“The bridge home” Padma Venkatraman

Rated 5 stars *****. 2019. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random House). 187 p. (Includes “Glossary” and “Author’s Note.”)

TheBridgeHomeEleven-year-old Viji and twelve-year-old Rukku’s mom was abused by her husband, but always believed him when he said he was sorry. Viji knew Rukku had special needs, and had always taken care of her older sister but, when her father hit them in a fit of rage, she knew they’d have to run away.

With nowhere to go and only a bit of money, they bus to the city where Rukku becomes attached to a homeless puppy, and they become friends with two homeless boys living on a bridge. There they build their own ramshackle tent, and the boys help her forage for recyclables in stinking trash dumps with other homeless children that they sell for pittances.

Hunger dulls their strength but, as time passes, the four forge strong bonds of friendship. Though they wind up living on a grave under a tree in a cemetery after marauding men destroy their home on the bridge, Viji tries to keep believing in her dream of becoming a teacher. Each day of looking for food in trashcans, and hoping to earn money on the dump, makes her dream seem impossible.

This moving story, based on real children’s first-person accounts, is an eye opener for many who might be unaware of the plight of over 1.8 million children living on the streets of India, working and eating from its many garbage dumps while trying to avoid abuse and slavery.

Recommended for ages 10-14.

“New kid” by Jerry Craft

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. HarperCollins Children’s Books. 249 p.

New kidJordan’s parents, especially his mom, feel that sending him to an expensive private school will be the ticket to his having a “leg up,” which will open doors in his life. Jordan loves drawing and wants to go to art school, but is sent to become Riverdale Academy Day School’s (RAD) newest financial aid student – one of only a few students of color.

Having to negotiate a new world of rich, almost all white kids, feeling judged by the color of his skin, enduring subtle (and not-so-subtle) racism, and a seeming inability to bridge the gap between Washington Heights and Riverdale make it seem as if Jordan and his schoolmates are worlds apart. He wonders how to find commonality and friendship with them without sacrificing the life he knows in Washington Heights. But, through the eyes of his twelve-year-old experiences, Craft’s humor and colorful illustrations depict Jordan’s predicaments in ways that will evoke thought provoking responses from his readers. “New kid” will make an excellent Book Club book.

Awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal at the January 2020 American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards in Philadelphia, “New Kid” will go down in history as being the first graphic novel to receive this award. It was also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“The forgotten girl” India Hill Brown

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Scholastic. 250 p. (Includes Author’s Note.)

The Forgotten girlIn the small town of Easaw North Carolina, Iris hates that everyone in her middle school seems to forget about her accomplishments as Captain of the Step Team. Several times she wasn’t invited to important school events, leading her to believe the administration was purposely leaving her out of things.

Determined to make everyone notice her, Iris and her best friend Daniel take on the task of researching abandoned cemeteries after they stumble upon several hidden graves, including one of an 11-year-old named Avery Moore. They were surprised to find out that cemeteries used to be segregated, with black cemeteries falling into disrepair during the Great Migration. Iris and Daniel decided they wanted to have this abandoned cemetery restored.

Soon after their discovery of her grave, Avery began to make herself known in different ways to a very terrified Iris. Avery doesn’t like being forgotten, and wants to make sure she is remembered. Iris is key, and Avery plans to make sure the two of them become forever friends – forever remembered – together.

I liked this book. Its short chapters, with cliffhanger endings, will keep even reluctant readers glued to the pages.

Recommended for ages 10-15.

“Edwards eyes” by Patricia MacLachlan

Rated 3 stars *** Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2007. 116 p.

Edward's eyesAt the tender age of three, Jake’s baby brother Edward was placed in his arms. He was mesmerized by Edward’s eyes, which represented the overwhelming love he felt for his new brother. As Edward grew older he loved playing baseball with his neighborhood friends, while Jake enjoyed watching him play. One afternoon a sudden and unexpected surprise forever changes Jake’s life, causing him to see Edward’s eyes in a completely new way.

Though tackling difficult subjects, MacLachlan’s simple style of writing helps readers understand the love and pain felt by this young family. I’m not sure why she inserted all sorts of song lyrics into the book. Perhaps it was to show how music was one of the many ways the family had fun and grew more united. That’s my guess. Would one of my readers care to give a response here on the blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Recommended for ages 9-12.

 

“Green Lantern: Legacy” by Minh Le. Illustrated by Andie Tong

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. DC Zoom. To be published January 21, 2020.

Green lantern legacyThirteen-year-old Vietnamese-American Tai Pham lives with his parents and grandmother above the Jade Market, her Vietnamese grocery store. Though someone keeps spitefully breaking the store windows, and his parents want her to sell because the neighborhood has changed, she refuses. After her death, Tai inherits her jade ring and soon finds out that owning it automatically makes him a Green Lantern – Guardian of the Planet.

Though he’s been warned about the dark side of power the more Tai learns about the powerful things he can do as a Green Lantern the more he starts to let everything get to his head – especially when Xander Griffin, a local billionaire, takes him under his wing. Tai will have to decide what kind of Green Lantern he wants to be, and will need to come to that decision very quickly.

