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.
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.
I was a bit scared to read Jackson's Grown, because I've read both of her books and they were absorbing, but difficult to read. I was worried about getting my head into a potentially triggering plot, but I survived. At a singing audition, 17-year-old Enchanted Jones catches the eye of superstar musician Korey Fields, who is 28. Korey promises her a future in music and the starstruck teen is quickly swept into an illicit relationship with drugs and abuse. That is until Korey Fields is found dead with Enchanted on the scene and all fingers pointing at her.
In Turning Point, we reunite with the Pirates Cove gang (minus a few) -- mostly Mila, Mo, Sheeda, and Tai. This book focuses on Monique (Mo) and Rasheeda (Sheeda)'s friendship and how it changes over a summer when both girls are drawn into different pursuits. Mo is off at a ballet intensive with Mila, while Sheeda is stuck at church (with her church "friends") feeling like she has no life.
It's My Party and I Don't Want to Go is quite the mouthful, but the quirky title encapsulates this book's nature. Ellie is a young Jewish girl with undiagnosed social anxiety. She gets physically sick -- sweaty, lightheaded, shaky, fainting at times -- at the thought of being the center of attention, and even worse when her worst fear actually happens. Her latest anxiety trigger is the thought of her fast-approaching bat mitzvah.
His Only Wife was my return to adult fiction. I always wondered which book would finally do it, and it was this one. Set in Ghana, this debut novel by Peace Adzo Medie follows a young woman Afi Tekple. The story open at Afi’s marriage to Elikem Ganyo, a man from a high standing Ghanaian family — except Elikem is absent during the ceremony, and his brother is standing in for him. The Ganyos are marrying Afi traditionally for their son, because they are displeased with his current relationship with a Liberian woman with whom he has a daughter.
Lupe Wong Won't Dance is Donna Barba Higuera's debut middle-grade novel. Her protagonist Lupe is a Mexican-Chinese girl who loves baseball. Her Chinese father died several years ago, so she lives with her Mexican mom and her brother Paolo. However, both her abuela and her Chinese grandparents are very present in their lives. Lupe is excited to get all A's this year because her uncle has promised her a meeting with baseball star Fu Li Hernandez, who's Chinacan/Mexinese like her if she does. But all of a sudden, there's a new development in her gym class: Coach wants them to do square dancing instead of like, actual sports. And guess what? Lupe does not dance.
This middle-grade book follows Lucy, a short Chinese-American girl caught between two cultures. Lucy plays basketball (very well) and would choose mac and cheese over most Chinese dishes. Her older siblings seem to fit the "perfect Chinese child" stereotype more than she does. Regina, her older sister started a Chinese club in high school and speaks flawless Chinese, while her brother Kenny, although a bookworm loves and eats all Chinese food and is a Math whiz. Still Lucy perseveres with interests, eagerly anticipating her sister's move to college so she can have their room all to herself, but that is not to be.
In Tune It Out, Lou and her mother live in their truck. Her mom believes Lou has a gift (her voice) and is determined to make it big with her. So she makes Lou sing everywhere from cafes to karaoke bars to street corners. This is extra challenging for Lou because she hates the bright lights and the sound of applause is physically painful. She also hates physical contact and is bothered by the texture of certain clothes on her skin. Lou gets some respite from the malnutrition and homelessness when an accident leads to her being taken in by Child Protective Services. Fortunately, she is sent off to live with her aunt and her husband in Nashville, Tennessee where she begins a new life until her mother can get her back.
Now That I've Found You is Kristina Forest's sophomore YA novel. This book focuses on Evie, an up and coming actress with a family in the film-making industry. Her grandmother (Gigi) is a movie star and her parents are documentary film makers who travel the world for their career. Evie has just snagged a role with a well known director when a video of her drunkenly mocking his British accent surfaces. She's dropped from the film immediately and effectively blackballed in the industry. She's only 18.
I've had Solving for M on my TBR for a long time now! Mika and her mom are used to things just being the both of them because her parents divorced when she was a baby. Her dad remarried soon after, and her mom hasn't yet. She's a new middle schooler and is enjoying her math class, although the new pod system in their school means she isn't in the same group as her best friend. Their math teacher is very engaging and asks the kids to keep a semi-private math journal for the math problems they will do during the school year. All is well until Mika's mom discovers a spot on the back of her leg, which turns out to be a melanoma.
Serenity and her brother, Danny, have to move in with their grandparents after her mother's death. Their father is nowhere to be found and the kids have to deal with their grief while adjusting to a new lifestyle -- new school, new friends, new routines -- with their mother's parents. Their grandfather is a preacher and both grandparents are ardent churchgoers. The story is told from Serenity's point of view as she tries to make sense of life through her poetry in English class.
Aram Kim's Sunday Funday in Koreatown follows Yoomi, whom you may already know from No Kimchi for Me. The latter was a hit for picky eaters and readers who love fun food books. In this picture book, Yoomi wakes up excited for her usual Sunday funday festivities, but this Sunday is not so... fun. First, she can't watch the morning show she likes, thanks to her brothers, then she can't wear her favorite shirt because it's still wet from the wash! But then, she's still going to Koreatown with her dad, so maybe there's hope yet?
The Distance to Home is Jenn Bishop's debut middle-grade novel. I read and loved her most recent release, Things We Can't Say about a boy dealing with parental suicide. The Distance to Home focuses on an equally sensitive subject: the death of a sibling. This summer, Quinnen isn't playing baseball with her team -- she decided to quit after her sister, Haley died the summer before. But when her family decides to host a player from a Minor League Baseball team, Quinnen starts to bond with the a couple of the players.
The Amelia Six is the story of six clever girls who are invited to spend a night in Amelia Earhart's home because of their achievements in STEM (specifically flying and aeronautics). Although all big-time Earhart fans, each of the girls are different. There's shy, anxious Amelia (Millie) whose mom left her to go be a pilot. Then there are twins Robin and Wren who run a YouTube channel, Thea who builds things, like the side car she arrives in with her aunt's motorcycle, Nathalie and her pet rat and Cassie whose parents work at NASA.