Tag Archive | religion

R is for RURAL VOICES: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America (YA book review)

book cover of Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America. Published by Candlewick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Everyone drives a truck and wears muddy boots,
talks slow and walks even slower –
today’s teens outside big cities go way beyond those tired old ideas.

An aspiring rodeo queen in Utah draws strength from her Puerto Rican roots.

A Michigan queer girl’s 4-H showmanship in swine competition might draw her crush closer.

Forced up a tree by an angry bull, best friends finally talk about whether Alina’s stories identify with her home state or strive to distance her from West Virginia.

This collection of viewpoints and vistas includes stories by David Bowles, Joseph Bruchac, Veeda Bybee, Nora Shalaway Carpenter, Shae Carys, S. A. Cosby, Rob Costello, Randy DuBurke, David Macinnis Gill, Nasugraq Rainey Hopson, Estelle Laure, Yamile Saied Méndez, Ashley Hope Pérez, Tirzah Price, and Monica Roe.

I live outside a very small town where FFA and AP classes are on the same schedule, and young people can pursue big dreams with or without moving to the big city.

What rural voices have you heard lately?
**kmm

Book Info: Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America / Nora Shalway Carpenter, ed. Candlewick Press, 2020. [editor interview] [publisher site]

N for NOAH MCNICHOL & THE BACKSTAGE GHOST! by Martha Freeman (MG book review)

Book cover of Noah McNichol and the Backstage Ghost, by Martha Freeman. Published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Skulls and fake blood and foam swords,
“there are no small parts, only small players”
The play’s the thing!

Dad says wanting to act is just a phase, so the sixth grade play is Noah’s big chance to be on stage! Oh no – the drama teacher is out so the PE coach will direct them… in Hamlet?

Luckily, an older Jewish guy named Mike volunteers to help because strange things are happening while Coach Fig spends rehearsals on his phone!

The “No-Trauma Drama” script now has its original gruesome ending, the costumes and sets are way better than previous years’ Hamlet, and a cold breeze drifts backstage when all the doors are closed.

Despite not being cast as Hamlet, Noah is enjoying play practice and Mike’s interesting advice… and watching Mike vanish into thin air – is their guest director a ghost?

Noah’s college professor parents are arguing again about which subjects are more important – why is Dad the physics teacher so angry about literature?

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is way more interesting than the family-friendly version written by the lady who donated the school’s nice theater – can they do the real one without interference?

Suddenly, their drama club one-night-only performance is the hot ticket in their New York town – break a leg!

Conversing with someone long gone – yes or no?
**kmm

Book info: Noah McNichol and the Backstage Ghost / Martha Freeman. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J is CANE WARRIORS fighting enslavement in Jamaica, by Alex Wheatle (YA book review)

book cover of Cane Warriors, by Alex Wheatle. Published by Akashic Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The marks of the back-ripper whip,
fear in every breath,
time now to rise and fight!

Moa wishes that Tacky’s plan was quiet, but the 14 year old has seen too many fellow slaves worked to death in these Jamaican sugar cane fields or whipped for anything, like mentioning Midgewood who escaped from this plantation or talking about the old Akan ways and gods.

Three days from now – might be soon enough for young Hamaya since no slave can defend herself against their brutal overseer.

Can they kill all the white people on Easter Day so no one can warn the other plantations?
Can they tek the good foot across the green mountains and capture Fort Haldane?
Will Moa and his friend Keverton survive long enough to fight tomorrow?

“De blood will remember!” is the cane warriors’ cry.

Tacky’s leadership in 1760 is recounted in books and family stories, especially in St. Mary’s parish where Trinity and Frontier plantations once watered the fields with the blood of the enslaved. By the author of Home Girl (my review here).

When injustice is known, how can we answer with bravery?
**kmm

Book info: Cane Warriors: a Novel / Alex Wheatle. Akashic Books, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

I is immigration stories: COME ON IN, ed. by Adi Alsaid (YA book review)

book cover of Come On In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home, ed. by Ali Alsaid. Published by Inkyard Press-Harlequin | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Being uprooted,
Growing in a different place,
Wondering if this is the right spot or not…

Since the earliest days of this country, people have arrived ‘from away’ in waves and trickles, immigrants with high academic credentials or no shoes on their feet, all seeking a better place.

Detained by TSA, keeping diaries of now and then, “where are you really from?” – these 15 stories by noted young adult authors who are themselves immigrants or children of immigrants illustrate the many facets of moving away and starting anew.

“The Wedding” of two Americans must be held in Canada so great-uncle from Iran may attend – travel ban keeping old man and his older brother from seeing each other for years.

High school in New Jersey is so different from Bombay that Priya cannot speak aloud, even as her little brother’s new hearing aids open up the world for him, in “First Words.”

