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Archive for January, 2021

Between The Lines

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

by Nikki Grimes, 216 pages, Grades 7 and up

Darrian did not expect to find himself in a poetry club.  His plan is to go to college to study journalism and become a star reporter, but when his counselor suggests he try poetry to round out his writing skills, he decides to give it a try. Right away he can see how much he has to learn from this group. These writers really know how to show their heart and make listeners feel their struggle. Jenesis is a foster child, Marcel’s dad is in prison, Freddie’s mom drinks and so Freddie parents herself and her cousin as well. Even though Darrian has been in school with these kids he realizes he never really knew them. It is amazing how little we really know about the people around us; almost everyone has a hidden struggle. Each poet has a story and Darian’s narrative ties them all together, and the poems scattered throughout the novel are an added bonus.

If you like poetry or spoken word, you might like these novels written entirely in verse: Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo, Solo, by Alexander Kwame, The Crossover, by Alexander Kwame, or A Time to Dance, by Padma Venkatramen.

Aurora Rising

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

by Amie Kaufman, 470 pages, Grades 7 and up

Tyler is on his way home through “the fold” (a piece of space where distance is folded to help ships travel from one distant planet to another more quickly) when he hears a distress call and decides to do the right thing and investigate. What he discovers is a 200 year old ship full of corpses, but one living girl! Rescuing her means that Tyler arrives late for crew selection for his next mission and he is stuck with a group of leftovers who seem like misfits, but that is the least of his worries. Strange things have been happening since he discovered this 200-year-old living girl, Aurora, in the fold, and there seems to be some kind of conspiracy around the ship and its people as well. When Aurora stows away on Tyler’s new mission the adventure continues. The group decides to protect her and investigate her mysterious history while risking their careers and their lives to find out the truth. 

If you like exciting science fiction adventure including space travel you might also enjoy: Contagion, by Erin Bowman, Illuminae , by Annie Kaufman, On The Edge of Gone, by Corinne Duyvis, or Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

by Mark Haddon, 226 pages, Written for an adult audience.

Christopher John Francis Boone has led a pretty sheltered life. He is super smart, but his autism makes relating to other people and encountering new situations really challenging for him. When he is incorrectly blamed for the death of his neighbor’s dog – possibly because the neighborhood characterizes him as odd – he is determined to find the real dog murderer. Even though he is 15 years old, he has not ventured far from his every day routines, and  although he has little experience with the wide world outside his personal story, he has a brilliant logical mind and is modeling his investigation after his favorite literary detective, Sherlock Holmes. The clues take Christopher on an adventure he could have never imagined and teach him things about himself and his family that he might not really want to know. 

If you enjoy a mystery with a quirky twist you might also like: The Danger Box, by Blue Balliett, The London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd, The Accidental Highwayman, by Ben Tripp, or The Unknowns, by Benedict Carey.

Goodbye, Stranger

Monday, January 4th, 2021

by Rebecca Stead, 289 pages, Grades 6 and up

Bridge entered seventh grade thinking she had middle school figured out. She had her group of friends – girls she has known since they were tiny – and knows her way around the school, but it turns out things are not as set in stone as she thought. Tabitha is becoming an activist inspired by her new favorite teacher, Emily is suddenly getting a lot of attention from the popular crowd. Even the grown ups around them seem to be changing (or is it that Bridge is just noticing adult relationships more as she is getting older?). Instead of feeling in control as a seventh grader Bridge has started the year feeling a little lost and alone, since her forever friends are occupied with new things.  Luckily, Sherm, a new friend, but definitely not a “boyfriend,” is helping to make Bridge feel a little less alone, and a little more understood. And, in fact, maybe Sherm needs a friend even more than Bridge does.

If you enjoy this book, you might like other titles by Rebecca Stead.  Try: Liar and Spy, When You Reach Me, and The List of Things That Will Not Change.


Monday, January 4th, 2021

by Brittney Morris, 321 pages, Grades 7 and up.

Kiera Johnson,17, is one of a very few Black kids in her high school. She is constantly code-switching, moving from the speech patterns and behaviors of one cultural group to another, to fit in and feel comfortable and accepted in the various settings she navigates. All she wanted was a place she could call her own; a safe space to be herself among her BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) brothers and sisters. Because she is a tech genius, she created an online multi-user game that has become wildly popular; now her struggle is managing this online world and her world IRL (in real life). 

If you enjoy stories that include VR (virtual reality), you might also enjoy: Deadly Pink, by Vivian Vande Velde, Bubble World, by Carol Snow, The Six, by Mark Alpert, or Warcross, by Marie Lu.

The Land

Monday, January 4th, 2021

by Mildred Taylor, 369 pages, Grades 7 and up

This is the prequel to the the book Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  It is David’s father, Cassie’s grandpa’s story; the story of how he came to own the land that is such an important part of the plot of Roll of Thunder. It is the land, of course, that differentiates the Logan family from their neighbors who have to rely on working for white people to make a living, and these same white people are dishonest and take advantage of them, so owning the land has given the Logan family status, power and security. This is the story of how grandpa Paul-Edwards, Big Ma’s husband, came to acquire it. 

It begins when Paul-Edwards is young and has not yet met Big Ma.  Paul-Edwards was born a slave; his mother is half African American and half Native American and his father was the white master. His childhood is complicated because he passes as white (he is very light skinned and his white father actually acknowledges him, which is very unusual for the time) and he grows up around his white half-siblings. One day, though, something happens that reveals the reality that they will never see him as a true brother; they see him as “other” or “less than” because of his African heritage. He sets off on his own to make his way in the world; falls in love with the piece of land we all know about, and uses cleverness, hard work and innovative thinking to acquire it despite the prejudice and hatred he encounters. Of course, we also meet Caroline, the love of his life (Big Ma in the Roll of Thunder book) and we come to understand how love and family become the foundation of the Logan family.

If you enjoy historical fiction about race in America, you might also enjoy: A Good Kind of Trouble, by Lisa Moore Ramee, The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson, One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, or Stella by Starlight, by Sharon Draper.