“Maybe the people in line behind us thought Dr. Street and I were mother and daughter having a serious conversation, because they left some space around us.” page 13
Gloria Rising by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Lis Toft.
Stepping Stones, Random House Children’s Books, 2002.
Realistic fiction, 98 pages.
Lexile: 640L .
AR Level: 3.9 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: Technically part of the Julian/Huey/Gloria series, but works as a stand-alone.
Before the start of fourth grade, Gloria has an unexpected encounter with a celebrity astronaut who looks like her and answers all her questions about space! But at school, her teacher doesn’t believe she met Dr. Street, and worse, thinks she’s a troublemaker.
I got this book at the dollar store back when I first started reading diverse. That was part of the reason that I grabbed it, as was the cover. A young black girl in space with an onion? So many questions. I regret to inform you that this book is not science fiction (as the cover would indicate). However, it’s still worth reading!
“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.
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.
“There are memories you write down to get them out, to force them as far away from you as you can.” page 9
Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner.
Amulet Books Imprint, Abrams, New York, 2015.
YA realistic fiction novel, 263 pages including extras.
Lexile: not yet leveled.
AR Level: 5.0 (worth 8.0 points) .
15-year-old Magdalie’s been raised by her aunt in Port-au-Prince and is like a sister to her cousin Nadine. When a massive earthquake hits the country, they’re devastated, grief-struck, and struggling to survive. But then Nadine is offered an opportunity, and Magdalie cannot join her. Will their sisterhood survive? Will they?
If you’re reading this review far enough into the future then this book will no longer be realistic fiction. Just as novels about 9/11 are now historical fiction, this book about the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, a recent historical event, will one day be historical fiction!
The book opens with a scene of the actual earthquake, so it certainly starts off gripping. After reading the blurb, I thought this book would be told in two voices, but it focuses solely on Magdalie, the sister left behind in Haiti. This is an interesting twist on the usual immigration narrative. Typically we follow the immigrant and don’t get as much information on those who are left behind. In this book, the immigrant sister slowly and painfully fades away, while the focus is on the dire circumstances and overpowering need for survival in the country of origin.
“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?
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.
“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.
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.
“When I woke up that morning and saw the red and gold leaves swirling around my backyard, I just knew it was gonna be my kind of day.” page 1
Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han, illustrated by Julia Kuo.
Little Brown and Co., Hachette Book Group, New York, 2011.
Realistic fiction, 149 pages plus discussion guide.
Lexile: 600L .
AR Level: 3.8 (worth 2.0 points) .
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Korean-American third-grader Clara Lee has one big dream – to be Little Miss Apple Pie in her town’s annual Apple Blossom Festival. To make it she’ll need a lot of luck! But she’s also having bad dreams at night – maybe Grandpa can help.
There are two covers for this book. I have the version with the red background, which gives the impression that this book is intended for older middle-grade students. The main character is in third grade and while a somewhat older student could certainly read and enjoy it, this is an elementary school novel aimed at the 2nd to 5th grade chapter book market.
“Violence in here is always happening or just about to happen. I think these guys like it – they want it to be normal because that’s what they’re used to dealing with.” p. 144
Monster by Walter Dean Myers.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, 1999.
Teen fictional chapter book/screenplay, 281 pages.
Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Michael L. Prinz Award, National Book Award and more
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 5.0 points).
Monster is a complicated novel of a story-within-a-story. At first glance it is the straightforward tale of a boy who is accused of assisting in a murder during a robbery-gone-wrong, mostly expressed through his recreation of the trial as a screenplay and his diary notes from prison. But it is also the story of a criminal justice system where the mostly white cast assumes all the power over the mostly black “monsters.” Then there are also flashbacks that add more information about Steve Harmon and the other characters which call into question his real role in the murder. Meanwhile, we are seeing all of this through the lens of one desperate young boy – what is the truth?
Honestly, for a book to get this many awards and never attract my attention is very unusual. This book also has never been checked out of the school library I got it from. But opening the book, I’m not surprised. The format is challenging, the language certainly above the level indicated in many places, and the content seems aimed more at high school students in terms of the complexity of thought required to process the novel.