Sixth grader and lover of horses, Waka Tanaka was born in the United States and lives in Kansas, but her Japanese parents worry that Waka’s Japanese language skills are lacking, so they decide to send her to Tokyo to live with her Obaasama, her grandmother. In her semi-autobiographical account, While I Was Away, Waka T. Brown shares Waka’s struggle to find a place in her grandmother’s home, to curate a friend group, and to read and write the complicated strokes of kanji. Brown also takes the reader on a tour of Japan with its culinary, linguistic, and cultural practices. In Tokyo, Waka experiences a life-changingRead More →

Ellen Goodlett’s debut novel Rule is a fantasy-adventure story that recounts the tale of three sisters, each hiding a dangerous and treasonous secret.  When King Andros of Kolonya announces that these girls from vastly different backgrounds are his daughters, each struggles to adapt to new circumstances and expectations but eventually all three come to see being a bastard daughter of King Andros as an opportunity to make a difference and to change conditions for their people. Zofi, a Traveler from the North with a battle-ready stance, is built for a life on the move, not for one cooped up with haughty nobles. She has masteredRead More →

While Lady Julia Lindsay Mackenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart (aka Julie) is home from a Swiss boarding school and exploring her grandad’s Murray Estate in Strathfearn, Scotland, she wanders upon a pearl thief and receives a blow to the head.  As she tries to recall the events of that fateful day on the Fearn River and to untangle a mystery of thievery, assault, and murder, she learns that memory is a strange and unreliable thing.  To solve the mystery, Julie must string together the clues, like pearls torn from a necklace. Besides being a mystery, The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein fits my definition of Cultural IdentityRead More →

Just as an apple, cut and cored, cannot be put back together, Nella Sabatini–a young Italian Catholic girl–feels undone, confused, and incomplete.  Restless with desire for things her parents cannot afford, for popularity that evades her, and for a sense of peace and quiet that is in short supply with a houseful of “barbarian brothers” and a grandmother who is demanding and grumpy, “ancient and ignorant,” Nella aches for answers to life’s toughest questions and difficult dilemmas.  With happy moments so ephemeral, she wishes, “If only you could store up happiness. . . . Dig a happiness hole, or keep a happiness piggy bank, savingRead More →