Tag Archive | writing

They must find more LITTLE MONARCHS, butterflies vital for humanity’s survival! by Jonathan Case (Middle Grade graphic novel review)

book cover of Little Monarchs, by Jonathan Case. Published by Margaret Ferguson Books / Holiday House | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sun-sickness wiped out mammals,
some humans survive underground,
can any ever see daylight again?

By 2101, only two people on Earth can survive sunshine – young Elvie and scientist Flora who’s caring for the 10 year old while Elvie’s parents travel onward as the team perfects a cure for sun-sickness.

Monarch butterflies carry the needed ingredient on their wings, so Flora and Elvie follow their migration south along what used to be the western USA, scavenging from former cities, foraging wild foods, and avoiding known underground settlements.

Elvie documents nature and schoolwork in her journal, while Flora tests and retests ways to make larger quantities of the monarch wing-scale medicine that prevents sun-sickness.

After an earthquake, they find a small boy near an abandoned settlement, so Flora gives him a dose of medicine and they keep going. Elvie left behind a note and some medicine, in case anyone returns to look for little Sito.

Wow, his family does follow them and wants to travel along – safety in numbers, right? Right?!?

This outstanding graphic novel documents their perilous journey to meet up with Elvie’s parents, as well as the natural wonders and survival skills that she records in her journal.

In our time, monarch numbers are dropping dramatically, so planting native milkweed along their migration route can make up for some habitat loss.

Do monarchs migrate through your region?
**kmm

Book info: Little Monarchs / Jonathan Case. Margaret Ferguson Books / Holiday House, 2022. [author site] [book site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

SINGING WITH ELEPHANTS, poetry in her heart breaks free! by Margarita Engle (MG book review)

book cover of Singing With Elephants, by Margarita Engle. Published by Viking Books /PRH  | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Home isn’t here.
English is so hard to learn.
Animals always understand her.

Doctors in California after World War II couldn’t cure her grandmother diabetes, but now Oriol’s family is established here, her parents’ veterinary practice thriving, her big sister flirting with elephant handler Surey at the wildlife ranch they serve.

Summer is a release from kids who bully the 11 year old for not speaking English well, for the scents of animal companions that cling to her clothes. Oriol still longs for Cuba, where she and Abuelita cared for whistling birds.

Into their neighborhood comes an older lady whose words ring out with messages of nature and peace and hope. This poet from Chile begins teaching Oriol how to observe the world and bring poetry from her soul onto the page – in Spanish, in English, in both languages at once.

Oriol finally gets to meet wise-eyed Chandra at the ranch and Surey who cares for the pregnant elephant. The wonderful sounds that Chandra makes bring her so much joy, inspiring words and more words!

Can Oriol someday be a poet and a veterinarian, someone who translates animal speech to humans?

The noisy movie star who brought Chandra and Surey from Nepal can’t wait for the baby to be born – is he really the right person to own an elephant?

Big surprise when Chandra gives birth! Then terrible shock – what can Oriol do to help?

This novel-in-verse was inspired by the late 1940s California stay of Gabriela Mistral and her companion Doris Dana, as the educator, writer, and only woman Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature continued her work as a peace activist.

Another lyrical Cuban-centered story by the author of Rima’s Rebellion (I recommended here), Your Heart My Sky (more here), Lion Island (here) and more.

What words does nature inspire you to write?
**kmm

Book info: Singing With Elephants / Margarita Engle. Viking Books /PRH, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

G is young Bollywood fan’s GRAND PLAN TO FIX EVERYTHING, by Uma Krishnaswami (MG book review) #A2Z

book cover of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, by Uma Krishnaswami. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Singing and dancing,
true love overcomes all –
Bollywood is perfect, real life isn’t!

A dream is finally coming true – for Dini’s mom, who’s gotten a job as doctor at a clinic in a small town in India.

But for 11-year-old Dini, moving away from her best friend Maddie for two years is terrible! Who will watch Bollywood movies with her and sing every song and dance all the dances?

And Swapnagiri is far, far away from Mumbai and its Bollywood studios, so Dini won’t even get to see their favorite star, Dolly Singh. Just in case, Dini writes a letter, telling Dolly where her family will be in India.

Such a long journey from Maryland, and so many different things in their new home: monkeys on the roof, rose petal milkshakes, their little house on a working tea plantation.

Oh dear, her new neighbor Priya has taken a dislike to Indian-American Dini, and soon they’ll be classmates. Priya’s uncle is sad because his fiancee broke their engagement – his sweetheart, Dolly Singh!

Ah, if Dini can get Chickoo Uncle and Dolly back together again, they’ll film her next movie right here as planned – time for more letters, a big party, and Dini’s perfect Bollywood script.

Told by Dini, the mail carriers, the mechanic trying to find out what’s making the strange noise in Chickoo Uncle’s car, Dolly’s agent from the movie studio, and Dolly herself, this story is like a Bollywood special – start the music, cue the dancers, action!

When have you tried to help people fix a situation they couldn’t fix by themselves?
**kmm

Book info: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything / Uma Krishnaswami; illustrated by Abigail Halpin. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

F is Florida & friendship for ABBY, TRIED AND TRUE, through so many difficult life changes, by Donna Gephart (MG book review) #A2Z

book cover of Abby, Tried and True, by Donna Gephart. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Best friend moving away,
big brother so sick,
seventh grade ahead…sigh.

Honestly, shy Abby doesn’t know how she’ll get over her lifelong friend Cat moving from Florida all the way to Israel. She does know that she’ll write in the journal that Cat gave her, this summer when she’s turning twelve (Fudge is a very good pet turtle, but their conversations are very one-sided).

Her 16-year-old brother Paul will play Monopoly with her (when he’s not practicing basketball with his buddies), Mom Rachel will keep inviting Abby to make cooking videos with her and Paul (nope, too shy to get in front of the camera), and Mama Dee’s sweet treats from her bakery make everyone feel better (but not Abby, this time).

Hmmm… who’s this boy moving into Cat’s house? Maybe she can be brave and meet him… Conrad, whose mom is renting the house after her divorce. He’s in her grade, good at basketball and board games and listening.

Paul comes back from summer camp so sick. Oh no…. cancer! After the going-away party for his cancerous testicle (boys are so weird), he’ll have surgery and start chemo. That means he’ll miss lots of school; it doesn’t mean his friends should stay away.

Seventh grade begins, and Abby is glad that Conrad is there so she doesn’t have to walk home alone with her worries (will they celebrate the Jewish high holidays in the hospital or at home?).

Many difficult days ahead for Abby’s family – she’s really, really glad to have Conrad by her side… maybe more than glad.

Available in paperback this week – find Abby at your your local library or independent bookstore.

When have your friends supported you through tough times?
**kmm

Book info: Abby, Tried and True / Donna Gephart. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2021, paperback 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

C is for Callie, reinventing herself ACROSS THE POND, by Joy McCullough (MG book review)

book cover of Across the Pond, by Joy McCullough. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Goodbye, not-so-good friends,
hello, new life in a new country!
Now… how to become a new me?

Callie and Jax’s parents have inherited what? A large drafty castle in Scotland that her family will renovate into a tourist destination is a huge change from their small two-bedroom apartment in San Diego where she was bullied at school.

Jax bounds into primary school as happily as he races through the castle’s many chilly rooms where stones fall from fireplaces and mice munch on tapestries.

Callie loves the small village library, but utterly panics at starting mid-term at the high school – please, please, will her parents let her homeschool to finish seventh grade and help them renovate?

They agree, as long as she does an outside activity to make friends… hmm, Lady Whittington-Spence’s childhood journal talks about bird-watching when she was evacuated to the countryside early in World War II.

When Callie unintentionally makes an enemy of their landscape designer’s young teen granddaughter, escaping to the youth birdwatching club (oops, it’s called ‘twitching club’ in Scotland) seems the best idea.

The twitchers are pleased to have access to the castle grounds for the Big Day competition when their club will try to beat teams from neighboring villages by spotting the most birds. Callie has some catching up to do, and Cressida (“just Sid”) forgives her so they can learn all the birds’ favorite nesting spots.

