Rummanah Aasi
Description: Keah Brown loves herself, but that hadn’t always been the case. Born with cerebral palsy, her greatest desire used to be normalcy and refuge from the steady stream of self-hate society strengthened inside her. But after years of introspection and reaching out to others in her community, she has reclaimed herself and changed her perspective.
   In The Pretty One, Brown gives a contemporary and relatable voice to the disabled—so often portrayed as mute, weak, or isolated. With clear, fresh, and light-hearted prose, these essays explore everything from her relationship with her able-bodied identical twin (called “the pretty one” by friends) to navigating romance; her deep affinity for all things pop culture—and her disappointment with the media’s distorted view of disability; and her declaration of self-love with the viral hashtag #DisabledAndCute.

Review: The Pretty One is an entertaining, informative, and candid collection of essays on the intersectionality of race, gender, and disability. Keah Brown is an activist for disabled representation in media and the creator of the viral campaign #DisabledAndCute, which empowers people with disabilities to own their cuteness and fight back against the daily able bodied microaggressions they face daily.
  Brown's tone is welcoming and her essays honestly reveal her own insecurities, shortcomings, and her strengths. Her desire to be beautiful, her angst about not yet knowing romantic love, and her longing for designer clothes are interwoven with stark realities of living with cerebral palsy. While reading these essays I was constantly reminded of my own abled bodied privileges that I took for granted. I was also taken aback about the lack of representation by disabled people by the media and even if they are present, almost all of them are acted by abled bodied people who act as if they had the disability (i.e. Glee, Daredevil). By discussing pop cultural alongside experiences of physical pain and encounters with the world's disregard for her disabled body, Brown presents herself as a complex person who is not defined by her labels. By far my favorite aspect of this collection of essays is Brown's insistence that she is continuing on her journey of self-love and it is not easy. There is much to love and learn in this memoir. I highly recommend it to readers who are looking to further their knowledge of social justice, disability rights, or simply want to read a story featuring a strong, beautiful young woman who wants to change the world for all of us.
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of an eating disorder, mental illness, self harm, and suicidal thoughts. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Being Heumann by Judith Heumann, Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride by Nadina LaSpina
Rummanah Aasi
Description: The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood. No fox kit is safe.

When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow and other things too scary to mention.

Featuring eight interconnected stories and sixteen hauntingly beautiful illustrations,Scary Stories for Young Foxes contains the kinds of adventures and thrills you love to listen to beside a campfire in the dark of night.

Review: Young readers who like scary stories without the blood and gore will love Scary Stories for Young Foxes. The book begins as seven fox kits are eager to hear some scary stories. For “a story so frightening it will put the white in your tail,” their mother sends them to “the old storyteller,” an elderly fox in a cavern, who proceeds to spin a tale of vulpine horror. At first the stories seem unrelated and anti-climatic to the kits considering the warning the adults give them; Mia is separated from her loving family, while Uly is exiled. Soon the kits’ stories intertwine as the horrors they survive increase and multiply.
  The book moved slowly for me at first as the narratives and its characters found their footing, but soon the stories begin to pick up. These scary stories are definitely creepy and are borderline disturbing. The menacing tone and horror ratchets up with each story and the author does not spare its characters. There are domestic horror stories in which Mia barely survives an encounter with her beloved teacher, who’s gone rabid, and Uly is terrorized by his sisters and father because he’s disabled. The most menacing story that gave me goose bumps is when Mia is trapped by Beatrix Potter, who murders animals after using them as inspiration for her stories, which gave me flashbacks to button eyes in Neil Gaiman's Coraline. There are sixteen, beautiful and gothic sketches that add to the atmosphere, with appealing fox kits set against menacing backgrounds. The stomach-clenching fear and suspense are resolved by a happy ending, but this might be a hard read for sensitive readers, especially those who are animal lovers. Definitely a must read for budding horror fans.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images such as the process of taxidermy and cruelty to animals. Bullying and references to domestic abuse are also mentioned in the stories. Recommended for strong Grade 4 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson
Rummanah Aasi
Description: When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just long enough for him to get back on his feet and be able to provide for them once again. That’s why Frankie's not prepared for the day that he arrives for his weekend visit with a new woman on his arm and out-of-state train tickets in his pocket.
Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans—two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.
   And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America—every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she's able to carve out will be enough.

