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Fight? No, Jazz Owls only want to dance, by Margarita Engle, art by Rudy Gutierrez (book review)

book cover of Jazz Owls: a Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots / Margarita Engle; art by Rudy Gutierrez. Atheneum Books, 2018 | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Smile and dance and don’t make trouble,
Keep up servicemen’s morale at the USO,
War is overseas and in their own neighborhood!

“The musicians call us owls
because we’re patriotic girls
who stay up LATE after working all day,
so we can DANCE with young sailors
who are on their way
to triumph
or death
on distant
ocean waves,” says 16-year-old Marisela in one of the first poems of Jazz Owls (p. 6)

But everyone of every race dancing together enrages some in power and “nothing sells newspapers as quickly as fear” brags an LA reporter (p. 32).

The papers’ sensationalized speculation questioned the true patriotism of non-whites and encouraged violence by sailors itching to get to war, creating a battle zone in Mexican-American neighborhoods where police blamed residents instead of their attackers.

Equal sacrifice demanded, unequal treatment before the law – how far have we come since 1942?
**kmm

Book info: Jazz Owls: a Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots / Margarita Engle; art by Rudy Gutierrez. Atheneum Books, 2018. [author site] [artist interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: During World War II, everyone works – from abuelas with their victory gardens to young women dancing with servicemen before their deployment – but all citizens are not equal, and many powerful people want to keep it that way.

‘English only’ at the cannery, or teen sisters Marisela and Lorena will lose their jobs, be trapped at home with Mama, not allowed to do their patriotic duty by dancing with sailors at the USO club.

Because Nico is serving overseas (somewhere), little brother Ray must accompany his ‘jazz owl’ sisters to and from the USO, pachuco strutting in his wide-shouldered zoot suit.

Afro-Cuban drummer Manolito brings hot Caribbean rhythms into jazz, dances with Marisela, only she keeps him from leaving this hate-filled place to the fake Cuban musicians.

Fame-hungry LA reporters twist facts, sensationalize truth, fan flames of suspicion that Mexican-Americans might be enemies instead of citizens, that jazz musicians are dangerous.

Told in poems by many voices over a year’s time, starting with the Sailor Riots against zoot suiters in 1942, Jazz Owls shows how the fear of Others splintered an American city which needed to stay united during wartime.

Why now? Karma Khullar’s Mustache, by Kristi Wientge (book review)

bok cover of Karma Khullar's Mustache, by Kristi Wiengte, published by Simon Schuster Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

17 dark hairs on her upper lip?
Middle school starts Monday!
What to do!?!?

Her big brother wants a mustache, not 11 year old Karma, but it looks like she is taking after her Punjabi father instead of her blonde mother – and the boys in her grade won’t stop teasing her about it!

The author grew up in an Ohio neighborhood like Karma’s before traveling the world and now lives with her Sikh husband and their children in Singapore.

What can we do as individuals to keep teasing from becoming bullying?
**kmm

Book info: Karma Khullar’s Mustache / Kristi Wientge. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk:

My book talk: Karma is the only girl at middle school with dark hairs on her upper lip, the only person who brings dal and chappatis for lunch, the only one with a stay-at-home PhD dad – and now her best friend has moved into the popular crowd… so alone with her problems, her worries about the mustache, her sadness after grandmother’s death.

Her blonde mother won’t have advice about getting rid of this mustache, even if she weren’t so busy with her new job.

Her big brother is too busy arguing with Daddy about not becoming a doctor to ever see Karma’s problems.

Half-Sikh, half-Methodist, all confused when her teacher asks Karma to tutor the new girl who stole away her best friend!



I Am Alfonso Jones, student shot by police. By Tony Medina, illustrated by Stacey Robinson & John Jennings (book review)

book cover of I Am Alfonso Jones, by Tony Medina, illustrated by Stacey Robinson & John Jennings. Published by Tu Books. | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Choked, shot, beaten,
arrested, imprisoned on minor charges,
how many black men are gone now?

This graphic novel traces the shortened life of son, friend, musician, bicycle messenger, history scholar Alfonso and the stories of other African Americans killed by police brutality.

