While it definitely shouldn’t be shelved in the children’s section, this coming-of-age graphic novel will appeal to YA readers.
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Steve Rolston.
Minx, DC comics, New York, 2008.
Graphic novel, 150 pages.
This is the story of one summer in the life of Emiko, a summer that changed her life. It starts out like a normal summer. A coffee shop job doesn’t last, so her mom signs her up for babysitting work. She meets a girl named Poppy and finds herself strangely drawn to Poppy’s mesmerizing, frenetic, artistic life.
There is a lot going on in this graphic novel.
I want to caution readers that this is definitely for teens. We found it at the used bookstore in the kids section, and I assumed that it would be okay for N based on other Minx books I’ve read, which were fine for middle grade readers. Nope!
This is a great book, but the content is intense, and middle schoolers should be discussing it with a parent or teacher. Mariko Tamaki is better known for Skim, an intense YA graphic novel.
The dramatic opening is a little confusing. An edgy, artistic girl with one shoe is coming home late at night. She’s texting her friend and narrates as the images go from her to old photographs. Chapter two backtracks to early summer.
“Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are.” page 285
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
Little, Brown, and Company, New York, 2008.
Adult nonfiction, 309 pages including notes and index.
Lexile: 1080L .
AR Level: 7.8 (worth 13.0 points) .
What do geniuses, rice paddies, hockey players, a Korean airline, a small town in Kentucky, and young Jamaican twins have to do with each other? These topics and more are woven together in Gladwell’s explanation of success.
This book goes beyond the ten thousand hours to achieve mastery theory to examine what else can effect our success or failure in life. Gladwell looks at how community can change health, how Germany jumpstarted the Beatles, what made one Jewish lawyer wildly successful while his father struggled, and what linguistic difference makes Chinese children understand math more easily.
“I stand and cringe at the sucking sound as my swimsuit sticks to me, all four yards of the spandex-Lycra blend of it.” page 2
Saints and Misfits: a novel by S.K. Ali.
Salaam Read, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA contemporary, 328 pages.
Not yet leveled.
Janna just wants to live her life – hang out with her friends, study, work her very part-time jobs, pray, and maybe dream a little about her secret haram crush. But something has changed her world, something unthinkable, horrible, and so big she doesn’t know what to do.
For some reason I thought this was a light and fluffy read. However, I completely misunderstood, because by chapter two we’re reliving one of the worst moments of Janna’s life, when she is assaulted by a man who is supposedly holy, the man she calls the Monster.
Indeed, the title of each short chapter (Saints, Misfits, or Monsters) relates to how she sees the main people she’s interacting with in that chapter. Some chapters contain more than one category, or a comment as she begins to realize that some of those she sees as Saints are really Misfits, etc.
My thoughts about this book were complicated. It has great promise but falters in some of the execution.
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.
The story of Pridefest presented through a parade for family discussion.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
“In February of 1987 when I went on Nightline to discuss Gallaudet University’s controversial Deaf President Now movement, the show was captioned for the first time. Anchor Ted Koppel used most of the intro to explain to the audience about the captioning they would see – technically open captioning, since anyone could see it – interpreters they would hear, signing they would also see.” page 182
I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin, with Betsy Sharkey.
Originally published 2009 Handjive Productions, my edition Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010.
Autobiography/memoir, 327 pages.
Marlee Matlin is one of the few Deaf performers well-known to hearing audiences, but there are also many other aspects of her life and self. She was catapulted to fame with a Best Actress Oscar on Children of a Lesser God. Now twenty years later, she’s written a tell-all memoir about drug addiction, abusive relationships, and more.
This was a book full of surprises. I was moved by what an important part her Jewish faith has played in her life, especially how her childhood synagogue was fully inclusive as a hearing/Deaf worship space, with a signing rabbi. How beautiful that her early use of language included a rich religious environment where she was able to learn about God through her own language, ASL.