Welcome to Wittkop Reads. I am an Iowa teacher librarian in a shared middle school & high school library, and have recently begun my journey as a book reviewer. This blog will share my thoughts and updates on the Middle Grade and Young Adult books I am reading. Follow me here to keep up on what I am reading and recommending. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you find something interesting to add to your "To be Read" list. Happy reading!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

100 Days by Nicole McInnes

Recommended for: Middle Grade, Teen and Young Adult Readers

Thank you Netgalley, MacMillan Children's Publishing Group and Nicole McInnes for selecting me to review a digital ARC of this book.  

100 Days is a novel about three very distinct characters who are leading very different lives.  Their three  lives once intersected when they were young, and now they have crossed paths again as high school students. 

Moira has always been considered, and considered herself, as the "fat girl".  She has grown up feeling left out, self-conscious, and uncomfortable in her own skin.  Her hippy parents don't seem to understand her, and her current fashion choices.  Moira has found that dressing in all dark colors and wearing caked on goth-like make-up makes her feel more comfortable.  It has also become her "armor" against the other kids making her look tough and unapproachable.  The only one who sees the true Moira is her best friend Agnes.

Agnes is the exact opposite of Moira in almost every way.  She loves pink, princesses, and all things girly.  She is also super small, because of a rare disease she was diagnosed with as a baby.  Agnes has Progeria, a disease that causes her body to age at about 10 times the normal rate.  She is almost sixteen now and her small body resembles a very old person.  She suffers from brittle bones and joints, heart conditions, and other issues that are typical to the elderly.  Her body is struggling to keep up with her, and she has already lived far longer than anyone expects with her condition.  

Boone is a big hulky guy who has always struggled with school.  Nothing academic comes easily for him and he was often teased for being "dumb".  Because of his problems with learning and a family tragedy, he also harbors a lot of anger and tends to get into trouble with his classmates.  Until just recently he spent his days in the alternative classroom where he felt very safe and was making a lot of progress academically.  Unfortunately the program was cut and Boone has been thrust back into the general population, which he hates.  At home he tries his best to be the man of the house and take care of his struggling mother and their farm, but money is extremely tight and he is struggling to keep it all together.

Moira, Agnes, and Boone's stories started with a friendship in middle school that was fractured because of an incident none of them can forget.  Now their lives have crossed again and during this 100 day glimpse into their lives we get a chance to see the 3 of them attempt to work through their personal struggles, lose themselves, find themselves, and also find each other again.

I truly enjoyed this middle school/young adult contemporary novel.  Each character was well developed, and as a reader, I felt very connected and invested in their lives.  Their distinct personalities made the dialogue believable and endearing.  McInnes balances the tough times with times of joy, humor, and self growth leaving me very satisfied with the trio and the closing of their journey together.  I will happily recommend this book to both my middle and high school readers.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Towers Falling by Jewel Parker-Rhodes

Recommended for: Upper Elementary & Middle Grade Readers

Thank you, Netgalley, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, and Jewel Parker-Rhodes for selecting me to review a digital ARC of this book.

Set 15 years after the terrorist attack on September 11, fifth grader, Deja, begins a new school year in a new school.  Not just any school but a school in Brooklyn that once had a view of the World Trade Center from its classroom windows.  Deja is not happy about starting a new school, so she is prepping herself to not fit in and doesn't want any new friends.

Deja is also struggling with life at home, more specifically, not at home, in a shelter.  Her family has fallen on hard times and is now living in a shelter.  Her father is depressed, angry, and appears to be constantly plagued with pain, although we are unsure if it is truly mental or physical.  Her mother has to spend her time caring for her Deja's father and trying to get work, leaving Deja to take care of herself and occupy her siblings.  

Deja's new school  is very diverse and she has classmates of many races and religions.  Her teacher introduces that their first unit will center on the the September 11th attacks.  Deja has no idea what she is talking about. She feels unsure and confused about why teachers seem uncomfortable, and some of her classmates seem to have more knowledge than others.  She also doesn't understand why her father is so upset when he finds out.

Through Deja's journey to understand what September 11th means to the country, her city, her community, and her family, she uncovers that this event hits closer to home than she would have ever thought.  As she learns about the tragedy of that day, she will gain friendships, begin to understand how that day changed everything, and understand why her dad acts the way he does.  