Robinson and Jennings’ black and white illustrations expand the #blacklivesmatter narrative written by Tony Medina, whose poems are recited at the Poetry Protest that Alfonso can see and hear as his ghost drifts from the train to his neighborhood and back…

Check out Medina’s article describing how he created this non-stereotypical Puerto Rican Black teen who loves his community’s history so deeply – why should a such a talented young man be dead?

Where is justice? How can everyday people stop the violence?
**kmm

Book info: I Am Alfonso Jones / Tony Medina, illustrated by Stacey Robinson & John Jennings. Tu Books, 2017. [author site] [artist Robinson tumblr] [artist Jennings interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Buying his first suit shouldn’t get him shot, shouldn’t keep him from seeing Dad finally home from prison with his name cleared, shouldn’t stop him from trying out for ‘Hip-Hop Hamlet’ at his arts high school in NYC, shouldn’t prevent him from telling bestie Danetta how he really feels about her…

On a subway train filled with ghosts of other African Americans wrongly killed, Alfonso learns more than his history studies revealed – about injustice, unfair treatment, deliberate abuse and prejudice – but dead is dead…

The Black-Puerto Rican young man’s family, friends, and community rally for justice and the prosecution of the police officer who shot Alfonso dead in this too-real #blacklivesmatter graphic novel.

Can Fox Girl and the White Gazelle become friends? by Victoria Williamson (book review)

book cover of Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, by Victoria Williamson. Published by Floris Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A wounded wild animal,
Two sad-at-heart girls –
What can heal them?

“Immersion” into school when her Syrian family arrives in Glasgow is more like drowning for Reema – new words, new accent, new dangers to face.

Fighting keeps everyone from getting close to Cailyn or discovering her mom’s problems – being a bully is better than being in foster care.

Cautiously, Reema and Cailyn might edge toward friendship as they care for a wounded fox and her babies in this story from Scotland that puts human faces on headline news.

How are refugees welcomed and assisted in your community?
**kmm

Book info: Fox Girl and the White Gazelle / Victoria Williamson. Kelpies/ Floris Books, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Reema and her family have run away from the bombings and gas attacks, away from their home in Syria to far-off Scotland, separated from big brother Jamal.

Fox limped away from the metal monster that hurt her, away from the no-longer-safe woods, too close to the tall boxes where the beasts dwell, her babies come now.

Caylin won’t run from anything after Grandad’s death, covering up as Mum mourns in the bottle, stealing to keep them fed, bullying any who mock her lisp or shabby clothes.

Reema and Cailyn find the wounded fox and her small pups, both vowing to keep them safe and hidden from the nosiest neighbor in their small Glasgow apartment block.

Running – like she and Jamal did in the souk of Aleppo, Reema can run school races as fast as the white gazelle she is named for – if Baba and Mama will allow it.

Running – pups will grow and explore, the beasts in the box nearby will find them – mother fox must heal to lead them to safety.

Running – Gran was a national champion and Cailyn could be, too – but if Mum is wrong, kids would make fun of her even more.

This story of risk and safety is told from all three viewpoints as the two junior high girls discover that their differences need not separate them when important things are at stake.

Authors & illustrators share their childhood works in Our Story Begins, edited by Elissa Brent Weissman (book review)

book cover of Our Story Begins, edited by Elissa Brent Weissnman. Published by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Looking forward to a new year,
looking back over the past –
writers and artists do this, too!

You’ll recognize so many of your favorite authors and illustrators of works for kids and young adults in the “About the Author” section at the publisher’s webpage for this book!

So think about the stories you wrote in earlier years, the comic strips you drew, the plays that you put on for your family, the news reports that you made as a kid.

A new year, new opportunities, what will you begin?
**kmm

Book info: Our Story Begins: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids / edited by Elissa Brent Weissman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [editor site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: “When did you start drawing? When did you know that you wanted to write books?” These frequent questions from young readers are answered by 25 of our favorite authors and illustrators – with examples of their very early works – in this anthology which will inspire a new generation of creators.

A grade-school photo from each author and illustrator begins their chapter which includes reproductions of their childhood stories or drawings in crayon, pencil, pen, or typing.

There’s a photo of author Elissa Brent Weissman as a kid with Gordon Korman at his book signing, then turn to Korman’s chapter to read his fifth-grade speech “How to Handle Your Parents”.

