Category Archives: February 2017

The World Cup by Matt Doeden

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes by Matt Doeden. January 1, 2016. Millbrook Press, 64 p. ISBN: 9781512427530.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.0; Lexile: 1030.

After the Civil War (1861-1865), the earliest seeds of professional baseball began to sprout. While racism was rampant, some early teams featured black and white players competing side by side. But by 1900, segregation forced African Americans to form their own teams. Black players traveled around the country on barnstorming tours, taking on all challengers. In 1920, baseball’s Negro leagues started, and for more than three decades, they offered fans a thrilling alternative to Major League Baseball. Explore the riveting history of the Negro leagues, including some of baseball’s greatest (and most unheralded) players, biggest games, and wildest moments.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 5-8. After WWI, the competitive Negro leagues emerged, along with some of the greatest and most entertaining players in baseball history. This informative volume offers a thoughtful introduction to the players, teams, and leagues, which were formed in response to the segregation of professional baseball in the U.S. during the late 1800s. From the Spectacular Sports series, which includes Doeden’s The World Series (2014) and The College Football Championship (2015), the book has a large, square format that offers ample space for text and sidebars as well as archival photos of teams, players, and managers. Presenting a concise and very readable history of the Negro leagues, Doeden’s account is particularly strong in placing events within the broader social context of racial intolerance, segregation, and gradual integration, and his chapter on legendary players is not to be missed. The many well-chosen quotes are sourced in the back matter, which also includes a short list of books for further reading. This well-researched book will be a worthwhile addition to any baseball collection.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A broad survey of African-Americans in baseball, from the end of the Civil War to the era of Jackie Robinson and the last of the barnstormers.Though far from “unsung” considering Kadir Nelson’s soaring We Are the Ship (2008) and the plethora of both general histories and individual biographies available, black players from Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson to less-prominent ground breakers such as Moses Fleetwood Walker, Rube Foster, and Toni Stone certainly merit another tip of the cap. Unlike Nelson, Doeden doesn’t pull readers out onto the field of dreams. Instead, mixing in notable games and spotlight player profiles, plus plenty of team and individual photos, Doeden offers a fluent if standard-issue chronicle of the rises and falls of significant Negro Leagues and independent teams in the wake of professional baseball’s exclusion of African-Americans. (Other minorities get no more than a few references and an intriguing group portrait of a diverse “All Nations” team from around 1915.) Also, in a closing “Legacy” chapter, he brings his account up to the present by analyzing, albeit in a superficial way, the modern decline in the percentage of African-Americans in the ranks of the modern major leagues. It’s conventional fare, but it’s systematic and at least a little broader in scope than older titles. (notes, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Matt Doeden was born in southern Minnesota and lived parts of his childhood in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and Madison, Minnesota. He studied journalism at Mankato State University, where he worked at the college newspaper for three years. In his senior year, he served as the paper’s Sports Editor, which put him in charge of the entire sports section, the sports writers, and the photographers. He covered mostly college sports, but also the Minnesota Vikings, who held training camp at MSU.

Teacher Resources

Lesson plans from the Negro Leagues Baseball eMuseum

Around the Web

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on Amazon

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on JLG

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on Goodreads

 

 

Advertisements

Justice Failed by Alton Logan

Justice Failed: How “Legal Ethics” Kept Me in Prison for 26 Years by Alton Logan. October 10, 2017. Counterpoint, 160 p. ISBN: 9781619029927.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Having no choice but to protect their own client—the true murderer—lawyers who could prove Alton Logan’s innocence kept silent for over two decades.

Justice Failed is the story of Alton Logan, an African-American man who served twenty-six years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Shamefully, such false imprisonment isn’t uncommon in America, but what makes this case extraordinary is that his innocence was made known to the attorneys of the true murderer within one month of Logan’s imprisonment.

Written in collaboration with veteran journalist Berl Falbaum,Justice Failed explores the sharp divide that exists between common sense morality—an innocent man should be free—and the rigid ethics of the law which superseded that morality. The actual murderer admitted his guilt to his lawyers, but they, bound by the absolutism of client-attorney privilege, did not take action to free an innocent man. According to ethic codes, they could not. Instead, they signed an affidavit proclaiming Alton Logan’s innocence, and in a move that belongs in a thriller, one of them locked the document in a strong box and kept it beneath his bed, in case they were someday able to assist Logan. It wasn’t until after the true murderer’s death in 2007 that the lawyers came forward with the information that eventually set Logan free.

