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R is for RURAL VOICES: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America (YA book review)

book cover of Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America. Published by Candlewick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Everyone drives a truck and wears muddy boots,
talks slow and walks even slower –
today’s teens outside big cities go way beyond those tired old ideas.

An aspiring rodeo queen in Utah draws strength from her Puerto Rican roots.

A Michigan queer girl’s 4-H showmanship in swine competition might draw her crush closer.

Forced up a tree by an angry bull, best friends finally talk about whether Alina’s stories identify with her home state or strive to distance her from West Virginia.

This collection of viewpoints and vistas includes stories by David Bowles, Joseph Bruchac, Veeda Bybee, Nora Shalaway Carpenter, Shae Carys, S. A. Cosby, Rob Costello, Randy DuBurke, David Macinnis Gill, Nasugraq Rainey Hopson, Estelle Laure, Yamile Saied Méndez, Ashley Hope Pérez, Tirzah Price, and Monica Roe.

I live outside a very small town where FFA and AP classes are on the same schedule, and young people can pursue big dreams with or without moving to the big city.

What rural voices have you heard lately?
**kmm

Book Info: Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America / Nora Shalway Carpenter, ed. Candlewick Press, 2020. [editor interview] [publisher site]

K is THE COST OF KNOWING the future, past & pain, by Brittney Morris (YA book review)

book cover of The Cost of Knowing, by Brittney Morris. Published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Accidents happen,
life goes on in sorrow,
the future is a mystery… right?

Orphaned by a car wreck, 16 year old Alex and little brother Isaiah now live with Aunt Mackie in a ‘very nice’ Chicago subdivision where a white neighbor rants in the Black family’s kitchen about requiring background checks for renters during a rap mega-star’s concert nearby.

She doesn’t know, no one knows that after the accident Alex began seeing the future of every object – and every person – that his fingers touch. Future of an ice cream dipper at Scoops is no big deal. But the longer he touches, the more of the future he sees, so touching the people he cares about is too much to bear.

When exactly will girlfriend Talia walk away from their future together?
How long can Alex endure the future invading his every breath?
Why is 12-year-old Izzy wearing headphones every single moment of summer?

Braving Izzy’s anger to find common ground before any future happens, Alex bets everything on them going to the Shiv concert together, wishing this curse would vanish… Brand-new speculative fiction from the author of Slay.

Would you want to see the future… really?
**kmm

J is CANE WARRIORS fighting enslavement in Jamaica, by Alex Wheatle (YA book review)

book cover of Cane Warriors, by Alex Wheatle. Published by Akashic Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The marks of the back-ripper whip,
fear in every breath,
time now to rise and fight!

Moa wishes that Tacky’s plan was quiet, but the 14 year old has seen too many fellow slaves worked to death in these Jamaican sugar cane fields or whipped for anything, like mentioning Midgewood who escaped from this plantation or talking about the old Akan ways and gods.

Three days from now – might be soon enough for young Hamaya since no slave can defend herself against their brutal overseer.

Can they kill all the white people on Easter Day so no one can warn the other plantations?
Can they tek the good foot across the green mountains and capture Fort Haldane?
Will Moa and his friend Keverton survive long enough to fight tomorrow?

“De blood will remember!” is the cane warriors’ cry.

Tacky’s leadership in 1760 is recounted in books and family stories, especially in St. Mary’s parish where Trinity and Frontier plantations once watered the fields with the blood of the enslaved. By the author of Home Girl (my review here).

When injustice is known, how can we answer with bravery?
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Book info: Cane Warriors: a Novel / Alex Wheatle. Akashic Books, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

I is immigration stories: COME ON IN, ed. by Adi Alsaid (YA book review)

book cover of Come On In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home, ed. by Ali Alsaid. Published by Inkyard Press-Harlequin | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Being uprooted,
Growing in a different place,
Wondering if this is the right spot or not…

Since the earliest days of this country, people have arrived ‘from away’ in waves and trickles, immigrants with high academic credentials or no shoes on their feet, all seeking a better place.

Detained by TSA, keeping diaries of now and then, “where are you really from?” – these 15 stories by noted young adult authors who are themselves immigrants or children of immigrants illustrate the many facets of moving away and starting anew.

“The Wedding” of two Americans must be held in Canada so great-uncle from Iran may attend – travel ban keeping old man and his older brother from seeing each other for years.

High school in New Jersey is so different from Bombay that Priya cannot speak aloud, even as her little brother’s new hearing aids open up the world for him, in “First Words.”

