All posts by NJBiblio

About NJBiblio

I am a high school district library media specialist/wannabe tech guru who is always looking for new and innovative materials, resources, and ways to help the teachers integrate 21st century materials in their classrooms. I myself am a little bit geek, a little bit nerd, but always proud of it!

THANK YOU!

Thank you for all your support over the past couple of years and your support of reading and great young adult literature.

Unfortunately, May 2019 marks the last month of posts for this site.  Circumstances have made it that I need to move on from my current position here and as such I will no longer be able to update this site.

I look forward to continuing my career in the library and with young adult literature, and hopefully our paths will cross again someday.

Killer Style by Serah-Marie McMahon & Alison Matthews David

Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, and Murdered Through History by Serah-Marie McMahon & Alison Matthews David. April 15, 2019. Owlkids, 48 p. ISBN: 9781771472531.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.3; Lexile: 1060.

The clothes we wear every day keep us comfortable, protect us from the elements, and express our unique style―but could fashion also be fatal? As it turns out, history is full of fashions that have harmed or even killed people. From silhouette-cinching corsets and combustible combs to lethal hair dyes and flammable flannel, this nonfiction book looks back at the times people have suffered pain, injury, and worse, all in the name of style. Historical examples like the tragic “Radium Girl” watchmakers and mercury-poisoned “Mad Hatters,” along with more recent factory accidents, raise discussion of unsafe workplaces―where those who make the clothes are often fashion’s first victims.

Co-authored by a scholar in the history of textiles and dress with the founder of WORN Fashion Journal, this book is equal parts fab and frightening: a stylishly illustrated mash-up of STEAM content, historical anecdotes, and chilling stories. Nonfiction features including sidebars, sources, an index, and a list of further reading will support critical literacy skills and digging deeper with research on this topic.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discussion of injuries

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Fashion historians McMahon and David serve up looks that kill in this riveting exploration of the perils of fashion through the ages. Between lead paint, mercury-mad hatters, and exploding combs, this book is a succinct history of the hazards of fashion and cosmetic trends. But don’t be fooled; this book isn’t just macabre titillation. Though there is a healthy dose of the morbid and a quirky incorporation of myth, the authors give equal weight to the rightful debunking of tall tales. They also zero in on the dangerous business of fashion: the corner cutting and poor working conditions that caused factory fires and collapses, radiation exposure, and silicosis poisoning, all reminders of the hazards of “fast fashion.” The authors give well-researched consideration to non-Western fashion history, an inclusive take that is all too rare in surveys of this kind. Readable and well organized, the book incorporates primary-source illustrations, advertisements, and photographs into the information-rich pages, while Wilson’s quirky woodblock prints add some texture to the sleek design. The authors do an especially seamless job of using contemporary parallels as practical proof that even fashion history repeats itself. A fun, yet thoughtful look inside fashion perils past and present.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2019)
From lead-based cosmetics to radioactive wristwatches; from arsenic-green gowns to sandblasted denims: Fashion’s victims are sometimes the wearers and sometimes the creators. The introduction references Oscar de la Renta’s coining of the phrase “fashion victims,” noting that the pages to follow, while not ignoring his definition, will expand it to include more literal victims: “people who have suffered physical pain, injury, and worse, attempting to look more attractive, or to make others look more attractive.” Three luxuriously illustrated chapters tackle heads, middles, and legs, respectively. The first leads off with one of history’s more-famous tales of fashion-related occupational hazards: the use of mercury-cured felt by hatmakers from the 1730s into the 1960s. The text mentions the disturbing fact that, despite compelling evidence of mercury poisoning, England never banned its use; the dearth of currently ill milliners comes instead from felt’s having lost its fashion cachet. After exploring three other head-related tales, the book moves on to an entertaining history of corsets and their reputations, including a note about the 2016, Kardashian-promoted “waist trainer.” There is also an excellent double-page spread comparing two factory catastrophes: the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York and the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. The text uses puns, alliteration, and a conversational tone, but it never crosses the line into disrespect or sensationalism. Colorful, original silkscreens, historical photographs, and vintage art complement the magazine-style format. Accessible and informative. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

About the Authors

Serah-Marie McMahon founded WORN Fashion Journal and edited The WORN Archive, published by Drawn & Quarterly. She sells and writes about children’s books in Toronto, Ontario.

