This incredibly challenging but worthwhile read is for grown-ups only.
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan.
Back Bay Books; Little, Brown, and Co.; Hachette Book Group; 2008, expanded edition 2009.
Adult short story collection, realistic fiction, 369 pages including extras.
Selected for Oprah’s book club in 2009.
NOTE: THIS BOOK IS FOR ADULTS ONLY. NOT FOR CHILDREN OR TEENS.
Further Note: This is a work of fiction although I am not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This collection of short stories deals with the children of Africa. Specifically, children who are individually dealing with a variety of horrific circumstances, many of which do not have happy endings. The author is a Nigerian priest but took care to set his stories in several countries in Africa. There is a handy map in the front of the book for Americans or the geographically challenged.
Before I go any further, EVERY TRIGGER WARNING YOU CAN THINK OF for this book. If you are sensitive to bad things happening to children, you might not be able to read this book or even this review. But, on the other hand, I think every adult should read this book at least once. Because these are real things happening to children, and if we ignore this then it will just keep happening.
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.
Extra Credit by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Elliott.
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 183 pages.
AR Level: 5.3 (worth 5.0 points)
Abby is a smart sixth grader who could care less about homework but is obsessed with mountain climbing. Sadeed is the top of his school in Afghanistan, living right next to real life mountains. When Abby’s about to flunk 6th grade, she has an emergency project to complete – write to a pen pal in another country. What starts off as a quick project turns into a real connection.
The premise seemed to work okay, but as I often feel with two-person stories, one side was definitely lacking. The chapters about Abby had a lot more realism and detail. Sadeed’s chapters started off strong but while the premise was interesting, seemed to lack the specifics and connection that would have made me care about him. Even when his village was undergoing a lot of problems, it just felt dramatic and not real. The scenes with him and his sister were probably the best on his side.
“Most of the homes in the village looked the same, with smooth clay walls, thatched roofs, dirt paths, and large stone thresholds. They only looked different on holidays, when girls decorated their family’s paths and thresholds with painted patterns called alpanas, just as their ancestors had done for generations.” p. 8
Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA, 2007.
Elementary chapter book, 91 pages.
AR Level: 4.3 (worth 1.0 points)
Bangladeshi girl Naima is a gifted painter and a free spirit who spends every moment thinking about her next alpana pattern, until her family experiences a turn of fortune and she desperately wants to help drive her father’s rickshaw, like her best friend Saleem does for his family. But as a girl she can’t even speak to Saleem now that they are older.
This is a library book which I am hoping to use as a read-aloud at school. It crossed my path very randomly but I am starting to get in the habit of noting (and trying to read) any book with clearly non-white characters on the cover. This sometimes pays real dividends as I find new treasures to read and discover new-to-me authors!
If you have or know a child between 2nd and 5th grade, go out and get them this book.
The Case of the Missing Trophy by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Robert Papp.
Scholastic, New York, 2004.
Elementary mystery, 135 pages.
AR Level: 4.0 (worth 3.0 points)
NOTE: This book is a sequel to The Spray-Paint Mystery, but has no spoilers for that book.
Cameron is so excited about the upcoming science fair. He can’t wait to be in fifth grade so that he can participate and maybe win the trophy back to his school for another year. The only thing more exciting is solving mysteries like his dad. But it’s no mystery why Cameron is always losing and forgetting things – it’s not easy shuffling between two houses each week now that his mom is back in Austin, Texas. Cameron’s spent so much time staring at the trophy in the display case, now it’s up to him and his three best friends to figure out where the trophy disappeared to!
I grabbed this book from the library because of the cover, blurb unread. Honestly I’m finding so many wonderful new-to-me authors this way, I nearly feel like I should choose all of my books based on the diversity of the cover. So I wasn’t aware this was a sequel. However, it doesn’t matter. The previous case is referenced a few times, but no details are given, adults just state that the case was solved last year.
A unique perspective on youth involvement in the civil rights movement, particularly in relation to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Child Shall Lead Them: Martin Luther King Jr., Young People, and the Movement by Rufus Burrow Jr.
Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2014.
Academic non-fiction, 331 pages (including index).
In six chapters, this accessible academic work conveys the history of youth involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, with a special focus on youth interactions with Martin Luther King, Jr.
As soon as I saw this at the library, I had to check it out. Children, MLK, and the Civil Rights movement? All favorite reading topics for me. But when it came to writing this review, I dithered. For weeks months I have been thinking about this book, rereading sections, and trying to decide if I’ll write about it here. I’m simply not knowledgeable enough in this field to assess the author’s arguments and write what I would think of as a proper review. In the end, I am reviewing it as an interested layperson, since that’s how I read this book.
Isabelle Lee cannot believe her mom is forcing her to go to group therapy. Sure, her little sister caught her throwing up one time, but it’s not like she isn’t handling her dad’s death just fine. Then pretty, popular, smart, wealthy Ashley Barnum walks into group, and Isabelle knows there has to be a mistake. Because Ashley is perfect – every girl wants to be her and every guy wants to date her. But as sessions pass, Isabelle starts seeing the cracks in Ashley’s, and her own, life.
This was a pretty random choice. Some of my students were reading it so I wanted to see why it was so popular. I’m glad I read this library book because I definitely won’t be checking this out to fourth or even most fifth graders. This is a fast-paced novel and very realistic.