Tag Archives: family life

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey. April 17, 2018. Swoon Reads, 330 p. ISBN: 9781250145659.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father’s approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother.

Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother’s intended.

But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of “accidents,” it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Gentle and shy Imogene Chively is awaiting the arrival of the Steeple brothers at her family’s home in England, the older of whom, Ernest, she expects to propose to her. Imogene is anxious, however, about accepting the proposal until she gets to know him better. After the brothers’ arrival, Imogene finds herself attracted to the charming younger brother, Ben. As the two become closer, a series of “accidents” occur with Ben as the obvious target, which makes Imogene wonder if someone is trying to harm him. Anstey is back with her third novel set in the Regency period. Engaging details abound as Anstey vividly describes the landscape of the English countryside, the period fashion, and eighteenth-century society. Mystery and romance are delightfully intertwined as Imogene tries to both investigate the incidents and examine her own heart. Taking inspiration from Jane Austen novels, Anstey’s latest is a lighthearted and romantic read.

School Library Journal (March 1, 2018)
Gr 8 Up-Imogene Chively is being courted by Ernest Steeple, the eldest son of a wealthy family-but when Ernest and his younger brother Benjamin come to stay at the Chively estate, it is Ben who captures Imogene’s interest. Ben and Imogene have artistic endeavors in common; Ben wants to be an architect, but lacks artistic skill. Imogene is a talented artist but as a woman in the 1800s, has no clear career path available to her. She agrees to help teach Ben, and it is during those lessons that the two begin to fall for each other. In addition, a series of accidents plague Ben until it becomes obvious that someone is trying to purposefully harm him. This attempt at a Regency romance with a dash of mystery fails to be either romantic or very mysterious. The relationship between Imogene and Ben lacks heat, and the mystery doesn’t start until well into the middle of the book. This cliché-filled narrative about the privileged world of landed gentry doesn’t offer anything new to the genre. VERDICT Not recommended.-Laura -Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, MA

About the Author

Cindy Anstey, author of Love, Lies and Spies and Duels & Deception, spends her days painting with words, flowers, threads, and watercolors. Whenever not sitting at the computer, she can be found―or rather, not found―traveling near and far. After many years living as an expat in Singapore, Memphis, and Belgium, Cindy now resides with her husband and their energetic chocolate labrador, Chester, in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Her website is www.cindyanstey.com

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Suitors and Sabotage on Amazon

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Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. May 8, 2018. Nancy Paulsen Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9780399544682.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.9; Lexile: 600.

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 4-6. Pakistani Amal loves going to school and looks forward to becoming a teacher in the future. She only becomes aware of nuances in gender roles and the lack of opportunities afforded to girls after her father tells her that she must take care of the household while her mother recovers from childbirth. Amal hopes to continue her schooling once her mother is well, but that goal drifts further away when an accidental encounter lands her in a humongous heap of trouble. In order to spare her family from incurring further wrath and unfair consequences, Amal becomes an indentured servant to the odious Khan family. Readers will find that a little perseverance and a heart filled with hope can eventually surmount a harsh reality. Saeed fills her prose with lush descriptions of Pakistani life, while still managing to connect with readers whose surroundings and experiences will be starkly different. Hand to any reader who struggles with definitive gender roles, norms, and expectations held in place by societal structures.

Publishers Weekly (March 12, 2018)
Saeed (Written in the Stars) infuses this true-to-life story of unjust power dynamics in a poor Pakistani village with a palpable sense of dread regarding the fate of the inquisitive, industrious, poetry-loving titular character. Twelve-year-old Amal is troubled by her parents’ obvious distress that her newborn sibling is yet another girl, and she is vexed that her responsibilities as eldest daughter require her to run the household while her mother is bedridden. Amal unleashes her frustration on the wrong person when she talks back to Jawad Sahib, the wealthy landowner, who demands she work off her debt for the insult . Amal’s experience navigating an unfamiliar social hierarchy in the landlord’s lavish estate exposes her to pervasive gender inequities and unfair labor practices, like being charged for room and board but receiving no pay. While her growing indebtedness makes it unlikely she will ever leave, Amal’s ability to read grants her a dangerous opportunity to expose the landlord’s extensive corruption, if she dares. Saeed’s eloquent, suspenseful, eye-opening tale offers a window into the contemporary practice of indentured servitude and makes a compelling case for the power of girls’ education to transform systemic injustice. Ages 10-up

