The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

I absolutely HAD to make time to share this book with you! It arrived in the mail last Friday night (a complimentary review copy from Harper Perennial) after I had already posted my weekly TBR post, and I immediately moved it to the top of my weekend stack. And I LOVED it! Remember how much I loved this one? And this one? Well, The Library at the Edge of the World is now added to that love fest of books for book lovers!

The Library at the Edge of the WorldThe Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
(Harper Perennial ~ November 14, 2017 ~ US EDITION)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from Goodreads)

In the bestselling tradition of Fannie Flagg and Jenny Colgan comes Felicity Hayes-McCoy’s U.S. debut about a local librarian who must find a way to rebuild her community and her own life in this touching, enchanting novel set on Ireland’s stunning West Coast.

As she drives her mobile library van between villages of Ireland’s West Coast, Hanna Casey tries not to think about a lot of things. Like the sophisticated lifestyle she abandoned after finding her English barrister husband in bed with another woman. Or that she’s back in Lissbeg, the rural Irish town she walked away from in her teens, living in the back bedroom of her overbearing mother’s retirement bungalow. Or, worse yet, her nagging fear that, as the local librarian and a prominent figure in the community, her failed marriage and ignominious return have made her a focus of gossip. 

With her teenage daughter, Jazz, off travelling the world and her relationship with her own mother growing increasingly tense, Hanna is determined to reclaim her independence by restoring a derelict cottage left to her by her great-aunt. But when the threatened closure of the Lissbeg Library puts her personal plans in jeopardy, Hanna finds herself leading a battle to restore the heart and soul of the Finfarran Peninsula’s fragmented community. And she’s about to discover that the neighbors she’d always kept at a distance have come to mean more to her than she ever could have imagined. 

Told with heart, wry wit, and charm, The Library at the Edge of the World is a joyous story about the meaning of home and the importance of finding a place where you truly belong.

Review

This is an absolutely wonderful book for every book lover on earth! I adored this story of a public library, a woman starting over, family, friends and community set in rural Ireland. The setting is fabulous, the people make my heart happy and the storyline of a librarian saving a library makes this school librarian jump for joy. The P.S. section at the end of the book includes a ton of wonderful information about the author’s background and her thoughts on the Irish setting and current sentiments about emigration and the status of Irish communities.

Now, if all of that makes me so happy, just IMAGINE how excited I was to find out that this is actually the first book in a series that was originally published in Ireland and is just now coming to the US from Harper Perennial! AND, the next 2 books in the series (Ireland editions) are available to buy in the US through Book Depository, so of course I ordered them immediately and can now binge read them the moment they arrive! YAY! The US cover is VERY different from the Irish covers ~ the Irish covers are very much in the “English cozy” style with illustrations and curly cutesy font. Both are great, but I do think this photographic cover will do amazingly well here in the states!

The next two books are titled Summer at the Garden Cafe and The Mistletoe Matchmaker ~ I very much hope they will also be released in the US!

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Required Purchase: Speaking Our Truth

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As I have mentioned lately, I’m struggling to find the time to post for each book that I read. However, some titles are so urgent and timely and important that I need to get them out to everyone I know as quickly as I can. This is one of those books. It’s a title I feel incredibly strongly about, and after reading the review copy I received from Orca Publishers, I feel the need to shout about it from the rooftops. I have also included some other great reviews, posts, book lists etc for Native American Heritage Month at the end of this post.

And, because I am NOT an Own Voices reviewer of this title, I am going to let the book speak for itself and not offer a full review. As a school librarian, however, I will say that it is a required purchase. It is written in a very accessible format and while it is focused on reconciliation in Canada, it is 100% applicable to readers in the US as well, given the shared history and experiences with the Residential School system.

Disclosure: I received both of these books as complimentary review copies upon request from Orca Publishers. I have donated them to my school library. 


speaking our truthSpeaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith
(Orca ~ September 19, 2017)
Ages 8 and up

Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous people has suffered as a result of both the Residential School system and the lack of understanding of the historical and current impact of those schools. Healing and repairing that relationship requires education, awareness and increased understanding of the legacy and the impacts still being felt by Survivors and their families. Guided by acclaimed Indigenous author Monique Gray Smith, readers will learn about the lives of Survivors and listen to allies who are putting the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into action.

Watch Monique Gray Smith’s video explaining why people need to learn about Reconciliation.

