Review of The Last Cuentista, by Donna Barba Higuera

The Last Cuentista

by Donna Barba Higuera

Levine Querido, 2021. 320 pages.
Review written April 6, 2022, from my own copy, purchased via amazon.com
2022 Newbery Medal Winner

The Last Cuentista won the Newbery Medal. Everyone should read it. The writing is lyrical, lush, and gorgeous. It talks about the power of Story, greater than anything.

As the story begins, Petra and her family are getting ready to leave earth. She misses her grandmother Lita, who told her a story about Halley’s Comet as a fire snake with bad eyesight that accidentally hit its mother, earth, and destroyed it.

It feels wrong to be sneaking off Earth while so many are left behind. They don’t even inform my parents of our destination until the day before. Dad says Pleiades had been storing their ships in a massive underground facility at the old Denver airport — they weren’t supposed to leave Earth on their first official trip for another two years. The maiden test flights into nearby space a few months earlier had been successful, but because we’re now leaving so suddenly, this will be the first interstellar journey.

If a solar flare hadn’t shifted the comet off course a week earlier, we’d be watching Fire Snake harmlessly pass Earth in a few days like it had since the beginning of time.

Petra and her brother Javier are prepared to go into a stasis pod. They will sleep for three hundred and eighty years and wake up ready to go to a new planet, named Sagan, where another ship has already gone to terraform. Scientists like Petra’s parents will help set up life on the new settlement — and Petra and Javier have custom programming that will go into their brains while in stasis, so they will wake up scientific experts as well.

As they go into stasis, Petra learns that her desired elective — storytelling — was overridden by her parents. She doesn’t want to be a scientist. She wants to be a Cuentista like her grandmother.

Not everyone on the spaceship will be in stasis. The Monitors will spend their lives in space making sure that those in the pods are safe.

But something goes wrong from the very start when Petra is supposed to go to sleep. And when she wakes up, near the planet, she discovers the Collective has taken over. They expect her to answer to the name Zeta-1 and serve the Collective.

The story is compelling and beautifully written. But I had problems with it that I’ve had with other dystopian fiction. I couldn’t get around my questions of why? Why would the Collective want to ban memories of earth and ban stories? The explanation given was that earth was a place of war and they were starting over, but I didn’t buy it. I didn’t think people leaving their home planet would want to forget everything.

I also couldn’t really bring myself to believe in the magic technology that could reprogram brains — and somehow didn’t work on Petra. And Petra could make people remember despite that. So although I see the amazing craft in the book, I could never quite suspend my disbelief and really believe it would happen that way.

But it won the Newbery. So there are many people who didn’t have any problem with those things. Try it yourself! Read this beautiful story and then tell me what you think: Were you pulled into this tale of the last survivors of humankind?

levinequerido.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Ones We’re Meant to Find, by Joan He, narrated by Nancy Wu

The Ones We’re Meant to Find

by Joan He
narrated by Nancy Wu

Tantor Audio, 2021. 11 hours.
Review written February 1, 2022, from a library eaudiobook
2021 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Speculative Fiction

The Ones We’re Meant to Find tells two parallel stories in alternating chapters. One story is of Cee, who’s been living for three years on an abandoned island, trying to build a boat so she can go look for her sister, Kay.

The other story is about Kasey, a socially awkward scientific genius who lives in the next-to-the-top level of an eco-city built above the clouds, designed to be safe from all the disasters that have overtaken planet earth. Kasey’s sister Celia went missing three months ago, and everybody thinks she’s dead.

The two stories do come together, but not at all as we expect they will at the beginning.

Before they come together, Cee tries to set out to find Kay, but her boat is swamped by a storm. She washes up back on the island. Not long after that, a boy washes up on the beach, and life on the island changes.

Meanwhile, with the help of a hacker, Kasey finds Celia’s brain interface, which she had removed before she disappeared. Kasey can access Celia’s memories and find out why she left. Oh, and the world faces more disasters for everyone outside the eco-cities.

