Review: George

“The word man hit like a pile of rocks falling on George’s skull. It was a hundred times worse than boy, and she couldn’t breathe.” page 16

George by Alex Gino.

George loves Charlotte’s Web more than anyone in her class, maybe even her school.  She can’t wait to be Charlotte in the 4th grade play.  There’s only one problem – to the world, she looks like a boy, and Charlotte is a girl’s part.  But George is also holding in a big secret…  she’s really a girl.

George-small

This book has been getting a LOT of buzz in the book blogging world, particularly the diverse corner of it.  Let’s face it, there aren’t many books in general addressing the transgender experience, and I cannot think of any other fiction work for middle graders on this topic.  There are a few picture books, but the majority of works are aimed at teens and YA audiences, which is a shame, because many (not all) transgender or intersex people are dealing with this from a much younger age.

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Review: Twice Toward Justice

“I felt differently. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to grow up and greet the world, and so did my best friends.” p. 27

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.
Square Fish Imprint, Macmillan, New York, 2009.
Age 10 + nonfiction, 150 pages including extras, notes, and index.
Winner of the National Book Award and a Newberry Honor Book.
Various other awards and best of lists.
Lexile:  1000L
AR Level:  6.8 (worth 5.0 points)

Before Rosa Parks was a household name, there was Claudette Colvin.  The first black woman (really a girl) to refuse to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and be arrested for doing so, she knew and inspired Rosa Parks, but was not considered suitable to be the face of the movement.  Her story is now coming to light for a new generation.

Claudette Colvin Twice Toward Justice
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.

This is “The acclaimed true story of the girl who changed history” according to the front cover.  What it is inside was a little different than I’d expected.  Most books by white men about black history tend to assume an authoritative, know-it-all position that often leaves out details important to the people who were living that history.

Significant portions of this book are told in the first person, taken directly from extensive interviews with Ms. Colvin herself.  Yet he is credited as the sole author.  I’m torn.  Hoose clearly made the best choice by letting Colvin’s voice shine and allowing her to narrate as much as possible of her book.  On the other hand, he is receiving all the credit.

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Review: The Warriors

“Although everyone at Weltimore wore the same school uniform, it somehow made the differences more obvious.” page 73

The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.
Carolrhoda Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.
Middle grade sports fiction, 127 pages.
Lexile:  810L  .
AR Level:  5.5 (worth 3.0 points)  .
NOTE: Although I’m not reviewing this on Fiction Friday, it is a work of fiction.

Jake’s mother has finally decided they need to spend more time together.  He whole-heartedly agrees, but doesn’t like that this means moving off the reservation, being the only Native in a fancy school, and giving up lacrosse.  Is there any way to make his new classmates understand the true spirit of the game?

The Warriors
The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.

Well, it had to happen eventually that I would read a book I didn’t love!  So far all the books I’ve reviewed for my #100indigenousbooks project have been great, I must really have been picking them!

To be fair, this is a sports novel, and I dislike most sporting fiction.  I felt about the same as I would about a Matt Christopher sport novel, which is pretty similar to this book.

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Review: A Long Walk to Water

“He ran until he could not run anymore. Then he walked. For hours, until the sun was nearly gone from the sky.” page 9

A Long Walk to Water: A Novel Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2010.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 121 pages.
Lexile:  720L  .
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 3.0 points) .

Southern Sudan, 2008: Nya is a young girl who, for seven months of the year, spends every day walking to a nearby pond and bringing a heavy plastic container back to her family.  After a brief stop for lunch, she repeats the task in the afternoon.  Every day.

Southern Sudan, 1985: Salva is a young boy displaced by the wars and drought that are sweeping through the Sudan.  He, too, walks for miles every day, but without a lunch, home, or destination.  He walks with the hope of survival, unlikely for a young Sudanese boy alone in the world.

A Long Walk to Water

This book has been on my TBR for a while, but originally I was under the impression it was non-fiction.  The afterword has notes from both Salva Dut and author Linda Sue Park, explaining how the story was based on his life, using interviews, personal conversations, and his writings to keep the fictionalized story as close as possible to what actually happened.

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Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

“What kept Minli from becoming dull and brown like the rest of the village were the stories her father told her every night at dinner.” page 3

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.
Little Brown and Co, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2009.  My edition 2011.
Middle grade fantasy, 279 pages plus Author’s Note and Reader’s Guide.
Lexile:  810L  .
AR Level:  5.5 (worth 7.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

Minli’s life in the Valley of the Fruitless Mountain is mostly drudgery, made easier by her father’s stories and more difficult to bear with her mother’s complaining.  So she decides to listen to both and sets out on a quest for the Old Man of the Moon – a quest that will take her to unexpected places.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Although I didn’t know much about this one, I picked up a used copy because I’m familiar with some of Grace Lin’s picture books and recalled some reviews recommending it.  I was absolutely blown away and need to read the rest of this series!  I think the kids will like it too if they ever get around to reading it (we are so behind on reading).

This fantasy novel incorporates elements of Chinese culture and mythology but blends them into a new story.  It utilizes stories-within-a-story plot devices very successfully.

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Review: A Time to Dance

“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?

A Time to Dance

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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Review: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

“When I first got my library card and wrote Blackbird Farm on the form, she didn’t know I was Dad’s daughter or Jim Brown’s grandniece, and she asked me how long my family was working there. I think she still feels bad about that.” page 76

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath.
Borzoi, Alfred A. Knopf, Random House, New York, 2015.
Speculative/realistic fiction epistolary novel, 216 pages.
Lexile:  880L
AR Level:  5.2 (worth 5.0 points)

Sophie Brown’s family has moved from LA to Gravenstein, California.  They’ve traded their apartment for a house and farm filled with all the many things her great-uncle Jim had saved.  A farm doesn’t feel right without any animals, but they’ll have to be cheap because money is tight since Dad lost his job and they started relying on Mom’s income as a freelance writer.  Then a chicken turns up… a very special chicken.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Amazon kept recommending this book to me since I started buying diverse books.  Nothing in the description suggests a PoC is in this book and in the tiny cover preview, Sophie didn’t look dark-skinned.  Eventually I ordered a copy – but mistakenly got a hardcover instead of the paperback.  Once it arrived I was glad for the mistake, because as soon as he saw this book, our reluctant reader started insisting that I read it to him that night.  I don’t turn down his book requests, and they are loving it so far.

This book was a wonderful surprise.  The format is unusual (just like those chickens).  There also is a paranormal/science fiction aspect that would be a major spoiler to discuss.

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