Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner
Magdalie lives in Haiti with her cousin Nadine and Nadine’s mother, but Magdalie considers them to be her sister and mother. Her aunt works for a wealthy lady, cooking and cleaning, and the three of them live in the lower rooms of the house. When the earthquake hits Haiti in 2010, the girls survive but Nadine’s mother is killed. The two girls have nowhere to go but they are rescued by Magdalie’s uncle and move into the refugee camp. Soon after they move, Nadine’s father gets her a visa and she moves to Miami to live in the United States. Nadine promises to send for Magdalie as soon as she can. Magdalie is left all alone, unable to afford to attend school any longer and mourning the loss of her sister and mother. Magdalie holds tightly to the hope of heading to the United States, but eventually has to admit that she is staying in Haiti and figure out how to not only survive but thrive there.
Wagner writes with a passion that shines on the page. She shows the beauty of Haiti, creating a tapestry of food, sounds and voices that reveals what is often buried beneath the poverty. She does not shy away from the ugliness of poverty, from the waste, the violence and the impossible choices facing a girl like Magdalie. Sex simmers constantly around her, offers are made to young girls, and in one instance Magdalie must make the choice of whether she is willing to be taken care of in exchange for sexual favors.
Through it all, even when she is deep in despair, Magdalie is clearly a smart girl who loves to learn and wants to be something more than where she finds herself. Magdalie is incredibly strong too, facing on a daily basis things that American readers will never have experienced. And that too is part of Wagner’s amazing depiction of Haiti. She makes it clear that it is because of the society of Haiti that there is immense poverty but also that people can survive that poverty. When Magdalie visits a rural part of the country, readers revel right alongside her in the natural beauty. When she longs to return to the camps and the filth, readers too will begin to understand what she sees there and the potential it offers her if she can just find a way.
This is a complex book that does not try to answer society’s issues in a pat or simple way. Rather it stands as witness to the brutality, beauty and incredible strength of Haiti and its people. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet Books.
The longlist for the Branford Boase award has been announced. The British award was started 15 years ago and is awarded to the author of an outstanding debut book and their editor. The shortlist for the award will be announced on May 4th with the winner to be announced in July. Here are the title in the longlist:
Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret by DD Everest
Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen
Broken Strings by Maria Farrer
City of Halves by Lucy Inglis
Cowgirl by Giancarlo Gemin
Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott
The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis
The Executioner’s Daughter by Jane Hardstaff
Half Bad by Sally Green
Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall
A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson
Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall
Trouble by Non Pratt
True Fire by Gary Meehan
Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens
The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss
The National Council of Teachers of English has announced the winners, honor books and recommended titles for the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children. This award was established in 2014 and promotes and recognizes excellence in writing. “This award recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder.”
2015 Charlotte Huck Award Winner
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
El Deafo by Cece Bell
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
Revolution by Deborah Wiles
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Draw by Raul Colon
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long
The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye
First Snow by Peter McCarty
Pedro is visiting his cousin Sancho. While he is there, snow starts to fall, something that Pedro has never seen before. But he knows already that he won’t like the snow since it’s so cold. The next morning, his cousins are thrilled to head outside into the fresh snow that fell all night long. Pedro is very doubtful, saying again how cold it is. When the other children make snow angels, Pedro doesn’t even want to try. Other children in the neighborhood arrive with their sleds. One of them shows Pedro how to catch snowflakes on his tongue. They all take their sleds to the top of the big hill. Pedro is too cautious to go first, but soon he finds himself joining everyone else riding down the hill. He is thrown off his sled and lands in the cold snow, but he no longer finds it too cold to have fun.
McCarty deftly shows the reluctance of a child experiencing something for the first time. He handles it with a delicacy that shows the hesitation clearly and the hanging back. Yet Pedro still tries things as the day goes on, and the other children don’t force him to try anything he doesn’t want to. By the end of the day, Pedro is just as merrily playing in the snow as the others. This book shines with a gentle spirit and allows children to see themselves clearly on the page.
As always McCarty’s illustrations are a treat. I particularly enjoy seeing characters from his other picture books in this story. Plus you have the added bonus of little creatures in snow suits with room in the hoods for their ears!
An ideal pick for snowy days or a way to discuss trying something new in a gentle and supportive way. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Geek Girl by Holly Smale
Released January 27, 2015.
