Tag Archives: novel in verse

Isla de Leones (Lion Island) by Margarita Engle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Violence

 

About the Author

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

Her website is www.margaritaengle.com/

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The Same Blood by M. Azmitia

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

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

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

 

Reviews

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

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This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy. January 8, 2019. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781681198521.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3.

In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann–clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students—found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 5-9. Students of school-desegregation history know of the Little Rock 9, but probably fewer are familiar with the Clinton 12, who integrated a Tennessee high school a full year earlier, in 1956. Boyce, one of the 12, recounts her story in a series of moving narrative poems that detail mid-twentieth-century segregation practices in the South; introduce her family and their place in the town; describe the early, relatively civilized integration of the school; and explain how the introduction of outside agitators heightened tensions and led to violence. Boyce’s positive attitude about her experiences invites reader identification. Yes, she and others endured unrelenting pressure and threats, but the cause was important and the results worthwhile. The poems (mostly free verse with a sprinkling of other forms) personalize this history, and interspersed newspaper headlines and quotes situate the response of the larger world. Generous back matter includes additional information about the Clinton 12, a time line, period photos, sources, and further reading. Engrossing, informative, and important for middle-grade collections.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2018)
An autobiographical account in verse of a teen pioneering school desegregation in the South. Jo Ann Allen lives up on a hill with the other black residents of Clinton, Tennessee. They travel to Knoxville to attend the black schools, but in 1956, two years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, a judge in Knoxville tells Clinton officials that they must integrate immediately. Jo Ann is one of 12 black students who enroll in the all-white Clinton High School. With co-author Levy, she tells her story of that year in poems grouped by her relationship to her town (“Mine, Theirs and Ours”; “Fear,” etc.). Most of the white people who support the black students do so only out of civic duty to obey the law. Still, there are moments of hope, as when her white classmates elect her vice president of their homeroom; it seems she might make friends. But then hatred and violence overtake the town of Clinton, necessitating federal law enforcement to keep the peace. Readers will empathize with Jo Ann’s honest incredulity: “Mouths spewing insults. / (Do these mouths sing hymns on Sunday? / Do they say ‘I love you’?)” One timely poem remembers a local election in which “every single / white supremacist/ segregationist / candidate / lost.” Such gems relevant to today’s politics, along with the narrator’s strong inner voice, make this offering stand out. Powerful storytelling of a not-so-distant past. (epilogue, authors’ notes, photos, timeline, sources, bibliography, further reading) (Verse memoir. 9-14)

About the Authors

Jo Ann Allen Boyce was one of 12 students to desegregate Clinton High School in 1956. She has worked as a professional singer and a nurse. She lives in Los Angeles.

 

I (Debbie Levy) write books — nonfiction, fiction, and poetry — for people of all different ages, and especially for young people. Before starting my writing career, I was a newspaper editor; before that, I was a lawyer with a Washington, D.C. law firm. I have a bachelor’s degree in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and a law degree and master’s degree in world politics from the University of Michigan. I live in Maryland with my husband. We have two grown sons. Besides writing, I love to kayak, boat, fish, and otherwise mess around in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Her website is www.debbielevybooks.com

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Fifteen and Change by Max Howard

Fifteen and Change by Max Howard. October 1, 2018. West 44 Books, 200 p. ISBN: 0765383756.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 500.

Zeke would love to be invisible. His mother is struggling to make ends meet and stuck with a no-good boyfriend. Zeke knows he and his mom will be stuck forever if he doesn’t find some money fast. When Zeke starts working at a local pizza place, he meets labor activists who want to give him a voice–and the living wage he deserves for his work. Zeke has to decide between living the quiet life he’s carved for himself and raising his voice for justice.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
Fifteen-year-old Zeke gets a job and becomes involved with community organizers who aim to unionize local food-service workers in this novel in verse for reluctant readers. Zeke hates their lives in the city with Paul, his alcoholic mom’s abusive boyfriend, a hypocritical Christian, and he misses his old home in small-town Wisconsin. Spurred to action by the idea of making enough money for them to move back, he takes a job at Casa de Pizza, where he comes to understand the desperate circumstances many of his minimum-wage–earning co-workers face. Zeke keeps the job secret, fearing Paul will try to steal his earnings. Pagelong free-verse poems evocatively describe Zeke’s experiences and quickly propel the story forward. The dynamics between the employees at Casa de Pizza (Zeke and several others are white, Timothy is black, Hannah is originally from Oaxaca) will be recognizable to teens who’ve worked in food service. Readers will easily sympathize with the all-too-true-to-life situations with which the characters are coping—racism and sexual harassment, Zeke’s awful home life, and a co-worker’s eviction with her children among them. Though short, this story develops the characters’ personalities, sketches in the history of the labor movement, and includes a subdued romantic subplot, effectively balancing these various elements. An auspicious ending may seem a bit unlikely to some, but this novel has many appealing aspects that will draw readers in. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Max Howard loves woods and words and finds them both in books. Max has worked lots of day jobs including pizza delivery driver, fashion show stagehand, and AP test scorer, but still finds the time to write for kids and adults. Currently, Max is writing a picture book called The Book Formerly Known As Barf. This is Max’s first novel.