The set-up is intriguing, and we want to learn about how they connect. For me, several details toward the end stretched credibility, but I can’t list those things because it would give away the big reveal. However, it’s a nice speculative fiction book about how people might respond to manmade disasters threatening to make earth uninhabitable and the kind of dilemmas people might face. A book that makes you think, while providing engaging characters facing difficult decisions and trying circumstances.

joanhewrites.com
fiercereads.com

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This review is only on the blog.

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Review of A Snake Falls to Earth, by Darcie Little Badger

A Snake Falls to Earth

by Darcie Little Badger

Levine Querido, 2021. 372 pages.
Review written February 14, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 National Book Award Longlist
2022 Newbery Honor Book

Because Darcie Little Badger’s debut novel, Elatsoe, was one of my favorite books I read in 2021, I had this book all checked out ready to read as soon as I finished reading for the Cybils Awards. So I felt like I’d won the jackpot when it won Newbery Honor, and I already had it checked out.

Like Elatsoe, this book features an older teen protagonist and is on the Young Adult shelves at my library, but has no sex or graphic violence and will appeal to middle school readers as well as older teens. Also like Elatsoe, A Snake Falls to Earth is steeped in Native American tales from the author’s Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.

This book follows two stories. One is the story of Nina, a sixteen-year-old Lipan girl who lives in Texas and is worrying about a hurricane headed for her Grandma’s house. That house is on land that has long been in their family, and Grandma gets sick if she leaves it. The story her dying great-grandmother told Nina might shed some light on the reasons why, if Nina can manage to translate it.

The other story is about one of the animal people in the Reflecting World. In his true form, Oli is a cottonmouth snake. In his false form, he’s a boy with scales in place of eyebrows. When we first meet Oli, his mother has sent him away from home, and Oli has adventures looking for a place of his own. He makes friends along the way, and when one of those friends gets in trouble, Oli is willing even to make the dangerous journey to Earth to help.

And of course those stories come together in unexpected and delightful ways when Oli makes it to Earth.

Something I loved about Elatsoe was that kids didn’t hide magical events from the adults in their lives, and that’s true in this book, too. There’s a strong sense of community, including parents and elders. Altogether, this is a magical adventure that feels like a yarn you could hear at a storyteller’s feet.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Mel Fell, by Corey R. Tabor

Mel Fell

by Corey R. Tabor

Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2021. 40 pages.
Review written July 10, 2021, from a library book
2022 Caldecott Honor Book

Mel Fell is a simple picture book with pizzazz. I love the way it plays with the format of the picture book to catch interest.

The book begins in an unusual position. You open the book with the spine up. Then we get a tale of a baby kingfisher named Mel who decides it’s time to fly. But when she stepped off the branch, instead of flying, Mel fell.

We’re zoomed in on Mel and see various creatures try to catch her – squirrels, bees, a spider – all to no avail. Then there’s a big “Oh no!” and Mel’s eyes that were serenely closed pop open.

But on the next page, there’s a big splash. Then we see underwater, where Mel catches a fish in her beak, and we’re cleverly asked to turn the book.

The rest of the book has Mel flying triumphantly out of the water (now with the spine of the book below the pages we’re turning) and up and up, past the creatures we saw on the way down, back to her nest.

It’s all fun and simple, with only a little text on each page, but a dramatic and easy-to-follow story.

An author’s note at the back explains that kingfishers dive into the water from trees. “A young kingfisher probably doesn’t catch a fish the first time they leave the nest. But then, Mel is a very special bird.”

coreyrtabor.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Classified, by Traci Sorell, illustrations by Natasha Donovan

Classified

The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer

by Traci Sorell
illustrations by Natasha Donovan

Millbrook Press, 2021. 32 pages.
Review written January 5, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Mathical Book Prize Honor Book, Grades 3-5
2022 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book, Picture Books

I’m so happy about a recent burst of picture book biographies of distinguished women mathematicians and engineers! They would have inspired me as a child, and they inspire me as an adult.

