Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park


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The Best Man, by Richard Peck

In The Best Man, Archer Magill narrates his life from age six on through grade school. His charm as a character, coupled with the gentle humor that permeates the book make for a highly readable story. Archer is a believable character, he’s a young boy, curious but, slightly clueless. He relies on the adults in his life and his self-possessed best friend, Lynette, to steer him toward emotional maturity.

The main appeal of The Best Man lies in Archer’s relationships with the men in his life: his father, the laid back classic-car buff; his architect grandfather; his career driven, sharply dressed uncle Paul; and, his fifth-grade student teacher, Mr. McLeod, a National Guardsman getting a master’s in education. The men in this book talk about their feelings and each one of Archer’s role models has something important to teach Archer about how to be a man. His father and grandfather form a solid foundation, Uncle Paul helps him handle a bully, and Mr. McLeod confronts homophobia by coming out in front of a classroom of sixth graders. Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod become a couple but, Uncle Paul needs some persuasion to get serious about it. Archer asks his father if they’ll “talk it over.” His father replies, “No, we’re guys. We’ll talk about the Cubs, and cars. . . . But we’ll make sure he sees there’s a place for Ed McLeod in our family.”

Archer’s story is, in many ways, unassuming but, its approach to masculinity is refreshing. It also describes family, school, and community life in an earnest but relatable way. Our lives may not be quite so picturesque but, whether it be the quirky teacher or the lunch room bullies, children and adults alike will find something to relate to in The Best Man.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Best Man


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The Baby-Sitters Club #1 – Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

The Baby-Sitters Club #1 – Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier (Based on the novel by Ann M. Martin)

The Baby-Sitters Club has been revamped! The classic series has been re-imagined by Raina Telgemeier for a new audience. Kristy’s Great Idea takes the same story from the original Baby-Sitters Club book that many parents will remember and retells it as a graphic novel, or a very long comic book.

The story is about a group of girls who make spare money babysitting neighborhood kids and, in some cases, their own siblings. Kristy, the eventual leader of the club, has the idea to work with her friends so that parents can call one phone number to schedule babysitting and not have to call each of them to see who may be available. The book also introduces the girls’ family situations; Kristy is growing up with her mom and brothers after her parents’ divorce, Mary Anne’s mom died when she was a baby, and Claudia’s creativity goes against everything her parents want for her in life.

I read the original Baby-Sitters Club Books growing up and recommend these for upper elementary and middle school aged readers.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Baby-Sitters Club


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Geekerella, by Ashley Poston

This is a modern day retelling of – you guessed it – Cinderella. The classic fairytale about an orphaned girl who is left with her Wicked Stepmother and stepsisters after the death of her father. The stepsisters relentlessly taunt her and make her life difficult, while the stepmother treats her as a servant instead of as a daughter.

Geekerella is no different, except that in modern day Charleston there are no princes to woo. Danielle – Elle, for short – has grown up as a megafan of the series Starfield and the announcement has just been made that a reboot is coming. Normally, this wouldn’t involve anyone from her family, as they all look down on her “fandom,” however, it is revealed that teen heartthrob Darien Freeman will be playing the lead role. Elle’s Darien obsessed step-sisters decide to enter the cosplay contest that has been announced for a chance to win a meet-and-greet with the actor, as well as a trip to the premiere of Starfield in Los Angeles.

On the other side of the story, Prince Carmindor himself, Darrien, finds himself as young Hollywood royalty but lacks the normal life of an eighteen year old that he longs for. He doesn’t want to attend the convention as a celebrity, missing the days when he was able to go as a fan. He’s talented, good looking, and rich, but he is terribly lonely.

Meanwhile, Elle gets a text from a Prince Carmindor cosplayer who would like to cancel his appearance at Excelsicon, the convention where the contest will be held. Elle and the stranger text daily. It is clear that they are both true fans of the show and this is the first time since her father’s death that she’s been able to connect with someone over it the series. Elle decides to enter the contest as well, figuring that she can make a run for it and stay in L.A. if she wins and finally be rid of her stepfamily. With the help of a fairy co-worker named Sage and the Magic Pumpkin (a vegan food truck), Elle is Atlanta-bound for the convention and hopes to meet her Prince Carmindor in person.

The story is derivative and predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. It was a quick and satisfying read that left me with a smile on my face, as most happy endings do.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Geekerella, by Ashley Poston.


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The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything, returns with a new novel! The Sun is Also a Star tells a story from multiple perspectives. There are the main characters, Natasha and Daniel, as well as some of the minor players in their story that they encounter along the way.

When the story begins, Natasha is  fighting to stay in America. Her family is facing deportation back to Jamaica. Daniel, who’s family immigrated from South Korea, is on his way to an interview for an Ivy League university.

After a serendipitous meet-cute, Natasha and Daniel strike up an unlikely friendship – and perhaps more – on what is to be her last day in America. Natasha doesn’t believe in fate or destiny, and not even in God, really, so she is not going to let herself focus on Daniel and give up her fight.