I really enjoyed reading this story.  At times it was heart-breaking, but always had hope.  Parker-Rhodes thoughtfully portrays what the new generation will experience as they learn about this tragic day.  She shares it all with a sensitivity that is needed for young readers.  Through Deja, the reader is shown what this day means and how it has had long lasting effects on the world around her.

I strongly recommend this book to teachers and middle grade book clubs.  This book easily lends itself to a unit on September 11th.  It will help a generation, that wasn't around when this tragedy happened, to better understand the history and impact of that very tragic day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White

Recommended for: Young Adult/Adult Readers

Thank you Netgalley, Random House Children's, Delacorte Press and Kiersten White for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC of this book.  

"So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice?  What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power"              
--And I Darken

It is 1435 in Transylvania on the edge of the Ottoman Empire and Constantinople.  

Ladislav (Lada) is the only daughter of Vlad Dracul, the Dragon, the ceremonial leader of Wallachia, Lada was born feisty, angry, and fierce to a meek and absent mother.  She was raised by a wet nurse who had a son of her own that was Lada's age.  The nurse's son Bogdan and Lada were inseparable and spent their time terrorizing everyone.  Above all, Lada loves her homeland and hopes to someday be a leader.  She doesn't see herself as a woman and refuses to follow the standards and rules that a young lady should.  She fights and is cruel to show that she is not weak and will take what she wants.  She sees this as the way to gain favor with her distant father.

Radu is the youngest son of Vlad Dracul.  Where Lada was feisty and fierce, Radu was meek, fearful, beautiful and tenderhearted.  He craves relationships and love, but is constantly left out, ignored and picked on by his sister and Bogdan.  He latches onto the wet nurse and does his best to fly under the radar, but hopes that one day his sister will love him.  

Lada and Radu's father is barely holding onto the last threads of power he has over the region of Transylvania in Wallachia.  He has made bad deals, gone back on his word, and has created many enemies.  When the leader of the Ottoman Empire demands the presence of Vlad and his family at his palace, Vlad knows he is in trouble.  In order to save his own skin, Vlad trades his children so he can return home and continue to rule.  Lada and Radu will remain in Erdine as a lesson to Vlad.  

The two children are abandoned in a land they do not know with customs, languages and religion different from their own.  At first they feel lost and alone, but Lada finds her niche with the Jannisaries, the guards and soldiers of the court.  She trains and connects with the soldiers and becomes very skilled and respected by the men.  Radu is beautiful and kind and becomes an instant favorite of of the tutors and other members of the court.  Lada and Radu begin to connect but still struggle to have a normal sibling relationship.  After a short time they meet a young boy their age named Mehmed. He insists that they begin joining him in his lessons and activities.  The three build a friendship and then Lada and Radu discover that Memed is one of the sons of Sultan Murad, the man who was holding them here in the Ottoman Empire.  

Despite the circumstances, both Lada and Radu connect deeply with Mehmed and forge a friendship and dependency on one another.  As they grow, this relationship becomes a triangle of uncharted feelings and confusion.  Mehmed is not really anywhere near ruling because of his older brothers, so he enjoyed the freedoms of being an extra son.  He had free time and was able to grow up without the pressures of the palace and enjoy his friendships with Lada and Radu. 

When things change and Mehmed is brought to the front of the line and thrown into the position as Sultan, everything changes.  Lada hates everything about the Ottoman Empire and still wishes desperately to return to Wallachia, but she has also fallen for Mehmed in a way she doesn't understand.  Meanwhile Radu has embraced the culture, religion, and is flourishing.  He has no desire to ever leave, and is also harboring unexpected and confusing feelings for Mehmed.  Where do they fit in and what happens when everything changes?

The plot is full of twists and turns, and White builds strong characters with compelling stories and complex emotions.  The historical setting and context are well researched, and the world she creates is realistic and intriguing.  At some points throughout the story, I felt the plot could have moved quicker, but overall I enjoyed it.  Lada is a force to be reckoned with and a fun heroine to follow, and White gives a strong dual perspective by alternating between the ferocity of Lada's narrative and the intense sensitivity of Radu's narrative.  

