Footer Davis Probably is Crazy

Footer Davis Probably is Crazy 
By: Susan Vaught 


Release Date: March 3, 2015 
Audience: Grades 5 and up 
Pages: 240 

The Story 

When Fontana “Footer” Davis's mother shoots a snake with an elephant gun, Footer’s life begins to unravel. Her mom is sent away to a  psychiatric hospital for Bipolar Disorder.

Even though Footer misses her mom, it is the least of her worries.

Her neighbor’s farm burned down nine days ago. Mr. Abrams was shot and killed. His grandchildren Cissy and Doc were assumed dead in the fire, and Footer suspects that her mom might have something to do with it.

Footer teams up with her best friend, Peavine, and his sister, Angel to discover what really happened. The more she learns about the fire, the more she begins to have visions. She can smell the smoke & can see the gun. Could she have been there that night or is she going crazy like her mom?

Written by author and practicing psychiatrist Susan Vaught, this page turning story explores friendship and what it is like to have a loved one with Bipolar Disorder.


 There is so much suspense as you try to unravel this murder mystery. In this regard, this book will appeal to kids who enjoy books by Peg Kehret and April Henry.

 I also really liked that it addressed mental illness and having a loved one with Bipolar Disorder. One may also relate to the depression issue that goes along with Bipolar Disorder too. This is becoming more and more common. I appreciated that this book addresses these issues & even offers some resources at the back of the book for help. Commonly if a tween has a loved one with these issues or they face these issues themselves, they may feel isolated. I think this book does a great job at giving an overview of these issues and I like that these resources have an underlining message that one is not along if they do face these issues. 

This book will definitely be on my list for tweens who enjoy suspenseful books or for tweens that face these issues. 


The southern charm wasn't exactly charming all of the time. I was turned off by Footer's mom shooting snakes with an elephant gun in the first pages of this book. This is just a personal preference though. I think snakes are frighting. 

 Tweens might like this for the gross factor, but it may not have a appeal to everyone. 

Overall, this is was a fun and exciting read. It left me on the edge of my seat. I stayed up into the early morning hours finishing it. This is a great read that I will be sure to recommend. 

Thank you Susan Vaught for a fun read that provides awareness to mental illness. 

For more information on Bipolar Disorder, please visit the sites below: 

National Institute of Health

National Alliance on Mental Health

Helping a Loved One With Bipolar Disorder 


Please note: these are just my thoughts on this book. This is no way a reflection of  the committee or committee discussions.

The Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing About Jellyfish 
By: Ali Benjamin

The Story 

Suzy and Franny Jackson were inseparable in grade school. They did everything together as best friends. When middle school came, Suzy fully expected to take it on with Franny. When the girl's first days in middle school arrive, the girls make a pact. If Franny ever joins the "popular crowd" and starts to desert her true self, Suzy is supposed to give her a sign to keep her grounded.

It doesn't take long for Franny to break their pact. She begins to change and make new friends. Suzy gives her a sign, but it turns into a disaster that forever ruins their chances of becoming friends again.

Pretty soon Suzy is all alone without any friends.
If it wasn't bad enough that Suzy looses Franny as a friend, Suzy soon learns that she lost her all together.

Suzy's mom receives a call that Franny passed away in a drowning accident.  Franny was a great swimmer. How could this have happened? Suzy stops talking and fades into the background to deal with her grief. The more she thinks about the accident and the year, the more Suzy thinks that Franny was stung by a jellyfish. It is the only way that she could have died. To prove her theory, Suzy goes on a quest to meet up with a jellyfish expert.

As Suzy ventures to find the truth, she is able to find healing and acceptance.


I was prepared to hate this book. Lately it feels like every other middle grade book I have read has a dead friend or parent in it, but this one was interesting, and it was beautifully written. I was touched by its story and depth.

 Middle school is cruel, and many tweens go through losing a friendship with childhood friend. So I think this will generate a lot of appeal for many tweens. I also think that many will enjoy the jellyfish facts that are sprinkled throughout the book. Animal facts can be a big seller to tweens!


