New Releases

Happy early book birthday to Caught Up which is out on November 25th!

caughtCaught Up by Amir Abrams
K-Teen

School’s out and sixteen year-old Kennedy Simms is bored. That could be a recipe for disaster…

Good girls don’t go to real parties, like the ones in the hood. Or rock bangin’ clothes. Or stay out as long as they want. But I’m sick of my parents’ rules and being the perfect little boring suburban princess. It’s my life, right? I’ve decided to have some fun for a change, hitting the streets with my new bestie, Sasha. Best of all, my new gangsta-fine boo, Malik, knows how to treat me right, spoils me like I deserve, and is someone I can finally call my own. Sure, living the life and being with Malik is getting me into mad-crazy trouble. And if I don’t tell the truth about him, I could go to prison. But a good ride-or-die girl never snitches. And as long as my friends and my man stick by me, nothing can go wrong, right? – Cover image and summary via publisher’s website

Review: Hunt for the Bamboo Rat

bambooTitle: Hunt for the Bamboo Rat
Author: Graham Salisbury
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Pages: 323
Genre: Historical, Action/Adventure
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: On Shelves Now

Summary: Based on a true story, this World War II novel by Scott O’Dell Award winner Graham Salisbury tells how Zenji, 17, is sent from Hawaii to the Philippines to spy on the Japanese.

Zenji Watanabe graduates from high school in Hawaii and is recruited into the army as a translator because he speaks perfect Japanese. He is sent to Manila undercover as a civilian to gather information on the Japanese in the Philippines. If they discover his identity, he’ll be executed as a traitor. When captured, he maintains that he is an American civilian despite unthinkable torture. He also survives being lost in the jungle for months. Zenji’s time behind enemy lines is grueling, and his survival is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

This is the fourth book in Graham Salisbury’s highly acclaimed Prisoners of the Empire series, which began with the award-winning Under the Blood-Red Sun.

My Review: Hunt for the Bamboo Rat begins with conflict, action, and suspense. From the start, Zenji Watanabe lands in dangerous situations and uses his intelligence and sheer determination to work his way through. He faces adversity using what he has learned from his teacher priests. He thought of becoming a priest himself. He has compassion on others and many times he stands firm and peacefully faces his problems as he imagines the priests would – and there are many problems to address.

Zenji runs into street thugs on more than one occasion, he spies on Japanese people, and is trapped behind enemy lines among other dangers. Salisbury keeps the action rolling in this suspenseful survival story. It is a page turner.

The overall tone of the book is fairly serious, but there are a few moments of humor. Zenji’s mother writes Japanese poetry that her children translate into English. Zenji appreciates his mother’s creativity. This is a poem that was posted on the wall of the messy room that Zenji shared with his brother Henry.

Messy
Room like
This must mean
Mongoose came in house
Thinking this place
Is garbage
Can.

As for the serious side of things, the “enemy,” members of the Japanese military, are generally seen in a negative light. Throughout the book though, readers can clearly see the complexity of humanity and the problem with judging someone by racial stereotypes. There are Japanese who behave honorably and those who behave otherwise. Zenji, being compassionate, tends to believe the best of others unless they give him good reason to change that opinion.

One issue I had with the book was the form of English that was used on occasion. One example is a Taiwanese worker in the Philippines. “You no clean good, I whip you,” is one of the phrases he used. What surprised me though was when Zenji then thought or replied in the same manner. He said, “Spotless, I clean um good.” He is a Japanese American who speaks with standard English grammar at most other times. It didn’t really make sense for him to speak like that in those situations, but it happened multiple times. This isn’t a major problem, but it is something that can shake the reader out of the story.

I had difficulty finding anything negative about Zenji. He is quite the hero. He has intelligence, courage, compassion, and strength.

Recommendation: For those who enjoy war stories and adventure, this book would be a great choice and I would say get it soon. Otherwise, borrow it someday.

Five YA Books Featuring American Indians

It can be difficult to find good books featuring American Indians, but Debbie Reese has you covered! She runs American Indians in Children’s Literature, which is a fantastic resource for everything from picture books to YA novels. I highly recommend you start by checking out her Best Books page. This book list features some of our favorite YA books featuring American Indians, plus several books from Debbie’s recommended category.

killer of enemiesKiller of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac

Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones—people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human—and there was everyone else who served them.

Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets—genetically engineered monsters—turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun.

As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero.

If I ever get out of hereIf I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?

