Tag Archive | human rights

They search to see WINGS IN THE WILD – wings of hope? by Margarita Engle (YA book review)

Standing brown girl paints mural of tropical birds while seated brown boy serenades her with guitar - book cover of Wings In the Wild, by Margarita Engle

Creative people caged like birds,
our overheating planet –
where is justice?

Fleeing Cuba when their massive wood sculptures protesting the imprisonment of artists are revealed by a hurricane in 2018, Soleida is separated from her parents – the sixteen year old animal rescuer must continue out into the world, alone.

Yet another wildfire consumes his parents’ California mansion and the forest where Dariel serenades animals with Cuban love songs. Better to leave their elite expectations and go with Abuelo to help interview Cuban refugees stranded in Costa Rica, experience its natural wonders before climate change destroys them, too.

In spring 2019, Soleida and Dariel meet among the sea of refugee tents – her hopes of freedom shredded to the bone, his anger at these injustices burning hot.

What will she think of the tropical animals and birds that move in closer and closer to hear his songs and guitar?
What will he think of her journey-story, surviving fear and flood and hunger, leaving her parents behind?

Together, they find her artist cousin nearby in the cloud forest.
Together, can they let the world know about her parents, trapped in Cuba?
Together…can they have any future together?

Watching incredible birds, painting them, singing them near, pondering what could be – this novel-in-verse traverses difficult situations and wonder-filled landscapes.

Readers will recognize Soleida’s neighbors Liana and Amado from Your Heart, My Sky (recommended here), much like the interwoven stories of people who have left Cuba connect with those remaining there. Just released in paperback on April 23, 2024.

How far would you go to be free?

Book info: Wings in the Wild / Margarita Engle. Atheneum, hardcover 2023, paperback 2024. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

STAND UP! BE AN UPSTANDER AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE, by Wendy L. Moss (nonfiction book review)

book cover of Stand Up! Be an Upstander and Make a Difference, by Wendy L. Moss PhD. Published by Magination Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Unfair treatment,
Bullying at school and online,
Can one person make a difference?

Yes! One voice can add to the chorus asking for big changes or help a new student feel welcome by being an Upstander instead of an uncaring bystander.

Use the quizzes in each chapter to discover what kind of bystander you are – neutral, negative, or positive – and that your reactions will differ from situation to situation.

Become better at being kind to yourself, dealing respectfully with conflict, and working with others to brainstorm ways to make a difference.

Young people do have power to change unfair rules – learn strategies that help decision-makers see your viewpoint.

Kindness and anger are both contagious – educate yourself on ways to spread kindness and disrupt stereotypes that spread negativity.

In these times and in all times coming, you can educate yourself to be an Upstander, to positively help your family, school, community, and world.

Are you up for this?

Book info: Stand Up! Be an Upstander and Make a Difference / Wendy L. Moss, PhD. Magination Press, 2019. [author bio] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Audiobooks with true soul & saddened hearts

Time to download this week’s soulful audiobooks from SYNC so you can read with your ears – at no cost!

Remember that although these complete audiobooks are only available from Thursday through Wednesday (June 15-21, 2017), you have free use of them as long as you keep them on your computer or electronic device

Bookmark the SYNC site now so you can download great audiobooks all summer long: http://www.audiobooksync.com/

CD cover of The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois| Read by Rodney Gardiner Published by Dreamscape Media | recommended on BooksYALove.comThe Souls of Black Folk (download here free from 15-21 June)
by W.E.B. Du Bois
Read by Rodney Gardiner
Published by Dreamscape Media

Following the Civil War and Emancipation, African-Americans were systematically denied their rights, as Du Bois chronicled in this 1903 work which rings true today, as progress has been uneven, at best.
The Red Umbrella (download here free from 15-21 June) CD cover of The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez | Read by Kyla Garcia Published by Ideal Audiobooks | recommended on BooksYALove.com
by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Read by Kyla Garcia
Published by Ideal Audiobooks<

Abruptly moved to prairieland Nebraska from tropical Cuba when Castro’s control grows tighter in 1963, teen Lucia must cope with new language and new worries – will she and her little brother ever see their parents again?

Displacement, change, and loss – can you relate?

