Review: Yes, Chef

“When I had my own restaurant someday, I thought, I would never rule out someone based on race or sex or nationality. I wouldn’t do it because it was egalitarian, I’d do it because cutting people out meant cutting off talent and opportunity, people who could bring more to the table than I could ever imagine.” page 160

Yes, Chef: a memoir by Marcus Samuelsson.
Random House, New York, 2012.
Autobiography, 326 pages.
Not leveled.

The life story of Marcus Samuelsson, a chef across three continents.

Yes Chef cover resized

This was a random find that was enchanting.  I’ll admit that I was first drawn in by the appealing cover, and then after the generosity of the friend who gave this to me, I had to at least start reading it.  What I found between the covers kept me up all night until the book was finished.

Continue reading “Review: Yes, Chef”

Review: Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!

“But the aunties’ heads must be so hard by now, Anna thought. After centuries of pulling and tugging and yanking, their heads must be as hard as concrete.” page 39

Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.
Kane Miller, EDC Publishing, Tulsa, OK, 2010.  (First published in London, 2008.)
Elementary chapter book fiction, 112 pages.
Lexile:  660L  .
AR Level:  4.1 (worth 1.0 points)  .
NOTE:  This is the second book in the Anna Hibiscus chapter book series.

The continued adventures of Anna Hibiscus and her family in amazing Africa.

Anna Hibiscus 2 cover resized
Hooray for Anna HIbiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.

I wrote a few years ago about the first book in this series, simply titled Anna Hibiscus.  While I loved the story and one of my older children read it independently, at the time of that review, they hadn’t enjoyed it as a read-aloud.  Well, it was indeed just a moody day, because we have since been loving this series as a whole-family read aloud choice.

Much like the first, this book is actually four interconnected short stories which could be read individually.

Continue reading “Review: Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!”

Review: Forever Mom

“Kids may need years of consistent, loving care before they begin to trust, and they may resist trusting even in the face of much love and care from new parents.” page 107

Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting by Mary Ostyn.
Nelson Books, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2014.
Nonfiction, 241 pages.
Not leveled.

Mary Ostyn shares her experiences as a mother of ten, six adopted, children.

Forever Mom

I’m always interested in reading books about adoption and foster care.  Initially when I got this, I thought it would have more about fostering or domestic adoption.  While Ostyn did go through the initial process of domestic adoption, in the end all of their six adopted children were foreign adoptions.

This is part memoir and part advice book.  Ostyn writes from a Christian background so there are scripture quotations and references to Jesus and prayer.  I didn’t realize before reading this book that like many international adoptive parents, she feels particularly called by Jesus to adopt the children who ended up in her home.

Continue reading “Review: Forever Mom”

Review: Queen of Katwe

“Phiona had never read a chess book. Never read a chess magazine. Never used a computer. Yet this girl was already a national champion.” page 132

Queen of Katwe: One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion by Tim Crothers.
Vintage Canada, Penguin Random House, Toronto, Canada, my edition 2016, originally published 2012.
Nonfiction, 232 pages.
Not leveled.

Phiona Mutesi followed her brother to a place where children were learning to play chess.  Initially motivated more by a free daily meal, she soon found she had a gift for chess which might propel her out of the slums of Katwe, Uganda.

Queen of Katwe resized

Normally I am very strict about always reading first before seeing any movie based on a book.  In this case both my family and I really wanted to see the film, so I did watched before reading the book.  Sometimes seeing the movie version first can color the interpretation of the book.

Continue reading “Review: Queen of Katwe”

Board Book Review: Good Night Families

Between a rambunctious good morning to adoptive parents to a good night to everyone, our 39th board book manages to show a wide variety of families.

Good Night Families by Adam Gamble, illustrated by Cooper Kelly.
Good Night Books, 2017.
Board book, 20 pages.

A showcase of a wide variety of families going through their days.

Good Night Families cover resized
Good Night Families by Adam Gamble, illustrated by Cooper Kelly.

This book is a bit of a mixed bag.  First, let’s get some of the negatives out of the way.  The font is awful – a dead giveaway that this wasn’t produced by a regular publishing house.  There also isn’t a great flow to this book, it’s a series of vignettes that at times feels choppy and awkward.

Continue reading “Board Book Review: Good Night Families”

Review: We Are Family

“Each family is different; it may be large or small. / We may look like each other – or not alike at all.” p. 21

We Are Family by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Ryan Wheatcroft.
Tiger Tales, Caterpillar Books Ltd., Wilton, CT, 2017.
Picture book, 22 pages.
Not yet leveled.

A sweet vintage-style picture book depicting similar moments in the lives of ten very different families.

We Are Family cover

This British book is a bit off the beaten path.  I think I was looking for family books that were inclusive of foster and adoptive kids, and this certainly fits that mold.

Continue reading “Review: We Are Family”

C&C: Two Novels about Sudanese Refugees

A comparison and contrast of two similar middle grade books.

Last summer, N and I read two novels about Sudanese refugees.

One was A Long Walk to Water: A Novel Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park.  Although this was reviewed first, I actually read it second.

The other was The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane Evans.  I read this one first and then traded with N, who had read Long Walk to Water first.

A Long Walk to Water

One book is a novel closely based on a true story, while the other is a wholly fiction novel in verse with illustrations.  The main character of The Red Pencil is a girl who is displaced within Sudan, while A Long Walk to Water follows a boy who is displaced outside of Sudan.

The two characters face very different pressures within the same conflict.  Both witness the traumatic deaths of family members.  Both are survivors who try to hold on to hope and be a force for good in the world.  Both suffer.  Both lose their homes and most of their families and feel like they have lost their country.  Amira finds her religion as a source of hope, while for Salva the idea of improving other people’s lives motivates him.  Salva is forced to flee further and faster because for him the consequence is to be forcibly conscripted as a child soldier if not outright murdered.  Amira is able to flee more slowly and keep some family and neighborhood connections because women and female children were aggressively pursued in a different manner, which is glossed over in this children’s book.  Both characters are in danger of their lives, and both are surprised when the violence suddenly erupts in their hometowns.

Both of these books are written by marginalized authors, but neither are written by a Sudanese refugee.  One of these is written by a Korean-American, closely referring to the true story of one Sudanese refugee and American immigrant.  The other is written and illustrated by African-Americans.

The Red Pencil cover resized

Which do I recommend?  Well that depends.  By reading both of these within a close time period, I felt like we got a decent overview of Sudanese refugees from two different viewpoints.  Together, they gave us a broader viewpoint than we would have gotten with only one.  However, we didn’t find a middle grade nonfiction text, which I would have liked to supplement these books.

The Red Pencil is better suited to younger readers, because while it does contain suspense and incredibly sad and awful events, the narrator is “safe” (we know she survives to write the story) and the violence is comparatively downplayed.  I probably wouldn’t use it in the classroom with students below fourth grade, but it could be appropriate for individual children who are younger.  This book could be read up into middle school, and probably even high school.

However, I didn’t enjoy the poetry and the illustrations didn’t balance that out.  It doesn’t seem to translate well into adult reading (as, for example, A Time to Dance or When the Mountain Meets the Moon do).

A Long Walk to Water works as an adult read, but it is very suspenseful and includes more graphic violence.  I’d use it with middle and high school students but would be cautious about using it with younger students.  Both books are appropriate for middle school students, and a comparison between the two could make for an interesting class discussion.

Generally speaking, both books were interesting, although I preferred A Long Walk to Water.  N enjoyed both books, although I find it telling that she stopped in the middle of The Red Pencil and put it down for an extended period of time.

Any books about Sudan or refugees that you recommend?