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Archive for September, 2020

It Ain’t So Awful Falafel

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

by Firoozeh Dumas, 370 pages, Grades 6 and up.

Zoomrad (which means emerald in Persian) decides to use her chosen name, Cindy, at school to avoid confusion. The name change does help the American kids with pronunciation, but it turns out the name change alone does not make Cindy feel like she completely fits in in her new California town in the 1970s. First of all people in California in the 70s don’t even know where Iran is. And then, Americans who are living in Iran are taken hostage. After this, the lack of understanding becomes prejudice directed at Zoomrad’s family from a community they are trying to become a part of. In addition to this, Cindy’s dad’s company, an American oil company located in Iran and the U.S., closes down because of the hostage crisis, but she can’t talk about this family stress with anyone because it feels too private, and like it might be one more reason for the community to disapprove of her family. Fitting in in a new location is always hard, but Zoomrad has a lot of obstacles to overcome; it really only takes one person to reach out and bring someone into the circle. Will someone do that for her?

If you enjoy books about moving to a new neighborhood or school, you might also like: My Name is Not Easy, by Debbie Dahl Edwardson, Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Ruby Holler, by Sharon Creech.

Orbiting Jupiter

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

by Gary D. Schmidt, 183 pages, Grades 7 and up

Jack, 12, is used to his family expanding and shrinking; he has gained a foster sibling before. This time, though, Jack feels a bit uneasy about their latest foster kid, Joseph who is 14. He is jumpy and everyone thinks he is trouble. Teachers at school seem to only see the bad in Joseph, so Jack wonders if he should be afraid of him too. As time goes on Jack sees a different side to Joseph when they are at home and he begins to wonder if he has been misunderstood by the grown ups at school. Joseph, it turns out, has had a complicated life full of heartache; even though he is only 14 he has already survived abuse, lost his parents, fallen in love, fathered a child that he has not been allowed to see, and been torn from the love of his life. Jack begins to see the world through Joseph’s eyes and wonders if he has ever really understood right and wrong, or if, in the real world, right and wrong is not a binary after all. Maybe there is more nuance and humanity to be considered in every situation.

If you are interested in books about teens in trouble, you might also enjoy: Guitar Boy, by M.C. Auch, A Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, Scrawl, by Mark Shulman, or Simon Vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda, by Becky Albertalli.

Homeless Bird

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

by Gloria Whelan, 186 pages, Grades 6 and up

Thirteen year old Koly’s family does not have much money. Their only hope for their daughter, Koly, is to marry her into a prosperous family. Koly and her mother have been preparing a beautiful dowry of money and other beautiful objects including an embroidered quilt that Koly has made, and one day the family announces that they have found her a nice 16 year old named Hari. In the tradition of this region of India, the girl goes to live with the family of her husband. The trouble begins when Koly discovers that her new husband is very ill and that the family only wanted the dowry to pay to take them to the city of Benares in the hope that he can be cured. Hari does not survive. In this family there are few choices for widows. They cannot return to their childhood home, they can become slaves to their mother-in-law, or they can live in the Hindu holy city of Vrindavan (the city of Widows), where widows dress in all white and rely on the kindness of strangers to keep them alive. Koly is strong and innovative, and her spirit cannot be crushed by these circumstances. This is a story of how she manages to survive and thrive despite these challenges.

If you enjoy books taking place in India, you might also like: Keeping Corner, by Kashmira Sheth, A Time To Dance, by Padma Venkatraman, Chained, by Lynne Kelly, or Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan.

Everything, Everything

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

by Nicola Yoon, 310 pages, Grades 8 and up

Maddy cannot remember ever having contact with anyone other than her nurse and her mother. Everything makes her sick. Everything, everything! She has “Bubble Baby Disease” which compromises her immune system and has been living in a sterile room for 18 years. Even her education has been all online learning with various tutors. Despite this confinement life has been pretty good; she and her mother enjoy games together and her nurse is a caring confidant. One day a new family moves into the neighborhood; there is a lot of drama going on outside her window. She is especially interested in the son, Olly, who entertains her with his parkour and emotional outbursts. The observing seems harmless until Olly notices her and tries to get to know her too. Of course, he mother is against this idea, but Maddy is enchanted by Olly and getting to know him makes her more curious about the world beyond her bubble. Maddy begins questioning everything and has to decide if being with Olly and seeing the world beyond her bubble is worth the risk. 

If you like this book, you might also like The Sun is Also A Star, also by Nicoloa Yoon. Some other books about teens you might enjoy are: I’ll Give you the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, or I’ll Be There, by Holly Goldberg Sloan