Throughout, interviews and probing legal exploration give way to Alton Logan himself as he tells his own story; from his childhood in Chicago to the strength required to maintain his innocence while incarcerated, to the devastating impact that the loss of a quarter century has had on his life—he entered prison at 28 years of age, and was released at 55. His story is painful and infuriating, but Justice Failed is not meant to shock, nor is it a plea for pity. Logan and Falbaum lay out the facts, and answer the question “How could this happen?” Very easily, it seems. Through telling his story, Alton Logan and Berl Falbaum seek to change that.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs

 

About the Author

Alton Logan served 26 years of a life sentence in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was formally declared innocent on April 17, 2009. Alton currently lives with his wife, Terry, in Chicago.

 

Around the Web

Justice Failed on Amazon

Justice Failed on Goodreads

Justice Failed on JLG

Justice Failed Publisher Page

Swarm by Scott Westerfield

Swarm by Scott Westerfield. September 27, 2016. Simon Pulse, 464 p. ISBN: 9781481443395.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

They thought they’d already faced their toughest fight. But there’s no relaxing for the reunited Zeroes.

These six teens with unique abilities have taken on bank robbers, drug dealers, and mobsters. Now they’re trying to lay low so they can get their new illegal nightclub off the ground.

But the quiet doesn’t last long when two strangers come to town, bringing with them a whole different kind of crowd-based chaos. And hot on their tails is a crowd-power even more dangerous and sinister.

Up against these new enemies, every Zero is under threat. Mob is crippled by the killing-crowd buzz—is she really evil at her core? Flicker is forced to watch the worst things a crowd can do. Crash’s conscience—and her heart—get a workout. Anon and Scam must both put family loyalties on the line for the sake of survival. And Bellwether’s glorious-leader mojo deserts him.

Who’s left to lead the Zeroes into battle against a new, murderous army?

Sequel to: Zeroes

Part of series: Zeroes

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Online))
Grades 8-11. The Zeroes, a group of six superpowered teen friends, discover that they aren’t the only ones with talent when a new guy, who can meld a crowd into a deadly killing machine, comes to town with murder on his mind. One of the Zeroes, Kelsie, aka Mob, is afraid it’s only a matter of time before she becomes just like this malevolent stranger, but the more immediate issue is how to stop him. In their sequel to Zeroes (2015), Westerfeld, Deborah Biancotti, and Margo Lanagan offer readers a story marked by nonstop action, a little romance, and a few dismemberment scenes. Reading the first book isn’t essential, but helps in instances like knowing that Bellwether is also “Glorious Leader,” since the latter becomes his moniker in the second book. This is standard but solidly written teen-superhero fare, although the final chapters stand apart for their moving treatment of the forgotten Zero, Anon, and for the cliff-hanger ending that will make trilogy fans itch for the third book.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2016)
After the disastrous events of Zeroes (rev. 11/15), the diverse team of supernaturally gifted teens has set up the aptly named Petri Dish, a nightclub/social experiment where they can test and eventually master their powers in relative safety. It’s the perfect place, since many of the Zeroes’ abilities — such as leader Nate’s influence on the emotions of a crowd — depend upon connecting energetically to a large group of people. Perfect, that is, until two superpowered strangers wreak havoc at the Dish with their own crowd-manipulating abilities. Wanting to prevent any more chaos, the Zeroes track down the strangers, only to learn of a much bigger threat. Now that readers know the main players, their powers, and their abilities’ pitfalls, this second volume accelerates the pace and ups the stakes of the first book. Lots of action sequences, including a handful of truly scary scenes that would be right at home in a zombie flick, add to the suspense. (Spoiler: you really don’t want to encounter a “swarm.”) But it’s not nonstop near-escapes and explosions. The authors develop the teens’ platonic and romantic interpersonal dynamics (including one blossoming same-sex relationship), and it’s these connections that both endanger the Zeroes and, ultimately, save them. A cliffhanger ending will leave fans eagerly awaiting the Zeroes’ next adventure.

