Tag: diversity

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Aminas Voice by Hena Khan

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (9781481492065, Amazon)

Amina doesn’t like the spotlight. Her best friend Soojin knows that Amina can really sing, but Amina just won’t even try for the solo for the upcoming concert. Amina’s life is changing now that they are in middle school. Soojin has started being friendly with Emily even though Emily had helped bully them in elementary school. Amina just isn’t ready to forgive Emily so quickly. Meanwhile, Amina’s uncle comes to visit from Pakistan, bringing new ideas about what it means to be Muslim. He causes Amina to start to question whether she should even be singing or playing music at all. Amina feels pressured to change but in multiple directions at once.

Khan has created a book for middle schoolers that takes a quieter look at diversity, family and being true to oneself. It is a book that looks closely at what it means to be a Muslim girl in America and how to follow the values of your culture even as you are pressured to be more American. It is a book that looks at the power of voice, of music and of community to overcome hardship and to share emotions. It is a book that has a gorgeous warmth to it, a joy of family, friendship and diversity.

Amina is a very special protagonist. Rather than being the center of attention, she doesn’t seek it at all. Still, she is lonely or ignored. She has friends and is grappling with the normal changes that come during middle school. On top of that, she is also asking deeper questions about faith, culture and living in America that will ring true for all young readers. Amina’s quietness and thoughtfulness allow those questions to shine.

Filled with important questions for our modern world, this middle-grade novel sings with a voice all its own. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Salaam Reads.

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (9780062414151, Amazon)

Four middle schoolers start their summer vacation and steadily their lives begin to come together. There is Virgil, a quiet boy who lives in a family of loud, boisterous people. Except for his grandmother who understands him and tells him stories from her village in the Philippines. Valencia is a girl who is deaf and wears hearing aids to help her lip read. She used to have close friends but enjoys spending her days outside in the local woods where she takes care of a stray dog. Kaori believes that she has psychic powers and is helping Virgil gain the courage to speak with a girl he wants to be friends with. Finally, there is Chet who bullies Virgil and Valencia. He starts problems one day in the woods and Virgil finds himself in real danger. But can Kaori and Valencia figure out what has happened before it’s too late?

Kelly’s novel is rich and riveting. She writes about children who are lonely and interesting. The book speaks to children who don’t fit in, who are bullied, and who are unique in some way. It’s about staying true to yourself and not trying to be someone else. Important subjects weave throughout as well, including deafness and diversity. These enrich the novel even further, making it a book that grapples with important topics and yet stays entirely accessible and filled with plenty of action.

The characters are what make this book sing. Each of them is more than what could have been a stereotype. From the mystical Kaori to shy Virgil to Valencia and her hearing aids, each child has a full personality and plenty to offer the reader. Each is grappling with loneliness and unable to move forward though they know they need to. There is a beautiful theme of folktales and myth throughout the novel with the grandmother’s stories forming a basis for the coincidences and fate that brings our young heroes together.

An intelligent adventure of a book that is about friendships that seem impossible but happen anyway. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins Publishers.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

allegedly-by-tiffany-d-jackson

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Mary has served six years for killing a baby when she was nine years old. Now she is living in a group home with other teen girls, including ones who want to hurt her. Mary doesn’t talk much and didn’t speak for months after the baby’s death. Now though, Mary has something to speak up for and fight for. She has an older boyfriend who works at the nursing home where Mary is assigned. She also has their unborn child. Mary is smart and loves to read. She sets her mind on going to college and completing SATs. However, there are a lot of hurdles and barriers in her way from the system itself to just getting an ID. As Mary starts to fight back she will have to take on her mother, the person whose testimony got her locked up in the first place.

This is one incredible debut novel. It takes a dark and unflinching look at how our society treats young offenders and the bleak lives that are left to them. It also speaks to the horror of a baby being killed and the effect that race, where a black girl is accused of killing a white baby, has on the system. The writing is outstanding, allowing the desperation to seep into the pages and the darkness to simply stand, stark and true.

Mary is an amazing protagonist. Readers will relate to her as her intelligence shines on the page despite the grime surrounding her. As she begins to build hope and a new life around herself, readers will feel their own hopes soar and warmth creep in. Mary though is not a simple character, a girl wronged. She is her own person, messing up in her own ways and speaking her own truth.

Complex and riveting, this debut novel is one that is dazzling, deep and dark. Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Katherine Tegen Books.

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley

the-harlem-charade-by-natasha-tarpley

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley (InfoSoup)

Released January 31, 2017.

Three children in Harlem set out to solve a mystery. Jin, who has grown up in her adopted grandparents bodega, longs for some adventure to spice up her days. Alex is a girl who won’t talk about her family or her circumstances. She spends her days doing good deeds and working to feed those less fortunate. Elvin isn’t from Harlem, but has been sent there to stay with his grandfather. Unfortunately, his grandfather was attacked and is now hospitalized. The three start to investigate what happened to him and along the way discover a mystery of the art scene in Harlem and the dangers of developers to the small businesses that make Harlem so special. Along the way, the three discover real friendship, learn about their community and make a personal difference themselves.

