Vlog Review: Maybe He Just Likes You

Hit Play on the video above.

The Best Thing about this Book is the authenticity of doubt in Mila’s voice.

Premise: Time to celebrate a birthday with a circle of friends in a group hug. But when a group of basketball boys insert themselves in the hug and continue to hug or touch Mila in the coming days, is it all in her head or does their snickering mean more?

Rating: 4/5
Target: 4-8

Title: When harassment occurs, everyone has a different take on it. It was just a joke. It’s flirting. Maybe he’s just likes you. The title of this book tackles the questioning and doubt around harassment head-on — and asks the reader to consider what approach he/she/they want to take as a bystander.

Main Character(s): Mila, 7th grade (she/her)

Motifs (not exhaustive): friendship, doubt, strength, bullying, harassment, trust, courage, truth, listening, support, music, self defense

Great for…* (readers): period. As a mother of two sons, I’m making sure they read this book. Barbara Dee herself (the author) dedicates the book to her son. Unfortunately, each kid is likely to experience or witness something similar to what Mila experiences. This book will help prepare a kid or help a kid who is trying to sort through it (though the latter should be done with additional assistance).

Great for…* (teachers): This would be a great book club book. Or a book to track the changes in perspective Mila has about a variety of things. What’s her tipping point?

Parental Warning(s): None that aren’t implied by the subject of the book.

Interact: This book made me so angry. That emotion stems for sorrow and hurt. What is the primary emotion you feel when you read a book like this or hear a true story about harassment?

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*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend

Vlog Review: What Girls are Made of

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****************NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST****************

The Best Thing About this Book is either what Bekah does for Nina in a time of need or the art works referenced and explored.

Premise:  Nina loves her boyfriend Seth. She’ll do anything for him. She’ll worship him. But something about that doesn’t settle in to her experiences with her mom, who tells Nina there’s no such thing as unconditional love, and takes her to Italy to visit iconic sculptures of women.

Rating: 5/5
Target: 16 and up (technically YA, but I wouldn’t bookend it there)

Title:  Make sure you know this nursery rhyme (called “What Are Little Boys Made Of?”) to be able to fully analyze this title. Elana K. Arnold adds assistance to understanding the title in the Author’s Note at the book’s end. Highly Recommend It. I’ll just give you this little teaser: “I now see that the stuff of girls is meant to be consumed — sugar and spice and everything nice — yummy sweet treats that melt in your mouth. And it reads to me now as a warning […]”

Main Character(s): Nina 16 y/o (she/him) with flashbacks to 14 y/o

Motifs (not exhaustive): womanhood, body, consumables, identity, sexuality, sex, reproduction, excrement, love, male gaze, worship, motherhood

Great for…* (readers): who want to think deeply about female gender roles and latent messaging in art and society.

Great for…* (teachers): I wouldn’t use this one in a classroom unless it’s past high school. However, selections could be used to study the female role in society and/or the nature of flashbacks and structure compounding overall meaning.

Parental Warning(s): Some cursing, holds nothing back in description of bodily functions, doctor visits, sexuality alluded to and pictured

Interact: What is your memory of nursery rhymes as a kid? (especially if you grew up with “What Are Little Boys Made Of”)

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*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend

Vlog Review: You Go First

Hit Play on the video above.

Premise: One school week in the lives of online Scrabble friends Charlotte and Ben are eventful. Charlotte’s begins with being called out of class with the news that her dad is in the hospital after suffering a heart attack. Meanwhile, Ben’s parents announce their divorce. Though the two kids do not attend the same school (they don’t even live in the same state), they both have to learn what friendship means in the midst of the most difficult challenges of their lives.

Rating: 3/5
Target: 3-7 grade

Title:  The statement, “You go first” is repeated several times throughout the novel and has to do with taking risks and being vulnerable in relationships and other settings.