 

 

Dr. Alison Matthews David is an associate professor in the School of Fashion at Ryerson University. She holds a PhD in Art History from Stanford University. Her research on fashion victims examines how dress causes bodily harm to its makers and wearers. She has also published on military uniforms, and on representations of fashion in literature, notably in L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. She is also interested in colour theory and the aesthetic movement.

Around the Web

Killer Style on Amazon

Killer Style on Barnes and Noble

Killer Style on Goodreads

Killer Style on LibraryThing

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Robin Barr

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Robin Barr. March 26, 2019. Calkins Creek Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781684371785.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 650.

Set in Philadelphia during the Great Depression, this middle-grade historical novel tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy and his best friend as they attempt to stop a wall from being built at Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, that would block the view of the baseball field from their rooftops.

In 1930s Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola live across the street from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Their families and others on the street make extra money by selling tickets to bleachers on their flat rooftops, which have a perfect view of the field. However, falling ticket sales at the park prompt the manager and park owner to decide to build a wall that will block the view. Jimmy and Lola come up with a variety of ways to prevent the wall from being built, knowing that not only will they miss the view, but their families will be impacted from the loss of income. As Jimmy becomes more and more desperate to save their view, his dubious plans create a rift between him and Lola, and he must work to repair their friendship.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Anti-Polish sentiment

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 13))
Grades 4-7. His whole life, 12-year-old Jimmy Frank has been able to see into Philadelphia’s beloved Shibe Park from his bedroom window. But when the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics fears sales on the rooftop bleachers atop homes like Jimmy’s are cutting into profits, they plan to erect a wall. The Great Depression has already tightened Jimmy’s family’s finances and the so-called “spite wall” is sure to further jeopardize their well-being. Jimmy is willing to do just about anything to stop the Athletics from building the wall, but is his partner in crime, his neighbor and BFF Lola, just as willing? Or is the spite wall also erecting a wall in their friendship? This appealing historical middle-grade novel is perfect for fans of beloved baseball-centered novels like Linda Sue Park’s Keeping Score (2008). Barr knows her baseball history and brings rich detail to mid-1930s Philadelphia. While the plot may follow a predictable arc, sports fanatics will eat up the appended material. A sweet debut about friendship and the love of the game.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2019)
Twelve-year-olds Jimmie and Lola will always be best friends forever. That’s Rule No. 12. Shibe Park’s very short right-field fence is across the street from the flat-roofed houses where they live, allowing them to see all the home games of their beloved Philadelphia Athletics from a unique perspective. Homeowners set up bleachers on the roofs (Rule No. 11), charging a small fee for fans who can’t afford stadium tickets, which provides essential income for the families struggling in the Great Depression. Now Mr. Shibe wants to build a high spite fence to block their view, which will endanger their economic survival. Influenced by his other rules involving responsibility and commitment, Jimmie comes up with several harebrained schemes to stop Mr. Shibe while staying constantly watchful of the Polinski brothers, frightening neighborhood bullies (Rule No. 19). Lola abets him in his schemes, but when the dangers seem to outweigh any benefits, their friendship is nearly destroyed. Barr carefully constructs a well-paced adventure, involving some real events in a very specific time and place, while making Jimmie’s worries about negotiating that world completely accessible to modern readers. All the characters, assumed white, are well-developed, even the real Connie Mack and Jimmie Foxx. Quotes from the 1934 Sporting News that head many chapters further illuminate the actual events. The wall gets built, but friendship endures. Life lessons, baseball, and good friends; it’s all here. (author’s note, photographs, resources) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Jennifer Robin Barr is the author of two how-to books for adults. Goodbye, Mr. Spalding is her debut middle-grade novel. She is drawn to writing about little-known nuggets of history. She lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Her website is jenniferrobinbarr.com.

