Tag Archive | stepfamily

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.

If only he could meet her… SHE WORE RED TRAINERS, by Na’ima B. Robert (book review)

book cover of She Wore Red Trainers, by Na'ima B. Robert, published by Kube Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Family life is funny and frustrating,
community expectations can be a heavy burden,
how to stay true to your faith, yet find your own path?

Her stepfather is especially mean to Amirah’s younger brother who is deaf – hopefully getting all three younger siblings out of the house to the Islamic Center’s summer program will help Mom’s depression (another divorce coming?) sigh…

Mum’s death sent Dad’s business into freefall, brought Ali back to their faith – now the house is sold and they’ll be in London for his summer before college…

Playing basketball with the guys in their city Muslim neighborhood, Ali sees a young woman in hijab over there…who is she of the red shoes?

Will the right circumstances allow these new neighbors to meet properly, correctly, soon?
Can Amirah find a way to attend art school before her older brother arranges her marriage?
Can Ali convince his dad that law school was Mum’s dream, not his own?

Meet these Muslim families in south London and know more about their lives and worries and dreams. Find this 2014 book at your local library (worldcat.org/libraries) or independent bookstore (indiebound.org/indie-store-finder or https://bookshop.org/).

What happy ending are you willing to work for and wait for?
**kmm

Book info: She Wore Red Trainers / Na’ima B. Robert. Kube Publishing, 2014. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Grief froze her family like a TURTLE UNDER ICE, by Juleah del Rosario (book review)

book cover of Turtle Under Ice, by Juleah del Rosario. Published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Death pauses the living,
time restarts the clock,
except when it doesn’t.

Waking up to find that big sister is gone, no footprints in the swirling blizzard – how can Row think about going to school? Yet how can the high school freshman stay in this house of new grief laid over old sorrow? Oh, to be on the soccer field where she has a chance of controlling what happens!

Ariana slogs through the snow, carrying important things like her painting and uncertainty about the future and things that other seniors think about. But if the pain of losing Mom ever lessens, is there anything left inside her?

California to Colorado, a new house, a new stepmom…the Filipino-American sisters have chances to move on, to make friends – so much harder for Ariana.

Ariana says “I should know that there is no point in playing grief Olympics,” (p. 9) yet sees a kindred soul in musician Alex who lost her brother.

This novel in verse alternates between Row and Ariana who still feel as frozen in their loss as a turtle under the pond ice. Will their springtime ever come?

How do we respond when friends stay sad?
**kmm

Book info: Turtle Under Ice / Juleah del Rosario. Simon Pulse, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

S is for SALTY, BITTER, SWEET flavors and emotions, by Mayra Cuevas (book review)

book cover of Salty, Bitter, Sweet, by Mayra Cuevas. Published by Blink YA Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Food is Isa’s love language – this debut #ownvoices novel could fit anywhere in the April A to Z blog challenge calendar!

Like D, E, F for divorce, that took Papi from the 17 year old and her mom in Chicago to a new, now-expectant wife in southern France.

G for chef Grattard’s cooking school nearby, Isa’s chance to win a place working at his world-famous restaurant.

S for her stepmom’s college-age Spanish stepson who flirts with Isa’s classmates and is staying the summer too.

Or P for peeling potatoes, perfection, problems at the school – 13 teens from around the world competing for a single apprenticeship.

T is taste, trial and error, tradition, and Chef Troissant demanding total concentration from her students.

A,B,C for her late Abuela, beloved Cuban grandmother whose magical touch in the kitchen spread love through a small Kansas town, whose handwritten cookbook Isa still can’t open.

L is the charming city of Lyon and learning and legacies and… love?

How do you psyche yourself up for big opportunities?
**kmm

Book info: Salty, Bitter, Sweet / Mayra Cuevas. Blink YA Books, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

F for FREEING FINCH to be herself, by Ginny Rorby (middle grade book review)

cover of Freeing Finch, by Ginny Rorby. Published by Starscape (Macmillan) | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Old neighbor, new friend,
her body is a boy’s, but she is herself,
who else understands?

