“There are no dancers / on this temple’s walls. / Here, even Shiva / stands still.” page 99
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman.
Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2014.
Novel in verse, 307 pages.
Lexile: 720L .
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 5.0 points) .
Veda is a classical dance prodigy starting out on a glorious career in Bharatanatyam when her leg has to be amputated. But dance is her life and the center of her being. Can she forge a new life? Can dance be part of it?
Pretty sure this is going on my favorite 2017 reads list although the competition will be steep this year. Not what you expected me to say about a novel in verse, right?
My biggest problem with novels in verse is that they are incredibly difficult to balance. I love novels, and I love poetry, but inevitably most novels in verse lose out either in plot or in poetry. This book has ample plot and appropriate narrative arc, while still having generally gorgeous poetry. I’m in awe of how Venkatraman pulled this off, because it is very, very difficult to do.
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“Traveling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger. // I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.” page 118
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Novel by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2007, my edition 2009.
YA realistic fiction, 230 pages not including extras.
Winner of many awards including a National Book Award.
Lexile: 600L .
AR Level: 4.0 (worth 6.0 points) .
NOTE: Due to content, this is not generally recommended for middle school students.
Junior is a Spokane Indian with a life from a Greek tragedy – medical woes, funerals, poverty, and picked on, he still tries to find the humor in life and look for the hope in his future in this semi-autobiographical novel.
Despite all the accolades, and my recent positive experiences of Alexie’s work, I did not expect to love this book the way I did. Alexie seems mostly known for his literary fiction. Diary is a YA book still interesting to the general adult fiction reader. Unlike The Sun is Also a Star, which I might recommend to certain adults, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian is a teen coming-of-age story that I would recommend to almost any adult reader. Arnold Spirit, Junior, is a Spokane Indian with hydrocephalus, a stutter, and a few other challenges, like dire poverty and 30-year-old textbooks.
Despite a life where the cards seem stacked against him, Junior perseveres, chasing his hope through tragic deaths and ridiculous logistics (how do you get to school 22 miles away when you’re incredibly poor and there’s no bus? Answer: sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you walk.)
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“My good hand flaps against my thigh as we walk. I keep my eyes averted all the way, like if I don’t see other people, they might not see me.” p 57
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis.
Amulet Books Imprint, Abrams, New York, 2016.
YA apocalyptic science fiction, 456 pages.
Lexile: HL640L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: Not yet leveled.
Teen Denise just wanted to work in the cat shelter and make it through her daily life. But then they found out about the comet. Since then, she’s been trying to figure out how to survive the apocalypse – and bring her family with her. But it isn’t easy. Her sister is missing, her addict mom is running so late they can’t get to the shelter, and her autism makes all these changes even more confusing and distressing.
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“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 disabled booklist. And it would have been a real loss if I hadn’t.
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“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.
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I became interested in this after talking with Naz about how seldom people of color are represented in works about disability, particularly fiction. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. People constantly give me books, and I’m always buying more or making great finds on the free shelf at the library. Besides the thousands of books my family owns, we always have at least a dozen library books checked out from various places (usually closer to a hundred…). For at least the past decade, I’ve had an interest in reading books with disabled characters. How could I never have read a book with diverse disabled characters?
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“There’s something fragile about all of them, like they’re holding on to what the world expects of them by some brittle branch that could break at any moment.” p. 24
The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork.
Arthur A. Levine Books Imprint, Scholastic, New York, 2016.
YA realistic fiction, 326 pages.
Lexile: HL680L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 4.4 (worth 12.0 points)
NOTE: This book is not for 4th graders.
We meet Vicki in the most intimate and vulnerable time in her life – after she’s just attempted suicide and is now hospitalized for severe depression.
I got this book through a branch loan (CSviaS) after Naz recommended it to me when we were discussing the sad lack of books about disability with intersectionality. It took a while to come through with holidays interrupting ILL services and me being on vacation, so during that time, I thought of one book in my collection and accidentally encountered another at the store. I’ve also been hitting up Google with the idea of reviewing a number of books about disability by people of color and generating a list for kids, parents, and teachers. Just like early readers, this is one of those little niches of the book world that we need to diversify.
This book is beautiful. That probably seems like a strange thing to say about a book about depression, but the writing is just lovely. It reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird, not in any way the content, but the writing style. I was quickly immersed in Vicki’s world and wanted her to heal and live.
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