This book tells the story of Mary Golda Ross, a member of the Cherokee nation, who excelled in math, even though she was surrounded by boys in her classes. The book portrays her as always learning. She became a teacher after graduating from college, but during World War II got a job working on fighter jets for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. That job led her to take engineering classes at a local university to become Lockheed’s first female engineer. After the war, she worked in a classified group developing space travel and satellites.

I like the way Cherokee values are introduced at the beginning and throughout the text we’re told how she demonstrated them: “gaining skills in all areas of life, working cooperatively with others, remaining humble when others recognize your talents, and helping ensure equal education and opportunity for all.”

A whole spread at the end is devoted to Mary’s work helping others not have to face the barriers she did:

Although her work was classified, Mary still had much to share. She never stopped recruiting American Indians and young women to study math and science and helping support them to become engineers.

Mary’s work and her legacy of service have helped many others become trailblazers, too.

I learned in the timeline at the back that she helped found the Los Angeles section of the Society of Women Engineers and later a scholarship was established in her name.

A lovely book about a remarkable woman I’m glad to now know about.

tracisorell.com
natashadonovan.com

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Winners Galore!

It’s Book Award Season! I’m doing a program to highlight some of my favorite books from 2021 that have been honored with awards this year, as well as highlighting the many awards out there. This post will give links to the award lists so you can find even more great books, along with featuring the books I plan to highlight. Books I’ve reviewed will have links to the review.

This year, I got to be part of three groups that selected outstanding books:

Committee to select the Mathical Book Prize, “an annual award for fiction and nonfiction books that inspire children of all ages to see math in the world around them.”

Round 2 Panel to select one winner for the Cybils Award (Children and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) in Young Adult Speculative Fiction from seven Finalists. Something great about the Cybils Awards are the many categories and the lists of Finalists — if a kid is asked to read an award-winning book, they can certainly find something they like among the Cybils Finalists. There’s somethiing for everyone.

Capitol Choices. This is a DC-area group of children’s literature librarians and other professionals who meet monthly to choose 100 of the best children’s and young adult books each year.

I’m going to talk about books from these committees as well as other favorites that were honored with the many ALA Awards. From the “Youth Media Awards” page, you can find a brief description of each award and links to the pages with current and past winners. Here’s the press release for all this year’s winners.

On my blog every year, I also post a list of Sonderbooks Stand-outs, my personal favorite books read that year. This year it just so happened that three of my #1 Sonderbooks Stand-outs were honored with multiple ALA awards. That didn’t even happen the year I was on the Newbery committee!

For this award tasting, I’m going to mention favorite books and tell the awards and honors they’ve won. I’m going to start with books for the youngest children and move to older children and teens. I am going to try to cover lots of different awards along the way, and I’ll tell about the awards as they come up.

For Youngest Readers

2022 Mathical Winner, PreK:
1 Smile, 10 Toes, by Nelleke Verhoeff

2021 Cybils Finalist, Board Books:
2022 Mathical Honor Book, PreK:
Circle Under Berry, by Carter Higgins

For Preschoolers

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is given to “the illustrator of the most distinguished American picture book for children” that year. This is given for the art.

2022 Caldecott Honor Book:
Mel Fell, by Corey R. Tabor

2022 Caldecott Honor Book:
Have You Ever Seen a Flower?, by Shawn Harris

2022 Caldecott Honor Book:
Wonder Walkers, by Micha Archer

The Schneider Family Book Awards honor books “that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”

2022 Schneider Family Award Winner, Young Children:
My City Speaks, by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards go to “outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.”

2022 Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustration:
We Wait for the Sun, by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, pictures by Raissa Figueroa

For Early Elementary School

The John Newbery Medal is given to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” This is given for the text.

The Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature “celebrate Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage,” given for literary and artistic merit.

The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards are given to outstanding children’s and young adult books based on a calendar that goes from June to May.

2022 Caldecott Medal Winner:
2022 Newbery Honor Book:
2022 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner, Picture Books:
2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book, Picture Books:
2021 Cybils Winner, Fiction Picture Books:
2021 #1 Sonderbooks Stand-out, Picture Books:
Watercress, by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chen

The Sydney Taylor Book Awards “recognize titles for children and teens that exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience.”

