Tag Archive | California

They must find more LITTLE MONARCHS, butterflies vital for humanity’s survival! by Jonathan Case (Middle Grade graphic novel review)

book cover of Little Monarchs, by Jonathan Case. Published by Margaret Ferguson Books / Holiday House | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sun-sickness wiped out mammals,
some humans survive underground,
can any ever see daylight again?

By 2101, only two people on Earth can survive sunshine – young Elvie and scientist Flora who’s caring for the 10 year old while Elvie’s parents travel onward as the team perfects a cure for sun-sickness.

Monarch butterflies carry the needed ingredient on their wings, so Flora and Elvie follow their migration south along what used to be the western USA, scavenging from former cities, foraging wild foods, and avoiding known underground settlements.

Elvie documents nature and schoolwork in her journal, while Flora tests and retests ways to make larger quantities of the monarch wing-scale medicine that prevents sun-sickness.

After an earthquake, they find a small boy near an abandoned settlement, so Flora gives him a dose of medicine and they keep going. Elvie left behind a note and some medicine, in case anyone returns to look for little Sito.

Wow, his family does follow them and wants to travel along – safety in numbers, right? Right?!?

This outstanding graphic novel documents their perilous journey to meet up with Elvie’s parents, as well as the natural wonders and survival skills that she records in her journal.

In our time, monarch numbers are dropping dramatically, so planting native milkweed along their migration route can make up for some habitat loss.

Do monarchs migrate through your region?
**kmm

Book info: Little Monarchs / Jonathan Case. Margaret Ferguson Books / Holiday House, 2022. [author site] [book site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

SINGING WITH ELEPHANTS, poetry in her heart breaks free! by Margarita Engle (MG book review)

book cover of Singing With Elephants, by Margarita Engle. Published by Viking Books /PRH  | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Home isn’t here.
English is so hard to learn.
Animals always understand her.

Doctors in California after World War II couldn’t cure her grandmother diabetes, but now Oriol’s family is established here, her parents’ veterinary practice thriving, her big sister flirting with elephant handler Surey at the wildlife ranch they serve.

Summer is a release from kids who bully the 11 year old for not speaking English well, for the scents of animal companions that cling to her clothes. Oriol still longs for Cuba, where she and Abuelita cared for whistling birds.

Into their neighborhood comes an older lady whose words ring out with messages of nature and peace and hope. This poet from Chile begins teaching Oriol how to observe the world and bring poetry from her soul onto the page – in Spanish, in English, in both languages at once.

Oriol finally gets to meet wise-eyed Chandra at the ranch and Surey who cares for the pregnant elephant. The wonderful sounds that Chandra makes bring her so much joy, inspiring words and more words!

Can Oriol someday be a poet and a veterinarian, someone who translates animal speech to humans?

The noisy movie star who brought Chandra and Surey from Nepal can’t wait for the baby to be born – is he really the right person to own an elephant?

Big surprise when Chandra gives birth! Then terrible shock – what can Oriol do to help?

This novel-in-verse was inspired by the late 1940s California stay of Gabriela Mistral and her companion Doris Dana, as the educator, writer, and only woman Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature continued her work as a peace activist.

Another lyrical Cuban-centered story by the author of Rima’s Rebellion (I recommended here), Your Heart My Sky (more here), Lion Island (here) and more.

What words does nature inspire you to write?
**kmm

Book info: Singing With Elephants / Margarita Engle. Viking Books /PRH, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

THEY CALLED US ENEMY – Japanese-Americans in WWII, by George Takei (Graphic novel review)

Book cover of They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. Published by Top Shelf Media | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Leaving their home and possessions,
not his parents’ choice…
Why? Why!?

His mama’s purse is full of treats for five-year-old George and little Henry as they make the long train trip with her, Daddy, and baby Nancy from their home in Los Angeles to a camp in the woods of rural Arkansas.

