Tag Archives: realistic fiction

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. February 12, 2019. Dial Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780525553236.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.9.

From two extraordinary authors comes a moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.

Avery Bloom, who’s bookish, intense, and afraid of many things, particularly deep water, lives in New York City. Bett Devlin, who’s fearless, outgoing, and loves all animals as well as the ocean, lives in California. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads.

When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends–and possibly, one day, even sisters.

But things soon go off the rails for the girls (and for their dads too), and they find themselves on a summer adventure that neither of them could have predicted. Now that they can’t imagine life without each other, will the two girls (who sometimes call themselves Night Owl and Dogfish) figure out a way to be a family?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. Two popular writers team up for a Where’d You Go, Bernadette–esque tale for the middle-school set. An entire country lies between anxious New Yorker Avery Bloom and adventurous Bett Devlin, but there’s something powerful connecting them: their dads are in love. At first horrified at the prospect of becoming—gulp—sisters, the two surprise themselves by bonding at a summer sleepaway camp while their dads motorcycle their way across China. But when their dads’ relationship sours, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get them back together. Even if the target readership eschews email these days, they’ll be hard-pressed not to be laughing out loud at the witty, clever email and letter repartee among the girls, their dads, and the rest of the supporting cast. Though the story lacks the emotional depth of more true-to-life novels dealing with blended families, such as Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick’s Naomis Too (2018), its escalating stakes and Parent Trap–like setup is sure to appeal to both authors’ fan bases. Alternately heartwarming and hilarious.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
The Parent Trap gets a modern makeover in this entertaining and endearing middle-grade novel about two 12-year-old girls, one camp, and a summer that will bond them for a lifetime. Avery, an aspiring writer from New York, and Bett, a California surfer girl, are the lights of their respective single father’s lives—and each is very much used to it. So the news that their gay dads fell in love at a conference and have been secretly dating for three months does not sit well with either of them. Worse still, the girls are bundled off to a nerd camp where they are expected to bond like family while their dads head off on an eight-week motorcycle adventure in China. Sloan and Wolizter make strategic use of their tale’s epistolary (or rather email) format to create two disparate yet familiar-feeling three-dimensional characters who are from very different worlds. That they will eventually become sisters feels inevitable, but that does not diminish the enjoyment of watching Avery and Bett bond over animals at camp, gradually growing toward each other and then with each other. Their increasing closeness is tracked in the evolution of their correspondence, which becomes littered with nicknames and discussions of everything from periods and pet phobias to boys. Bett is African-American and was carried by a Brazilian surrogate, and Avery has both white and Jewish heritages. A sweet and amusing tale that celebrates diversity while reinforcing the power of love and the importance of family. (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Authors

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California, the Netherlands, Istanbul, Washington, DC, and Oregon (where she graduated from high school). She wrote the screenplay for Angels in the Outfield and directed The Big Green, as well as a number of other successful family feature films.

The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband (the writer/illustrator Gary Rosen) in Santa Monica, California.

Her website is hollygoldbergsloan.com/

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.

Her website is megwolitzer.com/

Teacher Resources

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Common Sense Media

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To Night Owl from Dogfish on Amazon

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Barnes and Noble

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Goodreads

To Night Owl from Dogfish on LibraryThing

To Night Owl from Dogfish Publisher Page

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The Great Jeff by Tony Abbott

The Great Jeff by Tony Abbott. March 19, 2019. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780316479691.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7.

Life hasn’t been great for Jeff Hicks. After years at his beloved St. Catherine’s, he’s forced to spend eighth grade in the public middle school, which he hates. He’s no longer speaking to his former best friend, Tom Bender, because of “that burned girl” Jessica Feeney. But worst of all, his family is changing, and it’s not for the better.

When his mom comes home announcing that she’s lost her job, Jeff begins to worry about things far beyond his years: How will they pay the rent? Will his absentee dad step up and save the day? Is his mom drinking too much? And ultimately, where will they live?