Around the Web

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding on Amazon

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding on Barnes and Noble

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding on Goodreads

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding Publisher Page

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Women Talking by Miriam Toews. April 2, 2019. Bloomsbury Publishing, 216 p. ISBN: 9781635572582.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.

While the men of the colony are off in the city, attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists and bring them home, these women―all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their community and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in―have very little time to make a choice: Should they stay in the only world they’ve ever known or should they dare to escape?

Based on real events and told through the “minutes” of the women’s all-female symposium, Toews’s masterful novel uses wry, politically engaged humor to relate this tale of women claiming their own power to decide.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Rape and statutory rape, Sexual assault, Strong language, Suicide, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
They have to meet in secret, and time is tight. They are grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and daughters in the Molotschna Colony, a Mennonite community in an unnamed, Spanish-speaking country. These girls and women have been attacked and raped. The bishop declared it the work of “ghosts and demons” and suggested that the women were being punished for their sins. Or perhaps they’d just imagined it, injuries notwithstanding. But the truth has finally emerged: the rapists are colony men. Husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons who snuck into the women’s rooms at night, drugged them with an animal anesthetic, and beat and raped them, even assaulting a three-year-old girl. The women are traumatized and afflicted by a sexually transmitted disease (there’s no medicine to treat it), forced pregnancies, and the suicide of one rape victim’s mother. Some men are in jail; others are in town raising their bail. The women have been given an ultimatum: forgive the rapists and go to heaven, or forfeit salvation and leave the colony, the only world they know. Eight courageous women gather clandestinely in a hayloft to decide their future. Canadian author Toews, whose six previous best-selling novels include All My Puny Sorrows (2014), grew up in a Mennonite community, and Mennonite life permeates her fiction. This sharp blade of a novel was inspired by actual events in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia. Although their way of life, with horses and buggies, creates the ambience of several centuries past, the assaults took place between 2005 and 2009, making them all the more appalling. Toews’ eviscerating fictionalization of this incendiary reality focuses not on the violence but, rather, on the keen, subversive intelligence of the Mennonite women, their philosophical casts of mind, clashing personalities, and deep concerns about family and faith. Toews’ choice of narrator is also counterintuitive. August Epp is the colony’s schoolteacher. The son of progressive, excommunicated parents, he has returned after a rather disastrous stay in London because of his love for Ona, one of the brave rebels meeting in the hayloft to discuss their options. While the colony’s men mock August as effeminate, the women trust him so much they’ve asked him to take minutes so that there will be a record of their debate. The women’s predicament is complicated by the fact that they speak Plautdietsch, a medieval language now only known to Mennonites, and they cannot read or write. But they are incisive, eloquent, passionate, and caustically funny. August can hardly keep up with their nuanced yet rapidly deployed arguments, insults, jokes, stories, and analyses of the possible consequences of their difficult choices. Temperamental and generational differences emerge, as do degrees of fury, pain, and determination. The women talk, one man listens, and readers read wide-eyed as Toews’ dissenters confront the fact that they don’t actually know what’s in the Bible, only what the men tell them it says. Still, they fully intend to remain true to their faith, unlike the men, including the sect’s vow of pacifism. And one of their priorities going forward is securing the freedom to think. Toews’ knowing wit and grasp of dire subjects aligns her with Margaret Atwood, while her novel’s slicing concision and nearly Socratic dialogue has the impact of a courtroom drama or a Greek tragedy, which brings to mind Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling (2011). Novels loosely linked thematically include The Break (2018), by Katherena Vermette; Haven’s Wake, by Ladette Randolph (2013); Prayers for the Stolen (2014), by Jennifer Clement; and In the Kingdom of Men​ (2012), by Kim Barnes, whose memoirs address an isolating Pentecostal upbringing. ​“Women talking” has always been potentially revolutionary. Women are now speaking out …