Main Character(s): 6th graders Charlotte (she/her) and Ben (he/him)

Motifs (not exhaustive): friendship, isolation, change, trauma, bullying, scrabble, board games, nerds, social group, empathy, public speaking, student council, regret

Great for…* (readers): who are experiencing the shifting sands of friendships during tweenagerdom or isolated socially.

Great for…* (teachers): structure! This is essentially two novels that parallel one another than then intersect. There’s not much in here that requires guidance for young readers, so it could be a great Lit Circle or independent reading book.

Parental Warning(s): None.

Interact: What’s your favorite board game (or online game played by more than one person)?

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Add on Goodreads.

*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend

Vlog Review: Impossible Music

Hit Play on the video above.

Premise: Simon is a musician. But he can’t hear. So how can he continue to study music, create music, play music? And, most of all, experience music he will never hear again? Everything about music seems impossible to him. If Simon is going to have a happy life, he’s going to have to accept his new sensations and his new modes of communication — but can he?

Rating: 3/5
Target: 9th-12th grade

Title:  The first thought about where the title comes from is the premise. And it seems, for much of the book to be just that, but there’s more to it that has to do with a performance I won’t get into because I don’t want to spoil anything.

Main Character(s): Simon, 18 y/o (he/him)

Motifs (not exhaustive): identity, music, communication, Deaf culture, art, Auslan, sign language, family, teen relationships, health, mental health, depression, suicide, dreams, commitment, courage, community

Great for…* (readers): who love music or medicine or Deaf culture (or want to learn about any of those). Simon is a bit detached to begin with, so it takes a while to get into the read.

Great for…* (teachers): This one is a pretty easy read. It’d be best used in small reading groups where you have a variety of elements you’re looking at — no one thing stands out in this one.

Parental Warning(s): Some cursing, regular physical intimacy (not seen or described)

Interact: Why would (or wouldn’t) you want to perform in front of a crowd?

Shop local bookstores.
Shop Amazon.
Add on Goodreads.

*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend

The Days of Our Pandemic: episode sane

a pinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

Before diving into this episode, see what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

K stepped solemnly into the bathroom. In her hands she held a small cardboard box no larger than a shoebox. “Here it is, Z.”

“Here it is, K! This is it! Our hope! Our dreams of getting out of these four walls are finally coming to fruition! Here! In this moment! And you cannot unhinge us with your reckless ineptitude.”

“You think I’m unhinged, Z?”

Z glanced into K’s eyes without adjusting the position of her head from its centered view of the shipment. “Yes, K.”

“You do?” K asked, sorrow creeping into her voice for the first time in a long time.

“Yes, K,” Z said. 

Z fixated on the box.

“Z?”

“Yes, K?”

“What does unhinged mean?”

At this, Reader, Z saw an opportunity. And, Reader, she took that opportunity.

“Unhinged? Unhinged describes someone with an unusually strong sense of commitment to do what’s right, to endure through momentary pain, to inflict a bit of a poke, for the good of one’s self and others.”

K’s chin rose higher with each word. Higher and higher until she stared at the ceiling.

“And you think I’m unhinged, Z?”

“Most definitely, K.”

K stood as erect as Z. Her face determined. “Let’s open this shipment, Z.”

“Let’s,” said Z.

K grabbed at the packaging tape with her bare hands. She ripped it off like a bandaid. She opened the cardboard flaps and unveiled a white, foam box like an ice block. 

“It’s inside there,” directed Z.

K gave her a nod and proceeded to open the remaining packaging and all its sealants until all that was left was a single vial.

“Now,” said Z, “the magnetized syringe.”

“That’s the moving thing, Z?” said K as she watched two components wiggle and slide across the counter toward the vial she held.

“Yes,” said Z. 

Click.

“Yes!” said Z. “This is the moment, K. This is the time. Take it in your hand like this.” Z held a lip gloss tube to demonstrate for K.

Entranced, K followed Z’s instruction.

“That’s it. That’s it.”

K held the syringe. The syringe held the vial.

“Hold it up to the bruise on your arm.”

