Ghost Boys

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a realistic juvenile fiction novel.

Jerome is a twelve-year-old boy. He’s also dead. On his way home from school one day he was shot by a police officer who made the mistake of thinking a toy gun was real. Now Jerome’s community is roiling… everyone is either sad or hungry for justice. But Jerome is still dead.

As a ghost, Jerome meets another ghost from another time called: Emmett Till. He also meets Sarah, a living girl and the daughter of the officer who shot him. Emmett, Sarah and Jerome each have something to teach the other and together they will to “understand American blackness in the aftermath of” tragedy.

Rhodes always takes on serious topics and she does so in such a way that is poignant and without fluff. From the moment you open this book themes of racism, prejudices, poverty and more are right in your face. Nothing is hidden and she doesn’t shy away from horrible truths.

This is a book you want to read with your kids, so that you can navigate the themes together. It will be a hard read for sensitive readers but it also opens up avenues of discussion and awareness. The story isn’t gory but the violence happens and the readers witness it happening.

This one will span grades depending on maturity level and how soon the caregivers want to introduce it. Amazon says 4-8 grade and content-wise, I think that is about right. The writing itself is at a 4-6 grade level.

This one gets five stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Beneath the Sugar Sky

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire is the third book in the Wayward Children series.

We’re back at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children with some new and some familiar faces. As always, Eleanor takes in children who have found their doorways and somehow have lost them again. In this book a nonsense girl named, Rini, from a candy world, falls from the sky looking for her mother.

When Sumi found her doorway, it was predicted that she would do great things and that she would have a daughter. But Sumi died years before finding her way back to her candy coated world… but a nonsense world doesn’t always follow linear rules and now her daughter Rini is here to bring Sumi home.

Can Rini and a band of misfit wayward children do the impossible and bring Sumi back to life? And what troubles… what worlds will they find along the way?

I can’t tell you enough how much I adore this series of little books. Beneath the Sugar Sky gives the reader another look at the “worlds” children fall into–the doorways they stumble through. McGuire creates these sometimes zany, sometimes creepy, sometimes fantastically nutty worlds that I just love peaking into.

One of my favorite things about this series is that each book can easily stand up by its own. Yes, you get a bit of background about the school for wayward children in the first book and some of the characters from the first book appear in the subsequent ones, but I still think anyone could read any of these and be transported.

In each book, McGuire gives you a little more insight into these doorways and other worlds–you learn a little more about how they work. You get a whole new level of information in this book that makes these worlds a little more complex and interesting. But, for readers who aren’t interested in the how and why, you aren’t overwhelmed by details. This series can literally be for everyone.

Have I convinced you yet? Do yourself a favor and pick up this series. Another Wayward book that gets five stars from me!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Amina’s Voice

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan is middle grade, realistic fiction chapter book. Amina is a sixth grade, Pakistani-American Muslim who is trying to navigate her way through middle school, while maintaining the traditions of her community.

Amina’s always been shy when it comes to speaking in front of people. She get’s tongue tied and nervous, so she’s always been okay with keeping to the background and hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. But sixth grade feels different. Soojin thinks boys are cute and her best friend is hanging out with someone knew and Amina is afraid she is going to be replaced. At home, Amina’s uncle arrived from Pakistan for a long visit and everyone is on edge, trying to be perfect and impress this very religious and opinionated relative.

When trouble strikes at school and within her Muslim community, Amina is overwhelmed and unsure. Can Amina find her voice and overcome these trying times?

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read that really does take into consideration many of this issues kids face today. Building and losing friendships, religious beliefs, hate crimes, parental/familial pressures and expectations, anxiety, pressure and more. Being a kid is tough and every child is different and deals with these differences differently and I think this book portrays this well.

Amina is an interesting main character. Her troubles and fears and completely relatable and yet she is a sweet-natured, well meaning girl. There were several instances where I would have thought most children would have lied but Amina instead tells the truth and continue to fret about her wrongs. She also asks questions when things get too big, rather then keeping her troubled thoughts inside. I like to think this is a realistic 6th grader buuut, I am not totally convinced that a sixth grader would be as sensitive as Amina. I am sure they are out there, I was just surprised by how good natured Amina is.