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2019)
An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014). The Molotschna Colony is a fundamentalist Mennonite community in South America. For a period of years, almost all the women and girls have awakened to find themselves bloodied and bruised, with no memories of what might have happened in the night. At first, they assumed that, in their weakness, they were attracting demons to their beds. Then they learn that, in fact, they have been drugged and raped repeatedly by men of the colony. It’s only when one woman, Salome, attacks the accused that outside authorities are called—for the men’s protection. While the rest of the men are away in the city, arranging for bail, a group of women gather to decide how they will live after this monstrous betrayal. The title means what it says: This novel is an account of two days of discussion, and it is riveting and revelatory. The cast of characters is small, confined to two families, but it includes teenage girls and grandmothers and an assortment of women in between. The youngest form an almost indistinguishable dyad, but the others emerge from the formlessness their culture tries to enforce through behavior, dress, and hairstyle as real and vividly compelling characters. Shocked by the abuse they have endured at the hands of the men to whom they are supposed to entrust not only their bodies, but also their souls, these women embark on a conversation that encompasses all the big questions of Christian theology and Western philosophy—a ladies-only Council of Nicea, Plato’s Symposium with instant coffee instead of wine. This surely is not the first time that these women are thinking for themselves, but it might be the first time they are questioning the male-dominated system that endangered them and their children, and it is clearly the first time they are working through the practical ramifications of what they know and what they truly believe. It’s true that the narrator is a man, but that’s of necessity. These women are illiterate and therefore incapable of recording their thoughts without his sympathetic assistance. Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

About the Author

Miriam Toews is the author of six previous bestselling novels, All My Puny SorrowsSummer of My Amazing LuckA Boy of Good BreedingA Complicated KindnessThe Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of nonfiction, Swing Low: A Life. She is winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award. She lives in Toronto.

Around the Web

Women Talking on Amazon

Women Talking on Barnes and Noble

Women Talking on Goodreads

Women Talking on LibraryThing

Women Talking Publisher Page

Isla de Leones (Lion Island) by Margarita Engle

Isla de Leones (Lion Island) by Margarita Engle. February 26, 2019. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9781534446472.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

The Spanish translation of this “beautifully written, thought provoking” (School Library Journal, starred review) novel in verse by Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle, which tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who becomes a champion for civil rights.

Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and near-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields.

So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined to prove that violence is not the only way to gain liberty.

Asia, África, Europa: los ancestros de Antonio chocaron y se mezclaron en la hermosa isla de Cuba. El país lucha por independizarse de España. Los esclavos africanos y los chinos bajo servidumbre por endeudamiento son forzados a trabajar largas horas, rompiéndose el lomo en los campos de cultivo.

Por eso Antonio se siente afortunado de haber conseguido trabajo como mensajero, haciendo que su rica mezcla cultural sea una ventaja. A traves de su trabajo conoce a Wing, un joven chino vendedor de frutas que escapó a duras penas de las revueltas contra los asiáticos en California, y su hermana Fan, una talentosa cantante. Con la injusticia rodeándolos por todas partes, los tres amigos han decidido que en estos tiempos de rebelión violenta y esclavitud, las armas no han de ser el único modo de ganar la libertad.

Perturbadora, a la vez que hermosa, esta es la historia de un muchacho que se convirtió en campeón de los derechos civiles de quienes no podían hablar por sí mismos.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Violence

 

About the Author

Margarita Engle is the national Young People’s Poet Laureate, and the first Latino to receive that honor. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN Literary Award for Young Adult Literature winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among others. Her picture book Drum Dream Girl received the Charlotte Zolotow Award. Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives. She continues to visit Cuba as often as she can.

Her website is www.margaritaengle.com/

Around the Web

Isla de Leones on Amazon

Isla de Leones on Barnes and Noble

Isla de Leones on Goodreads

Isla de Leones on LibraryThing

Isla de Leones Publisher Page

Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle

Soaring Earth: A Companion Memoir to Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle. February 26, 2019. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 192 p. ISBN: 9781534429536.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1190.