About the Author

Aisha Saeed also wrote Written in the Stars, and is a Pakistani-American writer, teacher, and attorney. She has been featured on MTV, the Huffington Post, NBC and the BBC, and her writings have appeared in publications including the journal ALAN and the Orlando Sentinel. As one of the founding members of the much talked about We Need Diverse Books Campaign, she is helping change the conversation about diverse books. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.

Her website is www.aishasaeed.com

Teacher Resources

Amal Unbound Teacher’s Guide

Around the Web

Amal Unbound on Amazon

Amal Unbound on Goodreads

Amal Unbound Publisher Page

Deep Water: A Story of Survival by Watt Key

Deep Water: A Story of Survival  by Watt Key. April 17, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 p. ISBN: 9780374306540.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 720.

A middle grade survival story about a scuba dive gone wrong and two enemies who must unite to survive.

It’s the most important rule of scuba diving: If you don’t feel right, don’t go down.

So after her father falls ill, twelve-year-old Julie Sims must take over and lead two of his clients on a dive miles off the coast of Alabama while her father stays behind in the boat. When the clients, a reckless boy Julie’s age and his equally foolhardy father, disregard Julie’s instructions during the dive, she quickly realizes she’s in over her head.

And once she surfaces, things only get worse: One of the clients is in serious condition, and their dive boat has vanished–along with Julie’s father, the only person who knows their whereabouts. It’s only a matter of time before they die of hypothermia, unless they become shark bait first. Though Julie may not like her clients, it’s up to her to save them all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-7. When 12-year-old Julie is descending more than 100 feet below the ocean’s surface, all she can think about is how to complete the dive safely—not how miserable her father, owner of a small diving business, has been since her mother left him to move to Atlanta. But when Julie must lead a dive with two reckless clients whose expensive equipment is as untested as they are, she encounters a nightmare more harrowing than any of her problems on land. This scenario closely matches the events of Key’s Terror at Bottle Creek (2016), this time starring a female protagonist. Julie is a tough, smart, and resilient lead, although her narration does not come across as believably 12. Classmate and client Shane is Julie’s forgettable companion for an oceanic ordeal that Key treats with his signature compelling detail and suspense. Readers hungry for an epic tale of grueling odds will also find lessons in bravery, resourcefulness, and practical survival advice. Just try to stop yourself from committing Julie’s shark-repelling strategies to memory.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
Twelve-year-old Julie supervises an important dive for her father’s scuba-diving business, but she soon learns that when you play against Mother Nature it is for keeps.During the school year, Julie lives with her mother in Atlanta, but her summers are spent with her father in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Unfortunately, although her mother’s law career is taking off, her father’s dive business is struggling. When a wealthy businessman and his arrogant son, Shane, demand to see the artificial reef her father owns, the money is just too important to turn down. Her father, a diabetic, decides Julie should run the dive, so when the anchor pulls, leaving the three of them lost at sea, it is up to Julie to do what she can to save them all. But sharks, hypothermia, dehydration, and exposure might prove more than she can handle. Inspired by a diving accident the author himself experienced, this is a gritty look at what can happen when everything goes wrong. Julie is arrogant and fearful, but she’s also strong and quick-thinking. Shane likewise evolves during the ordeal, but it is the beautiful, terrible, and dangerous Mother Nature who steals the show. Julie is depicted as white on the cover, and the book seems to adhere to the white default. A nail-biting survival tale. (Adventure. 10-14)

About the Author

Watt Key received his BA from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. He subsequently earned an MBA from Springhill College in Mobile, AL. While working as a computer programmer, he began submitting novels to major publishers in New York City. When he was 34 years he sold his debut novel, Alabama Moon, to publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Watt currently lives with his wife and three children in Mobile, Alabama.