And I Darken is a first in a trilogy.  It leaves the reader satisfied with the conclusion, but still wanting more and looking forward to future installments.  I look forward to more from Kiersten White!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

Recommended For: Young Adult Readers

Thank you Netgalley, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and Carrie Firestone for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC of this book.

"You know I love volcanoes?  I love how they spew searing, deadly lava that goes on to nurture the most beautiful landscapes on earth.  It's from searing pain that the deepest beauty can sprout."

--The Loose Ends List

17 year-old Maddie O'Neill Levine has just graduated from high school and is looking forward  to spending the summer between high school and college living it up with her best friends whom she calls "the Es".  Maddie leads a charmed life with a very tight, but kind of crazy family.  Her  grandma, Astrid, is the matriarch of the family, and Maddie is extremely close to her.  As Maddie is preparing to start her summer she is summoned, along with the rest of her family, to her grandma's penthouse.  When they all arrive, Astrid drops a giant bomb on the family.  She has cancer, she is dying, and she wants them all to join her on a cruise around the world for the summer.  She plans to celebrate her life, share some special places, and go out in her own way.  She also lets them know that they will be embarking on the "Wishwell" ship for terminal patients and their families.  It allows them to travel and spend time together before choosing to end her life as their trip ends.  It is a death with dignity cruise ship!

The entire family is shocked and each handles the news in their own way.  But eventually most choose to join Grandma Astrid on her crazy cruise.  Astrid has big plans and big surprises for her family on their cruise.  She has planned the entire journey down to the smallest details.  Through their journey on the "Wishwell", we get to know Maddie's amazing and hilarious family.  We also meet other patients and their families, and share in their journey.  Maddie discovers and grows so much through this journey, she faces her fears, connects with her family, and meets not one but 2 soulmates who will change her life forever.  

I can honestly say the summary of this book drew me in, but it also scared me a bit.  I knew this book would push me out of my comfort zone and make me think more deeply about life, death and the choices we have.  It did all of these things and more!  Firestone helped me to embrace the uncomfortable topic by giving me characters to love, laugh at, and connect with on an extremely personal level.  Her mix of hilarious scenes, wit in the most random places, and the candid ways that she shares her characters life with the reader are beautiful and meaningful.  I can't recommend this book highly enough.  I loved Maddie and the amazing Astrid!  Bravo, Carrie Firestone, you made me laugh out loud, made me cry both sad and happy tears, and made my heart and mind grow with love.  I will truly miss the "Wishwell" and these wonderful characters!  I just might have to make my own "Loose Ends List".

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Recommended for: Young Adult Readers

Thank you Netgalley, St. Martin's Press, and  Roshani Chokshi for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC copy of this book.

"Fate and order are entirely different.  And one cannot rely on the stars for order."
--Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen is the story of Maya, one of many children to the king of Bharata.  Maya is cursed with a horoscope that her marriage will cause death and destruction.  Because of this horoscope she has grown up with everyone around her seeing her as cursed and treating her like a leper.  The other women in the harem tolerate her but aren't kind.  

Maya has no intention of marrying, she is strong, smart and spends her time studying or eavesdropping on the king's many meetings and learning about ruling a kingdom.  After one meeting her father meets with her to let her know she will be married off to better his kingdom, but that she must also kill herself to stop a war.  She is furious and feels there is no way out of it.  At the last moment salvation comes through a strange man who wishes to take her away.

Along her journey Maya encounters "The Otherworld", the Raja of the Underworld, a demon horse, her past, a giant elephant being, and many other fantastical things that help bring the story to it's eventual close.

This story is very difficult for me to review.  I wanted desperately for it to be awesome, but it just wasn't for me.   I honestly struggled to finish it.  It isn't that I didn't like it, it just didn't pull me in and beg to be read.  It took me a lot longer to finish it than my recent books.  I kept telling myself it was because I was busy, but that really isn't true, I just wasn't motivated to read it.

The beginning of the story was appealing but it begins to jump all over the place from world to world, present to past, and I struggled to keep up and buy in.  I felt like there was a lack of time taken to build connections and understanding of what was really happening.  Maya is told over and over to wait for the full moon to get answers to all of her questions.  I feel like I am waiting for the full moon still.  I have so many questions and feel like I was just dragged by a demon horse through the story.  