In this powerful companion to her award-winning memoir Enchanted Air, Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle recounts her teenage years during the turbulent 1960s.

Margarita Engle’s childhood straddled two worlds: the lush, welcoming island of Cuba and the lonely, dream-soaked reality of Los Angeles. But the revolution has transformed Cuba into a mystery of impossibility, no longer reachable in real life. Margarita longs to travel the world, yet before she can become independent, she’ll have to start high school.

Then the shock waves of war reach America, rippling Margarita’s plans in their wake. Cast into uncertainty, she must grapple with the philosophies of peace, civil rights, freedom of expression, and environmental protection. Despite overwhelming circumstances, she finds solace and empowerment through her education. Amid the challenges of adolescence and a world steeped in conflict, Margarita finds hope beyond the struggle, and love in the most unexpected of places.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Harsh realities of war, Marijuana, Mild sexual themes, Racial insensitivity

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Engle chronicles her high school, college, and post-college years—turbulent times for her, for the country, and for the world. She dreams of traveling to India, a place she imagines to be as enchanted as Cuba, where she can no longer visit due to the Cold War crisis. The poems in this memoir are terse, filled with the bleak imaginings of a teenager seeking emotional resonance. Despite the temporal difference, contemporary youth will find parallels with Engle as she seeks connection with a peer group, a close friend, or a lover—someone with whom she can make sense of her context. This companion to her award-winning Enchanted Air (2015) packs a historical wallop with references to Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Second Wave Feminism, Watergate, Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia, and more. Engle lets all of this consume her, and she drifts for a while, living precariously. The memoir ends on a positive note, as she finds her place with nature, poetry, and a life partner.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2019)
Young People’s Poet Laureate Engle (A Dog Named Haku, 2018, etc.) explores her tumultuous teenage and early adult years during the equally turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s. This companion memoir to her award-winning Enchanted Air (2015) is written mostly in free verse with a spot of haiku and tanka. This is a lonely dreamer’s tale of a wayward yet resourceful young woman who zigzags to self-discovery amid the Vietnam War, Delano grape strike, moon landing, and other key historical events. Dreaming of travel to far-off lands but without the financial resources to do so, she embarks on a formal and informal educational journey that takes her from Los Angeles to Berkeley, Haight-Ashbury, New York City, and back west again. With Spanish interspersed throughout, Engle speaks truthfully about the judgment she has faced from those who idealized Castro’s Cuba and the struggle to keep her Spanish alive after being cut off from her beloved mother’s homeland due to the Cold War. Employing variations in line breaks, word layout, and font size effectively, Engle’s pithy verses together read as a cohesive narrative that exudes honesty and bravery. While younger readers may not recognize some of the cultural references, themes of dating, drugs, and difficulty in college will resonate widely. Finding one’s path is not a linear process; thankfully Engle has the courage to offer herself as an example. Hopeful, necessary, and true. (author’s note) (Poetry/memoir. 13-adult)

About the Author

Margarita Engle is the national Young People’s Poet Laureate, and the first Latino to receive that honor. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN Literary Award for Young Adult Literature winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among others. Her picture book Drum Dream Girl received the Charlotte Zolotow Award. Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives. She continues to visit Cuba as often as she can.

Her website is www.margaritaengle.com/

Teacher Resources

Soaring Earth on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Soaring Earth on Amazon

Soaring Earth on Barnes and Noble

Soaring Earth on Goodreads

Soaring Earth on LibraryThing

Soaring Earth Publisher Page

Barely Missing Everything by Matt Méndez

Barely Missing Everything by Matt Méndez. MArch 5, 2019. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781534404458.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

In the tradition of Jason Reynolds and Matt de la Peña, this heartbreaking, no-holds-barred debut novel told from three points of view explores how difficult it is to make it in life when you–your life, brown lives–don’t matter.

Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself–or at least find something better than his mom Fabi’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends, and a dead dad. Basketball is going to be his ticket out, his ticket up. He just needs to make it happen.

His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion–what else could he need?

Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore. When you get pregnant at sixteen and have been stuck bartending to make ends meet for the past seventeen years, you realize plans don’t always pan out, and that there some things you just can’t plan for…

Like Juan’s run-in with the police, like a sprained ankle, and a tanking math grade that will likely ruin his chance at a scholarship. Like JD causing the implosion of his family. Like letters from a man named Mando on death row. Like finding out this man could be the father your mother said was dead.

Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a Thelma and Louise­-like road trip to visit Mando. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Abortion, Drugs, Marijuana, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Strong language, Underage drinking, Drunk driving, Police violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 10-12. Mendez’s gut-wrenching YA debut follows three narrators—Juan, JD, and Fabi—who are struggling to get by in El Paso, Texas. They each have a goal: Juan’s best shot at college is a basketball scholarship, JD dreams of becoming a filmmaker, and Fabi, Juan’s mother, just wants to make ends meet despite an unexpected pregnancy. But, as they know too well, the world is unforgiving, and troubles like sprained ankles, broken families, and lost jobs are heaped upon them. They begin to doubt if any of their hopes and dreams will ever come true, or if the lives of three brown people matter to anyone besides themselves. Mendez minces no words as he presents issues that are all too real for many Latin American communities. Although the characters are sometimes frustrating, Mendez’s attention to raw detail in plot and diction is both painful and illuminating. With its shades of social justice, this will appeal to readers of Matt de la Peña and Jason Reynolds.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2019)
Born on the poor side of El Paso, Juan and JD fight for their dreams, knowing the odds are stacked against them. Mendez (Twitching Heart, 2012) tells the touching story of two teenage buddies, their troubled families, and the injustices they endure as a result of being poor and brown. Juan wants to play college basketball. JD wants to be a filmmaker. But following a single bad decision at a party in a wealthy neighborhood, their dreams begin to fall like dominoes. In a setting of police profiling and violent streets, it becomes obvious that the pain in this community is intergenerational. The boys must cope with parental secrets—Juan’s mother never told him who his father is, and JD’s father makes him an accomplice in a dishonest affair. As they seek answers, readers see that the future is a tidal wave pushing them to the brink even as they act with courage and good intentions. Studying, working hard on the court, impressing coaches and teachers, the teens come to understand that the world has labeled them failures no matter how hard they try. In this novel with a deep sense of place and realistic dialogue, characters who are vivid and fallible add deep psychological meaning to a heart-wrenching story. At once accessible and artful, this is an important book about Mexican teens holding onto hope and friendship in the midst of alcoholism, poverty, prejudice, and despair. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Like his characters, Matt Mendez grew up in central El Paso, Texas. He is the author of Barely Missing Everything, his YA debut novel, and the short story collection Twitching Heart. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona.

Her website is mattmendez.com

Teacher Resources

Barely Missing Everything on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Barely Missing Everything on Amazon

Barely Missing Everything on Barnes and Noble

Barely Missing Everything on Goodreads

Barely Missing Everything on LibraryThing

Barely Missing Everything Publisher Page

The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco

The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco. March 5, 2019. Sourcebooks Fire, 449 p. ISBN: 9781492660606.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The epic finale to The Bone Witch series! As Tea’s dark magic eats away at her, she must save the one she loves most, even while her life―and the kingdoms―are on the brink of destruction.

In the Eight Kingdoms, none have greater strength or influence than the asha, who hold elemental magic. But only a bone witch has the power to raise the dead. Tea has used this dark magic to breathe life into those she has loved and lost…and those who would join her army against the deceitful royals. But Tea’s quest to conjure a shadowglass, to achieve immortality for the one person she loves most in the world, threatens to consume her.

