Archive for ‘Middle-Grade Books’

November 2, 2016

Dear Mrs. Naidu

dear-mrs-naiduTitle: Dear Mrs. Naidu
Author: Mathangi Subramanian
Publisher: Zubaan Books, 2015
Pages: 286
Genre: Contemporary, Multicultural
Themes: Activism, Friendship, Economic Diversity
Ages: 10 and up

Synopsis (Zubaan Books website):

Twelve-year-old Sarojini’s best friend, Amir, might not be her best friend anymore. Ever since Amir moved out of the slum and started going to a posh private school, it seems like he and Sarojini have nothing in common. Then Sarojini finds out about the Right to Education, a law that might help her get a free seat at Amir’s school – or, better yet, convince him to come back to a new and improved version of the government school they went to together. As she struggles to keep her best friend, Sarojini gets help from some unexpected characters, including Deepti, a feisty classmate who lives at a construction site; Vimala Madam, a human rights lawyer who might also be an evil genius; and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, a long-dead freedom fighter who becomes Sarojini’s secret pen pal. Told through letters to Mrs. Naidu, this is the story of how Sarojini learns to fight – for her friendship, her family, and her future.

Why I Like This Book:

This book is a window into another world, another lifestyle, one filled with hardship, friendship, and community coming together to improve the education for the lower class students. I love the main character Sarojini, who shows that even a 12-year old, a girl full of heart and courage CAN make a difference.

The story is told in epistolary style. Sarojini is writing letters to a deceased Mrs. Sarojini Naidu as part of a school assignment. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu was an activist and freedom fighter during India’s struggle for independence from the British. As the story unfolds, we see the young Sarojini gain strength. She makes friends with the Deepti the new girl from the construction site, and together they are the heart of the Child Rights Club.  Their fight is to make their government school a better place for kids — by advocating for a playground, clean drinking water and more. But gathering support from the community and the local government is a challenge.

I enjoyed the realistic representation of the neighborhood Aunties and the headmaster of Sarojini’s school. While the Aunties initially dissuade the girls and remind them of the dangers of talking to the press, they eventually come to help the Child Rights Club. The headmaster we learn has lost faith in the government from a previously failed attempt, hence the reason he has become jaded.

While this book was published for the Indian audience, I do think there is an audience for this book in the United States. It’s not just for children of Indian ancestry but for any child that is interested in learning about other cultures and what life is like elsewhere. Adults may need to provide some background information on the following topics – fight for Indian independence, slums, government vs private schools in India, views on Hindu-Muslim relations. Short glossary of common words – roti (thin bread), dosa (South Indian rice paper roll), Amma (mother), Appa (father).

Read the Author’s Note to find out the extent of research the author undertook. Impressive.

I highly recommend this book for any middle-school collection.

Find Dear Mrs. Naidu at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & NobleGoodreads
ISBN-10: 9383074981
ISBN-13: 978-9383074983

July 28, 2016

South Asian Kidlit 2016

Hope you summer as been relaxing. My life seems to be a bit all over the place with writing conferences, kid camps, vacation … can’t believe summer is half over. Yesterday I did a guest post on South Asian kidlit for We Need Diverse Book’s Looking Back series. While researching for that post I felt a little sad and lost that there were no South Asian books that really made a difference in my formidable years. In fact only this past year when I watched the film MEET THE PATELS did I even realize what I was missing. What it’s like to see yourself, your experiences, your thoughts reflected in a mirror. It was wonderful. Now that we have a formidable South Asian population with people venturing into the arts, I think we’ll see an uptick in South Asian representation.

South Asian Kidlit 2016

Today I would like to shine a spotlight on some fantastic books by South Asian children’s writers that are being released in 2016. These books are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author, contains a South Asian Main Character, or involves South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.

BU cover GroundwoodTitle: Book Uncle and Meuma

Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrator: Julianna Swaney
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2016
Category-Genre: Chapter Book

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Yasmin means to read a new book every day for the rest of her life. When her favorite lending library is threatened, she has to take her nose out of her book and do something! Explores themes of community activism and friendship in a city in contemporary India.

Bio: Uma Krishnaswami was born in India. She is the author of more
than 20 books for children. Uma teaches in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Web site: http://umakrishnaswami.org

seatTitle: Save Me a SeatGita pic 1

Author: Gita Varadarajan & Sarah Weeks
Publisher: Scholastic Press, New York
Publication Date: May 2016
Category- Genre: Middle Grade – Realistic Fiction

Synopsis: Joe has lived in the same town all his life and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

Bio: Gita Varadarajan was born and raised in India and moved to the US five years ago. She has worked with children all over the world in India, the UAE, and now teaches second grade in Princeton NJ. She lives in West Windsor, New Jersey with her husband, Arun and two teenage sons. This is her first novel.
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/gita.varadarajan
Twitter:https://twitter.com/gitavarad1

Untitled-4Title: Mirror in the SkyAditiKhorana

Author: Aditi Khorana
Publisher: Penguin/Razorbill
Publication Date: June 21st, 2016
Category-Genre: YA – Contemporary/Speculative

Synopsis: An evocative debut, perfect for fans of The Leftovers and We All Looked Up, about the discovery of a mirror planet to Earth and how it dramatically changes the course of one Indian-American girl’s junior year.

