This novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, the book explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship and the inheritance of culture for better or worse. From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, this award winning author weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.
Tessa's Picks, 7th-8th grade, People of Color, Contemporary fiction, Romance, Family life, Character driven
Malu's parents are divorced, and she wonders how they were ever together. Her dad owns a record store that hosts punk rock concerts while her mother is always telling her to act like a proper 'senorita.' When Malu's mother drags her away from her home and her father to move halfway across the country to Chicago, it's Malu's worst nightmare. She hates her new school and the popular girls who make fun of her punk style. But when she sees a flyer for the school's talent show she knows one sure-fire way to make it all better: form her own band!
Malu's love of punk is infectious and her zines interspersed throughout the book made my fingers twitch for scissors and and glue sticks.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
Erica's Picks 3rd - 6th Tags: character driven, contemporary fiction, family life, humor, people of color, school stories
Crow washed up on the shore of a tiny island twelve years ago. Osh took her in and raised her and Miss Maggie nursed her when she was ill and taught her how to read and write. No one else on the island will come near her. They're afraid she was born on the nearby leper colony and might carry the dreaded disease. So Crow has lived her life full of love and sea salt and beautiful views that Osh paints, isolated on her tiny island. Until the day she decides to look into the mystery of her past, and she discovers pirate treasure, danger, and sorrow. Will finding the truth be worth it, or will it destroy the happy life she already has?
This setting of this book is practically the main character of this story and I could almost taste the salt air as I read it. The adventure is slow to start, but picks up. Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie are all characters that will stay with me.
Before. Before what he did to Kacey. She was his best friend. They were always together having adventures, laughing, daring each other. It was all about that last dare. Now she was gone and Ethan and his family have moved from Boston to Georgia to give Ethan a new start. The seaside town of Pam Knot where their new home with grandpa Ike is offers a big dose of culture shock. The last thing Ethan expects to find is a new friend. Coralee is a feisty girl with a big personality who is up for any adventure. They find a box of jewels in a haunted house and flee from an unexpected “ghost.” Both of them are keeping secrets that could lead them into danger. A daring rescue during a hurricane brings all the secrets tumbling out. I dare you to read this book.
Tessa's Picks, 4th-7th grade, Friendship, Character driven, Family life, People of Color, Contemporary fiction
“I hate seeing fat girls on TV or in movies, because the only way the world seems to be okay with putting a fat person on camera is if they’re miserable with themselves or if they’re the jolly best friend. Well, I’m neither of those things.” Willowdean goes by Will to her friends and Dumplin' to her ex-beauty queen mother. She is unafraid to wear her swimsuit and if people stare, then that's their issue, not hers. But when she enters a beauty pageant with some other unlikely contenders, her mother is horrified. First kisses, broken friendships, Dolly Parton, drag queens, beauty pageants, and self-discovery. This is one year Dumplin' will never forget.
I cannot get enough of Will's bold and sassy voice and her defiant attitude. She is a character worth rooting for, even when she makes mistakes along the way. It was refreshing to read about body image issues that are prevalent in society but rarely discussed--especially in such a nuanced and honest way. Those aren't the only issues that receive such a frank treatment either. Evolving friendships, romantic relationships, grief, and mother-daughter relationships all get the same funny and insightful treatment. Plus there's Dolly Parton. What more could I ask for?
Erica's Picks 8th Grade Tags: character driven, contemporary fiction, family life, friendship, humor, romance
Micah Tuttle loves listening to his grandpa's stories of the magical Circus Mirandus with its invisible tiger, flying birdwoman, and a powerful magician known as the Lightbender. People think they're just stories, but Grandpa insists that they're true and Micah believes him. Now Grandpa is dying and the only thing that can save him is a miracle. Luckily, the Lightbender owes his grandpa just that. But is the circus real? Will Micah be able to convince the Lightbender to pay his debt? It's hard to believe in magic in a world of cynics, but Micah would do anything to give his grandpa another chance.
This is a beautifully-told, heart-breaking story of the connection between a boy and his grandfather. The circus is delightful and the magical elements fantastic, but when you boil it down this relationship is the core of the story. It suffuses the whole book with emotion and a deep meaning about the difficulty of letting go. On top of all that it's a great magical quest/adventure story.
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Erica's Picks 3rd - 5th Tags: character driven, family life, fantasy, tear-jerker
Being the Best Me Series presents books that will help children develop character traits and attitudes that encourage resilience, confidence and positive values. With a multicultural cast of characters, the books focus on kind behavior that empowers children to feel good about themselves and appreciate family and friends. Teachers will find these real life situations perfect for starting discussions. Included are questions, games and activities that will help adults reinforce the lessons from the books.
1st grade, Kindergarten, Family life, Character driven, Tessa's picks
Hardwicke Academy: the school of choice for the children of the DC elite. It's exclusive, it's secure, and it's about to be completely rocked by its newest student. Tess Kendrick is the younger sister of infamous political fixer Ivy Kendrick. Caught in a messy affair? Need to make a story disappear? If you're lucky, and you can afford it, you'll hire Ivy to take care of all your needs and keep your secrets. Tess grew up on a farm with her grandfather, about as far away from political intrigue as you can get. But her sister's reputation has preceded her and it isn't long before Tess is fixing problems for students on campus. Their parents are power players, and their problems go beyond school drama. Soon, Tess has uncovered a major scandal that even her sister might not be able to fix. With her life on the line and her world turned upside, she needs to decide where her loyalties lie and what she's willing to risk.
The plot is relentless and full of betrayals, twists, and high stakes. Tess is a very sympathetic character as she's thrust into a world she's completely unprepared for and tries to do her best. A fantastic political thriller.
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Erica's Pick 8th grade Tags: Contemporary Fiction, Family Life, Fast-Paced, Romance, School Stories
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 meeting 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 with this novel. 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
This is a beautiful book about identity and being true to yourself. Amina Khokar, a Pakistani-American girl who lives with her parents and older brother in Milkauwee has just started middle school and is feeling a little lost. Her best friend is drifting away, her uncle is visiting from Pakistan and her mom and dad are worried that they need to be "more traditional”. Amina’s beautiful voice has been in hiding due to shyness and anxiety. To make matters worse, her family has signed her up for the Qu’ran reciting competition. After an awful attack on the community’s Islamic Center, an inter-faith effort rallies around the Muslim community. Amina struggles to define her sense of self among family, friends, faith, as well as the world around her that is by turns hostile and embracing. Will Amina find the strength to free her voice? It is the first novel from Salaam Reads, a new imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Tessa's Picks, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th Summer 2017, Contemporary Fiction, Issues Fiction, Friendship, Family Life, People of Color