August 29, 2018

Breakout by Kate Messner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:13 am by suebe2

by Kate Messner

“Welcome to the Adirondacks!”  The sign on the grocery store welcomes visitors and residents alike and it fits how Nora Tucker thinks of her home town, Wolf Creek.  It is a friendly, welcoming place except for when it isn’t.

School is almost out for the summer when Elidee Jones joins the class.  Everyone is working on their contributions for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule and prepping for the mile-long run that is part of track and field day at the school. Nora is ready to win that race and uphold family tradition.  But Elidee is fast, faster than Nora.

As if having Elidee threaten her plans wasn’t enough, two inmates break out of the prison where Nora’s father works as warden.  The escape brings in the media and everyone is questioning how things are run. How could this have happened? Whose to blame?

With two felons on the lose, the community is thrown into turmoil.  Kids aren’t allowed to play outside, Nora’s dad is never home because he’s always at the prison and Elidee and her mom can’t visit the prison where her brother Troy is an inmate.  Visits are suspended and the prisoners are being kept in their cells.

That’s it on the plot folks because you are going to want to explore this for yourself.  I don’t want to give away the plot!

Messner tells the story through letters, interviews and recorded conversations, all things that have been turned over for the time capsule.  Unfortunately, the prions break makes residents questions everything and everyone.  And that’s one of the things that I loved about this book.  It asks who society sees as “good” vs who is sees as “bad.”  It also questions why we are willing to let “good” people get by with abusing “bad” people.

Cleary, the book is also a call for social justice. It openly questions the racial make up of our prisons, both the guards and the prisoners.

But it would also be an excellent tool for bringing poetry into the classroom. Much of Elidee’s part of the story is told through poems as she emulates the styles of Nikki Grimes, Jacqueline Woodson and more.

This is simply a book that should be in every classroom, every school library and every home book shelf.  It is just that relevent.



July 28, 2017

Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner, illustrated by Greg Ruth

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:10 am by suebe2

Rolling Thunder
by Kate Messner
illustrated by Greg Ruth
Scholastic Press

A young narrator starts his journey on a passenger train but it isn’t long before he meets up with his grandfather.  The pair is part of Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle rally that heads into Washington DC on Memorial Day weekend.  Grandpa is riding for friends he lost in Vietnam. The narrator has an uncle in the armed forces.

The night before the big ride, they camp out, the Washington Monument visible in the distance.  At dawn, they are on their way, part of a line of bikers that stretches for miles.  The group rides past cheering crowds.  Some wave the American flag.  Others wave the black and white flag for the soldiers who never made it home.

Together they visit the Wall.  They leave a flower and make a rubbing.  This is a time to heal. As the sun sets they ride off into the countryside.  Camping out once more under the stars they take the time to remember.

Messner has created a fast-paced rhyming picture book that expresses pride, sorrow and a heart-felt need to remember.  It is complimented perfectly by Ruth’s art work full of deep color and heart-felt emotions.  But it also has a slightly out-of-focus dreamy feel that makes the book timeless.

Because that’s what this book is — heart-felt.  It is a story of family and community, memory, pride and unity.  It is a story of patriotism in support of those who have served and sacrificed.

This would make an excellent gift book for those whose parents are in the service as well as those who have vets in the family.  In truth, I would be just as likely to give it as a Father’s Day gift to a grandfather veteran as I would to a young child.  This is a book to be read and reread and most of all shared.

To quote:

“Rising Smoke and glowing ember.
“Ride for freedom. Ride.


March 27, 2014

Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:19 am by suebe2

Wake Up Missing
by Kate Messner
Walker Books for Young Readers

Cat just wants to be the person she was before her head injury.  Besides?  Who falls out of a tree trying to watch birds and gives herself a concussion?  Cat.  That’s who.

Things were bad enough before she fell out of the tree.  Nothing had been said, but she knew she was loosing her best friend who now liked soccer better than camping.  She didn’t need to be told.