Can she and Sid show the twitching club that girls are great birders?
Can Callie’s family get the castle in shape for visitors soon?
How did their new cat get into the dumbwaiter?

Entries from Pippa Spence’s journal punctuate Callie’s own journey into confidence in her own abilities to learn new things and finally make friends worth having.

Published in paperback this week! By the author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost (I recommend here).

What’s on your “must-see” personal list?
**kmm

Book info: Across the Pond / Joy McCullough. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2021, paperback 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

B is their band BARAKAH BEATS (don’t tell her parents!), by Maleeha Siddiqui (MG book review)

book cover of Barakah Beats, by Maleeha Siddiqui. Published by Scholastic Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

First year in public school!
Big building, confusing schedule,
best friend ignoring her?

After memorizing the entire Qu’ran, 12-year-old Nimra finally moves from private Islamic school to the same Virginia public middle school that her BFF Jenna attends – is she really ready?

She’s excited about the chance to take art class (if she can convince her conservative Pakistani-American parents), but not happy that Jenna pays so much more attention to other friends.

Her quiet noon prayer is interrupted by some eighth grade guys in the band room – a Muslim boy band?! The whole school is obsessed with Barakah Beats, and they’re inviting her, a new seventh grader, to join?

Beliefs about music vary throughout Islam, but for Nimra’s family, playing instruments or singing isn’t acceptable. Maybe the band will accept the new logo she drew instead of being mad that the young hijabi can’t sing with them…

Her new friend Khadijiah’s big brother is in Barakah Beats. She says they really, really want Nimra in the band to sing and to write new lyrics.

If Nimra practicing with the band makes her cool to Jenna’s friends, but she never performs in public, that would be okay, right?

Oh, of course Barakah Beats is performing at the fundraiser for refugees! And the entire Muslim community will be there, including her parents!

How can Nimra dare sing in public?
Why can’t her parents view music like other Muslims do?
Why can’t Mom and her grandparents agree on the right way to do anything?

Nimra’s heart is in turmoil about keeping her new Muslim friends while defying her family to regain Jenna’s friendship.

What long-held dream are you willing to go for?
**kmm

Book info: Barakah Beats / Maleeha Siddiqui. Scholastic Press, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Ready…set…MAKE YOUR OWN MANGA! by Elaine Tipping and Erwin Prasetya (YA book review)

book cover of Make Your Own Manga: Create Your Own Anime Comics With Action-Packed Story Fill-ins and Blank Comic Panels, by Elaine Tipping and Erwin Prasettya. Published by Adams Media | recommended on BooksYALove.com

If you love anime and manga,
if you imagine the dialogue you’d write on the next page,
if you sketch and sketch on any paper nearby –
this is the book you need!

Story and art must work together seamlessly in manga, so Make Your Own Manga provides you pages upon pages of practice space for each skill.

Manga artists Elaine Tipping (draws Dubious Company and Licensed Heroes ) and Erwin Prasetya (illustrates Blade Bunny ) give you helpful hints about transfering your imagination to the page, then set you free to create.

Part one – Write Your Own Story – contains six illustrated stories with empty dialogue bubbles so you can practice fitting the story you’ve written into the usual manga framework. Three stories by each author are presented in left-to-right, top-to-bottom pattern, rather than traditional manga reading style, because this is a practice book to help you with the flow of the story. Why are they flying? Who’s the villain? – you decide!

Part two – Write and Draw Your Own Story – is hundreds of professionally drawn comic frames in many styles, just waiting for you to capture your manga! You can divide these 100+ pages into as many anime comics as you like – be sure to note each one’s title and starting page on the blank table of contents at the front of the book.

So get this book now at your favorite independent bookstore or order it through Bookshop.org where you choose the indie bookstore that gets credit, and the books are shipped straight to you! (These aren’t affiliate links; BooksYALove never profits from recommending books)

Whether you’re just starting to draw manga or you’re an experienced creator looking for layout inspiration, grab your pencil and Make Your Own Manga – then keep creating!