I know this book does address some dark issues, but I wish that there was more humor. It felt too heavy at times. I was also was a bit disturbed by some of Suzy's behavior. To give Franny a sign that she needs to change, Suzy puts urine in Franny's backpack.

This was too much for me. I think the character could have gone about this in a less gross manner. Maybe a card discussing why she talked about urine in front of Franny's new friend with an apology?

Perhaps Franny ignores her apology and it is then that she realizes their friendship is over! I feel like if it went a route like this one, it might be more relatable for tweens and readers.

The urine thing is characteristic of the character though. Maybe the author just went this way to show how Suzy thinks in a literal way.

Overall, I did like this one.  I will recommend it to tweens who enjoy problem novels. I can see this one being a favorite for school libraries to address social issues in middle school.

What did you think of this book?


Please note: This is just my thoughts on this book. This is  no way a reflection of  the committee or committee discussions.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

During the holiday season, I like to stop and make a list of all of the things I am grateful for. 

 I just wanted to say that I am so grateful for all of you. 

Tweens and this blog mean so much to me, and it means the world to me that you are taking the time  to read our posts. Thank you for spending this year with us. 

I hope you have a happy and safe holiday season. 
May it be filled with books, family, friends, and some relaxation. 

What books are you hoping to find under the tree this year? 

Have a Merry Christmas! 


A Whole New Ballgame

A Whole New Ballgame 
By: Phil Bildner

Published: August 18, 2015
Pages: 256
Audience; Grades 4 and up 

The Story 

Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new tattooed teacher named Mr. Acevedo, who doesn't believe in tests or homework and who likes off-the-wall projects, the more "off" the better. They also find themselves with a new basketball coach: Mr. Acevedo! Easy-going Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone. And for Red, who has autism and really needs things to be exactly a certain way, the changes are even more of a struggle. But together these two make a great duo who know how to help each other—and find ways to make a difference—in the classroom and on the court.
With its energetic and authentic story and artwork, this is a fresh, fun book about school, sports, and friendship.

Story  by Goodreads


There was a lot of diversity in this book that I think will appeal to a wide range of kids. Its theme is that you are more than the label you are given. This is an issue and I think a lot of kids will connect to. I think my favorite part though was in regards to the theme that learning happens when we have fun. I wish I had Mr. Acevedo as a teacher! For the kids, I think the appeal will be for the basketball & a project that the kids do on the grossest things. I would feel comfortable recommending this book to basketball lovers and some reluctant readers too. For the adults, I think the teaching style will resonate some appeal. It has a little something for everyone.


Although there were a lot of strengths to the book, I think the biggest weakness for me was that the character Red was not as well developed as I would have liked. It felt like he fell into the background. I wanted to see more of him & wanted to see an emphasis on his strengths. There are more books planned in this series though. 
I am hopeful that the author will put more of a spot light on Red. 

With one in 68 kids diagnosed with Autism a year, we need more books like this. 
I look forward to see what more these series has to offer. It has a lot of promise.

Here are some more great books with characters with Autism:

Remember Dippy: YA Fiction Featuring a Character with Autism by Shirley Reva Vernick

Delightfully Different – Girl with Asperger’s and Sensory Processing Disorder by D. S. Walker

RULES at Goodreads

For More Information on Autism, please visit Autism Speaks.

For more information on more books & book reviews with characters with disabilities, please check out these resources:

Disability in Kidlit

Resource for Special Need Literature

We Need Diverse Books


Please note: This is just my thoughts on this book. This is  no way a reflection of  the committee or committee discussions.

The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball

Even though my term as a 1st round judge for Cybils is over. I am still slowly putting up reviews for the Cybils books I have read for round one. 

 All of the books that were nominated are more than worthy. Even though I cannot post a review for every book, I wanted to try and post as many I could.

I forgot to previously mention this, but please note: these are just my thoughts on the books. They are no way a reflection of  the committee or committee discussions. 

Thank you to all  that nominated books and to Cybils for giving me the opportunity to participate. It was such a joy to read these books and be exposed to books that I normally wouldn't have read. 
This was such a wonderful experience I will never forget. 

