Wisconsinite Review: Amina’s Voice

Amina’s Voice is a great new Muslim #ownvoices MG novel. Here’s my take on the Wisconsin references in the book.

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan.
Salaam Reads imprint, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 197 pages.
Lexile:  800L .
AR Level:  Not yet leveled.

Amina is shy and a little afraid of some of the big changes coming with middle school, like a chance to enter a singing contest or her uncle coming to stay.  Her best friend is Soojin, a Korean immigrant who’s finally becoming an American citizen and wants to change her name.  They find that their different cultures have some cultural norms in common, and they bonded over having unusual names.  But if Soojin changes her name, is she also going to change her best friend?

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There are going to be lots of reviews of this book, so I thought for my review, I’d take a different perspective. Kirin at Notes from an Islamic School Librarian reviewed Amina’s Voice and had only one issue with it, which confirmed my idea that this #ownvoice novel is a great representation of Muslim culture.

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Review: This Kid Can Fly

“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.

This Kid Can Fly

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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Review: Let the Truth Be Told

This picture book biography of Ida B. Wells gives a lovely overview of her life.

Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Meyers, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.
Amistad Imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2008.
Picture book biography, 37 pages including timeline and quotes.
Lexile:  AD900L  (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 5.4 (worth 0.5 points)

Ida B. Wells stood up for truth and justice with her words and actions, and foreshadowed the civil rights movement in many of her actions.  With an illustration at least every other page, and excellent explanations of difficult topics such as lynchings, this book makes Wells’ life accessible to middle grade readers, and could even be read to some younger children with a parent.

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Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.

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Review: When the Beat Was Born

“Kool Herc’s music made everybody happy. Even street gangs wanted to dance, not fight.” p. 19

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III.
Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2013.
Elementary to middle grade picture book biography, 30 pages.
Winner of the 2014 John Steptoe Award for New Talent
Lexile:  AD910L  (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 0.5 points)

Have you ever heard of DJ Kool Herc?  He was a Jamaican immigrant who was instrumental in the development of hip-hop.  Step into his world and learn how hip-hop came to be with this picture book biography.

When the Beat was Born cover 2

While I’m sure an avid fan of hip-hop would get more out of this book, I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible it was to myself as a not-so-musical person.  Context is given to everything that makes it understandable, and the pictures and words work in beautiful harmony.

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Review: Extra Credit

An interesting idea but a lackluster novel.

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Elliott.
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 183 pages.
Lexile:  830L
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.

extra-credit-cover

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.

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Review: A Wizard Alone

“Everybody laughs. Especially the ones who don’t do it out loud; they do it the loudest.” p. 186

A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane.
Magic Carpet Books, Harcourt, my edition 2003, first published in 2002.
Middle grade fantasy, 320 pages + excerpt.
Lexile:  820L
AR Level:  5.8 (worth 13.0 points)
NOTE: This is the 6th book in the Young Wizards series.

“Becoming a wizard isn’t easy.  In fact, it can kill you.
All first-time wizards must go through an initiation in magic called an Ordeal.  Most last only a few days.  So why has Darryl McAllister been on Ordeal for three months?
Or has he?  Darryl hadn’t actually gone anywhere.  His body is still here; it’s his mind that seems to have departed.  And that’s where Kit and Nita come in.  Only together can they unravel the mysteries around Darryl – who he is, what he is, and why the  source of all death in the universe, the Lone Power, is desperately trying to destroy him.” -back cover blurb

Even that is a little spoilery, but better than the synopsis you will find on most popular websites (including the two linked above), which give major spoilers.  Unfortunately, this review will also be somewhat spoilery since this is the sixth book in a series.  Discussing this book will give away some plot elements from the first five books.

I last read these these books many years ago and had forgotten that one of the two main characters is Latino.  The other might be Latina (her given name is Juanita, her father is Irish-American but I don’t think her mother’s background is specified).  When younger, I only cared about female characters.  Although the two have very equal parts, I inaccurately recalled Kit Rodriguez as a sidekick to Nita Callahan and her younger sister Dairine.

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A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane.

Most of this review will be have spoilers for either the book or the series, but be sure to scroll down to the non-spoiler end…

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Review: The Buried Bones Mystery – Clubhouse Mysteries #1

“School was over and the summer morning stretched ahead like a soft, sweet piece of bubble gum.” p. 1

The Buried Bones Mystery (Clubhouse Mysteries #1) by Sharon M. Draper, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson.
Aladdin, imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 1994, my edition published in 2006.
Elementary/middle school mystery fiction, 94 pages + excerpt from book two.
Lexile: 700L
AR Level: 4.3 (worth 2.0 points)
NOTE: Previously published under the title Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs.

Rico and his three best friends have nothing to do this summer now that the closest basketball court is ruined.  So they’re going to start a club, first building a clubhouse.  But then they discover a mysterious box, and something important turns up missing.  What could be going on?

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The Buried Bones Mystery (Clubhouse Mysteries #1) by Sharon Draper.

This book was something of a leap of faith for me.  I had never read a book by Sharon Draper before, although several were on my TBR list.  So many of her novels have come so highly recommended, that I went ahead and ordered this book in hardcover, sight unseen.  I’m so glad, because I foresee it getting a lot of use.

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