I also struggled with lack of background knowledge on the many Indian fable/myth/legend words.  I had a hard time visualizing and connecting to these beings when I was given the Indian name for them and not much else.  Some sort of glossary might have been helpful, and since I was reading an advanced unpublished version, maybe there is one in the final story.  

Many have connected this book with Cruel Beauty, Court of Thorns and Roses and even The Wrath and the Dawn.  I have only read The Wrath and the Dawn and it is probably one of my favorite books, so I strongly disagree that the two are similar.  

Based on other reviews this book seems to be polarizing.  You either love it or don't.  I lean towards the don't side.  It was just underwhelming for me.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Recommended for: Middle Grade Readers

Thank you Netgalley, Penguin Group, Dutton Books for Young Readers, and  Lauren Wolk for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC copy of this book.

"But Wolf Hollow was also where I learned to tell the truth in that year before I turned twelve: about things from which refuge was impossible.  Wrong, even.  No matter how tempting."
--Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow tells the story of 11 year old Annabelle and her journey from a carefree child to a deeper, young lady full of character and conviction.  Annabelle lives with her family on a Pennsylvania farm during a time between the end of World War I and the start of World War II.  Annabelle and her brothers Henry and James attend a one room school house a short walk from their farm.  Each day is relatively the same until Betty Glengarry moves to Wolf Hollow.  Due to her parents troubles, she has moved in with her grandparents, and now attends the same school as Annabelle and her brothers.  

From the minute Betty arrives, she is downright AWFUL.  She is truly a mean and cruel girl devoid of any conscience or empathy for others.  Unfortunately she chooses our kind, loving protagonist as the target of her wrath.  She meets up with her on the path to school and threatens to hurt Annabelle and her brothers if Annabelle doesn't bring her things.  Annabelle tries to solve her own problems and deal with Betty herself, but as the problems grow and Betty becomes more cruel and violent, things spiral out of control.  

One particularly bad confrontation is stopped by the strange, reclusive Toby.  He is a World War I veteran who lives in a little shack in the hills and has become friends with Annabelle and her family.  He doesn't really talk to anyone and keeps to himself.  He is a bit strange, but Annabelle's family looks after him and sends him food occasionally.  Toby also has a love for photography, so has borrowed a camera and film from Annabelle's mother.  After Toby stands up for Annabelle, Betty turns her wrath on him.  

Betty tells multiple lies that put Toby as the target of crimes committed in Wolf Hollow.  Annabelle knows first hand of Betty's cruelty and lies and does her best to help.  Unfortunately, these accusations are bigger than Annabelle can fix.  Annabelle wants desperately to help Toby, but can one small girl speak the truth, and actually have others listen?  Annabelle has to find her inner strength and voice if she wants to help Toby.  Will the truth actually set him free?

Wolf Hollow is a well written and intriguing historical fiction story.  The mystery and injustice will keep readers hooked, rooting for Annabelle and for Toby.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Recommended for: Young Adult Readers

The Rose and the Dagger is the second and final book of The Wrath and the Dawn.  The story starts off shortly after the conclusion of The Wrath and the Dawn, and is shared through multiple characters. Ahdieh's beautiful writing and descriptive storytelling brings the reader right back into the stunning and mysterious world of Khorasan.  

Our fierce and beautiful heroine, Shahrzad, is now in the desert with her family, her first love, Tariq, and a collection of others who are organizing and preparing for an attack on the Caliph of Khorasan and his kingdom.  Shazi is torn and completely heartbroken as she tries to unravel the disaster before from inside a tent surrounded by her husband's enemies.  Her father is incoherent and holding tightly to a tattered but magical book, so she has no idea how he managed to destroy the city.  Her former love, and life-long friend is leading the uprising that is preparing to attack her husband and avenge the many deaths of daughters at his hand.  And the true love of her life, her other half, and her soul's match, Khalid, is in his palace trying to pick of the pieces of his broken city and his broken heart.  

As the many parts and characters work towards different ends the story evolves into a whirlwind of chaos.  The impending battle, how to break the curse, how to escape from camp and reunite with Khalid, new-found magical power and relics, and Jahandar's secrets keep the plot moving and the tension rising.

