Review: The Girl From Everywhere

“Though the distance from cabin to gangplank wasn’t more than twenty feet, I was protective of the ship. Slate had told me from a very young age not to talk to strangers about Navigation.” page 168

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.
Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2016.
Speculative fiction, 454 pages.
Lexile:  750L  .
AR Level:  5.2 (worth 13.0 points)  .
NOTE: This book is not suggested for MG readers despite the reading level.

Nix’s father is a Navigator who can travel to any place, real or imagined as long as he has a map for it, but he’s only obsessed with getting back to the one place he cannot reach – 1868 Honolulu, where Nix’s mother died.

The Girl From Everywhere cover

Now having read this book, I can finally fully appreciate why all of the reviews were so maddeningly vague.  This is, unfortunately, the type of book that you can’t discuss with any real depth unless you’ve read it, because to discuss anything interesting is to give away part of the action.

So I apologize in advance that you might find this review to also be maddeningly vague.  In a book where the majority of the setting and even the time frequently changes (and further changes amongst real and imagined places), the focus is rather on both the characterization and the action.  Both are fast-paced!

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Review: Not Exactly the Same!

“Ling and Ting are twins. They are not exactly the same. Now when people see them, they know it too.” page 8

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Co., Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Early chapter book, 48 pages.
Lexile:  390L  .
AR Level:  1.8 (worth 0.5 points)  .

Six short stories from the life of Chinese-American twins Ling and Ting.

Ling Ting Not Exactly the Same cover resized

It’s extremely difficult to find suitable early chapter books at all, let alone diverse and culturally appropriate ones.  While the availability of novels and picture books are slowly improving, these essential early reader and early chapter book categories remain ridiculously white, able-bodied, etc.

I’ve written about a few we tried back when my last reader was transitioning, but got away from this series of reviews as he turned toward more complex books.  Now that my next child is ready to make this transition, I’m going to try a few new-to-us series (and hopefully complete reviews for the ones we bought last time around).

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Review: Starry River of the Sky

“Just like that, Rendi became the chore boy at the Inn of the Clear Sky. He was not used to doing chores, so when he found a broom in his hand, he had to watch Peiyi to learn how to sweep.” page 20

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2014.
MG fantasy, 289 pages + extras.
Lexile:  810L  .
AR Level:  5.4 (worth 7.0 points) .

Runaway Rendi seems to be the only one who noticed that the moon is missing above the village of Clear Sky!  He’s aching for someone to visit this remote village so he can stow away and leave again, but while he’s stuck here, can he unravel the peculiarities of this very odd village?

Starry River of the Sky cover resized

I was very uncertain about how this read would go (the first book in this series was a 2017 favorite) but Grace Lin has delivered another superb MG fantasy.  One of the fascinating aspects of this series is that so far each book focuses on a different character and has an independent plot, although set in the same world.

The previous book was all about journeys.  Both the exciting physical journey that Min-li went on, and to a lesser degree, the emotional journey that her parents take as they are left at home without her.  In contrast, this book is remarkably stable.  The cast of characters is noticeably smaller (although used to full effect) and the setting limited – most scenes take place in one small town and its bizarre surroundings.

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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.

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Review: The Shadow in the Moon

“I tell my family I am thankful for them, especially wise Ah-Ma. Maybe even for my little sister.” page 27

The Shadow in the Moon: A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival by Christina Matula, illustrated by Pearl Law.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, Massachsetts, 2018.
Picture book fiction, 32 pages.
Lexile:  640L  .
AR Level:  not yet leveled
NOTE: I received a free copy of this book from the author as a part of the 2019 Multicultural Children’s Book Day, in exchange for an honest review.

The story of a young girl in the modern day celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival, including her grandmother’s telling of the traditional story of Chang’e and Hou Yi.

the shadow in the moon cover resized

Our family loves learning about different holidays.  We are Christian and American so you can guess that we celebrate Christmas and Fourth of July.  We’ve been lucky enough to access community gatherings or have friends invite us to many other celebrations, including the Lunar New Year.  But none of us had ever heard of the Mid-Autumn festival before.

Looking for other books on the topic, I could only find a half-dozen books about this specific festival, some of which didn’t have reviews.  There were two by big-name authors – both Grace Lin and Amy Tan have written picture books on the topic.  All of which is a rather lengthy notice that this is a welcome addition to our holiday bookshelf, and sorely needed.

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Review: Lion Dancer

“Today it is very hard for me to sit still. Chinese New Year starts tonight. And tomorrow morning, I will dance in the street.” page 7

Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year by Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low, photographs by Martha Cooper.
Scholastic, New York, 1990.
Nonfiction picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile:  540L  .
AR Level:  2.9 (worth 0.5 points)  .

The is the story of six-year-old Ernie Wan’s first Lion Dance, which he’s been preparing for since he was three.  For the Chinese New Year, he will perform on the streets of New York City.

Lion Dancer cover resized

Ernie is one-fifth of a loving family.  His father is, according to the dust jacket text, “a kung fu master” so studying kung fu is very important to his family.  (I put that portion in quotes not because I disbelieve his qualifications but because I wasn’t sure if that’s how he would describe himself.  Often the jacket text isn’t written by the author so it’s difficult to tell just how accurate this might be.)

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Historical Fiction Roundup & TBR

One of my 2018 goals is to read and review more historical fiction.  When I set this goal, I knew I had approximately 10 books in the genre waiting.  So I decided to make a TBR.  After gathering all the books from around the house, I was shocked to see that I had 30 books to review!

Before we get started, I should probably state two things.  First, this is not a recommended list – just what I’m planning to read.  Second, I wrote this list quite a while ago (it was challenging to get cover pictures for all the books and still the whole list won’t load all the photos…) so since then I’ve found a few more.  I’ve even written reviews for a few on this list! Continue reading “Historical Fiction Roundup & TBR”