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Can you create a new future for yourself? Audiobook stories bring us more!

Last century and this century – two young men take steps to secure their futures in this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC.

Remember that although these complete audiobooks are only available for free download from Thursday through Wednesday, you can listen them on your phone or device any time as long as you keep them on your Sora shelf (FAQs here).

CD cover of audiobook The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud | Read by Sheldon "Shelley" Berman, David Cromer, Marge Kotlisky, Naana Potok, Malcolm Rothman, Jensen Wheeler. Published by LA Theatre Works | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The Magic Barrel (free download 27 May – 2 June 2021)
by Bernard Malamud | Read by Sheldon “Shelley” Berman, David Cromer, Marge Kotlisky, Naana Potok, Malcolm Rothman, Jensen Wheeler
Published by L.A. Theatre Works

The Yiddish matchmaker’s envelope brims with prospective wives for those who seek out her expertise in 1950s America.

This classic short story explores her magic barrel of possibilities for a shy young rabbinical student looking for a bride, so certain in his faith and so uncertain about his future.

CD cover of audiobook Of Beetles and Angels:  A Boy's Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard, by Mawi Asgedom | Read by Mawi Asgedom
Published by Hachette Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard (free download 27 May – 2 June 2021) by Mawi Asgedom | Read by Mawi Asgedom
Published by Hachette Audio

The author narrates his memoir of escaping war-torn Eritrea with his family and the long journey from Ethiopian refugee camp to the United States.

His decision to treat all people as angels (even if they were disguised as hard-cased beetles) buoyed his faith and brought him to academic success.

Does your future hinge on chance or can it be changed by your determination?
**kmm

She writes hopeful, worried LETTERS FROM CUBA to war-darkened Poland, by Ruth Behar (MG book review)

book cover of Letters From Cuba, by Ruth Behar. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Random House | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Cross the wide ocean,
earn money slowly, slowly –
bring family to safety – soon, soon!

Papa went first to Cuba, trying to make enough money so their whole family could escape the increasing peril of merely being Jewish in Poland.

Esther is the oldest child, ready to travel across the sea and help Papa grow their savings faster, 11 years old on a ship crossing the Atlantic in 1938, writing letters to her sister Malka in an old notebook until time to send them.

Always-summer Cuba means sandals instead of woolen stockings, a small village in the hills away from the city, walking and walking with their peddler’s packs to sell goods throughout the countryside where the air smells like candy from the sugar mills.

As Esther learns Spanish, she’s befriended by Francisco Chang who came from China to his uncle’s store, Doctor Pablo and Senora Graciela whose daughter died young, and Manuela’s formerly enslaved grandmother who honors the gods of her African ancestors.

Angry sugar mill owner Eduardo thinks she and Papa don’t belong here, so the young woman takes refuge in the poems of Juan Marti shared by Senora Graciela as Esther designs and sews stylish cotton dresses that become popular in Havana.

Can she make enough dresses by herself to fill the orders?
Can they earn enough money to get their family here soon?
As Europe rejects Jewish people, will Cuba still welcome them?

As powerful people like Eduardo begin echoing Hitler’s anger and lies, Esther and Papa work hard and pray harder to bring their family to safety!

What letters have shared family stories with you?
**kmm

Book Info: Letters From Cuba / Ruth Behar. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2020. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Consequences of injustice – audiobooks to ponder

Time to download this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC so you can read with your ears!

Remember that although these complete audiobooks are only available from Thursday through Wednesday, you have free use of them as long as you keep them on your phone or tablet, using the free Sora app to listen.

CD cover of They Went Left, by Monica Hesse, read by Caitlin Davies. Published by Hachette Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

They Went Left (download on Sora free 6-12 May 2021)
by Monica Hesse | Read by Caitlin Davies
Published by Hachette Audio

Liberated from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in 1945, Zofia is desperate to find her younger brother Abek, the only other family member who wasn’t sent the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

But how will the 18 year old locate him among the sea of refugees in the displaced persons’ camps of Germany and Poland?

CD cover of Trell, by Dick Lehr, read by Bahni Turpin, published by Brilliance Audio Candlewick | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Trell (download on Sora free 6-12 May 2021)
by Dick Lehr | Read by Bahni Turpin
Published by Brilliance Audio/Candlewick

Trell is certain that her father was wrongfully convicted of murder and convinces a disillusioned Boston investigative reporter to go back to witnesses and uncover the truth.

Can the teen and reporter track down the real killer?

What other stories of confronting injustice would you recommend?
**kmm

W is for THE WILLIAM HOY STORY: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, by Nancy Churnin (Picture book review)

book cover of The William Hoy Story, by Nancy Churnin, art by Jez Tuya. Published by Albert Whitman & Co. | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Umpires, coaches, players –
so many hand signals in baseball!
Why do they do that?

Have you watched a baseball game and wondered what story the coach is signalling with their hands touching shoulder, nose, ear, ear, nose?

Each combination tells their players what the pitcher should throw to this batter or whether a runner should steal or stay on base.

Who started this no-words communication on the baseball diamond? It was William Hoy, a Deaf player in the early 1900s who practiced hard so he could run faster and hit harder to play in the Major Leagues!

