An overview of the series including content, reading order, and publication order.
Please note that as of this writing I’ve only reread a few books in the series since starting this blog, so my understanding of some aspects might change as I read more.
Oh, the Logan Family Saga! Both the joy and the frustration of many a school librarian – because this series is excellent historical fiction, and because it’s rather difficult to get a handle on the series. Because I plan to review several, if not all, of the Logan Family books, it seems more expedient to make one post about the series order which can then be referred to in all future reviews.
“Up until now, we hadn’t told anyone about the Sight – at least not anyone who hadn’t already known about it.” page 59
Double Cross (Twintuition #4) by Tia and Tamera Mowry. Harper, HarperCollins, New York, 2018. MG fantasy, 202 pages. Lexile: 600L . AR Level: 4.2 (worth 5.0 points) . NOTE: Review will contain spoilers for previous books in the series.
The final installment of a quartet about tween twins with visions of the future.
I’m glad I persisted with this series as this last book was definitely the best of the four. Honestly, if the social hijinks of sixth graders don’t highly interest, an older reader could probably skip ahead and read just this book without missing too much. All the major plot points important to this finale are summarized within the text somewhere anyway.
Our eleventh board book introduces little ones to famous artwork.
Jacob Lawrence in the City by Susan Goldman Rubin. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 2009. Board book, 24 pages. Not leveled.
A board book presenting eleven of famous artist Jacob Lawrence’s paintings for the youngest readers.
It’s fitting that this would be our eleventh board book since it showcases eleven different paintings by Jacob Lawrence. I remember when I started this challenge worrying that it would be difficult to find nonfiction board books that were diverse. Instead I now find that there are plenty (and new ones being published each year), but it sometimes takes a bit more hunting since these are not always part of specifically diverse series (as many of the fictional board books are).
“I could still feel my sister glaring at me. But I forced a smile as Ms. Xavier patted my shoulder, thankfully without bringing on a vision this time. I mean, what was I supposed to do?” page 75
Double Dare (Twintuition #3) by Tia and Tamera Mowry. Harper, HarperCollins, New York, 2017. MG fantasy, 204 pages + excerpt. Lexile: 610L . AR Level: 4.4 (worth 5.0 points) . NOTE: This review may contain spoilers for previous books in the series.
Twins Cassie and Caitlyn Waters can see into the future, but they never anticipated a surprise grandmother showing up or a classmate taking on a life-or-death prank. Can they balance foretelling training, using their visions to prevent disasters, and their schoolwork without becoming social pariahs?
Finally some action. Although some MG fantasy novels appeal to a wide range and can be enjoyed by older readers or read aloud to younger children, this is definitely meant to be read alone by the target audience.
After being teased about the family legacy for two whole books, there are finally some answers (and more questions, there’s still another book). The future visions this time were showing a legitimately dangerous possibility and had real consequences while also feeling like something that could happen in middle school.
This book ends on what I’d normally consider a pretty heavy cliffhanger… if the result hadn’t been so heavily foreshadowed that it’s inevitable.
“For me the worst part, especially about young kids being racially profiled in school, is that they can’t be expected to understand that what’s happening to them is not their fault.” page 49
My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist’s Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole by Will Jawando. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 2022. Memoir/autobiography, 232 pages. Not yet leveled.
The story of one man’s early life through the lens of seven essential mentors.
Jawando begins by comparing his own life to a childhood friend, Kalfani, who didn’t have the same kind of mentoring available to him. Indeed, this is Jawando’s central theme throughout – the importance of community.
I’m not sure what my expectations were – perhaps something like Misty Copeland’s personal reflections on a variety of related figures. My Seven Black Fathers reads more like a hybrid biography/memoir. Jawando tells the story of his life in roughly chronological format, only occasionally needing to use the subject emphasis and timeline jumps characteristic of memoir.
“We could have plenty of fun then, except that now we have two grown-ups telling us no instead of only one.” page 7
A Wave in Her Pocket: Stories From Trinidad by Lynn Joseph, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1991. MG stories, 52 pages. Not leveled.
A collection of Trinidadan stories tied together by the narrator Amber, and her incredible Tantie who tells these tales to her and her cousins.
First I must make a note on the classification, because these books are the sort that would wake me in the middle of the night back when I did cataloging for school libraries. Joseph is retelling 6 different Trinidadan stories, but she uses the conceit of a first-person narrator, and formats them similarly to short stories. This method is very effective, but much like Kadir Nelson’s famous Heart and Soul, raises the question on where they should be shelved.
In fact, I am not the first librarian to feel conflicted by this dilemma, as the copyright page has the Library of Congress suggesting PZ for juvenile fiction, and a Dewey Decimal Classification of 398.2 under folklore. One can make a reasonable case for this book either way, so if you happen to be a librarian Googling, shelve this wherever you think it’s likely to circulate best, and don’t hesitate to recatalog if needed!
Luckily, I no longer have to worry about how to catalog these types of books and can shelve items wherever I please in my home library. This book contains fantasy, horror, and historical fiction within a realistic fiction framework, although most likely to appeal to students who like speculative fiction or mythology with some creepiness.