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Dreams on Fire by Annette Daniels Taylor

Dreams on Fire by Annette Daniels Taylor. October 1, 2018. West 44 Books, 200 p. ISBN: 9781538382486.  Int Lvl: YA; Lexile: 400.

With an incarcerated father and an estranged drug-addicted mother, Shanequa’s dreams of higher education feel like a fantasy. When Shanequa gets the chance to attend a prestigious private prep school, she feels like her dreams might become reality. Shanequa finds it easier to lie to her new friends than tell them the truth about her family. When her lies are found out, and Shanequa strikes back in blind rage, her path changes forever.

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Using realistic, raw, and powerful poetry that will reach the reluctant reader, Taylor’s novel tells a difficult story entirely through the poems of its young protagonist. Shanequa starts at a prestigious private prep school and, ashamed of her drug-addict mother, omits the truth about her family situation to the students there. When her new best friend Ashley proves false and provokes her, Shanequa’s punch to Ashley’s nose sets Shanequa on the same path as her incarcerated father. But she is smart and strong, as we see through her writing, and with the help of her family and an understanding teacher, she sets herself right. This is one of six titles in West 44’s YA Verse series, which effectively uses poetry to tell a story simply and with no frills, and yet ensure honesty flows through every word. Shanequa’s teacher Miss Precious says it best: “Shanequa’s poems have / meaning, strength, and power. / Writing honestly about the / painfully difficult / is her gift.” A beautiful, empowering choice for a wide spectrum of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
America’s systemic race and class problems are viscerally rendered in this evocative account of a black teenage girl’s coming-of-age in a novel for reluctant readers. Shanequa’s life is one of constant heartbreaking struggle. Her father is in jail for second-degree murder, and her mother, depressed by the loss of her husband, succumbs to drugs and abandons her children, leaving Shanequa and her younger sister, LaKecia, to be raised by their grandmother. Yearning for a better life, Shanequa works her way into the prestigious Bidwell Academy for Girls, where she must strive to move forward while dealing with the ghosts from her past. Told in a series of short narrative poems, Shanequa’s struggles, dreams, and fears come alive on the page as she grapples with shame at being poor in a rich world and the indignities of being black and exoticized in a predominantly white educational environment. Taylor (Street Pharmacist, 2016, etc.) nicely employs the story’s framework to turn the protagonist into a shrewdly observational character with a unique voice by giving the readers small glimpses into her thoughts. Descriptions of the two sisters reveal that the darker-skinned Shanequa feels ugly in comparison to her lighter sibling, and casual discussion of various students’ cellphones underscores the class disparities at her school. A haunting and honest depiction of adversity and triumph that reveals America’s continuing struggle to give equal opportunities to all. (Verse novel. 15-18)

About the Author

Annette Daniels Taylor, an award winning playwright, poet and artist-filmmaker. Her debut YA novel, Dreams on Fire (October 2018) with West 44 books is an poetic urban teenage journey written in verse.The author of two poetry chapbooks, Street Pharmacist; and Hush now, Annette’s work explores identity, class, memory, place, and public history. Her drama A Little Bit of Paradise, available at Amazon.com, won the 2008 Artie Award for Outstanding New Play. Daniels Taylor is also a 2018-19 New York State Public Humanities fellow, a 2016-18 Arthur A. Schomburg fellow with the Department of Media Study, SUNY University at Buffalo and a Pink Door Poetry alum.

