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 →