Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza by Laekan Zea Kemp

Book Description

Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza by Laekan Zea Kemp

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Publishing Date: September 27, 2022

Synopsis:

Fans of The Girl Who Drank the MoonPaola Santiago and the River of Tears, and Disney’s Encanto will be captivated by this fantastical novel about a girl who must learn to trust her ancestral powers when she comes face-to-face with the Mexican legend La Lechuza. 

Omega Morales’s family has been practicing magic for centuries in Noche Buena. But over the years, the town’s reputation for the supernatural is no longer one the people carry with pride. So Omega’s family keeps to themselves, and in private, they’re Empaths—diviners who can read and manipulate the emotions of people and objects around them. But Omega’s powers don’t quite work, and it leaves her feeling like an outsider in her own family.

When a witch with the power to transform herself into an owl—known in Mexican folklore as La Lechuza—shows up unannounced, Omega, her best friend Clau (who happens to be a ghost), and her cousin Carlitos must conduct a séance under a full moon in order to unravel the mystery of the legend.

Suddenly Omega’s magic begins to change, and the key to understanding her powers is more complicated than she thought. Omega will have to decide what’s more important—trusting the instincts of others or learning to trust in herself.

Content Warning: bullying and grief

Book Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60021190-omega-morales-and-the-legend-of-la-lechuza

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316304166/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/omega-morales-and-the-legend-of-la-lechuza-laekan-zea-kemp/1140835397

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Omega-Morales-Legend-La-Lechuza-Laekan-Z-Kemp/9780316304160

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/omega-morales-and-the-legend/9780316304160-item.html

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316304160

Review

Thoughts and Themes: My first thought is that I keep reading Lechuza as Lechuga and was really confused about there being a legend regarding lettuce that I hadn’t heard about. I am glad to tell you all that this story is not about lettuce at all but that would have been funny. But also prior to this thought, I was so happy to see that the author had now written a middle grade book since I loved her two young adult books so much.

I am happy to say that I loved this book as much as the young adult books if not more. This is a perfect read for second graders and up especially during this spooky season. I love that this book is spooky but not too scary to frighten the younger audience. I loved the references to Mexican folklore that this book includes because so much of these tales were things that I grew up hearing about.

Something that I really enjoy about this book is the added images within chapters. I like how these images bring the story to life and it works really well for me since I have a hard time picturing what I am reading.

Characters: In this story you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with our main character, Omega. You get to meet her family, her best friend Carlitos, and a ghost that lives alongside them, Clau. Right off the bat it is hard not to fall in love with each of the characters that you are introduced to in this story.

I really loved the relationship that each of the characters that are introduce have with our main character, Omega. I love how supportive each of the characters are of her and how they are supportive regardless of her differences. I love that you can feel the amount of love everyone has for each other seeping out of this book.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of our main character, Omega. I really enjoyed the story being told through her perspective as it makes you remember the age of our main character. The voice of our narrator really made it hard to put down this book because I just wanted to hear more about the magic and everything going on in her world.

Author Information

Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. Her debut novel, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet was a 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Recipient. In addition to writing she’s also the creator and host of the Author Pep Talks podcast, as well as a contributor to the Las Musas podcast. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicane grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health.

Author Links

Website: http://www.laekanzeakemp.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaekanZeaKemp

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laekanzeakemp/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6577467.Laekan_Zea_Kemp

Tour Schedule

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey

Book Description

A heartfelt and timely middle grade story about a transgender boy’s journey toward acceptance and empathy. Perfect for fans of George and Gracefully Grayson.

Twelve-year-old Shane Woods is just a regular boy. He loves pitching for his baseball team, working on his graphic novel, and hanging out with his best friend, Josh. But Shane is keeping something private, something that might make a difference to his teammates, to Josh, and to his new crush, Madeline. And when a classmate threatens to reveal his secret, Shane’s whole world comes crashing down. It will take a lot of courage for Shane to ignore the hate and show the world that he’s still the same boy he was before. And in the end, those who stand beside him may surprise everyone, including Shane.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I winded up checking this out from the library since it was one that I hadn’t heard of and I was intrigued by the description of the book. Something that I had to keep reminding myself is that this book was written in 2016 so I couldn’t compare it to the things that have come out recently. I was also really glad that this book existed for middle graders but I do think it is written more for people who want to learn about Trans people rather than for Trans people.