But now she has headaches all the time.  Even when she tries to go to school she often has to come home sick.  Not only is Cat falling behind in school, but she’s a total clutz.  Yes, even worse.  She just gets dizzy and tips over.   She can’t focus when she tries to read and clay, which she used to turn into a variety of lifelike birds, is just a cold lump in her hand.

Then her mother hears about a brain injury clinic in Florida.  They help gets just like Cat but they take only a few patients at a time and Cat would have to stay there without her parents.  Still, it would be worth it if she could just be the girl she was before.

At the clinic, she meets sporty Sarah, a hockey player who fell at a game, football playing Quentin whose inability to do math could cost him a scholarship, and Ben, who was thrown from his horse.  As they begin treatments, they are all getting better, no one faster than Ben.  But then, when she’s trying to get a look into an osprey’s nest, Cat overhears a phone call.  One of her fellow patients has a terrible brain tumor from the treatments.  The doctors have decided not to tell anyone because it would jeapordize their program which suddenly sounds altogether sinister.

To find out what is going on, they have to gain access to the computer and make their way through the gator infested Everglades.

As they struggle to help each other, Cat realizes that, with each even she experiences, she is moving farther and farther from the girl she used to be, but that’s okay.  As long as she’s the one making the decisions.

As always, Messner’s book is a combination of cutting edge science and a great story.  This time the science involves both head injuries and gene therapy.  As always, the bad guys are a bunch of misguided adults who start out doing things for all the right reasons but don’t realize who will disappear in the process.

As edgy as this sounds, it is solidly middle grade.  There are some hints at romance but it is of the hand-holding variety and the danger is more often an ominous feeling than true danger.  Not that the bad guys don’t do bad things, but the majority of it occurs off camera.  The one bit of on-screen violence occurs when the bad guy is dealt with in an icky, Everglades kind of way.

An excellent choice for a young reader who wants action, adventure and science but isn’t ready for a young adult or adult novel.


July 23, 2012

Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:09 am by suebe2

Eye of the Storm
by Kate Messner
Walker and Company
AR 4.8

Jaden lives in a not-too-distant future plagued by monstrous storms.  They come up so fast and so frequently that children are no longer allowed to ride bikes, many kids are home schooled and storm shelters can be found every 15 miles along the highway.  Museums have been closed down so their treasures can be safeguarded underground and arts performances must be small enough to house everyone in a shelter.  In fact, one of the primary functions of the handheld computers that everyone carries with them is to issue storm warnings.

So its a completely different world for Jaden when she goes to spend the summer with her father, a scientist who specializes in storms and tornadoes.  She hasn’t seen him in several years and will be staying with him and his new wife and baby daughter.  As if that wasn’t strange enough, kids in the town of Placid Meadows not only ride bikes but the littlest ones also chant anti-tornado rhymes on the playground.

Their exclusive community is guaranteed storm-safe — it says so in the paperwork.  Jaden can’t believe it until she sees it for herself — a massive storm heading for the community seems to shift directions and head away, building up speed and ferocity as it moves away from her new home.

At summer science camp, Jaden meets some of the local kids, including two boys who live outside Placid Meadows.  Where her new home may be safe, the local farmers have been plagued with week after week of storms, more than ever before.  Jaden and one of these boys jump at the opportunity to work with the storm simulator and devise ways to use satellites to short circuit storms before they can launch deadly tornadoes.

When none of their simulations works, they decide to collect raw data from a new storm.  As they explore the data from various storms, they realize that what they are seeing local duplicates of some of the worst storms in history, storms that have taken place all over the world.  It seems that someone has learned to manipulate storms and is sending them toward the local farms.

Girls will be drawn to this book because of Jaden, a smart, spunky heroine who doesn’t take no for an answer.  Boys may not be thrilled with the jr. romances (hand holding and a few kisses, nothing more) but they will love the action and the storms.  A great choice for any young reader who loves science or adventure.

This book would be an excellent jumping off point for a discussion on scientific ethics and just how much people should mess with nature — the author presents information on genetically modified foods as well as the various information on weather and storms.

A fast moving book sure to pull young readers in and leave them asking questions about how we as a society use our scientific knowledge.


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