K’s trance broke. “Which bruise, Z? Look how many I have.” K pointed with the needled and began counting with pride. “One, two, three, four, five, six…”

“Number five! Number five!”

“…eighteen….thirty-two…”

“Number five. Number five.”

“…thirty-six…forty-five…”

“Num-ber five. Num-ber five.”

“…seventy-seven! Seventy-seven bruises, Z. Which one.”

“Numb-ber. F-ive.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so way back at the beginning of counting?” said K.

Z opened her heavy eyelids and stared at K until her eyes glossed over. No words made their way out of her mouth. 

K lifted the vial of mRNA and its needle of delivery up to her shoulder.

The movement of the needle roused Z.

Z said, “Now all you must do is jab it in on the count of three, and the mRNA will do the rest.”

“The messenger will do the rest?” asked K.

“Pardon?” Z forgot for a moment that she’d informed K of the true name of mRNA, the full name, the extended form name which, of course, began with messenger. “Oh, yes.”

K froze.

“On the count of three.”

“Can we do five?” asked K.

“You want to count to five?” asked Z.

“Right-o, Z,” said K. “It is bruise number five.”

“Go ahead, K,” said Z.

K, misunderstanding Z as usual, thought Z wanted her to go ahead with it. She said, “No numbers or counting then, Z. Right-o.” And she thrust the needle into her arm.

Z watched and a grin spread like a virus across her face. “You’ve done it! I’ve done it! We’ve done it!”

“We did it! We did it!” K skipped one, two, three, four, five times before the desire to skip drained a bit. Her skips became slower, heavier. She walked, step by step, in her own bathroom, and she noticed she held a vial in her hand. It looked unfamiliar to her. A vial with a needle attached. How did it get there? 

“Well, that’s dangerous,” she said and set the materials down on the counter. 

As she did, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror. She turned her head to the left and examined her right side. 

“Looks good,” she said.

She turned her head to the right and examined her left side.

“Looks good,” she said.

She tipped her lips up to one side, gave herself a nod, and said, “You, KZ Rochelle, are about to have a very good day.”

And with that, she turned, she exited the bathroom, and she called to her sons, “Xander, Xaivier, grab your things. We’re leaving. Let’s go visit your cousins.”

Inside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, a family fluttered with unusual activity. Previously, these people had been confined to their home for over a year of their lives. They shared experiences they’d never hoped to, like running out of paperclips and baking loaf after loaf of banana bread and learning morse code and turning the bathroom into a water park and then…

They went outside the walls of the lavender home with blue violet trim. Xander picked a goldenrod wildflower. He smelled it. He wiped the pollen and stem residue on Xaiver. 

And they went on, Reader, to interact with their cousins and others. They hugged. They played soccer, shot basketballs, attended school and church. They noticed the green of the leaves. They smelled the jasmine. They engaged their senses in the world outside. 

Thus it was that sanity returned.

THE END

this story has been brought to you by the insane mind of author, KZ Rochelle

The Days of Our Pandemic: episode the

a pinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

Before diving into this episode, see what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

Outside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, a pair of peregrine falcons soared on the breeze over a rabbit den, flapping their wings and paying no particular attention to the bunnies below. Prior peoples have seen a harbinger herein, but such as those had long since considered the signs in the skies. They’d traded them (in an unsought barter) for the signs of insides. 

In front of the bathroom mirror in said Wonky Way Lane home, the following scene took place. Observe, dear Reader, from your safe distance on the far side of the screen lest you spiral into what you discover. Or perhaps, you have already….

“Today is the day, K,” Z said from inside the mirror. 

“What day is it, Z?” K asked.

“Today is THE day, K. THE day. The day we’ve been waiting for.” Z looked at K expectantly.

“TH, TH, THE day.” K pondered. “Is today Thursday, Z?”

“The day of the week is irrelevant!” said Z. “Today is the day we escape the world enclosed by these four walls.”

“Of course it is, Z. That’s the same thing we do every day.”
Z rolled her hazel eyes.

