Edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ancestor Approved is a collection of intertribal stories with a target audience of middle grade youth.  It not only features rising Indigenous voices but the voices of well-established authors like Tim Tingle, Eric Gansworth, and Joseph Bruchac. The core of the book revolves around an intertribal powwow— an important gathering among native people that Rebecca Roanhorse describes through the eyes of Ozzie, the Rez dog, as “a riot of color and noise and happy people” (83). Adding a unifying as well as a humorous thread, Ozzie turns up in several of the later stories wearing either an Ancestor Approved orRead More →

Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan tells the story of thirteen-year-old senior camper Victoria (Vic) Brown who is not happy with her mother’s decision to ship her off to Meadow Wood, a beautiful lakefront campus in New Hampshire where Vic has spent previous pleasure-filled summers. However, this summer, Vic had plans for sleeping in, binge-watching old television shows, floating on a raft at the pool while checking out the lifeguards, and shining flashlight beams into the night sky as she and Jamie, her bestie in Pennsylvania, whispered their deepest wishes and fears to each other. Instead, she is covered in sweat, fighting aRead More →

To cope with the stresses of middle school and the complications of life, Theo Goodwin escapes into his drawings where he can become Theo-Dare.  As his comic book alter ego, he conquers demons with his superpowers and the help of his sidekick, Super G. Super G is Georgia Rosenbloom, another sixth grader whose biggest passion, aside from art, is astronomy. She and Theo have been inseparable friends since forever, and their mothers are colleagues at Columbia University. When Georgia’s dad—the renowned and accomplished artist Hank Rosenbloom—dies suddenly, the loss throws Georgia out of her orbit. Unlike others who see the value of his art andRead More →

Author Christine Day claims to have written The Sea of Winter for young people who struggle with loneliness, a separation from friends, and uncertainty about the future. It is also for those learning to live with and recover from trauma. However, it’s not just a story for those who despair but for readers who can relate to athletes whose dreams are altered by injury. It’s for readers of Cynthia Leitich Smith, James Welch, and Jennifer Longo or for anyone struggling to find joy again and needing a reminder that pain is temporary. Twelve-year-old Maisie Cannon is a Makah/Piscataway girl whose sanctuary is ballet school. SheRead More →

Betita is a nine-year-old girl with a loving family in modern-day America. She enjoys learning new words, spelling, drawing, and playing with other kids her age. What appears to be a rather normal life quickly begins to unravel into fear and uncertainty when her Papi doesn’t pick her up after school one day. After failing to reach her father, the principal drives Betita home. While her mother tries to hide her worry, Betita knows something is wrong, and she soon finds out that the almost-worst has happened. Her father has been deported, leaving her mother, who is newly pregnant, and Betita to fend for themselvesRead More →

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi is a story that captures the ideas of belonging and imagination and poverty and richness, with a focus on economic disparity  With her novel, Faruqi also pays homage to Karachi, a city of her own childhood, as she attempts to help readers better understand Pakistan. To fulfill this objective, Faruqi creates eleven-year-old Mimi, whose father, Tom Scotts, is a journalist who travels a lot for his job. Her mother, Samia, is an art teacher and painter.  Because the couple has grown apart and decide to separate, Mimi, who is about to enter sixth grade in Houston, feels abandoned andRead More →

Through her newest middle grade novel, One Time, Sharon Creech reminds us all how our lives can be forever impacted by a highly effective teacher. She also reminds readers of the power of writing, while inspiring the imagination with two explicitly asked questions: 1) Who are you? and 2) Who could you become? Miss Lightstone poses these questions to her class. Because they are ingrained by “doing school” a certain way, the class initially resists. However, with intentional lessons, well-executed pedagogical moves, careful chosen words, and key dispositions on Miss Lightstone’s part, soon they are experimenting, engaging, and performing without grades in what feels likeRead More →

Three Keys

Try as I might, I was unable to limit my review of Three Keys by Kelly Yang to three keys to its greatness.  I started with It’s about a goat named Scape and the issue of immigration and how it’s easy to blame those in a weak spot; It proves that although most people don’t change, some people do; and It shares how small interactions have the power to change minds and to make a big impact for those vulnerable to exploitation, abuses, misinformation, and hopelessness. But I realized I couldn’t stop with that short list.  Yang’s book goes beyond any simple storyline to capture someRead More →

A story of resilience, Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist addresses the issue of homelessness from a child’s perspective. The Dunn family’s homelessness is brought on by the death of Isaiah’s and Charlie’s father, Gary Dunn, on November 24 due to a heart attack. Gary’s wife, Lisa subsequently falls into a debilitating depression accompanied by a bout with alcoholism. While his mother is incapacitated by grief, Isaiah is expected to watch and entertain his four-year-old sister and to keep up in school at Woodson Elementary.  This ten-year-old young man is forced to accept other responsibilities, as well.  Hoping to get the fundsRead More →