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Sizzlin' Summer Reads

Book your free time with Florida favorites

Published June 7, 2004

Nothing to Lose

Contents Under Pressure

Mallory on the Move

Evangeline Brown and the Cadillac Motel

A Long Way from Chicago

My Louisiana Sky

Hooray for summer. School's out. Summer camp, trips to the beach, family reunions and plenty of free time are in - finally. Mmmmm, can't you just smell those burgers and hot dogs sizzling on the grill?

But charcoal's not the only thing that's red-hot this summer. Right here each Monday, we'll bring you the best of the new books to keep you flipping pages faster than dad trying to rescue the chicken from another flame-broiled fiasco.

Each week in Sizzlin' Summer Reads, a Newspaper in Education feature, I will suggest a couple of books. And we'll get some recommendations as well from authors, industry folks, librarians and kids like you. So grab your Ray-Bans and start reading.

This week features favorites by Florida authors who have a few summer reads of their own to share.

NOTHING TO LOSE by Alex Flinn (HarperCollins, ages 13 to 17)

"I shouldn't have come back to Miami." Seventeen-year-old Michael Daye's simple words open popular young-adult author Alex Flinn's (Breathing Underwater, Breaking Point) latest book. The words fill you with questions that keep you reading: Why not come back? Mom's on trial for the murder of Michael's abusive stepfather, and no one has seen Michael since just before the murder. Finding a safe haven operating the Whack-a-Mole game in a traveling carnival, Michael's now back home. Why did he return? Is this Michael's chance to speak up for his mother? Flinn's experiences working on domestic-abuse cases with the State Attorney's Office give her books straight-from-the-headlines impact that keep even I-hate-to-read teens gripped from Page 1.

Recommendations from Alex Flinn: "My must-read for summer is CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE by Lara M. Zeises" (Delacorte Books, ages 12 and older).

Lucy is 14 and feels like a misfit beside her other friends who already have boyfriends, and she idolizes her perfect older brother, Jack. When Jack returns from college with his live-in girlfriend, Lucy struggles with her feelings of jealousy and, later, discomfort at how he's treating the girl. But she's soon distracted by something else: the attentions of a hot upperclassman named Tobin.

This is a must-read for middle school and high school students, a funny chick-lit novel that also teaches some valuable lessons about boy-girl relationships.

For younger readers, Flinn's pick is MALLORY ON THE MOVE by Florida author Laurie Friedman (Carolrhoda Books, ages 7 to 10).

In this first of a planned series (the second will be out this fall), 8-year-old Mallory moves to a new neighborhood and learns some lessons about change. Flinn said her 8-year-old daughter was laughing hysterically in the back seat of their car while reading this on a recent road trip.

EVANGELINE BROWN AND THE CADILLAC MOTEL by Michele Ivy Davis (Dutton Books, ages 9 to 12).

Living in a hotel that sports the back of a pink Cadillac poking out the side may sound kind of cool, unless it's your home and your teacher's coming to visit. For sixth-grader Eddie Brown (calling her "Evangeline" is a major mistake), shame and embarrassment seem to stick to her like a T-shirt on a Florida summer afternoon. Sure that her father's drinking will land her in a foster home, Eddie and fellow outsider Farrell devise a plan to run away . . . but to what? If you ever felt like the only one who didn't quite fit in, this is your kind of book.

Recommendations from Michele Ivy Davis: "I loved A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO by Richard Peck (Puffin, ages 9 to 12). Wouldn't we all like to have a summer adventure with grandmother like that!" She also liked MY LOUISIANA SKY by Kimberly Willis Holt (Yearling Books, ages 9 to 12). What do you do when you have caught up with your parents and are more grown up than they are because they are mentally challenged? This takes place in the 1950s and is a much more serious story.

- Holly Atkins teaches seventh-grade language arts at Southside Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg. If you have some Sizzlin' Summer Reads to share, send your recommendations along with your name, age, school, grade you will be in in August, address, phone number and e-mail address to Holly Atkins, c/o Newspaper in Education, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. You can also send recommendations to

[Last modified June 4, 2004, 14:18:53]

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