Amina’s Voice is a great new Muslim #ownvoices MG novel. Here’s my take on the Wisconsin references in the book.
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan.
Salaam Reads imprint, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 197 pages.
Lexile: 800L .
AR Level: Not yet leveled.
Amina is shy and a little afraid of some of the big changes coming with middle school, like a chance to enter a singing contest or her uncle coming to stay. Her best friend is Soojin, a Korean immigrant who’s finally becoming an American citizen and wants to change her name. They find that their different cultures have some cultural norms in common, and they bonded over having unusual names. But if Soojin changes her name, is she also going to change her best friend?
There are going to be lots of reviews of this book, so I thought for my review, I’d take a different perspective. Kirin at Notes from an Islamic School Librarian reviewed Amina’s Voice and had only one issue with it, which confirmed my idea that this #ownvoice novel is a great representation of Muslim culture.
“I hardly ever saw anybody in a wheelchair really in the swing of things. […] I worried that when I grew up I’d be an invisible man.” page 105
This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (Not Disability) by Aaron Philip, with Tonya Bolden.
Balzer + Bray imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2016.
Middle grade autobiography, 179 pages.
Lexile: 880L .
AR Level: 5.8 (worth 4.0 points) .
Aaron (pronounced Ay-ron) Philip is an ordinary kid who became famous through his tumblr and drawings, which led him to become a disability activist.
I had never heard of Aaron Phillip before, so despite seeing this book in the store, I didn’t pick it up until I started my diverse disabledbooklist. And it would have been a real loss if I hadn’t.
Book with excellent concepts for closing the early achievement gap is sadly tainted with audism.
Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain – Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns by Dana Suskind, Beth Suskind, and Leslie Lewinter-Suskind.
Dutton Imprint, Penguin Random House, New York, 2015.
Adult informative non-fiction, 308 pages including index.
America experiences a significant achievement gap based on socio-economic status. Which also, based on the systemic racism endemic to America, disproportionately affects people of color. Dana Suskind has an idea about what might be causing this, and the surprisingly simple way we can close the gap and empower parents.
I was not planning to review this book here, as it’s a bit beyond the normal scope of my blog – it doesn’t focus on minorities, and the author is a white woman.
However, when reading the first chapter, I found the audism present annoying. Then, after getting into the book, I found some worthwhile information was presented, which is why this was recommended to me in the first place. Finally, checking up on the author, I learned that she was in an interracial marriage (before her husband’s tragic death) which I assume would have given her a different perspective.
“Maybe, Donavan thought, he wasn’t the only one who felt uncomfortable about Vic’s homecoming dinner.” page 43
Donavan’s Double Trouble by Monalisa DeGross, illustrated by Amy Bates.
Amistad, HarperCollins, New York, 2008.
Realistic fiction chapter book, 180 pages.
Lexile: 550L .
AR Level: 3.8 (worth 4.0 points) .
Note: Donavan’s Double Trouble is the sequel to Donavan’s Word Jar.
Donavan’s got all kinds of troubles lately. Heritage Month is coming up, and he doesn’t know anyone to ask. He’s struggling with math and his younger sister is overtaking him. His favorite uncle is back, but no longer a firefighter. He doesn’t play basketball or teach dance moves anymore, because Uncle Vic’s National Guard unit was called up, and he came home without his legs. Donovan’s not feeling good about these changes – he just wants his old uncle back.
When I was trying to find books about PoC with disabilities, one word was overwhelmingly used to describe this book: sweet. Having read it, I would certainly agree.
The first ordered, but the fourth book received and added to our board book collection.
Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
Little, Brown, and Company Kids, 2006.
Board book, 20 pages + title & copyright pages.
Whose Toes Are Those? follows a set of ten toes through a series of playtime adventures, including a round of “this little piggy goes to market” while we try to find out whose toes they are. The answer might be surprising!
Finally, an #ownvoices board book. Not only that, but an African-American author and a noted Vietnamese American children’s book illustrator teamed up for this one. I actually bought this just because it was an #ownvoices board book without even realizing who the illustrator was. Of course I would love it because LeUyen Pham is fantastic!
This is a welcome addition to our growing board book collection. I actually ordered this first (knowing I’d buy The Snowy Day at Target because I had seen it there before), but it took a long time to arrive, so it was the fourth diverse board book added to our collection, and sadly, the first #ownvoice board book. (But I’ll find more.*)
This book perfectly exemplifies what I was bemoaning the lack of in my last board book review. In this book, the text and the pictures match up. Each tells a complete story that is even better when combined. The book also invites parent and child to play.
The text is well divided, with no more than a sentence per page in most of the book. It interacts with the pictures and moves around the page in a way that board book text can and early reader text should not. The book is a standard board book size, and the pages are very sturdy and well-printed, with bright colors and readable text.
The illustrations are perfect for a board book. Most pages have good contrast, and the main picture is fairly simple but with a textured background or extra lower-contrast illustrations that draw interest. The main character is drawn with light brown skin (at one point has a visible blush) which is also referred to in the text. The hairstyle is not specifically African-American but could be worn by a variety of little girls. Normally the fuzzy way the hair was drawn would have irritated me. However as this board book draws comparisons between the girl and the reader, I liked that this interpretation left it open for as many girls as possible to find themselves in the main character.
There is a companion book to this text called Whose Knees Are These? which we will definitely be getting. The only drawback to this book is that apparently these are a boy and girl version. Not noticing the pink on the cover when ordering, this one has the lines “All these piggies must surely belong…//to the girl with the sparkling eyes” which makes it less appropriate for a boy when the end states “Why, those are YOUR toes.” We will still read this, but if I could only afford to get one book, or if I give this as a gift, I would choose the version matching the gender of the child.
The only other minor quibble I had was the lines about the piggies traveling to England and Rome. Obviously the line about Rome needed to stay for the rhyme to work, but England could have been replaced with another, non-European country.
Overall, this is a fabulous book in every aspect. Recommended for all children.
*It took a while for me to get pictures for this book. Since then, I have found many more #ownvoices board books, although they are still sparse compared to board books by white authors.
“I found that I almost envied his pain. He hurt because he remembered.” page 74
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler.
Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2005, my edition 2007.
Modern vampire fantasy, 310 pages.
Lexile: 730L .
AR Level: Not leveled.
NOTE: This book is recommended for adults only.
Shori wakes up in the woods with a ravenous hunger and a taste for blood. She doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or even what she is, but after she bites Wright, he’s willing to help her find out. The only clues they have to start with are a burnt property and Shori’s own instincts and half-remembering.
I came across this novel because Butler was recommended to me as a major speculative fiction author of color. Science fiction and fantasy are two of my favorites, although I’ll read any genre but horror. It was continually bothering me that I hadn’t read any speculative fiction by PoCs, so I wanted to try one of her books.