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Retta has dreams of making it big as a country music star in Nashville. After graduating from high school, she heads to the city to pursue a music career. Although she knew it would be difficult, Retta didn’t realize how hard it would be to break into the business, and when family drama calls her home, she begins to wonder if she should just give up her dream altogether.

Supplee begins each chapter of her book with a brief bio of a real country singer. I enjoyed Retta’s story, which was sweet without being nauseating, and had enough surprises in it to keep it from becoming too predictable. A quality addition to the “follow your dreams” genre.

A fictionalized account of the life of Helmuth Hubener, a German teenager who had the courage to stand up to the Nazis in Germany, at the cost of his life. Bartoletti explores how Hubener came to be drawn into the Hitler Youth Movement, and what possibly might have motivated him to sacrifice everything to tell the German people the truth about Nazi atrocities. Bartoletti wrote this book after researching Hubener’s life for her non-fiction book, Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read some good high school fiction. Artichoke’s Heart was just what I needed. Rosemary Goode is just trying to survive high school. She tries not to get noticed, and comforts herself with food. When one of her mom’s beauty shop clients draws attention to Rosemary’s growing weight, Rosemary knows she needs to make a change, and for the first time in her life, she wants to make a change too.

Artichoke’s Heart has everything–underdog heroine to cheer for, perky cheerleaders to hate, cute “boy next door,” a little drama, a little romance, and a plot that makes you believe that if you had to do high school all over again, just maybe, it could be better.

Cerrito’s first novel is excellent. Ryan is incarcerated for murder. His story is revealed gradually, alternating flashbacks to his life before the murder with present day scenes from his time in Great Oaks School. The tension throughout the book is just perfect, and “what really happened” is revealed at just the right time. This book would be excellent for middle schoolers, and lends itself to many meaningful writing assignments.

Erik’s parents deploy to Iraq, leaving him to go live with his Oma and Big Darrell on the prairies of North Dakota. Angry, lonely and feeling unwanted, Erik rescues a dog, names him Quill and claims the dog as his own. When the dog’s owner turns up, Erik takes to the prairie, confident that he and Quill together can make a life for themselves on the prairie.

Middle grade readers, both boys and girls, will love this book. Erik’s independence, his love for Quill and his journey on the prairie will fuel the imaginations of young readers. What I liked about the book is that in the end, Erik discovers that there is more to the adults in his life than he first realized. His parents and grandparents aren’t just labelled as “the bad guys” and kept that way. Erik is allowed to get to know them and appreciate them for who they are. This is a similar, but easier to read, tale to My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, one of my personal classics.

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