Tag Archive | writing

New situation? A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST, by Joy McCullough (middle grade book review)

book cover of A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Joy McCullough. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Her mom is a penguin researcher,
his Guatemalan dad was an artist –
what on earth could they have in common?

Sutton thrives on order, routines, things going precisely according to plan. She is not happy about her robot still stuck in its maze, or Dad starting to go on dates, or Mom not getting home from Antarctica in time for her tenth birthday, not happy at all.

Kids are heroes in the fantasy stories Luis writes, but in real life his many serious allergies have made his widowed mom super-protective. Hiking in a Seattle park with Sutton and her dad sounds a bit risky – maybe dating is making Mom less focused on Luis’s health.

Could Sutton and Luis learn to get along as well as Mr. Wong’s cat and Mrs. Banjeree’s dog, apartment best friends?

Can their different problem-solving styles get them out of a perilous situation?

Told in alternating voices, this Field Guide to Getting Lost might actually be a way that Sutton and Luis can find themselves. Read chapter 1 here free, courtesy of the publisher.

When has a occasion you’ve dreaded turned out to be not so bad after all?
**kmm

Book info: Field Guide to Getting Lost / Joy McCullough. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Dare she tell THE STORY THAT CANNOT BE TOLD? by J. Kasper Kramer (book review)

book cover of The Story That Cannot Be Told, by J. Kasper Kramer. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The Leader knows everything,
all must follow his new rules,
everything of the past must be erased!

“History is written by the victors,” goes the saying, but Ileana’s beloved uncle doesn’t believe that’s true and goes missing after a story critical of Romania’s Communist government goes public in 1989.

The teen’s parents whisk her out of the city, to her grandparents’ mountain village, hopefully far away from the secret police who have eyes and ears on every street corner.

In her knapsack is the notebook of stories she’s collected – old ones about the beautiful city before the Leader ruined it, older ones about her namesake princess, new ones from her uncle. Now she can add the stories about her own mother and the villagers as told by Mamaie and Tataie.

Weeks pass without word from her parents, but when strangers settle at the village inn, everyone knows this may be the last harvest festival before the government takes absolutely everything they have.

Can Ileana and her new schoolmates find a way to stop them?
What clues from the tale of Cunning Ileana might help?
Are her parents safe or have they been taken like her uncle?

Like the villagers’ tale of the White Wolf who saves the mountain people, Ileana wants her story to save those she loves… if she can.

When have you taken the truth to those who need it most?
**kmm

Book info: The Story That Cannot Be Told / J. Kasper Kramer. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Can little brother & GIRL OF THE SOUTHERN SEA survive in the city? by Michelle Kadarusman (book review)

book cover of Girl of the Southern Sea, by Michelle Kadarusman. Published by Pajama Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Brother depends on her,
neither can depend on Father,
Survival only or education, too?

At 14, Nia must be grown-up before her time, running the family food cart to support her little brother in the Jakarta slums instead of continuing in school.

Mama’s Javanese folktales stopped when she died giving birth to Rudi, but Nia remembers and writes them down, to her teacher’s delight, adding to Dewi Kadita‘s adventures as Queen of the Southern Sea.

Father now drinks away their money, and Nia must work their banana-fritter cart alone – can she earn enough to pay rent and feed Rudi? Could she save a little toward high school registration?

When she survives a minibus accident, Oskar the tailor proclaims it a miracle and tells customers that Nia’s banana fritters must bring good luck – is it okay to charge more for fritters now?

Mama still tells her stories in dreams and Nia writes when she can – will she ever have time for herself?

Wait, what wild promise did her father make this time?

In the face of poverty and societal pressure, Nia stands strong for her own dreams, for now…

When have you stood up for yourself when others couldn’t see your plans?
**kmm

Book info: Girl of the Southern Sea / Michelle Kadarusman. Pajama Press, 2019. [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

When home’s safety is an illusion, what next? Read tales of escape & danger … with your ears!

From home, they cross desert lands,
from desert to home,
siblings travel in fear and hope.

The destination and the journey may both prove dangerous for teens in this week’s free audiobooks from the summer AudioSYNC program.

Download by evening of 27 May 2020 via the links below, and you can read with your ears as long as you keep the files on your phone or tablet’s Sora app shelf.

CD oover of Sisters Matsumoto, by Philip Kan Gotanda. Read by Keiko Agena, June Angela, Ron Bottitta, Kurt Kanazawa, Suzy Nakamura, Greg Watanabe, Ryun Yu. Published by L.A. Theatre Works | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sisters Matsumoto (download 21-27 May 2020)

by Philip Kan Gotanda. Read by Keiko Agena, June Angela, Ron Bottitta, Kurt Kanazawa, Suzy Nakamura, Greg Watanabe, Ryun Yu. Published by L.A. Theatre Works

Leaving prison camp in 1945, three Japanese-American sisters return to their California family farm, but find that everything has changed.