Here are some great reviews of this title:

Kirkus
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
Reading While White

Monique Gray Smith has also just released another title ~ a picture book titled You Hold You hold me upMe Up (Orca ~ October 31, 2017) that is dedicated to the children, families and staff of Aboriginal Head Start programs. It was written “to remind us of our common humanity and the importance of holding each other up with respect and dignity. I hope it is a foundational book for our littlest citizens. A book that encourages dialogue among children, their families, their care providers and their educators. At its heart, it is a book about love, building relationships and fostering empathy.”

This is a story that I will be sharing in my preschool story times and recommend for all libraries and classrooms that serve our youngest children.

Some related reading:

Rich In Color – Native Perspectives
Native American Heritage Month
Anything and everything on the American Indians in Childrens Literature website 

I also received an email newsletter from Book Riot with an awesome list of Native American YA Reads but realized I can’t link it here! I’m sorry! I can’t find it on their website but if you want to comment here with your email I will forward it to you.

AND lastly, if you’re wondering (which I was until reading this last year)……..this is from the sidebar of the AICL website:

American Indian? Or, Native American? There is no agreement among Native peoples. Both are used. It is best to be specific. Example: Instead of “Debbie Reese, a Native American,” say “Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Indian woman.”

Tween Review: Escape from the Overworld

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Remember how my daughter writes reviews too? Well, now my son has joined the party! When I was asked to be a part of this Minecraft blog tour, my first thought was NOPE, not my genre. But THEN, I thought of who I know that adores Minecraft……..and then I asked him if he wanted to do start reviewing with us! He said yes, so yay for a family affair.

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Escape from the Overworld
by Danica Davidson

(Sky Pony Press ~ January 6, 2015)

Book Description (from Amazon)

Escape From the Overworld Davidson

From the publisher of The Quest of the Diamond Sword and Battle of the Nether comes a new novel for Minecrafters which takes on a spellbinding battle that brings Stevie and zombie mobs into the real world! 

This adventure series is created especially for readers who love the fight of good vs. evil, magical academies like Hogwarts in the Harry Potter saga, and games like Minecraft, Terraria, and Pokemon GO.

Stevie is in for a big surprise while building his treehouse: he’s first attacked by a creeper, and then must take on a group of zombies! The near miss has him feeling like the worst mob fighter in Minecraft, so when he finds a portal into a brand-new world, he’s willing to take his chances.

He steps out of a computer screen and into the room of a sixth-grade girl Maison, who’s a talented builder. Stevie is shocked by how different this world is, and Maison takes him under her wing. But soon the two friends learn zombies have also made their way out of the portal! 

More and more creatures are slipping out by the second, wreaking havoc on a world that has no idea how to handle zombies, creepers, giant spiders, and the like. Stevie and Maison must put their heads together and use their combined talents in order to push the zombies back into Minecraft, where they belong. As Stevie and Maison’s worlds become more combined, their adventure becomes intense and even more frightening than they could have ever imagined.

Review

As a school librarian, there are absolute mobs of kids wanting everything and anything Minecraft, so I am well aware of the appeal of this fan genre. That being said, I can’t read it myself given that it is SO far outside of my comfort zone, so I rely on kids to tell me what is good among the large number of Minecraft books being printed. Here is what my 5th grader says about this one!

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October Picture Book Roundup

Another month of picture book reviews! This is my monthly round up of the picture books I have received for review from publishers/authors/publicists ~ for more of my picture books posts and reviews, stay tuned to my dedicated Instagram account! And HERE is the blog post with all of the picture books I used in my library story times this month.

Please note that when I receive finished copies of quality titles I donate them to my library. When I receive galleys/ARCs, they are shared with Kid Lit Exchange.


The People Shall ContinueThe People Shall Continue by Simon J. Ortiz
(Lee and Low ~ October 15, 2017 (reissue))

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am BEYOND blessed to have received a review copy of this title from Lee and Low ~ it is such an important narration of the “epic story of Native American People” as described on the back. If you add any children’s nonfiction book to your home library, classroom or actual library this fall, it needs to be this one. It’s a re-issue but just as impeccably told and relevant as it was 40 years ago. And in my personal opinion, if Thanksgiving, Columbus or Westward Expansion are mentioned or taught in any way in schools, this book *must* be included as an antidote. There is a Spanish edition of this title as well. Required purchase. I am adding this copy to my school library collection and purchasing an additional copy as well.


Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America SingingListen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing by Leda Schubert
(Roaring Brook Press ~ June 13, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for the review copy of this title.

