Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review: Blended

Blended Blended by Sharon M. Draper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mom's week / Dad's week
Izzy / Isabella
Mixed / Black

11 year old Isabella has to switch homes (and identities) every week as she goes back and forth between her divorced parents' homes. She makes it work, they love here deeply, and so do each of their new partners, but as Isabella becomes more aware of the world around her, she sees that being blended isn't as simple as she once thought. Life is just different when she's with her white mom versus when she's with her black dad. Sometimes it feels like she's being torn in half, but when a catastrophic event happens, she soon realizes that blended doesn't have to mean divided.

Draper deals with mature and complicated themes through the innocent eyes of a young girl. A great way to launch some difficult conversations.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Review: The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After Leigh's mother dies by suicide, she and her father are left in the aftermath. As she drowns in her grief, Leigh is at last exposed to her Taiwanese ancestry, and through episodes of magical realism interspersed with memories of her mother, she at last is able to find her footing and begin healing on her own terms with the support of her family, her friends, and her art.

Pan's novel is a heart-wrenching exploration of grief and the toll that mental illness can take on a family.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: Cicada

Cicada Cicada by Shaun Tan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tan's simple but thought-provoking picture book chronicles the life of a hardworking insect who toils each day in an office where he is unappreciated and bullied because he is different. A great title for classroom discussion.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Review: Shout

Shout Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than 20 years after the publication of Speak , Anderson continues to advocate for the voiceless and victimized. Through free-verse poetry, Anderson tells her powerful and courageous story. It's a story of consent, rape, pain, victimization, recovery, and activism. Her honest and gritty words speak truth to the cultural failures that are far too prevalent in our world. Anderson's story serves as a call to action for readers to stop ignoring the hate and violence we experience so often each and every day.

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Review: Time Bomb

Time Bomb Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Diana: The congressman's perfect daughter - smiles when she's supposed to, wears the right clothes, does the right things.

Rashid: The dutiful son and Muslim - trying to follow the rules, but wanting to be seen for who he is rather than the stereotypes his religion brings upon him.

Z: The orphaned and angry rebel - struggling to survive after cancer robbed him of his mother and rage has gotten the best of him.

Tad: The recently "out" football player - trying to come to terms with who he is in a world where not even his family understands.

Cas: The bullied new-girl - working to make everyone else happy at the cost of her own self-worth.

Frankie: The star quarterback with secrets - always expected to be a winner, out to please everyone who expects anything from him.

These six high schoolers have little to nothing in common, but as they set out on their individual missions for the last days of summer, they find themselves trapped in a burning and crumbling school that's been rocked by a series of bombs. Struggling to survive, each of their stories slowly unfolds as readers try to figure out who the bomber really is and what could motivate someone to take such drastic measures.

This is a coming-of-age story that we wish didn't have to be written, but unfortunately is far to common. Charbonneau tells an honest, emotional, tragic, and timely story.

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Review: There There

There There There There by Tommy Orange
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twelve stories - intertwined - chronicling a history of today's urban Indian. Each of these unique characters tells his/her story of coming of age as a native in Oakland, CA. Their lives collide at the big Oakland Powwow as their histories of abuse, addiction, suicide, and spirituality converge on one fateful day.

This is a powerful novel that exposes a segment of America that is seldom seen.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review: The Parker Inheritance

The Parker Inheritance The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's an unsolved mystery just waiting to be solved, and Candice Miller, along with her new friend Brandon, are the perfect people to do it!

When Candice finds a letter in an old book in her grandmother's attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she knows that it's a puzzle that her grandmother must have left just for her. What follows is a challenge that leads Candice and Brandon to uncover a dark history of Lambert, filled with hatred, heroes, shame, and love. The fortune that's promised in the letter will only be theirs if they can solve the clues laid out for them.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy the journey from past to present, and will be rooting for this 12-year-old duo of sleuths! A great middle-grade novel, but also a great read for all ages.

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