About the Author

Scott Westerfeld is a New York Times bestselling author of YA. He was born in the Texas and now lives in Sydney and New York City. In 2001, Westerfeld married fellow author Justine Larbalestier.

His website is www.scottwesterfield.com.

Around the Web

Swarm  on Amazon

Swarm on JLG

Swarm on Goodreads

 

Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin. January 17, 2017. Roaring Brook Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9781596439542.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8.

Jim Thorpe: Super athlete, Olympic gold medalist, Native American
Pop Warner: Indomitable coach, football mastermind, Ivy League grad

Before these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. Called “the team that invented football,” they took on the best opponents of their day, defeating much more privileged schools such as Harvard and the Army in a series of breathtakingly close calls, genius plays, and bone-crushing hard work.

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team is an astonishing underdog sports story―and more. It’s an unflinching look at the U.S. government’s violent persecution of Native Americans and the school that was designed to erase Indian cultures. Expertly told by three-time National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin, it’s the story of a group of young men who came together at that school, the overwhelming obstacles they faced both on and off the field, and their absolute refusal to accept defeat.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-9. Though arguably best remembered as a supremely gifted track-and-field star, Native American Jim Thorpe was also a preternaturally gifted football player, as the award-winning Sheinkin demonstrates in this biography of the sports phenomenon. Sharing the stage is Pop Warner, the man who would ultimately become his coach at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The first part of the book is devoted to biographical material about Thorpe and Warner and colorful contextual information about Carlisle, its football team, and the state of the sport at the time (i.e., the early years of the twentieth century). With that established, the book hits its stride as Thorpe arrives at Carlisle and meets Warner. The result is history. Though never a good or willing student, Thorpe—between his prowess on the football field and his triumphs at the 1912 Olympics—became, as Sheinkin ­succinctly puts it, “the best athlete on the planet.” He evidences this with stirring accounts of Thorpe’s games, especially his white-knuckle coverage of a symbolically important 1912 matchup with Army. But even better are the psychological insights he offers into Thorpe’s character. Containing a generous collection of black-and-white period photographs, this is a model of research and documentation, as well as of stylish writing that tells an always absorbing story

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
Young readers of this biography may be surprised that Jim Thorpe, an athlete they may never have heard of, was once considered “the best athlete on the planet.” Most students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania were shocked by the treatment they received under superintendent Richard Henry Pratt, who believed white American culture was superior and to “help” his students meant to “kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” New students were given new names, new clothes, and haircuts and were allowed to speak English only. It was a harsh, alien world, and only a small percentage of students ever graduated. The child of a Sac and Fox/Irish father and Potawatomi/French-Canadian mother, Jim Thorpe grew up in a mix of white and Indian culture and was better prepared than many when he entered Carlisle at the age of 15. Sheinkin weaves complicated threads of history—the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the story of Carlisle, the early days of football, and the dual biographies of Thorpe and his coach Pop Warner—with the narrative skills of a gifted storyteller who never forgets the story in history. He is unflinchingly honest in pointing out the racism in white American culture at large and in football culture, including headlines in the newspapers (“INDIANS OUT TO SCALP THE CADETS”), preferential officiating, and war whoops from the stands. Sheinkin easily draws a parallel in the persisting racism in the names of current football teams, such as the Braves and Redskins, bringing the story directly to modern readers. Superb nonfiction that will entertain as it informs. (source notes, works cited, acknowledgments, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-16)

About the Author

A former textbook writer, Steve Sheinkin is now making amends by writing history books that kids and teens actually want to read. His award-winning, non-fiction thrillers include Bomb, The Port Chicago 50, Most Dangerous, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. His newest book, Undefeated, tells the story of the astonishing rise of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team. Steve lives with his family in Saratoga Springs, NY.

His website is www.stevesheinkin.com

Teacher Resources

Indian Boarding Schools Resources

Around the Web

Undefeated on Amazon

Undefeated on JLG

Undefeated on Goodreads

 

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler. January 10, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 240 p. ISBN: 9781419709470.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Octavia E. Butler’s bestselling literary science-fiction masterpiece, Kindred, now in graphic novel format.