The addition of the magical portion of the story was just okay for me; it was a bigger part of this story, and something that I didn't love.  I sort of lost some of my intense connection to the story when the reality of it shifted.  I knew this was coming as it was alluded to in the previous book, but the magic took a backseat to the story in the first book, and I feel like it took center stage in this one.  It was super hyped and strong in some points and then a bit anti-climactic in other parts.   

Shahrzad's sister Irsa, was one of my favorite new characters.  She was fantastic, and I loved seeing her evolve from the tiny mouse-girl into a strong young woman through her relationship with Shazi and Rahim.  I also was shocked with Despina's absence and eventual role.  After reading more of her story in the novella, the Moth and the Flame I had expected to see much more of her in this book.  I kept thinking "Where the heck is Despina?", and then she showed up in the most mysterious of places.  

Since I don't want to give too much more away, I will wrap up by saying.  Bravo, Renee Ahdieh! This was a wonderful conclusion to an extremely captivating and moving tale.  I was pleased and very satisfied with how it wrapped up, and I truly enjoyed the addition of the Epilogue.  I didn't love The Rose and the Dagger quite as much as I LOVED The Wrath and the Dawn, but I was still extremely happy with it.  I am sad to say goodbye to Shazi and Khalid, but my time spent with them was breathtaking and probably one of my favorites.  I look forward to more amazing tales from Renee Ahdieh.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Recommended for: Young Adult Readers

I am at a loss for words with this story. It truly captured my soul and marched its way to the top of my favorite books list. The world that Renee Ahdieh creates with her words is engulfing. I can honestly say I have a "book hangover" after reading this. I was so immersed in the world of Khalid and Shahrzad that I didn't want it to end. 

"One hundred lives for the one you took. One life to one dawn. Should you fail but a single morn, I shall take from you your dreams. I shall take from you your city. And I shall take from you these lives, a thousandfold." --The Wrath and the Dawn

After the death of his queen, Khalid the caliph of Khorasan, is forced to face a future no king should have. Each day for 100 days he must marry a new girl, and then the next morning he must take her life. After 71 days and 71 girls, Khalid is a shell of the boy he was before. He has steeled himself to the tasks knowing it is the only way to save his his kingdom and his people. 

Shahrzad is a fiesty and spirited young woman who just lost her best friend as a recent bride to the caliph. She is saddled with grief, but more importantly, she has made a decision. No other families with will lose their daughters, no other girls will lose their best friend to this monster of a boy-king that rules their land. She will stop this, so she volunteers to be the next wife. 

As Shahrzad meets Khalid, day 72 doesn't go like all the others. This girl volunteered. Khalid doesn't understand why anyone would volunteer. She is angry and fierce, but she chose to be here. This girl is different, and she intrigues him. Against his better judgement and his normal routine, he goes to see her on the night of their wedding to ask her why. When he arrives he gets much more than he bargained for. He sees his equal. 

Shahrzad sits in her room preparing to enact her plot to murder the caliph. As he arrives she coaxes him into her web with a story. With this story she survives the first night. As each night of stories passes, an unexpected romance grows between them. How can she be falling in love with the man who murdered her best friend? How can he stop himself from loving her and dooming his people? 

Renee Ahdieh is a master of words. The tale a kin to Arabian Nights immerses the reader in a world that is rich with color and life, and the characters are deep and realistic. This book truly captured my soul and has me begging for more.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers

Recommended for: Middle Grade Readers

Thank you Netgalley, Algonquin Young Readers, and Karen Rivers for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC of this book.

“I thought I was going to be someone different here in Texas. I thought I was going to be someone tough and happy and sparkly and untouchable, like they are. I thought I could do that, just start over in a different way. I was wrong.” --The Girl in the Well is Me

This story literally throws you right into the well from the moment it begins. Our sweet main character, Kammie, is stuck in a well after trying to make friends with the popular girls. Kammie is the new girl and wants to make a different life for herself. She wants to start over and be someone different in her new school. To do that, she thinks she must be friends with the popular girls. Mandy, Kandy, and Sandy are those popular girls, and they tell Kammie she can be one of them if she completes initiation. Kammie agrees and ends up in a well. As we hear Kammie’s tale we quickly see that this terrible trio never had any intention of accepting Kammie. 