Her grandparents finally have visas from Venezuela, but Valentina’s lost all her Spanish – how will they even communicate? “Hard to Say”…

Short story contributors include Adi Alsaid, Varsha Bajaj, Maria E. Andreu, Sharon Morse, Misa Sugiura, Nafiza Azad, Maurene Goo, Sona Charaipotra, Yamile Saied Méndez, Zoraida Córdova, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Sara Farizan, Isabel Quintero, Justine Larbalestier, and Lilliam Rivera.

How do we welcome people and invite them to come on in?
**kmm

F is four friends FACING THE SUN & big changes, by Janice Lynn Mather (YA book review)

book cover of Facing the Sun, by Janice Lynn Mather. Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Poems and stories and whispers,
Secrets and revelations and sorrows,
Good friends can endure them together… right?

Eldest of five, Eve is so tired of chasing after siblings, being the perfect pastor’s daughter, awash in her parents’ worries about losing the church to developers and something about her father’s health that they won’t tell her. Singing with Toons in the perfect acoustics of that small building is harmony and peace and maybe a little more.

Her single mom keeps Nia on such a short rope, claiming that an all-girls summer arts camp just across the bay wouldn’t be safe, that she needs to read every story before they print the neighborhood newspaper. Borrowing a song heard in the sea-grove as the poem for her camp application could be Nia’s ticket to some breathing room this summer.

Faith’s mother is getting further from reality, and trying to balance homework and dance lessons at her sister’s studio and maybe liking Toons and getting home to keep Mummy safe while her father works late is pulling Faith apart. She doesn’t live on Pinder Street like most of her school-friends, but it hits hard to find out that Daddy’s down there, saying the neighbors have no rights to go onto the beach anymore.

Keekee wonders why she’s the one getting grief from their mom when it’s Toons who’s stepping around with Faith and Eve and Paulette. Her songs channel some of the sting from neighbors’ scorn, those who don’t understand that Angel’s home laundry business supports folks who can’t afford to go to the clinic for condoms or period products.

What’s good about fencing off the beach and tearing down the church so rich people can stay at yet another Bahamas hotel?
Who set the church building on fire as protest?
Where is Toons? Where?

Ties between friends and families twist and tangle in this beachside neighborhood where change seems all-peril, little promise. A tale told in the voices of all four friends, from the Bahamian-Canadian author of Learning to Breathe (my no-spoiler review here).

How do you make yourself brave enough to face changes?
**kmm

Book info: Facing the Sun / Janet Lynn Mather. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

E is empowering words by THE LIGHTNING DREAMER: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, by Margarita Engle (YA book review)

book cover of The Lightning Dreamer, by Margarita Engle. Published by Harcourt | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Reading is escape.
Forbidden now, freedom removed –
She will tell new stories!

Of course she must marry someday, but Tula is told by her grandfather that the highest bidder will claim her next year, that her mother and stepfather will gain enough money in 1828 to buy more slaves to save their Cuban sugar plantation from ruin, that the thirteen year old’s too-brief time with her late father’s books will end forever.

Sent to wait at the convent, Tula meets nuns who accept every child abandoned because their skin is darker, who save every book they can find, who allow her to read the silenced poet Heredia’s calls for equality.

She writes plays and allegories that hide freedom’s songs within folktales, hiding them in her brother’s room. She dreams with her best friends of marriage based on love. She is betrayed, and yet continues composing messages of hope.

As the abolition of slavery is discussed publicly in America’s north, silence reigns on the island of Cuba, enforced by the whip and imprisonment. But what prison bars can keep captive the words of truth?

This novel-in-verse by the author of Jazz Owls (my review) and With a Star in My Hand (my review) sprinkles the voices of Mama, the nuns, and others among Tula’s poems about dreams, love, and a better future for all. Based on the life of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (1814-1873).

What are your powerful dreams?
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Book info: The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist / Margarita Engle. Harcourt, hardcover 2013, paperback 2015. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

B for brothers and THE BLUE WINGS, by Jef Aerts, transl. Laura Watkinson (MG book review)

book cover of The Blue Wings, by Jef Aerts; translated by Laura Watkinson; illustrated by Martjin van der Linden. Levine Querido Books | BooksYALove.com

Families love each other.
Cranes migrate from Finland to Spain for winter.
Sometimes, things don’t go as planned…

When an injured young crane can’t leave with its flock, autistic teen Jadran decides that he and younger brother Josh must teach it to fly and go south.

Never mind that their city apartment is crowded since Mom remarried and Murad moved in with his daughter Yasmin… Sprig will stay on the balcony until he’s healed.

Josh knows that being Sprig’s teacher using the blue wings from Mom’s old costumes is a bad plan, but the 11 year old also knows Jadran will have a howling meltdown if they don’t try.

