Rules for Stealing Stars

Rules for Stealing Stars 51lZ0dDU84L__SX333_BO1,204,203,200_,jpgRules for Stealing Stars

Corey Ann Haydu, Author

Katherine Tegen Books, Fiction, Sep. 29, 2015

Pages: 336

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Sisters, Magic, Mother and daughters, Family problems, Family secrets, Mental Illness, Hope

Book Jacket Synopsis: Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she’s too little for most things — especially when it comes to dealing with their mother’s unpredictable moods and outbursts. But for Silly, that’s normal. She hardly remembers a time when Mom wasn’t drinking.

This summer, Silly is more alone than ever, and it feels like everyone around her is keeping secrets. Mom is sick all the time. Dad acts like everything is fine when clearly it is isn’t. Silly’s sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot and giggling about jokes that Silly doesn’t understand.

When Silly is brought into her sisters’ world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she’s soon forced to wonder if it might tear them apart.

What I like about this book:

  • A bold and skillfully written novel that touches on magic and realism. Teens will find this a thrilling read. The magic is exciting, but also borders on a dark side, with a little paranormal thrown in the mix.
  • The sisters live in a dysfunctional family, which is the very heart of the story. There is tension in the family and themes of  mental instability, abuse, and loss. Their journey is sad as family secrets unravel and they have to depend upon one another in order to cope with their mother’s illness.
  • The sisters’ characters are richly developed and believable. Eleanor and Astrid are 14-year-old twins who share a bond that make 13-year-old Marla and 11-year-old Silly, feel like they live in another universe. Eleanor is smart, bold, bossy and the protector. Astrid is creative and spacey. Marla is sensitive, sad and whiney. Silly (Priscilla) is the baby that everyone protects. She narrates the story in first person and turns out to be the strongest and wisest of the sisters.
  • The magic Eleanor and Astrid discover in the bedroom closets offer the sisters a way to escape into a fantasy world that is free of pain. The magic is different for each sister. It can be calming, exhilarating, or scary. It can hold memories. But it also offers the sisters a way to bring healing to a broken family. The ending is satisfying and hopeful. This story lends itself to important discussions among readers.

Corey Ann Haydu is the author of YA novels, OCD Love Story, Life by Committee, Making Pretty, the middle grade novel Rules for Stealing Stars, and the upcoming novel Falling Girls and Missing Boys.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza

The Key Swallowed Joey9780374300838_p0_v1_s260x420The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza

Jack Gantos, Author

Farrar Straus Giroux, Fiction, Sep. 2, 2014

Pages: 154

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes: ADD/ADHD, Family Relationships, Dysfunctional Families

Opening: I’m Joey Pigza and here I am again back in my roachy row house on Plum Street and living my whole wired past, present, and future all at the same time.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Just months after the birth of his baby brother, Carter Junior, everything goes topsy-turvy all over again for wired Joey Pigza. With his dad missing in the wake of appearance-altering plastic surgery, and his mom suddenly absent, Joey has no choice but to become man of the house. For this heroic and hilarious boy, playing dad to little Junior is a challenge that gets harder by the moment, even after an old friend arrives to lend a hand. But then the real man of the house comes out of hiding, and Joey is full of hope that he has found the key to help his shattered family — even though he knows that when it comes to the Pigzas, the future could not be more unpredictable.

What I love about this book:

  • Joey Pigza is back in this fifth and final book of Jack Gantos’ multi-award winning and heart-rendering series. It is filled with the same crazy humor of a boy who faces the toughest challenges ever with his emotionally charged and dysfunctional family. Fans will continue to cheer and love this hero for trying to keep his broken family together.
  • Gantos writes the best first-page openings that hook the reader from the start. He takes them on a complicated journey that is action-packed and engaging. His mother, who’s suffering from postpartum depression, checks herself into a hospital and leaves Joey to care for and protect his baby brother from his hyperactive father, who plots to kidnap Carter Jr.  Readers will keep turning pages until they have finished the book.
  • The characters are memorable. Gantos skillfully gets to the core of each one. Joey shows maturity as he takes his medicine for ADHD,  thinks before he acts, is thoughtful, manages to make the right decisions and be a “pawzzz-i-tive” force for the good of his family. Olivia, “the meanest blind girl in the whole world,” reappears in this story after she is suspended from her blind school. She hides out at the Pigza house — lucky for Joey she has a soft spot for babies. Her presence adds some comic relief.
  • I am completely invested in this series and am thrilled that Gantos brought Joey’s story to an unpredictable and satisfying conclusion. In fact Joey may be the most sane member of the Pigza family. Fans will cheer and love this hero for his triumphant efforts to keep his broken family together. This book may indeed be the darkest in the series.

Resources: Visit Jack Gantos website and download a study guide for The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza.  You can also check out my earlier review of the other Joey Pigza books in the series.