“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.
“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.
Two girls, each living with extended family for the summer, find a book entitled The Exquisite Corpse, surprisingly blank until one writes in it. Then the book itself starts filling in a story, a story which has interesting ties to the real world, a story which both girls are anxious to read the ending to.
I generally dislike books with two narrators. Often one is stronger than the other, and the author struggles to give them equal screen time while keeping our interest in the story. However, when this method works, it can be very strong.
Highly Unusual Magic starts with Kai, who is staying with a quirky older woman, a distant cousin whom she calls Aunt. Leila is visiting relatives in Pakistan alone and realizing that she doesn’t speak the language, and knows little about Islam although her family is nominally Muslim.
“Maybe the people in line behind us thought Dr. Street and I were mother and daughter having a serious conversation, because they left some space around us.” page 13
Gloria Rising by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Lis Toft.
Stepping Stones, Random House Children’s Books, 2002.
Realistic fiction, 98 pages.
Lexile: 640L .
AR Level: 3.9 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: Technically part of the Julian/Huey/Gloria series, but works as a stand-alone.
Before the start of fourth grade, Gloria has an unexpected encounter with a celebrity astronaut who looks like her and answers all her questions about space! But at school, her teacher doesn’t believe she met Dr. Street, and worse, thinks she’s a troublemaker.
I got this book at the dollar store back when I first started reading diverse. That was part of the reason that I grabbed it, as was the cover. A young black girl in space with an onion? So many questions. I regret to inform you that this book is not science fiction (as the cover would indicate). However, it’s still worth reading!
An original, #ownvoices can’t-miss middle grade graphic novel.
Malice in Ovenland by Micheline Hess.
Rosarium Publishing, Greenbelt, MD, 2016.
MG speculative fiction, 126 pages including extras.
Not yet leveled.
Lily Brown is not going to camp this summer, or on a fancy vacation. She’ll be staying home, eating her mom’s new ‘healthy’ organic cooking, caring for their plot in a community garden, and doing extra studying. Her mom goes away for a weekend and Lily’s almost done with her chore list when she loses an earring inside the oven and discovers a magical world where they aren’t too happy about the sudden lack of grease in her family’s kitchen.
There’s no way that my summary has done this book justice. There are so many things going on here, and everything is wonderful. This is a book that kids love to read, and that parents can feel good about their kids reading.
“The word man hit like a pile of rocks falling on George’s skull. It was a hundred times worse than boy, and she couldn’t breathe.” page 16
George by Alex Gino.
George loves Charlotte’s Web more than anyone in her class, maybe even her school. She can’t wait to be Charlotte in the 4th grade play. There’s only one problem – to the world, she looks like a boy, and Charlotte is a girl’s part. But George is also holding in a big secret… she’s really a girl.
This book has been getting a LOT of buzz in the book blogging world, particularly the diverse corner of it. Let’s face it, there aren’t many books in general addressing the transgender experience, and I cannot think of any other fiction work for middle graders on this topic. There are a few picture books, but the majority of works are aimed at teens and YA audiences, which is a shame, because many (not all) transgender or intersex people are dealing with this from a much younger age.