The Great Jeff is a powerful look at the life of a troubled boy who finds his life spiraling out of control.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcoholism

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 4-7. Jeff, the bully character in Abbott’s Firegirl (2006), is back in this stand-alone companion novel. Jeff’s dad has left, his mom has lost her job and is drinking a lot, and Jeff is now attending public school for eighth grade. Things start spiraling out of control as Jeff’s mom struggles to pay rent and find a job, eventually leading to them getting kicked out of their house. As Jeff bounces around to different homes, he begins having trouble at school and in his homelife. Though he hated switching to public school, he starts to find hope through his English class and the help he receives from his classmate Hannah and his former friend Tom. Readers may see themselves in Jeff or find empathy with a classmate as they realize, along with Jeff, that it can be difficult to ask for help and that kindness can go a long way. Abbott has written a hopeful coming-of-age story that portrays the challenges of poverty in a realistic and relatable way.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
In a companion to Firegirl (2006), Abbott turns his attention to Jeff, who was the obnoxious, bullying best friend of the earlier book’s protagonist, Tom. Jeff, now in eighth grade and at a different school, is struggling to deal with the issues caused by his single mom’s alcohol problems. His father, who left to live with a girlfriend, provides little in the way of financial help and even less emotional support. After his mom loses her job, their lives believably spiral downward. They are evicted, leading to a series of overnight stays in increasingly unpleasant circumstances that finally culminate in a frigid night in the car and then a move to a shelter. Jeff is determined to keep his situation a secret, but Hannah, a sensitive classmate, begins to suspect. When help does eventually appear, it’s from an unexpected source: Tom, whom Jeff has avoided since their falling out in seventh grade. What elevates this effort above so many other inadequate-parent tales is Jeff himself. It’s because he’s a tough kid to like: His first-person narration reveals that he’s angry, quick to judge, and eager to mouth off or push back against any show of kindness. It’s only when the obstacles become insurmountable that he matures enough to distinguish between his friends’ compassion and the pity he despises. Abbott uses naming conventions and cues such as hairstyles to hint at race in this diverse environment; Jeff and his family present white and Hannah, black. A moving, realistic coming-of-age tale. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Tony Abbott is the award-winning author of more than a hundred books for young readers, including FiregirlThe Postcard, and the Secrets of Droon series.

Abbott was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1952. His father was a university professor and had an extensive library of books which became one of Abbott’s first sources of literature. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Connecticut where he went through elementary school and high school.

Abbott attended the University of Connecticut, and after studying both music and psychology, decided to study English and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. He attended the workshops of Patricia Reilly Giff to further develop his writing after college.

He lives in Connecticut with his family. His website is www.tonyabbottbooks.com

Around the Web

The Great Jeff on Amazon

The Great Jeff on Barnes & Noble

The Great Jeff on Goodreads

The Great Jeff on LibraryThing

The Great Jeff Publisher Page

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams. January 15, 2019. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 384 p. ISBN: 9781481465809.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8.

This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Discrimination, Mild language, Racism, Adult alcohol abuse

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 8))
Grades 4-8. Her dad is an alcoholic with a gambling problem who never pays the rent, so her family keeps getting evicted from their homes. But that’s not the only reason Genesis hates herself. Mostly it’s because she is dark-skinned, and she wishes she were lighter. Genesis tries multiple ways to lighten her skin and help her family, both with disappointing results. Only after she learns to appreciate herself for who she is does everything else starts to fall into place. The “year in the life” style of this story gives readers an opportunity to look into someone’s day-to-day, observing experiences that might be quite different from or similar to their own. This lengthy debut includes many common tropes—the inspirational teacher, the group of best friends, the mean girls—but its final message is powerful and challenges Genesis to define her life on her own terms, not society’s. Genesis comes out stronger in the end, and the reader who sticks with her story will hopefully feel the same.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2018)
Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson is a black girl who has been dealt a heavy hand in life. She’s had to move several times because her family keeps getting evicted thanks to her alcoholic, gambling father, who defaults on the rent. Genesis hates her circumstances, and even more, she hates the skin she’s in. Dark-skinned like her father—who takes no pride in their resemblance, especially when he’s drunk and mean—Genesis wants nothing more than to look like her light-skinned mother. With kids calling her names (Charcoal, Eggplant, Blackie) and a chiding grandmother who spouts backward colorist ideologies, it’s no wonder. Genesis desperately wants to be accepted, even causing herself physical pain to change the look of her skin and hair in order to attain it. But Genesis has a talent that demands that she stand out. With the help of her chorus teacher, Genesis discovers a way to navigate the pain she carries. With smooth and engrossing prose, debut novelist Williams takes readers through an emotional, painful, yet still hopeful adolescent journey. Along the way she references accomplished black activists, athletes, artists, and, notably, musicians such as Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James, all in a way that feels natural and appropriate. This book may bring readers to tears as they root for Genesis to finally have the acceptance she craves—but from herself rather than anyone else. It’s a story that may be all too familiar for too many and one that needed telling. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Alicia Williams is a graduate of the MFA program at Hamline University. An oral storyteller in the African-American tradition, she is also a kindergarten teacher who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Genesis Begins Again is her debut novel.