Review:  Laura Ruby's latest is an ambitious historical fantasy that tackles the cruelty and injustices in American history witnessed by the eyes of its female characters. The story is narrated by a ghost and it seems to mainly follow the story of Frankie, a girl who is placed in a Catholic Orphanage because her father could not afford to take care of her and her siblings after her mother allegedly tries to harm her family during the Great Depression. When her father remarries, Frankie realizes the real truth, she and her sister and brother are abandoned. Frankie suffers under the nuns' strict regime, but she also makes friends, grows up, and, eventually, falls into forbidden, passionate relationship that is tested by America's entry into World War II. As Frankie's story is well underway our ghostly narrator imbues her own ongoings as she floats, haunts around Chicago, and unveils her own story.
 The book's narrative structure will be the deciding point on whether or not you will enjoy this book. While I liked how the story was told through the ghost's omnipresent voice, it did lack consistency. If the ghost seems to only haunt Chicago, then why does it have world weary knowledge outside of the city such as the atomic bomb and the Nazi death camps. The narrative structure also distracted me from Frankie's story just when I got invested in it and wanted to know more. Though I was also curious with the ghost's identity and its past, I did not think it was well developed as Frankie's story. There is a lot important themes packed into this book such as misogyny, racism, and socio-economic inequities many of them remain surface level. I wanted the book to dig a little deeper than it did. Despite these issues, I did enjoy reading about the history of Chicago that was not about crime and the mob. Ruby is a skillful writer and she clearly shows us that the issues we are dealing with today about social injustices are not new, but have been part of American history for a really long time.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of sexual content including pregnancy, attempt of sexual assault, violence and some disturbing images in the book. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (for omnipresent narrator structure), Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Rummanah Aasi
Description: What does it mean to lose your roots—within your culture, within your family—and what happens when you find them?

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hopes of giving her a better life; that forever feeling slightly out of place was simply her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from—she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.

Review: All You Can Ever Know is a candid and insightful memoir about growing up as a transracial adoptee. Chung writes about identity, race, motherhood, and her journey to find her true self. Chung writes openly about constantly felt like an impostor both within or outside her family. She ruminates how she had to learn how to defend herself against racial microaggressions from a very young age that her white family will never face. Chung also has felt no ties to her Korean heritage either since she can not speak the language or had no references to it in her predominately white suburb. Until her own pregnancy, Chung has debated on whether or not to find out about her birth family. Would finally getting her questions answered be worth it if the answer is that her birth parents simply did not want her? The book digs deeper as Chung takes the leap in finding out about her birth family which sometimes unveils difficult and hard topics. I also appreciated that Chung does not show her adopted parents as villains but as humans who also had flaws. 
  As someone who is constantly trying to identity herself, I found much to enjoy in All You Can Ever Know. The racial microaggressions felt familiar and I, too, lacked the language to deal with it. Though the answer to "who am I?" might not be answered fully, Chung has a better understand of herself and the book ends on a hopeful note. I would recommend this memoir to readers who enjoy stories that intersect race, gender, and motherhood.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Racial microagressions, including racial slurs, are addressed in the book and mentions of physical abuse. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Not Quite White by Sharmila Sen
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test — middle school!
   Lucy's grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

Review: When Lucy was struck by lightning at age eight, her brain was damaged, resulting in her acquired savant syndrome. She becomes a mathematical genius and develops obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has been homeschooled ever since the accident. Though Lucy feels safe at home with her uncle and grandmother and wants to enroll in college math courses, her grandmother wants Lucy to get real life experience such as having a real friend, participate in one new activity, and read a book that isn't about math. With all of this in mind, her grandmother enrolls her in seventh grade, but fails to prepare her about the growing pains of middle school and about bullying in particular. Lucy hides her math abilities to blend in by making answering a certain number of questions wrong on her tests, and she's bullied by popular girl Maddie, who dubs her "cleaning lady" because of Lucy's obsessive-compulsive need for cleanliness, but when she and another student, Windy, team up with classmate Levi for a community service project, a true friendship grows.
  The three help out at the Pet Hut, a no-kill shelter where Lucy, who has never liked animals, bonds with a dog named Cutie Pi. After Cutie Pi is diagnosed with cancer-which means that she will likely be transferred to a state shelter and put down-and Windy betrays Lucy by revealing a secret, Lucy must learn how to solve problems of the heart. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is a quick read that manages to realistically portray Lucy's OCD and her struggles in middle school. Lucy's voice rings true, highlighting her own insecurities and strengths. I loved watching Lucy embrace her strengths, stand up for herself, and realize that she is worthy to have friends. Her journey is full of hope, wisdom, and even a love for math which is rarely seen in literature.

Curriculum Connection: Math, STEM

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are scenes of bullying and talks of pets being put down to sleep. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Each Tiny Spark by Paolo Cartaya, Roll with it by Jamie Sumner, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, Rules by Cythnia Lord
Related Posts with Thumbnails