O for Out of Nowhere, by Maria Padian (fiction) – black refugees, white town, seeing red

book cover of Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian published by KnopfMoving far away is difficult.
Keeping your faith in a new place is hard.
Soccer… is wonderful.

The Somali migration to Lewiston, Maine, that began in the early 2000s saw the arrival of newcomers who had almost nothing in common with its residents – not race, not religion, not food traditions, not clothes styles. Yet this influx of families has revitalized the formerly dying factory town; everything’s not perfect, but many positive things are happening there.

And the love of soccer? Seems to be universal, a language that every cheering fan and would-be goalie understands. Will it be enough to keep things calm at Chamberlain High? You’ll have to read this new novel yourself to find out what happens to Saeed and his family, to Tom and his family, to the town whose mayor asked refugees to stop inviting their relatives to live there.

Book info: Out of Nowhere / Maria Padian. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Saeed’s soccer is brilliant, his smile is blinding, his skin as black as the Somali refugee camp that his family had fled. Maybe Saeed could help Chamberlain High win against their biggest rivals, thought Tom, but winning over the townspeople to accept the Somali Muslim immigrants would be a far larger battle.

Tom’s small Maine hometown wasn’t thrilled at the secondary migration of Somali refugees from the big cities like Atlanta where they’d been placed on first arrival in the US. Most of these new students spoke very little English so the school counselors are frazzled.

Luckily, soccer has its own global language, so once Tom can get Saeed’s mother to sign his permission slips, the team will have their best chance ever against fancy Maquoit High School. Too bad Saeed’s sister Samira took an instant dislike to Tom (everyone likes Tom, especially the girls).

Too bad that Tom went along with his lifelong pal Donnie on a prank where they were caught redhanded. Now it’s hours of community service (bet that stoner doesn’t follow through)  along with soccer practice which lands Tom at the community center, tutoring a young Somali boy, meeting a cute college girl, and wondering if he really wants to stay with his affectionate but less-than-intelligent girlfriend.

What an amazing soccer season! Thanks to Saeed and the other Somali players, the team becomes a fast, accurate scoring machine. But the final games against their arch-rivals fall during Ramadan, when the Muslim students fast until sunset, so the team’s dream may drift away. Tom’s relatives continue to argue about the refugees, Donnie goes one goof too far, and a white supremacist group plans a rally in Enniston.

How much tension can a small town take before something snaps?
How can very different religions co-exist peacefully?
How can one small action change everything?

Tom thinks things through as he accepts these new players who came from Out of Nowhere, trying to make up his own mind about how the past impacts the future during his tumultuous senior year. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Cinders & Sapphires, by Leila Rasheed (fiction) – British high society & true goodness collide

book cover of Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed published by Disney HyperionEngland and India are so different,
Not even the green of the trees is the same,
But whispers and rumors are too close in both lands.

The objections to British rule over India have moved from prayers to violent demonstrations in 1910, especially following Lord Curzon’s partition of the country to split off Muslim-majority Bengal.

This first book in the At Somerton series will appeal to both fans of Downton Abbey and lovers of historical fiction with its upstairs-downstairs intrigues and political unrest abroad in the time just preceding “The Great War” which we call World War I.

What’s ahead for the Averley sisters and the others At Somerton as 1911 dawns?

Book info: Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton, book 1) / Leila Rasheed. Disney Hyperion, 2013. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:  High society and propriety will encircle Ava’s life in 1910 once the ship reaches England, but an accidental (and unchaperoned) meeting on deck leaves her breathless, hopeful, and confused. People would be shocked if they discovered that she’d kissed a man before her debutante season, utterly appalled if they found out he was Indian!

How dreadful for her father to leave India under a cloud of suspicion after his distinguished career there! Now they are returning to their family estate with her sister Georgiana so that he can marry a wealthy and beautiful widow to keep it afloat for now. The suddenness of the wedding and so many guests descending on quiet Somerton has the servants running to and fro, especially housekeeper Mrs. Cliffe whose daughter is now a housemaid.

