Trying to close our small town’s school?
Why should we spend hours on a bus to another school?
Why won’t adults listen to what the students have to say?
Bilan, Arn, Lettie, Grant, and Barlow each have their own reasons for wanting St. Isaac’s School to stay open.
But the Gang of Five can’t agree on what to do – a sit-in? messages to the media? more “extreme” actions?
Sidestreets is one of Canadian publisher Lorimer’s quick-read series with diverse characters and relatable situations and current topics like immigration and sexual identity in small towns and big cities.
How to decide which injustice to fight against?
Book info: Riot School (Sidestreets series) / Robert Rayner. Lorimer, 2017. [author bio] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
We depend on our smartphones
which depend on tantalum found in coltan
whose mining destroys families – human and gorilla!
Why does corporate greed incite kidnapping and environmental catastrophe in the Congo and elsewhere?
How can we individuals make it stop, save children like Imara and Bobo from being kidnapped and enslaved to mine coltan, protect habitat for gorillas?
This middle-grade novel reminds us how interconnected we are and how our unthinking consumer choices can drastically affect others.
When is a smartphone a dumb choice?
Book info: Gorilla Dawn / Gill Lewis; illustrated by Susan Meyer. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017 hardcover, May 2018 paperback. [author site] [publisher site] [author video] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Become the hunters, not the hunted.
Avoid the monsters, human and otherwise.
Survive without killing the human ones?
So many genetically-modified creatures are out to get Lozen, Hussein, and the others who’ve escaped from the Ones who torture for fun. Perhaps she can protect her family and friends without taking a human life…
As Killer of Enemies (my review here) in the tech-blasted future, Lozen had to obey the Ones, or her family would be killed.
Along the Trail of the Dead, Lozen’s family is larger and the dangers are immense.
Arrow of Lightning is a super wrap-up of this #ownvoices trilogy – Lozen is on my heroes list.
To save your family, what lengths would you go to?
Book info: Arrow of Lightning (Killer of Enemies, book 3) / Joseph Bruchac. Lee and Low Books, 2017. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Grandma scoffs at weather warnings, Hurricane Katrina proves her unwise!
Rescue! Safety? Separated!!
This fictional account of one family’s struggles to survive Katrina’s fury, then be reunited after their rescue has been heralded as true-to-life and as frightening as reality by people in the Ninth Ward who were also there during the devastating hurricane.
Recent Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria spread similar destruction and disruption – be ready for more hurricanes hitting unusual locations.
But have we really learned from these disasters?
Book info: Hurricane Boy / Laura Roach Dragon. Pelican Publishing, 2014. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: When their Ninth Ward home is swept away by Hurricane Katrina, Hollis and his younger siblings are separated from big brother Jonas and grandma Gee during the evacuation – will they be able to find each other and get back to New Orleans?
Good thing that Gee had an axe in the attic so they could escape through the roof when the levee broke and flooded the house.
Lucky that rescuers could read ‘insulin’ painted on the roof and save her after the long first days with no drinking water.
Most unfortunate that Jonas had swum over to help others when Hollis, Leta, and Augie are finally taken to safety – far, far from home!
As Augie refuses unfamiliar food at the shelter, Hollis deals with people trying to take advantage of the three siblings and other kids separated from their parents, all the while wondering why his dad abandoned the family as mom died of cancer and whether he even survived the hurricane.
This powerful picture book by an Italian illustrator and author uses black and sunset-hued colors to chronicle the escape of a young girl, her younger brother, and their mother from the war-torn land “by the sea” where their father disappeared.
Book info: The Journey / Francesca Sanna. Flying Eye Books, 2016. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: As war takes her father, then makes home dangerous, a girl escapes with her mother and brother by night, seeking safety in a faraway place.
By car, on foot, by bicycle, boat, and train – the small family crosses borders as they travel onward and onward, their luggage growing smaller, their money dwindling, yet their hope growing as they get nearer and nearer their destination.
The girl sees her mother’s strength (but not her nightly hidden tears), tells her brother stories about imagined monsters beneath the rough seas and dreamed-of fairies in their new land who “give us magic spells to end the war” as their journey continues.
From dark forests where angry guards loom large to the bright shore where freedom beckons across the sea, The Journey picture book is artist/author Francesca Sanna’s tribute to all refugees and migrants.
Read this book – for the joy that freedom brings.
Read it – for the sorrow that war brings.
Read it – for our shared humanness, as Mariah and Caleb fall in love, despite all.
Every time I see Ebenezer in a church name, I will surely remember this story.
Can hope remain when trust runs thin?
Book info: Crossing Ebenezer Creek / Tonya Bolden. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: Freed by the Yankees, Mariah and her fellow enslaved persons travel along with the Union Army, but not all soldiers believe they should be free.
