“A culture defines its virtues and vices within its folktales.” page 69
The Rainbow People by Laurence Yep, illustrated by David Wiesner. HarperTrophy, HarperCollins, New York, 1989. (See review.) Short story/folklore collection, 194 pages. Lexile: 680L . AR Level: 4.8 (worth 6.0 points) .
Twenty stories drawn from the most common area of Chinese-American immigration, streamlined and retold for younger audiences.
So I’m pretty sure my copy is a knock-off. The cover is the 1992 version, although on close examination it’s subtly off, but the interior copyright page is taken from one of the early 1989 printings. The margins aren’t set correctly and vary too much, and while harder to quantify, the paper and bindings don’t feel right compared to other books from this time period from this publisher that I’ve handled.
I purchased this book online, ostensibly new. After investigation, I don’t believe that the seller of this was aware then that it might be a printing violating copyright, so I won’t mention them specifically. Normally I would get a copy from the library to check if this version is accurate, but in Covid times, that is easier said than done. Perhaps some kind person who has access to a proper version of this book will comment if my citations are correct. I decided to still write this review because I’ve been wanting to talk about Laurence Yep and this book is particularly interesting.
Turning now to this specific volume, it’s a unique work. While I’ve seen many volumes of, or including, Chinese folklore, this book by Yep is the first I’ve seen that suggests a uniquely Chinese-American variety of tall tales. He points out that since the majority of early Chinese immigrants to America came from a specific province, the stories of that region have greater significance than more general Chinese or Asian proverbs.
“… but our whole family lives in New Jersey now. So we are really, truly Americans – North, South, and Central!” page 7
Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown, illustrated by Christine Almeda.
Scholastic, New York, 2018.
Realistic fiction, 108 pages.
Lexile: 690L .
AR Level: 3.8 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: This is the first book in the Sarai series.
Sarai Gonzalez is awesome. She can do anything she sets her mind to, right? But when her grandparents are about to lose their home, can she solve that problem?
I absolutely adored this book and am looking forward to reading more in the series. Sarai is like a modern-day, Latina Pollyanna without the syrupy sweetness. She radiates positivity and a can-do attitude, but also makes mistakes and sometimes meets problems she can’t solve (yet).
A large part of my love for this book was due to the incredibly appealing artwork, which brings me to the biggest problem, which is that the artist is not appropriately credited. Christine Almeda’s name appears only on the back cover and copyright page, and that in small print. Since this is a book with two co-authors (teen Sarai on whose real life the series is based and experienced author Monica Brown), it would be easy for young readers to mistake the cover credits for author and illustrator.
“Her choice to flee the United States and spare her sons further repercussions, rather than tell her story, left me unsettled. I firmly believed this story needed to be told.” page viii
Us In Progress: Short Stories about Young Latinos by Lulu Delacre.
Harper, HarperCollins, New York, 2017.
Realistic fiction, 242 pages.
Lexile: 740L .
AR Level: 5.0 (worth 5.0 points) .
A collection of stories about young Latinos from various backgrounds.
This is a unique collection in many ways. One is that the author is also the illustrator. Delacre’s Introduction is an important part of the book as it explains some of the nuances behind the artwork and writing, including the three layers used on each piece.
” ‘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.
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.
“And that guy’s not the only one: bouncing his eyes around the room, Scoob realizes a bunch of people are looking at him and G’ma funny. One lady he makes eye contact with openly sneers at him like he’s done something wrong.” page 19
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone.
Crown Books for Young Readers, Random House Childrens, Penguin, New York, 2020.
MG fiction, 227 pages.
Lexile: 780L .
AR Level: not leveled
When William’s grandmother proposes a little trip, he’s all too happy about the loophole in his strict father’s grounding. But as they get further and further from home, and G’ma is acting stranger and stranger, he begins to believe that there is more to this unexpected road trip than he realized.
I hovered over this book a while, confused about the premise, because this doesn’t easily conform to a synopsis. So much happens without ever feeling overwhelming. The main characters are elderly white G’ma and William, who’s Black, eleven, and on spring break. Normally his father would take him on vacation, but some trouble at school led to the trip being cancelled and him grounded. It’s also been part of a larger miscommunication with his father.
“One of the things I hate most in life is people telling me to calm down, as if I’m some out-of-control lunatic who isn’t entitled to have feelings.” page 160
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez.
Ember, Random House Children’s Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
YA fiction, 362 pages.
