Newbery Contender: “Too Bright to See” by Kyle Lukoff

Book review: Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff (tween fiction)

Kyle Lukoff is an author, a former school librarian, and a bookseller. He says he writes books for kids and other people. He is most known for his picture books, When Aiden Became a Brother, a Stonewall Award Winner, and Call Me Max, which recently has gained attention due to censorship for its LGBTQ+ themes. His debut middle grade novel is Too Bright to See, a National Book Award Finalist and sure to be a Newbery contender this year.

The start of middle school is fast approaching, and Bug’s best friend Moira has decided that now is the perfect time to start preparing and reinvent themselves a bit. Will they be the suave cool kids, the fun and flirty jocks, or the charming but gorgeous smarties? But Bug doesn’t want to be any of those things and just wants to be Bug. Practicing being a girl by doing makeup, deciding on the cutest boys in their class, and picking out perfect school outfits is just not appealing. There are bigger things to worry about, like the new ghost in Bug’s old Victorian house. Could it be Bug’s amazing, fun, and gay Uncle Rodrick who recently passed away? Or is it some other more sinister specter?

And can Bug and their mom even stay in their perfectly haunted Vermont home now that Uncle Rodrick isn’t around to help? Bug spends the summer striving to straighten out the mysterious new ghost and what message Uncle Rodrick may have left from beyond the grave. 

Kyle Lukoff, an own voices author (more info here and here), spins a beautiful tale of grief, growing pains, and self discovery. At one point, Bug looks in the mirror and thinks, “I’m always self-conscious of how hard I’m pretending.” Why do you think Bug says this? Have you ever felt like you were pretending?

Check out Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff, and let us know how you liked this book.

~ Ms. Christine

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Newbery Contender: “Starfish” by Lisa Fipps

Book review: Starfish by Lisa Fipps (tween fiction)

Lisa Fipps is an award-winning journalist who is now a marketing director for a public library. She loves dogs, traveling, art, and collecting rocks. Starfish is her debut novel, and it is our next contender for the upcoming Newbery Award.  

In Starfish, Ellie wore a whale swimsuit for her fifth birthday and made the biggest splash with her cannonball – earning her the nickname, Splash, from her older sister. Little did she know that nickname would be picked up by everyone in her grade and would continue for years.  

Ever since that party, Ellie lives by her own “Fat Girl Rules” to help her survive at school and at home. Her mom is constantly updating her diets, getting her into a new exercise routine, and decorating their fridge with new diet fads and tips on how to become skinnier. Ellie’s one safe space is her pool where she swims for hours, because she feels weightless. With the support of her new neighbor/friend Catalina, her therapist, and her dad, Ellie starts to realize that she is amazing exactly as she is. She starts to stand up to the bullies at school and even to her mom.   

Starfish is a wonderful story about how hard it can be to accept yourself and learn to feel comfortable in your own skin. Ellie is having trouble with people accepting her, not only at school but at home as well, which makes life exceedingly difficult for her as she struggles with accepting herself. 

I loved this book because it was about standing up for yourself, learning about who you truly are, and being your own person. This is such an important message that I have learned because it is something that my own dad, like Ellie’s, had always taught me.  

Ellie likes to take a nice swim to feel weightless and relax. What do you do to de-stress after a tiring day? 

~ Ms. Mariam

Newbery Bingo Challenge:

Help us celebrate 100 years of Newbery Medal winners by competing in our bingo challenge! Download and print off your bingo board and try to read as many of these Newbery Award winning books as you can before January 24, 2022. You can download a copy of our Newbery Bingo Board here:

Newbery Contender: “The Beatryce Prophecy” by Kate DiCamillo

Book review: The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo (tween fiction)

Kate DiCamillo is the author of many award-winning books, including The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, which both won the Newbery Award, Because of Winn-Dixie, a Newbery Honor winner, The Tiger Rising, a National Book Award Finalist, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. She is one of only six authors to have won two Newbery Award medals. She is known for covering themes of love, loneliness, and emotional change.

In The Beatryce Prophecy, there is a girl, a goat, a boy with a sword, a strange old hermit, and a monk. When the monk, Brother Edik, finds a girl (Beatryce) ill and asleep, curled up with the monastery’s resident troublemaking goat, Answelica, he realizes a prophecy he made might come true – that a girl will one day unseat a king – and thus the girl is in danger.

Brother Edik goes against the wishes of his abbot to nurse the girl back to health and finds that Beatryce can read and write, which is something that is against the law for girls to do. As Beatryce’s memories slowly return to her, and she realizes just why the king is looking for her, she sets out from the monastery to try to find her way home to her mother, bringing the hard-headed goat with her. Along the way, she meets a boy who lost his parents to a highway robber, a strange hermit with a secret, and discovers that through stories, all can find their way home.

Simple yet powerfully written, in The Beatryce Prophecy, DiCamillo tells a lovely tale about stories and family, with a memorable cast of charming characters in a medieval setting. The book also contains wonderful illustrations by two-time Caldecott medalist Sophie Blackall, making it something akin to the illuminated manuscripts that appear in the book itself.

How did you like this book? Would you like a hard-headed goat as a companion? Have you ever written a story like the tale Beatryce tells about the mermaid?

~ Ms. Emily

Newbery Bingo Challenge:

Help us celebrate 100 years of Newbery Medal winners by competing in our bingo challenge! Download and print off your bingo board and try to read as many of these Newbery Award winning books as you can before January 24, 2022. You can download a copy of our Newbery Bingo Board here: