Review: This Day in June

My thoughts about this book were complicated. It has great promise but falters in some of the execution.

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This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten.
Magination Press, American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., 2014.
Informative fiction, 36 pages.
Not leveled.

The story of Pridefest presented through a parade for family discussion.

This Day in June
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten.

This was one of the picture books Husband bought that I mentioned before.  I struggled reviewing it since my feelings are mixed.  While characters of color are included in this book, it struck me that all the couples included seemed to be either white, or of mixed race.  None of the families had two adults of color.

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Graphic Novel Review: Malcolm X

“In the end, the only certainty may be that America had lost one of its most original and outspoken leaders.” page 101

Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, art by Randy DuBurke.
Serious Comics, Hill and Wang, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 2006.
Graphic novel biography, 102 pages plus extras.
Lexile:  not leveled
AR Level:  6.6 (worth 3.0 points)  .

A black and white comic-style graphic novel biography of Malcolm X.

Malcolm X cover resized
Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, illustrated by Randy DuBurke.

For some time now, I’ve been trying to find a great middle grade children’s biography of Malcolm X.  I’ve gotten some from the library, and purchased a few.  So far none have greatly impressed me, which is why I’m just now getting around to reviewing them.  Children’s biographies of Malcolm X have a tricky balance to strike.  Islam must be included, since it was an important part of his life and work.  His militant views (and later ideas about a more hopeful society) can’t be left out, but should be presented in a way appropriate for children.  It’s a tall order.

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Review: Sugar

“It’s pretty. ‘Til you get close. Then sugar gets nastier than any gator. Sugar bites a hundred times, breaking skin and making you bleed.” page 6

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes, illustrations by Neil Brigham.
Originally published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette, New York, 2013.
My edition is Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade historical fiction, 272 pages + author’s note.
Lexile:  430L  .
AR Level:  2.9 (worth 4.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is the second book published (chronologically the first) in the Louisiana Girls Trilogy.

The ten-year-old narrator of this novel is named after the type of plantation she works on: Sugar.  Slavery ending doesn’t seem to have changed much, other than all of her friends moving away.  Orphaned Sugar doesn’t have the resources or family to leave.  But she does have spirit and dreams – dreams of playing all day, going to school, and even of making new friends.  When the plantation owner decides to bring Chinese workers in,  are they competition or potential allies?

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Since I’ve been complaining about historical fiction featuring black characters, I decided to try to find some good examples, so we took a trip to the used bookstore.  This historical novel takes place over the course of a year, measured by the different seasons of the sugarcane cycle.  It starts with winter in 1870 and moves through planting and then harvest in 1871.  The epilogue takes place in spring of that year. Continue reading “Review: Sugar”

Review: Dare to Dream

“In the years following her husband’s death, Coretta committed herself to fulfilling Martin’s dreams and a few of her own.” page 65

Coretta Scott King: Dare to Dream by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Anna Rich.
Puffin, Penguin Group, New York, 1994.
Biography, 81 pages including index.
Lexile:  790L  .
AR Level:  6.4 (worth 1.0 points)  .
NOTE: Part of the Women of Our Time Series.

A middle-grade biography of Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a civil rights activist herself.

Dare to Dream Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King: Dare to Dream by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Anna Rich.

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Review: The Jumbies

“She pitied people. She went inside the ships and saw that some of the people were chained below. She helped them escape and swim to the island.” page 116

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste.
Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade fantasy, 234 pages.
Lexile:  680L  .
AR Level:  4.6 (worth 6.0 points)  .

Corinne La Mer and her father have always lived near the forest, and she’s never questioned that… but she’s never entered it either.  Until one day two boys tie her mother’s necklace to a forest creature and she can’t help but follow.

Jumbies resized

When this was first published, I had just started reading diversely.  Most diverse books still flew right past me, but this book was published by Scholastic!  And it’s a retold tale – one of my favorite genres!  How did I ever miss this one?  It might have been marked as horror.  Recently I saw the second book in the series in this blog post by Shenwei.  Seeing the cover of the second book made me realize that it was fantasy, not horror.

In an odd twist of fate, later that day I stopped by a library book sale, and snagged a used copy of the Jumbies for 25 cents just before closing!

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Review: Highly Unusual Magic

“In the United States, people thought of Leila as Pakistani. But here, people thought of her as American.” page 45

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou.
Harper, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2015.
Modern fantasy, 297 pages.
Highly Commended by the South Asia Book Award.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.9 (worth 8.0 points)  .

Two girls, each living with extended family for the summer, find a book entitled The Exquisite Corpse, surprisingly blank until one writes in it.  Then the book itself starts filling in a story, a story which has interesting ties to the real world, a story which both girls are anxious to read the ending to.

Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

I generally dislike books with two narrators.  Often one is stronger than the other, and the author struggles to give them equal screen time while keeping our interest in the story.  However, when this method works, it can be very strong.

Highly Unusual Magic starts with Kai, who is staying with a quirky older woman, a distant cousin whom she calls Aunt.  Leila is visiting relatives in Pakistan alone and realizing that she doesn’t speak the language, and knows little about Islam although her family is nominally Muslim.

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