As a school librarian, I absolutely love picture book biographies, and this is one that I will definitely be using for a read aloud with classes. I especially love when books have natural tie-ins with extension activities. Whether or not my students are already familiar with Seger’s work, we will be able to listen to clips of his music and discuss the importance that he had on the culture of the United States – you can find a wide variety of resources on Schubert’s site. Throughout the book, as it covers the timeline of Seger’s career, there are song titles below each significant event or topic – this is an excellent set up for a really rich reading and listening experience, whether it be at home, in a library story time or in a music classroom. The illustrations are beautiful with soft pixelated images.

Included in the back pages of this book are an author’s note, bibliography, timeline, recommended children’s books and recommended recordings.


BraveBrave by Stacy McAnulty
(Running Press ~ October 3, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful and colorful story showing all the different ways of being brave. I adore the fact that the term isn’t defined just by typically heroic acts of muscle and daring, but also never giving up, standing back up, fighting for justice and fighting illness. Very simple text with detailed illustrations depicting a diverse cast of unnamed child characters.

Thanks to Running Press for the review copy of this title – all opinions are my own.

Highly recommended for purchase for school libraries and for all the brave kiddos in your life.


Peep and Egg: I'm Not Taking a BathPeep and Egg: I’m Not Taking a Bath by Laura Gehl
(Farrar Straus Giroux ~ October 24, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for the review copy of this title.

I read this aloud to my 6 year old for a bedtime story and we both loved it! It’s short and sweet and simple and just perfect for the toddler through kindergarten crowd. I will now be purchasing the rest of the books in this series for my school library – my 4K classes will love them.


Bulldozer DreamsBulldozer Dreams by Sharon Chriscoe
(Running Press Books ~ October 3, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a cute bedtime story for fans of “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site” and all things trucks and diggers!

Thanks to Running Press for the review copy of this title – all opinions are my own.

This is a vividly colored picture book with lyrical text that would be an excellent choice for a bedtime story or class read aloud for grades PK and K. I will be using this book as a PK read aloud in my library. The text is a bit clunky at times, but not in a way noticeable by the youngest listeners, and the illustrations and subject matter will be high interest with this population. Recommended purchase for those with construction-loving kid populations, along with the companion title RACE CAR DREAMS.


Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably)Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever by Julie Falatko
(Viking Children’s Books ~ October 3, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Snappsy is a lovable curmudgeon, and kids love hearing this story with the different voices read with lots of expression. It’s a sweet story of reluctant friendship with a healthy dose of exaggeration. Fans of the earlier Snappsy title and books such as the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems will eat this up as they follow Snappsy and his friend Bert (who knew he had a name?!?) on their adventures. The illustrations are adorable and the speech bubbles make this attractive to early readers.

Thanks to Running Press for the review copy of this title.

Recommended for purchase in elementary libraries and in classrooms grades K-2.


Pug Pig Trick-or-TreatPug Pig Trick-or-Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion
(Beach Lane Books ~ July 25, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is adorable, with a story and illustrations perfect for an audience grades 1 and under. The story of friendship and Halloween will delight both readers familiar with Pug and Pig, as well as those new to the pair.

Highly recommended for Halloween storytimes for the younger crowd!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for the review copy of this title.


Me and You and the Red CanoeMe and You and the Red Canoe by Jean E. Pendziwol
(Groundwood Books ~ August 1, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a beautiful book! The style of the illustrations perfectly capture the Northwoods feel of this story of siblings sharing time together on a lake, while the lyrical text and story describe an incredibly peaceful and natural setting. As a native of Northern Wisconsin, this book put me right back at my family’s cabin and evoked such wonderful memories. I will be reading this aloud to my elementary library classes as we head into summer and talk about summer plans.

Thanks to House of Anansi for providing me with a review copy of this title.

Highly recommended for home bookshelves and libraries.


Space Boy and the Snow MonsterSpace Boy and the Snow Monster by Dian Regan
(Boyds Mills Press ~ October 10, 2017)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for this review copy.

This is a fun picture book that is almost written in a graphic format, with different panels on each page. The text is fairly terse, so I can definitely see this one being best used in a one-on-one setting or small group rather than in a large group read aloud. This is book 3 in a series, so fans of the series will be excited about a new title featuring Space Boy!


 Most PeopleMost People by Michael Leannah
(Tilbury House ~ August 15, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to a publisher’s representative for the review copy of this title.

In these current times of political strife and scary events in our world, this picture book is a reassurance that most people are good. The repeated text and sweet illustrations highlight to kids that despite the actions and words of a few, the world is a good place. I can definitely see this being used with classes or families after witnessing something traumatic, or even just after children see something scary on the news. In my librarian opinion, it would be best to use this in that situation rather than just as a “cold” read aloud. I would recommend this for preschool and up, given that the message can be as deep as the audience wants it to be. This is a book to read alongside Come with Me by Holly McGhee.