Teacher Resources

Genesis Begins Again Reading Guide

Genesis Begins Again on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Genesis Begins Again on Amazon

Genesis Begins Again on Barnes and Noble

Genesis Begins Again on Goodreads

Genesis Begins Again on LibraryThing

Genesis Begins Again Publisher Page

Lu by Jason Reynolds

Lu by Jason Reynolds. October 23, 2018. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9781481450249.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 570.

Lu must learn to leave his ego on the sidelines if he wants to finally connect with others in the climax to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning Track series from Jason Reynolds. 

Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that—not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings—no one’s gonna outshine him.

Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way—literally and not-so-literally—and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means.

Expect the unexpected in this final event in Jason Reynold’s award-winning and bestselling Track series.

Sequel to: Sunny

Part of Series: Track (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Marijuana

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 5-8. Lu is the man, the kid, the guy. The one and only. Not only was he a miracle baby but he is albino. He’s special down to his gold chains and diamond earrings, but he feels a little less once-in-a-lifetime when his parents tell him they’re pregnant again. On top of this sobering news, he’s leading the Defenders alongside a cocaptain who isn’t pleased about sharing the title; and he’s training for the 110-meter hurdles, choking at every leap. As the championship approaches, can he prove his uniqueness one final time? As with the prior titles, the final installment in the four-book Track series is uplifting and moving, full of athletic energy and eye-level insight into the inner-city middle-school track-team experience. While it must be said that Lu has the least distinct voice of the four narrators—and given that Reynolds has proven himself to be an absolute master of voice, that is disappointing—this story is not a letdown. Virtually every subplot is a moving moral lesson on integrity, humility, or reconciliation, and Reynolds wraps up his powerful series with a surprising ending, all while scattering rewarding details about Ghost, Patina, and Sunny to let the reader truly revel in this multidimensional world as it comes to a close.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
It is an eventful summer for Lu, the co-captain of the Defenders track team, whose swagger is matched only by his speed. Not only does Lu discover that he is going to be a big brother but he is also preparing for the track championship and competing in a new event—the hurdles. As he soon learns, running hurdles is not just about getting over them, but also about how you perceive them. Lu comes to realize that everyone has hurdles—some are physical (Lu has albinism), some are emotional, some are created by others, and some are self-created. As preparations for the big meet continue, Lu learns a secret about his father that has the potential to upend their close relationship, and he also must face a nemesis from his past. Will Lu clear all his hurdles? In this fourth and final installment of the Track series (Ghost, rev. 11/16; Patina, rev. 11/17; Sunny, rev. 7/18), Reynolds explores redemption and how the people we love and admire the most are not exempt from individual challenges; however, focusing on the bigger picture—family, community, teamwork—helps us to navigate and overcome what gets in our way. Reynolds takes great care in crafting multidimensional characters who face real dilemmas and demonstrate that our shortcomings do not ultimately define who we are. monique harris

About the Author

After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.

His website is www.jasonwritesbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Lu on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Lu on Amazon

Lu on Barnes and Noble

Lu on Goodreads

Lu on LibraryThing

Lu Publisher Page

Dust Storm! by Terry Lynn Johnson

Dust Storm! by Terry Lynn Johnson. November 6, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 128 p. ISBN: 9780544970984.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 590.

Stay calm. Stay smart. Survive.