Momma taken by cancer and Dad who knows where, now all the family that Finch has is her unemployed stepfather and his new wife.

Most folks in their small northern California town think of her as a boy, but “you’re what you are in your head and heart, Finch, not what it says on your birth certificate,” Maddy assures the nearly 12-year-old as they care for rehabilitating wildlife together (p. 16).

Wondering if the scared yellow dog will ever come nearer than the food bowl at the edge of the woods, if Finch can locate her father again, if her new friend Sherri will stay friends….

Then her stepfather’s pastor suggests sending Finch to camp that will ‘cure’ her to match her birth body, Maddy is injured, and Animal Control traps the yellow dog!

Finch has to stay strong, stay true to herself, and find a way to get both Maddy and the dog Ben home.

How can we support trans friends and others whose families pressure them to conform?
**kmm

Book info: Freeing Finch / Ginny Rorby. Starscape (Macmillan), 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

With her math journal & new friends, she’s SOLVING FOR M – #MGlit by Jennifer Swender, illustrated by Jennifer Naalgichar (book review)

book cover of Solving for M, by Jennifer Swender, illustrated by Jennifer Naalgichar, published by Crown Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Mom rushes to doctor appointment not on their calendar,
The fifth grade art teacher thinks drawing isn’t important,
Mika isn’t in any classes at all with her BFF!

But Mr. Vann’s math class turns out to be more fun than she could imagine -“One to a customer! Bonus points! Show your work, thinkers!” Mika really likes sketching her artistic math journal entries and makes new friends who love science puns and ballet.

Uh-oh…that small mole on Mom’s leg isn’t a small problem after all – how many cancer treatments until everything is okay?

Why does the principal always come by Mr. Vann’s class when they’re loud and moving around to demonstrate a math problem?

Why is their school advertising for a new fifth grade math teacher?

Grab this debut novel now and see Mika’s math journal as she works out problems numeric and otherwise. Read a sample chapter free here at the publisher’s website = one of my favorite 2019 titles!

If old friends don’t equal now-friends, how do you solve for new friends?
**kmm

Book info: Solving for M / Jennifer Swender, illustrated by Jennifer Naalgichar. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2019. [author site] [illustrator site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

And Z = Kat Zhang’s THE MEMORY OF FORGOTTEN THINGS (MG book review)

book cover of The Memory of Forgotten Things, by Kat Zhang. Published by Aladdin/Simon&Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Born during a partial eclipse, Sophie sees Memories of her late mother… that never happened.
Same birthday as Sophie, DJ sketches his stepdad… whom he’s never met.
Luke knows a solar eclipse specialist, perfect source for their group project…but Mr. Scot is a mystery himself.

All three middle-schoolers have lost someone dear to them, want life to be the way it was before. This is more than just deja vu.

Some people say that parallel universes draw closer during eclipses, like the one they’ll see next week.
Some say that special places have unexplained energies and the barriers between worlds are thinner.
Maybe the old Donway Shallows mill outside town is one of those places…

Their last project before school’s out for summer is almost complete… will whatever happens during the eclipse fill the holes in their lives?
Could they truly cross over into a universe where Sophie’s mom is alive, DJ lives with his stepdad, and Luke’s sister was never in that car wreck?
But what would this universe be like if they left it?

Chance threw them together for this project, granting them a opportunity for friendship in their small town with long memories about family problems.

Any eclipse stories to share?
**kmm

V for new friends & very good friends, audiobook-style!

Very fine audiobooks,
and FREE each week!
Summer starts today, with friends in very big situations.

So pleased that AudiobookSYNC is once again offering us a pair of free audiobooks to download each Thursday-Wednesday week from now through 1 August 2019, and the variety is simply stunning.

I’ll highlight the new titles each Thursday, so you can just hit the link, enter your name and email address, then download either or both professionally produced audiobooks to enjoy for as long as you keep the file on your device.