2022 Sidney Taylor Award Gold Medal, Picture Books:
2021 #2 Sonderbooks Stand-out, Picture Books:
The Passover Guest, by Susan Kusel, illustrated by Sean Rubin

Fun fact: Susan Kusel is a local librarian, and a past chair of the Sydney Taylor committee!

2022 Mathical Book Prize Winner, Grades K-2:
Uma Wimple Charts Her House, by Reif Larsen and Ben Gibson

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given to the “most distinguished American book for beginning readers.”

2022 Geisel Award Winner:
2021 Cybils Finalist, Easy Readers:
Fox at Night, by Corey R. Tabor

2022 Geisel Honor Book:
Beak & Ally: Unlikely Friends, by Norm Feuti

The American Indian Youth Literature Awards are given every two years for the best writing and illustrations that “present Native American and Indigenous North American peoples in the fullness of their humanity in present, past and future contexts.”

2022 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book, Middle Grades:
JoJo Makoons, The Used-to-Be Best Friend, by Dawn Quigley, illustrated by Tara Audibert

2022 Schneider Family Award Honor Book, Middle Grades:
Stuntboy, Volume 1, In the Meantime, by Jason Reynolds, drawings by Raul the Third

For Upper Elementary

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is given to the most distinguished American informational book.

2022 Coretta Scott King Author Winner:
2022 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Winner:
2022 Caldecott Honor Book:
2022 Sibert Honor Book:
2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book, Nonfiction:
2021 Cybils Finalist, Middle Grade Nonfiction:
2021 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #1 Children’s Nonfiction:
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

2022 Mathical Winner, Grades 3-5:
2021 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #10 Children’s Nonfiction:
Maryam’s Magic: The Story of Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, by Megan Reid, illustrations by Aaliya Jaleel

2022 Mathical Honor Book, Grades 3-5:
2022 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book, Picture Books:
2021 Cybils Finalist, Middle Grade Nonfiction:
Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer, by Traci Sorell, illustrations by Natasha Donovan

2022 Mathical Honor Book, Grades 3-5:
Molly and the Mathematical Mysteries, by Eugenia Cheng

2022 Sibert Honor Book:
2021 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #5 Children’s Nonfiction:
The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem, by Colleen Paeff, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

2022 Sidney Taylor Silver Medal, Middle Grades:
The Genius Under the Table, by Eugene Yelchin

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award is given to the most outstanding book originally published in another language in another country and translated into English.

2022 Batchelder Honor Book:
The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas, written by María García Esperón, illustrated by Amanda Mijangos and translated by David Bowles

For Middle School

The Pura Belpré Award is given to “a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth”

2022 Newbery Medal Winner:
2022 Pura Belpré Award Author Winner:
2021 Cybils Finalist, Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction:
The Last Cuentista, by Donna Barba Higuera

The Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award is given to “English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.”

The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature is given to an American author, on a publishing year that runs from December to November.

2022 Newbery Honor Book:
2022 Stonewall Award Winner, Children’s Literature:
2021 National Book Award Finalist:
2021 Cybils Finalist, Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction:
Too Bright to See, by Kyle Lukoff

The Michael L. Printz Award is given to “a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.”

2022 Printz Honor Book:
2021 Cybils Finalist, Poetry:
2021 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #5 Children’s Fiction:
Starfish, by Lisa Fipps

The Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature is sponsored by We Need Diverse Books and celebrates diversity in children’s literature.

2022 Newbery Honor Book:
2022 Walter Award Winner, Younger Readers Category:
2021 Cybils Finalist, Poetry:
Red, White and Whole, by Rajani LaRocca

2022 Mathical Book Prize Winner, Grades 6-8:
AfterMath, by Emily Barth Isler

2022 Mathical Honor Book, Grades 6-8:
2021 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #8 Children’s Fiction:
In the Red, by Christopher Swiedler

2022 Sidney Taylor Gold Medal, Middle Grades:
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For, by Veera Hiranandani

2022 American Indian Youth Literature Honor Book:
2020 Cybils Young Adult Speculative Fiction Finalist:
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #5 Teen Speculative Fiction:
Elatsoe, by Darcie Little Badger

2022 Newbery Honor Book:
2021 National Book Award Longlist:
A Snake Falls to Earth, by Darcie Little Badger

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults is given to “the best nonfiction book for young adults.”

