With his novel—You Only Live Once, David Bravo—Mark Oshiro writes a time-bending adventure story for middle grade readers. The two protagonists, David Bravo and Antoine Harris have been friends forever, but now that they are entering Mira Monte Middle School in California, their lives are about to change drastically. When his teacher Mr. Bradshaw invites the class to give a short, introduce-yourself presentation about their cultures and backgrounds, David is faced with indecision. What does he include or leave out? Adopted as an infant, David’s knowledge of his origin story is limited. As he overthinks the task, David faces an identity crisis: Who is he?Read More →

If books need labels, Café con Lychee by Emery Lee would be a romantic comedy that showcases queer interracial love between two people of color. Labels are suggestive of a category and, as such, provide a cognitive short-cut. Yet, labels also invite critical thinking. So, while Lee’s book does indeed feature two gay young men—one Japanese/Chinese, the other Puerto Rican—it dives deeper, emerging as a book about the universal experience of looking for acceptance and how fear makes people do terrible things. An openly gay boy, Theo Mori is a talented cook and soccer athlete. Even though his friends see him as confident, smart, andRead More →

Although an important book about exploitation, genocide, and identity—one inspired by Yoruba-Nigerian mythology—Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye is difficult to read. Trapped in a world of monsters who will eat her alive should they realize she’s the enemy, Sloane Shade lives under Lucis rule and tyranny. Ten times more horrifying than the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the ruling class and its military are pitting children against children, training them to kill or be killed. Bound by the Lucis law regarding conscription, when a child turns fifteen, he or she reports for training for a war against the Shadow Rebels. Such is the fate ofRead More →

Laden with pain that she sometimes forgets to hide, pain from the loss of a brother on the day she was born, twelve-year-old Jewel Campbell wonders where joy goes when it leaves a family.  A Jamaican/White/Mexican mixed race girl living in Caledonia, Iowa, Jewel feels like a misfit.  In Caledonia, where folks think “that Jamaica is some country in Africa” (62), mixing doesn’t happen—except in Jewel’s family.  Outside of Caledonia, people ask Jewel what she is, a question that makes Jewel bristle: “Shouldn’t they ask who I am?  Why am I a what?” (62).   Jewel wonders what it would be like to have two parentsRead More →