Her website is www.annettedanielstaylor.com

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. March 6, 2018. HarperTeen, 357 p. ISBN: 9780062662804.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drug dealing, Marijuana, Corporal punishment

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. This coming-of-age story from the streets of Harlem centers on Xiomara Barista, a teenage poet seeking to express herself. X has loved writing down her thoughts from an early age. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to share them with her family, due to her mother’s strict dedication to making sure X is focused on being a good Catholic girl. When X starts questioning her faith and realizes her brother is hiding his own secrets from their mother, she starts figuring out how she can stand up for herself and her beliefs. The story, though centered around the family drama, explores other poignant themes facing girls today, diving into human sexuality, the psychological impacts of going through an early puberty, and how girls have to fend off advances from men—as well as the slut-shaming stigma that simultaneously can come from women. Ultimately, though, this is a powerful, heartwarming tale of a girl not afraid to reach out and figure out her place in the world.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance. Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Elizabeth Acevedo is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance poetry experience, Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Cave Canem Fellow, CantoMundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X is her debut novel.

She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.. Her website is www.acevedowrites.com.

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Bull by David Elliott

Bull by David Elliott. March 28, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 200 p. ISBN: 9780544610606.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

SEE THE STORY OF THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR
IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT

Minos thought he could
Pull a fast one
On me,
Poseidon!
God of the Sea!
But I’m the last one
On whom you
Should try such a thing.
The nerve of that guy.
The balls. The audacity.
I AM THE OCEAN!
I got capacity!
Depths! Darkness! Delphic power!
So his sweet little plan
Went big-time sour
And his wife had a son
Born with horns and a muzzle
Who ended up
In an underground puzzle.
What is it with you mortals?
You just can’t seem to learn:
If you play with fire, babies,
You’re gonna get burned.

Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology’s most infamous monsters.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Bestiality

 

Author Videos

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. This striking reexamination of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur maintains the bones of the original story: Minos, King of Crete, angers sea god Poseidon, who exacts his revenge not on the king but on the king’s wife. Queen Pasiphae, seduced by a bull, births Asterion, the famed future Minotaur, who is ultimately locked in a labyrinth and killed by hero Theseus. Elliott focuses this novel in verse on Asterion and the women in his family, painting them in a particularly sympathetic light. Rotating first-person narrations appear in a variety of poetic forms. Poseidon takes on the role of irreverent, anachronistic narrator, as he raps the story (“Life’s not for wimps. / Sometimes gods are gods / And sometimes they’re pimps”); Pasiphae grows increasingly nonsensical; Asterion speaks in childlike rhymes; Daedalus, labyrinth builder, is ever the architect with rigid, four-line stanzas; and princess Ariadne’s flowery language is imbued with a clever slant rhyme that belies her coquettish facade. When Theseus the hero finally struts onto the page, it’s with significant frat-bro swagger (“Ariadne! What a rack! / I knew I’d get her in the sack / As for her bro? / He won’t outlive me. / No sweat. / In time they all forgive me”). Effective both for classrooms and pleasure reading, this modernization brings new relevancy to an old story. It’s a conceit that easily could have floundered; in Elliott’s capable hands, it soars.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
There’s little grand or heroic in Elliott’s clever verse version of the classical story of the Minotaur: its title, Bull, is topically and colloquially apt. The story unrolls in the voices of seven characters, each with his or her own poetic form (an appended author’s note details them), but it’s the god Poseidon who determines the tone—as instigator, manipulator, and despiser of humankind. His raunchy, derisive take on humans (“Man! / That guy’s a dick!” he says of Minos) is a spreading stain that permeates even the innocence of Asterion the bull-headed boy, maternal Pasiphae (who “take[s] refuge in madness”), and valiant Ariadne. The sympathetic heart of Elliott’s story is Asterion/the Minotaur: Elliott presents him as a physically deformed youth, suffering cruelly from his hateful father’s abuse. But Poseidon’s voice comments on all, and Elliott characterizes him as despicable, misogynistic, and sexually prurient. Raplike wordplay, rhymes with coercive predictability, unpleasant intensity—it’s horribly effective, culminating in the god’s conclusion: “the things you mortals do: / Ridicule. / Follow orders. / Stay passive. / Betray. / What a pity! / It could have gone another way.” Such is the matter of the Greek myths. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

David Elliott is the author of The Cool Crazy Crickets and The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle. He says of And Here’s To You!, “My neighbor’s rooster and I were having a disagreement. I wanted to sleep in the morning; he wanted to crow. The rooster won, of course. The first verse of And Here’s To You! is a tribute to his victory and to the joys found in simply following your nature.”

Her website is www.davidelliottbooks.com.

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The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene

The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene. February 7, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 496 p. ISBN: 9781492638537.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

An emotional and heart wrenching novel about grief and striving for perfection.

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

Raesha will to do whatever it takes to win Nationals. For her, competing isn’t just about the speed of her horse or the thrill of the win. It’s about honoring her mother’s memory and holding onto a dream they once shared.