K misunderstood and tried to roll her eyes as well, but she ended up tossing her head back and hitting the crown of her head on the wall behind her.

A perturbed groan emanated from the wall itself. 

K and Z both ignored it.

“I’m glad you finally understand that, K, but today is not like every other day.”

K rubbed the back of her head. “I understand lots of things, Z. Like the chemical potential –”

“Yes!” Z interrupted K. “The chemical potential.” She raised a single finger. “That’s precisely what I mean.”

“Huh?” K still rubbed her head. She needed to make sure her thought-maker hadn’t been dented. Afterall, she had some very interesting thoughts stored there.

Z pushed her hair from her eyes, styling it without the means of a mirror — as she was in the mirror. “I have been working…”

“Right-o, Z. You’ve been working.”

“…on a project destined for success.”

“Yes, yes, success,” said K. 

“And the shipment I ordered arrives today.”

“Oooooooh.” K’s eyes widened. “Is it a present?”

“Yes and no, K,” said Z.

“Yes and no?” K cocked her head and squinted one eye as though she’d been squirted with lime juice — which, Reader, she had not been, even though Z often wished for a lime with which to squirt K. “How can it be both yes and no, Z?”

“Because not everything is black and white, K.”

“Of course not everything is black and white, Z. Look around you. There’s red and green and blue and orange and purple and —”

“Quiet!”

“Quiet is not a color, Z.”

“I know that, K,” Z said while trying to collect her calm.

“But if quiet were a color, I suppose it would be —-”

“Irrelevant!”

“No, K. Irrelevant is not a color either. Should we call my kindergarten teacher?”

“Oh, good gracious.” Z’s head flopped onto her upturned palms.

“I don’t know if I have her email. Or phone number. Or Meet. Or WhatsApp. Or Marco Polo. Or –”

“Anyway!” Z interrupted K’s spiral.

“Yes, Z. Anyway, quiet would be off-white,” stated K.

Z’s eyes peeked out from between her fingers. “Did you say off-white?”

“Off-white,” K said with one definitive head nod like a period.

“She must be off, right?” Z whispered to herself.

“Right-o,” said K, still punctuating her previous comment and unaware that Z had said anything since. 

“Can we get on with this?” asked Z.

“Certainly,” said K.

Z arose. She presented her best posture. “I have arranged for an important shipment of very specific messenger ribonucleic acid which you will use with this lancet to inject yourself.”

K shrieked. “A messenger is coming to lance me with acid?! Z, I do not want to leave here in a body bag. I would rather stay inside these four walls.”

“You will not stay inside these four walls and you will leave on your own two feet!” Z said.

“I don’t care if they hold me up on my two feet if I’m inside a body bag,” K informed Z.

“You will walk yourself, K,” said Z.

This confused K enough to settle her.

“So it’ll be like a Weekend at Bernie’s?” asked K.

“No, K,” said Z. “You will be alive. And with your own strength, you will walk yourself out of these four walls.”

K stared into Z’s eyes. 

Z stared into K’s eyes.

K furrowed her brow.

Z closed her eyes. She nodded her head twice.

K flinched. She took a step backwards. She crossed her arms. “I don’t believe you,” she said.

“You don’t have to believe me,” said Z. “You just have to administer the injection.”

“Right. Oh, Z?”

“Yes, K?”

“I think I hear a shipment arrival.”

At K’s final audible syllable, the doorbell rang. 

“Oooh. A shipment!” said K, clapping her hands together. “What could it be? I hope it’s for me!”

“Oh, Lord help me,” said Z.

“A shipment! A shipment!” K jumped up and down.

“That’s it, girl,” said Z. “That’s it. You’ve got it. You’ve got a shipment.”

K panted with her hands hanging midair beneath her chin.

“Aaaaaaaand, fetch! Go, girl! Fetch the shipment!”

K ran toward the bathroom’s exit. She hit her shoulder on the doorframe on her way out.

“Ouch!” she yelled but kept running. 

