Apart from his name, Cymbeline Igloo thinks he is normal in every way. A friendly and supportive nine-year-old, Cymbeline isn’t aware of how odd his life story is until a nightmare invades with the heaviness of death. One of Cym’s classmates pushes him into the pool during a school activity, an action which triggers Cym’s mom, Janet Igloo, to have a mental breakdown. Now, Cymbeline’s routine and familiar life has been disrupted in a major way. Cym is left to solve the mystery of his mother’s discomfort with swimming. As Cym sleuths out the details with the help of Veronique Chang—a genius and fellow classmateRead More →

With his novel All That’s Left in the World, Erik J. Brown tells a post-apocalyptic story. It features “a gay guy, a broken straight boy, a cartography genius with PTSD, a seventy-year-old woman with a shotgun fighting zoo animals” (264), and a host of not-so-supportive others with an occasional kind character thrown in. There’s also a white supremacists commune, lest we forget the corrupting forces of racism, greed, and power. After a super-flu virus has nearly wiped out the American population, Andrew sets out from Connecticut on foot to find other survivors. Near Philadelphia, he is caught in a bear trap and staggers into aRead More →

Twelve years ago, Frances Frida Ripley (aka Frankie) was born near the sea during a storm, which seems to have imprinted on her, making her prone to volatility and moodiness. She is often impatient with her six-year-old sister, Birdie, and temperamental with her parents. Given her outbursts, Frankie has grown accustomed to her father’s admonishment: “Shouting creates negative energy and harmful interpersonal toxicity. Plus, it messes with our heads” (19). Frankie is frustrated by how adults always try to sort out or tidy up feelings, putting labels on them or nudging them into another shape. When Frankie doesn’t get her way, she rages. Her parentsRead More →

Largely inspired by her father’s own story, Wai Chim writes Freedom Swimmer to capture a tumultuous time in China’s history. Set in Guangdong Province in 1968, the novel reveals the journey of Ming Hong who is orphaned at age eleven. For him, the past dances in dark shadows and whispers of loss and loneliness. Ming, who is shy and resigned to his fate, loves the ocean—its murmuring, its offer of freedom, and its ability to drown his fears. Swimming not only gives him peace and confidence but brings him closer to his father and the strength of his dream of reaching Hong Kong. At theRead More →

Anyone who likes a good ghost story will likely enjoy Dan Poblocki’s newest novel for middle grade readers, Liars’ Room. The twelve-year-old Hill twins, Stella and Alex have moved to the country in Frost Valley, New York, with their mother and her new husband, Charlie Kidd. Charlie’s ten-year-old son Simon is now part of the family, although Simon’s older brother Zachary had to stay behind in Ohio because of some trouble he encountered. A lover of scary things and scary stories, Simon is prone to exaggeration and seeks attention. So, when he concocts a story about ghosts, neither Stella nor Alex are inclined to believeRead More →

Set in Ohio, Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson is about a post-apocalyptic world when an airborne virus more deadly than the corona virus has wiped out most of humanity. Terrified and overwhelmed, the few survivors must decide whether they wish to fight or they will give in to despair. Carson invites her readers to wonder what keeps us going since so many of our hopes and dreams—our reasons for living—are determined by sociocultural constructs. Do we recreate what we’ve lost or do we rebuild with something new and better? By asking what happens when all our reasons for living are taken away, CarsonRead More →

Dark, gruesome, and captivating, The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker is Book One in a planned duology. In this first installment, Baker writes the story of an angry biracial girl—Ren Scarborough—who is trying to find out where she belongs. This feeling of being half and not whole, as well as the label foreigner haunts Ren, following her from London, England, where she serves as a Reaper, to Japan where Ren was born a Shinigami. In both roles, Ren, who is a descendent of darkness—made not of flesh and blood but of Death and Time—works for Death. This servitude is supposed to be sacred,Read More →

Young readers looking for a good ghost story with adventure and history stirred in will find it in Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab.  In this third volume in the City of Ghosts series, Schwab features twelve-year-old Cassidy Blake whose parents are the Inspecters: World-traveling, ghost-hunting, paranormal investigators. As they travel the world to produce film accounts of their findings, Cassidy tags along from Paris to Edinburgh and beyond.  This episode has the family filming in New Orleans, a place where color, style, and sound collide; a place of contradictions. Although Cassidy has always had a brain that doodles, helping to show her things thatRead More →

By their own definition, Naomi and Malcolm Smith used to “live in sin” and had their first baby, Jemima Genesis (aka Genny), out of wedlock while in their teens. However, being God-fearing individuals and believers in the notion of God’s mercy in granting second chances, they marry and eventually answer the call to enter the seminary. Now, they serve as co-pastors at Resurrection Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. Naomi and Malcolm completed their family with two more daughters, naming each one after Job’s girls from the Bible. Of the Smith trinity, Genny went on to become the youngest Black woman to earn her PhDRead More →