Review: You’re Welcome, Universe

“I love watching Ma’s hands when she signs. Normally you just watch someone’s face while they’re signing, but I can’t keep my eyes off Ma’s hands.” p. 18

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You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner.
Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
Realistic fiction YA, 297 pages.
Lexile:  HL610L ( What does HL mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 9.0 points)  .

When a slur about Julia’s best friend is left defacing the gym for far too long, she takes matters into her own hands, only to be ratted out.  Now she’s navigating mainstream high school with an interpreter, trying to deal with friendship drama, her moms, and a growing tag war.

You're Welcome, Universe

So often in a book about a Deaf person or one that has ASL, it’s shockingly clear the author has no experience around a deaf or hard of hearing person.  For example, hearing authors often write Deaf characters as quiet.  While some Deaf people might not like to vocalize among hearing people, I’ve yet to meet a Deaf person who is quiet.

In contrast, it’s clear from Whitney Gardner’s writing that she has spent substantial time in the American Deaf community, and has an understanding of ASL.  Already on page 18, a character is stomping to get Julia’s attention, and the quote in the header comes from the same page.  Gardner’s characters are Deaf, but they aren’t quiet, and she reflects that in a way only possible after learning about Deaf culture.

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Graphic Novel Review: Emiko Superstar

While it definitely shouldn’t be shelved in the children’s section, this coming-of-age graphic novel will appeal to YA readers.

Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Steve Rolston.
Minx, DC comics, New York, 2008.
Graphic novel, 150 pages.
Not leveled.

This is the story of one summer in the life of Emiko, a summer that changed her life.  It starts out like a normal summer.  A coffee shop job doesn’t last, so her mom signs her up for babysitting work.  She meets a girl named Poppy and finds herself strangely drawn to Poppy’s mesmerizing, frenetic, artistic life.

Emiko Superstar cover resized
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Steve Rolston.

There is a lot going on in this graphic novel.

I want to caution readers that this is definitely for teens.  We found it at the used bookstore in the kids section, and I assumed that it would be okay for N based on other Minx books I’ve read, which were fine for middle grade readers.  Nope!

This is a great book, but the content is intense, and middle schoolers should be discussing it with a parent or teacher.  Mariko Tamaki is better known for Skim, an intense YA graphic novel.

The dramatic opening is a little confusing.  An edgy, artistic girl with one shoe is coming home late at night.  She’s texting her friend and narrates as the images go from her to old photographs.  Chapter two backtracks to early summer.

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Graphic Novel Review: Good As Lily

A graphic novel that uses an unusual conceit to discuss coming-of-age and self-growth.

Good As Lily by Derek Kirk Kim, illustrated by Jesse Hamm.
MG/YA fiction (mostly realistic fiction, but with a speculative fiction aspect), 150 pages.
Minx, DC Comics, New York, 2007.
Lexile:  Not leveled.
AR Level:  3.0 (worth 2.0 points)  .
NOTE: While the text is a third grade level, this is written for older children.

On Grace Kwon’s 18th birthday, things get a little weird.  Friends whisk her away, guitar strings break, and a strange accident with an unwanted pinata leads her to leave her favorite present behind in the park.  And when she meets versions of herself at ages 6, 27, and 70, it gets a whole lot weirder.

Good As Lily Cover resized

This is a special review.  See, this is a re-read, but it’s also a book I first read in 2007.  At the time I was devouring graphic novels as fast as I could get them.  However, unlike most of those quick reads, the plot of this one stuck with me for the past decade.  I couldn’t remember the title for a long time, just that it was a Minx book.   After seeing ReGifters on this great list, I suddenly recalled that Lily was in the title, and was able to find the info.  Lily is not the main character’s name, which made it more difficult for me to remember.

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Graphic Novel Review: Monster

If the play didn’t work for you, give this graphic novel a try.

Monster: A Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers, adapted by Guy A. Sims and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile.
Amistad, HarperCollins, New York, 2015.
Graphic novel, 153 pages.
Lexile:  GN420L  ( What does GN mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  not yet leveled

This is a graphic novel adaptation of Monster.  I’ll repeat my summary of the novel:

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?

Monster graphic novel

You might recall my review of the novel Monster, which took me more than six months to read and review (thankfully it was checked out from a library I work at, so I could keep renewing it).  In contrast, this graphic novel took me a few hours to read and is being reviewed instantly – because I can certainly recommend it.

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Review: First in the Family

“If you want to go to college, right from the start you have to raise your voice, ask for what you need, and keep your eyes open about what classes and opportunities your high school offers you.” page 32

First in the Family: Advice about College from First-Generation Students – Your High School Years by Kathleen Cushman.
Next Generation Press, Providence, Rhode Island, 2005.
Nonfiction, 80 pages.
Not leveled.

This book gives encouragement and advice to high school students who may be the first in their families to attend college.  It includes many personal stories and quotations from students who have similar journeys.

First in the Family

One of the main focuses of this slim volume is encouraging teens from minority groups to attend college and pursue careers rather than jobs.  This book is specifically aimed at diverse high school students who have no family members that have attended college.

I bought this book because it was on clearance for a dollar at Barnes & Noble. I’m not the first member of my family to attend college, and neither was Husband.  I don’t work with high school students, but wanted to review it here.  After reading it and starting to write this review, I discovered there is a free interactive online version of the text.  The second book The College Years, is also available online for free in a PDF format.  I look forward to exploring those resources more at a later time.

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Review: Saints and Misfits

“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.

Saints and Misfits resized

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.

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Review: Flygirl

“Sure, they’d only been around a few years, they were dangerous, and quite frankly, only a handful of colored people knew how to fly.” page 29

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith.
Scholastic, New York, 2008.
YA historical fiction, 275 pages.
Lexile:  HL680L  ( What does HL mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  4.3 (worth 11.0 points)  .

Ida Mae Jones just wants to fly.  But her mother’s dead set against her even going North to get her pilot’s license.  So using her light skin color to join the WASP shouldn’t even be an option, but Ida will do anything to get in the air and help her military brother.

Flygirl

Those of you who have been reading for a while will recall that I’m pretty tough on historical fiction.  I want it to be inclusive of diverse characters and perspectives, but also realistic.  (A character might be targeted with hateful language, but the author should also make clear that those words are wrong.)  Depending on the grade level, I’d also like it to be appropriate for the age recommended, not too graphic nor too idealistic for young readers.  And, of course, it should be well written and have an interesting plot and intriguing characters.

I’m happy to share that Flygirl succeeds on every count.

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