Her grandparents finally have visas from Venezuela, but Valentina’s lost all her Spanish – how will they even communicate? “Hard to Say”…

Short story contributors include Adi Alsaid, Varsha Bajaj, Maria E. Andreu, Sharon Morse, Misa Sugiura, Nafiza Azad, Maurene Goo, Sona Charaipotra, Yamile Saied Méndez, Zoraida Córdova, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Sara Farizan, Isabel Quintero, Justine Larbalestier, and Lilliam Rivera.

How do we welcome people and invite them to come on in?
**kmm

F is four friends FACING THE SUN & big changes, by Janice Lynn Mather (YA book review)

book cover of Facing the Sun, by Janice Lynn Mather. Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Poems and stories and whispers,
Secrets and revelations and sorrows,
Good friends can endure them together… right?

Eldest of five, Eve is so tired of chasing after siblings, being the perfect pastor’s daughter, awash in her parents’ worries about losing the church to developers and something about her father’s health that they won’t tell her. Singing with Toons in the perfect acoustics of that small building is harmony and peace and maybe a little more.

Her single mom keeps Nia on such a short rope, claiming that an all-girls summer arts camp just across the bay wouldn’t be safe, that she needs to read every story before they print the neighborhood newspaper. Borrowing a song heard in the sea-grove as the poem for her camp application could be Nia’s ticket to some breathing room this summer.

Faith’s mother is getting further from reality, and trying to balance homework and dance lessons at her sister’s studio and maybe liking Toons and getting home to keep Mummy safe while her father works late is pulling Faith apart. She doesn’t live on Pinder Street like most of her school-friends, but it hits hard to find out that Daddy’s down there, saying the neighbors have no rights to go onto the beach anymore.

Keekee wonders why she’s the one getting grief from their mom when it’s Toons who’s stepping around with Faith and Eve and Paulette. Her songs channel some of the sting from neighbors’ scorn, those who don’t understand that Angel’s home laundry business supports folks who can’t afford to go to the clinic for condoms or period products.

What’s good about fencing off the beach and tearing down the church so rich people can stay at yet another Bahamas hotel?
Who set the church building on fire as protest?
Where is Toons? Where?

Ties between friends and families twist and tangle in this beachside neighborhood where change seems all-peril, little promise. A tale told in the voices of all four friends, from the Bahamian-Canadian author of Learning to Breathe (my no-spoiler review here).

How do you make yourself brave enough to face changes?
**kmm

Book info: Facing the Sun / Janet Lynn Mather. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

E is empowering words by THE LIGHTNING DREAMER: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, by Margarita Engle (YA book review)

book cover of The Lightning Dreamer, by Margarita Engle. Published by Harcourt | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Reading is escape.
Forbidden now, freedom removed –
She will tell new stories!

Of course she must marry someday, but Tula is told by her grandfather that the highest bidder will claim her next year, that her mother and stepfather will gain enough money in 1828 to buy more slaves to save their Cuban sugar plantation from ruin, that the thirteen year old’s too-brief time with her late father’s books will end forever.

Sent to wait at the convent, Tula meets nuns who accept every child abandoned because their skin is darker, who save every book they can find, who allow her to read the silenced poet Heredia’s calls for equality.

She writes plays and allegories that hide freedom’s songs within folktales, hiding them in her brother’s room. She dreams with her best friends of marriage based on love. She is betrayed, and yet continues composing messages of hope.

As the abolition of slavery is discussed publicly in America’s north, silence reigns on the island of Cuba, enforced by the whip and imprisonment. But what prison bars can keep captive the words of truth?

This novel-in-verse by the author of Jazz Owls (my review) and With a Star in My Hand (my review) sprinkles the voices of Mama, the nuns, and others among Tula’s poems about dreams, love, and a better future for all. Based on the life of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (1814-1873).

What are your powerful dreams?
**kmm

Book info: The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist / Margarita Engle. Harcourt, hardcover 2013, paperback 2015. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

D for daring & doubts in WWII: I AM DEFIANCE, by Jenni L. Walsh (MG book review)

book cover of I Am Defiance: a novel of World War II, by Jenni L. Walsh. Published by Scholastic Press | BooksYALove.com

Purity of Aryan blood!
Devotion to the Fuhrer!
Questions not allowed!

Brigitte tries to act just like the other girls in her Hitler Youth JM group, but the 12 year old worries that a leader may discover big sister Angelika’s disability or Papa’s empathetic heart and take them away to the camps that no one talks about.

A pamphlet with unusual words like ‘freedom’ and ‘resistance’ appears in apartment mailboxes, and her botany professor Papa silently takes it away. Then comes another, and Brigitte’s JM leaders denounce the White Rose group for trying to undermine the Nazi government.

Then the third pamphlet arrives, and Brigitte agrees with Papa and Angelika that it carries more truth than the official state radio and newspapers. They’ll pretend to be ‘good Germans’ for now…until they can leave Munich safely.

Can Angelika hide her limp well enough to continue at university?
Can Brigitte hide her new knowledge from JM friends and leaders?
Is there any chance that the Schmidt family gets out of this war intact?

