Tag Archive | belonging

KENSY AND MAX face danger, secrets & spies! by Jacqueline Harvey (middle grade book review)

book cover of Kensy and Max: Breaking News, by Jacqueline Harvey. Published by Kane Miller Books (US) | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Not where they expected to be,
family secrets trigger extreme events,
twin-power must save them!

Kensy and Max are used to frequent moves since their parents’ work takes the family to medical clinics all over the world, but this time…Mum and Dad have gone missing!

The 11-year-old twins are suddenly at a magnificent country estate, then their manny Fitz winds up being more bodyguard than housekeeper when they’re enrolled in an unusual school in London.

Glad to make new friends at school, Kensy and Max await word from their parents, learn more about long-lost family members, and are nearly kidnapped!

Kensy is impulsive, messy, and amazing with machines – can she figure out what’s up with the grannies at the corner newspaper shop?

Max is neat, orderly, and brilliant with codes – can he decipher the messages that Mum and Dad left in favorite books?

They keep notes on a wealthy newspaper owner, a butler with mysterious skills, secret classes at school, loads of rubble coming from their neighbor’s renovation – what does it all mean?

First in an exciting series that take Kensy and Max around the world as they search for their parents and keep one step ahead of the bad guys! Four books are available now in paperback in the US.

What mystery would you like to decode?
**kmm

Book info: Kensy and Max: Breaking News (Kensy and Max, book 1) / Jacqueline Harvey. Kane Miller Books, 2020 (US). [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Will she SHINE as K-pop star? by Jessica Jung (book review)

book cover of Shine, by Jessica Jung. Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Not Korean enough in Seoul,
not American enough in New York City –
does she have enough to make it as a star?

Her family’s support of Rachel’s quest to become a K-pop performer is both a comfort and a cage.

Umma, Appa, and her little sister left behind their lives in New York City six years ago when they moved to Seoul so she could train with DB Studios.

But the 17 year old must live at home instead at DB’s trainee house, attending school full-time, then cramming all rehearsals and lessons into the weekends…and doing her homework.

No boys, no social media, weekly weigh-ins – competition is fierce as DB plans to announce its new girl group soon.

Amid mounting pressures to excel in singing, dancing, interviewing skills, and poise, snooty heiress Mina leads her crew in harassing Rachel as a camera-shy American princess.

Rachel’s chance encounter with Jason Lee, internationally famous Korean-Canadian star of DB’s hit boy group, leads to an opportunity to perform with him – can she beat out Mina?

Romantic relationships are forbidden by DB Studios – is her friendship with Jason okay?

One poor decision makes Rachel’s mother furious and disappointed – will the huge disruption of her family’s lives be for nothing?

Written by former K-pop star Jessica Jung, this debut novel takes us behind the glitz of costumes, choreography, and luxury travel to the grind, sweat, and tears of the K-pop studios’ trainee system.

Read chapter one here, courtesy of the publisher, to meet Rachel, Mina, and the DB trainees striving for the chance to Shine on the international music scene.

How far would you travel to pursue your dream?
**kmm

Book info: Shine / Jessica Jung. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher through Edelweiss.

With music, THE KIDS OF WIDNEY JUNIOR HIGH TAKE OVER THE WORLD! by Mathew Klickstein (book review)

book cover of The Kids of Widney Junior High Take Over the World! by Mathew Klickstein. Published by Schiffer Kids | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Bullied his first week at junior high, 11 year old Robbie is rescued by big Peewee who invites him to band practice where the autistic eighth grader is a singer.

Led by their special ed teacher (and former rock musician), the six-member Kids of Widney Junior High rock band has written many original songs as they prepare for their first big public concert.

Robbie quickly learns that his new friends’ lives aren’t like media stereotypes – Daniel and Cain live with blindness but don’t want to feel his face, and Tanesa zings through life with cerebral palsy.

As the concert date nears, longtime couple Peewee and Elisa have a big argument during rehearsal, overwhelming Cain who says he’s quitting the band!

Does Peewee understand the true power of his words now?
Can the Kids get Elisa and Cain back to rehearsals?
Will the record company exec really attend their show?

This fictional account of the real band members’ struggles in junior high echoes the experiences of many young people that the world sees as ‘different’ on the outside.

The Kids of Widney High are still performing as adults today, opening for established bands, have produced four albums, and were featured in ‘The Ringer’ movie. Real-life Peewee says “Don’t let anything, even your disabilities, cloud your dreams. Just go for it!” (pg. 141).

Happy book birthday to The Kids of Widney Junior High!

Where will your dreams take you?
**kmm

Book info: The Kids of Widney Junior High Take Over the World! / Mathew Klickstein; illustrated by Michael S. Bracco. Schiffer Kids, 2020. [author site] [illustrator interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

No way! LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE, by Donna Barba Higuera (book review)

book cover of Lupe Wong Won't Dance, by Donna Barba Higuera. Published by Levine Querido | recommended on BooksYALove.com

PE equals sports.
How is square dancing a sport?!