While there were a few things in this book that I enjoyed, there were more things that frustrated me about it. One of the things that frustrated me about this book was just how easy it was for Shane to get access to therapy, and then hormone therapy. While I know that this is just one experience of Trans people I felt that this was just the privileged experience because Shane is white and his family is well off.

I also thought that this book had a lot of stereotypical pieces in it, like the mother being the supportive parent and the dad taking longer to come around. There was also the fact that Shane knew he was a boy because he liked stereotypical boy things and not girl things. This was something that was really off to me because we are trying to move away from assigning colors, clothes, toys to gender at this time.

Characters: In this book you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with the main character, Shane. You get to meet both his mom and dad, his dad’s girlfriend, his best friend, Josh, some other Trans kids, and some of his classmates.

What I did enjoy about this book was the relationships that Shane has with everyone in this book. I really liked the relationship that Shane and Josh have with each other and how supportive Josh is of Shane before and after he finds out that he is Trans.

I also really did like the relationship that Shane has with both of his parents and the way in which this develops over time. I like that we get to see Shane have a conversation with his dad about what being Trans is like for him and how we get to also see the dad have feelings but be reminded that in this situation his feelings aren’t the most important ones. I also liked how the mom was supportive of Shane but I wish she would stand up for him more rather than just take him away from the situation with his dad.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through Shane’s perspective. I liked that the story is told through Shane’s perspective because you get the sense that you are listening to a kid tell you this story. I think because of the way that this is written it would be a good book for children ages 10+ to read and I think its a good way to learn about Trans people. it is important to note though that this is one experience and is not all Trans youth experiences.

Author Description

M.G. Hennessey loves Star Wars, the San Francisco Giants, strawberry ice cream, and dancing. She mentors teens at the Lifeworks program/LA LGBT Center and volunteers as a CASA with L.A. foster kids. She’s also the dean of Camp Transcend Family Camp, and an organizer of the  Gender Odyssey LA conference. A supporter of the Transgender Law Center, Gender Spectrum. and the Human Rights Campaign, she lives in Los Angeles with her family.  She/Her

Sfé R. Monster is a comic artist and illustrator who is deeply invested in the telling of transgender stories, whose own work includes the comic Eth’s Skin and The Beyond Anthology.  Sfé lives on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Nova Scotia, Canada, and enjoys conspiracy theories, eerie beasts, and folk music.  They/Them

Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper Book Review

Book Description

Jake is just starting to enjoy life as his school’s first openly gay kid. While his family and friends are accepting and supportive, the same can’t be said about everyone in their small town of Barton Springs, Ohio.

When Jake’s dad hangs a comically large pride flag in their front yard in an overblown show of love, the mayor begins to receive complaints. A few people are even concerned the flag will lead to something truly outlandish: a pride parade.

Except Jake doesn’t think that’s a ridiculous idea. Why can’t they hold a pride festival in Barton Springs? The problem is, Jake knows he’ll have to get approval from the town council, and the mayor won’t be on his side. And as Jake and his friends try to find a way to bring Pride to Barton Springs, it seems suspicious that the mayor’s son, Brett, suddenly wants to spend time with Jake.

But someone that cute couldn’t possibly be in league with his mayoral mother, could he?

Review

Thoughts and Themes: After having enjoyed two of Phil Stamper’s books when I saw this middle-grade book of his on Netgalley I knew I had to read it. I love that there are options for LGBTQ+ youth now because when I was in middle school I remember there were 3 books I read on repeat. I remember being in middle school and knowing something was different about me but not having the terminology or knowing girls could be queer, and books only had gay males in them.

I like that this book isn’t all happy for our main character regardless of the support that he does have from family and friends. I like that we see the reality of what it can be for someone to be queer in a small town. I also really like that we get a glimpse of how Jake’s online world is 100% accepting in the way he had hoped it would be. I think it was great to see that nowhere is 100% safe for LGBTQ+ people and how we navigate spaces that we might not be safe in.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book was the talk that Brett has with Jake about anxiety. I love how he brings up reading books to figure out his sexuality and how much that helped him. I really liked how they talk about Brett going to therapy to help with his anxiety and how it just is a regular conversation between two friends.