As Allied bombers close in on Munich, the secret trapdoor to the cellar may be what saves them, if their neighbors don’t report them first!

What is your defiance against the wrongs you see?
**kmm

Book info: I Am Defiance: a Novel of World War II / Jenni L. Walsh. Scholastic Press, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

B for brothers and THE BLUE WINGS, by Jef Aerts, transl. Laura Watkinson (MG book review)

book cover of The Blue Wings, by Jef Aerts; translated by Laura Watkinson; illustrated by Martjin van der Linden. Levine Querido Books | BooksYALove.com

Families love each other.
Cranes migrate from Finland to Spain for winter.
Sometimes, things don’t go as planned…

When an injured young crane can’t leave with its flock, autistic teen Jadran decides that he and younger brother Josh must teach it to fly and go south.

Never mind that their city apartment is crowded since Mom remarried and Murad moved in with his daughter Yasmin… Sprig will stay on the balcony until he’s healed.

Josh knows that being Sprig’s teacher using the blue wings from Mom’s old costumes is a bad plan, but the 11 year old also knows Jadran will have a howling meltdown if they don’t try.

The law of gravity still applies to best intentions, Jadran still plows on with an idea stuck in his head, and Sprig really, really needs to catch up with the other cranes.

So away the Muslim brothers go, a road trip with Sprig… a most unusual road trip.

Can Sprig learn to fly?
Will they get him to the flock in time?
Will Jadran find his place in this big loud world?

A story of brotherly bonds and learning to let go.
**kmm

Book info: The Blue Wings / Jef Aerts; translated by Laura Watkinson; illustrated by Martjin van der Linden. Levine Querido, 2020. [author site] [translator site] [illustrator site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Oh, such joy! ONCE UPON AN EID, edited by S.K. Ali & Aisha Saeed (book review)

book cover of Once Upon an Eid, edited by S.K. Ali & Aisha Saeed. Published by Amulet Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Watching for the new moon to appear,
Special foods enjoyed for generations,
Gifts and love and faith and joy!

Muslims observe the two Eid holidays with celebratory traditions as varied as the world is wide.

New clothes can be a hallmark of Eid – even as cousins Hawa and Fanta disagree about which style of dress is “Perfect” during the African community’s Eid parties in New York City or Makayla worries that friends will make fun of her new-ish abaya from the second-hand store in “Creative Fixes.”

Gifts” make Eid special for Idrees who begins understanding that giving is more important than getting, and a young man saving up for a new bike is repeatedly reminded by his grandmother that his name “Kareem means ‘generous’. “

The same foods every year are family traditions, so when big sister is busy, it’s just “Yusuf and the Big Brownie Mishap”, and Nadia quietly goes to the bakery for their favorite pastries while Mama sleeps after chemo in “Don’ut Break Tradition.”

Despair lifts when a kind Greek villager helps Bassem “Searching for Blue” bring the taste of Eid love to his refugee camp, and a grieving father helps his daughter try to make the “Taste” of Mama’s special lontong, always cooked by heart in their Malaysian apartment instead of written down.

Going high above the City of Boundless Light, “Seraj Captures the Moon” marking the end of Ramadan in a graphic novel illustrated by the same artist who sketched the chapter headings and book cover showing young people preparing for Eid from Canada to the US to Australia.

Fifteen Muslim authors bring us stories that reflect the wide range of community and family traditions for celebrating Eid – all with food, all with love, all with renewed hope.

What says home and hope to you?
**kmm

Book info: Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices / edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed; illustrated by Sara Alfageeh. Amulet Books, 2020. [S. K. site] [Aisha site] [Sara site] [publisher site] Personal copy; video and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Life beyond the cult for AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD? by Kelly McWilliams (book review)

book cover of Agnes at the End of the World, by Kelly McWilliams. Published by Little Brown | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Keeping her brother healthy is sin.
Thinking for herself is sin.
Is saving their lives sinful, too?

Suffering is God’s will says the Prophet, but Agnes refused to let Ben die like so many children here, sneaking away to get her little brother’s insulin from an outside nurse who warns of the new plague affecting people, birds, and animals.

As the Prophet orders everyone into the mountain bunker to wait out the Apocalypse, the 16 year old knows it’s time to run, to escape the Arizona mountain settlement with her siblings, to risk the Outside world’s depravity and oncoming pandemic…

It’s Beth who always wanted to leave – does she truly want to take her big sister’s place as a sixth wife?
The nurse’s son Danny is smart and kind – can she trust an outsider with their lives and her heart?
Agnes heard God’s voice as a child – will it lead them now to safety?

Red Creek’s menfolk and their multiple wives believe that the outside world is all sin, but this Arizona mountain settlement hides much wickedness, too.

Told in alternating chapters by Agnes and Beth, this tale of apocalypse, pandemic, and faith was just released in June 2020. Read the Prologue here on the author’s website to meet Agnes before…

What hope are you finding during pandemic times?
**kmm

Book info: Agnes at the End of the World / Kelly McWilliams. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.