More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. Adapted by celebrated academics and comics artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century.

Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.

Held up as an essential work in feminist, science-fiction, and fantasy genres, and a cornerstone of the Afrofuturism movement, there are over 500,000 copies of Kindred in print. The intersectionality of race, history, and the treatment of women addressed within the original work remain critical topics in contemporary dialogue, both in the classroom and in the public sphere.

Frightening, compelling, and richly imagined, Kindred offers an unflinching look at our complicated social history, transformed by the graphic novel format into a visually stunning work for a new generation of readers.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Racial taunts; Discrimination; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Sexual assault

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
The grande dame of sci-fi’s 1979 novel is still widely, deservedly popular, and this graphic adaptation will lure in even more readers. Dana is a 1970s black woman repeatedly and involuntarily whisked back in time to a nineteenth-century plantation, where she becomes embroiled in the lives of the people enslaved there, risking everything by educating their children, even as she forms an uneasy and dangerous relationship with her own white ancestor. This adoring adaptation is dense enough to fully immerse readers in the perspective of a modern woman plunged into the thick of a culture where people are dehumanized by the act of dehumanizing others. It also preserves the vivid characterizations of the time traveler, her husband, and the enslaved people and the slaveholders, making the fantastical device that sets the story in motion a springboard for deeply humane insights. The heavily shaded, thick-lined, and rough-edged art lends a grimness appropriate to a life of jagged brutality and fearful uncertainty. Both a rewarding way to reexperience the tale and an accessible way to discover it.

Publishers Weekly (November 7, 2016)
Dana, an African-American woman in the 1970s, is thrust backward in time to a 19th-century Maryland plantation. Over many visits to the past, she realizes that the spoiled son of the plantation owner is her ancestor, destined to father children with a slave, and she must protect his life to ensure her own existence. Butler’s celebrated 1979 novel, here adapted into a graphic novel, starts with a gripping idea and builds skillfully, as both Dana and her white husband in the present are warped by slavery and become complicit in its evil. This graphic novel recaps the classic source material faithfully without adding much to justify the adaptation, although it may find some new readers. The blocky artwork lacks the subtlety to evoke the complexity of the novel or the vividness of its historical settings (in addition to the antebellum South, the adaptation preserves the 1970s setting of the “present-day” sections). It’s an effective recap, clearly produced with great love and respect, but the book remains the gold standard. (Jan.)

About the Author

Octavia Estelle Butler (1947–2006), often referred to as the “grand dame of science fiction,” was born in Pasadena, California, on June 22, 1947. She received an Associate of Arts degree in 1968 from Pasadena City College, and also attended California State University in Los Angeles and the University of California, Los Angeles. Butler was the first science-fiction writer to win a MacArthur Fellowship (“genius” grant). She won the PEN Lifetime Achievement Award and the Nebula and Hugo Awards, among others.

Her website is www.octaviabutler.org.

Teacher Resources

Kindred Reader’s Guide

Kindred Discussion Questions

Kindred Book Kit

Around the Web

Kindred on Amazon

Kindred on JLG

Kindred on Goodreads

 

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. September 13, 2016. Harper, 336 p. ISBN: 9780399550492.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Arson; Misuse of over-the-counter drugs

 