Not a vacation place, but an internment camp with barbed wire fences, unfamiliar foods, very little privacy, and their loyalty to the USA constantly in question – boring for kids, disheartening for adults.

Later, George’s family was moved to a facility in the California desert at Tule Lake, another of several concentration camps that housed 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese who were forcibly removed from the West Coast during World War II.

At war’s end, they hoped to move back to their homes and businesses, but their properties had been seized and sold to others… time to start all over again.

Will the US government deport George’s family?
How can they live in a country that hates them?
What will the future be like in a world after war?

This is a sobering portrayal of a dreadful time in America’s history, as seen through a child’s eyes and reinforced by decades of subtle and overt racism against Asian Americans.

(One of the white co-authors had worked previously with Takei and pitched the idea of capturing his childhood memories as a graphic novel. The book’s artist is Japanese-American, creator of Himawari House graphic novel that I recommended here.)

The well-known Star Trek actor and social activist continues to speak out against discrimination, racism, and the rights of all to love and be loved.

What young childhood memory would you write or draw?
**kmm

Book info: They Called Us Enemy / George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf Media, 2019. [author site] [co-author site] [co-author interview] [illustrator interview] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

C is for Callie, reinventing herself ACROSS THE POND, by Joy McCullough (MG book review)

book cover of Across the Pond, by Joy McCullough. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Goodbye, not-so-good friends,
hello, new life in a new country!
Now… how to become a new me?

Callie and Jax’s parents have inherited what? A large drafty castle in Scotland that her family will renovate into a tourist destination is a huge change from their small two-bedroom apartment in San Diego where she was bullied at school.

Jax bounds into primary school as happily as he races through the castle’s many chilly rooms where stones fall from fireplaces and mice munch on tapestries.

Callie loves the small village library, but utterly panics at starting mid-term at the high school – please, please, will her parents let her homeschool to finish seventh grade and help them renovate?

They agree, as long as she does an outside activity to make friends… hmm, Lady Whittington-Spence’s childhood journal talks about bird-watching when she was evacuated to the countryside early in World War II.

When Callie unintentionally makes an enemy of their landscape designer’s young teen granddaughter, escaping to the youth birdwatching club (oops, it’s called ‘twitching club’ in Scotland) seems the best idea.

The twitchers are pleased to have access to the castle grounds for the Big Day competition when their club will try to beat teams from neighboring villages by spotting the most birds. Callie has some catching up to do, and Cressida (“just Sid”) forgives her so they can learn all the birds’ favorite nesting spots.

Can she and Sid show the twitching club that girls are great birders?
Can Callie’s family get the castle in shape for visitors soon?
How did their new cat get into the dumbwaiter?

Entries from Pippa Spence’s journal punctuate Callie’s own journey into confidence in her own abilities to learn new things and finally make friends worth having.

Published in paperback this week! By the author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost (I recommend here).

What’s on your “must-see” personal list?
**kmm

Book info: Across the Pond / Joy McCullough. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2021, paperback 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

SECRET OF THE STORM is… a tiny kitten? by Beth McMullen (MG book review)

book cover of Secret of the Storm, by Beth McMullen.  Published by Aladdin Books S&S | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sad without Dad,
best friend ghosting her,
does she hear meows in the storm?

In this foggy coastal California town, Cassie just trudges through her days at middle school, avoiding the Popular Posse that took away her best friend, ignoring comments about her non-fashion sense.

Volunteering at the public library is the only bright spot in Cassie’s life, as Mom is still not-all-here after Dad’s death, even when cool Ms. Asher partners her with geeky Joe, whose tech skills have finally made the bullies leave the Black boy alone.

When the tweens rescue a tiny black kitten during a wild storm, life gets more interesting. How did Albert survive when lightning struck that dumpster? Cassie takes him home and is amazed at how fast and strong he is!

More unusual weather events in town, Albert’s water bowl steaming when he plays in it, and a strange symbol appearing on Cassie’s closet door – the same symbol that’s on the notebook that Ms. Asher hides when anyone comes near!