Tea’s heartsglass only grows darker with each new betrayal. Her work with the monstrous azi, her thirst for retribution, her desire to unmask the Faceless―they all feed the darkrot that is gradually consuming her heartsglass. She is haunted by blackouts and strange visions, and when she wakes with blood on her hands, Tea must answer to a power greater than the elder asha or even her conscience. Tea’s life―and the fate of the kingdoms―hangs in the balance.

Sequel to: The Heart Forger

Part of series: The Bone Witch (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Chupeco brings her Bone Witch trilogy to a bittersweet close in this final volume of dark asha Tea’s saga. It begins in medias res with characters previously loyal to Tea now turned against her and Tea’s whereabouts unknown. These scenes, filled with confusion and anger, are juxtaposed with letters Tea sends to her bard, detailing her activities and revelations since leaving him behind. Thus, readers bounce back and forth in time, growing ever nearer to the “present” moment while cobbling together her story. Tea’s desire to expose corruption within asha society drives her as much as her determination to create a shadow glass for the sake of saving her brother, Fox. Her dual quests take her to various kingdoms, but her increasingly dangerous, unpredictable behavior fractures her supporters. Chupeco really digs into asha mythology here, challenging characters’ beliefs—none more than Tea’s. While this builds tension and further enriches the world, it decidedly slows the story’s action. Nevertheless, it remains required reading for fans of the first two novels, whose many questions will finally be answered.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
Tea prepares to make the greatest sacrifice in this impassioned finale to the Bone Witch series. In the present, Fox angrily searches for his bone witch sister, Tea, who will stop at nothing to save him from the half-life he has been living since she raised him from the dead. In the past, Tea is on a quest for First Harvest, the magical plant she needs to revive her brother, which she can only use after acquiring shadowglass. Conjuring shadowglass requires a black heart, and Tea’s darkens as she continues to wield dark magic to achieve her goals. More and more lose faith in her when she becomes plagued with haunting visions and, in her sleep, kills an innocent with her own hands. But someone is using a blight rune to transform people into terrifying daevalike monsters, and it may very well be the same traitor in Tea’s inner circle who has been poisoning her. Though the storylines never truly converge, readers gain insight into Tea’s destructive choices and their aftereffects. Exhaustive explanations of asha history are important to the plot but weighty. Transgender Likh’s exploration of her identity honestly complements Tea’s own journey toward self-discovery, and readers will root for both their romances. Characters have a variety of skin tones, but race is not significant in this world. A worthy conclusion to a story that is, at its core, about love and letting go. (maps, kingdom guide) (Fantasy. 13-adult)

About the Author

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband.

Her website is www.rinchupeco.com.

 

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Trail of Crumbs by Lisa J. Lawrence

Trail of Crumbs by Lisa J. Lawrence. March 26, 2019. Orca Book Publishers, 256 p. ISBN: 9781459821217.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 650.

After moving into a dank and drafty basement suite in West Edmonton with her truck- driving father, nasty stepmother and taciturn twin brother, Ash, seventeen-year-old Greta doesn’t have high expectations for her last year of high school. When she blacks out at a party and is told the next day that she’s had sex, she thinks things can’t get any worse. She’s wrong.

While Greta deals with the confusion and shame of that night, her stepmother and father choose that moment to disappear, abandoning Ash and Greta to the mercy of their peculiar landlord, Elgin, who lives upstairs. Even as Greta struggles to make sense of what happened to her, she finds herself enjoying her new and very eccentric family, who provide the shelter and support that has long been absent from her life. Much to Greta’s surprise, she realizes there is still kindness in the world—and hope.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Marijuana, Mild language, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Sexual assault