Bio: Aditi Khorana has worked as a journalist, a researcher, and an entertainment research executive. She graduated from Brown University with a degree in International Relations and has an MA from the Annenberg School for Communications. She lives in Los Angeles California. Mirror in the Sky is her debut novel.
Website:www.aditikhorana.com
Twitter:@aditi_khorana
Instagram:aditi_khorana

Enter_Title_final_revealTitle: Enter Title Hererahul

Author: Rahul Kanakia
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2016
Category-Genre: YA – Contemporary

Synopsis: In order to score a book deal, an unscrupulous overachiever has to turn herself into a quirky, light-hearted YA novel protagonist. But after she’s caught plagiarizing an assignment, Reshma Kapoor will need to decide how far she’ll go to get a satisfying ending (Note: it’s pretty far).

Bio: Rahul Kanakia’s first book, a contemporary young adult novel called Enter Title Here out from Disney-Hyperion. Additionally, his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Apex, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, The Indiana Review, and Nature. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford. Originally from Washington, D.C., Rahul now lives in San Francisco.
Blog: http://www.blotter-paper.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rahkan

NewRaniCover_d02Title: Rani Patel in Full EffectIMG_1669

Author: Sonia Patel
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Category-Genre: YA FICTION

Synopsis: Almost seventeen, Rani Patel appears to be a kick-ass Indian girl breaking cultural norms as a hip-hop performer but in truth, she’s a nerdy flat-chested nobody who lives with her Gujarati immigrant parents on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i. Her parents’ traditionally arranged marriage is a sham and her dad turns to her for all his needs—even the intimate ones. When Rani catches him two-timing with a woman barely older than herself, she feels like a widow and, like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. This sets off a cascade of events and naive choices, including a relationship with an older man who leads her into an underground hip hop crew, that look like they will undo her but ultimately give her the chance to discover her strengths and restore the things she thought she’d lost, including her mother.

Bio: Sonia Patel is a child & adolescent psychiatrist. She was trained at Stanford University and the University of Hawaii. She lives and practices in Hawaii. Rani Patel In Full Effect is her first young adult novel.
Website: http://soniapatel.net/
Twitter: twitter.com/soniapatel808
Instagram: instagram.com/soniapatel808
Facebook: facebook.com/soniapatelauthor

timekeeperTitle: Timekeeper (Timekeeper #1)Author Photo_Tara Sim

Author: Tara Sim
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Category-Genre: YA Historical Fantasy-Steampunk

Synopsis: In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely. Clock mechanic Danny must figure out who’s bombing the towers around London or else risk losing the boy he loves forever. The stunning first novel in a new trilogy by debut author Tara Sim, Timekeeper is perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Victoria Schwab.

Bio: Tara Sim is the author of Timekeeper and can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, clocks, and explosives.
Website: http://www.tarasim.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EachStarAWorld
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraSimAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25760792-timekeeper?ac=1
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tssim53/
Tumblr: http://tarasimauthor.tumblr.com/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tssim53/

September 21, 2015

Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco

barrioTitle: Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco
Author: Judith Robbins Rose
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary, Multicultural
Themes: Immigrant Experience, Mentorship
Ages: 10 and up

Synopsis (Amazon website):

“Miss, will you be my Amiga?”
Amiga means “friend” in Spanish, but at the youth center, it meant a lady to take you places.
I never asked myself if two people as different as Miss and me could ever really be amigas.

When Jacinta Juarez is paired with a rich, famous mentor, she is swept away from the diapers and dishes of her own daily life into a world of new experiences. But crossing la linea into Miss’s world is scary. Half of Jacinta aches for the comfort of Mamá and the familiar safety of the barrio, while the other half longs to embrace a future that offers more than cleaning stuff for white people. When her family is torn apart, Jacinta needs to bring the two halves of herself together to win back everything she’s lost. Can she channel the power she’s gained from her mentor and the strength she’s inherited from Mamá to save her shattered home life?

Why I Like This Book:

A richly detailed story giving readers a glimpse of life in the barrio. The plot centers around 12-yr old Jacinta who has one foot in barrio world and one foot in Miss’s (mentor) world which offers new experiences likes gymnastics, swimming pools and French classes. The reader sees Jacinta being torn between doing the things she wants to do with Miss and her responsibilities to the family. The author has done a wonderful job of showing the raw, honest truth about the views of the people and the trials they face. I did enjoy the misconceptions that Jacinta had about Miss, they did add to lighten the story. While their mentorship-mentee relationship was filled with ups and downs, it was a richer experience in the end.