Scorch marks on her bedroom carpet, an old college friend ranting to Ms. Asher about storms and dragons, mysterious events in their town’s history – Joe and Cassie (and Albert) need more information so they visit the library… after hours.

When little kitten Albert comes to Cassie’s defense during a slumber party (best friend’s mom said she had to be invited), there are suddenly flames, screaming popular girls, and a viral video…of a dragon!

The police start asking questions, Ms. Asher’s friend is threatening them, and they have to leave town with Albert – now!

When have you and your friends stood up for someone who needs help?
**kmm

Book info: Secret of the Storm (Secret of the Storm, book 1) / Beth McMullen. Aladdin Books/Simon & Schuster, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

VAMPIRES, HEARTS & OTHER DEAD THINGS in her life, by Margie Fuston (book review)

book cover of Vampires, Hearts & Other Dead Things, by Margie Fuston. Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Vampires are real,
cancer is too-real,
she can solve this…

Pancreatic cancer is stealing away her dad – fellow enthusiast of all things undead, he and Victoria were thrilled when vampires revealed themselves on live TV, both ready to go find one after public outcry forced them back into the shadows. Her big sister and mom never understood their enthusiasm.

He didn’t cancel their graduation trip to New Orleans though, and asks her to go look for vampires and bring him pictures of everything. In Dad’s place will be her classmate Henry, former best friend (former almost-more-than-best friend) so the California teen isn’t there alone.

Victoria has a checklist of places to visit – the Ursulines convent, St. Louis cemetery – anywhere she might glimpse a vampire and convince them to help her. Being undead is better than being dead, right?

Late-night wanderer Carter introduces her to the vampire Nicholas, who gives Victoria a list of challenges to accomplish that will prove she’s ready to give up her life for undeath. Henry is not amused, thinks Carter and Nicholas are frauds, but won’t let her run around the Crescent City alone.

The first message tucked in a poetry book at a quaint shop directs her to eat beignets while wearing black and take as proof. Ah, some words are underlined in the book, too.

Returning to the shop, Victoria finds the next challenge – break into a certain house and steal something? More words underlined in the poem…

How much will Henry actually help her?
Why does she suddenly long to sketch and paint again?
Will Nicholas truly honor his agreement?

Before he got sick, Dad even looked like Bela Lugosi in the classic vampire movies – she would do anything to save him, anything!

While you’re getting this debut novel about hope and grief at your local library or independent bookstore, check out these vampire tales I’ve recommended:

  • The Hunt, series by Andrew Fukuda (my review of book 1)
  • Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts, by Nancy Campbell Allen (more here)
  • Elatsoe, by Darcy Little Badger (loved it!).

What’s your favorite vampire story?
**kmm

Book info: Vampires, Hearts & Other Dead Things / Margie Fuston. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

MIND GAMES, by Shana Silver – Remember forever or every memory erased? (YA book review)

book cover of Mind Games, by Shana Silver. Published by Swoon Reads/Macmillan | recommended on BooksYALove.com

If you could remember every moment,
or experience someone’s memory as if it were your own –
would you?

Her brilliant parents’ invention of HiveMind means that you never have to forget cherished memories.

Everyone at their school for extraordinary talents is connected to HiveMind, and Arden has figured out how to override security and access memories to share…for a price.

But then she wakes up with a vital chunk of her own memory gone and no backups of it on HiveMind! Even worse for Bash, who’s forgotten everything about the past several weeks of his life – with no backups – how?

The classmates’ important final tech project must be presented soon… if only they could remember what it was.

Who wants Arden and Bash to forget?
Why are just their memories gone?
Can they stop the literal brain drain before it’s too late?

It’s a race against the clock, because without HiveMind backups, when a memory is gone, it’s like it never happened at all.

