“It’s pretty. ‘Til you get close. Then sugar gets nastier than any gator. Sugar bites a hundred times, breaking skin and making you bleed.” page 6
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes, illustrations by Neil Brigham.
Originally published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette, New York, 2013.
My edition is Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade historical fiction, 272 pages + author’s note.
Lexile: 430L .
AR Level: 2.9 (worth 4.0 points) .
NOTE: This is the second book published (chronologically the first) in the Louisiana Girls Trilogy.
The ten-year-old narrator of this novel is named after the type of plantation she works on: Sugar. Slavery ending doesn’t seem to have changed much, other than all of her friends moving away. Orphaned Sugar doesn’t have the resources or family to leave. But she does have spirit and dreams – dreams of playing all day, going to school, and even of making new friends. When the plantation owner decides to bring Chinese workers in, are they competition or potential allies?
Since I’ve been complaining about historical fiction featuring black characters, I decided to try to find some good examples, so we took a trip to the used bookstore. This historical novel takes place over the course of a year, measured by the different seasons of the sugarcane cycle. It starts with winter in 1870 and moves through planting and then harvest in 1871. The epilogue takes place in spring of that year. Continue reading “Review: Sugar”
“In the years following her husband’s death, Coretta committed herself to fulfilling Martin’s dreams and a few of her own.” page 65
Coretta Scott King: Dare to Dream by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Anna Rich.
Puffin, Penguin Group, New York, 1994.
Biography, 81 pages including index.
Lexile: 790L .
AR Level: 6.4 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: Part of the Women of Our Time Series.
A middle-grade biography of Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a civil rights activist herself.
“She pitied people. She went inside the ships and saw that some of the people were chained below. She helped them escape and swim to the island.” page 116
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste.
Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade fantasy, 234 pages.
Lexile: 680L .
AR Level: 4.6 (worth 6.0 points) .
Corinne La Mer and her father have always lived near the forest, and she’s never questioned that… but she’s never entered it either. Until one day two boys tie her mother’s necklace to a forest creature and she can’t help but follow.
When this was first published, I had just started reading diversely. Most diverse books still flew right past me, but this book was published by Scholastic! And it’s a retold tale – one of my favorite genres! How did I ever miss this one? It might have been marked as horror. Recently I saw the second book in the series in this blog post by Shenwei. Seeing the cover of the second book made me realize that it was fantasy, not horror.
In an odd twist of fate, later that day I stopped by a library book sale, and snagged a used copy of the Jumbies for 25 cents just before closing!
“I wanna say I am somebody. I wanna say it on subway, TV, movie, LOUD.” page 31
Push by Sapphire.
Vintage books, Random House, New York, my edition 1997, orig. pub. 1996.
Adult fiction incorporating poetry, 140 pages plus the Life Story Class Book (not paginated).
Lexile: not leveled.
AR Reader: 4.0 (worth 5.0 points)
NOTE: This book is not intended for children, whatever the reading level may be.
16-year-old Precious is pregnant with another one of her father’s babies and has been kicked out of school. Her mother feels there’s no point and what’s the use, since she can’t read anyway? But Precious, fierce, determined, angry, and sad, misses school and is going to try again. Maybe her baby can have a better life than her.
I came across this book in the most roundabout way. I’d heard of it before and the movie Precious which is based on it. But it wasn’t on my TBR, just one of those books you hear about and nod, “yes, I’ll read that some day.” Then I was at the summer clearance at Barnes and Noble, and they had a copy of the 2011 sequel, The Kid in hardcover for a dollar. That’s been sitting on my shelves for a year now, and I finally picked up a copy of Push.
“I started spending time in the library, researching books on religion and philosophy.” page 56
Un-Ashamed by Lecrae Moore, with Jonathan Merritt.
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016.
Autobiography, 204 pages including notes (211 pages including blank note space).
The autobiography of a “Christian rapper” who successfully transitioned to general rap spaces and overcame many personal challenges.
This one is from the library. I knew it was somewhat religious, but didn’t realize just how Christian it was. There definitely were points that could apply to everyone, but it also was very heavy on religion. For example, his conversion experience takes up most of a chapter, while other aspects of his life are given much less detail. Lecrae sees his life through the filter of Christianity and views everything with God’s purpose in mind.
Brilliant artwork, yet the execution of this elementary school mystery flummoxed me.
Katie Fry, Private Eye: The Lost Kitten by Katherine Cox, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.
Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Mystery, 32 pages.
Lexile: 450L .
AR Level: 2.2 (worth 0.5 points) .
Katie Fry loves to solve mysteries. This may be the first book starring her, but it’s not her first mystery. She’s solved the mystery of the early bedtime and found the lost glasses! Now there’s a lost kitten. Can she solve this new mystery too?
“Bill Bradley was not afraid to show his goodwill toward black people. His father raised him that way.” page 143
The Kids Got It Right: How the Texas All-Stars Kicked Down Racial Walls by Jim Dent.
Thomas Dunne Books, Saint Martin’s Press, New York, 2013.
Sports nonfiction, 288 pages including index.
NOTE: For international readers. As an American, I use the word football for American football, the team sport with helmets and tackling. For books involving the team sport with cleats and goals with nets, see the tag soccer.
This is a story of small-town Texas football, particularly those involved in the 1965 Big 33 game. It’s the story of high school stars Jerry LeVias and Bill Bradley, an unstoppable duo who changed football at that game in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
It’s pretty clear within the first ten pages that this was written by a white man. The subtitle notwithstanding, this book is not about race. This book is about football, and specifically one football game in which an All-Star team began to be slightly integrated.
I picked up this book at the dollar store and after reading and reviewing, will be passing it along. Elsewhere I’ve seen this recommended to fans of the TV show Friday Night Lights and high school football fans. I am neither. Sports in general are not my thing, but in particular high school football holds little interest to me unless I personally know the participants.
“Alfie told me once that Suzette at daycare keeps wanting to touch her braids. But that’s a secret, we decided, because we don’t want our dad to freak.” page 78.
EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken! (EllRay Jakes #1) by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper.
Puffin Books, The Penguin Group, New York, 2011.
Realistic Fiction, 2011.
Lexile: 840L .
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 2.0 points) .
EllRay Jakes, the smallest kid in Ms. Sanchez’s third-grade class, is dealing with some serious bullying, trying to earn a trip to Disneyland, and navigate the rest of school while meeting his father’s high expectations.
This was another Target pick, although it took me a while to review. It wasn’t until after purchasing that I realized I’ve read a book by this author already. In fact, this entire series is a spin-off on her Emma series, which has been popular in one or two schools I’ve been at. A third-grader was lobbying hard for the first Emma book to be the next read-aloud, so I read it, but chose another book. If I’d realized this was from the same author, I would have gotten it from the library as well instead of purchasing it.
The cover of this book was great, I just wish the rest of the book had lived up to my expectations.