The young women are determined to realize their late parents’ dreams, even if the land is out of their hands.

This full-cast live performance is followed by an excellent discussion with former internee George Takei about US citizens “relocated” during World War II.

CD cover of Disappeared,  by Francisco X. Stork | Read by Roxana Ortega, Christian Barillas
Published by Scholastic Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Disappeared (download 21-27 May 2020)

by Francisco X. Stork. Read by Roxana Ortega, Christian Barillas. Published by Scholastic Audio

Las Desaparecidas, the disappeared girls, now include Sara’s friend Linda so the young journalist writes and worries, knowing that powerful forces in Juarez are behind the kidnappings.

Sara’s brother Emiliano hopes that building a small business will impress the wealthy classmate he adores.

Soon, the criminals threaten Sara and Emiliano’s lives – is it time for them to brave the desert crossing to safety?

What difficult journeys in life have you traversed with the help of your family?
**kmm

Nine years of #books… did it!

logo of 10th April Blogging A to Z Challenge

Yesterday, I wrapped up my 9th April A to Z Blog Challenge – 26 new books reviewed in a month. Nine years in a row!

Thank you to the A2Z organizers for providing annual graphics, badges, sign-ups, and promotion for free. During this pandemic, having a scheduled daily task was especially welcome.

Every year, I wonder if I should push myself to post every April day but Sundays, forcing books to fit into that A to Z progression (X, I am looking at you), and every year I am glad that I did it so y’all have 26 more books worth seeking out.

And today marks the beginning of my TENTH year of blogging about books beyond the bestsellers as BooksYALove!

Big thanks to Michele Rafter, whose Blogathon caught my attention in late April 2011 so I could start my very first blog on May 1st and learn the ins and outs of blogging during that May and several to follow.

Huge thanks to Barb Langridge, who asked me in 2010 to join other librarians in writing reviews for her book discovery site for kids www.abookandahug.com. Building up a digital folder of no-spoiler Young Adult and middle grade book reviews to post on my new blog was a true gift.

Much appreciation to the publishers who provide review copies and who have begun bringing us more books by #ownvoices authors, people of color, underrepresented populations – still a long, long way to go, but it’s a start.

All the love to my daughter Emily who designed the BooksYALove logo, helped me move this blog to self-hosting several years ago, and is the best kind of tech support always – mwah!

Will I post every day from now on?
Probably not.

Will I seek out books that are #ownvoices or beyond bestsellers, always worth your attention?
You bet!

Will I promote libraries and independent booksellers over other options?
Always, always, always!

What’s new in your book-reading world?
**kmm

R is for Red and ALL THE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS, by Lindsay Lackey (middle grade book review)

book cover of All the Impossible Things, by Lindsay Lackey, published by Roaring Brook Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Her life is a storm,
mom blown off course,
counting days till she’s home…

Red swirls through the foster care system after drugs send Mom to prison and Gamma can’t take care of the middle-schooler anymore.

So hard to control the wind whispering under her skin when she gets upset, the storm clouds that gather above when she is angry!

Maybe it’ll be okay at the Grooves’ place in the Colorado countryside with their petting zoo and giant tortoise and goats who can climb trees.

Her new neighbor Marvin’s online ‘Kitchen Kahuna’ show features his Hawaia’an heritage, but their small-town classmates aren’t adventurous eaters.

Can Red dare to hope this might be a safe place?
How many more letters before Mom writes back?
What if the magical wind inside them both roars out?

Red keeps researching bumblebees and other “impossible things” on the list that she began with her grandmother, trying to find out how to make “live with Mom forever” come true.

Meet Red in the first two chapters of this debut novel of magical realism, free from the publisher here.

How do you work past things that seem impossible on the surface?
**kmm

Book info: All the Impossible Things / Lindsay Lackey. Roaring Brook Press, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

K is Kels in WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU, by Marisa Kanter (book review)

book cover of What I Like About You, by Marisa Kanter. Published by Simon Teen | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Kels blogs about YA books and baking,
Nash is an amazing graphic novelist,
their online friendship is epic, but IRL…

Halle wants to work in publishing on her own merits, not as famous Grams’ granddaughter, so online she is Kels who matches her exquisite cupcakes with talk-worthy books.

The 17 year old wanted her senior year in one place, not traipsing around the world with their famous filmmaker parents, so it was logical that she and baseball-playing brother Ollie stay with Gramps… in Nash’s town?!

At school, at synagogue, the attraction between Halle and one-quarter Korean Jewish Nash is growing – why can’t Halle tell him the truth about who she is online?

NYU will be Nash’s escape from his clingy parents, Halle’s ticket to becoming a publicist – what if they don’t get in? What if they both do?