Author Interviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
Patchett’s seventh novel (This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, 2013) begins with the opening of a door. Fix Keating expected all the guests, including many fellow cops, who are crowded into his modest Los Angeles home to celebrate his younger daughter Franny’s christening, but why is deputy district attorney Bert Cousins, a near-stranger, standing at the threshold clutching a big bottle of gin? As soon as Bert, married and the father of three, with a fourth on the way, meets Fix’s stunningly beautiful wife, Beverly, the foundations of both households undergo a tectonic shift. As Patchett’s consummately crafted and delectably involving novel unfolds, full measure is subtly taken of the repercussions of the breaking asunder and reassembling of the two families. Anchored in California and Virginia, and slipping gracefully forward in time, the complexly suspenseful plot evolves exponentially as the six kids, thrown into the blender of custody logistics and ignored by the adults, grow close, “like a pack of feral dogs,” leading to a resounding catastrophe. The survivors grow up and improvise intriguingly unconventional lives, including Franny’s involvement with a writer, which raises thorny questions about a novelist’s right to expose family secrets. Indeed, this is Patchett’s most autobiographical novel, a sharply funny, chilling, entrancing, and profoundly affecting look into one family’s “commonwealth,” its shared affinities, conflicts, loss, and love.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2016)
Two families are fused, atomized, and reconfigured by a stolen kiss, a child’s death, and a bestselling novel.In her seventh work of fiction, Patchett (This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, 2013, etc.) turns from the exotic locales and premises of Bel Canto (2001) and State of Wonder (2011) to a subject closer to home: the evolution of an American family over five decades. The story begins on a very hot day in Southern California at a christening party for Beverly and Fix Keating’s second daughter, Franny. A lawyer named Bert Cousins shows up uninvited, carrying a bottle of gin. With its help, the instant infatuation he conceives for his stunning hostess becomes “the start of his life.” After Bert and Beverly marry and move to Virginia, the six newly minted stepsiblings are dragged unhappily into new relationships and settings. On another hot afternoon, one of the children dies from a bee sting–a tragedy compounded by long-kept secrets and lies. Jumping ahead, we find Franny in her late 20s, having an affair with a Saul Bellow-type novelist 32 years her senior. “Other than the difference in their ages, and the fact that he had an estranged wife, and had written a novel about her family which in its final form made her want to retch even though she had found it nothing less than thrilling when he was working on it, Franny and Leo were great.” Since Patchett comes from a blended family with the same outlines as the one in this book, the problems created by Leo’s fictionalized family history, also called Commonwealth, are particularly intriguing. The prose is lean and inviting, but the constant shifts in point of view, the peripatetic chronology, and the ever growing cast of characters will keep you on your toes.A satisfying meat-and-potatoes domestic novel from one of our finest writers.

About the Author

Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles in 1963 and raised in Nashville. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 1990, she won a residential fellowship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars. It was named a New York Times Notable Book for 1992. In 1993, she received a Bunting Fellowship from the Mary Ingrahm Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. Patchett’s second novel, Taft, was awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for the best work of fiction in 1994. Her third novel, The Magician’s Assistant, was short-listed for England’s Orange Prize and earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship.Her next novel, Bel Canto, won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in 2002, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was named the Book Sense Book of the Year. It sold more than a million copies in the United States and has been translated into thirty languages. In 2004, Patchett published Truth & Beauty, a memoir of her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy. It was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Entertainment Weekly. Truth & Beauty was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Alex Award from the American Library Association. She was also the editor of Best American Short Stories 2006. Patchett has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times magazine, Harper’s, The Atlantic,The Washington Post, Gourmet, and Vogue. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Karl VanDevender.

Her website is www.annpatchett.com

Teacher Resources

Commonwealth Reading Group Guide

Commonwealth Discussion Questions

Around the Web

Commonwealth on Amazon

Commonwealth on JLG

Commonwealth on Goodreads

 

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung. September 6, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Reader, 352 p. ISBN: 9780399550492.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

Gilmore Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat in this witty novel about navigating life in private school while remaining true to yourself.

Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.

Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless—everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.

As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh—and to her old life—threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Bullying

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. This Australian author’s beautifully written YA debut follows a lower-middle-class Chinese Australian teen who wins a prestigious scholarship to an exclusive all-girls school and struggles to find herself among the snobby mean girls. In a letter to Linh, the constant friend she’s left behind, 15-year-old Lucy recounts her first year as an “Equal Access” scholarship student at Laurinda Ladies’ College. Once fearlessly outspoken and full of fun, Lucy has become withdrawn and unsure of herself. A small group of rich, spoiled, and casually racist girls, known as the Cabinet, dominates her class and play horrible pranks on students and teachers with impunity. With the help of a male teacher and a popular boy from a nearby private boys school who’s not ashamed of being lower-middle class, Lucy learns to stand up for herself and reject the Cabinet. Lucy’s biting comments about Laurinda and her struggle to reconcile her school and home life in the dilapidated and rundown town of Stanley effectively ring true as she realizes her family’s immigrant life there is precious. The reveal of the truth of her relationship with Linh is seamlessly incorporated into the narrative. Lucy’s struggle to find her place and sense of self will have a wide appeal for teen readers and is a welcome addition to the prep-school canon.