Her website is www.wattkey.com.

Teacher Resources

Watt Key Common Core Guide

Around the Web

Deep Water on Amazon

Deep Water on Goodreads

Deep Water Publisher Page

La Fosa del Lobo (Wolf Hollow) by Lauren Wolk

La Fosa del Lobo (Wolf Hollow) by Lauren Wolk. May 1, 2018. Loqueleo, 280 p. ISBN: 9786070134272.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Spanish translation of: Wolf Hollow

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying with the intent to do physical harm, Cruelty to animals, Anti-German sentiments during World War II, Frank descriptions of the harsh realities of war, Frank description of an injury, Death

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Eleven-year-old Annabelle is living a relatively idyllic life on her family’s Pennsylvania farm, until its normalcy is interrupted by Betty Glengarry, who has been sent to live with her grandparents because she is “incorrigible.” Betty’s sullen presence quickly upsets the one-room school’s traditional pecking order, and Annabelle and her younger brothers are Betty’s favorite targets—until Annabelle stands up to her. Not to be outdone, Betty shifts her attention to Toby, a strange WWI veteran already saddled with a dubious reputation within the community. Wolk conjures an aura of unease and dread from the first chapter, even as her pastoral setting and Annabelle’s sunny family life seem to suggest that a happy ending is possible. The spare but hauntingly beautiful language paints every early morning walk to school, household chore, emotion, and rational and irrational thought in exquisite detail, while remaining true to Annabelle’s early-adolescent voice. Her craft notwithstanding, Wolk is relentless in her message: lies and secrets, even for the most noble of reasons, have unintended consequences, as Annabelle’s poignant dilemma reminds us long after the last page is turned. Perfectly pitched to be used in classrooms in conjunction with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2016)
Evil comes to rural Pennsylvania in an unlikely guise in this novel of the American homefront during World War II. Twelve-year-old Annabelle’s coming-of-age begins when newcomer Betty Glengarry, newly arrived from the city to stay with her grandparents “because she was incorrigible,” shakes her down for spare change in Wolf Hollow on the way to school. Betty’s crimes quickly escalate into shocking violence, but the adults won’t believe the sweet-looking blonde girl could be responsible and settle their suspicions on Toby, an unkempt World War I veteran who stalks the hills carrying not one, but three guns. Annabelle’s strategies for managing a situation she can’t fully understand are thoroughly, believably childlike, as is her single-minded faith in Betty’s guilt and Toby’s innocence. But her childlike faith implicates her in a dark and dangerous mystery that propels her into the adult world of moral gray spaces. Wolk builds her story deliberately through Annabelle’s past-tense narration in language that makes no compromises but is yet perfectly simple: “Back then, I didn’t know a word to describe Betty properly or what to call the thing that set her apart from the other children in that school.” She realizes her setting with gorgeous immediacy, introducing the culture of this all-white world of hollows, hills, and neighbors with confidence and cleareyed affection. Trusting its readers implicitly with its moral complexity, Wolk’s novel stuns. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as “full of grace and stark, brutal beauty.” She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.
Her website is www.laurenwolk.com

Around the Web

La Fosa del Lobo on Amazon

La Fosa del Lobo on Goodreads

La Fosa del Lobo Publisher Page

The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix. April 10, 2018. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 393 p. ISBN: 9781481417648.  Int Lvl: YA.

Fourteen-year-old Avery Armisted is athletic, rich, and pretty. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Butts is known as “butt-girl” at school. The two girls were friends as little kids, but that’s ancient history now. So it’s a huge surprise when Avery’s father offers to bring Kayla along on a summer trip to Spain. Avery is horrified that her father thinks he can choose her friends—and make her miss soccer camp. Kayla struggles just to imagine leaving the confines of her small town.