Suddenly, Lady Ava and Lady Georgiana will have brothers and another sister (so jealous of everyone), plus a fashionable stepmother who will steer Ava through the intricacies of the London Season to find a husband. Never mind that Ava wants to attend Oxford, wants to think for herself, wants to think at all! And Ravi is at Oxford, might even visit London…

When Rose Cliffe is promoted to ladies’ maid for Ava and Georgiana, she’s sad that her evenings at the piano in the friendly servants’ sitting room are over. Music just flows through her veins, but a country girl like her could never afford piano lessons. The ladies’ maid to the new Lady Westlake hints strongly that learning secrets is the best way to get ahead in this world. The clandestine letters between Ravi and Ava, hinting of violence against the British in India, go through Rose’s hands…

Is there any hope for Ravi and Ava to be together?
What other secrets glide through Somerton’s elegant halls?
Must Ava marry someone, just to keep the estate intact?
As upstairs murmurs and belowstairs whispers collide, more stories At Somerton will follow this debut tale of keeping up appearances, societal expectations, and scandalously delicious secrets. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

A Hundred Flowers, by Gail Tsukiyama (fiction) – Mao’s China, family’s fracture

book cover of A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama published by St Martins Press

You can see the White Cloud Mountain, if you look hard.
You must climb the spiny kapok tree to get high enough.
Is any tree tall enough to see where Tao’s father is?

Chairman Mao asked that “one hundred schools of thought” contend so that “one hundred flowers” would bloom during the Cultural Revolution. But could intellectuals believe that the dictator truly wanted opposing opinions to be voiced in Communist China?

Listen to the beginning of the story here, courtesy of Macmillan Audio, publishers of the audiobook version of A Hundred Flowers,  narrated by Audie Award winner, Simon Vance.

Get to know Tao’s family and this intriguing, difficult time in China’s history today at your local library or independent bookstore.

Should Tao’s mother have told him the truth about his father’s political imprisonment, or was she right in allowing her young son to believe that papa would soon return to them?

Book info: A Hundred Flowers / Gail Tsukiyama. St. Martin’s Press, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site] [author video interview]

My Recommendation:

Perhaps Tao can see where his father has gone if he climbs the tallest tree in their Guangzhou courtyard. Instead his fall breaks his leg, but doesn’t break the Communist Party’s iron grip on his homeland, doesn’t bring Father home, doesn’t stop schoolmates from taunting that Father is a traitor.
If Chairman Mao’s call “let a hundred schools of thought contend” to be believed, then intellectuals like his papa Sheng and grandfather Wei would be safe to express their opinions, even if contrary to Communist doctrines. But a letter from their courtyard house to the Chairman results in papa’s departure, and mama won’t tell seven-year-old Tao where he has gone.
As Tao’s badly broken leg heals, he is often visited by Auntie Song who lives downstairs, by his grandfather who tells stories of olden times, and always by his mother, whose herbal remedies are renowned throughout the city. Into the courtyard house, Mother invites a lost teenage girl, a pregnant runaway grateful for small kindness and an empty corner.
Visits to the police to explain that Sheng must come home after his son’s terrible accident were useless; letters arrive from the re-education center rarely. Why did the Party think that making a teacher work in a dangerous stone quarry would change anything?
Finally grandfather Wei decides that he must take the grueling train journey north alone to see for himself that Sheng is still alive and try to convince the officials to let him come home.
A fascinating cross-generational tale, told through the voices of the residents of Tao’s courtyard house during the Cultural Revolution which crushed China’s artistic and intellectual communities, rippling like an undercurrent in its society even today. [Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.]

The Forsaken, by Lisa M. Strasse (book review) – teens on prison island, survival at any cost

book cover of The Forsaken by Lisa M Strasse published by Simon SchusterHer parents torn away from her,
Easier to pretend she’s always been an orphan.
Government mind drugs don’t work on her.

Keeps her head down, keeps quiet.

The government-mandated brain scan shows that she has  tendencies toward anti-social behavior and criminal violence, so 16-year-old Alanna Fanshawe is no more. All mention of her is erased from official records of the UNA, the chaotic nation founded by force when the food crisis hit Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

The Forsaken  evokes reflections of The Hunger Games, similarities with Lord of the Flies, and echoes of 1984, yet is truly its own dystopian world. Grab this first book in the Forsaken series now at your local library or independent bookstore.

Who knows how long Alanna will survive feral hoofer boars, manipulative leaders, and attacking drones on the prison island?