Stranded after a dust storm hits in a desert in New Mexico, sixth-graders Jen and Martin must call upon real-life skills to come to the rescue. When disaster strikes, they will have to use all their knowledge and grit to survive.

Part of Series: Survivor Diaries

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

About the Author

Terry Lynn Johnson writes outdoor adventures.

Terry’s writing is inspired by her own team of eighteen Alaskan huskies. Her passion for adventure has provided her with a rich background to write from.

When she’s not writing, Terry enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking. She works as a Conservation Officer (Game Warden) in Whitefish Falls, Ontario.

Her website is www.terrylynnjohnson.com

Around the Web

Dust Storm! on Amazon

Dust Storm! on Barnes & Noble

Dust Storm!on Goodreads

Dust Storm! on LibraryThing

Dust Storm! Publisher Page

Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton

Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton. July 17, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 288 p. ISBN: 9781250102324.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

A funny, feminist teen story about knowing when to train . . . and when to fight.

Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously – until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She’s the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting . . . but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction. So she goes back the next week, determined to improve.

Fleur’s overprotective mum can’t abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring, why won’t she join her pilates class instead? Her friends don’t get it either and even her boyfriend, ‘Prince’ George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite – but it’s Fleur’s body, Fleur’s life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training. When she finally makes it into the ring, her friends and family show their support and Fleur realises that sometimes in life it’s better to drop your guard and take a wild swing!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Fleur’s pretty sure she’s a bad feminist. She doesn’t stand up to people the way her best friend, Blossom, does. She even muted Emma Watson on Twitter. So when one of Blossom’s crusades takes them to a local boxing gym, Fleur surprises everyone, including herself, by signing up for a class. She’s even more surprised when she goes back the next week. She’s the only girl there, it’s the hardest workout she’s ever done in her life, and no one, from her Pilates-preferring mom to her orderly boyfriend, is thrilled that she’s courting concussions and packing on muscle. But for the first time in her life, Fleur feels strong and willing to fight for something. Here Easton offers up a cheeky, girl-centric counterpoint to his acclaimed Boys Don’t Knit (2015). Lighthearted and irreverent, this British import is a feminist sports story rooted in humor. Readers will enjoy watching smart-mouthed Fleur gain confidence as a boxer and as a young woman, and the always-popular underdog sports narrative will attract many readers.

Publishers Weekly Annex (July 16, 2018)
A teen boxer’s dry sense of humor, as well as her quirky friends and small English town, charm in this empowering coming-of-age story. Sixteen-year-old Fleur lacks true passion about most things in her life, but when her best friend, Blossom, a fired-up feminist, enlists her to help with a protest over gender restrictions at a local boxing club, Fleur signs up for a class on a whim and slowly comes to love it. Her stodgy boyfriend, her anxious and protective mother, and even Blossom don’t understand Fleur’s commitment to her new interest, and at times-such as when she’s sweating profusely and nearly puking-Fleur’s not sure about it herself. But as the weeks pass, what started as a lark becomes the most serious thing in Fleur’s life, rippling out across all her relationships, as she trains hard and sets the goal of stepping into the ring for a match. Fleur’s newfound strength, both physical and emotional, and her changing attitude toward herself build to a satisfying final round. Ages 13-up.

About the Author

T. S. Easton is an experienced author of fiction for all ages and has had more than a dozen books published. He has written under a number of different pseudonyms in a variety of genres. Subjects include vampires, pirates, pandemics and teenage agony aunts (not all in the same book). He lives in Surrey with his wife and three children and in his spare time works as a Production Manager for a UK publisher.

His website is www.tomeaston.co.uk

Around the Web

Girls Can’t Hit on Amazon

Girls Can’t Hit on Barnes and Noble

Girls Can’t Hit on Goodreads

Girls Can’t Hit Publisher Page

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. September 4, 2018. Katherine Tegen Books, 330 p. ISBN: 9780062696724.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Based on interviews with young women who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, this poignant novel by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani tells the timely story of one girl who was taken from her home in Nigeria and her harrowing fight for survival. Includes an afterword by award-winning journalist Viviana Mazza.