He couldn’t hear the umpires say ‘ball’ or ‘strike’ at the plate or read the lips of players who hid their mouths behind their mitts – but when the umpires used American Sign Language to signal their calls as William suggested, he could steal bases better than anyone!

His teammates learned signs so they could talk strategy without the other team hearing it. too. Even the fans started waving their hands high in the air as Deaf applause after William’s great plays as an outfielder and base-runner.

Learn more about this game changer and the early days of baseball in this picture book for everyone.

What obstacles have you overcome to do something you loved?
**kmm

Book info: The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game / Nancy Churnin, art by Jez Tuya. Albert Whitmas & Company, 2016. (author site) (artist site) (publisher site) Personal collection; cover art courtesy of the publisher.

V is Verity & visions in EVENTIDE, by Sarah Goodman (YA book review)

book cover of Eventide, by Sarah Goodman. Published by Tor Teen | recommended on BooksYALove.com

They say she’s a spirit,
went mad from her loss…
a bit of truth in every tall tale.

From studying medicine with her father and preparing for college in 1907 to hoeing corn in rural Arkansas – 17-year-old Verity’s world became so small when the local schoolteacher chose little sister Lilah from the orphan train, but rejected her.

Verity grows to like the Weatheringtons as she toils on their small farm with their teen nephew and fellow book-lover Abel, working hard so she can earn enough to get her and Lilah back home.

The tragic story of Rev. Mayhew’s daughter jilted in love and walking away from home in the snow, the eerie deep woods where no one goes, how swiftly Miss Maeve has Lilah calling her Mama – everyone knows everything about everyone else in this superstitious small town.

Why is there a body beside the well in the woods?
Papa’s in an asylum in New York – how could he get here?
Is Lilah truly safe in Miss Maeve’s stately home?

There’s magic hiding here, a secret seeking to escape, and Verity may have uncovered a dark truth that won’t leave her alone.

Can a family secret be a good thing?
**kmm

Book info: Eventide / Sarah Goodman. Tor Teen, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

U is underground, out of sight, bare hands mining in BEARMOUTH, by Liz Hyder (YA book review)

book cover of Bearmouth, by Liz Hyder. Published by Norton Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

No daylight, no school,
few dreams, little hope,
working till they can’t no more…

Sent into the coal mine at age 4, the pittance that Newt earns keeps his mum and siblings from starving up above.

Newt’s crew takes care of their littlest miners, keeping them safe from wicked men, especially on payday when some have money for beer after paying for the candles and boots they need for working.

The new fellow Devlin joins Newt for lessons with Thomas on Maykers Day, hearing stories and learning how to spell words… all quiet-like.

Once a week, the miners hear how humanity’s rebellion against The Mayker condemned them to work in the Master’s coal mine, awaiting “a sine of forgivvness” so they may go back aboveground at last.

Devlin comes up with a plan to help them escape the heat and hellish conditions of Bearmouth’s lowest levels. “Suffokaytin in the dark cos of poyson gasses. Tis the worst way to go.” (pg. 26)

Thomas asks the Master to raise their pay – and one day disappears. Newt hears a shadowy man whispering dangerous words in the tunnel, sees Thomas and other lost friends in dreams and in the deep darkness.

Will the Mayker’s sign come soon?
How long can it stay secret that Nate isn’t a true boy?
Can Devlin and Newt get out of Bearmouth alive?

You can hear Newt’s observations ring true through this story built upon actual working conditions in England’s coal mines in the Victorian era.

Today is Independent Bookstore Day – a great time to find Bearmouth and other BooksYALove favorites at a bookshop near you!

Which muzzled voices should we be listening for?
**kmm

Book info: Bearmouth / Liz Hyder. Norton Young Readers, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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?
**kmm

Book info: Cane Warriors: a Novel / Alex Wheatle. Akashic Books, 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?
**kmm

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.

D for daring & doubts in WWII: I AM DEFIANCE, by Jenni L. Walsh (MG book review)

book cover of I Am Defiance: a novel of World War II, by Jenni L. Walsh. Published by Scholastic Press | BooksYALove.com

Purity of Aryan blood!
Devotion to the Fuhrer!
Questions not allowed!

Brigitte tries to act just like the other girls in her Hitler Youth JM group, but the 12 year old worries that a leader may discover big sister Angelika’s disability or Papa’s empathetic heart and take them away to the camps that no one talks about.

A pamphlet with unusual words like ‘freedom’ and ‘resistance’ appears in apartment mailboxes, and her botany professor Papa silently takes it away. Then comes another, and Brigitte’s JM leaders denounce the White Rose group for trying to undermine the Nazi government.

Then the third pamphlet arrives, and Brigitte agrees with Papa and Angelika that it carries more truth than the official state radio and newspapers. They’ll pretend to be ‘good Germans’ for now…until they can leave Munich safely.

Can Angelika hide her limp well enough to continue at university?
Can Brigitte hide her new knowledge from JM friends and leaders?
Is there any chance that the Schmidt family gets out of this war intact?

As Allied bombers close in on Munich, the secret trapdoor to the cellar may be what saves them, if their neighbors don’t report them first!

What is your defiance against the wrongs you see?
**kmm

Book info: I Am Defiance: a Novel of World War II / Jenni L. Walsh. Scholastic Press, 2021. [author site] [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)