Lupe wants to become a major league pitcher, so meeting the MLB’s first Asian/Latino pitcher in Seattle will be a dream come true – IF she can ace all her middle school classes.

Getting an A in PE should be easy for the Chinese-Mexican athlete, until Coach announces square dancing and a public performance!

Unhygenic hand-holding, only boys can choose their partner, questionable song lyrics – every objection that Lupe brings up to the principal is met with modifications to their lessons, meaning less time to learn the dance and be chosen to perform and earn that A… her classmates aren’t happy with her.

Advice from her Mexican-American grandmother and Chinese-American grandparents, the voice of experience from big brother, the memory of her late father… she’s just gotta try.

Doctor Who nights with autistic best friend Niles get cancelled, best friend Andy’s mom adds soccer to her overloaded schedule, and Lupe even gets the cold shoulder from her baseball team.

When her assigned partner is injured, Lupe has to dance alone! Now how can she be chosen for the performance and earn her A in PE?

Happy book birthday this week to this strong young woman and her cadre of friends!

When have you bucked tradition for what is right?
**kmm

Book info: Lupe Wong Won’t Dance / Donna Barba Higuera. Levine Querido, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Rivalry or romance? TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW, by Rachel Lynn Solomon (book review)

book cover of Today Tonight Tomorrow, by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

For four years, every morning began with their snarky texts, and every school event was completely Rowan vs. Neil.

After four years, everything comes down to now… now what?

At their Seattle high school, Rowan and Neil have competed for the top spot in everything from student council to recycling, all to earn the honor of valedictorian.

Concentrating on competition this last semester has kept Rowan from spending time with her best friends, even as Keely and Mara became a couple – they’ll have all summer to catch up, right?

Howl is her last chance to one-up Neil, as the senior class scavenger hunt ranges across the city, tagging-out classmates until only one remains.

Near-tags and crazy coincidences cause Rowan and Neil to partner up, hoping to split the cash prize for college costs.

Can Rowan and Neil overcome their rivalry to win Howl?
Why didn’t they know each other was Jewish?
Might they actually like each other…really like each other?

As Howl continues, the pair shares secret plans (a name change?) and secret worries (is romance writing a real career?) while keeping watch for other students – 24 hours, so many plot twists and turns!

Read an excerpt here from this love story in Seattle that’s a love story to Seattle, courtesy of the publisher. From the author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (recommended here).

What’s your favorite Happily Ever After?
**kmm

Book info: Today Tonight Tomorrow / Rachel Lynn Solomon. Simon Pulse, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher, via NetGalley.

Avenging his death? It’s up to ELATSOE & her gifts, by Darcie Little Badger (book review)

of Elatsoe, by Darcie Little Badger, illustrated by Rovina Cai. Published by Levine Querido | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Her dreams carry truth,
Every animal, dead or alive, knows her,
Cousin’s death was no accident!

During their dream conversation, Trevor revealed his killer’s name, so Ellie’s sacred duty is justice for her cousin whose Anglo widow Lenore doesn’t fully understand Lipan Apache ways or traditions.

Down the length of Texas go Ellie and her parents for his funeral, to a town that’s shown only on paper maps, with lush green lawns during drought, New England colonial-style buildings, and a strong dislike for newcomers.

The person named by Trevor is rich Dr. Allerton known for his miraculous cures – how did he and a young grade-school teacher ever cross paths?

Like her many-generations-ago grandmother Great-Six, Ellie can raise animals from the dead and has powers against supernatural creatures – will this be enough to stop whatever is keeping her cousin from his final rest?

Vampires, monsters, fairy-ring transport stations, greed and deception – asexual Ellie, her ghost dog Kirby, and best friend Jay try to piece together the mystery to protect her cousin’s son and widow before it’s too late.

Happy book birthday to this debut #ownvoices novel bringing the stories of Great-Six back to the land and waters of south Texas as her descendent Elatsoe lives into her heritage to battle against evil.

How do you support family in difficult times?
**kmm

Book info: Elatsoe / Darcie Little Badger; illustrated by Ravina Cai. Levine Querido, 2020. [author Twitter] [artist site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

SAY YES SUMMER to everything! by Lindsey Roth Culli (book review)

book cover of Say Yes Summer, by Lindsey Roth Culli. Published by Delacorte Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Rachel is brilliant, dependable, and boring-on-purpose. Saying no to everything but her grades in high school kept the Michigan teen at the top of her class, working at her family’s Italian restaurant, and totally safe from heartbreak.

Sorting stuff instead of going to a graduation party, Rachel finds an old advice book and decides to “say yes” to opportunities this summer before college.

Yes – to finally attending a party and even jumping in the pool! Oops, social media caught that.