Daniel, a poet, has his head filled with romantic ideas about how this day would be the story that he tells his future children when they ask about how their parents had met. The two part ways and are drawn back together multiple times throughout the day, each time with Daniel asking himself if that meant that they were meant to be together.

Yoon’s writing is realistic and wonderful. Daniel and Natasha, along with the cast of supporting characters who lend their voices to the story, are fully fleshed out with backstories, hopes, dreams, and dilemmas. As adorable as it sounds, remember that this is NOT a fairy tale! The Sun is Also a Star has a wonderful stream of conscious style to it that draws you in and will not let you go until the last page has been turned.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Sun is Also a Star.

 


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The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Starr Williams is 16 years old and has seen two of her best friends die from gunshot wounds. Starr Williams is 16 years old and has seen two of her best friends die from gunshot wounds.

Starr and her family – her father, mother, older half-brother, and younger brother – live in Garden Heights. Despite the name, there’s not much beauty to be found there. Weeds spring up from the sidewalk and drugs can be found on almost any street corner. Starr’s parents send her and her siblings to a private school 45 minutes away. When their spring break ends, Starr’s best friends talk about their vacations to summer homes in the Bahamas, a trip to Taipei, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Starr saw her oldest friend shot to death by a police officer after being pulled over for a broken tail-light.

Starr faces pressure in her neighborhood to speak up and be a voice against the violence, but is hesitant. She is fearful of retaliation by the members of the local gangs, the police, and worries about how she’ll lead a normal life once everyone at her school finds out.

When Starr returns to school after break, after the reader has been introduced to “Garden Heights Starr,” we quickly meet “Williamson Starr.” Williamson Starr does not use curse words. She says ‘no sir’ and ‘yes ma’am.’ She is also one of only two black students in her junior class. Her best friends, Haley and Maya, face little difficulty in their lives. They don’t know “Garden Heights Starr.” They have been friends for years, but the relationship seems strained as they grow older.

Outside of Williamson, Starr must learn to find and develop a voice strong enough to raise in defense of herself, her family, her fallen friends, and her community. By the end of the novel, Starr is a force to be reckoned with and is so much more than “the witness.”

I urge you to check out The Hate U Give, which has been a stunning debut novel from Angie Thomas. You will not put it down until the last page has turned and the last name has been read.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Hate U Give. 


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The Ables, by Jeremy Scott

ables-scottThe Ables posits a world in which superheroes are real. They call themselves Custodians and live secretly among us. Their powers manifest around adolescence and they live in cities comprised of other Custodians. Phillip Salinger is in the awkward position of having superpowers as well as a physical disability. In Phillip’s case, he can move objects with his mind but cannot see. The Ables tells the story of a group of young people with extraordinary abilities who are limited by their physical and mental disabilities. Or are they?

The author does an admirable job of creating a world of amazing super people and explaining how this society works. He even creates a fairly complicated history for this world that goes back thousands of years. Some bullies use derogatory words such as “cripple” and “freak” but it’s clear from the text that this is not acceptable behavior. The characters are fairly complex and portray a wide range of personality types, and the interactions between them are believable. There is a community of special education kids and they all use appropriate language when referring to each other’s disabilities.

I would recommend this title for anyone. I think it’s great that kids with disabilities can read a story in which people like them are front and center. The message of the book is that everyone is different and each person faces a unique set of challenges in their lives. The superpowers act as a metaphor for the talents that everyone has, and the book tells us that by working together we are all stronger as a whole rather than being merely the sum of our parts.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Ables.


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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie 

AlexieThere are a lot of things you should know about Junior Spirit. He lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation, he plays basketball, he speaks with a lisp (and a stutter), his best friend is named Rowdy, his grandmother is the nicest Indian on the reservation, and he has big dreams of becoming a cartoonist. Dreams, he realizes, that will never come true if he stays on the reservation.

To help him realize his dream, Junior has enrolled in a school in Rearden: the mostly white upper-middle-class town twenty miles away. He is nervous about what his neighbors will think of it, he is nervous about what the white kids will think of it, and he is very worried that Rowdy won’t like it, but Junior knows that if he ever wants to be a famous artist in the White world, he needs a White education.

There are two things that I love about this book: one is that Junior’s experience is completely relatable to high schoolers everywhere, and two is that Junior’s experience is not at all relatable to anyone who isn’t Indian. In True Diary, Alexie manages to perfectly capture the primal feelings that every young adult experiences. In this way any reader will understand and love Junior’s story.

Nevertheless, Alexie never lets the reader forget that Junior is a Indian from the reservation. True Diary examines not only common teen experiences, but ones that were true for an author who grew up on the real-life Spokane Indian Reservation. Partly biographical, True Diary details what it is like to live in real poverty in a country that seems to have forgotten you, and your people.

True Diary is an amazing story that I would recommend to pretty much everyone. Thought-provoking and heartfelt, Alexie has created a masterful YA novel that examines differences and creates empathy.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.