“I stare at the paper. ‘Other people with synesthesia?’ Jerry nods. ‘All kinds of people with all different types of synesthesia.’ ” p. 107
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2003.
MG realistic fiction, 271 pages + extras.
Lexile: 770L .
AR Level: 4.7 (worth 9.0 points) .
Eighth grader Mia reads, and hears, with specific colors and shapes in her mind. It makes otherwise boring moments interesting, gives her headaches when her father is hammering away on their house, causes her to hear her cat as the color mango, and makes learning math a lot more complicated. But back in third grade, she learned that not everyone experiences the world this way. With middle-school algebra on the horizon, is it finally time to talk about her experiences?
This book isn’t ethnically diverse, but the primary topic is synesthesia. At the time it was first published, it helped raise awareness about a little-known condition.
“But my friends didn’t call me Chinese, Taiwanese, or American. They called me Grace, my American name.” p. 19
The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Co, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2006 (my edition 2007).
Realistic fiction, 140 pages + excerpts.
Lexile: 690L .
AR Level: 4.2 (worth 3.0 points) .
In the Year of the Dog, Pacy is supposed to find her best friend and figure out her talent. But what could it be?
This is one of those books that I’ve had for a while but didn’t pick up. I may have been saving it or planning to wait until we got another in the series, I’m just not sure. Anyway, this story tells about one year in Pacy’s life, starting with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Dog and ending with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Pig.
An aspect of this I didn’t expect was how there were stories embedded into the larger narrative, just like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. These stories were realistic fiction instead of fantasy, but they worked the same way and I greatly enjoyed them. The stories allowed Pacy to be connected even if many of her relatives live far away.
“Theirs was the only property for kilometers where a grove of tall sundari trees provided shade for the house and most of the yard.” p. 22
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA, 2015.
Middle grade fiction, 140 pages including glossary.
Lexile: 770L .
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 3.0 points) .
Neel lives on an island in the Sunderbans, but might have a unique opportunity for a scholarship to a boarding school in Calcutta. But he’d rather stay on his beloved island with his family. A tiger cub escaped from the nature preserve, and an unscrupulous man wants to find it to sell. Can Neel find the cub first? If he does, will not studying ruin his chances at the scholarship?
“If she was laughing at me, I was going to go home and forget about her. But she looked at me very seriously and said ‘It takes practice,” and then I liked her.” p. 62
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Ann Strugnell.
Random House, New York, my edition 2006 (originally published 1981).
Realistic fiction, 71 pages.
Lexile: 520L .
AR Level: 3.4 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: This is the first book in the Julian series.
Six first-person short stories revolving around Julian Bates.
I’ve already reviewed two later books in this series, Gloria Rising and Gloria’s Way. Series order isn’t strictly necessary, although a few things change as the series progresses (new characters are introduced, the boys get a dog). At this point, the main characters are just Julian, younger brother Huey, and their parents. Gloria is introduced in the final story of this book.
First, I’d like to give some credit to Ann Cameron. It was unusual in 1980 for a white woman to chose to write a book about middle class black children. (Keep in mind this was less than 20 years since The Snowy Day.) And generally speaking, her books still hold relevance today and I haven’t spotted any major issues in the ones I’ve read.
“I have BIG plans. I’m going to be a millionaire with my own cooking show on TV. Cupcakes are my specialty.” page 1
President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston.
Little, Brown, & Co., Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
My edition Scholastic, 2012.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 276 pages.
Lexile: 730L .
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 6.0 points) .
Brianna Justice may only be in fifth grade, but she’s already planning for her future as a famous chef with her own baking show. Last year her idol, Miss Delicious, spoke to their class and laid out a roadmap… and it all starts with being president of her fifth grade class. Only this year the rules have changed – there’s going to be just one class president over all the fifth grade classrooms. Can Bree still win the new, tougher, competition? Can she keep her integrity and friends while doing it?
Brianna Justice is not the most likable character. In fact, in the beginning I was a bit worried because she is downright mean at times. In some ways she’s very mature and dedicated to planning for her future, with a hefty savings account and a step-by-step life plan. However she gets wrapped up in her own plans to an extreme, loosing balance in her life and neglecting her friendships. Although this worried me, Bree does experience consequences for most of her actions. Because she starts off as not so likable, she’s able to show a lot of character growth in a short period of time.
“My dad was supposed to take care of me, but I didn’t know if he could.” page 83
Gloria’s Way by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Lis Toft.
Puffin, Penguin Putnam books for Young Readers, New York, 2001.
Realistic fiction short stories, 96 pages.
Lexile: 600L .
AR Level: 3.1 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: Technically part of the Julian/Huey/Gloria series, but could stand alone.
Six short stories about Gloria, best friends with Julian Bates and his little brother Huey.
Some of the stories in this collection include Julian, Huey, their dog Spunky, or new friend Latisha while others focus on Gloria. As I usually do with short stories, I’ll briefly discuss each individual story.
“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.