“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.

“The Titanic” by Katrina Charman

The TitanicRated 5 stars ***** 2018. Hachette Book Group. Survival Tails #1. Includes “Timeline,” Titanic facts, “Animals on the Titanic,” “Animal facts,” Glossary,” and a “Further reading” section which includes books, websites, and a documentary.

Almost everyone knows the story of the Titanic, the so-called “unsinkable ship” which struck an iceberg and sank in the early morning of April 15, 1912. However, did you know there were animals on board? Though those animals couldn’t tell us their stories, Katrina Charman will tell you the story of three specific animals who were on the Titanic and who COULD talk.

Mutt, a mangy dog, met up with King Leon, a wily rat, when he was trying to sneak aboard to search for his human. He knew she was in third class with her father, but didn’t know how to find her. King Leon helped him figure out how to get on the ship but Clara, the captain’s cat, discovered Mutt and put him in charge of three motherless kittens she’d found hiding in a lifeboat.

In between recounting true facts about the Titanic and its final hours, Charman entertains readers with Mutt’s adventures, King Leon’s food conquests, and Clara’s queenly attitudes. Readers are drawn into their stories, which give new meaning to the tears we shed when the Titanic does sink, as it must do.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“Jinxed” by Amy McCulloch

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published January 1, 2020. Sourcebooks. Jinxed #1. 328 p.

JinxedEveryone has a baku, a cute robot that can look like a dog, cat, bird, insect or other animal. No one needs old-fashioned telephones or computers because bakus take care of all your technology needs. Bakus were created by companioneers in Moncha Corp., twelve-year-old Lacey’s dream job.

Lacey loves fixing bakus and inspecting old ones, so wire, metal, a 3D printer, and a soldering iron are her best friends. As a companioneer she’ll get to design bakus of the future so, if she can make it into Profectus Academy where students are trained on the latest technology, she knows her dream will come true.

While helping a friend find her lost baku, Lacey stumbles upon a large piece of metal that came from Moncha Corp. She takes it to her workshop and discovers it’s a ruined, but technologically sophisticated, cat baku she names Jinx. It takes all summer to repair him but, unlike other bakus, Jinx has a mind of his own and often disobeys Lacey – leading to all sorts of problems with her fellow classmates and teachers.

While trying to get through the baku battles that are part of her new life at Profectus, Jinx continues to show how different he is from other bakus. Lacey figures out Jinx is a Moncha Corp. secret, and tries her best to keep him out of the spotlight. She soon finds out someone else knows about Jinx, and will stop at nothing to take him from her.

Now THIS was an exciting book! I’m upset it’s part of a series, as I really hate reading books that are part of a series without the rest of the series in front of me. With the very open, and exciting ending, I NEEDED to have the rest of the series in front of me. Now I’m going to have to wait FOREVER to find out what happens next to Jinx and Lacey. Commence screaming now………….

Highly recommended for ages 11-15, IF you think you can finish without screaming because you want to read book two RIGHT NOW!