Through Kammie’s memories, panic, and hallucinations, we come to hear the whole tale of Kammie’s tragic move to Texas and how she comes to be stuck in the well. Her voice brought me in from the very start, and had me cracking up at multiple times throughout. The author’s portrayal of Kammie’s thoughts was brilliant and endearing. She rambles, flits from one thing to another, panics, calms herself, and jumps right into the next crazy random thought. Sometimes her thoughts move so fast, you get a little lost. But when I think about how our minds actually work and process thoughts, her writing of Kammie’s thoughts is spot on with how we actually think. Rivers’ use of Kammies memories as the vehicle to tell her tale is well done and creates a connection to the protagonist and her strife. 

As for the terrible "–andy" trio, they are HORRIBLE. Even during the moments when you expect them to snap out of the mean girl side and realize that an actual life is at stake, they still continue to be selfish, cruel and careless. The depth of bullying is astonishing and I almost felt I had to detach from the intensity of it in order to enjoy Kammie and her thoughts. 

I wish there would have been a bit more of a consequence or comeuppance for our terrible trio, but I felt somewhat satisfied with how the story wraps up. Rivers does a nice job of showing the gravity of the bullying and situation, but doing it with enough humor light-heartedness to keep the reader from becoming upset or terribly overwhelmed by the depth of the bullying. Overall, it was a decent story, it was a quick read, and Kammie was a sweet voice for the story and someone you want to cheer for. 

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

Recommended for: Middle and YA Readers

Thank you Netgalley, Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group, and John Boyne for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC of this book.

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain begins in 1936 France with 7 year-old Pierrot, his French mother and his German father. Pierrot is a na├»ve and sweet boy who enjoys spending time with his best friend Anshel and his dog. As the climate shifts and the start of World War II looms, things start changing rapidly for Pierrot. His father is struggling with PTSD and mental health issues after his experiences in World War I and takes his own life. His mother is doing her best to make ends meet, but she becomes ill with TB and also passes away. 

After the death of his parents, Pierrot is taken in by Anshel’s family, but as a Jewish family, his mother is very uncomfortable with the tension that is arising as the World War II approaches. For Pierrot’s safety she sends him to an orphanage where he stays for a short time before his father’s sister, Aunt Beatrix, finds him and brings him to live with her. 

When Pierrot arrives at the house, he is told that this is one of the houses of the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. His aunt works as housekeeper there and serves Adolf and Eva Braun on their visits. 
Immediately Pierrot is given a list of very important rules and changes he must make in order to not anger, Adolf Hitler. Most importantly, and somewhat a foreshadowing of what is to come, he has to change his name to make it more German. He becomes Pieter when he is at the house. At first he struggles with the idea of changing his name, but as his character evolves, Pieter becomes a totally different person than when he was called Pierrot. 

Under the wing and influence of Adolf Hitler, Pieter turns away from his French heritage, his best friend, and honestly his soul. He becomes cold, uncaring, and entitled to a point where I truly didn’t like him at all. It actually became difficult to read his story because I wanted so badly to see a hint of the boy he was, or some sort of redeeming quality, but he continued to spiral. He was hard to stomach at times which is a different feeling as a reader. Typically you always root for and grow connected to the main character, Boyne did the exact opposite in this book. It was a very creative and pointed choice that was perfect for the topic and times. It helps the reader realize how this could have happened and how easily manipulated people were during this time under Adolf Hitler. It was hard to read, but made a big impact on me. 

The author’s thoughtful transition from Pierrot to Pieter was well done. Early on even when he was called Pieter by other characters, the author still referred to him as Pierrot, but as his character evolved, even the author switched and began calling him Pieter. 

Even after all the horrible things he had done, a (very) small part of me still hoped that things would end well, and I wasn’t disappointed by the ending. It was clever and tied things up nicely. It wasn’t a cheesy happy ending that a tiny of me longed for; it was a fitting ending for a difficult text, and I was very satisfied with how it all concluded. 

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain will be a solid addition to World War II historical fiction. It is thought-provoking and a bit uncomfortable to read, but it is a necessary piece in teaching and learning about this devastating time period in history.

Dreaming of Antigone by Robin Bridges

Recommended for: YA Readers

Thank you Netgalley and Kensington Books for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC of this book.