But in Spain, the two uncover a secret their families had hidden from both of them their entire lives. Maybe the girls can put aside their differences and work through it together. Or maybe the lies and betrayal will only push them—and their families—farther apart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. When the father of rich, athletic 14-year-old Avery Armisted invites 16-year-old Kayla Butts, an old childhood friend, on their summer trip to Spain, Avery could not be less thrilled. But for Kayla, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, taking her far from her small-town life, where her closest friends are the geriatrics at the nursing home where her dad, an injured veteran, lives. Once in Spain, the girls are rocked by the revelation that 14 years ago, Kayla’s mother was the gestational carrier for Avery when her biological mother couldn’t become pregnant. Short chapters alternate between the girls’ points of view as they reel from the exposure of the long-held family secret. Madrid constitutes a worthy backdrop for this summer of self-discovery and questioning, as Kayla and Avery sort out their own histories amid a growing understanding of the larger world. Despite probing some of the same themes as Robin Benway’s Far from the Tree (2017), Haddix’s story doesn’t carry quite the same emotional heft. Still, it shines a light on surrogacy, a topic rarely discussed in YA fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
For two American teens, a summer trip to Europe turns out to be far more complicated than they ever expected.Avery doesn’t want to go to Spain with her dad—she’ll fall behind in soccer and he’ll just be working all the time. When she finds out that he’s already chosen a “friend” to accompany her—Kayla, an older girl she used to play with as a little kid—the summer feels even more doomed. But for Kayla, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime, a huge gift her family could never afford. In Spain, the two white girls struggle to find their places among the locals and their language class friends as a jaw-dropping revelation changes their relationship forever. It takes a near tragedy to make them realize that while they might not have chosen this path, how they move forward is their choice. Through chapters told in alternating points of view, Haddix offers a fully realized portrayal of teen girls dealing with the vagaries of their parents’ lives. Spain forms a vivid backdrop to the girls’ confusion and revelations, and Avery and Kayla are each so completely sympathetic that it’s hard to choose whom to root for when they’re at war. The trip to Spain you wouldn’t wish on anyone, except in the form of this terrific book. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio, with their two children. Her website is www.haddixbooks.com

Around the Web

The Summer of Broken Things on Amazon

The Summer of Broken Things on Goodreads

The Summer of Broken Things Publisher Page

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst. March 13, 2018. Knopf Publishing, 419 p. ISBN: 9781101874561.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the winner of the Man Booker Prize, a masterly novel that spans seven transformative decades as it plumbs the complex relationships of a remarkable family.

In 1940, David Sparsholt arrives at Oxford to study engineering, though his sights are set on joining the Royal Air Force. Handsome, athletic, charismatic, he is unaware of his powerful effect on others—especially on Evert Dax, the lonely and romantic son of a celebrated novelist who is destined to become a writer himself. With the world at war, and the Blitz raging in London, Oxford exists at a strange remove: a place of fleeting beauty, of secret liaisons under the cover of blackouts. A friendship develops between David and Evert that will influence their lives for decades to come.

Alan Hollinghurst’s sweeping new novel evokes across three generations the intimate relationships of a group of friends brought together by art, literature, and love.  We witness shifts in taste and morality through a series of vividly rendered episodes: a Sparsholt holiday in Cornwall; eccentric gatherings at the Dax family home; the adventures of David’s son Johnny, a painter in 1970s London. Richly observed, emotionally charged, this dazzling novel of fathers and sons, of family and legacy, explores the social and sexual revolutions of the past century, even as it takes us straight to the heart of our current age.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Brief but explicit description of pornography

 