Acclaimed adult author Eric Gansworth makes his YA debut with this wry and powerful novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock ‘n’ roll.

sonSon Who Returns by Sylvia Olsen

Fifteen-year-old Mark Centeno is of Chumash, Crow, Mexican and Filipino ancestry–he calls himself “four kinds of brown.” When Mark goes to live with his Chumash grandmother on the reservation in central California, he discovers a rich world of family history and culture that he knows very little about. He also finds a pathway to understanding better a part of his own identity: powwow dancing. Riveted by the traditional dancers and feeling the magnetic pull of the drums, Mark begins the training and other preparations necessary for him to compete as a dancer in one of America’s largest powwows.

tim tingleHow I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle
Told in the words of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, HOW I BECAME A GHOST is a tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. From the book’s opening line, “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before,” the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac s talking dog, Jumper. The first in a trilogy, HOW I BECAME A GHOST thinly disguises an important and oft-overlooked piece of history.

House of Purple CedarHouse of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle

“The hour has come to speak of troubled times. It is time we spoke of Skullyville.” Thus begins Rose Goode’s story of her growing up in Indian Territory in pre-statehood Oklahoma. Skullyville, a once-thriving Choctaw community, was destroyed by land-grabbers, culminating in the arson on New Year’s Eve, 1896, of New Hope Academy for Girls. Twenty Choctaw girls died, but Rose escaped. She is blessed by the presence of her grandmother Pokoni and her grandfather Amafo, both respected elders who understand the old ways. Soon after the fire, the white sheriff beats Amafo in front of the town’s people, humiliating him. Instead of asking the Choctaw community to avenge the beating, her grandfather decides to follow the path of forgiveness. And so unwinds this tale of mystery, Indian-style magical realism, and deep wisdom. It’s a world where backwoods spiritualism and Bible-thumping Christianity mix with bad guys; a one-legged woman shop-keeper, her oaf of a husband, herbal potions, and shape-shifting panthers rendering justice. Tim Tingle—a scholar of his nation’s language, culture, and spirituality—tells Rose’s story of good and evil with understanding and even laugh-out-loud Choctaw humor.

New Releases

We only have one this week as we ease into the holiday season. I read the first book of the Heart of Dread series over the summer and I enjoyed it. I think I’ll pick this up to read on my winter vacation.

stolenStolen (Heart of Dread #2) by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Putnam Juvenile

Nat and her drakon are the last of their kind—sworn to protect what their enemies seek to control—and she’s risked her life for their reunion. But fighting for the majestic Blue meant saying goodbye to Wes, breaking both their hearts. Back in New Vegas, citizens are threatened by the resurgence of magic and declare war on all the marked. Wes and his team travel to the extravagant indoor city of El Dorado looking for his sister, but when they are caught on the wrong side of the RSA’s strict new laws, Wes is forced to do the unthinkable—surrender and rejoin the military’s quest to uncover the magical source, the same land Nat is struggling to protect. Now he and Nat find themselves on opposing sides of a war that could potentially destroy what’s left of the world. – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: Dirty Wings

dirty wings

Title: Dirty Wings (All Our Pretty Songs #2)
Author: Sarah McCarry
Genres: urban fantasy, speculative fiction
Pages: 288
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Review Copy: the library
Availability: July 15th, 2014

Summary: A gorgeous retelling of the Persephone myth, Sarah McCarry brings us the story of Cass and Maia–the mothers from All Our Pretty Songs–and how their fates became intertwined.

Maia is a teenage piano prodigy and dutiful daughter, imprisoned in the oppressive silence of her adoptive parents’ house like a princess in an ivory tower. Cass is a street rat, witch, and runaway, scraping by with her wits and her knack for a five-fingered discount. When a chance encounter brings the two girls together, an unlikely friendship blossoms that will soon change the course of both their lives. Cass springs Maia from the jail of the only world she’s ever known, and Maia’s only too happy to make a break for it. But Cass didn’t reckon on Jason, the hypnotic blue-eyed rocker who’d capture Maia’s heart as soon as Cass set her free–and Cass isn’t the only one who’s noticed Maia’s extraordinary gifts. Is Cass strong enough to battle the ancient evil she’s unwittingly awakened–or has she walked into a trap that will destroy everything she cares about? [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: After I read this, I wanted to go play piano. That’s what the writing in Dirty Wings will do to you. It’s got a distinctly lyrical style to it that draws you in and keeps you reading until everything’s over. Do not be deceived by the book blurb — Dirty Wings definitely does not proceed in the neat, linear fashion portrayed by the summary. But the writing suits the story — Cass and Maia, two girls who see things that no one else can see and are somehow caught up in an ancient myth.

When Cass ‘frees’ Maia from the cage her adoptive parents have placed her in — the cage of being the good, piano-playing home-schooled daughter — things rapidly go downhill from there. Maia and Cass travel and live together in the most classic form of teenaged rebellion — drinking, drugs, sex, and rock concerts. This, I was not a fan of, simply because those elements are too often used as a shortcut for depicting freedom, rebellion, and living life on the edge. (See: Just about every YA book about edgy white teens ever.) Fortunately, the dash of mythology and the strong thread of friendship running throughout the book made Cass and Maia’s adventures seem genuine, and not just cheaply gritty and edgy.