Please be sure to watch for the Cybils finalists on January 1st and the winner on February 12th. 
Finalists and winners will be announced on the Cybils blog.

 Here is another great round one book: 

 The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball 
By: Elizabeth Atkinson 

The Story 
Cheerful Ruby and her shy friend Eleanor couldn’t be more different. Ruby has lived her whole life in Paris, New Hampshire. Eleanor’s family is from Sri Lanka. But these best friends share one thing: they both have impossible dreams.
Ruby and Eleanor live in the quaint town of Paris, New Hampshire, located at the base of Sugar Mountain, an exclusive ski resort in the White Mountains. Every winter, Paris comes alive with "Outers," wealthy families from out of town who own ski condos and wear designer clothes, luxuries that Ruby and Eleanor (and most of the year-round residents of Paris) cannot afford.
One December day, Ruby and Eleanor stumble across Madame Magnifique, the "World’s Most Divine Psychic," who urges them to unlock their deepest dreams. Ruby’s has always been to mingle with Outers, and now, more than ever, she is determined to make that dream come true.
As a chain of events unfolds over the winter months, both girls find themselves on a journey of self-discovery that starts with unlikely friendships, secret crushes, and new found skills, and snowplows to an unexpected outcome.
A relevant story in today’s world―exploring cross-cultural sensitivities and diversity within a classic New England microcosm―"The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball" questions the role of destiny and the ability we all have to achieve that which seems impossible.
*Description provided by Amazon

Best Quote 
"It made me realize—like everything else we’d been through lately—that a lot of stuff you think will happen doesn’t, and stuff you never thought would happen does. So it’s best to be open to anything and everything life throws at you, because you never know where it will take you next."

Four things I really liked about this book: 

1. It had a sweet theme of bettering yourself and following your dreams. The author uses a psychic to push the girls to go out of their comfort zone to achieve their dreams. I thought this was a cleaver plug for this theme. I also appreciated that the author had the adults in the book working on bettering themselves too. It showed that this improvement never stops. 

2. There was some diversity. Eleanor and her family are from Sri Lanka & there is a boy who has Asperger's Syndrome. There is also some French sprinkled throughout the book. 

3. Although the father was absent and worked away from home, the families were overall happy. I really liked Ruby's relationship with her brothers and step mom.  There also wasn't any tragic deaths! Hooray! After reading so many sad middle grade books lately, I really appreciated this.

4. The friendship between Ruby and Eleanor is spectacular.
 It made me long for my childhood friends. 

It was on the slow side. There were also some plot holes in regards to Ruby's mom. Ruby's dream to ski, and Lance. I wish the author would have given more detail to these areas. It definitely left me with a lot of unanswered questions. 

Even though I appreciated Lance's character, I also was a little disappointed with his mysterious presence. I wish that books would make characters with Autism more present. It feels like they often fall into the background & I think they deserve more than that. 

These were just minor things though! 

I am sure my middle grade reader's will not analyze it in the way I have and will enjoy the story. 
I will be sure to recommend this one to tweens who enjoy realistic fiction. 

Overall, this was a fun read. I would recommend reading this one on a snowy day 
with a cup of hot coco. 


Breaking the Ice

Breaking the Ice 
By: Gail Nall 

The Story 

Kaitlin has devoted all of her time to ice skating. She hopes that someday she will become an Olympic Skater. So while competing in a local skating competition, Kaitlin fully expects to win. She had perfected all of the jumps and moves, and her routine was top notch. So when the judges give her one of the worst scores for the competition, Kaitlin confronts the judges in a fit of rage. During her confrontation, she accidentally knocks over the table full of medals for the winners.

After this scene, it is no surprise that her coach refuses to work with her and Kaitlin is kicked out of her posh skating club.

When no other club will take her, Kaitlin is left with no other choice but to join the skating club known as the “fall down club.” It is the only way she can keep skating, but the skating club isn't as bad as she thought it would be. She starts to make some new friends, and she learns how to pick herself back up.


I was fascinated by the ice skating competition world. There aren't hardly any books on ice skating or ice skaters in general. I can't wait to be able to hand this book to my tweens when they ask for a book like this. Its appeal is a huge plus for me. I do think it will mostly appeal to girls but it could appeal to some boys who like to skate as well.