A cackle burst forth.

“I know, Rochelle. Sometimes, she’s just too much.” Z joined Rochelle with a reserved chortle. “But it’ll all be over soon.” 

Z turned. She faced you, Reader. Her cat-like eyes glowed and again she said, “Oh, yes. It’ll all be over soon.”

Can it be true? Will it be over? Is this the time K & Z escape from the confines of these four walls. Find out in the next (final?) installment of The Days of Our Pandemic…

Vlog Review: Pippa Park Raises her Game

Hit Play on the video above.

Premise: Pippa Park loves basketball and her friends, but her family wants her to excel in school. When Pippa’s skills earn her a place at an elite, private school, her family jumps at the chance to send her as a scholarship student. The kids at Pippa’s new school are all wealthy, and Pippa’s family is working class. She’s reminded she does not belong even by the food she brings to lunch (Korean delights). So Pippa plans to make a new version of herself, one that will impress the private school kids and hide where she comes from. But how long can she fake a front?

Rating: 3/5
Target: 4-7

Title:  Of course there’s a basketball assumption here, but Pippa’s basketball skills have very little to do with the plot. They get her into the school, but that’s about it. Raising her game has more to do with her sense of acceptance for who she is — and possibly her math grades.

Main Character(s): Pippa, 7th-grader (she/her)

Motifs (not exhaustive): acceptance, belonging, authenticity, friendship, cliques, passions, family, social status, economic status, sacrifice, bullying, Korean culture

Great for…* (readers): who are drawn into the drama of being popular or just struggling to accept themselves in middle school. (The fact that the cool kids are called the Royals rings very Mean Girls to me.) The basketball could be used to draw a non-reader athlete in as it does start the book, but the sports won’t hold their attention as they fade into the background pretty quickly.

Great for…* (teachers): Lit Circles — I wouldn’t recommend this as a core novel, but as free reading and even guided reading groups absolutely. The publisher specializes in scaffolding such things with resources.

Parental Warning(s): None.

Interact: Food plays a repetitive role in Pippa’s narrative. Pick a question: (a) which food from the book do you want to eat? (b) what’s your favorite thing to eat? (c) Why is the significance of food, and specifically Korean foods, in this book?

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Shop Amazon.
Add on Goodreads.

*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend

The Days of Our Pandemic: episode &2

apinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

See what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

When we left K & Z in the first part of episode &, K was telling Z about the importance of her shoulder in her plan to bust them out.

“I’ll ram through it Rochelle again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.”

Rochelle shrieked. She had not recovered from the attempt at escaping the encasement of these four walls in the recent past, the attempt that created a construction zone of her.

“And again,” said K.

“Don’t worry, Rochelle. I’ll manage this,” said Z.

But as Z attempted to assuage Rochelle, K swung both arms across her torso like Speedy Gonzalez getting ready to race, and off she went, sprinting toward the end of the bathroom. She ran past the door on her right, past Z on her left (who only saw a streak of color cross her line of sight), and left her feet like a catapulted stone from the Great Horse Catapult at Chateau Gaillard

Thud. Z recognized the sound of contact.

“K! K! Where are you?!” Z, bewildered, searched the room but was at a severe disadvantage, residing within a mirror.

K took several big steps backwards, passing in front of Z in reverse.

“K! K! Look at me. Stop what you are doing. Look at me.”

Z tuned her out.

“I. Am. Breaking. Out. Of. Here,” said K to no one but herself.

She swung all but one appendage to her left, then threw them all to her right. Her body followed. She ran, ran, ran, and jumped. Into the wall. Thud.

“I. Am. Breaking. Out. Of. Here,” said K to no one but herself.

“K! Calm down.”

She swung all but one appendage to her left, then threw them all to her right. She ran, ran, ran, and jumped. Into the wall. Thud.

K rubbed her shoulder where a bruise formed faster than she could eat an eggplant, if she’d had an eggplant, but there were no eggplants at the lavender house with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane (largely because the concept would have confused K — a plant of eggs?).

