Four female – one male protagonist. The settings: London, San Francisco, Vietnam, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Together they make up the five finalists for this year’s Middle Grade Fiction Cybils Awards. Each day this week I’ll have a review of each title:
- Monday: THE BLACKTHORN KEY
- Tuesday: BOOK SCAVENGER
- Wednesday: FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY
- Thursday: BLACKBIRD FLY (Today’s featured Finalist)
- Friday: LISTEN, SLOWLY
The best news is you can win a giveaway of all five hardback books by making a comment on any or all of those days (up to five entries). I’ll draw the name this Sunday (Feb. 21) at 6 pm EST. Good luck!
Middle school drama is brought forth in all its worst ways: bullying, hurt feelings, and a roller coast of emotions for those walking the halls of Chapel Spring Middle School. Yikes.
Apple Yengko tells her own story of life in Louisiana after moving there at an early age from the Philippines. Her mother made that decision after Apple’s father passed away. America would give them a better life. Apple is not so sure. She misses the sandy beaches and middle school is becoming a nightmare. Popular boys have circulated their traditional “Dog Log” list of the ugliest girls and Apple is listed third. She loses friends who only care how popular they are and making sure they look just right for the boys.
What Apple really wants is to learn how to play Beatles’ songs on a guitar. It’s that quest and new friendships that propel Apple to a new way of thinking about her future. Not every middle school is like this, but it sure paints a great picture of how smart kids can be so dumb.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015 WORD COUNT: 43,308 READING LEVEL: 4.4
FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is. Erin Entrada Kelly deftly brings Apple’s conflicted emotions to the page in her debut novel about family, friendship, popularity, and going your own way.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: BLACKBIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly
- I don’t care what school you walk into, but you’ll always find a kid like Evan Temple. He befriends Apple and rises above the silliness of his classmates. He’s the true hero of the story.
- The Beatles are still a known singing group for many of this age. There are likely going to be a few more fans who will search out their music thanks to Apple’s love of Beatles’ songs. Here’s a playlist of the songs featured in the book.
- This should be required reading for any boy or girl who acts like one of the popular kids at Chapel Springs Middle. It shows how devastating stupid comments can be on an individual. I really wanted to see these kids disciplined but sadly their acts went unnoticed by the adults.
- Being true to oneself is a lesson that flies off the pages and hopefully settles on a few teens in the process.
- Diversity. No matter what color you bring to the table, this book will open your eyes as to how difficult it is for some to fit in based on where they came from.
FAVORITE LINES: The thing I remember about the Philippines is the water. It’s the most beautiful water you’ll ever see. It’s sparkling shades of green and blue and feels like it covers the whole world. I can remember the way it smelled too–salty and wet–and how the sand felt when it pushed between my toes. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if we had stayed there. My mother says she wanted us to have a better life, but when I think of splashing through the water and eating mangoes until the juice dripped down my chin, I don’t understand how our life in America is any better. In the Philippines, I would be just another face in the crowd. No one could call me a dog-eater or a dog. I would even be pretty.
AUTHOR QUOTE: Hi. I’m Erin. I love to write. You probably noticed that. I also love to read (yay, books!). Some of my big dreams are to cook the perfect pot of spaghetti, visit the Bronte parsonage in the English countryside, and learn how to play Blackbird on the guitar. For the record, none of those things have happened.
I wrote my first book in the second grade. The title of it was “The Two Orphans,” except I misspelled “orphans,” so it was actually “The Two Orpans.” The orphans were best friends who were adopted by separate families, so they were very sad. Then one of their houses burned down, so the families moved in together and they all lived happily ever after.
See more from Erin’s author website.
Make a comment if you have time as you could win all five Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalists. You’ll find the comment link below.