The young teen girl rejoices when Capt. Galloway says “You now own yourselves” and promises to keep them free on their journey – away from Miss Callie’s strident commands and slave-driver Nero’s brutal whip.
Caleb lived through the Burning of Atlanta and now forages for Sherman’s Army. Meeting Mariah and little Zeke strains his “no attachments” resolution (and the young man is secretly glad).
How can Mariah keep her simple little brother safe?
Why are some men in the Union Army if they think slavery is right?
Mariah dares to dream of a future, not alone – but what secret does Caleb hide?
Told in alternating chapters by Mariah and Caleb is the story of past slavery and longing for full freedom, but first they must survive the upcoming showdown between Union and Confederate forces.
Suddenly, everyone over 14 is gone. Hunger and bullies – not gone. Scary new talents – on the rise. Civil behavior – declining fast. Mutating animals, fights over leadership – do Sam and friends have any chance of survival?
Leaving the farm after Grandfather dies, Devin hopes he’ll find safety and food in the city, or maybe be lucky enough to go the abandoned children’s home. But he finds the home is no safe place for any kid, especially one with his special abilities.
Have you read either of these dystopian tales before?
Kidnapping? Already happened.
Puzzles with world-shaking answers? Did some.
Partnered with parents to save humanity? Ohhh…
Hopefully, you’ve met Noah, Wallace, Faye, Jasper, and Lucy as they investigated The Atomic Weight of Secrets (my no-spoiler review here) in early 1900s America and then traveled to Italy with them (and the mysterious men in black) to study The Ravens of Solemano (reviewed here) in the further adventures of the Young Inventors Guild.
Happy book birthday this month to The Strange Round Bird!, the conclusion of this exciting trilogy as our five amazing young people are promised a reunion with their talented parents in Egypt… but the evil Komar Romak has followed them again!
Where do you dream that adventure will take you in this world?
Book info: The Strange Round Bird, or the Poet, the King, and the Mysterious Men in Black (Young Inventors Guild, book 3) / Eden Unger Bowditch. Bancroft Press, 2017. [author site] [publisher site] [book Facebook page] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: Arriving in Egypt means reuniting with their beloved parents, but evil forces are intent on preventing the Young Inventors Guild from joining them to solve a mystery which will save humanity from destruction!
An ancient manuscript holds clues about the “strange round bird” – is it the same bird from their childhood song?
Even more mysterious men in black are here in the Cairo castle with the five children and their parents – what is their true purpose?
Noah’s mother is kidnapped from the opera stage – can he rescue her without endangering their mission?
Racing through the marketplaces of Cairo, delving into mysterious secrets, seeking answers without waiting to be ‘old enough to help’ – this thrilling conclusion of The Young Inventors Guild series must overcome the ultimate evil to save the world.
My book talk: Dreams of being with handsome Billy are fruitless; dreams of making her living as an artist get Vân Ước through tough days. But the Vietnamese Australian teen may have a chance at both, if the guest creative writing teacher is right!
The transition from her Sydney immigrant neighborhood where she shares strong coffee with her lesbian-in-waiting best friend to the private school where she’s a scholarship student is jarring, as is Billy’s transformation from popular prankster to nice guy in their International Baccalaureate classes.
When a tiny bottle marked ‘wish’ just vanishes into her skin during a creative writing seminar, odd things begin to happen to Vân Ước – like Billy really paying attention to her – in a good way!
Will she be able to magically change her parents’ expectations for her future?
Can Mama’s depression be cured, years after that traumatic journey from Vietnam?
What would Jane Austen do in all these strange, changed situations?
Her name means ‘cloudwish’ – and maybe, just maybe, her dearest wishes and dreams could come true.
Privilege to poverty,
family love to forlorn abandonment,
North Korea then is still North Korea now.
From the easy life as child of favored Army officer to outcast thief and gang member, Sungju kept trying to understand the ‘why’ of changes and finally knew that risking death to escape from North Korea was better than living in his homeland impoverished by dictatorship and lies.
Without the support of your family, how would you survive a hostile new environment?
Book info: Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea / Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland. Amulet Books, 2016. [author Facebook page] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: Sungju’s family is flung from high-status to deep poverty after a regime change, as his autobiography reveals the disinformation used to repress North Korean citizens
In a forced relocation from the capital city to a desolate rural town after his father is removed from the military, food and clothing are in short supply, Father reluctantly leaves to find more, Mother doesn’t return from visiting relatives, and suddenly young teen Sungju finds himself living on the street and running a gang of homeless kids.
Why haven’t his parents returned?
What else can he do to survive?
How did Sungju escape to write this memoir?
Almost dystopian in its bleakness and violence, this true story of family, loss, and hope echoes what countless other children and families experience in North Korea even today.