Amina’s Voice is a book about diversity, tolerance and the trials of everyday life for a middle schooler. Although I think this book would appeal more to girls, there are a few strong male characters as well. Definitely a book I would recommend for someone looking for realistic fiction with diverse characters.

This book gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Little Paris Bookshop

Hi Guys,

I was in a wait list lull for my next audio book, so I trolled through a friends Read list on Goodreads and came up with this one. A book about a man who runs a “Literary Apothecary,” sign me up!

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is about losing love and being lost in stagnation. Twenty-one years ago, John Perdu woke up alone and from that moment on he shied away from feelings. Monsieur Perdu never drank, never indulged in good meals, he didn’t dance, didn’t socialize–he walled himself off from emotions. Instead of enjoying life, Monsieur Perdu lived in his spartan apartment and followed a strict routine that largely revolved around running his book barge, the Literary Apothecary, on the Seine.

Monsieur Perdu’s routine is upended when he reads a long forgotten letter from his lost love and he learns that didn’t abandon him like he thought, she left to die. Perdu feels like he is drowning and he knows he has to do something… anything. Without thinking Perdu jumps on his book barge and casts off, taking an unlikely companion with him. Now Perdu and a famous young author in-hiding are on an adventure of a lifetime.

Will Monsieur Perdu forgive himself and his dead love? Will he be able to regain the life he lost? And will he be able to put the past behind him, move forward and feel?

This book had some great quotes! My favorite being, “Books keep stupidity at bay.” There were so many snippets in this book that you can feel are true even if you’ve never heard them put into words before. That being said, I think I would have preferred to read this book over listening to it. I was itching to get out my pencil and scribble in the margins (gasp!).

One thing that struck me as odd about this book was the setting. The book is meant to be set in modern times and yet it felt so old fashion. Yes, there was the occasional mention of cell phones and computers but the character interactions, the actions of Perdu and his internal dialogue felt old fashioned. I realize that he is around 50 but he felt like a character out of time. Maybe this is meant to help show how stagnant his life had become; how frozen in time. Thoughts anyone?

This book makes me want to pick up and go. It makes me want to ditch the great cities and roam the French countryside. I want to tango and eat and read.

Ultimately, this wasn’t the most exciting book but it wasn’t meant to be. This is a book to pick up when you feel lost so that you can find your way together. This one gets 3.5 stars from me and probably would have gotten more if I read the print version instead of the audio book. Thought provoking and spurs introspection.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Best Man

Hi Guys,

I can’t for the life of me remember why this one was on my middle school tbr pile. I believe I saw it on a list and went “sure, why not.” I assumed it had something to do with a wedding, but in actuality it is so much more.

The Best Man by Richard Peck follows Archer from kindergarten through sixth grade and the two weddings that bookend this time in his life. Archer is a typical kid, learning the ropes as he goes. He has to deal with bullies, teachers who go on maternity leave, sick grandparents–many of the things kids face over a span of years.

Circling all this is Archer’s Uncle Paul. Everyone seems to tip-toe around Archer. He isn’t a very observant kid; he needs things spelled out for him, so when he finds out that his Uncle Paul is gay, he is literally the last to know. He is also the last to find out that his student teacher is gay and starts dating his uncle.

This is a book about things kids deal with everyday: school, making friends and the knowledge you gain as you grow.

This is a really hard book to explain. Seriously, my mini synopsis does little to inspire but The Best Man has some really great lessons to teach about acceptance and growing up today.

One of the things I loved about this book was how well it portrays modern childhood. Kids have cell phones, there’s YouTube and  Facebook, media frenzies, and more. This would actually be a great book for parents who are having trouble relating to the things their kids are dealing with today that they never had to.

Now, so as not to give any false allusions, nothing really ever goes wrong for Archer (there is one exception but even that ends up tidily solved). This isn’t really a book about overcoming obstacles. It is more a look into how we grow up in today’s society. But Archer and his family are charming, his friends are true and for the most part, his story is believable.

The book has a really great voice and the pace of the story keeps it moving. I would recommend this book to 4th – 5th graders. It is more targeted toward a male reader but Archer’s best friend is a strong female character, who grows up and deals with her own troubles right alongside Archer.

My initial instinct was to give this book 5 stars and I am going to stick with my gut.

That’s all for now!

-M-