branches so no one knew her blindness was happening so fast.
How do you cope when unhappy changes are inevitable? **kmm
Book info: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree / Paola Peretti; translated by Denise Muir; illustrated by Carolina Rabei. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. [author interview] [translator interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
The car wreck changed everything, healing is so slow – can fractured relationships be mended too?
More operations ahead for Luna after the accident that left Dad in a wheelchair and the 12 year old with big facial scars under a treatment mask.
Her new neighbors are truly magical, as young Alessandro and Chiara ignore Luna’s scars and take her up with them in their zeppelin to brush the dust from the Moon and stars, as all spazzatrici do.
Only Uncle Mike understands how she needs to keep drawing every night when the pain won’t let her sleep – and that the spazzatrici are real.
She can’t stand to see the pity in Tailee’s eyes, stops returning her best friend’s phone calls, wants things to just be normal again.
Would stardust make Dad less sad about not working in their Italian-American family deli?
Could a shooting star grant Luna’s wish for healing if she caught one?
Sail up from Staten Island to help place new stars in their constellations and enjoy the drawings that Luna delivers to other neighbors in this magical tale – happy book birthday to The Trouble With Shooting Stars! **kmm
Book info: The Trouble With Shooting Stars / Meg Cannistra, art by Dana Wulfekotte. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Addie’s used to being the quiet one, between her real estate agent mom, HGTV star aunt, and three older football superstar brothers, so keeping her new relationship with Cubby secret was easy, until it wasn’t.
He betrayed her in front of the whole football team with that photo, so she’s following the Ireland for the Heartbroken tour book’s advice to heal her heart – if local guy Rowan can keep Addie and Ian from pushing each other off another cliff!
From the author of Love and Gelato (my recommendation here) which tells how Addie’s best friend Lina got to Italy, where Addie and Ian are going – if she can convince her brother to get moving before Mom discovers they didn’t leave as scheduled!
Which wonderful places in your area can bring solace to the downhearted? **kmm
Book info: Love and Luck / Jenna Evans Welch. Simon Pulse, 2018. [author IG] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: After the private photo debacle with her ex-boyfriend, sixteen-year-old Addie can’t wait to escape Seattle and visit her best friend now in Italy, following a stopover in Ireland for a family wedding.
Suddenly on a clandestine Irish roadtrip with brother Ian (football star and… international music journalist?) and Rowan (local guy and Ian’s biggest fan) to chronicle an influential rock band’s roots, Addie realizes that her problem won’t disappear with distance.
As long as they visit the places recommended by Ireland for the Heartbroken guidebook, Addie is okay with going along before she and Ian head to Italy, but cute Rowan’s tiny rickety car has other ideas…
Ian’s indie music blog has nearly ten thousand followers – would he really give up a football scholarship for journalism? Not sure if what happened with Cubby is her fault – why can’t Addie tell Mom, as Ian keeps nagging? Social media is great for Ian, went terribly wrong for Addie – maybe she can stay in Ireland or Italy forever?
If Addie can just tell Lina everything about Cubby, if Lina can convince Mom that Addie and Ian are in Italy with her while they rumble around Ireland with charming Rowan, maybe she can figure out how to endure next year at school.
Accused unjustly, white against black.
Hurt unfairly, strong against weak. Dream pursued intensely, self against society.
How did an impoverished young woman, orphaned by her Ojibwe (Chippewa) mother and freedman black father, overcome being on trial for white classmates’ poisoning during the Civil War to become a prominent sculptor living in Italy?
Check out the Google Doodle honoring her on Feb. 1, to meet Edmonia Lewis, whose determination to create art drove her to become the first noted woman sculptor of African-American and Native American descent.
How far would you travel to accomplish your dream?
Book info: Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis / Jeannine Atkins. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: Sketching is like breathing for Edmonia, but her art classes at Oberlin Academy can’t prepare the scholarship girl for false accusations of theft and poisoning which may steal her opportunity to be an artist.
Living in the North during the Civil War doesn’t make the skin given by her freedman father any less dark. Dressing in crinolines like her white classmates doesn’t lessen her longing for the forests and woodsmoke of her mother’s Ojibwe village. Being poor and different does make her the ideal scapegoat for her white classmates’ indiscreet drinking – “poisoned by Edmonia!”
Days in the courtroom, scholarship revoked, the young woman must leave town, earn a living, seek the smallest possibility that she may ever sculpt again – and she leaps at opportunity when it finds her!
This novel in verse illumines the sparse facts of Edmonia’s life with possible details as we watch her grow into a noted sculptor living in Italy in the late 1800s when neither women nor persons of color were celebrated for their artistic talents.