Characters: In this book, you meet several characters through their interactions with our main character, Jake. You get to meet his parents, his best friend, and the guy he is crushing on, Brett. I really enjoyed all of the characters you get to meet throughout this book and Jake’s relationships with everyone.

I loved the relationship between Brett and Jake and how innocent their relationship is. I also really enjoyed how Jake just accepts that Brett isn’t out and understands what being out could mean for him. I like that he just takes Brett’s lead and while it does confuse him at times he does listen to others.

I also liked how Jake has many supportive people in his life, like his best friend and his parents. I loved seeing how supportive Jake’s parents are and I liked that Jake felt comfortable enough to tell his dad that he outed him before he was ready.

Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the perspective of our main character, Jake. I really enjoyed getting the chance to read this story from his perspective because the main character read his age. I liked getting to be in Jake’s head and see how he feels about everything. I also thought it was great to see how the reaction to having a crush and what it is like to be his age and be out.

Author Description

Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained by playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University.

When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, $800 in graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if he was writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. But after a while, the dry writing started to get to him, so he thought he’d finally work on that book he always wanted to write.

Years later, Phil is now the bestselling author of The Gravity of Us, As Far As You’ll Take Me, and other queer books for kids and teens. He works in author development for a major book publisher in New York City, where he lives with his husband and their dog. Golden Boys, the first book in his upcoming young adult rom-com duology, comes out in February 2022. Small Town Pride, his debut middle grade novel, publishes in Summer 2022.

The Language of Seabirds by Will Taylor Book Review

Book Description

A sweet, tender middle-grade story of two boys finding first love with each other over a seaside summer.

Jeremy is not excited about the prospect of spending the summer with his dad and his uncle in a seaside cabin in Oregon. It’s the first summer after his parents’ divorce, and he hasn’t exactly been seeking alone time with his dad. He doesn’t have a choice, though, so he goes… and on his first day takes a walk on the beach and finds himself intrigued by a boy his age running by. Eventually, he and Runner Boy (Evan) meet — and what starts out as friendship blooms into something neither boy is expecting… and also something both boys have been secretly hoping for.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: This was a book that I was drawn to because of the beautiful cover and was very happy to get an advanced reading copy on Edelweiss and in the mail. I am very glad that I read this one because there was so much to love and I think middle grade readers would really enjoy this book.

I really enjoy how flustered Jeremy is about his crush and how it reminds me of just being that age when everything is confusing, scary, and overwhelming. I loved getting to read his reactions to things and him struggling just to send a message to Evan.

I loved the setting of this book because of how carefree it made everything seem. It was nice to see both of the boys just kind of enjoy their time together even if they are aware that this time isn’t forever. I liked how they just got time to be kids especially away from their parental figures. I really enjoyed the scenes in which you remember that they are in between being children and being teenagers, and what that must be like.

Characters: In this book you are introduced to a few characters through their interactions with our main character, Jeremy. You get to meet his crush, Evan, his dad, mom, Evan’s grandmother and a few other people on the beach.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Jeremy and Evan and how that develops through the course of this book. It just took me back to my first relationship and how carefree it was and how different dating as a teen was compared to now. I loved how they had their own language to communicate with each other regarding birds. I loved how they had this little world that was their own and it was like nothing could go wrong in that space.

I also liked getting to read about Jeremy’s relationship with his mom, dad, and uncle. I liked seeing how each of those relationships were different from one another. I liked to see why they responded in certain ways and I really liked to see how Jeremy’s relationship with his parents shifted how he responded to certain things.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person through the perspective of Jeremy which is something that I really enjoyed. As the story is told through Jeremy’s perspective it is clear that you are reading a story about a young teenager.

Author Information

Will Taylor (he/they) is a reader, writer, and honeybee fan. He lives in the heart of downtown Seattle surrounded by all the seagulls and not quite too many teacups. When not writing he can be found searching for the perfect bakery, talking to trees in parks, and completely losing his cool when he meets longhaired dachshunds. His books include Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort; Maggie & Abby and the Shipwreck Treehouse; Slimed; Catch That Dog!; and The Language of Seabirds.

Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass Book Tour Post

Book Description

Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Publishing Date: March 22, 2022

Synopsis:

Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.

Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.  Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.

Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.

Book Links

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Indigo ~ Indiebound

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was so thrilled when I saw this book was coming out because it has an Autistic main character and a non-binary side character. I was so excited to sign up for the tour for this book and so happy that I was admitted onto the tour. This is a book that I winded up hugging when I was done with this book because of how much it made me feel seen.

I really liked how throughout this book Ellen is teaching others what it means to her to be Autistic and Isa is teaching others what it means for them to be non-binary. I liked how each of them breaks things down for each other, and how they both allow each other to have questions but are honest if the questions are too much.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book is how Ellen is exploring who she is and how her teammates just allow for this exploration while Laurel seems to not be on board with these changes. I really loved how Ellen just freely said that she thought Meritzcell is cute without thinking what others would say but then we see how madison’s reaction changes how Ellen navigates these feelings.

There is so much that I could say about this book because of how much I really loved it and all the little pieces that make up this book. I liked that the book was about Ellen’s trip to Barcelona and we see how her being Autistic affects this trip but it isn’t completely centered on this part of who she is.

Characters: In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Ellen. You get to meet Ellen’s dad, her best friend, Laurel, and her teammates, Andy, Gibs, and Isa. You also get to briefly meet some of Laurel’s teammates and new friends, Madison and Sophie-Anne.

I really loved everyone on Ellen’s team and how they supported her throughout her time in Barcelona and how they just seemed to understand her. I was frustrated with Laurel throughout this book because it seemed that she didn’t really know Ellen or care about her since she had these new friends and Ellen didn’t really fit into that new life. I really enjoyed that Ellen’s teammates accepted her for who she is but still hold her accountable when she does something to hurt her teammates.

I really enjoyed Ellen’s relationship with her dad and how he is around but not really interfering in Ellen’s exploration of the city. I like that he treats her in the same manner that he treats the other students on the trip. I also really liked the conversations that they have about faith and how Ellen goes to her father to discuss what she did to potentially ruin her friendships.

Writing Style: This book is written in first person through the perspective of Ellen which I thought was great. I liked to see how she was experiencing this trip through her perspective rather than what others thought was happening. I thought it was great to know things based on what our main character actually thought was going on rather than have outside input.

Author Information

A. J. Sass (he/they) is an author, editor, and competitive figure skater who is interested in how intersections of identity, neurodiversity, and allyship can impact story narratives. He is the author of Ana on the Edge, a Booklist Editors’ Choice 2020 and ALA 2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 for Young Readers selection, and Ellen Outside the Lines (Little, Brown, 2022), the co-author of Camp QUILTBAG* with Nicole Melleby (Algonquin, 2023), as well as a contributor to the This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us (Knopf) and Allies: Real Talk about Showing Up, Screwing Up, and Trying Again (DK US & UK) anthologies. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs.

Author Links

Website ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook

Pink, Blue, and You! by Elise Gravel with Mykaell Blais Book Review

Book Description

Pink, Blue & You!: Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes by Elise Gravel

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Publishing Date: March 8, 2022

Synopsis:

Simple, accessible, and direct, this picture book is perfect for kids and parents or teachers to read together, opening the door to conversations about gender stereotypes and everyone’s right to be their true selves.

Is it okay for boys to cry? Can girls be strong? Should girls and boys be given different toys to play with and different clothes to wear? Should we all feel free to love whoever we choose to love? In this incredibly kid-friendly and easy-to-grasp picture book, author-illustrator Elise Gravel and transgender collaborator Mykaell Blais raise these questions and others relating to gender roles, acceptance, and stereotyping.

With its simple language, colorful illustrations, engaging backmatter that showcases how appropriate male and female fashion has changed through history, and even a poster kids can hang on their wall, here is the ideal tool to help in conversations about a multi-layered and important topic.

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Indigo ~ Indiebound

Tour Schedule

Review

The first thing that stood out to me about this book is the style in which it is written. This book is written as questions to children who you may read this to along with factual information about gender, sexuality, and sex. I really liked that this book is written this way because it opens up the conversation for children and shows them that it is okay to question things that they may have learned from society.

I know that this is going to be a book that conservatives have issues with just because of the way it opens up these conversations. I believe that this book is acceptable for children as young as 4 because it is a great introduction to these topics in a way that they would understand. I shared this book with my mom who works with young children and she said it was a great book.