“The video shows me shot in the back. People knew. This is the first time the lawyer has said it, but everyone knew this moment would come.” page 131
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2018. Middle grade fiction, 214 pages. Lexile: HL360L ( What does HL mean in Lexile? ) AR Level: 3.0 (worth 3.0 points) . NOTE: this is a work of historical/fantasy fiction, not to be confused with the 2013 disability memoir Ghost Boy. Also, this review deviates somewhat from my usual style as I found this novel difficult to unpack.
Ostensibly the story of twelve-year-old Jerome, an unarmed Black boy shot in the back by a white police officer while playing with a toy gun – but really the story of Sarah, the police officer’s daughter and the only one who can see Jerome’s ghost. The ghost of Emmett Till also plays a peripheral role.
This is the fourth book by Jewell Parker Rhodes that I’ve read, and while each of the previous books I liked more than the last, unfortunately this one sorely disappointed me.Sugar was not my favorite on initial reading, but over the years has truly stuck with me and is now one I regularly recommend. The historical fantasy and ghosts of Ninth Ward wasn’t my cup of tea, but I adored Bayou Magic and included it on my first list of diverse middle grade fantasy novels. Ghost Boys returns to ghostly visitation, and I suppose I should have been prepared to dislike this given that her previous ghost story was my least favorite of her books.
“The woman flickered, her eyes glowing a bright white. The face Lucely knew as if it were her own was now contorted with terror.” page 19
Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega. Scholastic, New York, originally published 2020, my edition 2021. MG fantasy, 246 pages + excerpt. Lexile: 810L . AR Level: 5.5 (worth 7.0 points) .
Lucely Luna’s father Simon might be in the business of ghost tours, but the way her Dominican family’s ancestors appear as firefly ghosts is a secret known only to her best friend Syd – who has a witchy grandmother of her own. But with the family finances leaving their house (and magical tree) in peril, the mayor acting weird, and helping Syd hunt for a spellbook through all the town’s graveyards, Lucely is more than stressed. Would a strange spell make everything right or will it add to their problems?
Ortega is definitely an author to watch. I appreciated so many aspects of this. Lucely is being raised by a single dad. This comes up a few times, especially as she still struggles with how her mother suddenly left without warning and has almost no contact with them now, but it isn’t part of the main plotline and isn’t magically fixed by the end of the book. Although I no longer work in schools, this is a problem I recall – some students are being raised by single dads (or even grandpas) yet few books reflect that reality.
Lucely isn’t popular at school, but does have a strong support network between her many ghost relatives, her father, and her best friend’s family. The family is financially struggling, but they still make a large breakfast for their extended family who are deceased (since virtuous ghosts can still taste food and enjoy eating).
“Looking back, Buzz probably should have just owned up to the fact that he hadn’t written the blasted thing. Couldn’t be bothered to write it, because mythology was such a momentous waste of time.” page 14
Secrets of Valhalla by Jasmine Richards. Harper, HarperCollins, New York, 2016. MG fantasy, 312 pages + excerpt. Lexile: 690L . AR Level: 4.9 (worth 10.0 points) .
It’s yet another unpleasant Friday the 13th for Buzz, getting bullied by Theo, trying to hang out with his best friend Sam, and meeting a new kid, American Mary, thanks to his sister. But when Buzz and Mary find a famous missing weatherwoman magically tied to a tree in the woods, they tumble in to a Norse god adventure with portals and time loops, talking squirrels and ancient runes. Oh, and the end of their world as they know it, of course.
There are some diverse MG fantasy books that have been on my radar for a while, but are just too new or old, either too far out of print for me to easily get, or so recently released that they are only available in hardcover and have a long list of library holds. If there’s one I haven’t even heard of, usually it’s not a good fit because neither the main characters nor the author are diverse or if they are, the book isn’t that great and I don’t feel comfortable recommending it.
So, when I discover a new-to-me series by a Black British author of diverse MG fantasy and get the first book and it’s perfectly written, I am beyond excited! Not only do I get to recommend Jasmine Richards to all of you, I also have two more books by her to read (and hopefully more if she continues to write).
“A man named Mr. Adams was the only one who didn’t shake Daddy’s and Mr. Tucker’s hands. I hoped he wasn’t about to spend the next six months hating us for being Negro.” page 31
Sarah Journeys West: An Oregon Trail Survival Story (Girls Survive) by Nikki Shannon Smith, illustrated by Alessia Trunfio. Stone Arch Books, Capstone, North Mankato, Minnesota, 2020. Elementary historical fiction, 112 pages including back matter. Lexile: 610L . AR Level: 3.9 (worth 2.0 points) .
During the California Gold Rush, twelve year old Sarah’s family is venturing West on first the Oregon Trail, and then the California trail. But the 1851 trail is difficult and hostile even without facing prejudice from other party members – can Sarah and her family survive the trip?
I like the premise of this as a series for elementary readers. With the title Girls Survive, we always know that at least the main character will make it through the difficult events, which keeps it from being too scary. That doesn’t mean these are necessarily great for sensitive readers, though – in the books from this series I’ve read so far, at least one side character always dies and many get into some life-threatening peril. The characters tend to be aged older but act a bit young, so it could also work for some middle grade readers too.
It’s also really nice to see this series working to use #ownvoice authors and highlight characters of color, which has been a problem with Capstone in the past. In this particular volume, I was also impressed by Shannon Smith’s sensitivity towards recognizing that westward expansion, even by settlers who have no desire to stop on tribal lands, was a negative for the peoples whose land they passed through (and eventually settled on after all).