Kwame Alexander’s mom still has his first-ever poem (to her on Mother’s Day) framed in her living room. Thanhha Lai and her family fled Vietnam during her childhood, but she can still recite the story-poem “A Bird in a Cage” that she told her mother over and over.

Illustrators’ talents as kids ranged from polished (Grace Lin) to rudimentary (Jarrett J. Krosoczka – graphic novels), and several authors say that they copied their favorite writers’ styles in early stories – all continued to work at their craft and work to be published.


Too many changes for Trudy, by Jessica Lee Anderson (book review)

book cover of Trudy, by Jessica Lee Anderson, published by Milkweed Editions | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A late-life blessing to her parents,
slightly terrified about starting middle school,
now her dad is acting oddly

If only her Pop would work in his garden again or dance with her in the living room like he used to!

A parent’s illness is lots to handle for kids and teens, Trudy included.

This is the first book by Jessica Lee Anderson who later wrote Border Crossing (my recommendation here) and Calli (recommended here).

How have you dealt with family changes and school changes at the same time?
**kmm

Book info: Trudy / Jessica Lee Anderson. Milkweed Editions, 2005. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Lockers, changing classes, tests with not-so-good grades – middle school isn’t fun for Trudy, especially when her elderly father starts acting odd and best friend Ashley gets popular.

Born when Ma was 53, Trudy now has to correct people who think her grandparents are raising her in their small Austin home.

Math is easier when Roshanda explains it, and the sixth graders quickly become friends – so great to laugh together!

Pop is just digging in his garden now, not planting, and he’s tired all the time – so strange.

Jerome is really cute, and being partnered for a class project will be perfect for Trudy, right?

Canned goods in the bathroom, calling their car a train…it’s Alzheimer’s, says the doctor – what will Pops do next?

This fall semester is more eventful than Trudy ever dreamed.

Trapped in A World Below! by Wesley King (book review)

book cover of A World Below, by Wesley King. Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Field trip into a cavern?

Last year’s class attended a play and went to a nice restaurant in the city!

But…what if someone doesn’t like tight spaces or the dark or their classmates?

This is really not what quiet Eric or popular Silvia envisioned when their gifted class graduation trip was announced – and then comes the earthquake!

What’s your ‘worst field trip ever’ story?

**kmm

Book info: A World Below / Wesley King. Paula Wiseman Books/ Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk:  Trapped in Carlsbad Caverns by an earthquake, a group of eighth graders encounters people living its depths as the young teens struggle against obstacles and their own fears to reach the surface.

Routine field trip a few hours from their New Mexico town, bring some water and a snack for the short tour, simple – until the rumbles begin and the kids are separated from their teacher and chaperones!

Silvia tries to keep them together after an icy river carries them far from the Big Room, but these passageways make her claustrophobia flare up.

Quiet Eric finds himself alone in a forest of glowing mushrooms, crossing paths with a giant rat and wondering about the carved M in this “unmapped” part of the Caverns.

Trespassers in the Midnight King’s realm! And not the renegade Worms who have rejected one hundred years of tradition…

Can the classmates find their way to safety?

Why would anyone choose to live deep in the earth?

This unexpected adventure is recounted from the viewpoints of three different young people far below the surface, as well as the rescue personnel and anxious parents above ground.

Running with Cosmos Flowers, after Hiroshima bombing, by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall (book review)

book cover of Running With Cosmos Flowers: The Children of Hiroshima, by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall. Pelican Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.comAfter the A-bomb hits,
surviving winter in Hiroshima is so hard,
then flowers bloom in spring – and perhaps hope also?

Among the packages of desperately needed clothes and food sent to these Japanese schoolchildren when World War II ended were simple gifts of paper, pencils, and crayons from a church in the USA.

So they drew their thank-yous, sent back to the church which displayed and preserved them until today.

Ask for this story of war’s aftermath as seen through children’s eyes and art at your local library or independent bookstore.

The author’s documentary film “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” includes the restored children’s drawings sent to All Souls’ Church in D.C. as well as archival footage showing life in Hiroshima in the days and months after the bombing.