Author Interview

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
It begins in the early years of WWII at Oxford, where a quartet of friends are spending their last days as students before joining the conflict. They are Freddie Green, a budding memoirist; Peter Coyle, a would-be artist; Evert Dax, whose father is a famous author; and beautiful David Sparsholt. The novel, notable for its sophistication, then follows the lives of the four over the course of decades, concluding in the near present. Freddie will become a writer, as will—like his father—Evert; Peter will die early in the war, while David will found a wildly successful engineering and manufacturing firm. A very public indiscretion will become known as the Sparsholt Affair and give the novel its title. In the meantime, David and his wife have a son, Johnny, who will grow up to become a successful portraitist and the protagonist of the later parts of the novel. Their brilliantly realized milieu is the world of art and literature and, for Evert and Johnny, who are gay, the evolving world of gay society and culture in Britain. Superlatives are made to describe this extraordinary work of fiction; characterization, style, mood, tone, setting—all are equally distinguished. Hollinghurst is especially good at evoking yearning, and, indeed, his novel will inarguably leave his readers yearning for more.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2018)
A man’s inability to be honest about his sexuality has scandalous, and brutally public, consequences for several generations. At the outset of this novel, in 1940, all the gay men and at least one straight woman in a literary club at Oxford are infatuated with beautiful David Sparsholt, a first-year engineering student who initially seems oblivious to the attention. One student, Evert Dax, the son of famous, inexplicably bestselling novelist A.V. Dax, is determined to bed Sparsholt. (Ostensibly straight Freddie Green, whose memoir about his years at Oxford makes up the first section of the novel, claims Sparsholt has a “dull square face.”) Sparsholt’s straight bona fides (he has a girlfriend) soon come into thrilling question. The students watch warily at night for German bombs in the World War II–era opening of the novel, which soon transitions to 1966, when Sparsholt’s 14-year-old son, Johnny, lusts after Bastien, a French exchange student who’s living with his family. Johnny is the heart of the story, and in the ensuing sections taking place over many decades he gives Hollinghurst the opportunity to track the vast, transformative changes in gay life since David Sparsholt attended Oxford. Johnny is a fascinating character: a painter who is sensitive, proudly bohemian, sometimes rejected in love, and still eager for love at an advanced age, but always calmly aware of who he is and the dangers of trying to be someone else. It’s a lesson he learned from his father’s arrogant belief that he could skirt the restrictive, heterosexual mores of pre–sexual liberation England. If this plot sounds like it couldn’t possibly have been the work of a Man Booker Prize–winning author, part of Hollinghurt’s (The Stranger’s Child, 2011, etc.) bold talent in this novel, as in his previous work, is to make it evident that lust, sex, and who does what with whom in the bedroom (and even how) are fitting, and insightful, subjects of literary fiction. A novel full of life and perception; you end the book not minding that the actual Sparsholt affair gets just the barest of outlines.

About the Author

Alan Hollinghurst is an English novelist, and winner of the 2004 Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty.

He read English at Magdalen College, Oxford graduating in 1975; and subsequently took the further degree of Master of Literature (1979). While at Oxford he shared a house with Andrew Motion, and was awarded the Newdigate Prize for poetry in 1974, the year before Motion.

In the late 1970s he became a lecturer at Magdalen, and then at Somerville College and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1981 he moved on to lecture at University College London. In 1997, he went on an Asia book tour in Singapore.

In 1981 he joined The Times Literary Supplement and was the paper’s deputy editor from 1982 to 1995.

He lives in London.

