Archives

Searching for THE LOST RYU, dragon of his memory, by Emi Watanabe Cohen (YA book review)

book cover of The Lost Ryu, by Emi Watanabe Cohen. Published by Levine Querido | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Kohei still dreams of being three years old at the last dragon parade, holding his smiling grandfather’s hand as huge winged Western dragons flew overhead and sinuous Japanese ryu dragons strode along Osaka’s streets at the end of World War II.

His maternal grandfather was so angry about Kohei’s father dying soon afterward that he made the boy take his mother’s family name – maybe Ojiisan would be happy if he had a big dragon again, bigger than ryu Yuharu who rides on Kohei’s shoulder.

Isolde moves in downstairs, with her Japanese-American mom, Polish-American dad, and winged dragon Cheshire (very small, Kohei is so disappointed) – imagine starting middle school in a new country and language!

When Ojiisan is suddenly hospitalized, Kohei decides that he must bring a ryu to him. Isolde never knew her grandparents who died in concentration camps in the United States and Poland during the War, so she wants to help.

Venturing into Papa’s study, Kohei finds details about how ryu are hatched, so he and Isolde travel to the faraway New Ryugyu-jo where their dragons will help bring a special ryu into the world.

When the biggest ryu Kohei has ever seen snatches the baby ryu, of course he has to follow and save her!

His memories shift like a kaleidoscope as Kohei learns more about his father’s and grandfather’s pasts.

How far, how far will we go to bring comfort to those we love?
**kmm

Book info: The Lost Ryu / Emi Watanabe Cohen. Levine Querido, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

So much to do as SISTER OF THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE! by Nandini Bajpal (YA book review)

book cover of Sister of the Bollywood Bride, by Nandini Bajpal. Published by Poppy/ Little Brown & Company | recommended on BooksYALove.com

As big sister Vinnie’s wedding approaches and Dad is immersed in his new start-up, Mini misses their late mother more than ever. Thankfully, the Boston teen has an entire community of Desi aunties to help her with all the planning details, since Vinnie and fiance Manish are medical students in Chicago.

Tutoring pays Mini’s fashionista bills (thrift stores plus her sewing skills equals amazing), and running with her dog Yogi on the grounds of a nearby college gives her time away from planning and time to get to know handsome Vir, the dean’s son.

The beautiful gold wedding jewelry that Mom left for them inspires Mini’s vision for the big day:
Outdoor venue? The beautiful gardens in the park where Vinnie played youth sports – check!
Food from two different regions of India? Check and… the other will get back to her (eventually?)
Dress? By her designer aunt Masi, of course. Never mind that Mini’s role model and inspiration has been oddly distant these past few years.

Worrying about whether Dad will accept her dream of attending design school (instead of law/medicine/engineering that all Indian parents want for their children), if she can actually get Manish to ride in on a horse per tradition, what Vir’s very successful father will think of her – two months to plan a summer wedding!?

Mini is determined to squeeze their budget to make Vinnie’s wedding as memorable and beautiful as any Bollywood movie extravaganza, like Mom would have done.

Family, love, fun and stress, British car enthusiasts, henna and altering bridesmaids’ outfits
And then the weather forecast changes – hurricane on the horizon!

From the author of Made in Mehendi (recommended here), another Indian-American romance to savor.

What’s your favorite wedding tradition?
**kmm

Book info: Sister of the Bollywood Bride / Nandini Bajpal. Poppy/ Little Brown & Company, 2021.
[author site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Sisters sharing DRIZZLE, DREAMS, AND LOVESTRUCK THINGS, by Maya Prasad (YA book review)

book cover of Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things, by Maya Prasad. Published by Hyperion /Disney | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Four sisters,
four seasons,
five chances for love…

For the past decade, the four teen Singh sisters have lived in the Songbird Inn on Orcas Island, where their widowed father met and married Pop as they renovated the old property together. But three years ago, the girls’ beloved stepdad died, before he could see their dream named as “the most romantic inn in America” for its unique seaside weddings.

Nidhi has planned her senior year and beyond in great detail as she will head to pastry school in Paris after graduation, with boyfriend Matt. A tree crashing through her bedroom brings Grayson and construction crew to the inn – how will his secret artistic passions affect her carefully ordered life this fall?