School Library Journal (September 1, 2016)
Gr 8 Up-Life is not easy for Lucy Lam. Her immigrant mother and father work seemingly never-ending hours to make life bearable for her and her young brother in suburban Stanley, Australia. Lucy can’t help but compare herself to her more outgoing friends, especially Linh, who always seems to come out on top with her easy retorts and spunky attitude. When she and her classmates learn of a contest for a full ride scholarship to the most prestigious private school in the area, all the girls try out. To everyone’s surprise, Lucy gets the spot and quickly feels the pressure to assimilate to the glamorous lifestyle of the school. At first, leaving her old life seems like the perfect plan, and she soon loses touch with everyone, including Linh. Will Lucy realize the importance of her past and stay true to herself? Pung revitalizes the popular “mean girls against the new girl” trope in a surprising new way by revealing the difficulty in distinguishing between good and bad in this engaging novel. She deftly creates a story that immerses readers and makes this world relatable. Young adults will root for quirky Lucy and will be checked by a big twist at the end. VERDICT This daring work with an authentic protagonist teaches important lessons about being yourself while navigating through life. A strong purchase that will captivate teens and adults alike.-DeHanza Kwong, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC

About the Author

Alice Pung is an Australian author whose award-winning books span the genres of memoir, non-fiction, anthology, young adult and children’s fiction. Alice’s first book Unpolished Gem won the 2007 Australian Book Industry Award for Newcomer of the Year. Her second book, Her Father’s Daughter, won the 2011 Western Australia Premier’s Literary Award, and her first novel, Laurinda won the 2016 Ethel Turner Prize. Laurinda is published in the United States as Lucy and Linh, and has been a Kirkus-starred book.

Her website is www.alicepung.com.

Teacher Resources

Lucy and Linh (Laurinda) Teaching Notes

Around the Web

Lucy and Linh on Amazon

Lucy and Linh on JLG

Lucy and Linh on Goodreads

 

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. October 4, 2016. A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin’s Griffin, 288 p. ISBN: 9781250058669.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Racial discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Sam and Miel have always been inseparable. Pakistani Samir and his mother moved to town first, painting ornamental moons and carrying secrets, but Miel appeared out of the water tower, with roses growing out of her wrists. As they grow, their friendship deepens into something more; after all, it’s Miel who’s the keeper of Sam’s secret, who realizes he used to be different, and who understands why he is drawn to bacha posh, a Pakistani practice where families without sons allow a daughter to live as a boy. But Sam and Miel have caught the eye of the four Bonner sisters, whom people say are witches, and Miel knows their attention could destroy everything. This is a careful, close look not only at gender identity but at what it is to possess a body—for Sam, of course, but also for Miel (whose roses are viewed with suspicion) and for the almost mythical, red-haired Bonner girls as well. Love, family history, and things unsaid are forces to be reckoned with: Miel’s guardian cures lovesickness, and people believe Miel’s roses cast a love spell. With luminous prose infused with Latino folklore and magical realism, this mixes fairy-tale ingredients with the elegance of a love story, with all of it rooted in a deeply real sense of humanity. Lovely, necessary, and true.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2016)
McLemore (The Weight of Feathers, 2015) mesmerizes once again with a lush narrative set at the thresholds of identity, family, and devotion.No one thinks twice about the friendship between Miel, the Latina teen who fears pumpkins and grows roses from her wrist, and Samir, the Italian-Pakistani boy who hangs his painted moons all around town and brought Miel home when she appeared from inside a water tower as a child. They are linked by their strangeness and bound to each other by their secrets—those that transgender Sam shares about his body and his name and those that Miel keeps about her family and her past. But just as the pair’s bond expands to passion, the Bonner girls, who are rumored to have the power to make anyone fall in love with them, decide that Miel’s roses are the only thing that will repair their weakening influence over others, and the four white sisters will leverage every secret that haunts Miel and that could destroy Sam to get what they want. Luxurious language infused with Spanish phrases, Latin lunar geography, and Pakistani traditions is so rich it lingers on the tongue, and the presence of magic is effortlessly woven into a web of prose that languidly unfolds to reveal the complexities of gender, culture, family, and self. Readers will be ensnared in this ethereal narrative long before they even realize the net has been cast. (Magical realism. 13-17)

About the Author

Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, raised in the same town as the world’s largest wisteria vine, and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award.