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

For an athlete, every second counts. Raesha knows minus five on the scale will let her sit deeper in her saddle, make her horse lighter on his feet. And lighter, leaner, faster gives her the edge she needs over the new girl on the team, a girl who keeps flirting with Raesha’s boyfriend and making plans with her best friend.

So she focuses on minus five. But if she isn’t careful, she’s going to lose more than just the people she loves, she’s going to lose herself to lighter, leaner, faster…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Barrel-racer Raesha keeps her life and her loves small: she has best friend Asia, boyfriend Cody, her dog, and her horse. Home is just Rae and her dad and the memory of her mother, who died a few years back. But there’s a new girl in town, Kierra, and both Cody and Asia are growing close with her. Rae focuses on the one thing she can control: herself. Nationals are approaching, and if Rae can make herself just a little lighter, a little leaner, she won’t be as heavy in the saddle, and her horse will move faster. “Minus five” becomes her mantra as she strives to succeed at the sport her mother loved. The novel in verse approach isn’t always the most effective here; the spare format works best when the focus is on the worsening of Rae’s anorexia. Though there are many teen books about anorexia, few focus on equestrian sports, despite the fact that eating disorders in the equestrian world are common, and this debut provides an intriguing and valuable perspective.

Publishers Weekly Annex (January 30, 2017)
A competitive barrel racer, Raesha knows that a single pound can translate into seconds lost or gained. Determined to win Nationals, like her mother did before dying from cancer, Rae fixates on her weight, sure that losing five pounds will make all the difference. The arrival of Kierra-a new rider who throws a wrench in Rae’s relationships with her boyfriend, Cody, and best friend, Asia-leaves Rae feeling alone, jealous, and frenzied. As her eating disorder develops, Rae becomes less strong and less focused, yet those elusive five pounds remains just out of reach, no matter what the scale says: “Lighter/ Leaner/ Faster, My goal/ Is always/ There.” Writing in free verse, debut author Alene vividly conveys Rae’s spiral into anorexia; as she weakens, the poems fragment and become less fluid, mirroring Rae’s physical deterioration. Alene’s characterization of secondary characters, particularly Rae’s friends, is less successful; Cody’s shallow comments about Rae’s looks are particularly damaging, but this issue is never acknowledged. Even so, Alene presents an illuminating account of a girl struggling for control of her life and body. Ages 14-up.

About the Author

Catherine Alene wrote this story when she was in recovery for her own eating disorder. She has an MA in teaching and an MFA in writing from Vermont College. She spent the last seven years as a language arts teacher at an alternative high school. She lives in Oregon with her daughter.

Her website is www.catherinealene.com

 

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Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell. January 31, 2017. Chronicle Books, 260 p. ISBN: 9781452125909.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

From acclaimed author Patricia Hruby Powell comes the story of a landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse. In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Racism and racist language

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Readers meet sixth-grader Mildred Jeter, known to her family as String Bean, walking to school in 1952. Descended from African slaves and Indians, the kids in the Jeter family attend segregated schools, though in their small, racially mixed rural Virginia community, all enjoy music and square dancing together. Richard Loving enters her life as a white friend of her older brothers. As the years go by and Mildred grows up, the couple’s story becomes one of love, courtship, marriage, tribulation, and triumph. The local sheriff hauls them off to jail in 1958 for violating a statute prohibiting interracial marriage. After court battles, the law is overturned in the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision known as Loving v. Virginia. Written in free verse, Powell’s novel unfolds in a series of concise, evocative first-person narratives alternating between Richard and Mildred. Placing their personal stories within the broader context of the major events of the civil rights movement happening at the time, occasional sections feature archival photos as well as significant quotes. Powell’s thorough research includes 10 interviews. Not seen in final form, Strickland’s expressive illustrations draw on a mid-twentieth-century style. Fine, dramatic storytelling in a memorable verse format.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2016)
A powerful and riveting account of an American couple in love when that love was ruled illegal in many American states.In the early 1950s a boy and a girl in rural Virginia fell in love and got married. Her family was “descended / from African slaves. / And their owners.” He was white. Their love was scorned and against the law in their state. The couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, alternate and sometimes join together to tell their stories in beautifully rendered free verse. Love, children, marriage, jail, flight to Washington, D.C., long court battles, and final unanimous vindication in 1967 from the Warren Supreme Court fill the pages, detailing every particle of their strong feelings for each other and the equally strong bigotry of the local sheriff and state judicial system. Full-page photographs of school segregation and civil rights demonstrations clearly set the time frame. Excerpts from court decisions, period headlines, and quotations from Dr. King strengthen the learning curve for readers. Strickland’s blue-, gray-, and yellow-toned illustrations have a strong retro feel and tenderly reinforce the written words. A song of love vs. a cacophony of hate—all in a beautiful model of bookmaking. (timeline, bibliography, credits and sources) (Historical verse fiction. 11-18)

