Monday, August 3, 2020

I LOVE YOU SO MOCHI by Sarah Kuhn.  New York:  Scholastic Press, 2019. 308p.  ISBN 978-133830288-2 hc. $17.99     Gr. 9-12    YA FIC

Most teens can relate to the feelings of inadequacy that follow Kimi throughout her day.  She does best in her own imagination, where she can socialize and navigate family issues perfectly.  Her greatest skill is making colorful clothing out of unusual materials that make her stand out in a crowd.  However, not everyone appreciates the way she uses her artistic skills.  Kimi’s mom, who would like her to be serious about painting, blows her top when she finds out Kimi has been skipping art class.  As if on cue, a plane ticket to Japan arrives from Kimi's estranged grandparents fora  visit during spring break.  Kimi jumps at the chance to put some space between her mother and herself, while embarking on a cultural adventure to discover her heritage.  Besides meeting her maternal grandparents, Kimi meets her love interest, Akira, at his uncle’s mochi stand.  As they embark on sight-seeing excursions around Kyoto, Akira encourages Kimi to develop her design skills, rather than go to art school because her mom wants her to.  As it turns out, her grandparents agree, giving Kimi the courage to stand up for herself and apply to design school instead.  As Kimi discovers more about her family, she begins to understand herself better and paves a path to her future. 
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Monday, July 27, 2020

SOLAR STORY by Allan Drummond.  New York: Farrar Straus Giroux Books, 2020.  32p.  ISBN 978-037430899-5 hc. $18.99     Gr. 2-5     J 621.31

In a small village in Morocco, found in Northwestern Africa, school children are learning about solar power.  In a region of almost constant sunshine, residents of the small village live as they always have with little or no electricity.  However, changes are coming to the region.  A new solar tower surrounded by thousands of solar panels is being built next to the village to provide sustainable solar energy.  Watercolor illustrations allow readers to join the school children on a field trip to the Noor Solar Power Plant where they learn about solar operations, along with the new jobs filled by local employees and the training opportunities provided to the local community.  Informational Notes, usually found at the back of the book, are conveniently incorporated into side panels of the illustrations.  The overall focus is on sustainability and future promise of modernization to the small village and its children.  The author adds this story to his collection of green projects, including ENERGY ISLAND (2011), GREEN CITY (2016), and PEDAL POWER (2018).
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Monday, July 20, 2020

A VOICE NAMED ARETHA by Katheryn Russel-Brown. Illus. by Laura Freeman.  New York:  Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020, 32p. ISBN 978-168119850-7 hc. $17.99    Gr. 2-5     J 921

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Aretha was born to a pastor and a nurse who encouraged the children to sing in the church choir.  Aretha’s voice made her a standout.  By the time she was ten years old, Aretha was singing solos and soon joined her father’s traveling ministry, called the Gospel Caravan.  She signed a record deal at age eighteen and soon became a smart business woman.  In 1967, Aretha signed on with Atlantic Records and released a string of hit songs, including “Respect” and “Chain of Fools.”  She became known as the Queen of Soul and “was the first woman voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”  Aretha inspired everyone with her songs and remained influential in the music industry until her death in 2018.  Biographical Notes can be found at the end of the book, along with a list of her most famous songs.  The illustrations are bold and bright, somewhat like Aretha Franklin, herself.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Monday, July 13, 2020

STAMPED:  RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.  New York:  Little, Brown and Co., 2020. 294p  ISBN 978-031645369-1 hc. $18.99     Gr. 7-12     YA 305.8

Acclaimed writer of teen fiction, Jason Reynolds, takes the contents of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF RACIST IDEAS IN AMERICA, and gives it a conversational voice.  Beginning with the roots of racism, including the fabrication of a Biblical black race started by Noah’s disobedient son Ham, the period of 1415 - 1728 was a time of establishing the superiority of whites and suppressing those with dark skin.  By de-humanizing blacks, the wealthy white majority was able to utilize them as an enslaved work force and grow their own fortunes.  It all boiled down to money.  After the abolition of slavery, the suppression of blacks gave extra political power to the white ruling class that has endured to this very day.  The book is broken up into five sections of time that follow new ways of maintaining white supremacy as modernization brings readers into the twenty-first century.  Is the United States doomed to repeat cultural mistakes from the past?  Not if you identify those mistakes by reading this eye-opening book.  There are twenty pages of source notes at the end of the book, along with a complete index – just in case you want to re-check some facts.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Monday, July 6, 2020

FIGHTING WORDS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  New York: Dial Books, 2020. ISBN 978-1984815682 hc. $17.99    Gr. 5-8     JUV

Della is just ten, but she’s experienced more than any child should in a lifetime.  She and her teenage sister, Suki, have been living with her mom’s boyfriend, Clifton, ever since her mom was sent to prison for cooking meth.  Their living situation went from bad to worse when a drunk Clifton tried to abuse Della before Suki got home and used her phone to document the situation.  Then they ran!  That’s where this story begins.  Della is back in school, where she’s always in trouble because she has a limited vocabulary of curse words, but those are the ones she likes to use.  Suki is still trying to protect Della from harm and the foster care system, but she’s also trying to hold down a job and go to school.  The sisters don’t trust anyone, especially Francine, their by-the-book foster parent, who will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them.  As Della makes progress navigating the classroom and school routines, Suki is beginning to crumble emotionally and attempts suicide.  Della begins to realize what kind of sacrifices Suki made to keep her safe from Clifton.  Will they be able to trust Francine enough to get the help they both need to recover from unspeakable trauma?  Although the author tackles the issues of sexual abuse and suicide, the story ends in a place of hope and is appropriate for middle school readers.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

PRAIRIE LOTUS by Linda Sue Park.  New York: Clarion Books, 2020.  261p.  ISBN 978-132878150-5 hc. $16.99     Gr. 6-8    JUV FIC

After a three-year wagon ride from California, Hanna and her father arrived in LaForge, a small railroad town in the Dakota Territory, to build a dry goods store.   Hanna’s Chinese/Korean mother was a seamstress before she died, and instilled the same dreams in her daughter.   But before she tries to convince her father that she’s capable of making dresses for the townswomen, Hanna wants to go to school.  The teacher accepts her ethnicity well, but the parents begin to keep their children home, rather than have them exposed to a non-white student.  Luckily, the Harris family has already befriended Hanna and her father, and continue to support them with schooling and building the business.  Hanna also has interactions with Ihanktowan women, who teach her how to harvest and cook prairie turnips.  Racism runs deep in this historical fiction from 1880, that reminds readers of Laura Ingalls’ “Little House on the Prairie” books.  The author leaves a personal note that recognizes discrimination in the original books, but also acknowledges the historical value of the stories.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A DOUBLE REVIEW!

MAE AMONG THE STARS by Roda Ahmed.  Illus by Stasia Burrington. New York:  Harper, 2018. 38p. ISBBN: 978-006265173-0 hc. $17.99    PreS-Gr. 3    E PIC

This historical fiction relates Mae's dream, as a young child, to become an astronaut.  She wants to see Earth from outer space.  With her parents; encouragement, she learns all she can about space and astronauts.  Mae shares her dream with everyone she meets.  However, her teacher devastates Mae by telling her she would be a good nurse instead of an astronaut.  Only in the end notes does the reader learn that Nae is Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Afican American female astronaut.  A wonderful read about big dreams and pursuing them.

Jolene Hetherington, Advisory Board Member, Munising School Public Library

N MERRIAM SMITH'S RACE TO COMPLETE AMELIA EARHART'S QUEST by Aimee Bissonette Illus. by Doris Ettlinger.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sleeping Bear Press, 2018.  32p.  ISBN: 978-158536381-0 hc. $16.99  Gr. 1-4    J 629.13

Jerrie Mock decided to become a pilot after her first airplane ride at the age of 7.  Joan Merriam Smith was 15 years old when she made the same decision, receiving her pilot's license before she could drive a car.  In later years, both ladies independently made the decision to fly around the world to complete Amelia Earhart's quest.  Neither of them knew about the other's plans.  Just a few weeks before they took off, the news broke.  They both decided to take off at the same time, and the news media turned it into a race.  This is a great story about the trials and tribulations they experienced as the first two women to fly around the world.

Jolene Hetherington, Advisory Board Member, Munising School Public Library