Review: Waiting for Normal

” ‘She’s not mine,’ Dwight said. ‘Feels like mine, but isn’t.’ That’s when I realized they were talking about me.” page 129

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor.
Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins, New York, 2008.
MG contemporary fiction, 290 pages.
Lexile:  570L  .
AR Level:  3.7 (worth 7.0 points)  .

Addison Schmeeter’s entering a new phase of her life.  Since Mommers spent all the mortgage money, they lost the house.  Since Mommers left her girls at home alone for three days, the judge gave Addie’s ex-stepfather Dwight custody of her two younger sisters.  But Addie’s father is dead, so she’s saying with Mommers except for visits with her sisters.  Dwight bought them a trailer, and he gives her money for clothes or food.  So it’s sixth grade in another new place.

Waiting for Normal
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor.

Most of this review contains spoilers as it’s difficult to talk about the more diverse aspects of the book without giving away plot points.  If you prefer to avoid them please skip to the final paragraph for my general opinion.

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Board Book Review: Hip Hop

Our 14th board book is simple but surprisingly delightful.

The Hip Hop Board Book by Martin Ander.
Dokument Press, Arsta, Sweden, 2012.
Board book, 22 pages.

“Rap, Breakdance, Graffiti, & DJ:ing – now for the very youngest!  The Hip Hop Board Book is a different, colorful picture book about culture and everyday life with fun and clear pictures for small children.  A charming book with lots of humor and attitude.” ~Back Blurb

Hip Hop cover resized
The Hip Hop Board Book by Martin Ander.

I wish I remembered finding this board book.  It’s not brand-new, but hasn’t gotten much buzz – and it’s from Sweden, although the text is in English.  Perhaps Amazon recommended it to me when I was ordering some other hard-to-find board books.

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Web: Maya Angelou

I’ve been reading some of Maya Angelou’s work, and what variety!  I’d really never progressed beyond some of her more popular poems, so this has been very eye-opening for me.

Perhaps you are new to Angelou’s work, or just want more background? Check out her biography page on the Poetry Foundation website.  You can get a good overview of her life and books as well as read a small sampling of her poems.

If you want to hear from the woman herself, check out this 2003 interview from Smithsonian magazine.  The wide-ranging conversation covers her traumatic childhood, her writing methods, and so much more.

Of course, you can also watch clips of Angelou or hear her recite some of her poetry at her official website, which is still running with updates on the latest Angelou-related projects.

Or watch one of the final Angelou projects come to fruition after her passing:

That’s Harlem Hopscotch, one of her poems reimagined as a song on the Caged Bird Songs album.  You can hear more on their website (this is the only music video, but they do have a few lyric videos available as well).

What’s your favorite Angelou book, poem, song, or project?

Review: Singin’ and Swingin’ and…

“Paris was not the place for me or my son. The French could entertain the idea of me because they were not immersed in guilt about a mutual history…” p. 165

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.
Bantam, New York, 1977 (originally published 1976).
Adult autobiography, 242 pages.
Not leveled.

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Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.

In a funny coincidence, I gave away Angelou books (not even read yet… but better loved by someone else) and then a month later came across this in the free books.  Of course I started reading this one immediately and it was fascinating.  I’ve read quite a bit of her poetry before, but never one of her autobiographies.  Upon reading this one I realized that they are probably best read chronologically.

This title is the third, and covers the time when she lived in San Francisco after her son was born, worked a wide variety of jobs, spent a few years married to a white man, and eventually found herself with an entertainment career that took her all over the world, but sadly separated her from her son.

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Review: An XL Life

“I had loved myself at 500 pounds. I loved myself now, even with my loose skin.” page 203

An XL Life: Staying Big at Half the Size by Big Boy (Kurt Alexander).
Cash Money Content, 2011.
Autobiography/memoir, 237 pages.
Not leveled.

The autobiography of Los Angeles radio personality Big Boy, once known for his size as much as the music he played.

An XL Life resized

This book opened with Alexander talking about the father he never knew and how he didn’t feel that contributed to his weight at all.  It’s a marked contrast to the last biography of a black man I read, Un-Ashamed.

On the other hand, Alexander was greatly impacted by constantly moving around as a child.  His stories about homelessness and frequent moves reminded me more of Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, although he wasn’t moving from relative to relative.  His mother must have been truly remarkable, because his six siblings stayed with the family through various moves and hardships, even after they were adults.

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Web: Lia and the Hmong

At first I was going to try to fit these links into my review… but they just made it far too long, so here are some further links for tomorrow’s review.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my review of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.  I hadn’t planned to add this book to my collection, however, as A. M. Blair stated in her review, it can be reread at different stages of life.  Already my reactions to it as a parent are now drastically different then when I read it before.

After rereading this book, I looked for other books about the Hmong-American experience.  Two Wisconsin books are Mai Ya’s Long Journey and Hmong in the Modern World.  There’s an early chapter book called Pa Lia’s First Day.  Pang Xiong has a series of children’s early readers.  Several memoirs also exist.

The Atlantic also has an interesting article about Hmong in Wausau (an area of central Wisconsin).  The court case described is definitely worth reading about.  The article also mentions this song as a source of inspiration:

This last one is a bit of a spoiler, so you may want to stop now if you haven’t read the book yet…

Lia lived for an extraordinary 26 years in a persistent vegetative state due to the loving attention of her family.  This article reviews the book and includes information on her 2012 death.

Review: Un-Ashamed

“I started spending time in the library, researching books on religion and philosophy.” page 56

Un-Ashamed by Lecrae Moore, with Jonathan Merritt.
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016.
Autobiography, 204 pages including notes (211 pages including blank note space).

The autobiography of a “Christian rapper” who successfully transitioned to general rap spaces and overcame many personal challenges.

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Un-Ashamed by Lecrae.

This one is from the library.  I knew it was somewhat religious, but didn’t realize just how Christian it was.  There definitely were points that could apply to everyone, but it also was very heavy on religion.  For example, his conversion experience takes up most of a chapter, while other aspects of his life are given much less detail.  Lecrae sees his life through the filter of Christianity and views everything with God’s purpose in mind.

I’ve reviewed other books that deal with religion: with a religious main character, attempting to educate others about a misunderstood religion, a character discovering their religious identity, and even tackling a non-fiction topic from a religious perspective.  After some debate, I elected to review this book, since I did finish it, and it fits the main objective of my blog (to review books by/about marginalized groups).

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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: 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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