Review: Saints and Misfits

“I stand and cringe at the sucking sound as my swimsuit sticks to me, all four yards of the spandex-Lycra blend of it.” page 2

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Saints and Misfits: a novel by S.K. Ali.
Salaam Read, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA contemporary, 328 pages.
Not yet leveled.

Janna just wants to live her life – hang out with her friends, study, work her very part-time jobs, pray, and maybe dream a little about her secret haram crush.  But something has changed her world, something unthinkable, horrible, and so big she doesn’t know what to do.

Saints and Misfits resized

For some reason I thought this was a light and fluffy read.  However, I completely misunderstood, because by chapter two we’re reliving one of the worst moments of Janna’s life, when she is assaulted by a man who is supposedly holy, the man she calls the Monster.

Indeed, the title of each short chapter (Saints, Misfits, or Monsters) relates to how she sees the main people she’s interacting with in that chapter.  Some chapters contain more than one category, or a comment as she begins to realize that some of those she sees as Saints are really Misfits, etc.

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Review: The Kidnapped Prince (YRE)

“Still I do not believe that traders in slaves are born worse than other men. It is the slave trade and the greed it brings that hardens men’s minds and kills their capacity for kindness.” page 81

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano, adapted by Ann Cameron.  (With an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1995.  My edition reprinted, Yearling, Random House Children’s Books, New York, 2005.
Lexile:  840L  .
AR Level:  5.7 (worth 4.0 points)  .

Olaudah Equiano was an African prince from Benin who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, in which condition he traveled widely and had many different experiences.  Ann Cameron abridged and adapted this book for young, modern readers.

The Kidnapped Prince resized

Although this book has a great deal of adventure, the prologue is more of a moral lesson, and in the first chapter Olaudah describes home life during his early years.  For this reason, I’d recommend getting through the first bit quickly to hook kids into the narrative.  If you are in a library or another setting where you can’t, then tell the kids about Olaudah’s life so they stay interested.

After chapter two, the pace increases.  Cameron breaks the narrative up into short, topical chapters.  Some reviews complained about the narrative ending before Olaudah’s book finished, but the afterword summarizes the rest of his life.

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Review: Anna Hibiscus

“Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.” page 7, 35, 65, 83.

Anna Hibiscus by Antinuke.
Kane Miller, EDC Publishing, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2010.  (First published in London in 2007.)
Elementary chapter book fiction, 112 pages.
Lexile:  670L .
AR Level:  4.1 (worth 1.0 points)  .
NOTE:  This is the first book in the Anna Hibiscus chapter book series.

Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her mother and father and baby brothers Double and Trouble.

Anna Hibiscus cover resized
Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.

I’d heard about this author for a while but could not get any of her books.  Once I found them on Amazon, it took some time to determine the order.  This is the first chapter book in the Anna Hibiscus series (Atinuke also has other books).

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Review: Stay With Me

“at least they made me feel I was part of his family. Until that afternoon, no one in my family had paid me that kind of visit since I’d got married.” page 7

Stay with Me: a novel by Ayobami Adebayo.
Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
Realistic fiction, 260 pages.
Not leveled.

Stay with Me is the story of a marriage, a love match gone wrong.  It asks how much we’re willing to, or will sacrifice for family, for ourselves, for our partner, for a child.

Stay With Me
Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo.

This book is a rollercoaster in all the best ways.  I don’t entirely know how to explain.  The love and marriage of Yejide and Akin are the center of the book, but this isn’t really a romance novel.  Rather, this book reads like an impossible true story.

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Review: A Long Walk to Water

“He ran until he could not run anymore. Then he walked. For hours, until the sun was nearly gone from the sky.” page 9

A Long Walk to Water: A Novel Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2010.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 121 pages.
Lexile:  720L  .
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 3.0 points) .

Southern Sudan, 2008: Nya is a young girl who, for seven months of the year, spends every day walking to a nearby pond and bringing a heavy plastic container back to her family.  After a brief stop for lunch, she repeats the task in the afternoon.  Every day.

Southern Sudan, 1985: Salva is a young boy displaced by the wars and drought that are sweeping through the Sudan.  He, too, walks for miles every day, but without a lunch, home, or destination.  He walks with the hope of survival, unlikely for a young Sudanese boy alone in the world.

A Long Walk to Water

This book has been on my TBR for a while, but originally I was under the impression it was non-fiction.  The afterword has notes from both Salva Dut and author Linda Sue Park, explaining how the story was based on his life, using interviews, personal conversations, and his writings to keep the fictionalized story as close as possible to what actually happened.

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Review: Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

“Mrs. Sikelo took me behind a curtain to a smaller room, where three floor-to-ceiling shelves were filled with books. It smelled sweet and musty, like nothing I’d ever encountered.” page 161

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York, 2009.  My P.S. edition 2010.
New York Times Bestseller.
Lexile:  960L  .
AR Level:  6.4 (worth 15.0 points)  .
NOTE: There are three books with this title.  This review is of the adult edition.  There is also a picture book and a young reader’s edition chapter book.

William Kamkwamba had access to a small library and a scrapyard full of parts, and a dream – to ensure that his family would never starve again.  Against all odds and despite ridicule, he built a windmill and brought electricity to his family’s rural Malawian home.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

This book surprised me.  I knew the basic premise – boy builds windmill with scrap parts to bring change to his village.  But I didn’t realize that this was actually the story of Kamkwamba’s life, which starts long before windmills were even a gleam in his eye.

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Review: Say You’re One of Them

This incredibly challenging but worthwhile read is for grown-ups only.

Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan.
Back Bay Books; Little, Brown, and Co.; Hachette Book Group; 2008, expanded edition 2009.
Adult short story collection, realistic fiction, 369 pages including extras.
Selected for Oprah’s book club in 2009.
NOTE: THIS BOOK IS FOR ADULTS ONLY.  NOT FOR CHILDREN OR TEENS.
Further Note: This is a work of fiction although I am not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

This collection of short stories deals with the children of Africa.  Specifically, children who are individually dealing with a variety of horrific circumstances, many of which do not have happy endings.  The author is a Nigerian priest but took care to set his stories in several countries in Africa.  There is a handy map in the front of the book for Americans or the geographically challenged.

Say You're One of Them

Before I go any further, EVERY TRIGGER WARNING YOU CAN THINK OF for this book.  If you are sensitive to bad things happening to children, you might not be able to read this book or even this review.  But, on the other hand, I think every adult should read this book at least once. Because these are real things happening to children, and if we ignore this then it will just keep happening.

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