Something that I enjoy about this book is how it frames the concept of family and the diversity that it shows in the families that are displayed. I love how throughout the book there is a diversity in the images that are drawn and in the examples that are given. I think that was an important part that was included because so many children will be able to see themselves in this book.

Author Information

I was born in Montreal in 1977 and I started drawing not very long after I was born. In kindergarten I was popular because I was able to draw princesses with long spiral hair. Then, in high school, the girls would ask me to draw their ideal guy in their diary. I became very good at drawing muscles and hair, which I used later when I illustrated my book The Great Antonio . On the other hand, I am always just as bad when it comes time to use a diary correctly.

Later, I studied graphic design at Cegep and that’s when I understood that I wanted to do illustration. After my first book, the Catalog des Gaspilleurs , I wrote and illustrated about thirty others . One of my books, The Wrench , won the Governor General’s Award in the Illustration category, and since that time I have a big head and I brag all the time.

I live in Montreal with my two daughters, my husband, my cats and a few spiders. I am currently working on various projects in Quebec, English Canada and the United States. My books are translated into a dozen languages. I hope to live a long time so that I can still make lots and lots of books because I still have lots and lots of ideas.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Reddit

The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill Book review

Book Description

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I heard about this one on bookstagram and booktok so when I saw it at the library I immediately picked it up. It took me a while to get into this book because it is a slow story and it doesn’t really pick up at any point throughout. I am glad that I stuck with it though because it is such a beautifully written book and I loved the world that this book takes you to.

I really enjoyed the world-building in this book and how this takes place throughout the book rather than just at the start of the story. The fact that we learn more as we read kept me immersed in this story and made me want to read more. I loved getting to learn more about the Protectorate and how that town came to be as well as the forest as Xan, Luna, Glerk and Fyrian make their way through different parts of this forest.

I loved that this whole story has a lot to do with misunderstandings and lack of communication. I thought it was great that throughout we see the mess that is caused by a lack of communication between people. I was so angry that so much of this was due to something that could’ve easily been solved but that is reality when problems occur due to communication.

Another theme that I really enjoyed in this book is found family. I loved Luna’s family with Xan, Glerk, and Fyrian and how important each one of them was to each other. I liked seeing their relationship strengthen over the course of the book and seeing how Glerk grows to love Luna.

Characters: In this book, there are several characters that you get introduced to as there are a lot of main characters. While this book centers around Xan and Luna, there are other characters that are quite important to the story as well as those who are important in their lives. Glerk and Fyrian are a part of Xan and Luna’s family and you get to know a lot about them throughout this story. You also get to meet Antain, a man who lives in the protectorate and is set on freeing his people from the witch. There is also the “madwoman” who is Luna’s mother and has gone mad with grief after her baby was taken as a sacrifice to the witch. Then there is our villain who I can’t say much about because that would ruin our story.

I loved all of the characters that you get to meet throughout this book and really enjoyed the relationships that they develop with one another. I loved Xan as Luna’s grandmother and how strong their bond with each other is throughout this book. I also really liked Fyrian’s playful nature and his relationship with everyone in the family.

I liked getting to learn about the people of the Protectorate and how they interacted with one another. I liked seeing the relationships they had with one another and why those relationships were important to this town.

Writing Style: This story is told in the third person and it gives you several perspectives. This story follows Xan, Luna, Antain, people of the Protectorate, and at some times Glerk and Fyrian. At first, I was not a fan of this story bouncing around between which characters I was reading about but by the end, I loved getting to see things from so many different viewpoints.

Most times an all-knowing narrator throws me off because I find the story not as interesting but this narrator was good. I liked that the narrator knew everything but didn’t reveal everything to us all at once. The narrator allowed our characters to slowly find things out for themselves and as they encountered new things so did we.

Author Information

Kelly Barnhill is an author and teacher. She won the World Fantasy Award for her novella The Unlicensed Magician, a Parents Choice Gold Award for Iron Hearted Violet, the Charlotte Huck Honor for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, and has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the Andre Norton award, and the PEN/USA literary prize. She was also a McKnight Artist’s Fellowship recipient in Children’s Literature. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her three children and husband. You can chat with her on her blog at www.kellybarnhill.com

Dead Wednesday by Jerry Spinelli Book Review

Book Description

Worm Tarnauer has spent most of eighth grade living down to his nickname. He prefers to be out of sight, underground. He walked the world unseen. He’s happy to let his best friend, Eddie, lead the way and rule the day.

