Review: Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden (9781681198071)

Set in the 1880s, this novel explores the world if Essie, a young African-American woman who grew up with a neglectful mother and was rescued from poverty and prostitution by a kindly cleaning woman. Determined to keep learning even though she left school at an early age, Essie continued to read everything she could get her hands on. While working at a boarding house, Essie meets Dorcas Vashon, a wealthy African-American woman who sees potential in Essie and offers her a way to transform her life. Taught etiquette and new manners by Dorcas over several grueling months, Essie becomes Victoria and takes on the persona of Dorcas’ niece. As Victoria enters the social elite in Washington, D.C. she must hold to the lie that she is living until she can’t manage it any longer.

Bolden captures a period in American history that is rarely seen in books, much less teen novels. It is the period after Restoration gave African-Americans new rights but before the Jim Crow laws came stripped them away. It is a dazzling time to be a member of society and Bolden gives us details about the books, the manners and the dresses that make up that world. The setting of Washington, D. C. society is beautifully depicted as well.

Essie/Victoria makes for a wonderful set of eyes to view this world through. While she is taken with her new lifestyle and the opportunities it brings, Essie wrestles with the lies she must tell to keep it that way. Her strength of character is particularly evident when she is pressed such as learning etiquette and at the end of the book when she must make a moral decision. It is then that Essie fully steps into her own.

A fascinating look at a neglected piece of American history. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

2018 Best Teen Books!

This was a great year for books for teens, particularly those written by diverse authors about diverse characters. Here are the 20 books that I loved the most:

The Belles (The Belles #1) Blood Water Paint

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (9781484728499)

A mesmerizing first novel from an incredible new talent. – My Review

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (9780735232112)

A necessary and vital call to action, this book shows that women have stood up all the way through history and their voices will not be ignored. – My Review

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1) Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (9781250170972)

What an amazing read this is! It is a world that no one has seen before, a world anchored by Black Lives Matter that will echo for fans of Black Panther. – My Review

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (9780525552963)

Come fall in love with Darius and Iran at the same time in this amazing debut novel. – My Review

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) Emergency Contact

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (9780062570604)

A wild and bloody book with a fierce protagonist who sears the page. – My Review

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi (9781534408968)

Beautifully written, awkward in the best way and entirely empowering and accepting, this novel is a warm hug for readers struggling with anxiety.  – My Review

Fresh Ink: An Anthology Girl Made of Stars

Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles (9781524766283)

Strong writing, great stories and a call to action will make this collection a popular one. – My Review

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (9781328778239)

Fierce and angry, this novel about sexual assault and the power of survivors. – My Review

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings, #2)

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (9781250147905)

A great read, this blend of fairy tale and horror is completely intoxicating. – My Review

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (9780062795328)

Lee has a wonderful wit and humor in her writing. She tells this new tale with the same dance of sarcasm, historical detail and charm as her first book. – My Review

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein The Place Between Breaths

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge (9781626725003)

This verse novel is pure wonderment. – My Review

The Place Between Breaths by An Na (9781481422253)

Masterfully written, this is a harrowing depiction of mental illness in a family. – My Review

The Poet X Rabbit & Robot

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (9780062662804)

One of the best verse novels I have ever read, this one deserves a standing ovation.  – My Review

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith (9781534422209)

A deep book hidden in farts, horniness and space, this is one incredible teen novel. – My Review

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton (9780525580966)

Each of Dayton’s stories is an ethical question wrapped in a taut and fascinating plot in a shared world. – My Review

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (9781510727663)

A joy of an LGBT read that will give you all the feels. – My Review

Summer of Salt A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno (9780062493644)

This is one of those books that you fall for hard. It sweeps in with poetic language that invites readers to explore the island of By-the-Sea, breathe in the magic, taste beautifully-named ice cream flavors and linger in the autumnal graveyard for awhile. – My Review

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (9780062671158)

No matter whether they are fantasy or contemporary fiction, these stories are each tantalizing and rich. – My Review