Her website is author.annamariemclemore.com.

 

Around the Web

When the Moon Was Ours on Amazon

When the Moon Was Ours on JLG

When the Moon Was Ours on Goodreads

 

Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine

Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine.January 31, 2017. Philomel Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9780399546921.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A father and daughter reconnect after a life spent apart to find their mutual love of art isn’t the only thing they share.

Sixteen-year-old Iris itches constantly for the strike of a match. But when she’s caught setting one too many fires, she’s whisked away to London before she can get arrested—at least that’s the story her mother tells. Mounting debt actually drove them out of LA, and it’s greed that brings them to a home Iris doesn’t recognize, where her millionaire father—a man she’s never met—lives. Though not for much longer.

Iris’s father is dying, and her mother is determined to claim his life’s fortune, including his priceless art collection. Forced to live with him as part of an exploitive scheme, Iris soon realizes her father is far different than the man she’s been schooled to hate, and everything she thought she knew—about her father and herself—is suddenly unclear. There may be hidden beauty in Iris’s uncertain past, and future, if only she can see beyond the flames.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mention of prostitution; Sexual themes

 

Video Book Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Iris is only truly happy when she’s watching fire. She’s certainly not happy spending time with her vain, indifferent mother or her fame-hungry stepdad. And she isn’t pleased to be dragged across the ocean to meet the father who abandoned her—even if he is dying. She quickly learns, however, the stories she was told about her dad might not be the whole truth. Iris and her father bond over a shared knowledge of art (he is an accomplished buyer), forging a connection beyond blood. Valentine (Me, the Missing, and the Dead, 2008) has composed a beautifully written exploration of the longing to know where one comes from, tempered by a fear of rejection. The story authentically captures both Iris’ exhilaration when she’s transfixed by a flame, and her pain and confusion as she forges a relationship with a man about whom she’s never heard a good word. This is a quiet, reflective novel that blooms into a thrilling mystery, and its complex family dynamics will appeal to fans of Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming (2016).

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2016)
In any family, not everything is as it seems, but in Iris’ family, this is a big problem.When white, 16-year-old Iris meets her father for the first time, he is dying. That doesn’t stop her from feeling ambivalent. She has no memories of him and has been told all her life by her mother that he left 12 years ago because he wasn’t interested in being a dad. She doesn’t even want to meet him, but her mother insists because of the potential for a valuable inheritance. Iris has had no experience with positive parenting role models. Her mother and stepfather are usually drunk, broke, or trying desperately to get the big break they refuse to admit isn’t coming. Iris’ best friend, Thurston, left home long ago, so no parents there. When her dad and his story turn out to be completely different from what she’s been told, it’s both confusing and amazing. But how much love can they manage in the time he has left? Valentine writes about family dysfunction, arson, and art with equal levels of beauty and lyricism, creating a vivid landscape of heartache and redemption. The plot dips forward and backward in time with clarity and precision, managing to avoid tripping even in narrative tight corners. A story about an ugly situation that explodes into beauty through cunning and resilience. (Fiction. 13-17)

About the Author

Jenny Valentine moved house every two years when she was growing up. She has just moved house again, probably not for the last time. She worked in a wholefood shop in Primrose Hill for fifteen years where she met many extraordinary people and sold more organic loaves than there are words in her first novel. She has also worked as a teaching assistant and a jewelry maker. She studied English Literature at Goldsmiths College, which almost put her off reading but not quite.

Jenny is married to a singer/songwriter and has two children.