A new pair of shoes, a university degree, a husband—these are the things that a girl dreams of in a Nigerian village. And with a government scholarship right around the corner, everyone—her mother, her five brothers, her best friend, her teachers—can see that these dreams aren’t too far out of reach.

But the girl’s dreams turn to nightmares when her village is attacked by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, in the middle of the night. Kidnapped, she is taken with other girls and women into the forest where she is forced to follow her captors’ radical beliefs and watch as her best friend slowly accepts everything she’s been told. Still, the girl defends her existence. As impossible as escape may seem, her life—her future—is hers to fight for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Rape, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 8-12. The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped girls from the country’s villages in the early to mid-2010s and kept them captive as slaves or wives in the forest. Based on interviews with some of the girls who were taken, this story follows one such girl in a fictionalized account of real-life events. Never named, the narrator reveals her life leading up to her capture—one marked by relatable experiences, such as harboring crushes and watching movies with friends, and a bright future—which makes the abduction all the more heart-wrenching. Nwaubani uses short chapters, ranging from a few sentences to no more than two pages, to emphasize the youth and innocence of the narrator and the terrible acts she and the other kidnapped girls must endure. It is, unsurprisingly, a difficult read that elicits great sympathy and horror, but it is a necessary story to educate readers on what can happen in the world. Nwaubani’s novel is an excellent choice for classroom reading and for those who don’t wish to turn a blind eye to injustice. A substantial afterword by journalist Viviana Mazza shares actual stories of some of the victims, along with more detailed information on the Boko Haram kidnappings. Poignant and powerful, this is a story that will be hard for any reader to forget.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2018)
The unnamed young Nigerian narrator of this novel, with a loving family and academic aspirations, is kidnapped by Boko Haram along with many other girls and women from her village. On the day the terrorists came and destroyed her village, they murdered her father and brothers, sparing only the one brother young enough to be taught their way of life. The story chronicles her cheerful, promising life before her abduction as well as the suffering and abuse she endures after being forced to part with her dreams of getting a university scholarship, becoming a teacher, and having her own family. It traverses the girl’s life from dutiful Christian daughter and loyal friend to becoming a slave under her kidnappers’ radical rule—and pays tribute to the fortitude and grace it takes to not only survive such an ordeal, but to escape it. Nigerian author Nwaubani (I Do Not Come to You by Chance, 2009, etc.) smoothly pulls readers into this narrative. Her words paint beautiful portraits of the joy, hope, and traditions experienced by this girl, her friends, and family with the same masterful strokes as the ones depicting the dreadful agony, loss, and grief they endure. A heavy but necessary story based on the horrendous 2014 Boko Haram kidnapping of 276 Chibok girls, described in an afterword by Italian journalist Mazza. A worthy piece of work that superbly and empathetically tells a heartbreaking tale. (afterword, references, resources) (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is a Nigerian writer and journalist. The author of the award-winning novel I Do Not Come to You by Chance, Adaobi has had her writing featured in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the New Yorker.

Her website is www.adaobitricia.com

Teacher Resources

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree on Amazon

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree on Barnes and Noble

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree on Goodreads

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree Publisher Page

Olor a Perfume de Viejita (The Smell of Old Lady Perfume) by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

Olor a Perfume de Viejita (The Smell of Old Lady Perfume) by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez. September 18, 2018. Cinco Puntos Press, 320 p. ISBN: 9781941026960.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.7; Lexile: 730.

Chela Gonzalez, the book’s narrator, is a nerd and a soccer player who can barely contain her excitement about starting the sixth grade. But nothing is as she imagined-her best friend turns on her to join the popular girls and they all act like Chela doesn’t exist. She buries herself in schoolwork and in the warm comfort of her family. To Chela, her family is like a solar system, with her father the sun and her mother, brothers, and sister like planets rotating all around him. It’s a small world, but it’s the only one she fits in.

