Review: Secret Keeper

“Asha paused to flick the sweat from the crook of her elbow. Suddenly she caught sight of a face staring at her through the coconut leaves.” p. 31

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Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins.
Delacorte Press, Random House Children’s Books, New York, 2009.
Historical fiction, 225 pages.
Lexile:  800L  .
AR Level:  5.3 (worth 7.0)  .

Asha’s father has gone to America to look for a new job, leaving his family in the care of his older brother’s family.  Already saddened by the move from Delhi to Calcutta, Asha, her beautiful older sister Reet, and their mother wait and try to fend off marriage proposals, rebukes from the other women, and a life of servitude and confinement.

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Asha’s mother suffers from depression and fits that her daughters describe as visits from the Jailer, when her face and mind go blank.  She attempts methods of coping such as knitting or cooking, but as their life circumstances deteriorate, she’s unable to function, leaving Asha in charge of their physical safety and everyday needs.

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Web: The Pinkney Clan

Did you know that six members of the Pinkney family are artists, authors, or publishers?

I’m going to hope that everyone with an interest in diverse children’s books has at least heard of Jerry Pinkney.  However, did you know that much of the rest of his family is involved in art or literature as well?

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Review: Everything She Lost

“She didn’t think she’d ever be capable of hurting her children,and she couldn’t get over the fact that she’d gotten to a point where people felt they needed protection from her.” p. 72

Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris.
Red Adept Publishing, Garner, North Carolina, 2017.
Adult thriller, 309 pages.
NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Nina Taylor is in recovery from a mental breakdown, and honestly, still suffering from an unexpected loss almost a decade ago.  Her best friend is single mom Deja Johnson, a woman with a tragic past of her own.  While Nina is wondering if a full recovery is even possible, Deja is wondering where her own life will go next.

Everything She Lost

I don’t review many thrillers, mainly because I haven’t found many good diverse ones yet.  The description of this one immediately sucked me in, especially since I’m always looking for new books about people of color with disabilities.

This book has alternating viewpoints, with one chapter from Nina’s point of view, and the next telling Deja’s part of the story.  Normally I’m not a fan of alternating viewpoints, but it worked well here.  The narration is from a third person limited point of view rather than first person, and the action moves so quickly that the back-and-forth worked.  This book takes place over only a few weeks.

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Review: Keeping the Dream Alive

A unique coffee table book with ample photos and information about legal work for justice.

Keeping the Dream Alive: The Cases and Causes of the Southern Poverty Law Center by Booth Gunter.
Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Alabama, 2014.
Non-fiction, 248 pages.
Not leveled.

This is a book with photographs and text from the history of the Southern Poverty Law Center, from its founding and earliest cases, to their current educational efforts.

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Keeping the Dream Alive: The Cases and Causes of the Southern Poverty Law Center by Booth Gunter.

I love shopping at library sales and used bookstores.  This book was incredibly cheap and didn’t appear to even have been opened.  It’s not something I would have sought out, just a great random find.

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Web: Bright April and More

Found an article by librarian and author Vaunda Micheux Nelson, detailing how influential the book Bright April was for her.  She also talks about the process of weeding (where minority books might be lost if a circulation-based weeding policy is followed) and how important it is to keep reading and promoting backlist diverse books.  All important points that we agree with here at CBR!  Nikki Grimes has a similar point in this older post about celebrity authors who overlook the backlist of diverse books (and she gives a great list of authors).

Booktoss has An Open Letter to Well-Meaning White Women which ties nicely into this article by Tracey Baptiste about the need for intersectionality.

It’s an older article, but Wheelchair Users in Fiction: Examining the Single Narrative is sadly still very relevant.

Finally, via Reading in Winter, this article by one of the authors about the gender breakdown of Canada Reads winners.

What articles have you read lately?

Review: Seedfolks

“All his life in Vietnam my father had been a farmer. Here our apartment house had no yard. But in that vacant lot he would see me.” page 3

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Judy Pedersen.
Scholastic, New York, 1999 (first published HarperCollins 1997).
Adult realistic fiction, 69 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.3 (worth 2.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would not recommend this to middle grade readers.

Seedfolks is a collection of 13 short stories by different first-person narrators, all revolving around the first year of a community garden in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Normally with short story collections, I comment on each story and then give thoughts on the whole.  Because these stories are so short, I’m going to write two or three sentences about each one and then give my general thoughts at the end.

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Review: American Panda

“Each ball she threw into the pile further pounded into my head that my mother’s demands, her criticisms – they were because she wanted better for me. I tried not to think about the fact that she was so unhappy.” p. 96-97

American Panda by Gloria Chao.
Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018.
YA Contemporary, 310 pages.
Not yet leveled.

Mei Lu might be only 17, but she’s also a college freshman at MIT, as per her parents’ ambitious plans.  And she’s the only hope for them to fulfill their legacy, since they cut off her older brother years ago.  There’s just one problem: Mei loves to dance (no longer allowed since she doesn’t need it for college applications anymore) and is absolutely terrified of blood, guts, and germs.

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This was a targetpick.  I wasn’t intending to be trendy and pick it up on the release date, but apparently did so by accident.  The publisher lists it as suitable for 12+, but it really occupies a middle ground between young adult and new adult fiction.  Mei is still a teen just learning about the world, but the book is also about her gaining her independence and in many ways she’s very mature and responsible.  Some books in a middle space like this are challenging for either group to read, but I think this one will appeal to both.

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