CD cover of Swing,  by Kwame Alexander, Mary Rand Hess | Read by Kwame Alexander Published by Blink | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Swing, by Kwame Alexander, Mary Rand Hess. Read by Kwame Alexander. Published by Blink

Jazz punctuates Walt and Noah’s junior year as the best friends decide to make a difference, take chances on relationships, and look toward their futures with intention. Read by the author, this book highlights what divides us and what can bring us back together.

CD cover of Blink & Caution,  by Tim Wynne-Jones | Read by MacLeod Andrews Published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Blink & Caution, by Tim Wynne-Jones . Read by MacLeod Andrews . Published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio

A fake kidnapping, the “victim’s” cellphone suddenly in a hungry street kid’s hands, when another on-the-run teen tries to steal it. Somehow, fidgety Blink and drug-gang escapee Caution decide to turn this into successful blackmail, neither suspecting that the other will stay true to their doomed, crazy plan.

What’s your wildest friendship adventure?
**kmm

K is for Kiki, overwhelmed in STARFISH, by Akemi Bowman (YA book review)

book cover of Starfish, by Akemi Dawn Bowman, published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Divorced parents,
everything is always about Mom-
where do Kiko and her brothers fit in?

Not accepted by art school, constantly belittled by her white mother for having her Japanese father’s appearance, and now her creepy uncle is moving in?

Thankful for Jamie coming back into her life and taking her far, far away from the chaos…Kiko has to find her place and make her art.

Family drama sent you on a new path?
**kmm

Book info: Starfish / Akemi Dawn Bowman. Simon Pulse, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Starting her life anew at Prism will take Kiko far from disdainful Mom and abusive Uncle Max in Nebraska, but the New York art school’s rejection shatters her plans.

When long-lost childhood friend Jamie offers to take her to California to tour art schools, she jumps at the chance to be with her brother’s friend whom she’s adored for years…and to get away from Uncle Max.

Half-Japanese and all confused.
Self-absorbed Mom sucks all the joy out of life for Kiko and her brothers.
Away, away, just get away and make her art…

“We all start at the same place, but you’re completely in charge of where you finish,” says noted artist Hiroshi when Kiko visits his art gallery with Jamie (p. 191) – and he wants to see her portfolio, maybe write a recommendation for someday-art-school!

E = EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, by Christina June (YA book review)

book cover of Everywhere You Want to Be, by Christina June. Published by BlinkYA | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Be a dancer? No, go to college!
Who will get the lead role? Watch your back!
Play it safe with her heart? Take a chance, Tilly!

It may be her last opportunity to dance, so she’s working hard with the troupe, refining her technique, hoping her mother will relent and allow Tilly to keep dancing, instead of immediately attending Mama’s dream college.

A backstabbing troupe member, an old friend who may become a new love, late-night stress baking, all of New York City to explore in this too-short summer!

You might have met Tilly earlier in her stepsister Tatum’s story, It Started With Goodbye (I recommended it here), and their abuela and Paolo, too.

And check out Tilly’s guide to New York on the publisher’s website here.

When do you know which dreams are uniquely yours?
**kmm

Book info: Everywhere You Want to Be / Christina June. Blink YA, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: From her quiet DC suburb to New York City’s clamor, Tilly is thrilled to be with a summer dance troupe, but competition for roles gets vicious!

Their choreographer/director is a genius, telling them that ‘slaying the dragon’ will center their dance in a stunning performance space to end the summer.

What a summer! Grueling and rewarding rehearsals, exploring the city with her roommate, increasingly irksome pranks, and trying to undo the way she ended things at home with musician Paolo.

Scouts from major ballet companies will be at their performance. Their families and friends will be there. Will the saboteur strike there, too?

One final summer to dance, to pray that Mama won’t force her to attend college, to dream that her future is all dance (and some Paolo, too) – too much to ask?