Review: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

honesttruthThe beauty of working in children’s publishing is getting the opportunity to read some great young adult and middle grade novels.

(I highly recommend reading a middle grade novel when you’re looking for a nice escape and a book with limited time commitment.)

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, released by Scholastic Press in January 2015, has been getting a lot of great reviews – and for a good reason. This novel tackles sensitive topics in a unique way, and the writing is really quite profound.

The novel is told in alternating first-person and third-person chapters, which I initially found jarring but ultimately embraced. It was a choice made for a reason, and I like when authors try something different.

The protagonist of The Honest Truth is twelve-year-old Mark. Mark is “normal” in that he likes writing haikus with his best friend, Jessica, and taking photographs with his grandfather’s camera. He has a loyal dog named Beau who has been through everything with him. But Mark is not normal in the fact that he is very sick. This sickness has disrupted his life for so long that he decides to run away. And so, Mark packs his backpack and sets off to climb a mountain, with Beau by his side. It’s his one goal, and the one thing he can control.

As a reader I had to suspend my disbelief as this young boy and his dog face challenges and meet all sorts of characters. Back at home, Mark’s parents are scared and heartbroken; Jessica, in her third-person narration, worries about responsibility. Is it her responsibility to tell Mark’s parents where he’s gone? Is it her responsibility to keep her best friend’s secret?

The Honest Truth is tastefully-done, and certainly brought a few tears to my eyes. One of my favorite relationships in the novel? The bond between Mark and Beau! I’m sure all pet owners will understand that unbreakable bond.

I think this is a great novel for middle grade readers because the characters are vivid and the novel’s format is engaging. The topics of pain, grief, responsibility, and friendship will hopefully spark discussion between friends and in the classroom.

Have you read The Honest Truth? What middle grade novels have stuck with you over the years?

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Kids Rule: Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

I am very, very proud of the youth of today.

I may not like their fashion sense, their newfangled Urban Dictionary vocabulary (remember when all we had to deal with was “LOL?”), or the fact that they never had to suffer through the agony of dial-up internet, but there is one thing I like:

They’re reading. A lot.


The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a free, worldwide challenge for children and schools. Between May 5th and September 5th, children can sign up on the Scholastic website (younger children can get help from their parents!) and log the minutes they spend reading. They can also participate in weekly challenges, enter giveaways, and unlock special messages. There are also resources for teachers and parents, including helpful tips and book lists to keep kids motivated.

In the summer of 2013, kids read a total of 176,438,473 minutes. That’s a lot, right?

Top10InfographicWell, this summer, all those young bookworms broke that record by the end of July. On July 28th it was announced that Summer Reading Challenge participants had already logged 200 million minutes! And they’re still going!

This year, the theme of the challenge is “Reading Under the Stars.” When kids log their minutes on the website, they can unlock special constellations to find videos and other surprises. The theme also encourages kids to get out of the house and spend time outside. Between lots of reading and fresh air, who has time for television or the internet?

I remember when I was younger and I participated in my local library’s summer reading program. We would be given printed sheets that we would fill out with the titles of the books we read that summer. For every five or ten books, we’d get a small prize like a pencil or some stickers. These little incentives were a thrill, but what really made me excited was watching the title spaces fill up!

I think that technology and social media are a blessing in this case, because children are able to see how their minutes spent reading really add up. And to know that they’re contributing to a record-breaking statistic? It’s very, very cool.

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is in its eighth year. It was originally created to help prevent the effects of “summer slide,” the learning losses that can occur when kids are out of school for the summer months. Parents and teachers – don’t despair – I’d say the kids are doing alright. They’re record-breaking readers now, and the summer’s not even over yet!

Do you remember participating in summer reading programs? Do you have any children in your life who are participating in the Scholastic Summer Challenge or a similar program? I’d love to hear about different experiences.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.