But that universe is threatened when her strong father has a stroke.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2008 (Vol. 105, No. 1))
Grades 4-6. As she starts sixth grade, 11-year-old Chela is straddling two borders, the figurative one between childhood and adolescence and the real one that divides Ciudad Juarez from El Paso. Chela is devastated when her new classmates in Texas laugh at her accented English and jeeringly call her a Juaranota. Then her best friend, Nora, abandons her to join a clique of popular girls. These problems pale, however, after her beloved father suffers a stroke and can no longer work. Her grandmother comes to help (it is her perfume that pervades the household), but fear and worry surround the family. Martinez’s highly episodic first novel is a quiet story that is, perhaps, a bit too predictable, filled with such coming-of-age staples as mean girls, popularity contests, first romances, sibling rivalries, and more. However, readers will also find the book’s loving portrayal of Chela’s family, its nicely realized setting, and its artful exploration of the problems of assimilation, to be both engaging and heartfelt. —Michael Cart

Horn Book Guide (Spring 2009)
Chela Gonzalez is highly anticipating sixth grade. She’s especially excited about being part of the A-class, the only all-English class in her El Paso school. But when her father has a stroke, Chela’s year grows complicated and painful. Short, well-crafted chapters offer perceptive glimpses into life on the border, the dynamics of middle-grade girls, and a family in turmoil.

About the Author

Claudia Guadalupe Martinez grew up in El Paso, Texas. She learned that letters form words from reading the subtitles of old westerns for her father. She went on to graduate from college and moved to Chicago to become one of the city’s youngest non-profit executives.

Her website is claudiaguadalupemartinez.com

Around the Web

Olor a Perfume de Viejita  on Amazon

Olor a Perfume de Viejita on Barnes and Noble

Olor a Perfume de Viejita  on Goodreads

Olor a Perfume de Viejita  Publisher Page

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. September 11, 2018. Wendy Lamb Books, 288 p. ISBN: 9781524768355.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.7; Lexile: 620.

Twelve-and-three-quarter-year-old Felix Knutsson has a knack for trivia. His favorite game show is Who What Where When; he even named his gerbil after the host. Felix’s mom, Astrid, is loving but can’t seem to hold on to a job. So when they get evicted from their latest shabby apartment, they have to move into a van. Astrid swears him to secrecy; he can’t tell anyone about their living arrangement, not even Dylan and Winnie, his best friends at his new school. If he does, she warns him, he’ll be taken away from her and put in foster care.

As their circumstances go from bad to worse, Felix gets a chance to audition for a junior edition of Who What Where When, and he’s determined to earn a spot on the show. Winning the cash prize could make everything okay again. But things don’t turn out the way he expects. . . .

Susin Nielsen deftly combines humor, heartbreak, and hope in this moving story about people who slip through the cracks in society, and about the power of friendship and community to make all the difference.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Brief mentions of marijuana and drugs, Theft, Allusions to masturbation, Allusion to an adult sexual relationship

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 4-7. At almost 13, Felix is used to a little spontaneity in his life. He’s watched his mom, Astrid (he calls her Astrid—her idea), hop from job to job and guy to guy, and since Felix’s grandma died, they’ve moved a lot. When they get evicted and have to live in a van for a while, Felix believes Astrid when she says it’s temporary. Even if Astrid has trouble finding a job, Felix has a backup plan: his favorite game show is hosting a junior edition, and he’s actually freakishly good at trivia. He’s going to audition and win enough money so that he and Astrid will never have problems again. But living in a van—and keeping it a secret from his friends at school—is starting to take its toll on Felix. Canadian Nielsen (Optimists Die First​, 2016) infuses her erstwhile hero’s first-person narrative with humor. Though Felix’s wry observations keep things from getting too dark, this is also a straightforward look at the circumstances that can lead to homelessness. Clear-eyed and heartfelt.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
A summer “adventure” in a Volkswagen pop-top van turns into a long-term living situation for twelve-year-old Felix and his loving but irresponsible mother Astrid. Unable to afford an apartment in Vancouver, the two set up housekeeping in Astrid’s ex-boyfriend’s van, moving from parking lot to street corner to abandoned garage as opportunities present themselves, more or less managing to keep up a façade of respectability. This is assisted by Astrid’s flexible sense of morality (“it’s important to note that she has levels of lies, and rules surrounding each. Sort of like the Church of Scientology and their levels of Operating Thetans, her rationales don’t always make a lot of sense”) but hampered by her bouts of depression, known in the family lexicon as “slumps.” Felix starts at a new school, where he reconnects with his childhood friend Dylan and meets Winnie Wu, who is introduced as a stereotypical overachiever but develops beyond the initial caricature. When Felix learns that his favorite game show is hosting a junior tournament, he decides its cash prize will solve all his problems and, with his friends’ help, sets out to win. Felix is a compelling narrator, engaging both as he keeps a wry sense of humor about his family’s worsening situation and when he realizes he can no longer rely on the adults in his life. Nielsen’s eye for detail (Felix’s Swedish grandmother gave him a tomte to watch over the house; now named Mel, the figure keeps watch from the dashboard) helps bring the story to life.

