“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.
“Harper didn’t realize she’d walked into the room to take a closer look until she heard the door slam shut behind her. She whirled around, her heart beating loudly in her ears.” page 73
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh. Harper, HaperCollins, New York, 2017 (my edition 2018). MG horror, 280 + excerpt. Lexile: 680L . AR Level: 4.7 (worth 7.0 points) .
Harper Raine is getting some seriously bad vibes from the creepy old house her family just moved into. She’s already upset about moving from NYC to DC, but now their house gets cold or hot in weird spots, has a haunted reputation, and her little brother is acting seriously weird…
Much better than The Dragon Egg Princess – some parts still didn’t work for me, but overall I enjoyed this much more.
I’ve written before about how important it is to see realistic microaggressions in children’s literature, and here Oh does that well. A mere 20 pages in, an old white lady does the “no, where are you really from?” routine and brings in some Asian stereotyping too. Her mom intervenes in a politely passive-aggressive way that gets the point across.
An unusual thing Oh does though, is that later a neighborhood kid asks “where are you from?” in an innocent, where’d you move from, way – and Harper still braces herself until the meaning is fully clear. While I don’t love that this happens, I very much appreciated seeing it in a children’s novel. Oh makes it clear how that woman’s racism was not only harmful in their encounter, but also impacts Harper’s self esteem and her future meetings with others.
“Off they headed to the shoreline. Putuguq led the way as the two walked quickly across the melting snow of the tundra to meet up with Kublu’s friend Lisa.” page 9
Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik! by Roselynn Akulukjuk and Danny Christopher, illustrated by Astrid Arijanto.
Inhabit Media, Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada, 2018.
Early reader graphic novel, 40 pages.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Annoying little brother Putuguq, his dog, and big sister Kublu are on their way to meet her friend Lisa. On the way they meet Grandpa who tells them a little about Qalupaliit and before they know it they might even meet one…
I’m always excited to find early readers and early chapter books with diverse characters. It’s particularly important to me that a variety of indigenous cultures are represented in our family’s library because our kids will have the opportunity to interact with people from every continent and most ethnicities. They know many people from the LGBT community, differently abled kids and adults, and people with a variety of religious beliefs.
But even though we actively seek out opportunities for our children to learn about our area’s indigenous culture and those of other regions we travel to, realistically there are some areas we may never visit. I’d prefer that as much as possible, we learn about those areas through #ownvoices representation rather than through white people’s books.
Which is a long winded way of saying books like this, or Shark King, are so important.
“It felt like the world was spinning and I was hanging on, hoping I wouldn’t get thrown off and fall into darkness.” page 155
Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith.
Clarion books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2015.
MG historical fantasy/horror, 214 pages.
Lexile: 600L .
AR Level: 4.2 (worth 6.0 points) .
In small-town 1930s Alabama, Hoodoo Hatcher is an unmagical twelve year old born into a folk magic family. It’s embarrassing enough to not be able to do a simple spell when your name is Hoodoo, but it could be downright dangerous when the Stranger comes to town looking for a boy with that name.
Hoodoo is an incredibly unique book. Which makes it memorable and interesting, but also a bit challenging to discuss. How do you classify it? Hoodoo is decidedly set in the past, and some elements are very evocative of the time and place. But it’s also definitely a magical book. The magical elements are not simply magical realism – spells have effects (although not flashy ones) and the existence and efficacy of hoodoo are generally accepted in the town.
There are many creepy aspects. Astral projection occurs a few times, and messages and items are sent from beyond the grave. Lives are in danger, people are possessed, cemeteries are dug up. I find it challenging to classify MG horror since it’s so much less scary, but my sense is that this would mainly fall into horror, with aspects of historical and fantastical fiction that make it a good entry point for readers of those genres.
A deliciously creepy, magical MG tale set in South Korea.
Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly, illustrated by Molly Park.
Amulet Books, Abrams, New York, 2017.
MG fantasy/horror graphic novel, 236 pages.
Lexile: GN270L ( What does GN mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: 2.7 (worth 2.0 points) .
NOTE: Although this has a low reading level, it’s recommended for middle grades.
Twelve-year-old Suee is a new student at boring Outskirts Elementary, and she’s determined to get through her last bit of elementary school with no complications. That means no friends, no sharing information with the counselor, and no getting involved in anything weird. Too bad a voice is calling to her from the exhibit room and her shadow is alive.
This book caught my eye even though it wasn’t time for a new Target pick (well I was looking for Aru Shah and it was sold out, which is great news). Suee struck me as an unusual name, so I picked up the book and found out it’s by a South Korean author-illustrator team, and set there as well. I suspect this will do well with fans of The Jumblies, because it has the same creepy-magical vibe.