The unlikely friendship between Cass and Maia is what drives the story. Cass is the street-wise runaway, while Maia is the sheltered, adopted daughter. It was fascinating to see Cass and Maia’s relationship develop as the story switched between the past and the present in flash-forwards. I only wish it could have been expanded upon even more.

Only after I read the book did I realize that this is, effectively, a prequel to All Our Pretty Songs, which is the first book in the series. Now I have to read it to find out what happens. It was a relief to know that Cass and Maia’s stories didn’t just end there. If you like gorgeous lyrical writing, or books with a mythological twist to them, Dirty Wings is a must-read.

Recommendation: Get it soon! Especially if you’re a fan of mythology inspired books and lyrical storytelling.

Getting Graphic

For the month of November, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) is discussing “Graphic Novels in Fact and Fiction.” I’m a member of CCBC-Net and so graphic novels have been on my mind. By the way, if you are interested in children’s and young adult lit and you are not yet a part of the CCBC community, I highly recommend it.

Whether you are new to the graphic novel format or have been reading and enjoying them for ages, here are a few we would recommend if you haven’t gotten to them yet:

yummy

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty – Written by G. Neri and Illustrated by Randy DuBurke
Lee & Low Books

In August of 1994, 11-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer — nicknamed for his love of sweets — fired a gun at a group of rival gangmembers, accidentally killing a neighborhood girl, Shavon Dean. Police searched Chicago’s southside for three days before finding Yummy dead in a railway tunnel, killed by members of the drug gang he’d sought to impress. The story made such an impact that Yummy appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, drawing national attention to the problems of inner city youth in America.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty relives the confusion of these traumatic days from the point of view of Roger, a neighborhood boy who struggles to understand the senseless violence swirling through the streets around him. Awakened by the tragedy, Roger seeks out answers to difficult questions — was Yummy a killer or a victim? Was he responsible for his actions or are others to blame?

nothNothing Can Possibly Go  Wrong – Written by Prudence Chen
First Second

You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.

It’s only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club’s robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!

In Faith Erin Hicks’ and Prudence Shen’s world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong.

cover27644-mediumA Match Made in Heaven (My Boyfriend is a Monster, #8) - Written by Trina Robbins & Illustrated by Nu Studio Xian
Graphic Universe

Aspiring comic book artist Morning Glory Conroy already has too much to juggle at her San Francisco high school–mean girls, inconsiderate cliques, wannabe gangbangers–without the complication of falling for new student Gabriel. Glory’s best friend, Julia, was interested in him first, and if it weren’t for Julia’s deteriorating home life, Glory wouldn’t have had a chance to get Gabriel to herself. But does he count as a real boyfriend if his overbearing guardian forbids even kissing? Soon Gabriel is pushing Glory to show her work at art events, and the new relationship starts taking Glory away from her bff just when Julia needs her. Glory is in for a startling revelation when she discovers not only Gabriel’s true identity, but also that of his mischievous cousin Luci, who trails their every move just to cause trouble. Can Glory and Gabriel keep their relationship aloft when the heavens themselves seem to be against it?

tricksterTrickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection  – Edited by Matt Dembicki
Fulcrum Publishing

Meet the Trickster, a crafty creature or being who disrupts the order of things, often humiliating others and sometimes himself in the process. Whether a coyote or rabbit, raccoon or raven, Tricksters use cunning to get food, steal precious possessions, or simply cause mischief.

In Trickster, the first graphic anthology of Native American trickster tales, more than twenty Native American tales are cleverly adapted into comic form. An inspired collaboration between Native writers and accomplished artists, these tales bring the Trickster back into popular culture in vivid form. From an ego-driven social misstep in “Coyote and the Pebbles” to the hijinks of “How Wildcat Caught a Turkey” and the hilarity of “Rabbit’s Choctaw Tail Tale,” Trickster bring together Native American folklore and the world of graphic novels for the first time.

Interview with editor and sample video “How Wildcat Caught a Turkey” from NPR

ayaAya (Aya #1) – Written by Marguerite Abouet with Clément Oubrerie (Illustrator), Alisia Grace Chase, Helge Dascher (Translator) & Tom Devlin (Letterer)
Drawn and Quarterly

“That’s what I wanted to show in Aya: an Africa without the . . . war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on.” –Marguerite Abouet
Ivory Coast, 1978. Family and friends gather at Aya’s house every evening to watch the country’s first television ad campaign promoting the fortifying effects of Solibra, “the strong man’s beer.” It’s a golden time, and the nation, too–an oasis of affluence and stability in West Africa–seems fueled by something wondrous.