“My heart knocks wildly up against my ribs, so hard I think it might burst out of my chest, and I know. My sister still blames me for her death.” 
--Dreaming of Antigone

Dreaming of Antigone is a story of struggle, loss, growth, and family. After the sudden death of her twin sister, Andria tries to understand all that has happened. Iris was the outgoing one with all the friends, Iris was the athletic one, Iris had the boyfriend, Iris had it all figured out. But did she really? 

Andria is haunted each night with nightmares of her sister and awakens feeling that her sister is trying to tell her something, that she blames Andria for her death. What appears to be a perfect little family on a quiet street in Athens, is anything but. 

The characters in this story are compelling and draw you into their life. Andria and Alex are characters with depth and emotion. Their separate and connected struggle over the aftermath of losing Iris is heartfelt and honest. They make you want to cheer for them as they grow and work through their loss. Robin Bridges weaves a story that begins with a death and ends with the answers that everyone is seeking. Why is Iris gone? 

I thoroughly enjoyed this story! And as a librarian I loved that both Andria and Alex find solace and support in the library and with their awesome librarian! Cheers to Robin Bridges for including the library in a positive role in this story.

Dreambender by Ronald Kidd

Recommended for: Middle Grade Readers

Thank you Netgalley and Albert Whitman and Company for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC of this book.

You don’t know me. You don’t see me. But I am there. Watching. Helping. Bending your dreams. --Dreambender by Ronald Kidd

After a catastrophic event called “The Warming” destroys Earth as we know it. Life has begun again, but with a very different structure that is guided by “The Plan”. The plan is a specific path and rules that were created to keep the world from another “Warming,” and to help keep the people and the world safe. There are no machines, no music, no arts, nothing frivolous or creative is allowed. 

The people are divided into two separate groups that do not mingle and are separated by a wilderness called The Between. One group lives in “The City” and have no idea that there is anyone else out there. They live a very structured existence where they are directed into an appropriate occupation based on their skills and the community’s needs. There are rules, laws, curfews, and watchers who keep things in line. The people wake up go to work, go home and start again the next day. 

In “The Meadow” live the other group of people called Dreambenders. Their job is to visit the dreams of the city people each night and make sure that their dreams are in line with the goals of “The Plan”. If they do not align with the plan or show signs of ideas that would draw the people into frivolity, hope or creativity, it is the Dreambenders’ job to change their dreams and help guide their thoughts back into line. 

Callie is from the city; her role is as a computer. Her job is to work with numbers. She lives with her family, follows the rules, and knows her place in the community. But in her dreams she is beginning to feel differently. 

Jeremy is a new Dreambender from the Meadow, and he knows the rules: “Never meet the dreamer. Never harm the dreamer. Always follow the plan.” He is a natural, and quickly finds that bending dreams is something he enjoys and is good at. The others in his community see that he has a gift, and he quickly becomes the prodigy that the elders see as the future. All is going according to “The Plan” until Jeremy stumbles into Callie’s dream. A dream filled with music and hope and beauty. Music is forbidden, it is against “The Plan”, but how can something peaceful and beautiful be a bad thing? Jeremy makes a decision to not bend Callie’s dream, and this starts a ripple of changes, and begins his shift to breaking every rule and searching for what is really is right. Should a small group of people with a plan be able to control the minds and plans for the rest? Is everything he has ever known and been taught really wrong and harmful? 

As I began reading Dreambender I made instant connections to Lois Lowry’s The Giver. The two books are different but have similarities that provoke the same questions and concerns in the reader. The book is well written and the tone takes on a relaxed and dream-like feel. Even through the chaos, the author keeps a sense of calm in the reader as they are taken into a world that is completely changed after “The Warming”. Jeremy and Callie’s thoughts and journey will force readers to question what is right and what is fair. Should one person or group’s idea of what is best for the community be forced on others? What if they are doing it with the best of intentions? I recommend Dreambender to those looking to read a solid middle grade fantasy. It also will especially appeal to those who understand the power of music and arts and their impact on the world. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Welcome to Wittkop Reads

Follow me here to keep up on what I am reading and recommending.  I am excited to start posting my thoughts and reviews of the Middle School and Young Adult books I am reading.  I hope that you can find some fun things to add to your "To Be Read" list.  Happy Reading.