MG & Up
Hey y’all! I’m back, Happy 2022!
I hope you all had a graceful end of the year and an optimistic beginning to the new one! Below is a list of the books I read during my absolutely fabulous and much much much needed break. Tap any book cover to grab yourself a copy on Bookshop! If you do, please note that I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Without further ado, check out what I’ve been reading!
Miosotis Flores Never Forgets by Hilda Eunice Burgos
Published by Tu Books (Lee and Low)
Wow, this book gave me all the feels and took me by surprise. Reading the jacket, I did have some indication that DV might be a topic but I didn’t realize how much I would be able to empathize with almost every character. Because I’ve been nearly every situation that the Flores family members find themselves in. And we have a rescue dog that has a very similar backstory to some of the dogs that Miosotis helps her neighbors care for.
Miosotis treasures the relationship she has with her older sister more than anything else, and is over the moon when her sister gets engaged. It soon becomes apparent to Miosotis that something is wrong, and she learns about the delicate nature of supporting someone that is being abused.
Writing about DV is extremely nuanced and difficult. Often, a person who wants to support an individual experiencing this must go against what comes naturally to them: telling someone what to do. I don’t want to give too much away (both of my own lived experiences and also the plot) but please know that this book felt real, it’s important, and readers need to know about this aspect of interpersonal relationships.
Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar
Published by Crown New York (imprint of Randomhouse)
Obie is a boy who just wants to make the junior olympics in swimming, and also maybe keep talking to the cute girl who just started working at his favorite sandwich shop. Not too much to ask for, right? Unfortunately, Obie also has to deal with the transphobia and bullying of his ex-swim coach and his ex-best friend (the coach’s son), who kicked him off the team.
This book is about Obie’s resilience, yes, but also it’s a peek into the life of a young trans kid who just wants to do their thing while others insist on interrupting that. He has an extremely loving and supportive family who back him up. In learning to navigate a new swim team, Obie learns that he should expect kind treatment and friendship for exactly who he is from his fellow teammates.
Forever Birchwood by Danielle Daniel
Published by Harper Collins Canada
I typically stay away from describing books as “coming of age stories” (I just feel like sometimes it can be prescriptive and cliche), but Forever Birchwood is gonna catapult you right back to your preteen self, on the cusp of what will hopefully be the beginning of an exciting chapter in life: teenage-hood. The reader drops into Wolf’s life right before her 13th birthday, the summer after 8th grade.
It’s beautiful and funny; Daniel’s expertly crafted novel touches on environmental issues while Wolf discovers more about herself and her culture, how to navigate crushes, and allows the reader to relish in the close relationship Wolf has with her grandmother. Learning to navigate the murky waters of fighting for something you love that directly contradicts how someone close to you feels isn’t an easy undertaking. But Wolf’s inner monologue and convictions bounced around in my brain long after finishing. This fabulous book is out on January 18th!! Stay tuned for a more detailed review closer to the release date!
Black Boy Joy Edited by Kwame Mbalia
Published by Delacorte Press, imprint of Randomhouse Kids
This anthology is incandescent and revolutionary. Inside these covers are short stories by seventeen authors that focus on Black Boy Joy and celebration. I love how all of the stories and authors are so different, but having a collection center on joyful living is the most beautiful thread to weave together these works.
One story that I found particularly moving was The Gender Reveal by George M. Johnson, which follows Malcolm on the eve of a very important birthday and a very important announcement. Having a Black nonbinary authoring a story about a Black nonbinary young person that focuses on joy and creativity is refreshing in a way that I wish it didn’t have to be. This is a book that needs to be on every middle grade shelf!
Start Here, Start Now: by Liz Kleinrock
Published by Heinemann
I get a lot of questions from folks asking how to begin in this work, and the first big piece of advice that I give to people is to focus on self-reflection and begin to shift the mindset that there is a checklist or a script to follow that can be easily figured out. There’s not, really. Half of it is learning from the wisdom of others and doing your own research, the other is experiential.
As an educator, we talk about the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which was developed by my favorite education theorist, Lev Vygotsky. The ZPD is a sweet spot for learning where the individual is capable but still requires the assistance of an educator in mastering the task. That’s also how we must approach our own personal ABAR learning and development. We are the students that need mentorship and understanding of how to identify and pushback against inequity, while at the same time using antiracist guidelines and proactive strategies tailored to every aspect of our daily lives that we design.
Liz Kleinrock has created that scaffolding that folks need and benefit from, while at the same time pushing readers to consider how to best serve their individual communities of learners. I appreciated how there were reflections and tips from other educators as well, assuring the reader that they’re not alone and that they’re so much more capable than they realize.
Becoming Abolitionists by Derecka Purnell
Published by Astra Publishing House
Derecka Purnell is kind enough to share her journey to abolitionist work with readers in her recent release, Becoming Abolitionists. It is what I could describe as an instructive memoir, and beautifully written. We should all be in the regular practice of unlearning and relearning the lies we’ve been sold about how our country came to be and the ability for affluent families to continue amassing generational wealth when relying on the forced labor of those they’ve enslaved. Purnell opens up her own memory and brilliance to assist in this work, giving others a roadmap for new ways to work directly within our individual communities.
Purnell writes about her previous experiences working for various causes and researching just how deeply the insidious nature of oppressive systems goes (such as the use of criminal records to deny jobs and housing). She speaks of the failures of the education system that denied her the stories of resilient Black people, enslaved and self-liberated, that make up the collective history of what is now called the United States. The way Purnell writes is perceptive, informed, and will make you want to keep reading and at the same time, sit with what she’s sharing.
Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! by Sophie Escabasse
Published by Randomhouse Kids
I’m so excited this is out! Effie is back with her aunts for another adventure learning how to be a witch. This second graphic novel in the series is all about identifying magic and navigating friendships. Effie’s friend Berrit is suddenly hanging out with a new girl in town, much to Effie’s dismay. Confusingly, Effie’s fingers start to tingle when she’s around the new girl…which only happens when there’s magic in the air.
Effie is a fun and spunky character, matching her aunts’ energy and passion as she learns more about her witchy calling. It adds fantasy and fun to real solutions to friendship bumps in the road that are tucked in between the spells and magical familiars. I’m really interested to see where the series goes!
Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman
Published by Simon Kids
Have you been to Venice Beach? There’s something magical about the bustling sidewalks and rainbow painted lifeguard stands. This is where Bug wants to spend her summer, at the beach hanging out with the regulars that she knows. Bug is a really sweet kid who considers everyone “her friend”, like the bodybuilders and ice cream cashiers she sees at the beach and on her adventures.
But when Bug’s summer beach plans are rudely interrupted by things like her older brother’s desire to not babysit her and oh also that serial killer that’s on the loose, she’s extremely grumpy about it. Now Bug’s upstairs neighbor Phillip has his nephew Frankie staying with him too, and she’s convinced that Frankie will ruin her summer even further. However, the exact opposite happens. Not only does Frankie vow to catch the killer with Bug, but Frankie introduces Bug to a whole new world that she didn’t know existed: the queer community. In the late eighties, in the middle of the AIDs crisis.
Frankie & Bug is a phenomenal read, and shouldn’t be missed!
These books were all kindly sent by the publishers tagged above, except for Liz Kleinrock’s book, which I purchased myself.