About the Author

Patricia Hruby Powell’s previous book, Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, won a Sibert Honor for Nonfiction, a Coretta Scott King Honor, and five starred reviews. She lives in Illinois with her husband and tree walker hound, Lil.

Her website is talesforallages.com.

Teacher Resources

The Loving Story from Teaching Tolerance

Loving vs. Virginia Teaching Guide

Around the Web

Loving vs. Virginia on Amazon

Loving vs. Virginia on Goodreads

Loving vs. Virginia on JLG

Loving vs. Virginia Publisher Page

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown. October 11, 2016. Candlewick, 304 p. ISBN: 9780763678111.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.3; Lexile: 860.

Told in riveting, keenly observed poetry, a moving first-person narrative as experienced by a young survivor of the tragic Donner Party of 1846.

The journey west by wagon train promises to be long and arduous for nineteen-year-old Mary Ann Graves and her parents and eight siblings. Yet she is hopeful about their new life in California: freedom from the demands of family, maybe some romance, better opportunities for all. But when winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada and their group gets a late start, the Graves family, traveling alongside the Donner and Reed parties, must endure one of the most harrowing and storied journeys in American history. Amid the pain of loss and the constant threat of death from starvation or cold, Mary Ann’s is a narrative, told beautifully in verse, of a girl learning what it means to be part of a family, to make sacrifices for those we love, and above all to persevere.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Domestic violence; Death; Murder; Cannibalism; Harsh realities of surviving in the wilderness

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 6-9. Their land sold, livestock traded, and belongings bundled into groaning wagons, the Graves family has 1,900 miles to go. It’s spring 1846, and Franklin and Elizabeth Graves—along with their nine children—are headed west, trekking from their home in Lacon, Illinois, to Sutter’s Fort, California. Months into the expedition, the family merges with the Donner and Reed parties; there’s strength in numbers, and the Hastings Cutoff, a route south of the Great Salt Lake, is rumored to chop weeks from the increasingly backbreaking journey. That is, until winter falls early, notoriously trapping the families “less than one hundred miles” from their intended destination. In this concise collection of narrative poetry, Brown assumes the voice of 19-year-old Mary Ann Graves, nimbly straddling the unfathomably harsh realities of travel, starvation, and bloodshed through the imagined musings of a headstrong girl entranced by quilts, birds, and the beauty of the moon. With her refreshingly varied form and ever-earnest tone, Brown weaves a compelling story of suffering, sacrifice, and survival.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
A fictional account of the Donner Party’s ill-fated attempt to cross the Sierra Nevada in 1846.Looking for a better life in California, Franklin Graves decides to take his large family west from Illinois. Nineteen-year-old Mary Ann relates in verse their experiences on the wagon trail as they meet up with other families, including the Donners, and are eventually trapped in the mountains during a brutal winter. The historical Mary Ann Graves survived the ordeal, and her letters to a newspaper editor form the basis for the novel’s details. Across four seasons, Brown uses words and form effectively to evoke the hopeful idealism, love, joy, and life-or-death terror they feel along the way. Words scatter and shake across the page “Inside the Wagon.” As Franklin looks upon the Great Salt Lake, “a gloom of sour surrounds him.” Short verses over several pages depict the drawn-out anguish of the starving, desperate travelers. The trip’s horrific end is foreshadowed in “The Sound of Meat” when the last of the beef is gone and one man responds to a snapping branch: “He almost shot Charles / thinking he was food.” An author’s note puts the story in historical context, including the difference in the points of view of the white pioneers and the Native Americans whose land they were trespassing on. A solid introduction to a somber episode in American history. (dramatis personae) (Historical verse/fiction. 11-15)

About the Author

Skila Brown has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has visited Guatemala numerous times in the last decade. She lives in Indiana with her husband and their three children.

Her website is www.skilabrown.com.

Teacher Resources

Donner Party & Westward Expansion Lesson Plan

Donner Party Full Documentary

Around the Web

To Stay Alive on Amazon

To Stay Alive on JLG

To Stay Alive on Goodreads