With her recent autobiographical account in Out of Hiding: A Holocaust’s Survivor’s Journey to America, Ruth Gruener (aka Luncia Gamzer) tells her story of survival. Her memoir joins those stories told by other survivors of this unimaginable time in history. This was a time when anxiety turned to cold, raw fear as the Nazis burned synagogues and committed murder without regard for the sanctity of human life—a time when choice was taken, freedom was scarce, and normal took on an entirely different definition. Gruener tells of her feeling like a nonperson, “a body that took up space” (27). She describes hunger, loneliness, hiding, and aRead More →

Kim Johnson’s debut young adult novel is a stunning work of realistic fiction. It joins the ranks of stories written by Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Jesmyn Ward.  With This Is My America, Johnson uses art as a tool to inspire social action. Drawing on the idealism, perseverance, and passion of her protagonist Tracy Beaumont, Johnson encourages us to use our voices to demand justice and to become advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rooted in United States history, where we have inherited a legacy of racial segregation and hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, this narrative reminds us that the past is alwaysRead More →

Three Keys

Try as I might, I was unable to limit my review of Three Keys by Kelly Yang to three keys to its greatness.  I started with It’s about a goat named Scape and the issue of immigration and how it’s easy to blame those in a weak spot; It proves that although most people don’t change, some people do; and It shares how small interactions have the power to change minds and to make a big impact for those vulnerable to exploitation, abuses, misinformation, and hopelessness. But I realized I couldn’t stop with that short list.  Yang’s book goes beyond any simple storyline to capture someRead More →

Set in 1941 in Viteretz, Ukraine, Don’t Tell the Nazis is a historical fiction account of events during the Soviet Occupation of Ukraine, the few days of “freedom,” and the German infiltration that followed.   Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch frames her story around real people and events so as to be true to the history but takes liberties to humanize it. Readers follow the heroism of Krystia Fediuk, a twelve-year-old girl wishing to bring the hope back to her mama’s eyes after Tato’s death from cancer.  Krystia steps in to take on the tedious tasks that could wear her mama down, but she feels powerless against Ukraine’sRead More →

Born to Austrian and Indonesian parents, Alexa is nearly ten years old and attends Nelson Elementary School in London.  She dreams of having the best job in the world: “being a reporter and getting to solve mysteries and go on adventures” (2) just like Tintin and Snowy, her favorite comic book characters. One day, a boy with lion’s eyes joins Alexa’s class and sits in the back.  Intrigued by the mysterious boy, Ahmet, Alexa and her friends—Josie, Tom, and Michael—set out to discover where Ahmet is from and how he came to be in London.  During their discovery phase, the group learns not only thatRead More →

October has been designated as National Bullying Prevention Month. While we should always focus on the prevention of bullying, this may be a good month for readers to read books to begin conversations about bullying, and You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino is a good place to start.  Through dialogue, we hopefully can dispel some of the myths and misperception about diverse cultures and identities. Intentionally chosen literature can also serve as a catalyst for sparking conversations on complex social issues like bullying, diversity, and the effects of prejudice. An activist and advocate for LGBTQ communities since 1997, Gino uses the singular-theyRead More →

Actually, David wears the headphones to keep him from feeling anxious, to help him cope with his symptoms of highly functioning autism.  He also makes notes in a notebook, to learn social norms and social cues, to remember names, and to make sense of all the parts of the world that confuse him.  These differences and his predilection for honesty and disclosure often get him in trouble.  So, when Kit sits at his table at lunch, David is surprised. A month after her dad’s death in a car accident, Kit is looking for quiet, for a port in the storm of confusing emotions. Grief hasRead More →

Being the outsider looking in is painful.  From run-of-the-mill social awkwardness, to being the new kid in school, to being from a culture/background that is misunderstood and feared, the outsider is the lonely one among us.  Funny thing is, at any given point in time, everyone is the outsider yearning for acceptance, friendship, and understanding. Seventh grader Lewis Blake has had it with being an outsider.  But his quest to fit in to his mostly white middle school is an uphill battle:  being an Indian, he will have to do more than just cut off his braid and cut back on his sarcasm to breakRead More →