Not just a multi-cultural book but one about socio-economic diversity as well. The book moves along at a good clip with obstacles and conflict around every corner, though at times it did seem a bit much. I enjoyed this book serving as a window into another cultural society however I would’ve liked a little bit more something to help me understand the decisions the parents made for their family. Why did they choose to live in America if it meant living in fear of the police and barely making ends meet? At times the existence of Jacinta’s family seemed so dismal and bleak, I just wanted to see the warmness of the familial bonds instead of what just appeared to be obligations. There is a very nice line near the end of the story which did give me some closure on this aspect.

It’s what families do. And it’s not because we have to. It’s because we choose to do.

The author does a nice job in tying up the story and giving the reader hope that Jacinta has gotten strong from having one foot in each world and is better because of it.

This book has sparked my curiosity about the immigrant experience. Here are some other titles in this genre:
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
La Línea by Ann Jaramillo
Star in the Forest by Laura Resau
For additional books checkout the wonderful list at Pragmatic Mom website.

Find Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0763672351
ISBN-13: 978-0763672355

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Candlewick Press. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

July 7, 2015

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head

Hope you all are having a relaxing summer. I am enjoying the longer chill days with my family. Today I have a special treat for you. A short review by my 9-year old daughter who flew through this first book in a new middle-grade mystery series. Enjoy!

shrunken_headTitle: Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head
Author: Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester
Publisher: HarperCollins, September 29, 2015
Pages: 386
Genre: Mystery
Ages: 8-12

Synopsis (from Harper Collins website):

The book is about, among other things: the strongest boy in the world, a talking cockatoo, a faulty mind reader, a beautiful bearded lady and a nervous magician, an old museum, and a shrunken head.

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events.

When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts. This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich knowledge of the notorious relics collector H. C. Chester.

What you will find in this book:

A rather attractive bearded lady
Several scandalous murders
A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
A quite loquacious talking bird
What you will NOT find in this book:

An accountant named Seymour
A never-ending line at the post office
Brussels sprouts (shudder)
A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys

 

AK’s Review:

The book was exciting at first but it got kind of scary towards the middle. It is about four kids who try to solve many mysteries all at once. It got scary when a lot of murders happened at one time. It’s also about how four children can work together to save their home. People who like mysteries will love this book. I give the book 5 stars.

 

Find Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0062270818
ISBN-13: 978-0062270818

 

Disclosure: We received a copy of this book from the publisher HarperCollins. This review nevertheless reflects our own and honest opinion about the book.

 

September 22, 2014

Industrial Revolution for Kids: The People and Technology That Changed the World

Industrial-Revolution-for-Kids

Title: Industrial Revolution for Kids: The People and Technology That Change the World

Author: Cheryl Mullenback (interview by the Mixed Files … of Middle-Grade Authors)
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 2014
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 8-12

Synopsis (from Chicago Review Press website):

This blend of authoritative historic overview and human interest stories recounts one of the most important eras in American history. This educational activity book introduces young readers to the Industrial Revolution through the people, places, and inventions of the time, from the incredibly wealthy Rockefellers and Carnegies and the dingy and dangerous factories of the day to the creation of new forms of transportation and communication. By recounting this fascinating period in American history through the eyes of everyday workers, kids, sports figures, and social activists whose names never appeared in history books—including Hannah Montague, who revolutionized the clothing industry with her highly popular detachable collars and cuffs and Clementine Lamadrid, who either helped save starving New Yorkers or scammed the public into contributing to her one-cent coffee stands—this book helps tell the human stories of the Industrial Revolution. Twenty-one engaging and fun cross-curricular activities bring the times and technologies to life and allow for readers to make an assembly line sandwich, analyze the interchangeable parts of a common household fixture, weave a placemat, tell a story through photographs, and much more. Additional resources featured include books to read, places to visit, and websites to explore.

 

Why I Like This Book:

This is wonderful book that can be used to supplement a curriculum on the Industrial Revolution. It is jam-packed with basic historical information and photographs. Personally, I really liked the short articles offset in blue boxes. These are the little tidbits or personal stories that you won’t find in most textbooks, that make this era come to life. For example, did you know factory girls would sometimes leave notes in the garments they made in hope of finding a husband. Or how about Owney, the railway mail dog who rode the train across the US making sure the mail pouches were safely delivered to the post office. The book also comes with activities tied into the various section themes such as making an assembly line sandwich or designing a tenement space. With so much information this isn’t a book to speed through all at once, but rather read, process, and explore one chapter at a time.

If you liked this book be on the lookout for the next book by this author The Great Depression for Kids coming out in 2015.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Chicago Review Press. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

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