Avani has spent the winter avoiding Francisco after a date mix-up, not so easy when his family supplies produce and goat cheese to the inn daily. Her grief for Pop lingers even as Dad begins seeing Amir, so she decides to revive his beloved Winter Ball in his memory, finding that Francisco’s help can make it happen.

Spring on the is photographer Sirisha’s favorite season, and hosting the Thousand Shores theater troupe at the Inn makes it even better – brown girls, queer girls, stories turned and retold. And beautiful Brie leaves her tongue-tied, even as the young actress tries to help Sirisha find the story that will help her photos win the San Juan Snaps contest.

Queen of Romance – Rani’s deep love of romance novels has helped her twin Avani and her older and younger sisters find happiness this past year. As they prepare for the biggest summer wedding of all, which inn visitor will be her happily ever after – socially-conscious Vikram, fun and sporty Leo, or Raj who didn’t kiss her last summer?

A wonderful year in Washington’s Pacific Northwest with the Singh family as they work through past issues with family still in India, decide what their futures might look like, and host a parade of interesting guests in the beautiful inn that they call home.

Where would you build the best inn ever?
**kmm

Book info: Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things / Maya Prasad. Hyperion, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Here? Now? THE SECRET BATTLE OF EVAN PAO starts at school! by Wendy Wan-Long Shang (MG book review)

book cover of The Secret Battle of Evan Pao / Wendy Wan-Long Shang.  Published by Scholastic Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Bad enough that they have to move across the country to get away from Dad’s financial scams, but in this little Virginia town stuck in its Civil War history, their Chinese family does stand out, even though their uncle has lived here a while.

Evan hopes that sixth grade will be okay, but the class bully lives across the street from their tiny rental house. Brady calls Covid-19 “the China virus” and asks if Evan will bring it to Battlefield Elementary School. Evan can sense that he really believes that – yikes!

Luckily, most kids in his class are nice, including Max who’s assigned as Evan’s buddy and explains Battlefield Day, Mrs. Norwood’s favorite activity, where everyone becomes a Civil War character in costume for an outside learning experience.

Each student in class brings in a family heirloom from the Civil War, except Evan, so Mrs. Norwood suggests that he choose a behind-the-scenes role, like scribe (boring). Evan’s sister says there were no Chinese in the American Civil War, but a little research shows that she’s wrong!

So while Brady can portray his noted sharpshooter ancestor, Evan can be a Chinese soldier in the Army of the Potomac – Mrs. Norwood’s final Battlefield Day before retiring should be quite memorable!

Other things in town are rumbling, like discussions on removing the Confederate soldier statue in front of the courthouse and the cute stray dog that Uncle and Evan find (maybe Mom will change her mind about ‘no dogs’!) and someone shooting at Evan’s house!

Evan tells most of the story, with chapters by his sister Celeste and friend Max, even Julia and Brady from his class providing additional viewpoints.

What’s something that’s “always been this way” about your town that you would change?
**kmm

Book info: The Secret Battle of Evan Pao / Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Scholastic Press, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

In breakdance or yo-yo, FREESTYLE is the coolest! by Gale Galligan (Graphic novel review)

book cover of Freestyle / words & art by Gale Galligan. Published by Scholastic/Graphix | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Team breakdance means cool moves,
perfect choreography,
everyone in sync… everyone!

Their final year of middle school means lots of pressure for Cory and his friends as they get ready for high school admission exams and the big Bronx Kids Battle dance competition.

As captain of Eight Bit breakdance team, Tess is committed to the breakdance choreography she wrote – no improvising, Cory!

In science, Cory gets partnered with loner Sunna instead of Eight Bit pal Asha, then gets grounded for bad grades – no fun, especially when his Filipino parents hire Sunna to tutor him!

Tess is mad that Eight Bit can’t practice every day after school now – this choreography will be her ticket to arts high school!

From a yelling match to using her yo-yo to explain angles in geometry, eventually Sunna and Cory get along, and he learns some yo-yo tricks, too.

Her grades are amazing, but the hijabi’s parents constantly compare her to big brother’s successes – she doesn’t even call Imran at college anymore.