A Very Large Expanse of Sea What If It's Us

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (9780062866561)

A fierce heroine faces racism alongside romance in this gripping novel for teens. – My Review

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (9780062795250)

A humorous, honest and heartfelt novel that offers a gorgeous look at the ups and downs of relationships through the eyes of a gay couple.  – My Review

Review: The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt

The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt

The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by David Spencer (9780399172762)

The adventures of Huggie and Stick are told in diary format from each character’s point of view. Stick is an eternal optimist, always seeing the best in every situation. Huggie, on the other hand, is a delight of a pessimist and is regularly complaining and seeing all of the problems surrounding them. As the two friends make their way around the world and visit each continent, readers will delight in the humor on the page and enjoy the way the two points of view show the same voyage from very differing points of view.

Daywalt has a way with humor, creating wonderful timing on each page. He knows when to use plenty of text and other times to let the humor just sit for a moment on the page. The juxtaposition of the two characters is written with flair. Readers may at first be drawn to Stick the optimist but by the end I was entirely in Huggie’s camp as he bore the brunt of the journey. The humor is all the better for the illustrations which show Huggie steadily falling apart on their journey and the ramshackle ways that Stick helps patch him back together.

A journey definitely worth taking, this one would be great to share aloud with elementary-age children. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

2018 Best Middle-Grade Fiction!

It’s been an exceptional year for middle-grade fiction, filled with diverse characters written by diverse authors. Here are my top picks for the year:

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (9780399544682)

A very readable book that invites readers into rural Pakistan and the dangers of corruption and debt. – My Review

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin (9780763698225)

A timely look at political intrigue and getting beyond what holds us apart with plenty of humor to make it a delight. – My Review

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr (9781536200171)

Richly told, this book is a delightful wintry read that feels like a long-lost classic. – My Review

Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older (9781338268812)

A rip-roaring read that will have children longing for a dactyl to ride. – My Review

Front Desk by Kelly Yang The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Front Desk by Kelly Yang (9781338157802)

Based on her own childhood growing up as a family managing motels, Yang tells a vibrant story of hope in the face of crushing poverty. – My Review

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (9781338209969)

A dynamic retelling of the Baby Yaga folktale, this book offers a big world of magic and ghosts to explore. – My Review

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (9780316515467)

Blake has created a middle-grade book that is warm and beautifully supportive. – My Review

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (9780553535327)

A complex book that takes a deep look at grief, loss, courage and family. – My Review

It Wasn't Me by Dana Alison Levy.jpg The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy (9781524766450)

Strongly written and compellingly paced, this novel is a fascinating look at how justice can be done in a school setting without the use of detentions or suspensions. – My Review

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (9780545156660)

The Newbery Award winning Curtis writes with such skill that it is impossible not to fall deeply into his stories and become immersed in the world he builds. – My Review

Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr

Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard (9780062652911)

A brilliant debut novel with changing families, lots of maple syrup but one that isn’t too sweet either. – My Review

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr (9781452159584)

Beautiful, haunting and tragic, this is a special fantasy for young readers. – My Review

Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (9780763694630)

DiCamillo tells Louisiana’s story with a deft humor and a deep empathy. – My Review

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (9780763690496)

A winning middle-grade novel that is part of #ownvoices, this is a must-read. – My Review

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (9781524767587)

A stellar read, this middle school book is a book that is hard to sum up, but one you can count on. – My Review

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (9780735262751)

A nuanced and skilled look at homelessness with great characters to discover along the journey. – My Review

Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (9781250165695)

I cannot stress enough how utterly captivating this children’s book is. – My Review

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (9781524715663)

Smartly written and filled with glowing characters living complicated lives, this middle grade novel is unbreakable. – My Review

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon (9781524715953)

Magoon has created a story that reads smooth and sweet, a tale filled with adventures and riotous action. – My Review

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (9780525515029)