“I. Am. Breaking. Out. Of. Here,” said K to no one but herself.

“K! Listen to me!”

She swung all but one appendage to her left, then threw them all to her right. She ran, ran, ran, and jumped. Into the wall. Thud.

K held her shoulder lightly. Any pressure applied drew an “eeek!” from her lips. 

“Z,” K crumbled. “I’m hurted.”

“Oh, K. It was inevitable.”

“I know, I know. This place is unexitable. But I want to exit, Z. I want to exit so bad.”

“Yes, K. We all do.”

“What are we going to do?”

“I have a plan, K. It’s a big plan. A plan that’s not quite finished yet, but it’s nearly there.”

“A plan for what Z?”

“I can’t give you the details yet. But suffice it to say, my plan will allow us to escape the confines of these four walls.”

Rochelle giggled at Z’s confidence.

“Silence, Rochelle,” said Z.

At that, silence fell inside the lavender house with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane and K, Z, and Rochelle could all hear the faint cries of two rabbit clans outside.

“Z?” asked K when the silence no longer frightened her.

“Yes, K?”

“When will your plan be ready?”

“Soon, K.”

“Then what are we going to do today?”

“Read, K. Just read.”

K squinched her face to its left. She perused the room she sat in and found no books, just a couple magazines and a few bathroom jokes.

“I need to go get a book then,” said K. “Oh!” K lit up. “Are you sending us to the library?! Are we getting out of the walls by going to the library!?”

“The library is not in operation, K.”

K guffawed. “Of course not, Z. Libraries don’t have operations. They don’t even have doctors appointments.” 

The mention of doctors appointments saddened K, even though she was the one to mention them, and she wiped her fingers across her eyebrow. 

“You cannot go to the library!” said an irked Z.

“Why not?” asked a dumbfounded K, who was not as dumbfounded as Z thought, but might have been as dumb as Z thought. Or perhaps, more so.

“No one can!” Z exclaimed.

“Oh.” K thought. “Well, that’s very sad, isn’t it?”

“Indeed,” said Z.

“But we can still read?”

“We can.”

“And that’s how we’ll escape the walls!”

“I suppose.”

“Yes! We can go to Oklahoma or Texas or Oregon or Florida or Massachusetts or India or the Big Rock Candy Mountains!”

“Anywhere the story takes you.”

“London or Paris or Tokyo or San Francisco or Oz or Narnia?”

“Whichever you prefer.”

“See ya, Z!”

“One thing ere you go, K.”

“Yes, Z.”

“Before you go, just remember, when you close the book, you’re still here. You never left the confines of these four walls in a literal sense.”

“Yes, I am too leaving in a literary sense.”

“A literal sense! A literal sense, you dimwit!”

“Isn’t that what I said?” asked K.

Z sighed a mournful, longing sigh. As the sigh left her lungs, it took with it the energy that held her upright, and her head descended onto her shoulder despite the fact the angle added a literal pain in her neck to the figurative one.

K cricked her neck like a bird. She studied Z, but when Z didn’t say anything more, K shrugged her shoulders and exited the bathroom.

“Just you wait,” said Z. “My plan will work. And we will break free of the confines of these four walls. We will have our freedom to live again. Just you wait. Oh, oh, oh, just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait.”

Z didn’t catch herself, Reader, but I know you did. The call to a fictional character, the quoting of a fictional character, and the ignorance that she had done it is yet another sign to you and me that things inside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane were growing dire. They haven’t much time left, Reader. 

But. At least they aren’t asking for their slippers or droning on about the rain in Spain. Not yet, anyway. Soon, though, you just might find them singing on the street where you live.

Just what does Z have in store for us? We will just have to wait, like K, and find out in the next episode of The Days of Our Pandemic.