What favorite memory would you like to preserve everything about – forever?
**kmm

Book info: Mind Games / Shana Silver. Swoon Reads/Macmillan, 2019. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

When tattooed boy STARLING falls from the sky.. #YALit by Isabel Strychacz (book review)

book cover of Starling, by Isabel Strychacz. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A lifetime of following the very unusual,
wanting to escape sneering neighbors,
graduation seems as far away as the stars…

Outcasts in their odd California desert town, teens Delta and Bee try to keep folks from realizing that Dad stepped into a different dimension a few weeks ago, not just off on another esoteric research trip.

Their house on the outskirts of Darling truly has a mind of its own, and the sisters won’t open the hall closet door, hoping Dad will walk back through someday soon.

When a meteor or plane or something crashes into their woods one night, Delta ventures out and finds a boy covered with moving tattoos – but who could have survived this?

Maybe Starling is a boy, but more likely not. If they can’t find the object he needs to return home, can he survive here?

If Del’s sort-of-boyfriend finds out about Starling and tells his dad the mayor…. oh no!

Recounted from Delta’s and Starling’s perspectives, this tale of disconnection, love, and loss brings the distant near.

What makes a place ‘home’ for you?
*kmm

Book Info: Starling / Isabel Strychacz. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Let’s keep this BETWEEN YOU, ME, AND THE HONEYBEES, by Amelia Dian Coombs (YA book review)

cover image of Between You, Me, and the Honeybees, by Amelia Dian Coombs. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The contented buzz,
orderly and productive –
bees always tell the truth.

Josie finally got through graduation and just wants to work full-time at her family honey business outside their small North California town.

But Mom insists that Josie apply to college (the chance she never got), and her bossy best friend is more than ready for them both to escape Volana for school in LA.

When the grandson of rival beekeepers arrives for the summer, Josie finally meets someone who understands her anxiety and her love for the bees. Ezra is a manga fan too and really wants to draw graphic novels professionally, despite his father’s disdain for the arts.

This summer, Hazeldine Honey will try for its 25th win for best honey in the state, beating the rival Blumsteins yet again… when disaster strikes.

Why can’t Mom understand that caring for their bees is more important than leaving town?
Will her beloved Gran have to move back with them because of her medical and memory issues?
Can Josie and Ezra keep their relationship secret from their feuding families?

Maybe sweetness doesn’t always have to come with a sting – read Josie and Ezra’s summer story to find out!

What’s your dream that’s outside the expected, tried, and true?
**kmm

Book Info: Between You, Me, and the Honeybees / Amelia Dian Coombs. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

New heart, new dreams, EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW is upended, by Shannon Takaoka (YA book review)

book cover of Everything I Thought I Knew, by Shannon Takaoka, published by Candlewick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A better race time,
better grades for better college,
a better heart?

Chloe’s plans shatter when she’s suddenly sidelined from cross-country running to wait for a heart transplant, missing so much of her senior year that she’ll have to attend summer school with the slackers so she can graduate.

The 17 year old’s new heart came from a young donor within 30 miles of her California home, that’s all the hospital can say. Now everyday life is lots of anti-rejection pills and checkups and nightmares she never had before and avoiding her classmates’ graduation celebrations.

On a sudden whim, she decides to take surfing lessons to get away from her parents’ constant hovering and her unusual boredom with school subjects that plan-everything Chloe used to enjoy.

Kai teaches more by example than words, but every week’s lessons with the cute teen guy give her a focus beyond the yawning boredom of summer school.

Her new pal Jane is fine with Chloe’s out-of-character ideas, like getting a tattoo and trying to find out about her heart donor despite the other family’s wish not to be contacted.

If she gets better at surfing, will Kai stop giving her lessons?
Where did this sudden passion for music come from?
Who had the motorcycle crash in her recurring nightmare?

As Chloe’s dreams unspool incidents related to the crash, she’s compelled to follow those clues around the Bay Area like her life now is a mystical puzzle.

When have you felt an unexplainable connection to someone?
**kmm

Book info: Everything I Thought I Knew / Shannon Takaoka. Candlewick Press, 2020. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.