Yo-yo competition – Cory is sure that Sunna will love it!
Getting un-grounded before the dance competition – Cory’s got to do it!
The rest of Eight Bit forgiving Cory’s flaky behavior – well, that’ll take work.

Days race past as the middle schoolers hone their dance moves, worry about the big exams and the Halloween dance, and count down to competition!

This fast-paced graphic novel comes from the same artist who drew the Baby Sitters’ Club graphic novel series – can’t wait to see what they draw next!

When did your friend group have to work through schedule issues?
**kmm

Book info: Freestyle / words & art by Gale Galligan. Scholastic/Graphix, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Celebration and rogue spirits? She needs A GIRL’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MAGIC, by Debbie Rigaud (YA book review)

Book cover of A Girl's Guide to Love & Magic, by Debbie Rigaud. Published by Scholastic Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

This year, the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn falls on Cecile’s 15th birthday, and her vodouista aunt Tati Mimose promises it will be epic!

What the Haitian-American teen really wants is for Tati Mimose and her devout Catholic mother to be friends again, but Grandma Rose’s death last year didn’t bring the sisters back together…

All of Caribbean culture is on display for the Parade – national flags on every car, food from every island, and music, music everywhere! Superstar singer Papash will perform, then be interviewed by Tati Mimose with Cecile as her guest!!

Her parents’ restaurant has a corner booth on the parade route, she’ll be running more food over, meeting Papash (!!), and enjoying her birthday with best friend Renee – best day ever, made better when she runs into her crush Kwame on her way to meet Mimose.

Ooh, something has gone very wrong at Mimose’s tarot card reading for a man in Kwame’s building, and a dread spirit has taken over her aunt’s body!

Cecile, Kwame, and Renee research how to eject the spirit, then dart through the Parade crowds, trying to keep Mimose in sight as they gather the ingredients needed.

Can Cecile do the Vodou spell correctly?
Can they keep the spirit from getting close to Papash?
Will Kwame like her at all after this wild day of chases and spirits?

It’ll take plenty of magic for Cecile to make everything right on this special day for her family and Caribbean community.

What annual cultural tradition is your favorite?
**kmm

Book info: A Girl’s Guide to Love & Magic / Debbie Rigaud. Scholastic Press, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Always leave THE FIRST BLADE OF SWEETGRASS, Grandmother says, by Suzanne Greenlaw, Gabriel Frey, Nancy Baker (Picturebook review)

book cover of The First Blade of Sweetgrass: a Native American Story / Suzanne Greenlaw & Gabriel Frey; illustrated by Nancy Baker.  Published by Tilbury House Publishers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Musquon’s first trip to the salt marsh with Grandmother to gather sweetgrass!

But in an ocean of grasses, how will the young girl know which kind to pick?

Grandmother patiently shows her the emerald green grass with a purple bottom and reminds Musquon that her ancestors are here with them, where so many have carefully picked sweetgrass for basketmaking and spiritual medicine.

Musquon breathes the salty air, remembering that Grandmother learned as a small girl in this same marsh to pass over the first blade of sweetgrass she finds: “If we never pick the first blade, we will never pick the last one.”

Soon she will learn how to braid sweetgrass and help Grandmother make baskets as the Wakenabi people have done for countless generations.

The authors note the cultural significance of sweetgrass for First Nations’ peoples in their home state of Maine and beyond, as well as a glossary of Passamaquoddy-Maliseet words used in the story including Musquon (“blue sky”) who shares a name with one of their daughters. Watch an interview with the authors here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7weayTgxwgk

What gifts of the natural world are important to you?

**kmm

Book info: The First Blade of Sweetgrass: a Native American Story / Suzanne Greenlaw & Gabriel Frey; illustrated by Nancy Baker. Tilbury House Publishers, 2021. [author & illustrator interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Inspirations for A PATH TO THE WORLD: BECOMING YOU, edited by Lori Marie Carlson-Hijuelos (Nonfiction book review)

Book cover of A Path to the World: Becoming You / Lori Marie Carlson-Hijuelos, editor. Published by Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Simon & Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Why are you… you?
How do you become a better person?
What does it mean to be yourself?

These fundamental questions about being human are considered, argued, and partly answered in this collection of 30 essays by famous folks and new writers.