AR Level: 4.7 (worth 12.0 points) .
Julia is not the perfect Mexican daughter. That was her sister, Olga – until she died in a tragic accident that left everyone reeling. Now her already strained relationship with her mother has shattered, her father is a lump, and Julia is obsessed with investigating her sister’s life, trying to get to know the sister who was ignored when she was alive.
Because the majority of this book is about the unfolding drama of Julia’s quest to understand her sister Olga’s life, it’s incredibly difficult to discuss this book in any depth without spoilers. The action spans a space of just about two years, from a few months after Olga’s death, through Julia’s high school graduation.
“You could have been hurt! You two need to be more careful near that inuksuk.” page 10
Putuguq & Kublu by Danny Christopher, illustrated by Astrid Arijanto.
Inhabit Media, Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada, 2017.
Early reader graphic novel, 40 pages.
Putuguq and his dog are trying to play a trick on big sister Kublu. While running across the tundra they meet Grandpa who reminds them to be careful around the inuksuit. Of course then Putuguq has to try to lift his own stone… but the results aren’t what he expected!
This is the first book of a graphic novel series called Putuguq & Kublu. We had already read the second title (without realizing that it was the second in a series) called Putuguq & Kublu and the Qualupaliit! I didn’t see any more in this series yet, but would definitely continue to buy them if more are released.
This is the introductory book, which shows us a little about our favorite siblings and their world. I’m not very familiar with tundra seasons but am guessing that this takes place in the spring or summer, because flowers are shown blooming.
“But the aunties’ heads must be so hard by now, Anna thought. After centuries of pulling and tugging and yanking, their heads must be as hard as concrete.” page 39
Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.
Kane Miller, EDC Publishing, Tulsa, OK, 2010. (First published in London, 2008.)
Elementary chapter book fiction, 112 pages.
Lexile: 660L .
AR Level: 4.1 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: This is the second book in the Anna Hibiscus chapter book series.
The continued adventures of Anna Hibiscus and her family in amazing Africa.
I wrote a few years ago about the first book in this series, simply titled Anna Hibiscus. While I loved the story and one of my older children read it independently, at the time of that review, they hadn’t enjoyed it as a read-aloud. Well, it was indeed just a moody day, because we have since been loving this series as a whole-family read aloud choice.
Much like the first, this book is actually four interconnected short stories which could be read individually.
“Off they headed to the shoreline. Putuguq led the way as the two walked quickly across the melting snow of the tundra to meet up with Kublu’s friend Lisa.” page 9
Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik! by Roselynn Akulukjuk and Danny Christopher, illustrated by Astrid Arijanto.
Inhabit Media, Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada, 2018.
Early reader graphic novel, 40 pages.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Annoying little brother Putuguq, his dog, and big sister Kublu are on their way to meet her friend Lisa. On the way they meet Grandpa who tells them a little about Qalupaliit and before they know it they might even meet one…
This is the second book of a graphic novel series called Putuguq & Kublu. We hadn’t read the first one since I wasn’t aware it existed until the final page of this book, so I can attest that it’s possible to read these out of order!
I’m always excited to find early readers and early chapter books with diverse characters. It’s particularly important to me that a variety of indigenous cultures are represented in our family’s library because our kids will have the opportunity to interact with people from every continent and most ethnicities. They know many people from the LGBT community, differently abled kids and adults, and people with a variety of religious beliefs.
But even though we actively seek out opportunities for our children to learn about our area’s indigenous culture and those of other regions we travel to, realistically there are some areas we may never visit. I’d prefer that as much as possible, we learn about those areas through #ownvoices representation rather than through white people’s books.
Which is a long winded way of saying books like this, or Shark King, are so important.
“Ling and Ting are twins. They are not exactly the same. Now when people see them, they know it too.” page 8
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Co., Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Early chapter book, 48 pages.
Lexile: 390L .
AR Level: 1.8 (worth 0.5 points) .
Six short stories from the life of Chinese-American twins Ling and Ting.
It’s extremely difficult to find suitable early chapter books at all, let alone diverse and culturally appropriate ones. While the availability of novels and picture books are slowly improving, these essential early reader and early chapter book categories remain ridiculously white, able-bodied, etc.
I’ve written about a few we tried back when my last reader was transitioning, but got away from this series of reviews as he turned toward more complex books. Now that my next child is ready to make this transition, I’m going to try a few new-to-us series (and hopefully complete reviews for the ones we bought last time around).