Who’s to know that the Ivorian miracle is nearing its end? In the sun-warmed streets of working-class Yopougon, aka Yop City, holidays are around the corner, the open-air bars and discos are starting to fill up, and trouble of a different kind is about to raise eyebrows. At night, an empty table in the market square under the stars is all the privacy young lovers can hope for, and what happens there is soon everybody’s business.

Aya tells the story of its nineteen-year-old heroine, the studious and clear-sighted Aya, her easygoing friends Adjoua and Bintou, and their meddling relatives and neighbors. It’s a breezy and wryly funny account of the desire for joy and freedom, and of the simple pleasures and private troubles of everyday life in Yop City. An unpretentious and gently humorous story of an Africa we rarely see-spirited, hopeful, and resilient–Aya won the 2006 award for Best First Album at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Clément Oubrerie’s warm colors and energetic, playful lines connect expressively with Marguerite Abouet’s vibrant writing.

ichiroIchiro by Ryan Inzana
HMH Books for Young Readers

Raised by his Japanese mother in New York City, his American father taken by war before Ichiro ever knew him, Ichiro finds it difficult to figure out where he fits in.

A trip to Japan leaves Ichiro with his grandfather, a stranger to him in a country he does not know. And then one night Ichi gets dragged down a hole by a monster. When he wakes up, he isn’t in Japan anymore. In fact, he isn’t in the mortal world. Ichi has entered the domain of the gods.

With words and pictures, Ryan Inzana seamlessly interweaves myth and reality, life and death, gods and mortals, creating a wholly original fantasy adventure about one boy’s search for peace, acceptance, and a place to call home.

marchMarch Book One – Written by John Robert Lewis with Andrew Aydin & Illustrated by Nate Powell
Top Shelf Productions

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

sitaSita’s Ramayana – Written by Samhita Arni & Illustrated by Moyna Chitrakar
Groundwood Books

The Ramayana is an epic poem by the Hindu sage Valmiki, written in ancient Sanskrit sometime after 300 BC. It is an allegorical story that contains important Hindu teachings, and it has had great influence on Indian life and culture over the centuries. Children are often encouraged to emulate the virtues of the two main characters — Rama and Sita. The Ramayana is frequently performed as theater or dance, and two Indian festivals — Dussehra and Divali — celebrate events in the story.

This version of The Ramayana is told from the perspective of Sita, the queen. After she, her husband Rama and his brother are exiled from their kingdom, Sita is captured by the proud and arrogant king Ravana and imprisoned in a garden across the ocean. Ravana never stops trying to convince Sita to be his wife, but she steadfastly refuses his advances. Eventually Rama comes to her rescue with the help of the monkey Hanuman and his army. But Rama feels he can’t trust Sita again. He forces Sita to undergo an ordeal by fire to prove herself to be true and pure. She is shocked and in grief and anger does so. She emerges unscathed and they return home to their kingdom as king and queen. However, suspicion haunts their relationship, and Sita once more finds herself in the forest, but this time she is pregnant. She has twins and continues to live in the forest with them.

The story is exciting and dramatic, with many turns of plot. Magic animals, snakes, divine gods, demons, sorcerers and a vast cast of characters all play a part in the fierce battles fought to win Sita back. And in the process the story explores ideas of right vs. wrong, compassion, loyalty, trust, honor and the terrible price of war.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.25.54 PM

If you are a graphic novel fan, by now you were probably wondering which of Gene Luen Yang’s books we would choose to feature because this post would not be complete without at least one of them. Choosing only one was impossible. Here are some of the best though.

American Born Chinese
First Second

All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse…

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing rise, all the way up to the astonishing climax–and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent.

Boxers & Saints
First Second

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.

But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.

Boxers & Saints is one of the most ambitious graphic novels First Second has ever published. It offers a penetrating insight into not only one of the most controversial episodes of modern Chinese history, but into the very core of our human nature. Gene Luen Yang is rightly called a master of the comics form, and this book will cement that reputation.

The Shadow Hero – with illustrations by Sonny Liew, Chu Hing
First Second

In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity… The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of “American Born Chinese,” Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in “Shadow Hero,” a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.

With artwork by Sonny Liew, this gorgeous, funny comics adventure for teens is a new spin on the long, rich tradition of American comics lore.

– Cover art and summaries via Goodreads


 

Also, while I was looking for one of the titles, I ran across an article that was posted earlier this year from School Library Journal, “How Diverse are Comics and Graphic Novels?” It’s an interesting read and there are a few more great titles mentioned. In the comments, Debbie Reese pointed to a few more that I haven’t read yet, but that I will be looking to read. Here are those links: Super Indian and titles by David Alexander Robertson.