Book Reviews

FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME by Mariama J. Lockington — book review!


Braided with songs and poetry, this story follows Keda’s journey to know herself. With profound final lines and yes-that’s-exactly-what-it’s-like images, the prose poem chapters shine individually and collectively. Much in Keda’s life is complicated, so she reaches for songs, gropes for her heritage, and digs for inner resources to cope. A few friends brighten her life, but when it comes to truly managing an unstable mother, a mostly-absent father, and a big sister who is less fun and also less nurturing than she used to be, Keda is on her own. Her love of Billie Holiday and the intuitional grasp she has of the Blues give her something to hold on to, but when her summer goes from bad to worse, Keda needs courage. Readers will cheer her on as she finds the strength to speak her own truth.

Find this book on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40864854-for-black-girls-like-me

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Book Reviews

CATERPILLAR SUMMER by Gillian McDunn — book review!

Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

Compelling and charming! When Cat and her brother get dropped for three weeks at their OTHER grandparents’ house — the ones they’ve never even met! — both of them grow in ways they couldn’t have predicted.

On a North Carolina island, Cat learns some big things: 1) how to fish 2) how to get silent-type Grandpa to talk 3) how to see a bully for more than his meanness 4) how to let her special needs brother fend for himself a little 5) how to eat hushpuppies!

McDunn writes with on-point honesty and a knack for capturing real kid thoughts. The mom-written books within the book add another lens through which both readers and the characters themselves can see the family dynamics. Packed with human insight and tenderness, this book is sure to be a favorite of anyone who loves to see a family knit itself back together, while enjoying bike rides, mini-golf, and hot chocolate! 

Find Caterpillar Summer on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40046075-caterpillar-summer?from_search=true#other_reviews

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Book Reviews

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart — book review!

cover of MG novel by Dan Gemeinhart

When I found out that I would be on a panel with author Dan Gemeinhart, I thought, “Who is this guy?” I ordered his book and found out!

This guy is an author who tells a good story with sensitivity and artistry. I thought I would like his novel because I have homeschooled, have a cat, and once spent a couple of years in a semi-nomadic state — just like the father and daughter in this book. BUT, I didn’t expect that Coyote’s tale would be told with such emotional honesty. Gemeinhart walks right up to hard truths and writes them down. And the best part? Coyote comes across as a real kid with a funny, smart voice, and the resourcefulness to reach her goals.

If you’re in the mood for a road trip and the chance to meet a crew of inspiring misfits with troubles of their own, this book will be a joy. If you’ve ever noticed that kids and parents sometimes switch roles and have trouble switching back, you’ll recognize the crux of Coyote’s problem — how to protect people she loves from the pain of the past while also coming to terms with it. If you’ve ever wondered how to live in a school bus, you’ll learn that, too!

I highly recommend The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. It’s a stand-out. Find it on Goodreads here.

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Book Reviews

WAITING FOR UNICORNS by Beth Hautala — book review!

Waiting for Unicorns

Waiting for Unicorns by Beth Hautala

A summer in the arctic isn’t just exotic, it’s dangerous. For Talia, it’s also the place where she will learn more about herself than she expected. Somewhere between making wishes and making a friend, between mourning her mother’s death and mourning her father’s absence, between bird-watching and whale-searching, Talia starts to heal. Written in an immersive, literary style, this book gives glimpses of Inuit life, the arctic spring, and a girl whose life appears frozen, but is about to flow.

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Book Reviews

THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL by Stacy McAnulty — book review!

“One chapter,” I said to myself. “Okay, two.” In this way, I read Stacy McAnulty’s middle grade novel in two sittings!

MisCalcLightcover

What I enjoyed:

  1. Math
    References to pi and Fibonacci, plus a main character who calculates quicker than a calculator makes for a brain-tickling theme. Better than that, math is used to save shelter dogs, and the book reveals how math is all around us. Better than even THAT is the use our main character makes of math. Rather than being merely the author’s decoration, math is the MC’s coping mechanism for anxiety. Sometimes math gets in her way, but mostly Lucy Callahan uses her gift as a way to grasp this ungraspable world. Naturally, her inner journey hinges on going where no formula has gone before.
  2. Friendships
    Though Lucy starts out with only online math friends, her chances of making an IRL (in-real-life) friend increase exponentially when she’s forced to attend a public middle school. Though it’s rocky for a long time, and not without anger and tears, caring about a couple of people and having them care about you turns out to be worth it. This book focuses on Lucy’s new relationships, and I appreciate that one is inter-racial and the other inter-class-al, with both feeling natural.
  3. Challenges
    The reader sees at once that Lucy’s gift is also her curse. A lightning strike left her a math savant, but also a “freak.” She hides her talent at school, but we can’t be who we aren’t for long. Life drags her into facing one fear after another — her phobia of germs, her wish to stay with her online math peers rather than plain kids, and her aversion to smelly, lick-y dogs.
  4. The Writing
    First person works well here to bring the reader into Lucy’s mind, which is an interesting place! We experience her OCD first-hand and understand the psychological costs to not completing her routines. The plot moves along well, keeping the character arc and action arc connected, with action pushing Lucy’s emotional journey forward. The mean girls make their appearances, but they don’t dominate the scenes. The adults facilitate, but they don’t take over. The friends have their mini-arcs, growing and changing, too, underscoring the book’s hopeful tone.

Consider reading this one yourself and then handing it off immediately to the nearest 10-14-year-old!

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