War…
**kmm

Book info: Running with Cosmos Flowers: the Children of Hiroshima / Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall. Pelican Publishing, 2014.  [book website] [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Now her turn to evacuate in summer 1945, Hana-chan arrives at her aunt’s country village shortly before her mother departs with students going home… to Hiroshima.

Struggling to travel from the mountains into the city after the A-bomb strikes, Hana and her aunt are aghast at the devastation, yet try to help where they can.

Back at school in one of the few buildings remaining upright, 7 year old Hana and her young classmates worry about whether radiation sickness is contagious and how they will cope with oncoming winter weather.

Then packages arrive from America – with clothes and food and paper and pencils.

Can small gifts of paper and crayons begin to heal these broken lives?

And their thank-you drawings are sent to the USA, seen by thousands and remembered over the decades.

Based on the author’s experiences as a young girl born in Hiroshima just after World War II ended, hearing survivors’ stories and becoming part of a rebuilding nation. As usual in Japanese fiction, quotation marks aren’t used in the dialogue, but readers will soon be caught up in the story without need of this punctuation.

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean – tales of young women & daring, edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, Anita Roy (book review)

book cover of Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, edited by Murray, Dhar & Roy. Margaret K. McElderry Books| recommended on BooksYALove.comNo longer victims,
many choices to be made,
young women leap, tiptoe, and march onward!

A cooking show that time-travels back to the days when food was real.

The procession of elders leads young women to the sea where their true names will be revealed.

As authors and artists in Australia and India worked together on stories (in words and/or images) to show the range of experiences that teen girls are facing and have endured and can overcome, a common thread of ‘connections’ emerged in the finished compilation.

What new connections will you make to move forward?
**kmm

Book info:  Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean: Stories of Imagination and Daring / edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, and Anita Roy. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017 hardcover, 2018 paperback. [editor site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: In response to rapes and attacks on young women, writers and artists from India and Australia created this anthology of stories (several with art) reflecting the possibilities beyond powerlessness.

“Little Red Suit” in future Australia battles to reach Grandmother before the voice snarling unauthorized through her shield-suit radio does.

A young woman travels from India to “Arctic Light” on a ship to protest oil drilling and climate change, despite the loss of her mother, despite the threat of imprisonment.

Kavya wavers between remaining a low-society cleaner who removes magical problems (pixies in the toilet again…) or becoming standardized which would make “The Wednesday Room” with its removed zombies and poker-playing mermaids vanish forever.

Collaborators of different cultures and countries were asked to work together on this theme, resulting in graphic-novel short stories, single-act plays, tales of now and tales of lands imagined.

Can she Escape From Aleppo in time? by N. H. Senzai (book review)

book cover of Escape from Aleppo, by N.H. Senzai. Published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.comThe bombing gets closer,
it’s time to leave, to run from danger!
She didn’t imagine that she’d have to flee to Turkey by herself…

Five years after the events in Nadia’s dangerous story, there are still daily bombings in Syrian cities and towns, as government and rebel forces continue to fight, killing so many families and children every day.

Read chapter one here (free, courtesy of the publisher) as Nadia’s family must flee their home, then go find this too-true fiction book at your local library or independent bookstore.

When your family’s safety is at stake, what are you prepared to do?
**kmm

Book info: Escape From Aleppo / N. H. Senzai. Paula Wiseman Books/ Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Fleeing the bombs targeting her Aleppo neighborhood, 14-year-old Nadia is separated from her family and must use all her courage and cleverness to get to the Syria-Turkey border.

For three years of the Arab Spring, rebellions against corrupt governments have destroyed homes, businesses, and lives – in late 2013, it’s time to use their escape plan, but Nadia gets trapped on her route.

Nadia and her cat sneak through the shadows toward the planned rendezvous site, meeting a friendly grandfather with a donkey cart and two orphan boys – perhaps they will be safer together.

Rebels and soldiers fight street by street to control the city – how can Nadia and her companions get to the border?

Ammo Mazen knows just the right things to say to get both rebels and soldiers to let them pass – why does the old man collect books as they flee the city?

Based on true events, Nadia’s story of facing hunger and danger as Syrian government forces bomb rebels and their own citizens is repeating daily as the conflict continues today.