Review: A Sprinkle of Spirits

“A tiny voice in Leo’s head whispered to her to flip the book shut, to lie, to hope she had read everything all wrong. But more secrets and denial weren’t going to help anything, and tricks couldn’t get her out of this problem.” page 154

A Sprinkle of Spirits (Love Sugar Magic #2) by Anna Meriano.
Walden Pond Press, HarperCollins, New York, 2019.
MG fantasy, 314 pages.
Lexile: 820L .
AR Level: 5.2 (worth 9.0 points) .
NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the previous book.

Leo is very excited to learn more about magic, especially her special talent, but she doesn’t want to leave her friends behind. When a magical mystery occurs, of course everyone assumes Leo’s experimenting again – but if she didn’t do this, when who did?

Love Sugar Magic #2: A Sprinkle of Spirits by Anna Meriano.

The first book in this series takes place around Dia de los Muertos, and this second one is set around Dia de los Reyes. Both Latinx holidays that involve baking, and are important not only for Leo’s family, but also to the social lives of their small Texas town. I wonder when the next book will be set!

Dia de los Muertos is one of the most well-known Latinx holidays in the USA. White authors have done that holiday before (usually problematically such as Telgemeier’s Ghost) but most don’t step into less-pintrestable holidays. So this series is a great, visible example of why #ownvoices authors matter.

The magic system continues to be complicated compared to some other series but we get to learn a lot more about it this time, and it continues to be internally consistent, which is the first rule of good magic worldbuilding. An 11-year-old puzzling things out on her own with a book in a language she doesn’t know, compared to a young bruja apprenticing in her generational magic family, have very different levels of information access.

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Review: Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken?

“And sometimes people aren’t used to being friends with someone whose life was kind of different than theirs. But Lupe also reminded me that I don’t have to give up being friends with anyone to make someone else happy.” page 130

Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath.
Borzoi, Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2018.
Speculative/realistic fiction epistolary novel, 312 pages.
Lexile:  840L  .
AR Level:  not yet leveled.
NOTE:  Sequel to Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.

Sophie is back! and now using email, receiving chicks and eggs by mail, and facing the Unusual Poultry Committee.  Can she hatch the new chicks, pass her inspection test, and help everybody get along?

Unusual Chickens 2

If you read my review of the previous book, or the post where I wished for a sequel, then you can guess that we preordered this book as soon as I knew of its existence.  We loved the first book, and I’m thrilled that this book, unusual both in concept and format, has now become a series.

This book brings several changes.  Sophie is now corresponding by email, although she still writes long, heartfelt letters to her beloved Abuelita and other physical correspondence and ephemera are still an important part of the novel.  The previous book took place over the summer, but this one involves school.  Which means, of course, a whole new round of microaggressions as Sophie meets new teachers and students.  They are handled just as deftly as in the previous book.

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Review: A Dash of Trouble

“Half worried from Caroline’s talk about secrets, half furious that she was being left out again, Leo felt her bad feelings swell like cake in an oven.” p 21

A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic #1) by Anna Meriano.
Walden Pond Press, HarperCollins, New York, 2018.
MG fantasy, 314 pages.
Lexile:  850L  .
AR Level:  5.3 (worth 9.0 points)  .

Leonora Logroño is desperate to convince her mother that she’s old enough to finally help out at her family’s bakery as they prepare for the big yearly Dia de los Muertos festival.  She’s crushed to hear she’s still too young, but even more surprised to find out that the women in her family are secretly magical baking brujas.  She just has to tell her best friend, and that leads to just one tiny spell…

LSM1 A Dash of Trouble
Love Sugar Magic #1: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano.

These days I have an entire shelf devoted to diverse MG fantasy novels, and it brings me such joy to see titles and new series coming out every year.  Fantasy literature was a passion I discovered in elementary school, and a big disappointment as a school librarian was not being able to find books representing every student for genre literature.  Continue reading “Review: A Dash of Trouble”

Review: Us In Progress

“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.

Us In Progress cover
Us In Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos by Lulu Delacre.

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.

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Board Book Review: Little Trailblazer

The 41st board book in our collection ultimately underwhelms.

This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer by Joan Holub, illustrated by Daniel Roode.
Little Simon, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
Nonfiction board book, 24 pages.
Lexile: not leveled
AR Reader: 4.6 (worth 0.5 points)  .

A board book about ten empowering women’s lives.

This Little Trailblazer cover resized
This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer by Joan Holub, illustrated by Daniel Roode.

This has been one of the most difficult board books for me to review.  For many I have a fairly strong opinion, or at least one of our children does, so there is a bit of a guideline.  If this was one of our first board books, I might have liked it better.  But this is our 41st board book, and the general reaction of our family has been indifference.

