Monday, August 31, 2015

Book of the Week: X

X: A Novel

by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
Published by Candlewick Press, 2015
348 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6967-6
Age 14 and older

A novelized account of Malcolm X’s early life is full of both a young man’s promise and the pain of racism and struggle of being Black in America. Growing up in 1930s Lansing, Michigan, Malcolm stands out as exceptional in a family that nurtured education and achievement. His outspoken father is killed when Malcolm is six. Seven years later, his mother, struggling to keep her family together and live by her values, is institutionalized. Malcolm leaves Lansing for Boston after a white teacher makes clear he thinks college out of Malcolm’s reach. Malcolm feels betrayed by his father’s promises. “You’re meant for great things. You have nothing and no one to fear, for God is with you…He told me these things about myself and about the world like they were true. But they were only his hopes.” In Boston and later New York, disillusioned Malcolm, whose intelligence shines from every page of this first-person narrative—in how he expresses himself and the way he thinks deeply—opts for good times. Eventually arrested for theft, he sits in prison filled with anger and thinks, “They want to write a story about me that ends behind bars. They’ll say I was no good, that I always belonged here….Papa would tell a different story.” His father’s lessons still live inside him, and they are nourished by the teachings of the Nation of Islam. Structurally complex, with a timeline that moves between the 30s and 40s, the strong narrative thread makes this fearless, penetrating work cohesive and accessible, while its themes are both timeless and all too timely. End matter includes a commentary from Ilyasah Shabazz (Malcolm’s daughter), a timeline, and notes on historical figures and events.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book of the Week

Sona and the Wedding Game

by Kashmira Sheth
Illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi

Peachtree, 2015
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1561457359
Ages 4-8

Sona’s sister is getting married and her know-it-all cousin Vishal has come with her grandparents from India to attend. He can’t believe how little Sona knows about Hindu weddings, including the fact that it’s Sona’s responsibility as a younger sibling of the bride to steal the groom’s shoes during the ceremony and then bargain with him for their return. Nervous but determined, Sona comes up with a plan, and she’s even willing to involve Vishal in carrying it out. An engaging story draws readers right into Sona’s experience, with details about the wedding preparations and ceremony seamlessly incorporated as Sona describes being part of traditions that are new to her yet steeped in family and culture. And when the time comes, there’s just the right amount of tension leading to great delight as Sona successfully steals the shoes and bargains for the perfect exchange. An author’s note provides additional information about Hindu weddings, including the fact that the details may vary widely from family to family and place to place.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book of the Week

Blackbird Fly

by Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2015
296 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-223861-0
10-13 years

When Analyn “Apple” Yengko gets put on the dog log—a list of the ugliest girls at her southern Louisiana middle school—she finds solace in music. It’s always been a connection to her late father, who died before she and her mother came to the United States from the Philippines. Against her mom’s wishes Apple secretly takes up guitar, and she proves to be a gifted student. She also connects with new kid Evan, the first friend she’s had genuinely interested in rather than dismissive of the Filipino culture that Apple can’t escape but has always found an embarrassment. The mean kids are sadly believable in Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut novel, as is the limited ability of adults in the school to change those kids’ behavior. That matters less and less to Apple as she immerses herself in learning the songs on the Beatles tape he father left behind, and as her friendship with Evan helps her understand that she isn’t the only outsider and she, too, can reach out. Music and friendship transform Apple’s relationship with her mother, too, who finally lets Apple see the depth of her grief while revealing the surprising source of Apple’s musical talent. This satisfying novel traverses an arc from sadness, pain, and isolation to hope and connection.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, August 10, 2015

Book of the Week: Knit Together

Knit Together

by Angela Dominguez
Dial, 2015
32 pages
ISBN: 9780803740990
Ages 3-7

A little girl who loves to draw wishes she could also knit, like her mom. Her mother tries to teach her, but it turns out to be harder than it looks. When the girl gets discouraged, her mom points out that the little girl’s drawings have inspired many of her knitting projects and suggests that they collaborate. After a day at the beach the little girl puts crayons to paper. “We talk about our project. And then we work to make something we could never have made alone.” The result is functional art: a blanket featuring a beach-inspired design originally drawn by the girl. The bond of this dynamic mother-daughter duo is obvious in a warm, engaging picture book that also offers insight into creativity and collaboration. Both the fairly spare narrative and the illustrations are full of personality, warmth and charm. (It’s particularly fun to notice the ways the mother’s knitting reflects many of her daughter’s drawings even prior to their partnership.)  © 2015 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, August 3, 2015

Book of the Week: George


by Alex Gino
Published by Scholastic Press, 2015
240 pages
ISBN: 9780545812542
Ages 8-11

A girl born into a boy’s body, ten-year-old George hasn’t yet confided this truth to anyone. Then she decides to try out for the part of Charlotte in the fourth grade’s dramatization of Charlotte’s Web. George thinks the play will be a vehicle to let her mom know that she’s really a girl, not a boy. But Charlotte is also the part that she wants because she loves the character. George finally tells her friend Kelly the truth, and after Kelly is cast as Charlotte, she and George conspire to have George play Charlotte in the second performance. By then George has told both her mom and her older brother. Both of them had assumed George was gay, and while George’s brother looks at George as if she finally makes sense to him, George’s mom is struggling. Alex Gino’s warm debut novel is a pitch-perfect story for younger middle grade. Substantial without a hint of heaviness, the almost lighthearted tone offers a matter-of-fact presentation of George’s identity, leaving room for the delightful development of characters and the plot around Kelly and George’s plan. The support Georges receives from Kelly, from her brother, and from the school principal, as well as the range of responses of others, are all realistic. But all of the characters are more than their responses, just as George is more than her gender. She’s George, a girl with many interests delighting in chances to outwardly express an elemental aspect of her identity.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center