Told in three parts, The Leopard Behind the Moon is written like an oral legend. Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev sets her tale in Sesa—a faraway place amid the marula trees where a group of people live in a village with strict laws about not going out at night or opening the magical door that protects them all. However, on the three-year anniversary of his father’s death, ten-year-old Ezomo sees the leopard that killed his father and feels compelled to follow it. His foolhardiness involves two of his friends: Muja and Chimama, and the three have quite an adventure.  Ezomo discovers that although the night is dark andRead More →

Because of her parents’ arguing at home, racist comments and insensitivity from classmates at school, stress induced anxiety, and the typical horrors of high school, Quinn Jackson keeps a journal filled with lists.  A coping mechanism of sorts, her lists serve to calm her mind, provide a sense of focus, and give her a foundation.  She also lists her goals and dreams, her fears and worries.  Her journal contains her feelings when she doesn’t know how to express them out loud. When her journal turns up missing and she instead has a red-covered spiral that belongs to Carter Bennett, Quinn determines that Carter must haveRead More →

Z Brewer, an author who is also an outspoken mental health and anti-bullying advocate, has written a young adult novel that validates the challenges that accompany identity exploration. Into the Real is an affirming story about a person living a broken life and willing to do anything to be free of constraints. Living in a fog of insecurity and confusion about sexuality and gender identity, seventeen-year-old Quinn experiences an oppressive feeling of loneliness. As Quinn navigates the fog of more questions than answers, more heartache than support, this genderqueer teen envisions a world in which life can be conflict-free and peaceful. However, to reach thisRead More →

The Ninth Life by Taylor B. Barton is a book about hope, family, grief, friendship, romance, and identity. But most of all, it is a book about fighting for love—that raw, untamed, and messy emotion—and a book about the monstrosity of being human, which is both horrible and beautiful. As Caesar’s feline life is coming to a close, a life bursting with endless amounts of love, he can’t imagine living without Ophelia Matherson and her dog Missy. His life as Ophelia’s cat was a full one; it had taught him kindness and brought him friendship. In that life, he loved a girl who loved himRead More →

Edited by Adi Alsaid, Come On In is a collection of fifteen short stories that prove the immigration story is not a single story but one as varied as those who cross borders seeking survival or searching for a better life. The anthologized stories will spark some interesting discussion about the challenges posed for immigrants who lose a part of themselves when they choose life—a miracle made possible by migration. The stories also ask important questions about how to be both an immigrant and an American. Clearly, those who emigrate are not from families of “sitters or stay-putters” (246) but from pioneers of risk-takers—those whoRead More →

In his newest book The Other Better Me, Antony John writes about fifth grader Lola Harmon and the emptiness she feels by not having her dad in her life.  As this inquisitive and energetic people-person navigates life with her classmates at Shoreline Elementary school in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, she learns some important lessons about identity and about bullying behavior and bullies. Lola’s best friends are Nick Merlo and Kiana Richards.  Both live more affluent lives than Lola, who resides in a mobile home with her single mother who battles a thyroid condition.  Lola describes Nick as igneous rock since he resembles cooled lava. Read More →

Although we humans all have insecurities and need training in loving ourselves in our own skin, these conditions are perhaps especially pronounced during our adolescent years when we walk school hallways, subjecting ourselves to snickering peers, poisoned looks, and whispered comments.  This is the conflict tackled by Donna Cooner in her novel Fake. Attending Fort Collins High School in Colorado, Maisie Fernandez is a mixed race girl whose father is a Filipino Californian and whose mother is a white Texan.  Branded as one of the Froot Loops, Maisie learns that it isn’t easy being sixteen and fat.  Despite her artistic, humorous, and intelligent characteristics, sheRead More →

A name might be just a word, but it elicits feelings, memories, meanings, and histories associated with it.  When we feel like we need to live up to our names or live down a reputation that a name may convey, names potentially define or limit who and what we become.  Names can also affect our self-perceptions.  Most of us have likely pondered the idea of our given names and whether we would have chosen something different. In his first picture book, Thunder Boy Jr., Sherman Alexie features Thunder Boy, who explores the meaning of his name.  Initially, he celebrates its power and its uniqueness.  When heRead More →