About the Author

Susin got her start feeding cast and crew on the popular television series, Degrassi Junior High. They hated her food, but they saw a spark in her writing. Nielsen went on to pen sixteen episodes of the hit TV show. Since then, Nielsen has written for over 20 Canadian TV series. Her books have been translated into multiple languages.

She lives in Vancouver with her family and two naughty cats. Her website is www.susinnielsen.com

Around the Web

No Fixed Address on Amazon

No Fixed Address on Barnes and Noble

No Fixed Address on Goodreads

No Fixed Address Publisher Page

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summer Blue Bird by Akemi Dawn Bowman. September 11, 2018. Simon Pulse, 375 p. ISBN: 9781481487757.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 7-12. For Rumi Seto, creating music with her younger sister, Lea, was everything. But when Lea dies in a car accident, Rumi’s life is over, too. Beset by survivor’s guilt, she is plagued by the knowledge that Lea was the outgoing, perfect daughter who was closest to their mamo (mother). When Mamo sends Rumi to live with Aunt Ani in Hawaii, Rumi plunges into bottomless grief, constantly reminding herself that Mamo abandoned her because she loved Lea more. Rumi also mourns the loss of music and feels unable to recapture what she had with Lea, until she meets the two “boys” next door: lovable teen surfer Kai Yamada, who offers easygoing friendship, and gruff 80-year-old George Watanabe, who understands the pain that consumes her. Strengthened by their honest and individual outlooks on life, Rumi plumbs her courage to complete her and Lea’s unfinished song and find the will to live again. Rumi’s narration, fueled by raw and intense emotions, will leave readers breathless. Memories of Lea are smartly unfurled, allowing fascinating glimpses into the sisters’ bond. Bowman, whose Starfish (2017) was a Morris Award finalist, proves again that she isn’t afraid to dive headlong into challenging issues, such as asexuality, grief, resentment, and forgiveness. This beautiful story sparkles as its complex characters dare to find footholds in the seemingly inescapable dark.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2018)
Music helps a Washington state teenager overcome guilt and grief after the death of her beloved younger sister. After a car accident that takes the life of Rumi Seto’s younger sister, Lea, Rumi feels guilt about surviving and is certain that her mother wishes Rumi had died instead. With her mother checked out and blank with sorrow, an angry, hardened Rumi is sent to stay with her Aunty Ani in Hawaii, where she meets a host of local characters, including Kai, a charismatic half-Korean/half-Japanese boy. Rumi also spends some time with Mr. Watanabe, her aunt’s gruff elderly neighbor, who has dealt with his own tragedy. Eventually, as Rumi is able to find her way back to the music she and Lea had shared and write the song that she believes she owes her sister, she becomes able to fully grieve. She also makes a discovery that helps reconcile her with her mother. Rumi’s mother is half-Japanese/half-Hawaiian, and her estranged father is white. Accurately reflecting the setting, the book is populated with a host of hapa (biracial) and Asian- and Pacific Islander–American characters. One subplot follows Rumi as she becomes comfortable with her aromantic and asexual feelings. Convincing local details and dialogue, masterful writing, and an emotionally cathartic climax make this book shine. A strikingly moving book about teenage grief. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of Starfish and Summer Bird Blue. She is also a Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in Scotland with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix.

Her website is www.akemidawnbowman.com

Around the Web

Summer Bird Blue on Amazon

Summer Bird Blue on Barnes and Noble

Summer Bird Blue on Goodreads

Summer Bird Blue Publisher Page