‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins; review of the audiobook

americandirt

When I received the audiobook of “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins, I was not aware of the controversy surrounding it. All I saw was a story about Lydia, a Mexican woman, the owner of a bookstore in Acapulco, whose entire family is slaughtered by narcotraficantes (drug dealers) after her journalist husband publishes an expos√© of the local drug cartel king. It’s about her journey with her 8-year-old son north to America with other migrants trying to hide and escape the killers’ search for the two of them.

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‘What I Want You to See’ by Catherine Linka is a stunning story of talent and loss and imperfection

what I want you to see

“What I Want You to See” by Catherine Linka is a story about Sabine, an art student whose life has been anything but ordinary and privileged — and is about to get a lot more difficult. Sabine had lost her mother the previous year, and while she lived with her best friend for a while, she was also homeless for part of that time.

Now she’s won the Zoich scholarship for merit, so she’s able to attend CALINVA, the California Institute for the Visual Arts, but she works part time jobs to pay for her rent and food and art supplies.

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Children’s nonfiction books for Black History Month 2020 and beyond

The importance of diverse children’s books cannot be overstated. Many readers and educators know that when they were growing up, children’s books were about one group of people — young, white, Christian people. And while I loved reading, I don’t remember reading one book about a young Jewish girl, much less anyone of color. That is gradually changing. And there are some great recent releases of children’s books for classroom teachers and librarians and parents to consider adding to their collections.

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‘Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass Story’ and ‘The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read’ are two important nonfiction picture books about learning to read against the odds

Two new picture books introduce young readers to two very important people, one of whom is already a household name (who is getting recognized more and more), Frederick Douglass, and the other someone who is well worth knowing, Mary Walker, perhaps the oldest person ever to learn to read. And while both books represent the finest in nonfiction picture books that are accessible to young readers and are appropriate for reading at any time of year, they are perhaps perfectly timed to be published just before Black History Month.

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‘The Hollows’ is the sequel to historical fiction mystery ‘The Widows’ by Jess Montgomery

the hollows

“The Hollows” by Jess Montgomery follows the characters from her first novel, “The Widows,” as Lily Ross, sheriff after the murder of her husband who was the sheriff, and her friend Marvena Whitcomb deal with the murder of an elderly woman, which has possibly deadly implications for those who are trying to find the truth.

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‘Ember (Rescue Dogs #1)’ is an inspiring novel about an “unadoptable” rescue dog who performs feats of heroism

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There are many dogs in shelters who are adopted and then returned over and over again. They bark too much. They are too active. They are too playful. In “Ember: Rescue Dogs #1” by Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines-Stephens, we learn that those kinds of dogs often make the best working dogs.

This story is the first in what will be a series about rescue dogs who earn that title by then rescuing others — in effect showing the readers that just because a dog is in a shelter, unwanted, that dog, like all dogs, has a place where it can shine. Ember, who in the story pushes all her young siblings out from their hidden place when a fire threatens their home, a hole under a house, is rescued last. The firefighter who pulls her out resuscitates her and cradles her in his hand. Before leaving her with the animal control workers, he gifts her with one of his gloves. That turns out to be her most prized possession as poor Ember goes from one family to another, each time returned to the shelter for various reasons.

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Picture books filled with love: the love of a friend, a parent, or oneself

Books about love are perfect read-aloud books for children at any time of the year, but what better gift of love than to bring a child (or parent) a lovely picture book about the many kinds of love we share and need. There are books that celebrate a mother’s love for her child and picture books that celebrate the love of a friend and how important that love can be, and also picture books that celebrate appreciating — and loving — our differences and our uniquenesses. Here are some exemplary choices for reading and gifting to your own loved ones.

Friendship can make a difference.

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‘The Hand on the Wall’ is the last novel in the ‘Truly Devious’ trilogy by the truly devious Maureen Johnson

hand on wall

“The Hand on the Wall” is the last book in the trilogy of “Truly Devious” novels by Maureen Johnson. Once begun, this series of mysteries is addictive. The setting, a prep school in the mountains of Vermont, is perfect for a murder mystery, and in this brilliant trilogy, there are multiple murders taking place over almost a century.

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‘Aurora Rising’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a thrilling and entertaining YA scifi adventure

aurora rising

In “Aurora Rising,” authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff take readers into the future, the year 2380, and into an adventure that spans centuries. From the first chapter, readers know that Tyler, one of the main characters, is a worthy leader. He rescues Aurora from a ship that has lain rotting for two centuries and takes her to safety. Unfortunately, by doing so, he has jeopardized his number one standing as a cadet and forfeited his first draft choice for his team. Instead, he gets the leftovers whom nobody wanted in addition to his twin sister Scarlett and their best friend, Cat.

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‘Stay’ by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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How important are the decisions we make almost thoughtlessly on a day-to-day basis? Sometimes they can have life-altering implications, and in this carefully crafted story about flawed characters, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows that sometimes, heroism isn’t made up of bold, brave actions but rather of listening and sharing small moments.

The story is about fourteen-year-old Lucas Painter. He explains, from some point in the future, that during the summer of 1969, his brother was in Viet Nam, and he was trying to help his best friend, Connor. Both Connor and Lucas have less-than-ideal family lives.

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