 Martí's Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertadMartí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad by Emma Otheguy
(Lee & Low ~ August 1, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Lee and Low for the review copy of this title.

This bilingual biography is written in a poetic format with both the main story and the back matter written in English alongside Spanish. The illustrations are soft and colorful. For those familiar with Jose Marti, this is a beautiful tribute. For those unfamiliar with his life and work, this is a wonderful introduction in a very accessible format. The bilingual presentation is much appreciated for use in library collections and classrooms.


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Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
(Atheneum ~ October 24, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I can hardly review, but just have to say……BUY IT. READ IT. SHARE IT.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Review

Amazingly powerful YA story in verse, including elements of magical realism. Reynolds pounds home messages about family, gun violence and life choices using terse lyrical language in this brief and timely volume that definitely requires acceptance by the reader of the impact of voices from beyond the grave to teach harsh life lessons.

Required purchase for high school libraries.

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Prince of Pot by Tanya Lloyd Kyi


Prince of Pot by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
(Groundwood Books ~ September 5, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Completely and utterly original, this YA captivated me from page one.

Thanks to House of Anansi Press for the review copy of this title.

Book Description

Isaac loves art class, drives an old pickup, argues with his father and hangs out with his best buddy, Hazel. But his life is anything but normal. His parents operate an illegal marijuana grow-op, Hazel is a bear that guards the property, and his family’s livelihood is a deep secret.

It’s no time to fall in love with the daughter of a cop.

Isaac’s girlfriend Sam is unpredictable, ambitious and needy. And as his final year of high school comes to an end, she makes him consider a new kind of life pursuing his interest in art, even if that means leaving behind his beloved home in the Rockies and severing all ties with his family.

For a while he hopes he can have it all, until a disastrous graduation night, when Sam’s desperate grab for her father’s attention suddenly puts his entire family at risk. 

Review

I have said again and again recently that I’m starting to rate more and more on originality and this book NAILED the quintessential feel of quality YA wrapped in a completely new storyline. I was fascinated with the premise of this book and couldn’t stop reading. It is a story with a TON of heart about secrets, family and growing up in a very, very unique setting. Anyone who has ever had to keep a secret or take care of an elderly relative will relate to this story so closely. Personally, growing up and living in rural wilderness areas make me able to relate to this one on many other levels as well.

I cried and I ached for Isaac as he tried to find his place in the world, but wasn’t left with a feeling of despair. And the BEARS. Oh, those bears.

Highly recommended for mature YA collections.

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American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee


American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
by Nate Blakeslee
(Crown Publishing ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunningly addictive, this nonfiction account of wolves, Yellowstone and humanity reads like a fictional account of dueling mob families in a turf war. A must-read for nature lovers and hunters alike.

Thanks to Crown Publishing for providing me with a free advance copy of this book for review purposes.

Nate Blakeslee has done what very few writers can. He has taken a group of wild animals and created an epic drama surrounding their lives ~ a drama that reads entirely like fiction or the best type of biography. I honestly didn’t think it was possible for an almost-300-page tome about wolves to be a page turner, but it truly, truly is. Blakeslee includes just the right balance between the people and politics surrounding the wolves with the actions of the actual wolves to ensure that readers understand just how perilous this animal’s survival chances are. And really, the survival chances of any wild animals in the United States. The stories in this book about Yellowstone and the federal and state agencies regulating the park and wildlife honestly make me despair about the way our nation is run on an entirely new level. Bureaucracy trumps nature at every single turn, but the hearts of those dedicated to protecting wolves give me hope.

Required reading for nature lovers, hunters, and anyone who loves quality nonfiction. This is one of the best out there.

Now, a little bit about my background coming into this book so you can understand my unbridled love for it. First of all, I read National Geographic cover to cover every single month. Nature writing is my THING. Next, we live in rural Wisconsin and the hunting/preservation topic is always close by. In addition, my family has a major wolf obsession due to my son’s extreme interest in them ~ he currently has 8 stuffed wolves that he has with him at all times, a wolf mask, posters, calendars, blankets, and countless books on this topic. The arrival of this book in my household as an advance copy was a cause for great celebration, and I can not wait for my husband and son to get to share it next. My husband also has family in Wyoming and is an avid hunter ~ we have always had spirited conversations about wildlife management, and this book just adds to our discussion fodder.

One of my favorite reads of 2017.

