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

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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

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

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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 exposé 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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‘All the Days Past, All the Days to Come’ by Mildred D. Taylor is the culmination of her incredible body of children’s fiction about a family with integrity and grit and the history of racial discrimination in this country

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“All the Days Past, All the Days to Come” is Mildred D. Taylor’s tenth book about the Logan family of Mississippi and their struggle from the 1930s on trying to protect their land and their family from the bigotry, prejudice and violence that they endured living in the Deep South. Readers who know Taylor’s body of work will be thrilled to read about what happens to the family, especially Cassie, as they grow up. New readers will get the pleasure of learning about life in the Logan family. The Logan family, really Taylor’s family, consists of a special group of people. They are raised to be people of integrity with an ingrained sense of their self-worth. Yet they are also taught to be smart in how they behave in their home in the South during times when a simple statement or wrong move could invite harsh retaliation from whites.

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‘Maybe He Just Likes You’ by Barbara Dee is a middle grade book about harassment that should be required reading

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With “Maybe He Just Likes You,” author Barbara Dee creates a plot and a main character that will cause readers to get angry. We get angry at both the situation and the main character, even though we can sympathize with her.

Mila is a seventh-grader being harassed at school. It seems to start innocently with a group hug, but then a group of boys, basketball players, all touch her, bump into her, smirk at her, and when she tells them to stop they act like they don’t know what she is talking about.

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‘A Field Guide to Identification: Effin’ Birds’ by Aaron Reynolds is a wonderful gift for a fowl-mouthed friend (sic)

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With his witty and extremely vulgar book, “Effin’ Birds,” Aaron Reynolds takes daring language to a new level. Don’t get this for a friend who is easily offended by the random four-letter word. This book has four-letter words on each and every page. In fact, on one of the pages with the least foul words is the text, “This is a big frigging waste of energy.” “Frigging” being the euphemism for the word that is liberally sprinkled elsewhere. Elsewhere everywhere.

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6 picture books with messages for children

Picture books are not just entertainment; often, they are a way to show young readers how the world works, and how we all must behave to make the world around us a better, more compassionate, happier place. Here are six picture books that do just that, and readers of a wide range of ages will enjoy them. These are books that should be available in every library and school. They have important messages to share. Continue reading

‘Color Me In’ and ‘Slay’ are two young adult novels that help readers understand what it’s like being the only “other” in a room

 

“Slay” by Brittney Morris and “Color Me In” by Natasha Díaz are two books that deal with young women, each of whom is the only person of color, or one of a few people of color, in a school. The situations are different, but both stories are gripping and difficult to put down. They are both movingly written, and should be in every middle school and high school library. Both should be required reading. And what a discussion would ensue.

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‘The Cold Way Home’ by Julia Keller is a marvelous murder mystery that spans generations and features fabulous characters

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“The Cold Way Home” by Julia Keller is the latest in her series of books about Bell Elkins, former prosecutor in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia. Acker’s Gap is one of many impoverished former mining towns that are losing residents and succumbing to the opioid crisis. While this is the eighth book in the series, it also works perfectly well as a stand alone novel. Each of the novels in the series take place a year or so after the previous one, so there is no feeling of missing something. But that being said, reading all of them is a delight.

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‘Keeping Lucy’ by T. Greenwood is an emotional story of a mother who will take on the world to protect her daughter

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Ginny Richardson and her successful lawyer husband have one perfect child, Peyton. When Lucy, her second baby, is born with Down syndrome, her wealthy in-laws whisk the newborn to a “school” where she will live and be cared for. Ginny is told she was “enrolled” in the school, and by the time she was coherent after sedative injection after sedative injection, it was too late. Everyone except Ginny’s mother and best friend are told the baby died.

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‘The Summer Country’ by Lauren Willig is an ambitious tale of prejudice and plantations in Barbados during Victorian times

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“The Summer Country” by Lauren Willig refers to the island of Barbados, where it is summer all year long. The story is about three women, and from the beginning it alternates between 1812 and 1854. The story begins in 1854, when Emily Dawson and her cousin Adam travel to Barbados for different reasons. Adam is representing the family business now that his grandfather, Jonathan Fenty, has died, while Emily is traveling to visit Peverills, the sugar cane plantation that her grandfather left her in his will.

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‘Endling: The First’ is the second book in the heartwarming and thoughtful Endling series

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Don’t miss Katherine Applegate’s newest series, “Endling,” consisting of the first book, “Endling: The Last” and this book, “Endling: The First.” Applegate’s genius is her ability to write a book filled with adventure and endearing characters, and at the same time use the beliefs and lessons learned in the stories to teach readers about kindness, compassion, and above all, justice.

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