Trying and trying to replicate her mother’s dal recipe might help Geeta Kothari answer “If You Are What You Eat, Then What Am I?”

Valerie Gribben explains that “Practicing Medicine Can Be Grimm Work” as fairy tales gave her insight into the injuries and pains of her patients.

Retired businessman Freddy Schumann became the loudest person in Yankee Stadium and revitalized their fans in the late 1980s as “The Octogenarian Cheerleader” interviewed by Scott Pitoniak.

A 1790 letter from George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island notes that their new national government “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” and sends his appreciation for their welcome and support. (p.72)

KellyNoel Waldorf’s university experience was much different from her peers – “I Came to Duke With an Empty Wallet” and the effects of growing up poor still inform all her decisions.

Be sure to read Anna Quindlen’s advice “Get a Life” which concludes “All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.” (p. 85)

What advice would you share on “becoming you”?
**kmm

Book info: A Path to the World: Becoming You / Lori Marie Carlson-Hijuelos, editor. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Simon & Schuster, 2022. [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

We are still HOPE NATION, our favorite YA authors remind us, edited by Rose Brock (nonfiction book review)

book cover of Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration / Rose Brock, editor. Published by Penguin Teen | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Us versus them or together we can succeed?
Time to give in or time to persevere?
Time to hold onto hope with our whole heart!

Written in the wake of the 2016 elections, the personal essays by these well-known YA authors call us to continue finding reasons to hope – and work – for a better future together:
Atia Abawi, Renee Ahdieh, Libba Bray, Howard Bryant, Ally Carter, Ally Condie, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Gayle Forman, Romina Garber, I. W. Gregorio, Kate Hart, Brendan Kiely, David Levithan, Alex London, Marie Lu, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Nicola Yoon, Jeff Zentner.

“What I really think is that hope is in the work. That it lives in the space between what’s been done and what could be accomplished,” counsels Kate Hart (pg. 119) reminding Hope Nation that our work is fighting for what’s right.

Angie Thomas recounts an event from her book tour for The Hate U Give, where a Black woman asked those present “Can we begin to listen to one another, and can we change things?” (pg. 65) following racist incidents at their New Jersey high school – this is Hope Nation.

When bigots try to ban books in your school or town, stand against them and remember Jeff Zentner’s words: “Nothing forces people to confront the humanity of others like engaging with their stories” (pg. 92) – Hope Nation doesn’t see everyone else as ‘other’ like the bigots prefer.

Where do you find your hope?
**kmm

Book info: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration / Rose Brock, editor. Penguin Teen, 2018 [editor site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

He wants to shine! CARLOS GOMEZ FREESTYLES…HEAVY ON THE STYLE, by Chuck Gonzales (Graphic novel review)

book cover of Carlos Gomez Freestyles...Heavy on the Style, written & illustrated by Chuck Gonzales. Published by Reycraft Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Take a chance?
Stay in the background?
Be himself?

Two years after moving to so-white South Dakota for Dad’s job, their Mexican-American family still faces racism at every turn, including the nosy ladies across the street.

For youngest kid Carlos, it’s been disastrous – his lisp got worse, he’s terrible at PE, and his classmates call him queer and tease him for loving art and fashion.

Luckily, RJ arrives in fifth grade and actually talks to Carlos (without spitballs). Her BMX bike team enters the town charity talent show and invites Carlos to ride with them – once he ditches the training wheels (his balance is just so bad….)

They have big competition – his big sister Marie dazzling with her interpretive dance, middle brother Juan’s astonishing magic act, and a chainsaw-wielding stump carver – plus the yummy biscochito cookies that Mom and the nosy ladies make for the bake sale.

Can Carlos’ bike skills catch up in time?
Will his flair for fashion and sparkles win over the judges?
Will that bully Scott ever quit pushing him down?

This graphic novel has its roots in the artist’s own childhood as a lisping, non-athletic Mexican-American gay kid who didn’t fit in with his South Dakota classmates and found his own happier future in another place.

What act would you perform for a talent show?
**kmm

Book info: Carlos Gomez Freestyles…Heavy on the Style / written & illustrated by Chuck Gonzales. Reycraft Books, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.