Tarpley’s writing offers just enough background to inform and keeps it brief enough that the pace never slows. She handles the pacing deftly throughout the novel, allowing just enough time to catch your breath before the speed picks up again. The setting of Harlem is brought fully to life, both today’s Harlem and the Harlem of the 1960s. The setting is vital to the story and readers get to fully explore the sights, sounds and vibrancy of this neighborhood.

Tarpley has cast her book with many diverse characters and I’m very pleased to see them shown on the cover. The three main characters are all individual and unique, bringing their own skills and knowledge to the quest to solve the mystery. I appreciated that they didn’t always get along and that their viewpoints were different enough to create issues that were addressed in the story. The villains of the story are also wonderfully evil, adding a great deal of satisfaction as their roles are made clear.

An incredible debut novel that offers a winning diverse cast and a rich look at Harlem. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

flying-lessons-and-other-stories-by-ellen-oh

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh (InfoSoup)

This is a simply incredible collection of stories that feature middle-school children from a variety of diverse backgrounds. The authors of the stories are the best in the children’s book business, including Kwame Alexander, Tim Federle, Matt de la Pena, Tim Tingle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, and Jacqueline Woodson. The stories feed into one another, creating a quilt where the patches are of different colors and textures but the quilt is one unified structure. The stories feature children of color, children who are LGBT, and those who are differently-abled. It is a book about our differences and our similarities, a book about what makes each of us fly.

There are several stories that will stick with me. The one by Matt de la Pena has a gorgeous tone to it, almost oration where the reader is being spoken directly to about opportunities, hard work and taking risks. It’s all about basketball, the art of the game and the willingness to put yourself out there and play. Grace Lin’s is an wonderful mix of humor and drama, showing reading as a way forward into a life of adventure and individuality. Woodson’s story is spare and lovely, looking directly at racism and staring it down with friendship. The others are marvelous too, I could write about each of them in turn, each just as special and jeweled as the last.

This is a book that should be in all libraries, it speaks to the power of diverse books in our communities, their ability to transform all of us no matter what our background or color. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Crown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley.

 

How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder

how-to-find-a-fox-by-nilah-magruder

How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder (InfoSoup)

A little girl sets out to find a fox. She immediately finds a fox hole, but the fox isn’t home. She sets out fox bait, then hides and waits so long that she gets sleepy. She tries following fox tracks, but fox are sneaky animals. She puts out more bait and eventually falls fast asleep. She tries making fox calls. Finally, when she climbs a tree to look around, she spots the fox! But she loses him. The little girl is ready to give up, but convinces herself to keep on trying. Perhaps the solution is making the fox want to find her!

Magruder has created a wonderfully appealing picture book with an African-American protagonist. Both the little girl and the fox are dynamic characters who capture your attention. While the little girl searches for the fox, young readers will love spotting him themselves as the little girl just happens to be looking in the wrong direction. These missed encounters add to the excitement of the book. The entire book reads very well and is perfect to share aloud. It shares the value of resilience and persistence.

The art has a lot of charm and is reminiscent of Dora the Explorer which will make this a book that children pick up. There are illustrations that are wonderful, such as the little girl about to give up, lying flat on her back on the grass, spent. The art will project well for a group.

A great addition to storytime units on foxes or being outside. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

the-sun-is-also-a-star-by-nicola-yoon

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (InfoSoup)

A finalist for the National Book Award, this book for teens is exceptional. It is the story of two teens, Daniel and Natasha who meet one another through a series of events. Daniel, a poet, firmly believes in love at first sight and destiny bringing them together. Natasha though does not, believing in science and what is provable. The day is a big day for both of them. Natasha’s family is being deported back to Jamaica that night unless she can figure out a way to stop it. Daniel is being interviewed for Yale, a school and a career path that his Korean parents have chosen for him. When the two meet, the chemistry is palpable, but the timing is horrible. Daniel decides that he can prove to Natasha that love is real and measurable, but can he do it in time with their deadlines working against them both?

I can see why this book is getting all of the attention and praise that it is. It’s an amazing read, filled with possibility and the sense that the universe may just be on our side sometimes. It’s filled with romance and chemistry. The prose has a lightness that is exceptional, creating space for these two amazing characters to meet, breathe, and tumble head over heels in love with one another.

Meanwhile, it is also a story of New York City. It’s a story of immigration and illegal immigrants, of losing a culture and then losing the dream of America as well. It’s a story of overt racism and the new generation of teens who see beyond that and into hearts. It’s a story of profound loss, of parental betrayal, of hope that manages to rise again and again.

A book perfect for today, this teen novel is a voice of hope despite our challenges and loving through it all. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.