Written with rich prose that is a delight to read, this eerie tale will be enjoyed by any young reader looking for some spine tingles. – My Review

The Stone Girl's Story by Sarah Beth Durst Sweep by Jonathan Auxier

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst (9781328729453)

Durst has created a compelling stand-alone fantasy book for middle graders. The world building is warm and lovely, unrolling like a carpet before the reader. – My Review

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier (9780735264359)

I loved the London that Auxier has created for us with all of its Victorian charms. He peels away the charming veneer though and shows us the brutality of child labor, the dangers and the cruelty of chimney sweeping in particular. – My Review

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor (9780062491497)

Connor writes books that soar and are completely heartfelt, this book is another of those. – My Review

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie (9781534414464)

A great read, a grand mystery, and a strong protagonist. – My Review

2018 Best Poetry Books!

I didn’t manage to read a lot of poetry in 2018, unfortunately. The ones on my list of the Best of 2018 though are worth treasuring:

Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (9781512404425)

In this book, there is a feeling of safety to explore difficult subjects that the poetry itself creates. – My Review

For Every One by Jason Reynolds (9781481486248)

It is a book about perseverance and resilience, a poem about life, hard knocks and getting up and continuing onward. – My Review

The Horse_s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

The Horse’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows (9780763689162)

A stellar book of focused haiku. – My Review

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (9780763690526)

Rich, memorable and timely, this picture book is something special. – My Review

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright, illustrated by Nina Crews (9781512498622)

A dynamic look at one of the top African-American poets of the 21st century, this book of poetry is a celebration. – My Review

Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (9781250144546)

Set in 1889 Paris, this teen novel mixes historical fiction with fantasy into one incredible adventure. Severin was denied his inheritance by the Order, a group of wealthy and powerful Houses that control the French Babel fragment and therefore the power to forge amazing devices. So Severin has become a thief who hides in plain sight in his hotel with his group of fellow thieves and friends around him. Each of his friends has their own distinct skill set that is invaluable when rescuing magical artifacts. Their expertise ranges from explosives to poisons to spiders to desire. As they start to seek out their largest target ever, it is an opportunity for Severin to regain his inheritance but it may just kill them all in the process.

Chokshi has written several amazing books and this one builds on her previous success. The setting here is particularly lush. Lovingly depicted, Paris comes to life just as the Eiffel Tower is being built for the Exposition Universelle. Paris is a great setting for the equally vibrant adventures the characters have there with traps, break ins, magical elements and more adding to the drama. That mixture of fantasy and history is forged together tightly into a unified whole.

This is a complex teen novel filled with engaging characters who all are distinct from one another and enticing to spend time with. She has included all sorts of diversity in her characters, including neurodiversity, bisexuality, and racial diversity. Each of these characteristics is a part of the story and plays into the plot, so they are far more than token notes and instead are rooted deeply in the characters.

A breathtaking adventure in a fantasy world, this first in a series will be appreciated by fans of Leigh Bardugo. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Wednesday Books.

 

Review: Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay

Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay

Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay (9781101917831)

A series of weather-related sayings form the words in this book while also telling the story of a family heading out on a fishing trip for the day. The book begins with sayings like “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” and “When the dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass.” They indicate that it’s a great day to head out to fish and camp, so a grandfather takes his grandchildren out. There are sayings about sunset, about the moon, about rain. The next day on their way home though, the weather begins to change. Even the morning begins ominously with a “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” The little family makes it home before the rain begins, cozy and warm inside.

MacKay takes these sayings and weaves them together in to a story arc that guides young readers through the outdoors and the changing weather. Her illustrations are exceptional. Done with paper, light and photography, she calls them “lightbox illustrations or illuminated papercraft.” Her illustrations have such depth that one almost expects them to be physically layered pages in the book. The light in the illustrations bathes the reader, creating a physical experience of the weather at that moment.