What series would you recommend for a first-time manga reader?
**kmm

Book info: Make Your Own Manga: Create Your Own Anime Comics With Action-Packed Story Fill-ins and Blank Comic Panels / Elaine Tipping and Erwin Prasettya. Adams Media / Simon & Schuster, 2021. [Elaine’s site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Take a chance to do this AGAIN, BUT BETTER? by Christine Riccio (YA book review)

paperback book cover of Again, But Better, by Christine Riccio. Wednesday Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Creative writing in London!
Not her parents’ plan –
Finally, what she wants…

Journaling, blogging – Shane wants to improve her writing, but her parents are laser-focused on their only child becoming a doctor. Thanks to the fake YU brochure she created, they think she’s in London for a pre-med semester abroad in 2011, so she has to keep up that charade.

She likes her roommates – Babe, whose dream is becoming president of Disney, and Sahra, serious pre-law with a sense of humor. They share a kitchen with theater-major Atticus and musician Pilot (“like the first episode of a show”). All are excited about their classes and internships and getting to travel all over Europe.

The very first weekend, she’s off to Rome with Babe, Sahra, and Pilot – staying together in a hostel, a marvel around every corner, almost losing her passport!

Is Pilot flirting with her? Shane’s no good at flirting, hasn’t dated much, her family keeps asking when she’ll bring a boyfriend when she goes home every weekend. But Pilot has a girlfriend back home…

When her parents discover what she’s really studying, everything will crash and burn, of course…

Fast forward several years, and Shane has the chance to rewrite the ending of that unforgettable semester abroad – magic?

Pilot is carried back, too – does he want to change the script?

Will either of them push the rewind button that erases their second chance?

Filled with references to music, television, and movies that the London friends all love (and the books that Shane insists they need to read), this debut novel considers the weight of family expectations and the costs of being true to yourself.

p.s. the paperback edition (with the pink cover) contains a bonus scene!

If you could study abroad, where would you go?
**kmm

Book info: Again, But Better / Christine Riccio. Wednesday Books, paperback 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Almost time for the April #AtoZchallenge!

#AtoZChallenge 2022 alternative badge

The calendar is sliding toward April, so #AtoZChallenge is just ahead!

This will be my 11th year of participating in the blogging challenge to post alphabetically themed entries throughout April (with Sundays off).

My 2022 #AtoZChallenge theme is… books beyond bestsellers!

For y’all, this means a double-handful of new recommendations of middle-grade and young adult books, plus a few surprises.

You have time to sign up your blog for this free Challenge, too – more info here.

As I wrap up my 12th continuous year of recommending books – without giving away the endings, please let me know which April selections go on your wishlist to find at your local library or independent bookstore (remember – no affiliate links here – ever!).

Happy reading to all!
**kmm

SOMEBODY GIVE THIS HEART A PEN, a poet speaks up, shouts out – by Sophia Thakur (YA book review)

book cover of Somebody Give This Heart a Pen, by Sophia Thakur. Published by Candlewick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Being seen,
seeing others truly,
acknowledging support and pain.

In her poetry, Sophia Thakur captures life-moments low and high, reveals bone-deep concerns, speaks of youth, for youth, to youth.

“To you, the silence in this stillness is to be endured
not experienced.
It scratches at every anxious bone that you own…”
begins the poem “Fidgeting” (pg. 66), one of several whose unflinching observations resolve with grace and advice.

Section headers composed of proverbs and sayings – Grow, Wait, Speak, Grow Again – present themselves as concrete poems of wisdom, slashed white against a dark page.

Honed through her performance poetry and TED talks (like this one), the Black British poet’s style radiates on the page, like the opening lines of “When to Write”:

“When your fists are ready to paint faces
When there is nowhere to confide
When your skin lingers high above your bones
and you’re so out of touch with self.
Write…” (pg. 98)

Check out her first volume of powerful and empathetic poems today at your local library or independent bookstore, and be inspired to let your heart speak.

“…I swore to my lips
never to send up anything that would compromise
anyone’s perception of me.
I have a vision of how I wish to be seen
and I fear that that image will be challenged
if ever they know more of me.” –from “Secrets” (pg. 57)

Your favorite contemporary poem?
**kmm

Book info: Somebody Give This Heart a Pen / Sophia Thakur. Candlewick Press, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.