“It would be easier to be a criminal fairly prosecuted by the law than an Indian daughter who wronged her family. A crime would be punishable by law rather than this uncertain length of family guilt trips.” p. 29
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal.
William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York, 2017.
Realistic fiction, 298 pages + 14 pages of extras.
Nikki is a modern British girl, but financial troubles lead her back to the gurdwara, where she takes on a job teaching English classes to widows at the community center. Kulwinder is working hard to be accepted as an equal by the male leaders so she can advocate for other women, especially the widows who have little voice in the community. Both run afoul of the conservative group the Brothers, who feel it’s their duty to keep rebellious women in line.
Before we get to the book itself, the reaction people had to this cover was intriguing. Everyone seemed to assume it was very raunchy. Even at the cash register, this book merited a double take and pursed lips as I purchased it together with our normal family groceries (although no kids were with me). People had so many surprised or negative reactions that eventually I hid it in our room rather than face more awkward conversations.
Despite the title, this is not proper erotica. It’s highly literary, dark, yet comedic, with elements of the mystery and thriller genre along with a touch of romance and some steamy scenes. Or rather, it’s a book that’s likely to get typecast but difficult to classify.
A deliciously creepy, magical MG tale set in South Korea.
Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly, illustrated by Molly Park.
Amulet Books, Abrams, New York, 2017.
MG fantasy/horror graphic novel, 236 pages.
Lexile: GN270L ( What does GN mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: 2.7 (worth 2.0 points) .
NOTE: Although this has a low reading level, it’s recommended for middle grades.
Twelve-year-old Suee is a new student at boring Outskirts Elementary, and she’s determined to get through her last bit of elementary school with no complications. That means no friends, no sharing information with the counselor, and no getting involved in anything weird. Too bad a voice is calling to her from the exhibit room and her shadow is alive.
This book caught my eye even though it wasn’t time for a new Target pick (well I was looking for Aru Shah and it was sold out, which is great news). Suee struck me as an unusual name, so I picked up the book and found out it’s by a South Korean author-illustrator team, and set there as well. I suspect this will do well with fans of The Jumblies, because it has the same creepy-magical vibe.
“Each ball she threw into the pile further pounded into my head that my mother’s demands, her criticisms – they were because she wanted better for me. I tried not to think about the fact that she was so unhappy.” p. 96-97
American Panda by Gloria Chao.
Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018.
YA Contemporary, 310 pages.
Not yet leveled.
Mei Lu might be only 17, but she’s also a college freshman at MIT, as per her parents’ ambitious plans. And she’s the only hope for them to fulfill their legacy, since they cut off her older brother years ago. There’s just one problem: Mei loves to dance (no longer allowed since she doesn’t need it for college applications anymore) and is absolutely terrified of blood, guts, and germs.
This was a targetpick. I wasn’t intending to be trendy and pick it up on the release date, but apparently did so by accident. The publisher lists it as suitable for 12+, but it really occupies a middle ground between young adult and new adult fiction. Mei is still a teen just learning about the world, but the book is also about her gaining her independence and in many ways she’s very mature and responsible. Some books in a middle space like this are challenging for either group to read, but I think this one will appeal to both.
The list of all my Target picks so far, some stats about them, and the plan for 2018.
In December 2016 I started an experiment. Every month, I would purchase a diverse book from Target. I didn’t have a timeframe for reading or reviewing them and there was no particular genre or age level.
Some were books I’d heard of or been anticipating, others were books I simply picked because they had a POC on the cover, the title was diverse, or the author was a POC. I did occasionally see a few books which I already owned, and didn’t rebuy those. While most were books I wouldn’t have picked outside of this challenge, I never chose a book that I thought I would dislike.
“But that was what was supposed to happen, so Sapphire didn’t mind. Sapphire had already accepted everything that would ever happen to her.” page 6
The Answer, written by Rebecca Sugar, illustrated by Elle Michalka and Tiffany Ford.
Cartoon Network Books imprint, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
Fantasy picture book, 30 pages.
Not yet leveled.
This is the story of Sapphire, a wise gem who knows the future, and Ruby, a brave little gem who fights to the end. Sapphire would say it’s a short and sad story, but Ruby disagrees.
While the Steven Universe TV show’s mythology and storyline bring some hefty worldbuilding to this picture book, you can read and enjoy it with no prior knowledge. We rarely watch TV, so I learned about the show from writing this review.
“Alfie told me once that Suzette at daycare keeps wanting to touch her braids. But that’s a secret, we decided, because we don’t want our dad to freak.” page 78.
EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken! (EllRay Jakes #1) by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper.
Puffin Books, The Penguin Group, New York, 2011.
Realistic Fiction, 2011.
Lexile: 840L .
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 2.0 points) .
EllRay Jakes, the smallest kid in Ms. Sanchez’s third-grade class, is dealing with some serious bullying, trying to earn a trip to Disneyland, and navigate the rest of school while meeting his father’s high expectations.
This was another Target pick, although it took me a while to review. It wasn’t until after purchasing that I realized I’ve read a book by this author already. In fact, this entire series is a spin-off on her Emma series, which has been popular in one or two schools I’ve been at. A third-grader was lobbying hard for the first Emma book to be the next read-aloud, so I read it, but chose another book. If I’d realized this was from the same author, I would have gotten it from the library as well instead of purchasing it.
The cover of this book was great, I just wish the rest of the book had lived up to my expectations.
“I know I can’t change the way I look. / But maybe, just maybe… / … people can change the way they see.”
We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio.
Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
Picture book, 27 pages
Lexile: Not yet leveled.
AR Level: Not yet leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This picture book follows a young Auggie, main character of the chapter book novel Wonder, through the park and beyond as he reminds us that we’re all wonders.
I’ve seen this in pre-order for a while now, and was interested but also a little worried that the author is just tapping into her previous successful novel rather than doing anything original. Then I saw it at Target and decided to buy it for my diverse targetpick of the month. Interestingly, Z picked this off of the shelf and requested that I read it to him. (I didn’t put it in his bookbin, it was on a family shelf and not in the kids reading area. Also, yes, our littles have their own bookbins. #teachernerdparent)