Teacher Resources

The Sparsholt Affair Reading Guide

Around the Web

The Sparsholt Affair on Amazon

The Sparsholt Affair on Goodreads

The Sparsholt Affair Publisher Page

American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda by Gloria Chao. February 6, 2018. Simon Pulse, 311 p. ISBN: 9781481499101.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Body humor, Graphic descriptions, Mention of child abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. For Mei, age 17 doesn’t involve prom dates. Instead, she’s a hopeful medical student at MIT, exactly as her parents planned. Mei strains against the expectations of her traditional Chinese parents, especially after they disowned her brother for choosing love over familial duty. At first, dance is the secret indulgence she must hide from them, but soon it graduates to a cute Japanese (read: unsuitable) boy and even worse—contact with her ostracized brother. She comes to understand her culture to be both a source of pride and a prison sentence, and she must find the strength to empathize with her parents, who are just as trapped by expectations. Vibrant, complex, and refreshing, this book crafts a nuanced view of growing up in a family beholden to centuries of tradition. Chao is meticulous in showing the wrinkles of a Chinese upbringing, especially in the face of an individualistic American society. Chao’s also wickedly funny; she’s not afraid of placing Mei in embarrassing situations to show readers what she’s made of. Moreover, Chao devotes a generous amount of effort to fleshing out Mei’s mother, transforming her from antagonist to someone with whom Mei learns to identify. A soulful and hilarious debut.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
A Taiwanese-American girl finally starts to experience life beyond her overbearing parents.Mei, a 17-year-old freshman at MIT, has followed her parents’ plans so far. Now all she has to do is get into a good medical school, become a doctor, and marry a nice Taiwanese boy. But with some distance from her parents (living in the Boston suburbs, they still demand to see her at weekly check-ins), Mei starts to buckle under the weight of their expectations and the truths she discovers about herself: she’s a germophobe who can’t stomach the thought of medical school. She really, really likes Darren, a Japanese-American classmate. Unfortunately, a thinly drawn cast of characters (an old friend appears in just one chapter to make a point) and heavy-handed first-person reflections (“She didn’t know anything about them, my situation, how hard it was to straddle two cultures”) sometimes read more as a book about cultural stereotypes and self-discovery than a compelling, fully fleshed novel. Awkwardly specific and quickly dated cultural references such as a Facebook check-in and an explanation of the term “hack” jar readers from the narrative. Nonetheless, Chao’s inclusions of an Asian male romantic interest, a slightly nontraditional Asian female lead (size 8 with a big nose and “man-laugh”), and casual Mandarin dialogue are welcome and will appeal to uninitiated readers. A worthy story that stumbles. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. American Panda is her debut novel and Misaligned is forthcoming fall 2019.

Gloria currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.

Her website is gloriachao.wordpress.com.

Around the Web

American Panda on Amazon

American Panda on Goodreads

American Panda Publisher Page

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco (Stef Soto, Taco Queen) by Jennifer Torres

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco (Stef Soto, Taco Queen) by Jennifer Torres. February 27, 2018. HarperCollins Espanol, 176 p. ISBN: 9781418597863.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 780.