2022 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist:
2022 Capitol Choices selection:
In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers, by Don L. Brown

2022 Mathical Book Prize Honor Book, Grades 6-8:
It’s a Numbers Game: Baseball

For High School

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award “honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens.”

2022 Printz Medal Winner:
2022 Morris Award Winner:
2022 American Indian Youth Literature Honor Book:
2022 Walter Award Winner, Teen Category:
2021 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Fiction:
2021 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #1 Teen Fiction:
Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley

2022 Cybils Young Adult Fiction Winner:
2021 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #2 Teen Fiction:
The Girls I’ve Been, by Tess Sharpe

2022 Cybils Young Adult Speculative Fiction Winner:
Vespertine, by Margaret Rogerson

2021 Cybils Young Adult Speculative Fiction Finalist:
The Mirror Season, by Anna-Marie McLemore

2022 Printz Honor Book:
2021 Cybils Young Adult Fiction Finalist:
Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas

2022 Sidney Taylor Gold Medal, Young Adults
2021 Cybils Young Adult Speculative Fiction Finalist:
The City Beautiful, by Aden Polydoros

2021 Cybils Young Adult Speculative Fiction Finalist:
Bad Witch Burning, by Jessica Lewis

2022 Printz Honor Book:
2022 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book:
2021 National Book Award Finalist:
Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People, by Kekla Magoon

2022 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Honor Book:
The Woman All Spies Fear: Codebreaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life, by Amy Butler Greenfield

Review of 1 Smile 10 Toes, by Nelleke Verhoeff

1 Smile 10 Toes

by Nelleke Verhoeff

Barefoot Books, 2021. 24 pages.
Review written December 10, 2021, from my own copy, purchased via amazon.com
Starred Review
2022 Mathical Book Prize Winner, PreK

1 Smile 10 Toes is now one of my favorite board books. As with many board books, this one is part toy. All the pages except the last one are split in two, featuring a friendly imaginary animal all the same width in the middle. So you can turn parts of pages to mix and match the tops and bottoms and create many different kinds of creatures.

But the learning part is that each half-page has something to count. The only text is a numeral with the body part being featured. Some examples on top are 8 Feathers, 7 Curls, 3 Beaks, 5 Eyelashes, 4 Ears, 10 Spikes. Some examples on the bottom are 8 Toes, 9 Claws, 4 Feathers, 10 Hooves, 2 Thighs, 9 Fingers.

You can tell from the examples, the author didn’t worry about being conventional. I imagine that adults will get tired of counting things for kids long before a child will get tired of looking at these pages. I remember as a small child being fascinated with mix-and-match books, and this one has the additional bonus of teaching counting.

There’s no order to the number of things featured – all the numbers between 1 and 10 are featured, but in random order, which works well with the mix-and-match theme. You might want to wait to use it with a kid who knows that having 4 ears is silly.

No matter what, it’s a lovely way to give a small child endless things to count.

barefootbooks.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Genius Under the Table, by Eugene Yelchin

The Genius Under the Table

Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

by Eugene Yelchin

Candlewick Press, 2021. 201 pages.
Review written December 2, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Capitol Choices selection
2022 Sidney Taylor Honor Book

Eugene Yelchin tells us his story of growing up in Leningrad under the Soviet regime. The characters in his story are larger than life, whom we meet on the first page, loudly complaining about American tourists cutting in front of them in the line to get into Lenin’s mausoleum.

Yevgeny was only six years old in that incident and was somewhat overwhelmed by seeing Lenin’s mummy. Their family lived in a cramped one-bedroom apartment and the only place for Yevgeny to sleep was under his grandma’s big table. He liked the private space under the table, and used the bottom of the table to draw pictures.