Around the Web

Fire Color One on Amazon

Fire Color One on JLG

Fire Color One on Goodreads

 

Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder

Dust Bowl Girls: A Team’s Quest for Basketball Glory by Lydia Reeder. January 24, 2017. Algonquin Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9781616204662.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

At the height of the Great Depression, Sam Babb, the charismatic basketball coach of tiny Oklahoma Presbyterian College, began dreaming. Like so many others, he wanted a reason to have hope. Traveling from farm to farm, he recruited talented, hardworking young women and offered them a chance at a better life: a free college education if they would come play for his basketball team, the Cardinals.

Despite their fears of leaving home and the sacrifices faced by their families, the women followed Babb and his dream. He shaped the Cardinals into a formidable team, and something extraordinary began to happen: with passion for the game and heartfelt loyalty to one another and their coach, they won every game.

Combining exhilarating sports writing and exceptional storytelling, Dust Bowl Girls conveys the intensity of an improbable journey to an epic showdown with the prevailing national champions, helmed by the legendary Babe Didrikson. And it captures a moment in American sports history when a visionary coach helped his young athletes achieve more than a winning season.

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
One of the more unlikely national champions in U.S. sports history was the 1932 women’s basketball team from tiny, financially strapped Oklahoma Presbyterian College. Coach Sam Babb, who, probably not coincidentally, taught Psychology 101 at the school, masterfully recruited talent, solicited funding for the program, created a culture of unselfish team play, devised unorthodox but effective basketball drills, and instilled in his players the self-assurance they would need in facing public opinion that largely considered basketball “unladylike.” And, more urgently, in facing (three times that season) the reigning national champion Dallas Golden Cyclones, led by legendary sportswoman Babe Didrikson. Author Reeder, Babb’s grandniece, had access to such primary materials as player diaries, which reveal the players’ relationships to one another and their coach, and to a dust-bowl era and region marked by serious hardship.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A former magazine editor tells the story of how, at the height of the Great Depression, her great-uncle trained a group of young women from rural Oklahoma to become college basketball stars.The son of a stern preacher father, Missourian Sam Babb survived a leg amputation in his teenage years to become a successful Oklahoma school superintendent. His career took an unexpected turn in the early 1920s when he decided to become a part-time high school girls basketball coach. By 1929, he had taken a full-time coaching position at Oklahoma Presbyterian College. On a recruiting trip to bring new talent to OPC, Babb discovered a poor farm girl named Doll Harris who, during the 1930-1931 season, would become his “star shot maker” and an All-American player. The team he built that year was good enough to win a sportsmanship trophy at the Amateur Athletic Union national tournament, but Babb believed they could do better. The following year, he recruited other talented girls with promises of scholarships and worked to create a national championship–winning team. With barely enough funding to keep the team going, Babb took his players on a barnstorming tour of the South to raise money. His OPC Cardinals won every game, including one against the reigning champions, the Dallas Golden Cyclones. In the meantime, Harris found herself in direct competition with sports phenomenon Babe Didrikson, the golden girl who knew how to charm fans and “leverage publicity” for her own benefit. As she tells the amazing story of Babb and his underdog women’s basketball team, Reeder also reveals the challenges facing serious female athletes during the 1920s and ’30s, including the perceived risk of “destroying their feminine image by invading a man’s world.” Sports fans and general readers alike are sure to find the story both worthwhile and entertaining. A heartwarmingly inspirational tale.

About the Author

Lydia Ellen Reeder is the grandniece of Sam Babb, the extraordinary basketball coach featured in Dust Bowl Girls. She spent over two years conducting research for the book and also wrote and narrated a short film about the Cardinal basketball team, currently on view at the Oklahoma Historical Society website: youtu.be/fokmbnWmp50. As a former associate editor at Whole Life Times in Los Angeles and Delicious Magazine in Boulder, Colorado, Reeder has worked for many years as a copywriter and editor on behalf of corporate and organizational clients and most recently developed e-learning for a national nursing association. She lives in Denver with her husband and enjoys hiking in the mountains of Colorado.

Dust Bowl Girls is her first book.

Teacher Resources

Dust Bowl Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Dust Bowl Girls on Amazon

Dust Bowl Girls on JLG

Dust Bowl Girls on Goodreads