Estefania “Stef” Soto just wants to be a typical seventh grader. She wants to have friends. She wants to fit in, and she wants a bit of independence from her overprotective immigrant parents. Stef knows enough not to expect to be able to take a city bus to school, the way her former friend Julia does, but even a school bus is deemed too risky by her parents. Her papi insists on picking her up every day in Tia Perla, his beat-up taco truck. Each day, he asks, “¿Aprendiste algo?” (Did you learn something?) Then they find a spot for her father to drum up business while Stef does her homework. Deep down, she’s proud of her parents and knows they are working hard to provide for her, but she’s also resentful of the ease with which some of her classmates, especially Julia, get things—like tickets to see Vivian Vega in concert. Even if she could earn the money for tickets, she knows her parents would never let her go. This earnest debut features a relatable narrator, stalwart friends, and caring parents who are working hard and struggling. (Spanish Language Version)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 3-6. Stef Soto is tired of feeling babied by her parents, and she’s especially tired of being known as the Taco Queen because of her dad’s food truck, called Tía Perla. She wants them to give her a little more freedom, but she’s having trouble working out how to prove she’s mature enough. When her family’s livelihood is threatened by new food truck codes, Stef wants to speak out in defense of Tía Perla, but she’s not quite sure where to begin. This cheery, relatable story features short and sweet chapters with plenty of Spanish words and phrases sprinkled in and a cheer-worthy main character in Stef, a happy, funny girl who adores art above all. It’s her outlet for everything she feels, and when she finally realizes how her love of art can help her parents’ business, she also learns how to better communicate her feelings and needs. While the tone here is often lighthearted, this will also be relevant to any kid whose parents have moved to another country to seek a better life.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
Estefania “Stef” Soto wants nothing more than for her parents to stop treating her like she’s a little kid. That means letting her walk home from school alone instead of having her dad pick her up in her family’s unsightly food truck, Tía Perla (which ex-best friend Julia Sandoval has convinced her makes her smell like tacos). It also means allowing her to go to the Viviana Vega concert that everyone in the entire world is attending. When new regulations threaten to shut down her father’s business, Stef thinks it isn’t the worst thing in the world. No Tía Perla means no food truck waiting for her after school and maybe even some freedom from her overprotective parents. But when a power failure almost ruins the school’s fundraiser, Stef realizes that Tía Perla might not put such a cramp in her style after all. Torres perfectly captures what it’s like to be a young person seeking independence and learning about responsibility. She breathes life into the old food truck, which becomes another character. We meet her in the school parking lot: “Tía Perla, huffing and wheezing and looking a little bit grubby no matter how clean she actually is.” Young readers will feel a kinship with Stef as she struggles to spread her wings in this engaging and relatable middle-grade novel about growing up. celia c. pérez

About the Author

Jennifer works at the Universidad del Pacífico where she leads a campaign to promote early literacy. Before joining the university team, Jennifer worked as a reporter for the newspaper Record, covering issues of education, children and families, and continues to write for local and national magazines. Originally from southern California, she has lived in the Central Valley for the past 10 years with her husband, David, and daughters Alice and Soledad.

Her website is jenntorres.com

Around the Web

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco on Amazon

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco on Goodreads

Stef Soto, la Reina del Taco Publisher Page

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed. January 16, 2018. Soho Teen, 281 p. ISBN: 9781616958473.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

In this unforgettable debut novel, an Indian-American Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape. 

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Child abuse

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 8-11. Competing crushes verging on love, looming decisions about college, and a terrorist attack factor into Ahmed’s searing YA debut, a coming-of-age portrait of a contemporary Indian American Muslim teen, Maya Aziz. It’s spring of Maya’s senior year in Batavia, Illinois, as she weighs dually defying her parents: first, by eschewing their pick for her, the dreamy and charming desi Kareem, in favor of Phil, the white football player she’s long crushed on who’s finally showing her attention. And second, by choosing to study filmmaking at NYU, where she secretly applied and was accepted, over the close-to-home University of Chicago. A terrorist attack in nearby Springfield eclipses these big decisions: the suspect bears the last name Aziz, too, and Maya and her parents become targets of local anti-Muslim rage. Maya’s daily concerns are upended, as she notes, “in this terrible moment, all I want is to be a plain old American teenager . . . who isn’t presumed terrorist first and American second.” Ahmed crafts a winning narrator—Maya is insightful, modern, and complex, her shoulders weighted by the expectations of her parents and the big dreams she holds for herself. Brief interstitials spread evenly throughout the text key readers into the attack looming ahead, slowly revealing the true figure behind its planning with exceptional compassion. Utterly readable, important, and timely.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2017)
High school senior Maya Aziz works up the courage to tell her parents that she’s gotten into the film school of her dreams in New York City, but their expectations combined with anti-Muslim backlash from a terror attack threaten to derail her dream.Maya, the only brown girl in her school with the only immigrant parents, loves parts of her Indian culture but blames everything she thinks she can’t have on her cultural constraints and on the fact that she’s different. Time is running out to break the news to her parents that her filmmaking is more than just a hobby. Meanwhile, two potential love interests command her attention. Her matchmaking parents like Kareem, an intriguing young Indian man Maya meets and dates, while Phil, a white classmate who’s been her longtime crush, remains a secret from her parents. Interspersed with Maya’s intimate first-person account are brief, cinematic interludes tracking a disturbed young man who commits a terror attack. First reports blame someone who shares Maya’s last name, and the backlash they suffer leads her parents to restrict Maya’s options. Maya is not especially religious, but she is forced to grapple with her Muslim identity as bullying takes a dangerous turn. Her feelings of entrapment within her parents’ dreams are laid on thick, and Maya herself notes a clichéd moment or two in her story, but the core relationships are authentic and memorable, and the conclusion is satisfying. A well-crafted plot with interesting revelations about living as a second-generation Muslim-American teen in today’s climate. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Samira Ahmed was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices, and potpourri. She currently resides in the Midwest. She’s lived in Vermont, New York City, and Kauai, where she spent a year searching for the perfect mango.