Book info: The Forsaken (Forsaken, book 1)  / Lisa M. Strasse. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk:  Banished to the Wheel?! Alanna was sure she’d pass the government test that weeds out subversives, but she failed. Now she’ll be deported to a remote island, into a savage world of other teen misfits where few survive.

When she was ten, her parents were dragged away by United Northern Alliance soldiers for quietly questioning the new government’s policies. After six years in UNA orphanage with so many others, Alanna has learned to ignore her implanted earpiece’s constant propaganda and the prescribed thought pills, just going along quietly, not making trouble.

But the Test brain scan shows that she has “criminal tendencies” so she’s whisked away to Prison Island Alpha, where the life expectancy is 18 – no overcrowding, no chance of escape, no hope of ever finding her parents now.

Alanna and new friend David try to avoid wild animals as they search for a rumored settlement. Suddenly they find themselves in a war zone, since they were dumped into an area being disputed between the villagers and the Monk’s followers. Soon this city girl must learn to fight, to track through the tropical forest, to trust (or not trust) the village leaders. Avoiding the drugged-up “drones” who blindly follow the masked Monk is survival priority one.

Why is the mysterious Monk controlling his follower-drones like throwaway toys? What secrets are the village leaders hiding? Why did the UNA abandon so many kids who are as normal as their classmates? How long will Alanna survive on the Wheel?

This compelling book leaves questions in the reader’s mind about how much a government should control its citizens and how far someone would go to defend their freedom to think, their family, their very life. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

XVI, by Julia Karr (fiction) – in future, 16 isn’t so sweet

book cover of XVI by Julia Carr published by Penguin

Sweet Sixteen for American girls can be cake and candles, maybe new driver’s license…

But a 16th birthday in Nina’s future Chicago means no more protection from sexual assault.

Now added to the government stranglehold on the Media which bombards city-dwellers with advertisements around the clock and all-pervasive surveillance is a mystery about Nina’s long-dead father, who may be alive after all!

The over-sexualization of girls by the media has certainly begun. Is it time for young women (and those who protect them) to fight back before a coercive XIV  society takes away their freedom?

While sexuality is a main theme of XVI,  it is not sexually explicit, so read it now, then rush to your local library or independent bookstore for more of Nina’s story in the sequel, Truth.

Book info: XIV / Julia Karr. Speak, 2011.  [author’s website]    [publisher site]    

My Recommendation

Nina’s friends can’t wait to get their XVI tattoo, showing they’re old enough for anything, but this 15 year doesn’t want to be a “sex-teen” that guys can have at will.
Her best friend Sandy might stay a virgin to get into FeLS to move up a social tier or might succumb to the constant media sexteen hype. Nina will do anything to stay out of the program, especially since her mom’s creepy married boyfriend Ed is a FeLS Chooser. If only her dad hadn’t died on the night she was born, forcing them from Tier 5 into the poverty of Cementville…
A bare wrist and implanted GPS should keep her safe in 23rdcentury Chicago, but Nina has seen violence against young teen girls that the Governing Council denies. Lately, there have been so many police forays looking for NonCons rebelling against the GC, sudden city-wide silences in the constant Media vid streams, heightened audio surveillance everywhere.
And now her mom has been attacked, leaving Nina to care for her little half-sister in her grandparents’ tiny welfare apartment. Mom’s last words warn her to keep Dee away from Ed and reveal that Nina’s own father might still be alive and hiding out in Chicago!
As Nina looks into her parents’ past, she meets people who knew them both in their youth and realized that their anti-GC opinions would put their lives in danger. Sal and Wei at her new school are level-headed about XVI, cautious about accepting Media news as complete truth.
Could her dad really be alive after all this time? Why did Mom want to make sure Ed never saw Dee again? Why is the GC suddenly stepping up security? What’s the truth behind FeLS?

Set in a future that divides the Haves and Have-Nots further apart with each generation, XVI considers questions of personal liberty, freedom of thought, and social justice through Nina’s eyes and heart. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Amped, by Daniel H. Wilson (fiction) – amp your brain, lose your humanity?

book cover of Amped by Daniel H Wilson published by DoubledayWelcome to the near-future!
A simple implant negates epilepsy,
another upgrades low IQ,
yet another amplifies physical performance.

