Hello, jFIC fans,
Whatever happened to April and May? Proof we’re living in sad and stressful times. Let me catch June before it whizzes by too!
Here are a few titles I’ve read recently along with my ratings. Most should be available as ebooks and/or audio ebooks.
The World’s Greatest Detective, Caroline Carlson 2017 ****
Mystery, 4th-6th grades
A whodunit story with an endearing main character, quirky secondary characters, and high stakes. The mystery itself is a bit simplistic (from an adult perspective), but interesting and entertaining, and will appeal to kids starting to become familiarized with the genre. (Early 20th century white community.)
We’re Not from Here, Geoff Rodkey 2019 *****
Science Fiction, 5th-7th grades
“A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony.” (Kirkus) A group of humans are granted refuge on another planet, but while making the trip there, the planet’s government changes, and their request is denied. Highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Loved the aliens, especially the highly intelligent, marshmallow-like Ororos. (Diversity is implied.)
The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley, April Stevens 2018 ****
Fiction, 4th-6th grades
A moving, coming-of-age story about acceptance (of oneself and others), empathy, kindness, forgiveness, friendship, grieving, and growth. Loved the main character’s interest in nature and the impact that the wise and kind aging bus driver has on all the children. Great for gifted kids who feel misunderstood and isolated. (Universal messages, but minimal diversity.)
Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan 2020
Fantasy (I question this classification), 4-6th grades *****
From the book’s blurb: “When eleven-year-old Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides it’s time to find out more about his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby.” A poignant commentary on the struggles of refugee immigrants and those who bravely choose to protect them. (Hispanic characters and Own Voices author.)
Aggie Morton Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn 2020 ****
Mystery/Historical Fiction, 5th-7th grades
Twelve-year-old amateur detective and aspiring writer Aggie Morton investigates a murder by poison with the help of her Belgian friend Hector Perot. A well-crafted mystery inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child. The book’s one disappointment is Perot’s poorly-developed character and insubstantial role. (Also, no diversity.) Hopefully Perot’s characterization will improve as the series progresses. For fans of The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.
August Isle by Ali Standish 2019 ****
Realistic Fiction, 5-8th grades
A story about a 14-year-old girl uncovering a painful family secret. The pacing is a bit slow, but the lovely seaside setting, the endearing secondary characters, and the main character’s emotional journey hold your interest, plus the climax and resolution make the wait worthwhile. (White main character/family. Indian and biracial secondary characters.)
Some Places More than Others by Renee Watson 2019 *****
Realistic Fiction, 4-6th grades
A lovely story about an 11-year-old girl’s longing to connect with her father’s side of the family and their history. It reads like a travel journal, but that’s the beauty of it: it takes the reader on a fascinating historical tour of New York. (Own Voices: African American main characters/family.)
The Guggenheim Mystery: Sequel to The London Eye Mystery by Robin Stevens 2018 *****
Mystery, 4-7th grades
“Twelve-year-old Ted Stark, his sister, and cousin investigate the theft of a priceless work of art.” Robin Stevens captures the voices of the characters from the first installment of the series (The London Eye Mystery by the late Siobhan Dowd). The stakes are not as high as in the first book, but the plot and the setting hold your interest, and the writing—especially the characterization— is very good. (Diverse main and secondary characters. Main character/narrator has ASD.)
And last but not least, an important book for the times we’re living in:
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi *****
Nonfiction, YA (Grade 7+)
“The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.
“Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.”
Stay safe and happy reading!
“Tea should be taken in solitude.” –C. S. Lewis