A zeppelin, skyscrapers, a quest,
war looming, young people fleeing,
across countries, toward memories…
Through the early years of World War II, intrepid teens try to outwit ingenious villains in a game of chase through the US and Europe with deadly consequences.
Yes, it’s Book 2 of a duology. No, you don’t have to read Vango: Between Earth and Sky to get up to speed on the complex and fascinating storylines (I had only this one and easily got up to speed on who was who, etc.). But if you can get Book 1, do it, just so you can doubly glory in the wordplay, round-the-world plots, and stunning translations of the adventurous tale of Vango, Cat, the invisible monastery, Ethel, and Zefiro.
Who would you follow across oceans?
Book info: A Prince Without a Kingdom (Vango, book 2) / Timothee de Fombelle, translated by Sarah Ardizzone. Candlewick Press, 2015. [author bio] [translator interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: Chased from his childhood refuge, orphaned teen Vango uses disguise and stealth to track down the man trying to kill him, while Ethel formulates plans to assist him as World War II erupts.
Intricate webs of love, hatred, family, loss, and intrigue flow between Vango and Ethel, a nanny in Russia and a doctor in Italy, an out-of-tune piano and the Black Sea in 1913 and a prize-fighter impersonating a prince, as oceans are crossed by airships, identities are cross-wired, and missed connections can mean life, death, or dessert…
The Cat connects clues and Resistance fighters as she traverses the rooftops of Occupied Paris – too many enemies?
How can the abbot of the Invisible Monastery be aboard the Hindenburg zeppelin?
Is Edith’s brother safe as an Allied aviator?
Second in the Vango duology, A Prince Without a Kingdom can easily be read alone as a cross-continent, multi-stranded adventure of love and loyalty during wartime, stunningly translated from the French original.
Meet her missing dad!
Read mom’s journal and wonder if…
After her mom’s death, Lina is bombarded with changes – moving to Italy where her mother studied photography in college, meeting the dad she never knew, maybe even falling in love!
But it’s all so fast, and the entries in her mom’s journal are like a puzzle that she must solve, even if the answers raise more questions!
Family secrets – unearth them or let them stay hidden?
Book info: Love and Gelato / Jenna Evans Welch. Simon Pulse, 2016. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: Leaving Seattle for sunny Italy, Lina mourns her late mother, worries about meeting her father for the first time, and is sure that going to school in a new country will be terrible, until her dad’s co-worker brings the journal that Mom kept while she was a photography student here and Lina meets the cute Italian-American guy next door.
Mom’s journal brings up so many questions – what does “I made the wrong choice” mean?
Her dad Howard is a nice man, but why doesn’t Lina have even one physical feature like him?
Ren helps her find all the places Mom mentions in her journal, but is he just interested in Lina as a friend?
Not just a simple “American teen in Europe for summer meets true love” story, Lina’s search for answers as she tries to find a future without Mom is by turns heart-wrenching and hopeful. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)
The new band’s problems, from equipment problems to practice schedules, mix with Gipi’s gritty sketch-plus-watercolor art to show just how far four working-class Italian teens will go to make their music.
This 2007 graphic novel is still in print, definitely worth your time to read.
Have you ever given it your all striving for a goal?
My book talk: When a blown amplifier short-circuits their band’s big audition, four Italian teens must decide whether their integrity or their potential rock music future is more important in this graphic novel by Gipi.
If he’ll stay out of trouble, Giuliano can use his dad’s old garage – perfect place for the band to practice! Also a refuge from the not-so-wonderful family lives of the four guys in the band: Giuliano (obsessed with his music even more than with his girlfriend), Stephano (obsessed with dread diseases after his brother died), Alex (obsessed with all things Nazi after his father fled), and Alberto (obsessed with his father’s precarious health).
Stefano’s dad gets the guys a chance to have a record company listen to their demo songs, so that means lots of practice.
Then their old amp shorts out and can’t be fixed – now what?
“Borrowing” some equipment, that’ll work!
But who they borrow it from…
Italian graphic novelist Gipi’s edgy line art and earth-based watercolors convey all the grit of working class kids trying to make music and make sense of the world on their own terms. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)
One last summer of freedom,
the beauty and glory of Florence,
the excitement of love…
And then Lucy must give up her theater dreams to become a business major, or her father won’t pay for college at all! Hard choices…and Jesse back in Italy so hard to get in touch with.
Read the first 2 chapters on the publisher’s website free here as you listen to the author’s Love, Lucyplaylist, and you’ll be whisked away to Florence with Lucy, love just around the corner.
This modern interpretation of E.M. Forster’s classic A Room With a View comes from the author of Catherine (based on Wuthering Heights – my review here) and Jane (Jane Eyre).
Could you give up true love for family demands?