For an update on this topic, see Blakeslee’s October 6, 2017 WSJ article “The Plight of the West’s Wolves”

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The Floating World by C Morgan Babst


The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst
(Algonquin Books ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As dark and disturbing as Katrina herself, THE FLOATING WORLD takes readers into the most damaged neighborhoods of New Orleans, both during and after the epic storm, in this story of family, race and a city in crisis.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for the review copy of this title.

Book Description

A dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, The Floating World takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina with the story of the Boisdorés, whose roots stretch back nearly to the foundation of New Orleans. Though the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora, the family’s fragile elder daughter, refuses to leave the city, forcing her parents, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from a freed slave who became one of the city’s preeminent furniture makers, and his white “Uptown” wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, to evacuate without her, setting off a chain of events that leaves their marriage in shambles and Cora catatonic–the victim or perpetrator of some violence mysterious even to herself.

This mystery is at the center of C. Morgan Babst’s haunting, lyrical novel. Cora’s sister, Del, returns to New Orleans from the life she has tried to build in New York City to find her hometown in ruins and her family deeply alienated from one another. As Del attempts to figure out what happened to her sister, she must also reckon with the racial history of the city, and the trauma of destruction that was not, in fact, some random act of God, but an avoidable tragedy visited upon New Orleans’s most helpless and forgotten citizens.

The Floating World is the Katrina story that needed to be told–one with a piercing, unforgettable loveliness and a nuanced understanding of this particular place and its tangled past, written by a New Orleans native who herself says that after Katrina, “if you were blind, suddenly you saw.”

Review

This book is not an easy read. It’s not a page turner or a nail biter. It’s not a story of a strong New Orleans rising after a devastating storm and it’s not a story of a family coming together in a time of need. It’s a fiercely honest account of a family going through tortured times, both emotional and environmental. It’s a story of hearts breaking and a city sinking and the absolute worst that people can do. As you read, you are trapped in the brains of humans who are suffering, both in typical ways and in ways brought about by mental illness and dementia.

But. But. You also experience the depths of the human condition and the brutal racial divide in the city. You learn about the horrors of a storm most of us haven’t experienced firsthand, and to understand is to empathize.

Is this happy? No. Is it important? Yes.

If you like dark, ruminative stories about complex social issues, this one’s for you. If you’re looking for a light, fast-paced adventure story about surviving a hurricane, this will definitely surprise you with its slow and meandering nature and psychological focus.

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
(Crown BFYR ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raw, powerful and REAL, DEAR MARTIN is a required purchase for HS libraries and a required read for all American teens and adults.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this title – all opinions are my own.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

Review

DEAR MARTIN is raw and it’s powerful and it does not hold back. This is a book for mature readers not because of the violence and sexual content, but because of the maturity of the discussions and debate held throughout the book. This, in my opinion, makes this just as valuable in the YA market as in the adult market. I love the format of the book ~ standard narration broken up by letters from the teen narrator written to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr ~ and I absolutely had my heart broken with the overall story. Justyce’s struggle is heartbreaking and authentic and so gorgeously written.

Add this to the canon of YA books about race relations in present-day United States, but put it right near the TOP of that list. It can be right alongside THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas and ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

And until adult fiction writers start hitting this topic like YA has, this is THE must-read book on the topic for adult readers as well. My eyes are open like they never have been before.

As mentioned earlier, this is a required purchase for HS libraries. I have pre-ordered it for mine.

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
(Knopf BFYR ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

More than deserving of its National Book Award Finalist status, this novel is a stunning story of heritage, family and growing up.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of this title.

Book Description

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. 

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

Review

Sanchez has taken a teenage girl and created one of the most relatable characters I have read yet in young adult literature. Julia and her family and the Chicago setting are absolute perfection, and readers will get swept up into both Julia’s grief over the loss of her sister, but also her agony about being trapped into a life that she doesn’t want. The mystery of her sister Olga’s death and Julia’s attempts to escape her family create subplots that make this title a incredibly compelling page-turner as well.

What seals the 5th star for this title for me, however, is the complete and utter ease that Sanchez weaves English and Spanish throughout the narrative, sometimes translating the Spanish and sometimes just leaving it out there because maybe the reader SHOULD be expected to speak and read a language other than English for once. Julia’s accounts of her family’s undocumented status and their harrowing journeys from Mexico are heartbreaking and 100% necessary and relevant, both for readers who are themselves living this life, but also for readers who struggle to understand the reality of living it.

Required purchase for high school libraries. Get this book into the hands of teens NOW.

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