The story itself was  interesting. I became invested in Kaitlin and I was rooting her on. I especially liked how she learned to embrace who she was and her emotions too all the while learning about what true friendship is. So many tweens really struggle with this. So this aspect could have some appeal to readers who aren't necessarily interested in ice skating.


I felt like Kaitlin perfected her routine a little too suddenly.   I think there could have been more of a progression here or an "ah ha" moment where the character learns to project her emotions into her routine. Even though the character has a moment where she accepts who she is, I think there needed to be more explanation in how she applied it to her routine.

Without this, it left me wondering how she got it all of a sudden. Since this was a big struggle in the book, I would have liked to have seen more of a resolution here.

Overall, this was a quick and fun read. It is one that I will have to keep on hand for my sports lovers.


Please note: This is just my thoughts on this book. This is  no way a reflection of  the committee or committee discussions.

Imaginary Boy

Imaginary Boy 
By: Mark Eldrich 


"We often need to go through scary and unpleasant things to find that which we need the most." 

The Story 

Eleven-year-old Benji Saintaubin dreams of becoming a hero like the ones in the books he reads while banished in the dark attic of his family home. But those heroes are all strong and handsome, not like Benji who uses a crutch and hides his disfigured face. When his father dies, leaving behind an unfinished story about an imaginary boy who must defeat a cruel and mighty dragon, Benji’s safe and secluded world is turned upside down.

After venturing out of the attic and onto the perilous streets of 19th century London, Benji finds himself separated from his mother in a frightening and unfamiliar world. Nearly trampled to death and sold into slavery, Benji comes to believe his father’s story may be more fact than fiction after his captor reveals a dragon-tail tattoo around his arm and plans that could destroy Benji. If he ever hopes to escape, be reunited with his mother and finish his father’s cryptic story, Benji must trust that a crippled boy can discover the unseen power needed to defeat a brutal and powerful dragon.

Provided by Goodreads 


The plot of this story is just brilliant. I think a lot of reviews fail to mention that this book
 is a mystery story.

The mystery is surrounding a mysterious creature that is killing large amounts of people on the streets of London. With a serial killer on the loose, the city is uneasy. When Benji's mom looses Benji in the city, Benji unintentionally gets thrown into the middle of this mystery & face to face with the killer. Benji must overcome the "dragon" and save the city.

I think many kids will enjoy trying to solve this mystery and rooting for Benji in the process. It has the kid appeal and the historical value to make it special.

This is the first well done middle grade book that I have read that details the horrible circumstances that people with disabilities endured in the 1900s.  It is done in a way that is appropriate for kids, but books like this are an asset to libraries and to kids. There just aren't many of them. 


I  love  the beginning of this book. It details the story that Benji's dad told him about dragons. 

I thought it was clever how the author wove this in, but I think it could be confusing to some middle grade readers. I think it could have worked out better as an introductory chapter instead. 

Overall though, I was really impressed with this book. I wasn't expecting to like it, but it is one that I want to buy and keep in my own collection. I can't wait to read more works by this author. 

What did you think? 


Sweet Sounds: Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville

Goodreads Synopsis

Told in diary entries and other “documents,” this magical, modern-day comedy by the master of funny fantasy, Bruce Coville is a story filled with laugh-out-loud humor and heart.

Angus is a brownie. No, not the kind you eat! He’s a tiny magical creature that loves to do chores. Angus has just “inherited” a new human girl, Alex. To say that Alex is messy would be an understatement. She’s a total hurricane-like disaster—and she likes it that way, thankyouverymuch! Living with each other isn’t easy but Angus and Alex soon learn there is a curse that binds them. What’s worse, it threatens Alex’s family! Working together, Angus and Alex will set out to break the curse . . . without killing each other first . . . hopefully. 


Alright folks! Here is the first of the many "Sweet Sounds" I promised you. Get ready to be inundated with audiobooks!