The law of gravity still applies to best intentions, Jadran still plows on with an idea stuck in his head, and Sprig really, really needs to catch up with the other cranes.

So away the Muslim brothers go, a road trip with Sprig… a most unusual road trip.

Can Sprig learn to fly?
Will they get him to the flock in time?
Will Jadran find his place in this big loud world?

A story of brotherly bonds and learning to let go.
**kmm

Book info: The Blue Wings / Jef Aerts; translated by Laura Watkinson; illustrated by Martjin van der Linden. Levine Querido, 2020. [author site] [translator site] [illustrator site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

A is for ANA ON THE EDGE, by A.J. Sass (MG book review)

book cover of Ana on the Edge, by A. J. Sass. Published by Little, Brown | BooksYALove.com

Figure skating competition = rules and regimens.
Chinese-American home = expectations and routine roles.
Can time on the ice become Ana’s freedom and focus?

Age 12 means moving up to the next figure skating competition level for Ana and also following her coach to a new Bay Area rink, with new choreography and music and routine.

Ana likes her short hair, sleek skating leggings, and bold Juvenile national championship choreography. But Intermediate ladies will be skating to a princess theme, and Ana doesn’t like the quiet music or boring moves that famous Miss Lydia has chosen or having to wear a skirt to practice or the huge bill that her single mom must pay!

As a skating rink assistant this summer, Ana can earn free practice hours – too bad she has to miss being with her best friend at her old rink and at their synagogue. Awesome that she meets new student Hayden, who just moved here and is now publicly identifying as a boy.

Hayden assumed Ana was a boy too, and she didn’t correct him. Will he get mad when he finds out?

Ana feels very in-between about girl or boy – what does that all mean?

And this new choreography and music… how can Ana make it more Ana?

Discovering who you are takes time and work – Ana may have the people nearby who will help!
**kmm

Book info: Ana On the Edge / A. J. Sass. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author site] [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Meet 3 BLACK HEROES OF THE WILD WEST! Graphic novel by James Otis Smith

book cover of Black Heroes of the Wild West, by James Otis Smith. Published by Toon Books | BooksYALove.com

Wild mustangs accepted Bob as a herd member.
Mary’s stagecoach always got through, always.
Bass outsmarted and arrested many outlaws.

Perhaps you’ve heard of lawman Bass Reeves, the first Black Deputy U.S. Marshall west of the Mississippi River, but did you know that his dedication to justice inspired the adventures of the fictional Lone Ranger?

Like Reeves, Mary Fields was born into slavery and found freedom in the West working at a mission school, opening her own business, and becoming “Stagecoach Mary,” the most successful stagecoach driver in Montana – a cigar-chomping, punch-throwing, gambling real-life legend.

Bob Lemmons’ patience and tracking skills allowed him to gradually be accepted into a herd of wild Texas mustangs where he challenged the stallion for leadership, then led the mares and colts into his corral. This formerly enslaved man died a respected rancher at age 99 in 1947!

Illustrator Kadir Nelson‘s introduction sets the tone for this new look at American history of the West.

Smith’s art and words bring us along on these heroes’ adventures, with interesting back matter about African Americans on the frontier, how Black and Native Americans interacted, cowboys, railroads, and homesteading.

Which of these heroes would you want on your side on the frontier?
**kmm

Book Info: Black Heroes of the Wild West / written & illustrated by James Otis Smith. Toon Books, 2020. (author video interview) (publisher site)

Just picture it – A PHO LOVE STORY, by Loan Le (book review)

book cover of A Pho Love Story, by Loan Le. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Her family is suspicious of his.
His family is hostile toward hers.
Restaurant rivalry or something more?

When their paths cross in the high school newspaper room, neighbors Bao and Linh actually talk to each other instead of turning away.

After years as a just-average student, Bao might finally have found something he’s good at: writing date-night restaurant reviews. Gifted painter Linh sketches each dining venue, showcasing the talent that her parents dismiss as a hobby.

They begin enjoying time together (far away from Little Saigon‘s gossip) and wonder about the feud that’s separated their families so long – did it start with their competing pho restaurants here in California or back in Vietnam?

Evie and Linh’s aunt is a successful artist in Vietnam – why do their parents keep insisting that Di Vang is miserable?

The chance to paint a stunning restaurant’s mural is a dream for Linh, as long as her parents never know about it… or Bao.

If Allison (his editor & her best friend) is right about theirs as a Romeo & Juliet story, how can there be a happy ending?

Bao and Linh recount A Pho Love Story to us in alternating chapters – just published this week!

The ideal path to ‘happily ever after’ – smooth or bumpy?
**kmm

Book info: A Pho Love Story / Loan Le. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. [author Twitter] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.