Well, it was kind of cold today, and I go back to work tomorrow (just professional development, no students for another week and a half), so it feels like summer is kind of over. That is pretty depressing way to begin a piece of writing, but the end of summer to me means that I have to cram in the last few books before work cuts into reading time.
I am pleased to be able to post about a few great books this week and link up this post with those of many other reader/bloggers at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts sites. Thanks to the hosts of those sites, Kellee and Ricki and Jen respectively for continuing to support our linkup this week.
Books I Enjoyed This Week
I really enjoyed this ownvoices, speculative fiction novel. I have read that this is considered a YA book, but as an elementary teacher, I am thinking about considering it upper MG and adding it to my classroom/school library. I was able to read an e-ARC through NetGalley. This book was just released at the beginning of the week.
The setting and the character’s approach to the supernatural is what first made me think of this as speculative fiction, rather than fantasy. Our main character, Ellie, is a Lipan Apache teen who has the ability to raise the dead. Her best friend is a dog that has been dead for years. The way this was so casually mentioned made me think this America (Texas, actually) is slightly different than the one we know.
These types of powers are passed down in a family and seem to be accepted as part of normal life. This America is impacted by monsters, ghosts, magic, and it seems more impacted by stories, including the stories of Ellie’s people.
Being Lipan Apache is different in Darcy Little Badger’s America, but there were some scenes that show that racism was still very much a force in this America, present and past. One scene in particular when Ellie is in a store is great for white people to read about how Indigenous peoples are often treated.
When Ellie’s cousin is murdered, her instincts tell her that she needs to investigate. She travels to a small town in Texas to help her Mom look after the grieving family and begins to find out that something is very wrong.
Ellie uses her powers, and knowledge passed on through her ancestors as well as the support of an elder, her friends and family to learn more about her cousin’s death.
What is going on turns out to be even bigger than a murder investigation, and I am hoping this turns out to be more than one standalone book. I would read more books set in this world, with Ellie as the MC, or not, although the way that Lipan Apache traditions and ways of knowing are interspersed is also something I would read more of.
Lupe Wong is a cute and funny story about a middle school student who has many of the awkward issues around growing up. Then, she has to deal with the horrors of a new PE unit on square dancing, hence the title. Lupe does NOT want to dance and does everything she can to avoid it. Her efforts largely blow up in her face and contribute to some of the friendship troubles that she faces. She is an interesting character, and it is easy to root for her as she figures out how to do right by her friends and herself. The book also contains a diverse cast of characters. Lupe has mixed heritage with one side of her family identifying as Chinese and the other half as Mexican. In a scene featuring a culture event at school several other characters demonstrate aspects of their family’s heritage. Most of the kids belong to cliques centered around their sports teams, those character tend to be stereotypically mean. Lupe plays baseball but is kind of the exception to this. She has other friends and learns in this book how to be a better friend to them. Her friends, are well developed characters and alongside the humour of Donna Barba Higuera, their discovery that all kids are worthy and none better than the other is the strength of this book. Early middle school readers should enjoy this story. This was another book published by Levine Querido, as is Elatsoe, a new name in publishing that is really focussed on Ownvoices works such as this one. I also enjoyed picking this one up from Edelweiss +.
The Eye of Ra was a fast paced adventure story perfect for kids that have graduated from books like Magic Tree House, and are on the way to reading books like Percy Jackson. The time travel element makes it easy to compare this story to Magic Tree House, but this is clearly for an older reader. Sarah and her younger brother John accidentally discover a way to travel back in time to Ancient Egypt. Relating to the power of the god Ra, they also are surprised to discover that they are able to communicate with the people that they meet. This leads to them making some friends and immersing themselves in Egyptian culture.
This allows for a richer experience for the reader as they can learn about some of the work done to build pyramids, about Egyptian food, daily life, mythology and more. In addition to the great information provided, there is a lot of action as John and Sarah try to help solve a mystery that jeopardizes the building of the pyramid and also are confronted by scorpions, sandstorms, snakes and (my least favourite for some reason- nothing to do with this book) crocodiles.
I enjoyed the relationship between brother and sister in this book. It continued to change and evolve during the course of the events.
A couple of key events late in the book show the potential for what might come next in this series, and many readers will enjoy anticipating the action of upcoming books from Ben Gartner. I was fortunate to get an e-ARC version of this book, and will enjoy turning readers onto this series.
I was a huge fan of Jabari Jumps, and it is a read aloud favourite at my school, so when I saw that there was a new Jabari book on Edelweiss ‘s list, I requested it immediately and felt lucky to get to review this one.
Once again, Jabari is a young boy trying to stretch himself and complete a tough task. He is challenged by the task and needs to take a moment to collect himself, listen to the advice of his father and accept help in order to complete this STEM tasks.
While I did not get as much out of the art in this book (there are some changes in vantage point as was the case in Gaia Cornwall’s last Jabari book that are good but they do not work as well as in the first one) compared to Jabari Jumps, I loved the message for kids who have to persevere through tough tasks. I think kids are going to love this one just as much as the earlier Jabari book. For some of the older (kids or adults) readers of this one, there are some names of inventors in the background of one of the pages and instead of using some of the white centered inventors that typically come up in STEM titles, I thought it was great that Gaia Cornwall chose to highlight BIPOC inventors and scientists that are far less famous for their amazing achievements (Lewis Howard Latimer, Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal, Roy Allela and Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson). I am not super knowledge when it comes to inventors and I had to google a few of these names. Their work could make a great jumping off point for discussions.
Thanks for reading this post, I hope to check in with other posts this week at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts (much more than I did last week). Have a great reading week!