An exceptional picture book about weather and beauty. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

This Week’s Tweets & Pins

Here are the items I shared on Twitter and Pinterest this week:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

The 2018 Cybils Finalists! | Cybils Awards

Announcing the Winners of the 2018 National Jewish Book Awards

John Burningham, children’s author and illustrator, dies aged 82 – https://t.co/lNpdzO5oTy

Kid Lit For Trans Rights Launches

Kids’ Next List for Winter 2018-2019 |

Read To Me: 14 Best Children’s Books About Books

LIBRARIES

Americans are happier in states that spend more on libraries… – https://t.co/VVbatGDlKi

At libraries, drag queen story hours draw big crowds . . . and lawsuits

How the Chicago Public Library Is Bringing Story Time to the Laundromat

I Love Being a Librarian Because: Top Reasons Why Librarians Love Their Job | Princh Blog

#BookishQouteOfTheDay #Books #Reading

READING

The Guardian – Your Favourite Independent Bookshops – https://t.co/5cnkahZQb1

Here’s More Proof That Women Made Illuminated Manuscripts Too 

Reading with preschool children boosts language by eight months

These Heroes Are Saving Black Feminist Classics by Putting Them on Wheels

What we gain from keeping books – and why it doesn’t need to be ‘joy’

A woman turned her 110-year-old dead tree into a for the neighborhood, and it looks magical  –

YA LIT

25 Awesome 2019 Queer YA Books to Preorder Right Now

50 YA Books That Should Be Added to Your 2019 TBR ASAP

All the New Young Adult SFF Books Coming Out in January!

Arwen Elys Dayton on the Future, Human Modification, and Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful | Bookish

Finding New Definitions Of Strength With Roshani Chokshi In THE GILDED WOLVES

2018 Best Graphic Novels!

It was a great year for graphic novels, particularly for those showing diversity in authors and content. Here are my picks for the best of 2018:

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol Brazen by Penelope Bagieu

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol (9781626724457)

Brosgol is such a gifted book creator, moving skillfully from picture book to graphic novel. – My Review

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu (9781626728691)

The book is a delight to read, each chapter focused on one woman and told briefly and yet in a way that honors them and makes readers want to learn even more about them. – My Review

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell Deadendia The Watcher's Test by Hamish Steele

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (9781524719371)

There is a real spark here that demands creative thinking by the reader, looks beyond the cardboard and tape and sees the magic of imagination happening. – My Review

Deadendia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele (9781910620472)

Steele has created one of the zaniest, twistiest and most demonic graphic novels around. – My Review

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner Grace for Gus by Harry Bliss

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner (9781481495561)

A great pick for fans and haters alike, this one would make a great graphic novel to book talk to middle-schoolers and teens. – My Review

Grace for Gus by Harry Bliss (9780062644107)

An empowering read that makes the quiet child the hero and the star. – My Review

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka Illegal by Eoin Colfer

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (9780545902472)

Personal, painful and profound, this graphic novel is honest and deep. – My Review

Illegal by Eoin Colfer (9781492662143)

Smartly written, deftly drawn and plotted to perfection, this graphic novel is a powerhouse. – My Review

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden Peter & Ernesto by Graham Annable

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (9781250178138)

An impressive graphic novel both for its content and its art. This one is unique and incredibly beautiful. – My Review

Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable (9781626725614)

A great early graphic novel for elementary-aged readers. – My Review

Photographic by Isabel Quintero The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena (9781947440005)

One of the best biographical graphic novels I have read, this one is a stunning look at an impressive woman. – My Review

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (9781626723634)

Beautiful, layered and modern, this graphic novel embraces gender identity and gorgeous dresses. – My Review

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks Speak The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks (9781368008440)

The story is fast paced and a delightful mix of STEM and girl power. – My Review

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, artwork by Emily Carroll (9780374300289)

It’s a groundbreaking novel made into one of the most powerful graphic novels I have read. – My Review

The Unwanted Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (9781328810151)

A strong and important look at the Syrian refugee crisis in a format that makes the content very readable. – My Review