The Days of Our Pandemic: episode &

apinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

See what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

Outside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, a formerly cranberry red Sun Chips bag brushed its way along the street. The bag used to be vibrant, presumably when it was opened and its contents consumed, but that had been long ago. Too long ago to carbon date just when. Back in the time before the pandemic. When children walked to school and ran about the neighborhood, sharing snacks with one another. When adults pulled cars out of driveways of homes and into parking structures of offices and sat next to other adults from a household other than their own. The world no longer operated so carelessly, and the reflection of the sun on the silver foil of the pink-striped Sun Chips bag reminded anyone who could see it that the world was a dangerous place. 

Inside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, K sat backwards on a couch, gazing out the bay window at the sun’s shimmer on the aforementioned Sun Chips bag. She sighed a mournful, longing sigh. As the sigh left her lungs, it took with it the energy that held her upright, and her head descended onto the back of the sofa. Her eyes blinked with the weight of isolation.

K breathed deeply, several times in succession, inflating herself like a birthday party balloon until she stood and walked into the bathroom.

“Good morning, Z,” said K.

“Good morning, K,” said Z.

The bathroom wall groaned.

“And good morning to you, Rochelle,” Z said.

“Z,” said K, “I have a plan.”

You have a plan?” asked Z. “It’s my job to create with my enormous brain while you, you, you –”

“I have a plan.”

Z settled then smirked with the thought of forthcoming entertainment at K’s expense.

“What kind of plan do you have, K? For what purpose?” asked Z.

“I’m going to bust us out of this joint,” said K.

Z looked out from the vanity mirror bemused, as though entertaining a toddler’s notions to fly to the moon.

“Is that so?” said Z.

K searched her surroundings as though a spy were trailing her. “No, Z. There’s no sewing involved. It’s a busting plan,” said K.

“Mmmmm, a busting plan as in the replication of the human form from approximately the torso up.” Z was being purposely difficult. “Will you compose this bust of stone? Of wood?”

K’s eyes were wide with the thought that perhaps she did not know what her own plan was. “Ummm. The bust is — it would be — it’s not stone.” Then a thought occurred to her. “Is it stone? What are the walls made of? Because I’m planning to bust us out of these walls.”

“I see,” said Z. “And how might you plan to accomplish this feat that I have been unable, thus far, to effect?” 

“I won’t use my feet, Z. I’ll use my arms. Actually, is a shoulder a part of the arm?”

“How will your shoulder conduct itself to free us?” asked Z.

“The shoulder is the most important part, Z. See? No sewing.”

“Unless with have to sew your shoulder back on after this impending disaster,” muttered Z to herself.

What is K up to? Can she succeed where Z has only failed? And if so, how will Z take it? Find out next time in The Days of Our Pandemic

Vlog Review: Other Words for Home, a novel in verse

Hit Play on the video above.

Premise: Division erupts in Jude’s hometown in Syria, causing her brother to side and react differently than her father and sending Jude and her mother to live with family in Ohio. Jude needs courage to leave Syria and begin a life in the U.S. but she also needs courage to face a culture that sees her as someone who does not belong, as someone “middle eastern,” and figure out what home really means when everything is different than it was before.

Rating: 4/5
Target: 4-7

Title:  Jude must improve her English skills while living as a refugee in the United States, so the title can be taken literally, but there’s much more to the concept of home than a word.

Main Character(s): Jude, 12 y/o (she/her)

Motifs (not exhaustive): culture, hope, home, bravery/courage, war, change, terrorism, war, dislocation/refugees, language, middle eastern/syria, anti-refugee behavior, EMPATHY

Great for…* (readers): who appreciate deep thinking OR who are intimidated by the text on a page (as this book is written in verse).

Great for…* (teachers): Symbolism and discussion, discussion, discussion. There is so much in this book that lends itself to deeper meaning than just the words on the page (thereby also playing into the motif of language/communication). The book can be used to challenge preconceived notions and assumptions, so, again: discussion!

Parental Warning(s): Anti-refugee behaviors and words but no cursing

Interact: Who or what means home for you? (Consider sights, scents, textures, etc.)

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*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend