Yonder by Ali Standish

Readers of Katherine Patterson will likely appreciate Yonder by Ali Standish. The community of Foggy Gap proves the world is a confusing place—with gaps in understanding and with clarity of vision required on subjects like justice, prejudice, war, and courage.

Name She Gave Me by Betty Culley

Unable to make her adoptive mother, Leanne Parkman, happy, Rynn gives up after Mom critiqued her homemade birthday gift placemats sewn by Rynn at age twelve. Although Rynn compares Mom to a dormant volcano that explodes without warning, she loves

Falling Short by Ernesto Cisneros

With his novel Falling Short, Ernesto Cisneros writes a motivational book for middle grade readers. Taking inspiration from his own life and from a quote by Michelangelo, Cisneros concurs that “The greater danger for most of us lies not in

Kindred by Alechia Dow

Alechia Dow writes an intriguing speculative story with her novel The Kindred. Her two protagonists—as is everyone else in the Monchuri system—have been linked with since birth. The Kindred program was created after The Second Chaos, a revolution in which

Coming Up Cuban y Sonia Manzano

A master storyteller and the creator of the character Maria on the television program Sesame Street, Sonia Manzano brings to life the unfolding injustice of Fidel Castro’s reign in Cuba from 1959-1961. Through the narratives of four pre-teen adolescents in

If You Change Your Mind by Robby Weber

Robby Weber writes a romantic-comedy that moves beyond what I define as a beach book, a sugary treat to indulge a craving but not necessarily one that prompts deep thought. With his novel If You Change Your Mind, Weber explores

Tamarind and the Star of Ishta by Jasbinder Bilan

Set in India on the estate of the Kaur Sher-Gil family, Tamarind and the Star of Ishta by Jasbinder Bilan captures the life story of Chinty’s daughter. Eleven-year-old Tamarind was born in India but moved to Bristol, England, with her

Lines of Courage by Jennifer A. Nielsen

To reflect her view that the War to End All Wars didn’t do its job because of its complicated and convoluted nature, Jennifer A. Nielsen uses five viewpoints to tell the story Lines of Courage. Through her five protagonists, whose

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen

A young, Black Muslim woman living in Abington, Virginia, Sabriya (Bri) Siddiq revels in the feeling of control she has during ballet and dreams of reaching the American Ballet Theater.  When a terrorist attack happens at Union Station in Washington,

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Readers of Katherine Patterson will likely appreciate Yonder by Ali Standish. The community of Foggy Gap proves the world is a confusing place—with gaps in understanding and with clarity of vision required on subjects like justice, prejudice, war, and courage. Set in the early 1940s, Standish shares a perspective of what the years surrounding World War II may have been like in the United States. Her story suggests that the country’s role in WWII is more complicated than many of us are taught to believe, especially in the way in which news about Hitler’s Jewish extermination campaign was publicized or received limited coverage. For theRead More →

Unable to make her adoptive mother, Leanne Parkman, happy, Rynn gives up after Mom critiqued her homemade birthday gift placemats sewn by Rynn at age twelve. Although Rynn compares Mom to a dormant volcano that explodes without warning, she loves her Jewish father who was raised in New York but now grows garlic on a farm in Maine. Rynn’s birthmother was twenty when she gave birth to baby girl and named her Scheherazade. Legend defines the name, but Rynn decides it might be a survival trick for her: “I’m wondering if my birthmother wanted me to know that in order to survive without the truthRead More →

With his novel Falling Short, Ernesto Cisneros writes a motivational book for middle grade readers. Taking inspiration from his own life and from a quote by Michelangelo, Cisneros concurs that “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” To convey this moral, Cisneros creates Isaac Castillo and Marco Honeyman, two sixth graders at Mendez Middle School, who are looking for approval from their absent fathers. A talented basketball player, Isaac is dedicated to the sport and to the idea of teamwork. His best friendRead More →

Alechia Dow writes an intriguing speculative story with her novel The Kindred. Her two protagonists—as is everyone else in the Monchuri system—have been linked with since birth. The Kindred program was created after The Second Chaos, a revolution in which the poor rose up demanding that their voices be heard by the rich. Maru’s top scientists created the mind pairing idea as a solution. Because those who are paired come to know each other’s thoughts so intimately, they often marry. However, in the case of Joy Abara and Felix Hamdi, a pairing is unlikely since he’s of royal blood and in line for the throneRead More →

A master storyteller and the creator of the character Maria on the television program Sesame Street, Sonia Manzano brings to life the unfolding injustice of Fidel Castro’s reign in Cuba from 1959-1961. Through the narratives of four pre-teen adolescents in Coming Up Cuban, Manzano weaves a tapestry that captures a compelling period in human history. Readers meet Ana Andino, an aspiring artist in Havana, Cuba, in 1959, whose father is a revolutionary. In Ana’s eyes, her Papi is fighting for an unjust cause—one that is keeping a rebel leader with suffocating rules and ideas in place. Rafael explains to his daughter: “This Revolution was foughtRead More →

Robby Weber writes a romantic-comedy that moves beyond what I define as a beach book, a sugary treat to indulge a craving but not necessarily one that prompts deep thought. With his novel If You Change Your Mind, Weber explores topics like relationships and finding the core of what matters. Even though real life and romantic comedies are very different things, under the influence of Weber’s pen, we realize that similarities do exist. To assist the reader in seeing some of these, each chapter is named for or alludes to a rom-com film to parallel the plot. Some of these include You’ve Got Mail, Serendipity,Read More →

Set in India on the estate of the Kaur Sher-Gil family, Tamarind and the Star of Ishta by Jasbinder Bilan captures the life story of Chinty’s daughter. Eleven-year-old Tamarind was born in India but moved to Bristol, England, with her father after her mother dies in childbirth. The young tween loves British football (soccer) but feels lost because her father won’t answer any of her questions about her mother. When Tamrind’s father remarries and decides to venture to India on a honeymoon, Tamarind goes to stay in the Himalyas at Alakapari with her mother’s family–who are virtually strangers. Initially, this time is fraught with confusion andRead More →

To reflect her view that the War to End All Wars didn’t do its job because of its complicated and convoluted nature, Jennifer A. Nielsen uses five viewpoints to tell the story Lines of Courage. Through her five protagonists, whose paths all cross, readers are invited to widen their perspective on WWI. Living in Austria-Hungary, a twelve-year-old Jewish boy, Felix Baum was present on June 28, 1914 when he saw a glint of metal and could have screamed a warning. Instead, paralyzed by fear, he remains silent and watches the Archduke of Bosnia and his wife die. The assassination sets in motion events that leadRead More →

A young, Black Muslim woman living in Abington, Virginia, Sabriya (Bri) Siddiq revels in the feeling of control she has during ballet and dreams of reaching the American Ballet Theater.  When a terrorist attack happens at Union Station in Washington, D.C., all plans come to a halt. Hakeem Waters is the alleged terrorist, and with that name, people immediately assume that he’s Muslim. Soon, hate crimes are on the rise and Muslims across the country are targets. As a method of release, Bri starts blogging in what she believes is a private online journal that turns out to be public because of a setting oversight.Read More →