Dec 22, 2020

First Chapter Friday Recap

In November and December, we decided to try something new on Facebook Live: First Chapter Fridays. Remember back in English class when your teacher would give a little brain break and read a chapter or two from a new, fun book? When I was in second grade, that book just so happened to be Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and already obsessed with the series, my teacher tried to make a reading corner in the classroom as magical and cozy as the book. Our First Chapter Fridays had the same simple format, minus the magical reading nook with a sorting hat: Introduce a new book and read the first chapter to entice young readers to check it out and continue reading. If you’re looking for a recap, you’re in luck! Below is a brief summary of all the books we started over the past six weeks. You can check out our First Chapter Friday videos on our Facebook page if you missed them live. All of the books were geared towards middle grade readers, roughly ages nine to thirteen, and all are available to check out at the Grafton-Midview Public Library. Happy reading!

Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee: North Korea. December 1950. Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit; No criticism of the government; No absences from Communist meetings; Wear red; Hang pictures of the Great Leader; Don’t trust your neighbors; Don’t speak your mind; You are being watched. War is coming, however; war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos, and chaos is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers. Can they survive 300 miles of warzone in winter?


The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson: Morgan has been in foster care her entire life, floating from one horrible family to the next, and disconnected from her Cree culture. Eli has recently been removed from his Cree community. The two find themselves placed with a young, white couple and Morgan particularly resists all attempts at bonding. When Eli, always with a sketchpad in hand like Linus with his blanket, draws a detailed scene one day, it somehow opens a portal to another world. Morgan, obsessed with fantasy stories, goes after him. Together they discover the new world is a land of Indigenous lore: Talking animals that walk on two legs and a perpetual winter that Eli and Morgan must race to end.

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan: Told in alternating points of view, sixth graders Sara and Elizabeth are need of a friend. Sara is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants. She attended a small, private Muslim school where she felt comfortable, but now feels out of place and unwelcome at her large, public middle school. Sara is also deeply embarrassed by her mother who is studying for her citizenship test and teaching at an after-school cooking club in order to make ends meet. Elizabeth is British and Jewish, losing her best friend to a more popular girl, and picking up the slack for her mother, whose depression leaves her too exhausted to do much of anything. When the two are partnered in the cooking class Sara’s mother teaches, they form a shaky alliance in order to win a spot on a local food show. But can they trust each other enough to become true friends?


The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson: Yanka has always felt out of place in her small Russian village. She was discovered in an abandoned bear cave as a baby, and is bigger and stronger than everyone else in her village, including the adults. Yanka vaguely remembers the bear who raised her as a baby and feels the snowy forest calling to her on a daily basis. When Yanka wakes up from an injury to discover her legs have turned into bear legs, her past can no longer remain hidden and she begins a quest discover its secrets and where she truly belongs.


The Forest of Stars by Heather Kassner: Left all alone after her mother passes away, Louisa watches the sky for her father. When she was just a baby, a powerful gust of wind swept through town, stealing him away on the wings of his untamed magic; hollow bones that made him float. The same magic is in Louisa; her feet can never seem to touch the ground. For all her sky gazing, Louisa finds her fortune on the street when she spots a gleaming black and gold ticket to the Carnival Beneath the Stars. The carnival is astonishing and Louisa finds acceptance and friendship for the first time. When a tightrope act ends disastrously, however, Louisa must decide if she’s willing to slip into the performer’s role despite the darkness and suspicion surrounding the Carnival Beneath the Stars.   


Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams: Genesis keeps a list of things she hates about herself. Like how her father is always getting her family kicked out of houses and how the last time they were evicted her family’s belongings ended up on the front yard for all of her new friends to see. Genesis especially hates her skin color. Her skin is so dark that people, even family members, call her charcoal and eggplant, and she desperately tries milk baths and scrubbing at her skin with scouring pads to be lighter like her mother. Genesis’ list is approaching 100 when she finds something about herself that she may actually like. Will she be able to learn to love herself?


The Brave by James Bird: Collin has a unique condition that causes him to count the letters in every sentence spoken to him and relay them back. It makes him a prime target for bullies, and frustrates the adults around him. After he is asked to leave yet another school because of it, Collin’s alcoholic father decides to send him to live in Minnesota with the mother he’s never met. She is Ojibwe and lives on a reservation. When Collin arrives, he is quickly embraced by his mother and new community, particularly his neighbor Orenda, a girl who lives mostly in a treehouse, believes she is turning into a butterfly, and opens Collin’s eyes to a whole new world.


Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist: Ever since his father passed away from a sudden heart attack, Isaiah and his family have been struggling to survive. They’ve lost their apartment and are living in a motel. Isaiah’s sister asks too many questions, and his mother swings from good moods to bad moods so quickly that he’s never sure what each day will bring. Isaiah loves writing and poetry and in order to cope with everything, clings to his father’s stories about a superhero that gets his powers from beans and rice. Isaiah wishes that he could be a hero, but he quickly learns that heroes exist in every corner of the world from the library to the barbershop to the school.


We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly: The Nelson-Thomas siblings exist in their own orbits, circling a tense, crowded, and unpredictable household. Cash loves basketball, Dr. J, and a girl named Penny. He’s also in danger of failing 7th grade for a second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. Bird dreams of being the first female shuttle commander for NASA, but feels like she’s disappearing. The siblings have little in common except for an enthusiastic science teacher, Ms. Salonga, a failed applicant for the Teacher in Space program who encourages her students to live vicariously through the launch. Cash and Fitch have only a mild interest in the launch, but Bird builds her dreams around it.


The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung: Best friends Matt and Eric share a love of comic books and marching band. At the beginning of their sixth-grade year, Matt goes from being “the boy flute player” to one of “the boys in the back row” when he joins the drum section with Eric. When Eric reveals he will be moving away at the end of the year, the two decide to plan the most epic last adventure: They’ll sneak away from a marching band competition in order to attend a comic book convention and get their favorite author’s autograph. Chaos ensues but Eric and Matt’s nerdiness and friendship stay strong.  

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas: Nestor is always the new kid. His dad serves in the military and his family has moved from base to base to base. This time around, Nestor’s dad is deployed in Afghanistan and he’s living with his abuela in a tiny Texas town. Nestor plans to lay low like usual; he never gets enough time to make friends with how often he moves, and he doesn’t want anyone to find out his secret that he can talk to animals. When animals start disappearing in his new town, however, his abuela becomes the prime suspect and Nestor is forced to take matters into his own hands.


Stand Up, Yumi Chung! By Jessica Kim: Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and constant bullying from her peers because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. All she needs is a big dose of courage and a stage to become the comedian she’s always wanted to be. While she’s studying for a scholarship, Yumi stumbles on the chance to attend a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube comedians. The problem? When she arrives at the camp, everyone thinks Yumi is a girl named Kay Nakamura and Yumi doesn’t bother to correct them. As her identity begins to unravel, Yumi must decide if she’s going to risk her dreams and tell the truth.


Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk: Ellie and her family lose everything in the Great Depression and have to start over in the unforgiving terrain of Echo Mountain. Though her sister resents everything about the mountain, Ellie has found more freedom, strength, and love than ever before. When Ellie’s father falls into a coma, an accident Ellie is blamed for, she is determined to make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as “the hag.” But the mountain has many stories, and Ellie finds herself among a complex constellation of strong women spanning generations.


The Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn: After her brother went missing, Andrea’s family shattered into pieces. When she discovers a magical world called Reverie in the woods near her home, Andrea jumps at the chance to escape her pain and go inside. But the cost of admission is high: Andrea must give up a memory in order to enter. Once inside, Andrea discovers tent after tent of dreams come alive: she can fly on a gust of wind, search for buried treasure, wish on a star, and much more. But Andrea soon realizes that not all of Reverie’s dreams are meant to delight, and the Sandman behind the circus tents seems to have plans of his own. When Andrea finds a tent in which her brother’s darkest nightmare has been brought to life, she realizes the dark truth: Reverie is not an escape; it’s a trap.


Thirteens by Kate Alice Marshall: Eleanor has moved to Eden Eld to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother died in a fire. Her birthday, which falls on Halloween, is just right around the corner and she hopes the birthday will be a fresh start. But when Eleanor discovers an ancient grandfather clock counting down thirteen hours outside of her bedroom, she realizes there is something seriously wrong in the town of Eden Eld. Eleanor and her new classmates, Pip and Otto, are the only ones who see such mysterious things and they also all happen to share a Halloween birthday. When the trio uncovers an old pact the town has made with a mysterious figure known as Mr. January, they must race to break the curse before it’s too late.


One Time by Sharon Creech: Gina Filomena has been told she has an overactive imagination. With her bright clothing, artistic spirit, and stories of angels, she’s always felt different from the other kids in her class. That is, until she meets her new neighbor, a mysterious boy named Antonio with a wide, welcoming smile. Add in a creative new teacher and a world of possibilities open for Gina. Will she finally find the answers to the questions Who am I? and Who do I want to be?

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson: For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone’s hero. A charming, talented pro football star, he’s as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ’s house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ’s mom explains it’s because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that, but it doesn’t make the sting any less real when his father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold onto his family traditions and the glory days, and what it means if his father can’t remember them.


Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte: Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over 100 years later, many people there – including Mary – are deaf and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. But new events are shattering Mary’s world. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people, and a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness.