Tag Archive | diversity

Soul calls to soul, WILLA AND THE WHALE, by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown (middle grade book review)

book cover of Willa and the Whale, by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown. Published by Shadow Mountain | recommended on BooksYALove.com

She observes and learns,
listens and writes,
are her own answers in the sea?

Same island town in Washington that Willa left as a nine year old when she and Mom moved to Japan after the divorce, but now her horizons are wider and her grief is deep.

On a whale-watching trip with Dad just a month after Mom’s death, Willa films a gigantic female humpback whale breaching and calls out to her and the whale Meg talks back!

Too much can change in three years – best friend in a different house, too many people in Willa’s old house (step-siblings, half-sibling, too much noise!), no Mom to help her study the creatures of the ocean.

When Willa calls to Meg from the island beach, the whale answers from the distant deeps.

When friend Marc is secretive, Meg gives Willa good advice. When something dreadful happens on the beach, Willa tells Meg about it first.

Missing her Mom – will it ever get easier?
Being herself – will her island classmates ever understand?

In this tale of grief and loss and love, Willa’s journal entries from then and now reveal her deep appreciation of the sea’s inhabitants and her struggle toward living less-alone on the land.

When have you heard a call from afar?
**kmm

Book info: Willa and the Whale / Chad Morris and Shelly Brown. Shadow Mountain, 2020. [Chad’s site] [Shelly’s site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Nine years of #books… did it!

logo of 10th April Blogging A to Z Challenge

Yesterday, I wrapped up my 9th April A to Z Blog Challenge – 26 new books reviewed in a month. Nine years in a row!

Thank you to the A2Z organizers for providing annual graphics, badges, sign-ups, and promotion for free. During this pandemic, having a scheduled daily task was especially welcome.

Every year, I wonder if I should push myself to post every April day but Sundays, forcing books to fit into that A to Z progression (X, I am looking at you), and every year I am glad that I did it so y’all have 26 more books worth seeking out.

And today marks the beginning of my TENTH year of blogging about books beyond the bestsellers as BooksYALove!

Big thanks to Michele Rafter, whose Blogathon caught my attention in late April 2011 so I could start my very first blog on May 1st and learn the ins and outs of blogging during that May and several to follow.

Huge thanks to Barb Langridge, who asked me in 2010 to join other librarians in writing reviews for her book discovery site for kids www.abookandahug.com. Building up a digital folder of no-spoiler Young Adult and middle grade book reviews to post on my new blog was a true gift.

Much appreciation to the publishers who provide review copies and who have begun bringing us more books by #ownvoices authors, people of color, underrepresented populations – still a long, long way to go, but it’s a start.

All the love to my daughter Emily who designed the BooksYALove logo, helped me move this blog to self-hosting several years ago, and is the best kind of tech support always – mwah!

Will I post every day from now on?
Probably not.

Will I seek out books that are #ownvoices or beyond bestsellers, always worth your attention?
You bet!

Will I promote libraries and independent booksellers over other options?
Always, always, always!

What’s new in your book-reading world?
**kmm

Z for zap! with LIGHTNING GIRL! by Alesha Dixon & Katy Birchall (middle grade book review)

book cover of Lightning Girl, by Alesha Dixon & Katy Birchall, illustrated by James Lancett. Published by Kane Miller Publishing EDC | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sparks from her fingers!
Light beams from her hands!
Growing pains or superpowers?

Big brother is brilliant with computers, little sister is a genuine genius, and Aurora is in the middle, just average at everything, until the birthmark on her hands starts shooting light when she gets angry!

Mum is a secret superhero? Grandma and Aunt Lucinda too? Aurora has inherited superpowers?

Training sessions with Mum, keeping her secret from best friend Kizzy, Mr. Mercury ready to fail her in science – the British 11 year old is stressing out!

Her parents are arguing a lot now, the class trip to her dad’s exhibit of mysterious gemstones gets wild, and Aunt Lucinda drops by with her ostrich sidekick… what was her superpower exactly?

It’s up to Aurora to solve the gemstone mystery, repair her friendship with Kizzy, and make her parents happy together again…but how?

This illustrated adventure is the first in a series as the biracial middle-schooler meets other superheroes and fights against more villains. Look for all 4 books at your local library or independent bookstorehome delivery is a winner!

What superpower would you want to have?
**kmm

Book info: Lightning Girl (Lightning Girl, book 1) / Alesha Dixon with Katy Birchall; illustrated by James Lancett. Kane Miller EDC Publishers, 2020. [author interview] [co-author site] [publisher site] Review copy, sample page, and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

sample page from Lightning Girl, by Alesha Dixon & Katy Birchall

Summer of Sloane, by Erin L. Schneider (book review) – no more us, now who is she?

book cover of Summer Of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider published by Disney-Hyperion  | recommended on BooksYALove.comSloane’s best friend is pregnant!
By Sloane’s boyfriend!
Oh, leaving town is definitely an excellent idea!!

Even with a broken hand from punching Tyler in the nose, she can enjoy the beach with her twin brother at Mom’s house in Hawai’i, pretend she doesn’t care about her former friends (girl- and boy-) in Seattle (if they would please quit texting and calling and emailing with excuses for why it happened!), and start over as just Sloane, instead of eternally being half of a duo.

She didn’t plan on an attraction to Finn that maybe might be more than a summer fling… on the beach, you’ve got to watch out for the biggest waves.

Have you ever re-invented yourself when moving to a new place?
**kmm

Book info:  Summer of Sloane / Erin L. Schneider. Disney Hyperion, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When Sloane’s best friend Mick gets pregnant by Sloane’s boyfriend, the Seattle teen is more than ready to head to Mom’s Hawai’i home and try to find her true self with no summer romance! Swim lessons for scared-of-water young Luce are doable, even with her wrist cast, but staying away from her big brother Finn is nearly impossible.

Punching Tyler in the nose? Satisfying, if hand-breaking.
Ignoring texts from him and Mick? Difficult, but necessary.
Falling for Finn? Uh-oh…

As her Hawai’i pal Mia declares it “the summer of Sloane” to reinvent herself as single and happy, she tries to shut out the past, even as Finn is reminded of it always by his aloof father. And the days of summer count down, one by one…

Multicultural Children’s Book Day – windows & mirrors for us all

Yes, books can be windows to other worlds, other lives.
Also they should be mirrors where we can see ourselves, yet the majority of kids’ and young adult books published in the US don’t reflect that. (see my June 2014 post here for statistics)

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day which aims to open eyes, spark discussion, provide resources, and spread the word about the available books with main characters who are not white, middle-class, and straight.

Visit the site to find myriad book lists by category, from Asian American Books for Kids of All Ages to Diverse Biography Picture Books, as well as book lists by geographic region and holidays.

You know that I recommend books outside bestsellers (where, let’s face it, the leads are most often white, hetero, economically comfortable), so I find wonderful diverse titles that lots of folks will enjoy. BookRiot’s recent article on “How to Read Diversely” highlights more ways to find good reads with diverse characters.

#ReadYourWorld or someone else’s with these recent books (click title for my no-spoilers recommendation):

book cover of If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth published by Arthur A Levine BooksIf I Ever Get Out of Here, by Eric Gansworth – Rez life, seeing into others’ lives, the Beatles

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History, by Joel Christian Gill – graphic novel featuring African Americans not shown in history books

Shelter, by Patricia Aust – trying to be a man without resorting to Dad’s violence

Orleans, by Sherri L. Smith – deadly Delta Fever is least of Fen’s worries in post-apocalyptic Gulf Coast

The Chaos, by Nalo Hopkinson – Jamaican-Canadian teen seeks her brother in city overtaken by mythic, storybook, nightmare beings

Riding Invisible, by Sandra Alonzo – escaping on horseback from violence at home

Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew – graphic novel of first Asian American superhero

Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel, by Diana Lopez – Mom’s cancer, Chia’s promesas, answers not always clear

Need more? Watch for Diverse Books as Genre in column on the right (under all the tags) – updating in progress.

What diverse books are your favorites?
**kmm

How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon (book review) – gunshots, expectations, elusive truth

book cover of How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon published by Henry Holt BFYRKilled while running an errand for mom,
is Tarik a statistic, a symbol,
a symptom of our problems?
#Blacklivesmatter

In single-person chapters, every person shows how their version of How It Went Down is right, but the details just don’t match up. Was Tarik in the Kings gang or not? Was he as good as little sister Tina believed or as cruel as Kimberly experienced?

And how could the police release the white guy who shot Tarik, who was in the neighborhood just to borrow a car, who claimed self-defense against a teen who had no gun? (Tarik didn’t, did he?)

Written and edited well before the troubles of later 2014, this thought-provoking book was published in October, so you should be able to find it at your local library or independent bookstore.

Where does the violence end?
**kmm

Book info: How It Went Down / Kekla Magoon. Henry Holt Books For Young Readers, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Blam-blam! Black teen shot dead by a white man’s gun – but that’s all that the eyewitnesses can agree on.

Who started it – the kid edging into gang life or the guy just passing through the neighborhood?

Was Tarik holding a gun or a candy bar? Was Jack a good citizen breaking up a gang scuffle or a vigilante doing what the cops wouldn’t?

Did senatorial candidate Rev. Sloan come to Underhill to help the community mourn and heal or to advance his campaign?

Can the late teen’s best pal Tyrell escape to college without Tarik standing between him and the Kings’ insistence that he join the gang and earn his knife?

Each friend, family member, street acquaintance, and bystander tells How It Went Down, their many voices threading throughout the book to weave a most complex picture of perceptions, assumptions, and misunderstandings. Many questions, no easy answers, a conversation which must continue.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Book of Broken Hearts, by Sarah Ockler (book review) – memory is fickle; is love any different?

book cover of Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler published by Simon PulseEl Demonio stealing Papi’s memories,
Family duty stealing Jude’s theater dreams,
Memories stealing Emilio’s happiness.
Can thieves be banished by hard work  – and love?