Tai’s adventures, and the richly colored, detailed illustrations, make for quick page turning. It will keep even the most reluctant reader glued to its pages. I enjoyed reading about the first Vietnamese-American Green Lantern, and love that DC superheroes are being diversified – allowing even more readers to see themselves in its pages.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“I remember: Poems and pictures of heritage” compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

I rememberRated 5 stars ***** Lee & Low. 2019. (Includes background material for each of the authors and illustrators, as well as definitions of words that might be difficult for readers to understand.)

How do you check “other” on a form asking about your race when you are bi-racial and more than an other? Do you have childhood memories spent with your grandmother? When you taste a specific food what memories come to mind that evoke your childhood? These questions and more are pondered in this book that’s rich with the voices of well-known diverse authors sharing their childhood memories through poetry.

Each poem is accompanied by a full page, brilliantly illustrated, full-color interpretation of the author’s words. The strength of the poems lie in their diversity of subject matter, because of the diverse authors and illustrators who created this compilation, and in the teachable moments that allow readers to better understand not only their own heritage but that of someone else.

Lee Bennett Hopkins mentioned in the introduction “Heritage makes us who we are…. [so] Read. Look. Listen. Hear. See.” Make sure you do. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Every public and school library should have a copy of this book, and should plan activities around it with their community. A compilation of childhood memories, written in poetic form by schools and communities across the country, would be an amazing tribute to the authors, illustrators, and to Lee Bennett Hopkins who passed away a few months ago.

Highly recommended for ages 8 and older.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

“Trees make perfect pets” by Paul Czajak; pictures by Cathy Gendron

Trees make perfect pets

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published March 2020.

On Abigail’s birthday she announced that she wanted a pet. Agreeably her family came up with different types of pets for her to get, but Abigail wanted a tree. Despite their arguments that trees can’t be pets, she reminds them that trees help us breathe and insists on getting a dogwood tree.

Abigail carts the tree around the neighborhood, listening to others talk about its unsuitability as a pet. Despite the naysayers Abigail loves her tree, and is reluctant to give it an outdoor home until it grows too big. Once its planted all sorts of animals make it their friend, prompting Abigail to say,¬†“A tree is everyone’s best friend!”

Full-page colorful illustrations describe Abigail’s quest to make the tree her pet, and remind readers of why trees are important to everyone.

Recommended for ages 5 to 10.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“All the way to the top: How one girl’s fight for Americans with disabilities changed everything” by Annette Bay Pimentel; pictures by Nabi H. Ali

All the way to the top

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published March 2020. Includes a foreword by Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins as well as back matter with “The road to the top” (information on activism), “Life before and after the ADA,” a Timeline, and a Bibliography.

Now that she was finally old enough, Jennifer couldn’t wait for kindergarten to start. Unfortunately, because she was in a wheelchair, she was denied admittance to school. At the next school she was allowed to attend – but only if she came after lunch. Jennifer and her family join a group of activists, determined to find a way to change the law to allow better access to public spaces for those with disabilities.¬†Courageously Jennifer and the activists took their protests to Washington D.C., where they abandoned their wheelchairs and crawled up the Capitol steps to make Congress aware of why they were protesting.

Bright, full-color illustrations, as well as information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and those who fought for its passage, make this an important book to have in all public and school libraries. I was moved by the crawl up the steps of the Capitol,¬†and Jennifer’s determination on the YouTube video of the event is clear to see.

Highly recommended for ages 7 to 12.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“Bedtime for sweet creatures” by Nikki Grimes; pictures by Elizabeth Zunon

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published January 2020.

Bedtime for sweet creatures

Using analogies of animals in a forest, a young child refuses to go to bed when it’s time to do so. Readers can hiss like a snake, while asking mommy to check for monsters, and sneak like a sly wolf to get water, as they are entertained in the toddler’s bedtime antics. Children in the 5 and under set will feel an affinity with the young child’s antics.

Zunon’s full-page colored illustrations, and realistic looking characters, help make this a bedtime book that will become a favorite in many households.

Recommended for ages 5 and under.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“Wedgie & Gizmo” by Suzanne Selfors

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2017. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollns). Wedgie & Gizmo #1.

Wedgie & GizmoIn this laugh out loud book, young readers are introduced to Wedgie, a superhero dog, and Gizmo, a guinea pig evil genius. Gizmo is not happy his loyal servant Elliott took him to a new place and abandoned him to Jasmine, who is not a good servant. He is not happy because he has to live in a very pink Barbie dollhouse, and he’s REALLY not happy that Jasmine dresses him up in pink tutus. All these things are interfering with his evil genius plans for an Evil Lair and world domination. He’s also not happy with the dumb canine.

Wedgie knows he has superpowers because Jasmine gave him a red cape. Now he’s Super Wedgie! When he runs in circles around and around near the door, it opens and he takes someone for a walk. Only wearing his super cape lets this happen! He loves taking Elliot’s mom, sister and dad for a walk. They’re his pack and he loves them. He loves his stick and loves Squirrel Tree. He ESPECIALLY loves the Furry Potato who just came to live in Jasmine’s pink dollhouse. He’s sure the Furry Potato loves him too. He really, really loves the Furry Potato.

In alternating voices Gizmo and Super Wedgie tell readers their views of the world and each other. Their conversations and actions are especially funny, with Wedgie being my favorite. Young readers, especially reluctant readers, will enjoy following their antics and will look forward to future books in the series.

Highly recommended for ages 8-12.