For some reason, this story reminds me of Beverly Cleary. Because Angus is so small. he faces many similar situations to Ralph S. Mouse. Add to this the fact that Alex carries Angus to school in her backpack, and we have a solid "Mouse on the Motorcycle" comparison. The Cleary comparison does not end here; however. This was my first Coville novel and he surprised me with the quality of writing he poured into this novel. Diary of a Mad Brownie is in the tradition of many of the classic middle grade novels from the sixties and seventies and a breath of fresh air after the slew of low-quality, debbie-downer, angsty, middle grade novels we have seen the past couple of years. 

On the audiobook, the story is told by multiple narrators.  Euan Morton is the primary reader who performs Angus' diary. The "supporting documents" are performed by several other narrators. I am unsure whether Euan Morton is a native Scotsman or not, but his Scottish accent is superb. The other narrators gave good performances as well, but I enjoyed listening to Euan the most. Angus' emotions, (especially anger), were delivered in an exceedingly believable fashion and added color and verve to the performance.


Although, Euan Morton's accent is interesting and easy to listen to; unfortunately, his voices for other characters do not differ from Angus' as much as I would prefer.  In addition, if Alex has a speaking part in Angus' diary, that part is performed by Euan Morton; however, one the "supporting documents" is Alex's diary, which is performed by another narrator. This results in two voices, and; therefore, a disconnect for the character of Alex.  Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons of this delightful audiobook. If you are searching for a good holiday road trip audiobook children and adults alike can enjoy, this is the one!

What are middle grade audiobooks are you listening to right now? How many have adult, as well as kid appeal? Does that matter to you?

Merry Christmas,


Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight 
By: Sharon M. Draper 

"If you are afraid, then those who foster hatred will win." 

The Story 

Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into.Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they're never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella's community - her world - is upended,her family decides to fight. 

Story provided by Goodreads 


This book gave a great depiction of segregation in the South. It details how different the schools were, differences in medical care, food, and the fear of the KKK. 

Ultimately, I just really appreciated hearing about the black experience, and I think that is what makes this book special. 

This book  reminds me a great deal of the the 1977 Newbery winner, 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. 

For this reason, I think that it is a book worth reading and passing along to friends. 


I wasn't pleased with the ending. I know realistic fiction books are only supposed to showcase a small bit of a character's life, but it felt like it ended suddenly.

For instance when Dr. Packard's daughter falls into the pond and almost dies. Stella saves her, but the chapter ends. It doesn't describe what happens next. As a reader, I felt like there was a lot of tension built up with Dr. Packard, and I expected something big to occur, but nothing ever happened. 

It is possible that that author did it this way to portray the uncertainty and anxiety that members of the black community felt toward KKK members, but I felt like it needed something more to wrap up the loose ends. I would have loved to have seen an epilogue detailing Stella's journey and fight to become a writer & maybe even a showcase of the Civil Rights movement.  

I fell in love with this book, and wanted more. Can this be a series Ms. Draper, please? :) 

What did you think of this book? 


Last in a Line of Rebels

Last in a Long Line of Rebels
By: Lisa Lewis Tyre 

Last in a Long Line of Rebels

Release Date: September 29,2015
Pages: 288
Audience: Grades 4 and up

"Racism can be very subtle sometimes, Lou. It's not always something you can put your finger on. It might mean being harder on the black players and more aggressive in helping the white ones get a place on a college team. It doesn't help that we don't have a large black population here. It makes it lot harder to prove patterns." 

The Story 

Twelve-year old Lou's class always has fantastic stories about what they did for their summer vacations, but Lou's family doesn't have the money to afford a cruise or other fancy vacations. Even though her family doesn't have a lot of money, Lou is determined to make this year different. She is going to have a great summer. To make sure she has a memorable vacation, Lou reaches out for a divine intervention and prays that God will provide her with a memorable summer.

Her prayer is answered, but not in the way that Lou hoped. She overhears her parents talking about how her family house is in danger of being taken by the city! If that wasn't enough, a family friend named Isaac was also denied a scholarship due to racism. 