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Review: All the Women…

“All the Women in My Family Sing is a tribute to the many voices of women in a chorus of cultural refrains.  Each essay is a personal story about the victories and challenges women face every day as innovators, artists, CEOs, teachers and adventurers.  All of the essays reveal how glorious it is to live authentically in our identities.”
p. ix-x, Foreword by Deborah Santana

All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World – Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom, edited by Deborah Santana.
Nothing But The Truth, San Francisco, CA, 2018.
Adult anthology, 365 pages.
Not leveled.
NOTES: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Because this book contains 69 pieces, I decided to review it in three parts.

All the Women In My Family Sing
All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World – Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom.

The essays and poems in AtWiMFS are roughly grouped into 8 categories, each containing between 7 and 10 pieces.  Most are quite short, but I do like to comment briefly on each one, so I’ve decided to break this up so it’s not excessively long.

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Review: Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

“One of the things I hate most in life is people telling me to calm down, as if I’m some out-of-control lunatic who isn’t entitled to have feelings.” page 160

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez.
Ember, Random House Children’s Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
YA fiction, 362 pages.
Lexile:  HL730L
AR Level:  4.7 (worth 12.0 points)  .

Julia is not the perfect Mexican daughter.  That was her sister, Olga – until she died in a tragic accident that left everyone reeling.  Now her already strained relationship with her mother has shattered, her father is a lump, and Julia is obsessed with investigating her sister’s life, trying to get to know the sister who was ignored when she was alive.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter resized

Because the majority of this book is about the unfolding drama of Julia’s quest to understand her sister Olga’s life, it’s incredibly difficult to discuss this book in any depth without spoilers.   The action spans a space of just about two years, from a few months after Olga’s death, through Julia’s high school graduation.

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Review: The League of Shadows

“‘I’m from here,’ I reminded her for what felt like the zillionth time. This whole thing started back in first grade when we’d been partners for a cultural heritage project…” page 21

Charlie Hernández and the League of Shadows (Charlie Hernández #1) by Ryan Calejo.
Aladdin, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 2018.
Middle grade fantasy, 330 pages including glossary.
Lexile:  780L  .
AR Level:  5.4 (worth 10.0 points)  .

Charlie Hernández has already experienced the worst day of his life – when his home burned to the ground and his parents disappeared.  So when shortly after that he grows horns, then feathers, it’s just baseline awful.  The county is having trouble finding him a temporary guardian, and softball star Alice Coulter tortures him for fun.

Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows cover resized

Although the summary sounds rather bleak, this isn’t an overly dark or negative book.  Charlie is pragmatic and determined, although not unaffected by his situation.  He is grieving his parents, grappling with his own identity, and facing the normal struggles of any middle school student.  Like another speculative fiction book I often recommend, this story also includes realistic microaggressions.

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Review: Left in America

“I guess associating with Black culture felt safer to me. They weren’t in danger of being told to go back where they came from or of anyone saying they didn’t belong.” page 110

Left in America: The Story of Juan Terrazas by Sally Salas.
Left in America Organization, Dallas, Texas, 2015.
Biography, 219 pages.
Not leveled.

The story of an undocumented child who was left behind when his parents were deported at 14 years old, including his struggles with homelessness and journey to Christianity.

Left in America cover resized

The book is clearly self-published but a good effort was made to make it standard.  My copy had a few formatting errors, and some photos were blurred or pixelated, including the back cover.  The back matter consists of one quote which might be about the book (it isn’t quite clear) and lacks a standard blurb.

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Review: Miracle’s Boys

“Ever since I could remember, Ty’ree had sat with Mama at the table, the dim light from the floor lamp turning them both a soft golden brown. While Mama filled out the money order and figured out how to pay some of the other bills, Ty’ree made grocery lists and school supply lists and added and added the cost of everything.” pages 29 and 30

Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson.
My edition Scholastic Read 180, originally published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, New York, 2000.
MG/YA realistic fiction, 133 pages.
Lexile: 660L  .
AR Level:  4.3 (worth 3.0 points)  .

Ever since Mama died, Lafayette and his brothers have been struggling to come together as a family.  Oldest brother Ty’ree had to give up his dream to keep the family together, middle boy Charlie is consumed with guilt that he was away when she died, and Lafayette is engulfed by grief and trauma.

Miracle's Boys cover resized

This was a free book choice I made a while ago, knowing nothing about the title (I didn’t even have time to read the blurb) but simply trusting Jacqueline Woodson as a consistently excellent author.  She did not disappoint.

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