Book Reviews: Spin by Lamar Giles and Sideline Pressure by Kyle Jackson @LRGiles @Scholastic @JollyFishPress

Spin
Lamar Giles
Scholastic Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-338-21921-0
Hardcover

Mr. GilesSpin is a suck-you-in-so-fast YA suspense novel centered around teen-aged rising star, DJ ParSec. Or maybe more honestly, her murder.

Childhood friend and confidante, Kya, is incredibly proud of Paris’ success. Not just because of her own countless contributions in creating ParSec’s first set up. Kya has always been her biggest fan, staunchest supporter and most fierce defender. But, when one event shatters a huge part of Kya’s life and she desperately needs her best bud, she gets the persona, ParSec, and a cold shoulder instead.

That isn’t the only relationship crumbling for the frustrated DJ. She and fan-turned-friend, Fuse, had been spatting more than planning lately. Creative differences, nothing to do with the boy who may or may not have caused this wedge.

Oh, and the boy—well, his motives have been questionable since he’s come onto the scene.

From the outside looking in, it seems that there was a riff with Paris and three of the most important people in her life. But when delving deeper, the reader is reminded that things are not always as they appear and sometimes, the very real danger is cleverly disguised.

Spin epitomizes the stories I love to share with “my” students. Realistic, relatable characters with actual issues, sometimes solved by the very real strength of friendship.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2020.

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Sideline Pressure
Mac’s Sports Report
Kyle Jackson
Jolly Fish Press, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-236-5
Trade Paperback

It takes a responsible, disciplined person to make a reliable reporter. One who will remember his role. For example, a sports reporter provides a recap of the game. Sure, it can be colorful and somewhat opinionated, but it needs to stay on topic.

And that’s why Mac had to delete his original draft. While well-written, it had not exactly centered on the dismal performance of the Predators. But, by the last buzzer, none of the fans could concentrate on the middle-graders playing their hearts out on the court, either. The eruption of the anger-ball in the audience far overshadowed the basketball game.

I first ‘met’ Mac and his stellar statistician sidekick when I read Mr. Jackson’s Concussion Comeback. I adore the free-wheelin’ sports reporter, and I’m equally enamored with Samira. No surprise that I was super excited to start Sideline Pressure. Tackling yet another tough topic, this fast-paced Juvenile Fiction sports story shines a light on parents behaving badly and the rippling adverse effects.

Drew Borders is a strong starter for Coyote Canyon Middle School. Not good enough for the high-powered, ever-so-important attorney that is, unfortunately, his father. Stalking the sidelines, fired-up like a college coach during March Madness, Mr. Borders begins to angrily bark ‘advice’; but by game’s end and in-spite of the win, he’s just being nasty. Mac wants to do something and when Drew comes to him for help, of course he’s willing. If he can only figure out how.

I really enjoyed watching Mac work through the problem. When he made a mistake, or did not get the result he was going for, he tried a new tactic. And when he made up his mind, he stood his ground. Even after Mr. Borders threatened legal action.

If you’ve not recently had the pleasure of participation in youth sports, the irrational actions of this basketball-dad may seem a bit over the top. Sadly, speaking from (what feels like) extensive experience, this portrayal is particularly precise. I’m looking forward to sharing my new favorite sports story with my younger reader-friends. It’s a special kind of awesome to handily have something that makes the boys’ eyes light up.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

Book Reviews: Ghosts of the Grand Canyon by Judy and Brian-James Martinez and Concussion Comeback by Kyle Jackson @LlewellynBooks @JollyFishPress

Ghosts of the Grand Canyon
Personal Encounters that Will Have You on the Edge
Judy & Brian-James Martinez
Llewellyn Publications, April 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-5944-9
Trade Paperback

Although I’ve never been to Arizona, when I hear “Grand Canyon”, an image of sheer, sunbaked cliffs, surrounding an almost-angry, definitely-defiant crater, instantly pops into my mind. That, and the time during a family dinner when I may have missed my mouth and my father said, “Damn. That’s like throwing a rock at the Grand Canyon and missing,” which is not covered in Judy and Brian-James Martinez’s Ghosts of the Grand Canyon: Personal Encounters that Will Have You on the Edge.

These spooky stories, rich with history and humanity, are exponentially more entertaining and even educational. I enjoyed learning how the El Tovar Hotel came to be, how it has changed since opening in 1905, and who may still call it home.

I did not know that, only a quarter of a mile from the canyon’s rim, is the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. Within said set of trees is a lodge named for the Hopi Nation kachina god who guards the gulf, “Maswik”.

Pioneer Cemetery, inside of the National Park, continues to be a place to visit, with walking trails and benches along the route. There’s an RV park, Trailer Village, purported to be a paranormal portal.

The Navajo needed their very own word for ghost, “Chindi”. And they believe in “skin-walkers”—an interesting tale, in and of itself.

In 1910, two brothers boarded a boat to travel the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. One sibling carried a movie camera to capture the entire adventure. To tourists’ delight, the resulting silent film was played, daily, for a full 17-year-run.

When just these few facts are so intriguing, the mandatory myths and folklore mixed in are bound to be good. The authors convey the peoples’ stories, using the peoples’ words, for an authentic, fun-fact-filled read.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2019.

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Concussion Comeback
Mac’s Sports Report
Kyle Jackson
Jolly Fish Press, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-227-3
Hardcover

Stewart “Mac” McKenzie takes his sports-reporting role very seriously, even if he is writing about Middle-Grade activities. As a hard-working student-athlete, who rolls circles around his competitors to crush it on the basketball court, Mac sees both sides of every story. Which is why he is so worried about his next article.

The football coach provides Mac a spot on the sidelines, alongside the team and their supporting staff. But the view from his wheelchair is slightly different and he definitely saw the star quarterback crack his head on the final play. He kept his eyes on Ryan Mitchell and knew he wasn’t imagining the symptoms he saw.

He tried talking, but Ryan wouldn’t listen. Now, it’s not a matter of what he has to do, but rather, finding the best way to do it. Fortunately for Mac, his best friend didn’t just know every fact and stat about practically all of the sports; but, Samira Ahmad is also incredibly thoughtful and kind. She always gives Mac the best advice.

It won’t take a sports fan to enjoy and appreciate Mr. Jackson’s Mac’s Sports Report: Concussion Comeback. Simply written, it is a quick, effortless and entertaining read; but it tackles a timely and important topic. I loved the real-life, varied examples of a few famous NFL players handling this very issue. I’m still stunned to know that one player was hit so hard, it took him more than a year to re-learn how to read.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2018