Tag Archive | friendship

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.

Wild Blues! in the woods, killers on the loose, by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit (book review)

book cover of Wild Blues, by Beth Kephart. Published by Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Prison break!
Escapees in her woods!
And then the storm…

Lizzie is a keen observer of the natural world, Uncle Davy has an eye for the unusual and beautiful, and Matias’ heart is grander than his body which has stopped growing.

Yes, there was a real prison break from Clinton Correctional Facility (accomplice-aided, like this one), Camping and Woodcraft is a real book written by the author’s great-grandfather, and the memories of war in El Salvador shared by Matias’ parents come from her husband’s experiences.

When it is time to act decisively, do you have the knowledge you need?
**kmm

Book info: Wild Blues / Beth Kephart; illustrated by William Sulit. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Staying with her uncle in his Adironacks cabin during Mom’s radiation treatment, 13-year-old Lizzie and her friend Matias get caught up in a prison break and problems bigger than all of them.

Mom says don’t tell her brother about the cancer, so Lizzie bottles that news inside as she and Uncle Davy visit estate sales for the amazing finds that made him TV-famous.

Best find? Kephart’s Camping and Woodcraft, the book that Lizzie studies all summer, survival and nature skills at their finest.Matias is nearby at his summer cabin with his Salvadorean parents who adore Lizzie too, wishing that the growth hormone shots would have made him taller by now so he could stop using arm-crutches…

And just over the ridge is the prison, where two killers escape – with outside help – setting off a manhunt in the woods where Matias has become lost during a sudden storm! Or was he kidnapped?

What if Uncle Davy gets lost searching for Matias?
How long will the convicts keep a boy who can’t run?
Why won’t the authorities let Lizzie help search?

Based on a real New York prison break, Lizzie powerfully and lyrically recounts the summer’s events as a victim impact statement.

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.

The post-Broadway stage is set for Nate Expecations, by Tim Federle (book review)

book cover of Nate Expectations, by Tim Federle. Published by Simon & Schuster Kids | recommended on BooksYALove.com

After acting on Broadway,
living in the Big Apple –
back to small town & big bullies?

Back to Pennsylvania where his soon-to-be high school has torn down the theater wing! Of course, Nate will find a way to put on a show, with his BFF’s expert organizational skills.

Even if you missed the first books in the Nate series, you’ll quickly pick up the story of this theater kid who got his big break as a young teen – in a musical with a very short run, despite the outstanding singing of so-cute Jordan.

Head to your local library or independent bookstore for this September 2018 release and the rest of the series.

Check out the audiobook excerpt on the publisher’s website, too – the author is a great narrator.

What’s your workaround for school programs that don’t fit your passions?
**kmm

Book info: Nate Expectations / Tim Federle. Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Nate returns to his small Pennsylvania hometown after playing on Broadway, glad to be with best friend Libby as they start high school – where they tore down the theater!?

Transform Great Expectations into a fantastic musical so he can pass English class? Nate and Libby are ready!

Cast the coach’s shy niece in the lead so they can use his gym? The show must go on!

Worry that Jordan is all Hollywood now and forgetting their NYC relationship? All the time…

Time for Nate to eclispe his big brother’s athletic superstar legacy, make new friends (like videographer Ben), and show his school that musicals make the world go round!

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.

Ballad of a Broken Nose, by Arne Svingen, translated by Kari Dickson (book review)

book cover of The Ballad of a Broken Nose, by Arne Svingen, translated by Kari Dickson. Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

His earbuds are filled with opera,
His neighbors are druggies and the jobless,
Just like any middle-school boy, right?

Bart does love his mum and is sure that someday she’ll be able to keep a job so they can move out of their slum apartment… not so sure about keeping away from the bullies at school.

What advice would you give Bart as he searches for his long-gone dad?

**kmm

Book info: The Ballad of a Broken Nose, by Arne Svingen, translated by Kari Dickson / Margaret K. McElderry Books, hardcover 2016, paperback 2017. [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Maybe 13-year-old Bart’s opera singing talent comes from the American father he’s never seen.
Who in his Norwegian town knew that John Jones was such a common name in the world?

Maybe his mom will finally keep a job so they can move out of the slum apartments.
Why is it so hard for her to stay sober?

Maybe learning to box will keep the bullies away or impress Ada.
What made her volunteer Bart to sing at the school show?

Maybe he’ll shake his stage fright… anything can happen, right?

Middle school years are different for each person, but this translated novel shows how common some things are.


Accidents, loss, Phantom Limbs – hope? by Paula Garner (book review)

book cover of Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner, published by Candlewick | recommended on BooksYALove.comHe lost his brother,
she lost her Olympic chances…
is there hope, if they work together?

Dara is a no-nonsense taskmaster as she tries to coach Otis into the Olympic Trials for swimming (now one-armed, she can’t swim out her own dreams).

But if Meg returns, how can he keep his focus? Or keep the reality of little brother Mason’s last day locked away safely?

Is what you can do the same as your identity?
**kmm

Book info: Phantom Limbs / Paula Garner. Candlewick Press, hardcover 2016, paperback 2018. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Two different tragedies have left Dara and Otis with missing parts, but as she pushes him through grueling swim practices this summer, another piece of his past returns and may shatter all their hopes.

Dara’s missing arm has become her aggressive swim coaching to put Otis in the Olympic Trials where she should have been.
Otis’s family has become fragile with just memory where little brother Mason should be.
Meg’s silence after she moved three years ago has become a void where Otis’s heart should be.

Dara just graduated from their Ohio high school, but can she move on?
Otis loved – loves – Meg, but does she still care for him?
Meg tried moving away, moving on, but will anywhere feel like home again?

As Otis tries to balance Dara’s demands (swim practice, phantom limb pains, more swim practice, maybe new girlfriend) and his expectations for Meg’s visit (her scent, her voice, her eyes, her not being on the phone with her jock boyfriend back in California), he struggles to stay out of the dark place that swallowed him when little Mason died.

Piper in NYC! Can she be an Art Boss? by Kayla Cagan (book review)

book cover of Art Boss, by Kayla Cagan. Published by Chronicle Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comIn the Big Apple at last!
Big artistic vision, short time to work.
Pricey place, small paycheck, next steps?

The story begun in Piper Perish opens a new chapter for the teen artist as she arrives in New York City, far from family demands in Houston (= why I prefer this book to #1).

No need to read the first book to get caught up in Piper’s explorations of NYC’s art scene and her own artistic ideas.

Head for your local library or independent bookstore to dive into NYC with Piper.

Away from home and family – what’s your first move?
**kmm

Book info:  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk:
In New York City at last, Piper works for a famous artist with a “new vision” but the Houston native also wants time for her own creative desires as she learns to navigate the city in a whirlwind season before starting art school.

Hired by Carlyle Campbell based on photos of her big senior project in Texas, now Piper must replicate that piece and several others for Fashion Week – fast!

Can she keep her own artistic focus while working to reflect what Carlyle wants the world to see?

The intense connection she felt online with her student mentor Silas seems erratic when they’re together in person – hmmm.

Her small salary from Carlyle doesn’t go far in the city – time to find another job, and find a place to paint, and go out with Silas and new friend Grace, and apply for financial aid so she can start next semester…

It’s Piper Perish in the big city as she leaps into the next chapter of her life – as long as she can find a way to stay here!