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Showing posts from June, 2020

OFFLINE for July

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"Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it."
Arundhati Roy, "The pandemic is a portal," free to read at Financial Times. Thank you to my brother for sharing this article with me. 
I will be taking the next month off from reviewing as I continue my walk through the portal that is this pandemic, getting "ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it."

Trespassers by Breena Bard, 256 pp, RL 4

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Trespassers by Breena Bard Purchased from Barnes & Noble With her debut graphic novel for young readers, Bard delivers a welcome addition to the graphic novel shelves, creating a hybrid I hope to see more of. Trespassers is the perfect blend of  the kid-friendly intrigue of a Nancy Drew mystery and the emotional realism of a Raina Telgemeier novel and just long enough that (most) readers won't tear through it in one sitting.
Headed to their family cabin by the lake for the week, eighth grader Gabby Woods is happy to to curl up in a corner with her stack of Agatha Christie mysteries, leaving the canoeing and card playing to her older sister and younger brother. Unfortunately, her well-meaning mother encourages (forces) Gabby and Simon to spend time with their new neighbors on the lake, Paige and her little brother Bryan. Paige is a straight-up nightmare, and Bryan is not much better. Bristly and sarcastic, she is immediately outed as a shoplifter by her littler brother, who is not…

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan, 256 pp, RL 4

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Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan Cover Art by Paola Escobar Purchased Audio Book Narrated by Roxana Ortega
Ryan sets Mañanaland “somewhere in the Américas,” in the town of Santa Maria, weaving the concrete realities of being a fútbol loving eleven-year-old with a local legends that conjure an aura of magical realism. Ryan masterfully has her story bump up against magic without actually entering that world, instead, surprisingly, telling a story of refugee immigrants fleeing violence, persecution and government corruption and the people who risk their lives to help them.
Maximiliano Córdoba’s mother disappeared when he was a baby, leaving his solemn Papá and his storytelling Buelo to raise him. Learning that the new coach of the local fútbol team is requiring all players to produce a birth certificate sets the story in motion as Papá, a stone mason who repairs bridges, travels to the nearby town where Max was born to retrieve this important document. In his absence, anxious to make the team a…

Doodleville, Volume 1 by Chad Sell, 288 pp, RL 4

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Doodleville, Volume 1  by Chad Sell Review copy from RH Graphic Drew loves to draw. As Doodleville opens, we see drew over the years, happily drawing the day away in a booth at her parents' diner. When Drew is five, the her drawings wander off her page and onto the wall of the diner, surprising a regular who also happens to be a supporter of the arts. When Drew is nine, she cuts a massive swath of paper off the roll of butcher paper hanging from the diner wall and creates an entire town, filled with homes for her creations, and calls it . . . Doodleville! Doodleville becomes both a solace and a challenge to Drew as she works on her artistic and social skills.
An Art Club field trip to the Art Institute turns troublesome when Drew the Doodles escape from the pages of her sketchbook and run amok through the paintings of Degas, Van Gogh, Monet and Hopper, to name a few. Before Drew can get all the Doodles back into her book, they have stollen a hat from a baby in a painting and Drew has …

Pet by Awaeke Ezemi, 208 pp, RL: Middle School

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PET by Akwaeke Emezi Cover Art by Shyama Golden Purcahsed from First Book
Lucille is a city founded on the revolution cry lifted from an old Gwendolyn Brooks poem, "We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond." Emezi frames this revolution simply, with good winning over evil, angels triumphing over monsters. Yet, readers will quickly identify the monsters in the novel as monsters of our own world. The angels of Lucille "took apart the prisons and the police." They banned firearms, eliminated physical violence and "took the laws and changed them, tore down those terrible statues of of rich men who'd owned people and fought to keep owning people. The angels believed and the people agreed that there was a good amount of proper and deserved shame in history and some things were just never going to be things to be proud of." Lucille is a utopian community where the racism and white supremacy tha…

Heartstopper, Volume 1 by Alice Oseman, 288 pp, RL: Middle School

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Heartstopper, Volume 1 by Alice Oseman Purchased from Barnes & Noble Heartstopper, Volume 1 is a deeply satisfying story that captures the breathless intensity and uncertainty of a crush that takes you right up to the first, leaving you hanging wondering what happens next. Happily, Heartstopper, Volume 2 continues the story (due out November, 2020) with a third and final volume coming in 2021. And, you can read all of Heartstopper and more in webcomic form on Tumblr
The tagline for Heartstopper is, "Boy meets boy. Boy becomes friends. Boys fall in love." It is as deliciously simple as that , and, like all delicious things, it leaves you wanting more. Heartstopper, Volume 1 introduces readers to Charlie Spring, a fourteen-year-old Year 10 (ninth grade) who came out to his Truham Grammar School peers at the start of the school year. He suffered bullying and homophobia but ultimately discovered a (mostly positive) newfound popularity. When a Spring Term schedule change puts C…

