‘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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‘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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‘Because of the Rabbit’ by Cynthia Lord; a student review

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In “Because of the Rabbit,” by Cynthia Lord, fifth grade is about to begin, and Emma is really nervous. Emma feels as if  the emotions Excited and Scared are in a race, and they are about tied right now. But her fears are not just about the first day back to school; it’s also going to be her first time ever at a public school. Emma was homeschooled with her older brother Owen until a year ago when Owen wanted to try public high school. Emma was sad because she would not be able to go kayaking and play around with Owen after they finished their lessons, but she did not want to stop Owen from going to public school by telling him how she felt.

It is the night before school begins when Emma’s dad, a game warden, gets a call that a wild rabbit is stuck in someone’s fence. Emma goes with her dad to help the rabbit. Instead of finding a wild rabbit, Emma is surprised when they find a little honey-colored bunny, maybe someone’s pet. They decide to take him home for the night and take him to the animal shelter the next day. Continue reading

‘The Athena Protocol’ by Shamim Sarif is pure thriller for YA readers

athena protocol

With “The Athena Protocol,” author Shamim Sarif creates a female version of James Bond, except that instead of working for British Intelligence, Jessie Archer works for a non-govermental, private, female group bent on saving women and children around the world who are in need of help, but whom the governments of the world are ignoring. At the start of the book, we watch this elite team in action while they save a group of 50 girls kidnapped by a terrorist militia and held in servitude. While they wait for night to fall, they are forced to watch what the young men and boys do to their female prisoners while they pass the time.  The leader has two hostages, and when he shoots one of them in cold blood, Jessie loses control. Before they leave with the prisoners, Ahmed, the evil leader, is dead. Jessie is kicked out of Athena.

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‘Starsight’ the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s new series is brilliant

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“Starsight” is the sequel to “Skyward!” by Brandon Sanderson, an author who really understands not only about creating complex characters but also about writing a plot that boasts gripping nonstop action. At the start of this series, Spensa, the main character, is not a very likable person. She’s a teenager who has grown up determined to be a pilot like her father, and after he died in combat, allegedly running away from battle, a coward, she has had to defend his name.

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‘A Heart so Fierce and Broken’ by Brigid Kemmerer is everything YA fantasy should be

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“A Heart So Fierce and Broken” is Brigid Kemmerer’s second book, following “A Curse So Dark and Lonely,” a tale of Beauty and the Beast reimagined with lots of violence and a heartstopping ending. It was the story of Rhen, the prince cursed to turn into a beast, and Harper, the tough young girl who is determined to save Rhen and his kingdom, Emberfall. Grey is the loyal Guardsman who risks his life repeatedly to save them.

In this second story, Grey becomes the pivotal character with a new character, Lia Mara, the daughter of the cruel queen of Syhl Shallow, Karis Luran. Lia Mara is not destined to be queen; her sister is. Her sister can be cruel and harsh while Lia Mara prefers to use intellect and persuasion instead of brute strength and fear to create alliances.

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