Rated 5 stars *****. 2019. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random House). 187 p. (Includes “Glossary” and “Author’s Note.”)
Eleven-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.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. HarperCollins Children’s Books. 249 p.
Jordan’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.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Scholastic. 250 p. (Includes Author’s Note.)
In 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.
Rated 3 stars *** Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2007. 116 p.
At 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.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. DC Zoom. To be published January 21, 2020.
Thirteen-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.
Rated 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.
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