A graduate of the University of Chicago, she taught high school English for seven years, worked to create over 70 small high schools in New York City, and fought to secure billions of additional dollars to fairly fund public schools throughout New York State. She’s appeared in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Fox News, NBC, NY1, NPR, and on BBC Radio. Her creative non-fiction and poetry has appeared in Jaggery Lit, Entropy, the Fem, and Claudius Speaks. Her website is samiraahmed.com

Teacher Resources

Love, Hate, and Other Filters Discussion Questions

Love, Hate, and Other Filters Book Club Guide

Around the Web

Love, Hate, and Other Filters on Amazon

Love, Hate, and Other Filters on Goodreads

Love, Hate, and Other Filters Publisher Page

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. January 1, 2018. Groundwood Books, 80 p. ISBN: 9781773061634.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.3.

This beautiful graphic-novel adaptation of The Breadwinner animated film tells the story of eleven-year-old Parvana who must disguise herself as a boy to support her family during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.

Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Parvana’s father — a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed — works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day, he is arrested for having forbidden books, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.

Readers will want to linger over this powerful graphic novel with its striking art and inspiring story.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Misogyny

 

Movie/Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
A graphic-novel adaptation of Ellis’ heartwarming story of Parvana, a young girl in Afghanistan who cuts her hair and dresses as a boy to earn money for her family when her father is imprisoned by the Taliban.Adding a layer of remove from the original, this graphic novel is an adaptation of the upcoming film version, and it varies significantly from the original book. Notable deviations include the absence of helpful Mrs. Weera, who provides so much support to Parvana and her family in the original book, and two new details: a grudging former student who tattles on Parvana’s father and Parvana’s solo visit to rescue her imprisoned father. Much story is lost as a result of the numerous deviations, which also sadly promote Western views of Afghanistan, such as rampant corruption and violent men. Even as a stand-alone title for readers not familiar with the book, the storyline is bumpy, moving in fits and starts. At one point, Parvana’s mother decides to abandon Parvana and leave for the neighboring village but then changes her mind midway. Another disappointment is the book cover, which shows Parvana selling chai, something she does not do in either story (although her friend does). The only redeeming factor is the beautiful artwork, stills from the film, with its vivid use of colors to display context, such as use of red for war and black for the Taliban rule. A rather unsatisfying graphic novel, sure to disappoint fans of Ellis’ book. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Deborah Ellis has achieved international acclaim with her courageous and dramatic books that give Western readers a glimpse into the plight of children in developing countries.

She has won the Governor General’s Award, Sweden’s Peter Pan Prize, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the University of California’s Middle East Book Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award.

A long-time feminist and anti-war activist, she is best known for The Breadwinner Trilogy, which has been published around the world in seventeen languages, with more than a million dollars in royalties donated to Street Kids International and to Women for Women, an organization that supports health and education projects in Afghanistan. In 2006, Deb was named to the Order of Ontario.

Her website is www.deborahellis.com

Around the Web

The Breadwinner on Amazon

The Breadwinner on Goodreads

The Breadwinner Publisher Page