To save the house, Lou teams up with her friends. Since Lou's home is one of the oldest in the city, the friends set out to  uncover the history of the home to try and make it a historical site. As they group uncovers more information about the home, they uncover a historical mystery within Lou's family. Lou’s great-great-great grandfather was a murder suspect & was accused of stealing gold in the Civil War. If Lou can find the gold, it could be the key to saving her house! Told in flashbacks between Lou’s great-great-great grandmother and Lou, this story shows how racial tensions are much the same as they were in the Civil War.


With the flashbacks between Lou and her ancestors, this book reminded me a great deal of the book Holes by Louis Sacher. It was faced paced and I know the mystery / treasure hunt would appeal to both boys and girls.
It also introduces racial issues in a way that kids will understand & think about. I really appreciated this aspect, and I think it will be a great talking point to discuss.


Since the book introduces racial issues, I wish there was an African-American perspective. Instead, it only portrays the white view. To me, it was incomplete without this other perspective. It describes what the character Isaac does after he is denied the scholarship, but it didn’t describe why. As a result, I felt like the book was lacking.

I was also disappointed with the description of the house.
Being that the house was a big subject of the book, I felt like there needed to be more detail to match its importance.

Overall, I did really enjoy this book. Since I live in Missouri, I can see this book being really important to kids to understand what is going on at Mizzou and other colleges around the county.

I can see it on many state award lists, and I look forward to reading more of the author’s works.

What did you think of this book? 

- Pamela

Upcoming Movies With Tween Appeal

Check out some of the movies coming out next year with tween appeal! I have noticed there are a huge amount of movies that are either remakes, live action versions of animated movies, and sequels. I've also noticed a trend of movies based on video games.

Kung Fu Panda 3 

Finally! Our favorite Panda gets some more love! 

Angry Birds

The Secret Life of Pets



YUSSSS! New Disney Princess! I have been counting down until this one and was over the moon when I found out it is now less than a year away!

Sly Cooper

Based on a video game

The Jungle Book 

Alice: Through the Looking Glass

Other movies coming next year include The BFG (based on the book by Roald Dahl), live action versions of The Little Mermaid, Pete's Dragon, Tarzan, and Dumbo. In addition, we will see Ice Age 5, Ever After High, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life come to the big screen. Also, Disney is putting out another Star Wars movie called Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is a part of the new Star Wars Anthology movies and takes place in between the second and third movie. Reputedly Disney is planning on releasing a Star Wars movie every year from here on out.  I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this. Personally, it feels like overkill to me (and this is coming from a dedicated Star Wars fan!) Which of these tween movies are you most excited about? Personally, I cannot wait to see Moana!

Bonus: In 2017, be watching for Space Jam 2 with Lebron James.


Molly Pepper and the Night Train

Molly Pepper & the Night Train
by: Courtney King Walker

“Wishes should be made of the impossible, the outrageous, the unbelievable…"

Release date: March 13, 2015
Pages: 245
Age Range: 8 & up

The Story

Twelve-year-old Molly Pepper opens her mailbox and finds an invitation to a night of adventure on the Night Railroad. Molly’s dad is a police officer, and Molly knows that when things sound too good to be true, they usually are. Surely the Night Train couldn’t be real, but when Molly has a fight with her dad, she decides to go to seek it out with her friend Noah. Following a set of clues, Noah and Molly make it to the Night Train, but when the Night Train stops at Bells Bluff the site of the infamous prison, Molly quickly finds out why she was invited.  In order to get home, Molly must solve the mystery surrounding the train & learn about family, friendship,
and letting go.

This is a hidden gem. One can easily get caught up in Noah & Molly’s adventure. The author Courtney Walker captures so much in this story. I was impressed by the depth of what this short 200 page book covers. Without giving anything away, its main theme is accepting death. I know this sounds very dark, but the author does it in a way that makes the book more of a mystery / adventure story. Each chapter leaves off on a cliff hanger. It is one that I feel comfortable giving to some of my reluctant readers.

The only issue I really had with this book was that I think that the character Tom Flaky could be more developed.  The story would have been stronger with more of his backstory that would give this character a stronger presence. For his significance in the book, I was disappointed that there was not more about him, but I am still excited to share this book with my peers & tweens. I think this would be a fun mother daughter book!

Have you read it?