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee, 288 pp, RL5

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Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee Purchased from First Book
Published in 2016, Star-Crossed follows twelve-year-old Mattie as she navigates the waters of eighth grade, from crashing a party she didn't get invited to, to the all-grade production of Romeo and Juliet to understanding and embracing her feelings for British transplant Gemma. While studious, quiet Mattie surprises her friends by auditioning for a part in the production, she delights her English teacher, Mr. Torres, who recognizes her gift for understanding literature and memorization. When popular guy (and crush of many) Liam wins the roll of Romeo but struggles with the part, Mr. Torres asks Mattie to help him learn his lines and she is happy to do so, as it means more time with Gemma, who is playing Juliet. When Liam drops out of the play and Mr. Torres asks Mattie to step into the role of Romeo, much to Gemma's approval.
Thinking about all the things she likes about Gemma, Mattie wonders if, when added up, they "equa…

Be Amazing by Desmond Is Amazing, illustrated by Dylan Glynn

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Be Amazing : A History of Pride written by Desmond is Amazing illustrated by Dylan Glynn Review copy from Macmillan Children's Publishing Desmond Napoles, 2015 NYC Pride Parade, age 8 Be Amazing: A History of Pride by Desmond is Amazing, "Teen Drag Superstar, LGBTQ+ Advocate, Editorial and Runway Model, Author and Designer." As a 32 page picture book, it's more of an introduction to the history of Pride and the author's part in it. This is all wrapped in a colorful, generous, loving thanks, in words and in pictures, to "the very brave people who fought to make it okay" for us to "be whoever we want to be," as well as a recognition that there is still work to be done to create a gender-inclusive world where human rights like equality and acceptance are universal.
Desmond begins his book (in this interview, Desmond specified his preferred pronouns, in or out of drag, as he/him/his, he also prefers the term Drag Kid over Drag Queen, which he believes t…

Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Levi Hastings

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Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg  by Rob Sanders illustrated by Levi Hastings Review Copy from Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers
**The publication date of this book was moved from late-May to late-July. I normally try to post reviews close to the release date, but Pride Month seems like the perfect time to share this great book!

One of the challenges of writing a picture book biography of a presidential candidate before an election is not knowing the outcome of the election. Sanders makes this a non-issue with his superb biography, beginning his book with Buttigieg's quote, "Are you ready to turn the page and start a new chapter in the American story?" 
Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg was born in South Bend, Indiana, to parents who were professors at Notre Dame. While he grew up in a comfortable neighborhood going to football games with his dad on the weekends, Buttigieg was very aware of the "abandoned, crumbling factories," and other signs of econ…

Pride 1 2 3 by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Wednesday Holmes

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PRIDE 1 2 3 by Michael Joosten illustrated by Wednesday Holmes Review Copy from Simon & Schuster With a classic format and boisterous bursts of color, Joosten and Holmes take readers from one to ten, counting out all that is great about Pride month and everyone who celebrates it. Starting with one "parade in the month if June," DJs spin "fabulous tunes," floats "carry people who are proud," and activists "fight the good fight," while "divas strike a fierce pose." "Families of all different types" can be seen on every page, including people in wheelchairs and with crutches, waving flags and signs like "Be kind," and "GO TEAM LGBT+." Holmes's illustrations of celebrants, with kind, round faces and dot eyes, are perfectly suited to a board book format while their use of color exudes joy. Topping it all off, Holmes finishes their pages with the one thing that really says celebration to me - confetti!
Don…

The Way to Rio Luna by Zoraida Córdova, 336 pp, RL 4

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The Way to Rio Luna by Zoraida Córdova Cover art by Erin McGuire Review Copy from Scholasltic
The Way to Rio Luna is the fantastic middle grade debut from Córdova, award winning author of the YA Brooklyn Brujas trilogy. What is especially exciting and impressive about this book is the way Córdova takes familiar aspects from the world of fantasy and sends them spinning down new and exciting paths, signaling this from the first pages of The Way to Rio Luna where we meet believer Danny Monteverde. Raised on the stories of The Way to Rio Luna, a collection of fairy tales by Ella St. Cly that his big sister, Pili, would read to him, Danny is sure that magic is just around the corner. Foster children, Danny and Pili are sent to separate homes when they are nine and eleven. And then Pili disappears without a trace. Sure she would never leave him, Danny spends the next two years reading the book she left with him and looking for magic, even when it means jumping off the roof with a questionable …

When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland

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When Sadness Is at Your Door  by Eva Eland Purchased from First Book With sensitivity and understanding, Eland masterfully personifies an emotion and places it in a story that will give readers tools to comprehend and cope with the very familiar feeling of sadness. Use of the pronoun "you" and a gender neutral child further encourages readers to identify with the the main character as Sadness arrives and "follows you around . . . and sits so close to you, you can hardly breathe." Illustrating the desire to push away the negative feelings that Sadness brings, Eland encourages readers to, "Try not to be afraid of Sadness. Give it a name. Listen to it. Ask where it comes from and what it needs." If you don't understand your sadness, sit with it. Or find "something you both enjoy" and engage with it.
In a beautiful moment of dual meaning in text and images, Eland writes, "Maybe Sadness doesn't like to stay inside. Try letting it out sometim…