And this day–Dead Wednesday–is going to be awesome. The school thinks assigning each eighth grader the name of a teenager who died in the past year and having them don black shirts and become invisible will make them contemplate their own mortality. Yeah, sure. The kids know that being invisible to teachers really means you can get away with anything. It’s a day to go wild!

But Worm didn’t count on Becca Finch (17, car crash). Letting this girl into his head is about to change everything.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: When I read the description of this book I thought that this was an interesting way to try to teach children the importance of responsibility. I think the idea of dead Wednesday is great but not to instill fear in these students but to teach them why they need to be precautious and think twice about the dangerous things they may engage in while in high school.

Something that I liked about this book was the moment in which Becca shares her story of how she died. I thought Worm’s reaction to that was well-done and the build-up before she dies creates a lot of emotions for the reader. I think Worm getting to spend time with Becca and hear her story beyond what the card he got for Dead Wednesday made a big different in how that event impacted him. I think that this also shows the flaws in Dead Wednesday as the other kids are seeing it as a get away with everything day vs seeing that the “Wrappers” were actual people who had loved ones.

Characters: Throughout this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with the main character, Worm. You get to meet his best friend, several of his classmates, the girl that he is assigned for Dead Wednesday, Becca, and his family.

I really liked reading as the friendship between Becca and Worm develop even as we know that this couldn’t possibly last. I liked that Becca thought that she was there for him but then realizes that she’s there because she needs his help. I think that Becca was there for both of them, they needed each other’s permission to just be.

I also liked the friendship between Worm and his best friend, Eddie, and then when we get to see the contrast of that friendship to Worm and Becca, and even Worn and Monica. I think it was great to see how he considered Eddie his best friend but he was never really himself around him, and was always considering this kid’s interests and not his own.

Writing Style: This story is told with a third person narrator through Worm’s perspective. I liked that the whole story was through Worm’s perspective because of how young and innocent he is. There is a lot that the reader sees and knows before Worm comes to those realizations, and I love that aspect of this book. I love this aspect because it is meant for a younger audience so I think younger children will realize things when Worm does but adults will see further ahead.

Author Information

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.
Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Spinelli, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Spinelli decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.

In most of his books, Spinelli writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! Spinelli and his wife, Eileen, also a children’s book author, live in Pennsylvania.

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi Book Review

Book Description

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval.

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

Review

CW: Classism, Poverty, Chronic Illness (Diabetes), absent father, theft

Thoughts and Themes: I picked this one up at the library but it was taking a while for me to get into it so I tried it as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. I like that the audiobook has two distinct voices for each of the girls which makes it easier to tell them apart.

There was a lot that I really enjoyed about this book but my favorite are the scenes in which Sakina and Mimi are teaching each other about their culture. I love how Sakina is hesitant at first to allow Mimi into her world and how Mimi doesn’t understand why Sakina responded to her in a way she deemed rude. I liked when Sakina would ask Mimi things about America and Mimi got to explain what was familiar to her and felt like she belonged somewhere.

I also really enjoyed the moments in which Mimi realized how different Sakina’s life was from her and the different expectations that were put on each of them. I also like that both of the girls are keeping things from their families and they trust each other with this information. It was nice getting to see them talk each other through things that they were struggling with.

Characters: This book centers around our two main characters, Sakina and Mimi, and through them you get to meet several other characters in this book. You get to meet both of their families as well as some other people they interact with while they are both navigating Pakistan.

I really liked getting to know both of our main characters and liked reading as their friendship develops. I thought it was great that at first they both needed something from each other which is why they were speaking to each other but that develops into more. I thought it was great that Mimi felt like she could open up to Sakina and share her feelings with her.

I also do enjoy getting to know each of the girls apart from each other and getting to see them act their age when they are with each other. There are times in which the girls are interacting with adults that you forget that they are still kids because they have been forced to grow up quickly because of the struggles their families are going through. I liked getting to see them react like children though and get to see them allow each other feelings that were messy and complicated.

Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the dual perspectives of Sakina and Mimi. Sakina is a girl who works for Mimi’s mother’s family in Pakistan and lives in poverty, and Mimi is an American girl who is visiting her rich grandparents in Pakistan. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see this story unfold through both of their perspectives because when you first start reading you think that they are so different from each other and come from two different worlds. It isn’t until you keep reading and get to see them interact that you realize that they have some things in common.

Author Information

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.

What about Will by Ellen Hopkins Book Review

Book Description

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds has always looked up to his brother, mostly because Will, who’s five years older, has never looked down on him. It was Will who taught Trace to ride a bike, would watch sports on TV with him, and cheer him on at little league. But when Will was knocked out cold during a football game, resulting in a brain injury–everything changed. Now, sixteen months later, their family is still living under the weight of the incident, that left Will with a facial tic, depression, and an anger he cannot always control, culminating in their parents’ divorce. Afraid of further fracturing his family, Trace begins to cover for Will who, struggling with addiction to pain medication, becomes someone Trace doesn’t recognize. But when the brother he loves so much becomes more and more withdrawn, and escalates to stealing money and ditching school, Trace realizes some secrets cannot be kept if we ever hope to heal.

Review

CS: Addiction, Suicide Attempt, Sexist comments

Thoughts and Themes: I don’t recall reading any other books by this author but I am familiar with the books. I picked this one up because of the synopsis and since it is written in prose, I knew it would be a quick read which is what I was looking for. I am really glad that I picked this one and can’t wait to read more from this author.

This book deals with several tough topics such as absentee parents, prison, addiction, rehab, and more. I believe that they do this in a way that is appropriate for the age range that it is intended for.

In this book, we get to see not only how opioid addiction affects Will but also how it affects those around him such as his brother, Trace, and the rest of his family. In this book you get to see how Trace is trying to hold everything together and fix things that are out of his control, you get to see how his brother’s addiction is impacting him and how he feels throughout the progression of this addiction.

This book also shows the importance of having a support system in place for all ages. Through this book, you see the importance of Trace having a support system so that he doesn’t try to carry everything on their own. We get to see how important Will has a support system is and what happens when he pushes that support system away. We also get to see Trace realizing how important it is for his dad and grandfather to not be alone as he and his brother get older. We also see how Trace cares for Mr. Cobb as he realizes how he must feel being alone now, and also how he feels for Cat since she’s new to town and alone.

Characters: In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Trace. You get to meet his dad, his dad’s girlfriend, Lily, his friends, Bram and Cat, his brother, Will, his neighbor, Mr. Cobb, and a few others briefly.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the friendships between Trace, Bram, and Cat. I really appreciate how Cat is able to relate to Trace because her brother went down a difficult path that unfortunately leaves him in prison. I thought that being able to see Cat and Trace have this connect them shows how books that deal with these topics need to exist for younger children because they also deal with tough subjects. I liked how Trace points out the importance of having friends that supported him and never left his side throughout Will’s addiction.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book was the adults who were a part of Trace’s life especially as his parents were absent. I understood his dad’s need to work and how that affected the amount of time he had for his children. I really liked the role that Mr. Cobb plays in this story and how he is a trusted Adult for Trace. I thought it was great to see how much Trace learns from Mr. Cobb and how much realizations come from this time he spends with him. I also like the way Lily fits into Trace’s life and how she doesn’t force him or Will to embrace her or think of her as a new mother.

Writing Style: This book is written in prose and told in first person through the perspective of Will’s younger brother, Trace who is 12 years old. I really enjoy books that are told in prose as you get to see a story be told in a different manner. I also really enjoyed getting this through Trace’s perspective because we get to see how addiction affects a child and what he needed during this time.

Author Information

Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times bestselling author of CrankBurnedImpulseGlassIdenticalTricksFalloutPerfectTrianglesTilt, and Collateral. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her husband and son. Hopkin’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest pages get thousands of hits from teens who claim Hopkins is the “only one who understands me”, and she can be visited at ellenhopkins.com.

Like most of you here, books are my life. Reading is a passion, but writing is the biggest part of me. Balance is my greatest challenge, as I love my family, friends, animals and home, but also love traveling to meet my readers. Hope I meet many of you soon!