‘Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes’ by Kathleen West: a must read; especially now

minor dramas

Reading “Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes” by Kathleen West was a perfect way to escape from staying at home and remembering days gone by when our children actually went to school and adults were able to meet in person. Here we meet several people — each of whom is imperfect in some way — and we grow to, if not like them, at least understand them and sympathize with them.

Continue reading

‘Cat Among the Pigeons: A riotous assembly of unrespectable African creatures’ by David Muirhead: Amusing and oh-so-clever tales of African wildlife

cat among

Be assured, “Cat Among the Pigeons” by David Muirhead is not a boring compilation of facts and information about the creatures in Africa, but rather an erudite and always entertaining collection of anecdotes, history, and interesting tidbits about those sometimes exotic (wildebeest), sometimes not (wasp), animals.

Continue reading

‘Devoted’ by Dean Koontz brings back — in spirit — a genius dog from decades ago.

devoted

The Dean Koontz book that got me hooked on him was “The Watchers,” and the dog in that book, a brilliant golden retriever, thoroughly enchanted me. In “Devoted,” Koontz creates a dog, and then a network of dogs who — maybe, he hints — descend from that highly intelligent dog. And Kipp, the loyal golden, is the kind of dog every dog lover dreams of having — a dog who understands us completely and can communicate with us freely. Continue reading

‘The Blackbird Girls’ by Anne Blankman is a touching story of Chernobyl, of the Holocaust, of love, and of friendship

blackbird girls

“The Blackbird Girls” by Anne Blankman is so much more than its description. It is about two young girls who are rivals, Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko who end up escaping from the town of Pripyat, their town near the nuclear power plant Chernobyl where their fathers worked. After the explosion, we learn that the government hid news of the explosion for two days, and the day after it happened, residents of that small town strolled about the streets as if it were a normal day in spite of the clouds of blue smoke and the red skies that lit up over Chernobyl. Continue reading

“Do not miss” nonfiction picture books: three books for children about RBG, an iconic figure, plus the stories of two other important women in history

3 RBG books

There’s a pandemic going on, and now more than ever, children need to read about inspirational figures. Few women have motivated more young girls than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Three recent releases celebrate her life; each is appropriate for a different age group of children and all three are books that are worthy to be read to children and by children right now. All of them cover the amazing life of Ginsburg, but each is special in a different way. Additionally, two other new picture books feature the lives of two relatively unknown women, Mother Jones and Febb Burn, both of whom changed the lives of women in our country. Continue reading

‘City Spies’ by James Ponti is a fast-paced thriller for middle grade readers that’s a perfect adventure to escape into

city spies“City Spies” by James Ponti is an action story that kids (and adults) will love. A group of underdog kids as young as twelve live in an old manor home in Scotland and work with a British spy nicknamed “Mother” as a team foiling international villains.

First we meet Sara, from whose perspective the story is mostly told. She is in custody after hacking into the New York City computers to expose her cheating, horrible foster parents. But when a debonair man offers to represent her, she quickly chooses him as her lawyer rather than the public defender who was going to agree to her serving time in a juvenile detention home. After she quickly hacks into the State of New York court computers to substitute in the new lawyer, the change of attorneys looks legitimate . By that evening, she’s on a plane to Scotland and a new life. Continue reading

4 middle grade books about compassion and the two-legged underdogs among us (some with wings)

Middle grade novels are not just the next step for children in the reading process. From picture books to adult books, good writers try to imbue their stories with positive messages and important ideas to consider. These four pieces of fiction aimed at readers from fourth grade through middle school accomplish all that and more. Each deserves a special place in school libraries, on classroom bookshelves, and at home. Continue reading

‘Birdie and Me’ by J. M. M. Nuanez is a middle grade novel about loss, family, and identity

birdie

“Birdie and Me” by debut author J. M. M. Nuanez is about Jack and Birdie, named by their mother for her favorite presidential people, who must move in with their uncles after their mother dies. Jack, Birdie’s older sister, feels responsible for Birdie, a boy who loves dressing in bright colors, eyeshadow, wearing lots of jewelry and nail polish, and sparkly shoes.

Continue reading

‘Efrén Divided’ by Ernesto Cisneros is a middle grade story of family, friendship, and finding one’s voice

efren

On one hand, “Efrén Divided” by Ernesto Cisneros is the story of a middle school boy whose undocumented mother is deported and the effect of that terrible event on his life. But as important as that part of the story is — and it is central to what happens — “Efrén Divided” is also about family and friends, because when Efrén’s mother is deported, he and his family must find out whom they can trust and who really cares for them. And finally, Efrén also discovers that to truly help others, he needs a voice to speak for them and a platform from which to do so. Continue reading

‘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.

Continue reading