Published just last week, debut novel What I Like About You is available from your local indie bookstore (order directly or through bookshop.org) or check WorldCat to see if your library has the eBook. Be sure to request it at your library so they order print copy, too.

So when is it okay to be two people at the same time?
**kmm

Book info: What I Like About You / Marisa Kanter. Simon & Schuster Teen, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J is for Jo, THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL, listening, learning, yearning, by Stacey Lee (book review)

book cover of The Downstairs Girl, by Stacey Lee. Published by G. P. Putnam & Sons | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A new advice column to save the newspaper,
a new job to feed them,
a horse race to save them from a criminal!

Living secretly in a forgotten basement, 17-year-old Jo and her grandfather frugally manage on their small income while conversations drift down from the newspaper office above. Being Chinese means daily discrimination, even when carefully staying in society’s shadows.

Her grandfather is a legendary horse trainer, but when he’s injured, Jo must become lady’s maid to cruel debutante Caroline whose wealthy father controls much of 1880s Atlanta.

Like her black friends, Jo is expected to be neither seen nor heard, forced to the back of the horse-drawn trolley, shut out of most jobs.

But Jo must become bold to get medical treatment for her grandfather, to seize the role of advice columnist Miss Sweetie for the newspaper, to discover the tiniest clue about her parents and why they left her.

How many times can Caroline sneak away before the teen’s mother suspects and fires Jo for obeying her orders?

How often can Jo appear at the newspaper office as veiled Miss Sweetie before its young editor recognizes her voice?

How can she get grandfather’s cure from a notorious criminal with so little money in hand?

If Jo can dare to give advice to white society, perhaps she can dare to ride in a horse race as no woman ever has!

+++++
Before reading The Downstairs Girl, I didn’t know that Chinese workers were brought into the South during Reconstruction to replace slaves. No surprise that so many ran away from plantations to cities like Atlanta and Augusta.

What other under-told stories are you finding as you read these days?
**kmm

Book info: The Downstairs Girl / Stacey Lee. G.P. Putnam & Sons, 2019. [author Facebook] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

H is HOUSE OF ONE THOUSAND EYES, every neighbor a spy, by Michelle Barker (book review)

book cover of The House of One Thousand Eyes, by Michelle Barker. Published by Annick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Beloved storytelling uncle,
Vanished without a trace,
will the Stasi erase Lena, too?

Visiting Uncle Erich is the high point of Lena’s week, as the 17 year old trudges through nights cleaning the Stasi secret police headquarters in East Berlin, but then he’s gone.

Again her brain feels like buzzing wasps, as it did after both parents died in a factory explosion, and Lena finally emerged from the psychiatric hospital and was sent to live with a distant aunt in the city.

Aunt now denies that her own brother even existed, but Lena is certain that she can find information in the Stasi offices, if she can just stay clear of the groping officer who always works late.

In 1980s East Germany, the walls have ears and every neighbor is a spy reporting to the House of One Thousand Eyes so the Stasi can keep their Better Germany safe.

Maybe Uncle’s actor friends from the cafe know where he was taken?
Maybe they can’t trust her because she works for the Stasi!
Maybe they can help her go somewhere safer, past the Wall, to the West?

Step back into Lena’s grey world where the Communist Party punishes original thought, truth cannot be trusted, and yet sometimes the tiniest sprout of hope may stay alive.

Read an excerpt free here, courtesy of the publisher, then check your local library or independent bookseller for the eBook or print copy delivered to you.

What freedoms do we take for granted today?
**kmm

Book info: The House of One Thousand Eyes / Michelle Barker. Annick Press, hardcover 2018, paperback 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

E is WITH A STAR IN MY HAND, by Margarita Engle (book review)

book cover of With a Star In My Hand, by Margarita Engle. Published by Atheneum | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Trading his poems for circus tickets,
Poems as ticket to university education,
Poems as true as love and as dangerous as truth…

Abandoned by his parents as a young boy, celebrated for his poetry as a young teen, exiled from his homeland of Nicaragua as a young man, Ruben Dario moved from traditional poetic forms to creating his own and spreading Modernism throughout Central and South America.

As a storytelling poet of mestizo heritage, Dario blended Spanish and indio tales with those learned from books and travel, showcasing the world’s wideness in the decades prior to World War I rather than merely his own emotions.

Margarita Engle (Jazz Owls recommended here, Lion Island here & Mountain Dog here) brings us another biography in verse, echoing the styles which Dario embraced during different stages of his life.

“Poets must speak, no matter the punishment.
We are observers with musical voices, testifying
in the courtrooms
of nature
and human life.” – Disappointment (page 70)

How is your true voice testifying to the truth you see?
**kmm

Book info: With a Star In My Hand: Ruben Dario, Poetry Hero / Margarita Engle. Atheneum Books, 2020. [about the author] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.