Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
REALISTIC – BEAUTY / SELF-LOVE
Don’t miss this important story about self-worth, beauty, and colorism. Honestly, I couldn’t put this book down. Genesis hates that her skin is so dark; she knows her grandma and father hate that about her, too. In her self-loathing, she believes that if only she were lighter-skinned, she’d be pretty and have all the things that go along with being pretty. She tries lemons, baking soda, milk, a brillo pad, bleach, and even a special cream she orders online using her mom’s credit card. Meanwhile, Genesis’ family is in crisis. They’ve been evicted from yet another house in Detroit because of her father’s gambling and drinking. At their new house in the fancier suburb of Farmington Hills, Genesis learns her father isn’t paying the rent there either. But she doesn’t want to move…it’s the first time she has friends. Plus, at her new school, an insightful music teacher introduces Genesis to jazz legends like Billie Holliday. And Genesis finds her voice both literally and metaphorically. This book belongs on every library shelf- it’s excellent! It will start the conversation about who defines beauty and how we can do better individually and as a society.
Added to The Best Middle Grade Chapter Books & Graphic Novels of 2019.
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
REALISTIC – DEAF, LONLINESS
Do you ever have a book that changes your life? Song for a Whale is one of those books for me.
Iris is a lonely Deaf girl who feels alone at her school and in her immediate family. At school, Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale who is called the loneliest whale in the world because his song is at a different hertz than other whales. Iris immediately feels a connection to him. “Blue 55 didn’t have a pod of friends or a family who spoke his language. But he still sang. He was calling and calling, and no one heard him.“ Iris uses her compassionate heart, intelligence, and tinkering skills to write and record a whale song that Blue 55 will hear. Why? She wants him to know that he’s not alone. Even though she sends the song to the research station tracking Blue 55, Iris wants to see him for herself. She and her grandmother, who is also Deaf, sneak off without Iris’ parents’ permission on a cruise to the Alaskan research station. Their adventure is different than either could have imagined but profoundly life-changing for them both. It’s a heartening, poignant story that gives readers insight Deaf children, the richness of Deaf culture, and the life-changing power of compassion.
Added to The Best Middle Grade Chapter Books & Graphic Novels of 2019.
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
REALISTIC – FAMILY, COMING-OF-AGE
To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
I loved the genuine voices of these two girls who write emails back and forth. It’s a heartfelt story about two girls, Avery and Bett, whose dads start dating. First, the girls are determined to stop their dads and also not be friends with each other. Then after lots of emails and meeting at summer camp, the girls become friends who actually do want their dads to be together. But that doesn’t work out. What does work out is Avery finding her mom and Bett’s grandma discovering her love of the theater. The next year it works out that the friends go to summer camp together again — and it’s a different experience than the first year — but the life-changing events that happen may just bring together the families again.
Pararescue Corps by Michael P. Spradlin, illustrated by Spiros Karkavelas
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
REALISTIC – GRIEF, FAMILY
Coyote and her dad are on a cross-country, coming-of-age trip to anywhere or nowhere after the mom and sisters died in a car accident. But when Coyote discovers that the park near her old home will be torn down, along with a special memory, she is determined to get her dad to drive them back. While this book is a decent read, I would have liked to see something more unique. However, I’m in the minority — most other reviewers can’t get enough of this book.
Emmi in the City: A Great Chicago Fire Survival Story by Salima Alikhan, illustrated by Alessia Trufio
* couldn’t put it down!
The End of the World and Beyond by Avi
This is the sequel to The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pits which I adored. The history is familiar up to a point but I enjoyed learning about Maroons. Maroons were escaped slaves who hid and lived in the cypress swamps during the time of slavery. The story begins with Oliver getting shipped off as a criminal to the colonies. There he’s sold as an indentured servant to an abusive drunk. The man’s other worker is a slave named Bara. Bara helps Oliver survive the situation. They plan and wait patiently until they can finally escape into the swamps where the Maroons live. But Oliver can’t stay there –he’s desperate to find his sister who was sent to the colonies, too. The ending is a great surprise, maybe a bit unrealistic but very satisfying nonetheless!
Island War by Patricia Reilly Giff
Giff is a well-known author. In this book, she tells the imagined story of two children during WWII who are accidentally left on an Aleutian Island when Japanese soldiers force all the island’s occupants onto a ship bound for a prison camp. Everyone except the two kids. It’s more a story about the children’s friendship and survival than any history but certainly, the history does play a role. I liked the story but felt like the ending was abrupt. It’s a short, fast read.
FANTASY AND SCI-FI
Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan (ages 6 – 9)
The Giver: A Graphic Novel adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell (pub: 2/5/19)
Does this incredible novel really need to be in graphic format? That question bothered me through most of this book. Because I love graphic novels, I really do. But I just don’t think there is any replacing Lois Lowry’s incredible narrative writing. That being said, if this is a gateway for kids to access the story, maybe read the novel later, I can concede its necessity in the world. (Am I overreacting? Hmmm.) The book begins without colors in the illustrations. As Jonas receives memories of color, color begins to appear to us, too. The book stays true to the original story and hooks the reader right away with its visual storytelling.
Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce
Written and illustrated by the author of the popular Big Nate books, this new series is about a girl named Max and her new friends who help to rescue Max’s imprisoned troubadour uncle from an evil king, among other adventures. You’ll find a magician, dragons, magic, an evil witch, anachronisms, and silly humor in this story that is half text and half comic panel illustrations. It’s good enough to keep readers reading but I didn’t find it as compelling as the Big Nate books.
Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis
In this girl-powered sequel to The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, the character of Silke gets center stage. She’s a fast-talking, story-weaving girl who the princess recruits to spy on the visiting Elfenwald royal family. It starts out slow but stick with it, you won’t be disappointed with this lovely fantasy story.
Begone The Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan