Closer to Nowhere

Author: Ellen Hopkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Release Date: October 6/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and G.P. Putman’s Son’s for a digital eARC of this book.

As a first time reader of author Ellen Hopkins, I truly hope that she will continue to share stories for middle grade readers, her MG debut is gut-wrenchingly powerful. A story told in verse, we meet Cal and Hannah who are cousins who have their worlds turned upside down when Cal comes to live with Hannah’s family. Hannah’s mom and Cal’s mom were identical twins and with the death of Cal’s mom due to cancer and his father being in prison, he has come to live with Hannah’s family.

Hannah and Cal could not be more different personally – Hannah has a stable predictable life as an only child and is a high achiever in particular with her gymnastics, while Cal is a prankster and a reader with a wild imagination allowing him to intermix his real life with his fascinating ideas to cover for the life of turmoil he has led.

Hopkins allows the reader to see the personalities of the characters by setting up all of Cal’s sections of the book with a Fact or Fiction topic heading followed by the answer from Cal and his creative details that follow the answer.l This is juxtaposed to Hannah’s section using the logical headings of Definitions to explain and provide the details as defined by Hannah.

Through these two perspectives we see real life dynamics and tension of learning to live together as a new blended family which is compounded by the fact that Cal has been diagnosed with PTSD. Hopkins slowly unravels the true guts of what Cal has had to live through and when family truths are revealed at Thanksgiving, it no longer can be ignored. The growth of both characters as they gain new knowledge and insight about so many topics that so many middle grade readers are living themselves (blended families, privilege, addiction, incarceration, mental health, and death) is tackled with empathy while staying real and not sugar-coating or talking down to the reader. This would work well as a read aloud and provide lots of opportunities to open dialogues on some tough but real topics. Although some may say a bit long (over 400 pages) – it does not and will not read this length. This is a book that once is in the hands of one reader will be passed along to the next.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Crank Trilogy, People Kill People, Tilt, Collateral


#IMWAYR (It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?) – Sept. 28

Last Week…

  • CANADIAN picture books! I went through a lot of Canadian picture books to begin the selection for the Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Awards which I will blog about at a later time to highlight some of my favourites.
  • Audiobook: The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes #1) by Nancy Springer narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Enola Holmes is the younger sister of famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Enola (Alone backwards) was unconventionally raised by her mother. On her fourteenth birthday she awakens to discover that her mother has disappeared, but has left her some clues to find her in the form of a special birthday present. I missed this series, but when Netflix made it into a movie special – I knew I had to read it. The first book followed the Netflix movie fairly closely and look forward to reading the other five in the series.
  • Audiobook: The Inheritance Game (Inheritance Games #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes narrated by Christie Moreau. Avery is a teen with some smarts, spunk and empathy. Living with her sister and her less than desirable boyfriend, her plan is to get through high school, get a scholarship and get out. Suddenly she is summoned to a will reading of billionaire Tobias Hawthorne where she discovers he has left her his entire fortune with one condition – she must live in the Hawthone estate with the family he has just denied his fortune. Obviously the family is upset and want to get Avery out of the house and Avery wonders why a man she never met has left his entire fortune to her. I enjoyed the strong character of Avery and her love of chess and things related to puzzles. There are puzzles that fans of Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Book Scavenger and the older Chasing Vermeer will enjoy. It is great to see a more books like this for these readers as they grow into YA.
  • Audiobook: Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson, narrated by Guy Lockard. Told in verse from his son ZJ, we learn about his father, a professional football player – the legend and the hero. To ZJ, he is just dad, as proud as he is of his father, football is not his jam – it’s music. His father appreciates this and encourages ZJ to do his thing. We read/hear about the time “before the ever after,” the time they spent together singing songs, spending time together as a family and how his dad was so calm and “there”. Now is the ever after – his father is having trouble remembering, has mood swings and debilitating headaches and having trouble with day to day tasks. No one is quite sure what is happening until the doctor diagnoses him with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). There is much to be learned, shared and perhaps revaluated about the games we play and watch.

Up Next…

  • I didn’t quite finish Amy Timberlake’s Skunk and Badger last week with illustrations by Jon Klassen but oh my this is going to be a wonderful series.
  • Another pile of Canadian picture books that I have not read and missed or been recommend by friends.
  • I have two days to read Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s Sky of Bombs Sky of Stars so I am ready for the MG Lit Online Book Club this Wednesday.

Down the Road…

  • Still trying to find time to read Sarah Allen’s Breathing Underwater and know Tuesday I will be getting more picture books for the Shining Willows

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? has changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s’ lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too and hence a version for #kidlit began! So every Monday, join in on the fun by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading and to show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.    

Perhaps I will see some of you this evening at #MGBookChat to discuss Historical Fiction or Wednesday to chat about Sky of Bombs Sky of Stars, if not Happy Reading.


Canyon’s Edge

Author: Dusti Bowling

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: September 8/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edeleweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Wow! Wow! Wow! I loved how Dusti Bowling has stayed close to her roots and is sharing her love of the desert and providing readers with so many different avenues to explore the desert. This book is very different from her previous books and I love the direction she has taken with this book.

It’s Nora’s birthday and she’s about to go on one of her family’s favourite activities -hiking in the desert, except it’s also the anniversary of her mother’s death. She and her father have returned to the desert to hike to try to move forward and overcome the grief that have stricken them both in different ways.

Nora has been diagnosed with PTSD. Her father has developed an irrational fear of not being able to keep Nora safe with people around. So life has changed in many ways. Now they have come to the desert and lowered themselves down into a canyon in an attempt to restore some sort of normalcy in their lives. Then the thinkable happens, a flash flood sweeps Nora’s dad away after he gets her safely on higher ground.

Now Nora alone has to fight the physical and the mental demons. Divided into two sections and told in verse, readers are put through an emotional roller coaster not only from the physical survival standpoint but also the mental strain and suffering Nora has been going though. This is a survival story that readers will have a hard time putting down – anxious to see if she survives the physical situation she is currently in and whether she will find her father but also to find out more of the details of what happened to her mother and how she moves forward.

If you didn’t preorder this one to arrive on its release date (September 8), you’ll want to change that, but make sure you have a couple of hours of uninterrupted time, as you won’t be able to out this one done.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus, 24 Hours in Nowhere