Jude is sure that Papi’s memory bank will refill if he can just ride once more on the Harley that took him up the Argentine mountains  read more here

Puppy Love, by Destiny and Hapka (book review) – new dog, new friends, new love?

book cover of Puppy Love by A Destiny and Catherine Hapka published by Simon PulseHer rambunctious puppy +
a handsome dog trainer (with an accent!)
= a perfect match for her! (right?)

Lauren is sure she can get Adam’s mind off dogs, but can’t see how much Jamal in their puppy kindergarten class would like to spend time with her…

Another winsome book in the Flirt series where A. Destiny shares co-writing credits with several different authors; check out Portrait of Us  too (my no-spoiler review here).
**kmm

Book info: Puppy Love (Flirt series) / A. Destiny and Catherine Hapka. Simon Pulse, 2014.   [Flirt series site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As 15 year old Lauren swoons over a cute dog trainer and wonders how can she get the senior to look at her and not just her goofy pup, she may be missing a fellow dog owner’s longing glances.

Finally getting a dog after her so-allergic sister goes away to college is a dream come true for Lauren, but if she can’t break Muckle’s bad habits… well, her best friend Robert is unhappy about the chewing and so is Mom.

Puppy kindergarten is the answer, and Adam who teaches their class for teens is so handsome. Meeting hunky Jamal is nice, but their Irish-accented leader is the one for her, she just knows!

Adam’s enthusiasm with dog agility training, plus mishaps in class and at the dog park are making it difficult for Lauren to show him how perfect they are together. And now Robert is plotting something with Jamal… is she just chasing in circles like Muckle?  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Harlem Hellfighters, by Max Brooks & Canaan White (book review) – WW I graphic novel of prejudice, peril & courage

book cover of Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks art by Canaan White published by Broadway booksVolunteering to fight in the Great War,
stymied at every turn by their own countrymen,
the Black Rattlers will prevail or die trying.

As the world marks the centennial of World War I’s start this month, follow the African-American 369th Infantry from routine prejudices in the US to the unpredictable violence of trench warfare in this stunning graphic novel.

Combining emotion-packed art (be very, very glad that it’s not in full color) with the era’s poems and narratives, this book unlocks a little-known episode of American history as the “Men of Bronze” inch toward the Rhine through mud, blood, lice, and poison gas.

Get it today at your local library or independent bookstore. I’ll wait here for you – I’m going to read it again myself.

p.s. Will Smith has already optioned it for a movie.
p.p.s. Yes, the author is the same Max Brooks who wrote World War Z.
**kmm

Book info: Harlem Hellfighters / Max Brooks; art by Canaan White. Broadway Books, 2014. [author site]   [artist Tumblr]   [publisher site]   [NPR interview] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher through BloggingForBooks.org.

My book talk: Black skin, white-hot patriotism, red blood on the battlefields of France – the 369th Infantry fights prejudice from the US Army itself en route to pushing German forces back to the Rhine during the Great War.

Practicing with broomsticks instead of the new rifles issued to white troops, the black National Guardsmen nevertheless become a formidable fighting unit with the best regimental band anywhere.

When the Men of Bronze from New York complete their training in South Carolina and ship out overseas in 1914 with no parades or fanfare, they fight in the muddy, bloody trenches alongside grateful French forces, determined to reach the Rhine.

A most graphic illustrated retelling of an ignored episode of US history, Harlem Hellfighters  uses the 369th’s enemy-given nickname in this true story of bravery and sacrifice.

Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew (book review) – Asian superhero against crime!

book cover of The Shadow Hero by Gene Yuen Lang and Sonny Liew published by First Second BooksIn Chinatown’s dark alleys,
the ruthless tongs demand payment,
but the Green Turtle arises to protect the innocent!

Happy book birthday to The Shadow Hero, as the origins of the first Asian-American superhero are revealed!

I love this new joint effort of graphic novelists Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew – light-hearted, but underpinned with the historical accuracy which won Gene so many awards for his paired graphic novels of a pivotal time in Chinese history, Boxers and Saints (my review here) .

Get a quick look at its vintage look and action here:

The Green Turtle’s adventures continue in this short sequence published on the Tor website, too.

**kmm

Book info:  The Shadow Hero / Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. First Second Books, 2014.  [Gene’s site]  [Sonny’s site]   [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As a child of Chinese immigrants, Hank expected to follow family tradition, but his mother demands that he become a superhero!

When The Anchor of Justice rescues his mother from a bank robber, she won’t be satisfied until Hank reinvents himself as a superhero, instead of being a grocer like his father.

Hank discovers that intense training and a new costume certainly don’t guarantee superhero success when his attempt to save a young lady from thugs merely earns him a beating and the crime boss’s daughter rescues herself.

Fighting against the tong’s extortion has a high price for Hank’s family, yet he vows to continue, aided by the ancient Tortoise spirit from his parents’ homeland.

As the Green Turtle, Hank battles his way into the tong’s headquarters with the Tortoise spirit’s guidance. Yet the challenges he finds there would tax any superhero’s skill and resolve.

“Sometimes a fight you cannot win is still worth fighting,” counsels the spirit of the Tortoise, and Hank is in this fight until the end.

Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew transform an old comic book into this great graphic novel about the first Asian-American superhero.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)