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Greta, 17, is already trying to deal with a recent trauma—date rape—on her own, when her father and stepmother abandon her and her twin brother, Ash, in their basement apartment. Now she has to deal with her troubles internally while externally trying to survive. Unexpected help arrives in the form of their elderly and eccentric landlord, Elgin; his tough-talking daughter, Alice; and Nate, a classmate who lives across the street. Greta and Ash eke out their existence and continue with school, a form of torture for Greta as she tries to avoid her former “in group” friends. Finally, the threads come together in an affirming resolution. Lawrence’s novel is a subtle riff on Hansel and Gretel: abandonment by parents; hope represented by a trail of crumbs to lead her out of the labyrinth of her trauma; and the cabin where the date rape occurs is like the gingerbread house, promising on the outside but concealing a threat. With realistic and appealing characters and a delicately constructed plot, this is a well-told story of strength, grace, and growth.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2019)
Fire up your Coleman lanterns: Greta needs all the light and warmth she can get in this story of abandonment, poverty, and sexual assault. Greta and her twin, Ash, have every element of a tragic life: a very wicked stepmother, a spineless and pathetic father, and being abandoned in the middle of a brutal Edmonton winter with no heat except from an oven, no food, and no rent money. As if that wasn’t enough, Greta is also suffering following a sexual assault and the subsequent ostracism and bullying by the cool kids at her high school. The cast of supporting characters in Greta’s story have enough emotional issues to keep a team of psychologists working around the clock: Greta’s withdrawn brother, an elderly, track-shorts–wearing landlord, his estranged tough-talking daughter, and a lonely neighbor kid. Greta longs to re-create a family that has only been a memory for years but still possesses enough grit to get some sense of closure and justice from those who harmed her. Nothing is candy-coated: The writing includes the blunt language one would expect in this treatment of the very important topics of sexual assault and victim blaming that will resonate with and inform readers. Main characters present as white, but names suggest some diversity among Greta’s classmates. Lawrence (Rodent, 2016) has an admirable relationship with the written word, and after many chapters of sharp edges and dark corners, readers will discover reason for hope. (afterword) (Fiction. 14-19)

About the Author

Lisa J. Lawrence grew up as a free-range kid in small towns in British Columbia and Alberta. She currently works as a writer and Spanish teacher in Edmonton, Alberta, where she lives with her husband and three children. Her first novel, Rodent, was nominated for numerous awards.

 

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The Same Blood by M. Azmitia

The Same Blood by M. Azmitia. August 1, 2018. West 44 Books, 200 p. ISBN: 9781538382523.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 620.

Twin sisters Elena and Marianella couldn’t be more different. Marianella goes out of her way to actively participate in their Puerto Rican culture, whereas Elena is embarrassed by their traditions. Marianella is also fighting a very private battle with mental illness, and takes her own life not long after their fifteenth birthday. As Elena mourns her sister, she tries to live her life without the limitations and rules Marianella set for her. When her life spirals out of control, Elena realizes the depth of her roots and the guilt of not helping her sister before it was too late.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Racism, Suicide, Underage drinking, Underage smoking

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
Puerto Rican teen Elena grapples with guilt about her twin sister Mel’s suicide in this novel in verse for reluctant teen readers. Elena doesn’t connect to her Puerto Rican identity: She straightens her hair to fit in and (while ashamed of herself for not speaking up) never defends her culture from white peers’ mockery. Conversely, Mel always wears her natural curls and revels in their heritage. By 11, Elena notices that, “The nervous feelings / came to [Mel] more often.” Six months after their quinceañera, Mel dies by suicide. Elena’s haunted—she knew Mel was suffering but didn’t do anything. Their parents hadn’t helped Mel either: Their “Papi had no patience / for her,” and Mami “told her to pray.” Evocative poems—all narrated from Elena’s perspective—connect readers to her overwhelming guilt and shame, which quickly lead to reckless drinking. Elena’s arrested for drunken driving and subsequently sent to rehab, which turns out not to be a safe space—the only other brown-skinned person is the groundskeeper and an aggressive, racial slur–slinging white boy shows up. Unfortunately, the seriousness of the lack of safe spaces for people of color to deal with mental issues isn’t fully explored, and the book ends rather abruptly. An examination of Latinx identity, family bonds, mental health, suicide, grief, and guilt that will hopefully spark much-needed dialogue. Necessary. (Verse novel. 14-18)

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