We’re not talking 3-D headgear to improve complex visualizations – these are directly attached to relevant brain areas to control problems or enhance capabilities. Shouldn’t disadvantaged children be given help to overcome obstacles to their success, to keep them off the welfare rolls as adults?

And people who don’t use this technology – the pure humans – feel more-threatened every day by it. Should amps really be recognized as citizens? Aren’t they now less than human because of their implants? From lawsuits to concentration camps to outright violence, if you’re Amped, you’re a target – until it’s time to fight back!

The author of Robopocalypse brings us another all-too-possible view of a technology-enhanced future that’s more nightmare than dream-come-true. Published in early June, you’ll find Amped  at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Amped / Daniel H. Wilson. Doubleday, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Brain implants to control seizures help millions like Owen; why shouldn’t implants help amplify limited intelligence or upgrade physical strength for those with challenges? Wealthy parents began enhancing their children’s mental skills and physical prowess with amp implantation, then The Uplift Act authorized amp implants for low-income kids to help them overcome long-standing disadvantages.
Soon, the “pure humans” worry that the “amps” have unfair advantages for college admissions, athletic contests, and job applications. Senator Vaughn and his Pure Pride organization file so many lawsuits against amps that their case goes to the Supreme Court.
Suddenly, amps are no longer full United States citizens, are hounded by Pure Pride, corralled into small enclaves under constant attack. All research on human amplification is stopped, and its leading researchers and doctors are arrested – if the authorities can reach them before they commit suicide.
A final message from his father shocks 29-year-old Owen to the core: his amp is not just for medical assistance, but contains information on amazing skills and abilities that he’ll be able to use some day.  All he has to do is cross half the country without being picked up by the FBI and find Dad’s friend Jim in Oklahoma for some answers.
Did Owen really want to find out about the Echo Company of amp-enhanced soldiers who can access levels of superhuman strength with the flick of a mental switch? Can this calm schoolteacher stand by while Pure Priders attack innocent kids who were amped under The Uplift Act so they could concentrate in class? And exactly what skills did his researcher father add to Owen’s amp?

Newspaper articles and news reports punctuate this fast-moving story, showing the rise and flow of public opinion and occasional outright propaganda in a future not-so-distant from today. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation, by Tim Hamilton (book review) – the classic as graphic novel

book cover of Ray Bradburys Fahrenheit 451 Authorized Adaptation graphic novel by Tim Hamilton published by Hill and WangWe’ve lost another great master of the written word, of creating stories in our heads through words on a page, with the death of author Ray Bradbury at age 91.

Among Bradbury’s most noted works is Fahrenheit 451  (which he says as “four-five-one” not “four fifty-one”).  It is our great good fortune as readers that he agreed to its adaptation as a graphic novel in 2009 and fully participated with artist Tim Hamilton in selecting which exact passages from the 1953 book were used in this authorized adaptation.

Yes, all the word bubbles and captions in this graphic novel are Bradbury’s own, complemented perfectly by Hamilton’s incandescent illustrations.

Get your hands on this great trade paperback book today at your local library or independent bookstore  and keep on reading widely – Ray would like that.

Book info: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation / Tim Hamilton and Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Tim Hamilton; with introduction by Ray Bradbury.  Hill and Wang, 2009. [Tim Hamilton’s website]   [Ray Bradbury’s website]    [publisher site]     [video: Ray Bradbury on his books as graphic novels]

My Book Talk:  The future sees unified thought as productive, original opinion as unpatriotic, books as divisive. The firemen burn hoarded books to keep useless emotions and original thinking from hurting society in this time of war.

Guy Montag has been a fireman for ten years. As a wandering teen in their neighborhood asks questions about happiness and why everyone drives fast to avoid seeing the flowers, Montag wonders if anyone has real conversations anymore or just watches their television walls all day and all night.

The memory of an old woman who chose to be burned along with her books haunts him now – what is in books that made her stay with them? Montag feels compelled to find out, seeking the answers in contraband books, sliding further and further from unified thought.

This intense graphic novel adaptation of the classic includes an introduction by Ray Bradbury himself, tracing the original book’s development and asking readers which one book they would choose to memorize and protect from destruction.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.