“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 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).
“She stared at the ceiling as little white wood lizards darted up the walls and over her head, stopping every time the house shook. She wanted to tell them it would be all right, but the truth was, she wasn’t so sure.” page 35
The Jumbie God’s Revenge (Jumbies #3) by Tracey Baptiste. Algonquin Young Readers, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2019. MG fantasy, 264 pages. Lexile: not leveled AR Level: 4.9 (worth 8.0 points) . NOTE: This is the third book in the Jumbies series so this review will include spoilers for the previous volumes.
Corinne has defeated Severine, brokered a peace with Mama D’Leau and Papa Bois, and still has to face some fellow islanders who distrust her because she is part jumbie. And now there is a new problem – dangerous out of season storms are brewing, laced with lightning and an angry face in the clouds.
After the last Jumbies book gave me all the feels, I wasn’t sure of two things – first, how Baptiste could possibly manage to up the ante, and second, if this would be a trilogy or continuing story. But this book answered both questions.
“Only when they had little air left did Mama D’Leau let the water spit them out on the sand, where they crawled, sputtering, feeling lucky – grateful even – to touch the gravelly earth beneath their fingers, until Mama D’Leau sent another wave to scoop them back into the water, where they struggled again.” p79
Rise of the Jumbies (Jumbies #2) by Tracey Baptiste. Algonquin Young Readers, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2017. MG fantasy, 266 pages. Lexile: 690L . AR Level: 4.5 (worth 7.0 points) . NOTE: This will contain spoilers for the first book in the series.
Corinne LaMer might have defeated Severine, but things aren’t quite back to normal. If she wants to save the families of her island from a jumbie fate under the sea, she’ll have to work with powerful jumbies to restore the balance.
Even though she fought against her aunt’s wicked plan in the last book, as soon as something goes wrong people instantly assume it’s Corinne’s fault. This does pick up pretty soon after the previous book, so her father, and their home island, are still reeling from everything that’s happened. With grace and a little help, Corinne manages to handle it pretty well, which is good because she’s going to need all the help she can get!
“Her choice to flee the United States and spare her sons further repercussions, rather than tell her story, left me unsettled. I firmly believed this story needed to be told.” page viii
Us In Progress: Short Stories about Young Latinos by Lulu Delacre.
Harper, HarperCollins, New York, 2017.
Realistic fiction, 242 pages.
Lexile: 740L .
AR Level: 5.0 (worth 5.0 points) .
A collection of stories about young Latinos from various backgrounds.
This is a unique collection in many ways. One is that the author is also the illustrator. Delacre’s Introduction is an important part of the book as it explains some of the nuances behind the artwork and writing, including the three layers used on each piece.
“Just outside the city, as the sky seemed to expand and the barren mountain range came into full view, we pulled over to buy two stalks of sugarcane from a street merchant.” p. 122
On That Day, Everybody Ate: One Woman’s Story of Hope and Possibility in Haiti by Margaret Trost.
Koa Books, Kihei, Hawai’i, 2008.
Non-fiction/memoir, 143 pages. n
The story of Margaret Trost’s experiences with Haiti which led to her developing a charity to feed and aid children in partnership with a parish there.
Although I’m trying to focus on Africa this year, I went down a rabbit hole because I got interested in Haiti after seeing Rebecca’s Caribbean reading goal. I’ve seen lots of books around about the earthquake and have even read a few, but I really wanted to read books written before 2010.
“He is an award-winning bound book, / where I am loose and blank pages. / And since he came first, it’s his fault. / And I’m sticking to that.” p. 99
The Poet X: A Novel by Elizabeth Acevedo.
HarperTeen, HarperCollins, New York, 2018.
Novel in verse, 378 pages.
Lexile: HL800L ( What does HL mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: not yet leveled
Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batisa is one half of a pair of miraculous twins – their birth to older parents caused her philandering father to change his ways and reaffirmed their mother’s devotion to her Catholic faith. Her genius brother Xavier skipped a grade and is living up to their miracle status, while she defends his comic book collection and feels inadequate.
Target seems to be shelving more and more diverse novels that I’m interested in reading. There’s been some buzz about this one, but I didn’t know many details. I think because of the title, I assumed it had to do with Malcolm X and just wasn’t interested. But that’s not what this book is about at all. This book is about poetry and love and family and the power of being who you really are.
But let me back up a bit. There is a love story in this, but don’t get turned off by the heavy romance early on, because this is not a love story. Rather, this is about Xiomara’s sophomore year of high school, and how she learned to be more confident in herself, and how her family relationships completely changed.
Facile’s is excited about his new baby sister, Lucia, but he doesn’t have a gift for her. When he was born, Papa planted a mango tree for him, but now Papa is working in the city. Can Facile plant a tree for Lucia?
First I want to note that this book was published in 2005, so it’s that rare children’s book about Haiti that has nothing to do with the earthquake.
“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.
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.
“She pitied people. She went inside the ships and saw that some of the people were chained below. She helped them escape and swim to the island.” page 116
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste.
Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade fantasy, 234 pages.
Lexile: 680L .
AR Level: 4.6 (worth 6.0 points) .
Corinne La Mer and her father have always lived near the forest, and she’s never questioned that… but she’s never entered it either. Until one day two boys tie her mother’s necklace to a forest creature and she can’t help but follow.
When this was first published, I had just started reading diversely. Most diverse books still flew right past me, but this book was published by Scholastic! And it’s a retold tale – one of my favorite genres! How did I ever miss this one? It might have been marked as horror. Recently I saw the second book in the series in this blog post by Shenwei. Seeing the cover of the second book made me realize that it was fantasy, not horror.
In an odd twist of fate, later that day I stopped by a library book sale, and snagged a used copy of the Jumbies for 25 cents just before closing!