Book info: Love, Lucy / April Lindner. Poppy, 2015. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: Giving up her dream of being an actress is hard for Lucy, but giving up the young man she loves so her dad will pay for college is heartbreaking – must she really choose?
Her ever-practical father reluctantly allows Lucy to backpack through Europe with Charlene after high school graduation, in trade for Lucy majoring in business (which she hates).
When Lucy meets Jesse in Italy, she delights in the beauty of Florence, the shimmer of Tuscan sunlight, the warmth of his kisses. However, her troubadour intends to continue traveling abroad, playing his guitar, not returning to his family in New Jersey any time soon.
So it’s a tearful goodbye at the train station, a sad flight back to dad’s alma mater. Spying a poster for theater tryouts puts some pep in Lucy’s step – why can’t a business major be in a play?
How can she reconcile her father’s demands with her love for performing?
Why hang out with college boys when she can’t stop thinking about Jesse?
Will she ever see him again?
(One of 7,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)
Old gods and older gods,
gladiators and slaves,
Pompeii is prosperous and proud…
Enjoy Curses and Smoke for its glimpses into the port city’s everyday life, its recounting of the weird phenomena observed prior to Vesuvius’ most famous eruption, its love story between owner and owned.
Forget not the past…
Book info: Curses and Smoke: a Novel of Pompeii. Vicky Alvear Shecter. Arthur A Levine Books, 2014. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: As handsome Tag returns to her father’s gladiator school at Pompeii, Lucia’s unease about her upcoming marriage to an old man and the recent loss of her mother are echoed by the earth’s tremors.
It was different when Lucia was a little girl roaming the hillsides and Tages was the medical slave’s small son at her side, before he was sent away to learn the healing arts in Rome, before her mother’s untimely death, before these sulfurous emanations near Vesuvius began.
As Lucia tries to break her betrothal to elderly Vitulius and Tag tries to cure his father’s failing memory, rich young Quintus arrives at the school to play at being a gladiator – with a hidden agenda.
Is there any way for Lucia to escape her dreaded marriage?
Can Tag ever end his captivity in the gladiator school?
Are the old Estruscan gods angry that Romans took their sacred grounds at Pompeii?
Why will no one listen to Lucia’s ideas about the strange things happening?
A richly detailed story of love, loss, and the human spirit fighting against the inevitable. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)
Belongings vanish, then reappear.
Mysterious coins and curious murals.
Fabulous food, but no parents to share it with.
The remote village hides the five Young Inventors and their teacher well, but it also hides many secrets, perhaps even the origins of the Mysterious Men in Black who guard, guide, and confuse them! Hopefully, its ravens can hide the children from evil Komar Romak long enough for them to solve a baffling problem which endangers the world.
Just published on Sept. 24th, The Ravens of Solemano surprises with clever puzzles, endearing characters (except for Romak),and links to historical figures famous and obscure. Ask for it today at your favorite local library or independent bookstore – if they don’t have it, use the Book Info below to request it.
Of course, you’ll enjoy these further adventures of the Young Inventors Guild even more if you’ve already read The Atomic Weight of Secrets (my no-spoiler recommendation here) , so check it out, too.
If the expectations of the world are on your shoulders, can you ever put family first?
Book info: The Ravens of Solemano: The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black (Young Inventors Guild, book 2) / Eden Unger Bowditch. Bancroft Press, 2013. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: A daring escape, a too-brief family reunion, then the five Young Inventors must solve cryptic puzzles in a puzzling village before their dreadful enemy strikes again – now the world itself is in danger!
Fortunately, their schoolteacher Miss Brett is with Jasper and little sister Lucy, Wallace, Noah, and Faye as they must travel across the sea from the explosion site where they spent such a short time with their parents, on the run from evil Komar Romak. The Men in Black hustled the children and Miss Brett to safety aboard the strangest ship, crewed by more like them. Such wonders in its library and labs!
But a murdered man’s message sends danger their way, even before the Young Inventors reach the Italian village of Solemano with its ever-present ravens, mysterious garden labyrinth, and many puzzles to solve. Miss Brett helps the children settle in and resume their experiments – their inventive minds find much to ponder here.
Underground passageways with possible clues, garden statues that are not what they appear to be, friendly villagers with secrets of their own. How long will the children stay in Solemano? The Men in Black who guard/protect them cannot (or will not) say.
Has Komar Romak discovered their hiding place yet?
Can the Young Inventors discover enough of Solemano’s secrets to protect themselves?
Will they ever see their parents again?
This second tale in the Young Inventors Guild series takes readers far away, into an imaginatively peopled land of puzzles and parallels as the brilliant children who first met in The Atomic Weight of Secrets must work together to save themselves and the world. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)
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