His mother worked for the Vaganova Ballet Academy, and was obsessed with Mikhail Barishnikov, the academy’s most famous graduate. This obsession gets woven through the book, as his mother wishes Yevgeny had talent like Misha. And their family’s discussion of the likelihood of him defecting gets their own building’s spy appointed to accompany him on his trip to Canada.

Yevgeny’s big brother Victor has talent – he’s a champion figure skater. But what can Yevgeny do? He fakes interest in ballet to please his mother, but that’s not going to work out very well.

Then propaganda starts coming on the radio and even among their neighbors against Jews. Eugene’s child’s perspective of all these events is both funny and poignant. And all of it is illustrated with his drawings – which he tried to reproduce from what he drew under his grandma’s table.

The book ends rather abruptly, after a very sad event. He tries to make it hopeful, and I know he ended up leaving Soviet Russia, but I wish the book had given a hint of how he got there.

Overall, this book is packed with humor and insight. A fun look for kids at a different world – behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Furia, by Yamile Saied Méndez

Furia

by Yamile Saied Méndez

Algonquin Young Readers, 2020. 357 pages.
Review written October 17, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Cybils Award Winner
2021 Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Medal Winner

Furia is set in Argentina, telling the story of 17-year-old Camila, who dreams of being a soccer star. Her father played soccer until an injury stopped his career, and her older brother has recently gone professional. But her family doesn’t think that girls should play soccer, so she has to keep her play secret. However, when they win their league championship, she’s going to need her parents’ permission to play in the South American tournament.

Meanwhile, her childhood friend Diego has come back to town. Her family doesn’t know that things got romantic between them before he joined an Italian professional soccer team. That spark is still there. Diego, and apparently everyone else, thinks that she should give up her own dreams and go back with him to Italy. But even though Camila cares about him, she’s got a fire inside and wants to follow her own path.

Along with that story, there are undercurrents about women’s rights in Argentina, domestic violence, and expectations for women. Camila has to navigate all of this while trying to get attention for her skills. She dreams of going to America, where women can play professional soccer.

But meanwhile, how does she navigate all the secrets she’s keeping?

I love the way the book starts, setting up the framework of the setting and Camila’s people:

Lies have short legs. I learned this proverb before I could speak. I never knew exactly where it came from. Maybe the saying followed my family across the Atlantic, all the way to Rosario, the second-largest city in Argentina, at the end of the world.

My Russian great-grandmother, Isabel, embroidered it on a pillow after her first love broke her heart and married her sister. My Palestinian grandfather, Ahmed, whispered it to me every time my mom found his hidden stash of wine bottles. My Andalusian grandmother, Elena, repeated it like a mantra until her memories and regrets called her to the next life. Maybe it came from Matilde, the woman who chased freedom to Las Pampas all the way from Brazil, but of her, this Black woman whose blood roared in my veins, we hardly ever spoke. Her last name got lost, but my grandma’s grandma still showed up so many generations later in the way my brown hair curled, the shape of my nose, and my stubbornness – ay, Dios mío, my stubbornness. Like her, if family folklore was to be trusted, I had never learned to shut up or do as I was told.

yamilesmendez.com
AlgonquinYoungReaders.com

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Review of Lia & Luís: Who Has More?

Lia & Luís

Who Has More?

by Ana Crespo
illustrated by Giovana Medeiros

Charlesbridge, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written February 26, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 Mathical Book Prize Winner, ages 2-4

This picture book from Charlesbridge’s “Storytelling Math” series is a lovely way to get small children thinking about quantity, and it’s cross-cultural, too.

Luís often brags to his sister Lia. When they each choose their favorite Brazilian snack from their Papai’s store, Luis is quick to brag that he has more. His bag is bigger.

But what if you count what they have? What if you count something different?

When Lia finally comes up with the idea to measure the treats, she can make a strong case that she has more – and a way to make them equal.

This puts the simple idea of measurement and quantity into a situation that small children will find compelling. Because you always want to have more than your brother. It’s an important early math concept, and it’s a good story.

anacrespobooks.com
giovanamedeiros.com
charlesbridge.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/lia_and_luis.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?