Yes – to reconnecting with Carrie who left Rachel and Ruoxi for the popular crowd when the trio hit ninth grade. Oops, who left out who?

Yes – to a road trip with her long-time crush, soccer star Clayton! Oops, forgot to let folks know she’d be gone.

Yes – to going out with her buddy-since-birth Miles! Oops, how is her snarky gelato cart co-worker suddenly so charming?

Rachel’s mom and stepdad aren’t sure about her new persona, her grandmother tries to advise her, and other people’s secrets start blurring the lines between okay and oh no.

First stamp in her passport, first kisses, first time to disappoint everyone at once?

Find this May 2020 release at your local library (ebooks available 24/7) or favorite independent bookstore.

What was the best Yes decision you ever made?
**kmm

Book info: Say Yes Summer / Lindsey Roth Culli. Delacorte – Random House Children’s Books, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher, via Netgalley.

When WAR IS OVER – what next? by David Almond (book review)

book cover of War Is Over, by David Almond, illustrated by David Litchfield. Published in US by Candlewick | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Mam working at the munitions factory,
Dad away, fighting overseas,
the Great War goes on and on.

John writes to Buckingham Palace in 1918, asking when the terrible war will be over, but neither King nor teachers nor mothers can answer the boy’s question.

As his class walks to tour the gigantic weapons factory, they encounter a man who refused to fight, a conscientious objector against war who knows that German and British children are more alike than different.

After the police beat the man and take him away for speaking unpatriotic thoughts in public, one photo of a German boy is left behind.

Soon the boy Jan appears in John’s dreams, and though they speak different languages, their wish for peace is the same. “I am just a child. How can I be at war?” (pg 20)

Among the extensive black and white illustrations, the reader’s mind can imagine the red of homemade rosehip jam and of the tiny scars on Mam’s cheeks left by faulty shrapnel in the factory and of sunsets preceding John’s dreams of children spreading seeds of peace instead of hate.

Published in the UK in 2018 to mark the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I, this child’s eye view of war is a May 2020 US release.

Can we love our country and hate war?
**kmm

Book info: War is Over / David Almond; illustrated by David Litchfield. Candlewick Press, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Statistics show OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST, right? by Susin Nielsen (book review)

book cover of Optimists Die First, by Susin Nielsen. Published by Tundra Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sister’s death wasn’t her fault-
Everyone says so,
but she can’t accept that…

Everyday life in Vancouver is filled with deadly risks, so 16-year-old Petula takes every precaution now (but nothing can bring back her little sister or her best friend).

The new guy with the prosthetic arm witnesses her panic attack in class and is in her youth art therapy class and thinks Petula is nice (but doesn’t know how Maxine died).

Ack! Petula and Jacob have to do a project together for English?! His movie-making skills and her recently abandoned crafting supplies plus her mom’s rescue cats should be perfect (but Dad doesn’t agree about having so many cats, not one bit).

As they work together, Jacob reveals his struggles with surviving the crash that killed his best friends back in Toronto, Petula begins to look forward to spending time with him, and life becomes brighter for both of them (but hopefully kissing is less germ-filled than she thought).

When the art therapy class rebels against their teacher’s little-kid ideas, she challenges them to find creative ways to face their issues – parental rejection, grief, survivor’s guilt, addictive behaviors – and they begin working together (but don’t call them friends quite yet).

But when one secret comes to light, Petula’s new happiness and the art therapy group’s progress are all threatened.

From the author of We Are All Made of Molecules (recommended here).

How do you know when it’s time to let old problems go?
**kmm

Book info: Optimists Die First / Susin Nielsen. Tundra Books, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Solve his life by DOWN AND ACROSS? by Arvin Ahmadi (book review)

cover image of Down and Across, by Arvin Ahmadi. Published by Penguin | recommended on BooksYALove.com

His life needs focus, purpose.
Consult an expert?
Yes! Go now!

Almost 17, Saaket (call him Scott) has bumbled his way through school and life, much to the dismay of his doting Persian parents. Surely he can stick with this lab internship for a month while they are away…

On a whim, he travels to DC instead so he can ask an expert how to get grit, that ability to follow through with things. He’ll be back in Philadelphia long before his parents get back from Iran…

Meeting Fiora on the bus as she goes back to Georgetown University is a stroke of luck since that’s where Professor Mallard works! Fiora is a crossword fanatic and a daredevil who introduces him to Trent and a crazy bar, dares Saaket to get out of his comfort zone…

Professor Mallard has a project for him – great!
Fiora has a plan to connect Trent with a mentor – fantastic!
Saaket is running out of time and money – where’s that grit?!

Family expectations can be a balloon or an anchor – Saaket and his new friends are deciding how the answers of their pasts will fill their personal crossword puzzle of future possibilities.

How far can grit take you in life?
**kmm

Book info: Down and Across / Arvin Ahmadi. Viking, 2018, Penguin paperback, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.