Friday Firstliners were originated by either Hoarding Books or Wandering Words, the two blogs I first saw it on. Several of my blogging friends participate, and when I remember it’s Friday (Don’t the days run together during CoronaVirus time?) so do I.

My Friday Firstliner today is from a kid’s book, Pieces of Why by K.L. Going:

“Certain days ought to come with warning notices. WARNING: This day will be hazardous to your health.

I expect to finish this book by tomorrow and review it on “Saturday Mornings for Kids.” Stay tuned and see you tomorrow!


35431592._SY475_      An unusual book with a tough but important topic is Lisa Bunker’s Zenobia July. It deals with a transgender protagonist, “Zen,” short for Zenobia (Who wouldn’t go by a nickname if she/he had the name Zenobia?) who  teaches others around her (and this reader) to use the pronouns “va” and “vien” rather than “she” and “them.” Zen lives in Maine with her lesbian aunts who are her legal guardians, and va meets many unusual people at her aunts free-thinking home. Va is a computer genius and a very gifted individual. As Zen seeks to find her identity, the reader is led to question the basic question of “Who am I?”  Sharing Zen’s journey is a thought-provoking, often humorous experience most middle graders will enjoy.

9780316521833    For girls whose lives are spelled B-A-S-K-E-T-B-A-L-L, Barbara Carroll Roberts’ Nikki on the Line is a must-read. A humorous look at family and the frequently assigned project of developing/drawing a family tree is the vehicle that carries 13-year-old Nikki to search for her identity, only to learn that the best advice is to “Be yourself.”

Both these books are excellent for reluctant readers as well as bookworms who adore a “darned good read.”


If R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder recommended a book, would you read it? Well, I did. Roll With It, another story of a unique kid who has a disability,  by Jamie Sumner, tells the story of Ellie, who has Cerebral Palsy, a creative, audacious pre-teen trapped in a wheelchair. Because her grandfather has Alzheimer’s, she and her mom must move from a large city to a trailer  park in a tiny town. She wants to be a professional baker, and is really good at it. Robert, who goes by Bert, an autistic kid who is bullied; and Coralee, who has big dreams of becoming a famous singer and lives below the poverty level, are her best friends. The schemes and plans this trio invents will make the reader laugh out loud. I certainly did.

I highly recommend this book to kids with and without disabilities as a darned good read.


During my recent stint as a middle grades first round reader for Cybils, I  read many great books for kids in grades 5-8. The thing that impressed me most about them was how helpful they were for kids who were facing today’s world, dealing with issues I never even knew about growing up in the fifties.

Here are a few books that dealt with such issues:

Up for Air by Laurie Morrison depicts problems specific to eighth graders looking forward to high school and all of its changes and challenges. Because of her outstanding swimming abilities, the girl protagonist must face older teens’ problems when she is asked to swim with them on a city team. She has had her own issues with ADHD and focusing, but has been supported by her adoptive parents from the beginning. When her biological father once again enters her life, the problems and confusion she faces are overwhelming. Add to that the tension and excitement of the swimming matches, and you have a fine, page-turner for older middle-schoolers.

For somewhat younger kids, the 12 year old protagonist in Out of My Shell by Jenny Goebel is a sure bet. A common problem, divorcing parents, compound the anxiety of the young girl, who is passionately invested in saving sea turtles and saving her family as well.

For boys, Camp Average by Craig Battle deals with team spirit, competitive urges, and boys’ friendships. The lesson, “Losers can become winners,” is a major theme of this sports-directed, basketball-focused read.

Finally, a favorite of several of the first-round readers was Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen, a historical fiction novel aimed at middle schoolers.  Dealing with the time period when Lithuania was invaded by the Cossacks, we meet Audra, whose name means “storm.” She is a budding author who becomes involved with book smuggling when books are banned and burned. A well-drawn character, a passion for books, and adventure and perilous trips–what’s not to like in this kid’s novel that many parents would enjoy as well?

Until next Saturday, that’s it for kids’ books. Happy reading!


shopping-1.jpegToday’s recommendation is a middle grades (5th-8th) novel that chronicles the life of twelve year old Lyndie. It takes place in 1985 Tennessee when Lyndie’s grandmother is trying to induct her into the necessity of loyalty to family and keeping “family business” private. Lyndie is the family “history buff” and discovers that her depressed and defeated mom used to be an activist against the unjust war in Vietnam, which is ironic because Lyndie’s dad is a Vietnam vet, struggling with alcohol and PTSD.

Neighbors and Lyndie’s friends reach out to her, only to have their efforts rejected by Lyndie’s grandmother, who labels them “nosy neighbors.” Lyndie needs the support of friends her grandmother tries to keep her away from as she deals with her family situation. How she finally acquires this and teaches her extended family the cost of keeping secrets is the theme of this book.

On one hand, I hate to think of middle grade students dealing with depression, alcohol, or the fear of “what will people think” on the part of their family; but on the other, these are current family issues kids are actually dealing with every day. If one child can be taught to reach out and can better their lives by doing so, then I say, this is a helpful book that will convince our students that “they are not the only one…”



Hosted by the Purple Booker, this “game” allows us to tease each other into extending our already l-o-n-g TBR Lists. Give your current read’s title and author and then copy a couple of sentences at random. Do not copy something that would spoil your book for another reader .

My Tuesday Teaser for this week is from a middle grades book, Lucy Strange’s Our Castle by the Sea:

“There was a very odd moment of calm. The moon was visible–large and low–and its pale light made the parachute into a ghost. The sounds were slower, the skies were silent, and the parachute floated down through the smoke, the silver sea.”

This book’s poetic style is worth reading for the words alone. But it is also a “haunting war time tale” concerning the bravery of an 11 year old girl. It is an amazing read so far.