This British import is hilarious, geeky and great fun. Harriet Manners knows that she is not a popular person. She shares too many factoids about things, she doesn’t care about fashion to the point that she took wood shop to avoid going to a fashion event, and she even has a list of the people who hate her. So when Nat, her best friend, demands that she come along to the fashion event, Harriet knows that she has to. Nat has dreamed her entire life of being a model, something that Harriet doesn’t even start to understand. She’d much rather be a paleontologist and spend her time watching nature documentaries. But everything goes wrong and it is Harriet who is discovered at the fashion show, and now Harriet starts a series of lies and cover ups to keep both her best friend and her step mother from knowing anything about her being discovered. Modeling is hard when you’ve never walked in heels before, when you don’t know the rules and when you are sitting next to the most gorgeous boy you have ever seen.
Smale has managed to give us a perfect mashup of geek and Next Top Model in this novel. Harriet is an unforgettable heroine, someone who is awkward in the extreme, entirely herself, and uncertain about who she wants to be. She is bullied by a classmate even as she is being discovered as a model. Even as she wants modeling to transform her into someone else, Harriet manages to be a voice for teens who are different, fascinated by facts, think in charts and graphs, and who are different from the rest.
Smale is also deeply funny. Harriet has wonderful asides that reference geeky movies and books. Her father and step mother have the most marvelous arguments, ones that read like a real argument when things stop making sense and have plenty of zinging comments. Best of all, the arguments don’t end their relationship but somehow form a basis for it. The writing throughout is clever and witty, making it a book that is impossible to put down.
The first book in a trilogy, this book came out in the UK in 2013 and was nominated and won several awards. It certainly lives up to the hype with its wit, strong heroine and inherent joy. Appropriate for ages 13-15.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Harper Teen and Edelweiss.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
Clare Furniss on sick lit and why labels in literature aren’t helpful | The Guardian http://buff.ly/1BCYN50
Ethnicity of characters in children’s literature scrutinized – Victoria Advocate – http://buff.ly/1J2XnkM
Paddington’s Forebear: A Talk With Michael Bond – http://buff.ly/1Jh6232 http://buff.ly/1Jh6237
Why Diversity In Children’s Literature Is So Important For Kids’ Development | KPLU – http://buff.ly/1BzybDm
Edmonton Public Library’s First Digital Public Space | Library as Incubator Project http://buff.ly/1ElPbeo
Hard Times Ahead for the Library of Birmingham http://buff.ly/1CtWyyT
10 New Teen Titles We’re Excited About http://buff.ly/17QFgTN
The 15 Most Anticipated YA Books Publishing in February 2015 | Blog | Epic Reads http://buff.ly/1CBl3KH
2014 African American MG & YA Fiction | Zetta Elliott http://buff.ly/1zwJ8ow
#yalit #kidlit #diversity
2015 Feminist YA Novel Book Recommendations http://buff.ly/15ttfC3
John Lewis on ‘March’ and revisiting the Civil Rights movement in 2015 | Shelf Life http://buff.ly/1J3W6K6
The nominees for the 2015 Edgar Awards have been announced. The awards are presented by the Mystery Writers of America and celebrate the best in the mystery genre. Here are the nominees for books for youth:
Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Saving Kabul Corner by N. H. Senzai
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
BEST YOUNG ADULT
The Art of Secrets by James Klise
The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi
Fake ID by Lamar Giles
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson
Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Told in masterful verse, this is the story of real-life heroine Clara Lemlich who led the largest strike by women in the history of the United States. Born in Russia, Clara was forbidden any education because her devout Jewish father did not approve. When her family emigrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, Clara was required to go to work to support her family while her father and brothers dedicated their lives to prayer. Clara got work in the garment industry, discovering horrific working conditions and refusing to just accept them. Clara worked to get women workers taken seriously by the male-driven unions and for their plight to be incorporated into union strikes and negotiations. Along the way, she also used the public library and free classes to teach herself English. Anyone wondering if one person can truly make a difference in a larger world has only to read this book to be inspired to action.
Crowder’s poetry here is completely amazing. From one page to the next, she captures the incredible spirit of this young woman and her desire to educate herself. When she finds something to fight for, she is unstoppable, fearless and unbeatable. Crowder also ties Clara to nature, even in among the tenement buildings of New York City. She is a small hawk, a flower in the concrete, she herself is the force of nature in the city.
Just the descriptions of the horrific beatings that Clara withstood on the streets and the picket lines would make most people quit. But Crowder makes sure to depict Clara as a person first and a hero second. It makes what she did so much more amazing but also encourages everyone to realize that they too have this within them if they are willing to take on the fight. This woman was a heroine in such a profound way, unsupported by her family and willing to use all of her free time to make a difference, she is exactly what the modern world needs to have us make change now.
Strong, beautiful and wonderfully defiant, this book is an incredible testament to the power of one woman to change the world. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel.