"My name is Liv (Not Olivia)... I'm not technically a girl.I'm Transgender. Which is a bit like being a transformer. Only not quite as cool because I probably won't get to save the world one day." Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy and his new school's dress code won't even let him wear pants. He puts on the skirt of his new uniform and tears blur his vision. Angry tears at how unfair it is and how wrong he feels. Supported by his two moms, Liv tries various methods of protest (wearing pants under the skirt, organizing a petition) but nothing can budge the powers that be until he meets some new friends who embrace his cause. This is a book about identity, acceptance and celebrating who you are. Funny and empowering, this book will have you cheering for the pants project.
Tessa's Picks, 4th grade, 5th grade, Character driven, Issues Fiction, Friendship, School Stories, LGBTQ
People of With a diverse cast of characters, Harlem Charade takes on real-life issues of gentrification, big money and the loss of a neighborhood's history and culture. Harlem has long been synonymous with black culture and this books explores the rich heritage and present day issues. Three 7th graders band together to solve a mystery and save their community. Jin who lives with her grandparents and helps run their bodega, keeps her keen observations in notebooks. Alex hides her embarrassing wealth and spends her free time trying to help the disadvantaged. Elvin has just arrived in Harlem to live with his estranged grandfather but is living on the streets after grandfather is mysteriously attacked. In their efforts to find the attackers, the three discover that there are missing master pieces from the past worth a fortune. If they can uncover them, they may be able to stop an ambitious politician who wants to turn their neighborhood into a ludicrous historic theme park. Daring, danger and plenty of action enliven this story about what it means to be a community and the power of art to show truth and define home.
Tessa's Picks, 6th grade Summer 2017, 7th grade, Adventure, Contemporary fiction, Friendship, Mystery, Issues Fiction, People of Color
Two interweaving stories of present-day Jesse who is dealing with grief over the death of her brother on 9/11, while in 2001, Alia, a Muslim teenager is trapped in one of the twin towers where she meets a boy who will change her destiny. Jesse's family doesn't talk about her brother Travis and her parents are about to divorce. Lead astray by the wrong crowd, she is arrested for hate speech tagging,and is sentenced to community service at the Islam Peace Center. The friends she makes there instill in Jesse a new understanding of Muslims and the Islamic faith.
Alia, is an aspiring comic book writer/illustrator. An incident at school causes her parents to withdraw permission for Alia to attend a program for talented high school artists. On September 11, she heads to her father's office at the World Trade Center to plead with him to change his mind. She is there when the planes hit the building and as she struggles to escape the flames she must trust the boy she just met if they are to make it out alive.This touching look at a national tragedy promotes healing and understanding.
"Naeem is far from the “model teen.” Moving fast in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens is the only way he can outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangladeshi parents and their gossipy neighbors. Even worse, they’re not the only ones watching. Cameras on poles. Mosques infiltrated. Everyone knows: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher." (from the flyleaf) Naeem is more interested in street life than in studying and when his friend Ibrahim frames him for shop lifting, he finds himself faced with a hard decision. The cops give him the choice of jail or becoming a watcher, an informer. Naeem tries to convince himself that he is keeping people safe but as he starts attending mosque and participating in a Muslim teen volunteer group, he begins to like how being a good Muslim boy feels. His unease with the role the cops have forced him into grows as he tries to extricate himself from their power. This is a fast moving gripping tale that examines how it feel to grow up under surveillance, something that is a reality for may Muslim Americans.
Alina has always hidden her magic. She knew that her powers would set her apart. They'd take her away from her best friend, Mal, and the closest thing to family she had left. So she pretended to be normal, and she had everyone fooled. Until the day Mal got injured and only she could save him. Suddenly she's thrust into a world of magic and politics for which she was never prepared. With her country's fate in the balance, Alina needs to decide where her loyalties lie: with Mal and the other common soldiers, or with her fellow magic-wielders led by the mysterious Darkling.
Alina is a compelling protagonist and the choices she faces are complex and thrilling. The world is a fantasy one, but rooted in Russian mythology. There's many different factions at play which make for a complicated political situation as alliances are formed and broken and corruption is discovered in various guises. An excellent series from start to finish!
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo Erica's Picks 6th & up Tags: Adventure, Fantasy, Mytholgoy, Romance
You may think you know the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel but don't believe everything a bard tells you. And what about those nameless Princes Charming? Read this book to get the low-down: the pampered, sheltered life was not enough for Cinderella. Rapunzel saved herself and her prince never lived it down. Sleeping Beauty is a spoiled brat. Snow White's prince can't be left unsupervised. Somehow this unlikely band finds themselves thrown together on a quest to save each other, defeat an evil witch, and show the world that they're more than their stories.
This book is a hilarious take on classic fairy tales. Having the various Princes Charming meet and lament over their plight at being looked over for their princesses adds a fun twist. Each have very distinct personalities and watching them interact and learn to get along is both entertaining and touching. It contains a lot of great lessons ranging from how to be a good friend to how to be true to your self. I particularly appreciate that there's male characters who are hopeless with swords and fierce female fighters and vice versa. The illustrations throughout only add to the already ample humor.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy Erica's Picks Tags: Adventure, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Friendship, Humor, People of Color, Retellings
Braden wants nothing more than to keep his head down and play baseball. But his entire world is turned upside-down when his father is arrested for killing a police officer. His father is a well-known christian radio personality, which makes the case a field day for the press. Braden is the key witness in his trail, and in the midst of this circus he has to decide how he will testify. Everyone takes sides, and naturally his team has his back. The nephew of the cop Braden's father is accused of killing plays baseball at a neighboring school, and when the two teams face off everyone feels that there's much more than a game at stake.
This book is unflinching in its portrayal of abuse, which makes it a difficult read at times. The family dynamic is complex and the characters are far from perfect. Religion, politics, sexuality, sports, race: this book sounds like the recipe for an awkward and contentious dinner conversation, but somehow Gilbert pulls it all together into a fantastic and compelling novel.
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert Erica's Picks Tags:
Jack lives an old-fashioned, quiet life on a farm in a small town. When he finds out his parents are fostering a teen who has been to prison and has a history of violent outbursts, he isn't sure what to think. The first sign Jack has that Joseph is more than his past is that the cows trust him. The more Jack learns about Joseph's life, the more Jack wants to help. The only thing Joseph really seems to care about is getting to meet his new-born daughter. Jack could never have anticipated the heartache and sacrifices that Joseph's path would require.
Get out your tissue boxes because just one may not last you. I fell in love with all the characters. There's so many well-meaning people trying their hardest to do good in such heart-breaking circumstances. I appreciate that there's no candy-coating or easy outs. Despite the tragic ending, this book still managed to leave me hopeful thanks to the many inspiring characters in its pages.
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Erica's Picks 6th & Up Tags: Character Driven, Contemporary Fiction, Family Life, Issues Fiction, Tear Jerker
“Their deaths might leave a hole in our hearts as deep as the ocean, but it is only because we are as deep as the ocean, and our capacity to love is as high as the sky. The earthquake took much from us. But there is much we can take from it as well” This novel set in 1906 San Francisco follows the story of Mercy Wong, a girl living in Chinatown who is determined to get an education and improve her life. She plots, lies, and bribes her way into the prestigious St. Clare's school only to find that it's not what she expected. All their problems need to be put aside however when disaster strikes and the St. Clare's girls need to work together just to survive.
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee Erica's Picks 6th & up Tags:
Harper Scott doesn't have a life; she has the ballet. She doesn't go to parties, she doesn't date. Every spare minute is spent either practicing ballet or earning money for lessons and pointe shoes. But it's all okay because she has a plan: graduate high school early and audition for the SF Ballet. The moment she earns a spot in the company, all her sacrifices will be worth while. Unless, of course, it isn't. Unless she discovers that while she loves the ballet, it doesn't love her back. Unless it turns out it was all for nothing. Unless she has to go as far away as she can just to find out who she is. Which is how Harper Scott: ballet dancer ends up being Harper Scott: totally unprepared Antarctic Explorer.
Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo Erica's Picks 8th & up Tags: Character Driven, Contemporary Fiction, Family Life, Romance