Thursday, April 7, 2016

How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel

Luke's middle school has a reputation for being the biggest losers in the state--probably anywhere.  The trophy case is practically empty.  That's all just fine with Luke since he'd rather race home everyday and play Alien Onslaught with his online friend.

But somehow he gets suckered into joining the school robotics team.  He doesn't care about robots.  He doesn't even know anything about robots.  And this is the worst team ever!  The two Jacobs break everything, Mikayla is obsessed with using her feet for everything, Stuart leaves a trail of sunflower seeds behind him everywhere he goes, and, oh yeah, don't forget about Lunchbox, the biggest, meanest kid at Forest Grove Middle School.  How did this become Luke's life?

He's also pretty angry at his older brother, Rob, who is supposed to be his best friend.  But best friends don't just join the Marines and abandon you, so Luke is trying to pretend Rob doesn't exist.

That won't work forever, but right now he's got to figure out how to deal with robotics.  Give the rest of the team smallpox?  Maybe.  Or maybe this misfit team has a chance to bring Forest Shade Middle its first trophy.  Ha!  Who am I kidding?

Read Jennifer Brown's new book about robots and friendship!

Enchanted Air

This memoir in verse tells of the author's childhood spent traveling back and forth from California to Cuba to visit her mother's family.  To Margarita Cuba is a magical place filled with family, friends, animals, and delicious food.  It is like a fairy tale paradise especially compared to her noisy life in Los Angeles.

Like her mother, she longs for the yearly trips to Cuba where she can breathe the fragrant air and ride horses through the countryside.  But she will soon be cut off from her paradise.

When a conflict between leaders escalates to the brink of war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, all travel to and from Cuba is suspended, and Margarita's American and Cuban families are separated.

Margarita Engle's new memoir in verse is a beautiful love letter to Cuba and an authentic coming of age story.  Highly recommended!


I'm a sucker for anything about the women's suffrage movement, and I enjoy a good verse novel, so I wanted to read this one right away!

Clara Lemlich was born and raised in Russia, but violence and antisemitism force the family to immigrate to New York when Clara is a teenager.  Her orthodox father and brothers have dedicated their lives to studying scripture which may be edifying, but it doesn't pay the bills.  Despite her lack for formal education, Clara quickly realizes the family will be destitute if someone doesn't start working.  Her father is unwilling to change the focus of his life, and Clara and her mother can't take in enough sewing to pay the rent, so Clara decides to get a job.

One of the few jobs available to poor uneducated women was in the sewing factories.  Here women would be locked into hot stuffy rooms and work with dangerous equipment.  The floor managers were often unscrupulous men who took advantage of the girls who had no recourse.  Anyone who complained would be fired and blackballed.  Clara's situation is even worse because even though she is the only one working to support the family, her father shuns her. Her only bright spot is the free education she gets by going to classes at night after working long days in the factory.

As conditions in the factories worsen, Clara feels compelled to do something.  She hears about the labor unions organizing for the men, and she knows the women need this kind of support, too, but not only is she poor and an immigrant, she is a woman.

Melanie Crowder's novel is a powerful story about real life hero for women's rights.  Highly recommended!