Maryam (Mimi) has a thousand questions for her dad who left her and her mother when she was younger, but her mom seems to have moved on and won't talk to her about him. Her mother Samia is an artist and money is often tight for both of them in the city. One summer, Mimi's mom decides they will take a trip to Pakisan (!) where Mimi's grandparents live. Imagine how thrilled she is to learn that her dad (globe-trotting journalist) is also currently in Karachi.
Twig and Turtle are two sisters whose parents have just moved into a tiny house! The family has done some major downsizing -- the kids even had to choose just five toys they could keep, and now they have to clean up after playing with their toys. Both girls are also adjusting to a new neighborhood and new school. Turtle, the younger girl, seems to be adjusting well at school, making friends and having a good time. But for the older girl, Twig, things are a bit harder. She's self-conscious about having few clothes in rotation and being new in general. Twig is also missing their Great Dane, Bo, whom they had to leave at their Grandma's because of the tiny house. Twig decides that the she will convince her mother to let Bo move in with them again.
I'm thrilled to participate in my first blog tour with author Kereen Getten and her debut middle-grade book, When Life Gives You Mangoes! This lovely book is set on an island (which is close to my heart, because I lived in the Caribbean for five years). It's such an honor to be the first stop in this month-long blog tour. We talk about her book, her journey as a writer, and some of her childhood memories from Jamaica. Please enjoy my interview with Kereen.
When Life Gives You Mangoes is set in a small island village, Sycamore Hill. Clara can't remember anything that happened in the last year and readers can immediately tell that everyone around her is concerned about this and about her in general. She spends most of time with her best friend Gaynah, playing games sometimes with the other island children. We learn that she used to surf, but she's now terrified of the water and won't even dip her toes in. But then, a new girl, Rudy, comes to their small village, where no one ever visits. As she tries to befriend Clara, a few secrets are revealed.
In No Vacancy, Miriam Brockman's family -- who are Jewish -- has just moved into a motel they bought in upstate New York. On top of the change from city to small town, Miriam has to work with her parents and uncle (who comes to help) to renovate the motel. Her parents are also struggling because the motel is in poor financial state, contrary to what the sellers had initially told them. This jeopardizes their plan to renovate and then sell the motel so they can buy a home. Next door to the hotel is a diner owned by a Catholic elderly couple, whose granddaughter, Kate, befriends Miriam. Miriam also begins working at the diner, peeling grapes for grape pie. In a bid to help draw customers to the motel, both girls create the illusion of a Virgin Mary apparition in a local abandoned drive-in. Their plan works, and customers start flooding the motel, but Miriam can't shake the guilt, even as she explores other questions about religion and disability.
Bunheads was my first experience with a Misty Copeland picture book. I love watching her dance, so I was happy to get a digital copy of this ARC. This story is based on Misty's first-time experience with ballet class. The teacher tells them the story of Coppelia (which they will be performing), and then they learn the steps and eventually perform by the end of the book.
Recommending readalikes can be a tricky process, but as I said in the first post in this series, I enjoy the process of finding similar threads running through even books that appear different on the surface. Today’s pick is a new release by Ghanaian author, Yaa Gyasi, a story about the intersection of faith and science, and the grief of losing a son and brother to the opioid epidemic. Without further ado, if you loved this book, here are more books like Transcendent Kingdom.
Almost American Girl is Robin Ha's graphic memoir detailing her move from South Korea to Huntsville, Alabama. Robin is 14 when she and her mother leave for one of their regular visits to the US. Except, this time it's not Hawaii or any other vacation hotspot -- it's Alabama. Robin's mother has been encouraging her to learn English like she has been doing, but Robin is uninterested, preferring to enjoy her Korean comics and spending time with her friends buying stationery and Korean street food. When they arrive in Huntsville, Robin realizes that her mother is there to visit a man she has been corresponding with. His family welcomes them, but Robin feels out of place since she can neither speak nor understand English. She dreams of returning to Korea when the vacation is over. However, Robin is in for a shocker as her mom announces that she's marrying this man, and she and Robin are staying put in America. Her whole life changes forever, as she struggles to assimilate, while handling the ups and downs in her mother's relationship.
There are more mixed-race people in the world, than ever before and these middle-grade books with biracial protagonists highlight that fact. The characters in these stories benefit from being part of multicultural households. In most of these books, the fact that the character is biracial plays strongly into the story. They highlight how these kids handle more than one culture at home, and how they find the best of both worlds.
Far from Normal follows Maddy, a 17-year-old from Normal, Illinois who moves to Chicago for a summer internship in aunt's sports marketing company. Away from home -- and her parents' low expectations of her -- for the first time, Maddy is ready to prove that she can be excellent at something, even though she has to work hard unlike her genius brother. Things are going fairly well, until she runs into one of the company's clients, 19-year-old soccer star, Gabe.
Catch That Chicken was my first read of the author Atinuke. She is popular for her Anna Hibiscus books, a series of chapter books set in Africa (many readers place the country as Nigeria as Atinuke is Nigerian). In this delightful picture book, young Lami who lives in a large village compound, is known to be the best chicken catcher. She runs quickly, trying to catch any chicken she's asked to, until one day, her adventures lead to a sprained ankle and Lami has to learn new ways of catching chickens.
I enjoy the process of finding similar threads running through even books that appear different on the surface. Today’s pick is a classic by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that is both a meditation on race and immigration, as well as a love story. If you haven’t read it yet, you should, as you should all of Adichie's other books! Here are 10 more books like Americanah.
Transcendent Kingdom is Yaa Gyasi's long-awaited sophomore novel. Her debut, Homegoing was widely read and loved. In this book, Gifty is a PhD student whose research focuses on desire and restraint and how both factors play into addiction and depression. The story follows Gifty's life from her childhood in Huntesville, Alabama to the present, alternating between several timelines. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted athlete, first playing soccer in his childhood, and then basketball in his teens, until a game injury led to a brush with Oxycontin which eventually spiraled into the opoid addiction that took his life.