I really enjoyed this novel in letters. The letters are between two pen pals, twelve-year-olds River, a boy from the Kentucky mountains, and Meena, an...moreI really enjoyed this novel in letters. The letters are between two pen pals, twelve-year-olds River, a boy from the Kentucky mountains, and Meena, an Indian immigrant girl living in New York City. The voices of the two characters seemed pitch-perfect to me, with hesitancy, foibles, and the occasional misunderstand. I liked that each author tackled an issue of life where the characters lived - mountain-top removal in Kentucky and rent-control in New York. The characters own interactions with these politically charged issues made them very personal and easy to understand. Even for me, the adult; I saw these things in a new way.(less)
In a year when there seems to be many historical novels about integration, this one is a stand-out. In fact, I started listening to the audio and just...moreIn a year when there seems to be many historical novels about integration, this one is a stand-out. In fact, I started listening to the audio and just couldn't wait any longer - I had to take out the book and finish it in one sitting!
This novel is set in Little Rock, AK, in 1958, just after the Little Rock Nine attended high school with the white students. Marlee is a protagonist with some things holding her back, mainly rooted in fear. She is scared of heights, really shy, and doesn't talk to most anyone but her sister. Mainly because she is paralyzed with fear that she will say the wrong thing. Naturally, this fear and quiet have held her back in other areas; speaking in class, making friends, and even bonding with her mother. When a new girl, Liz, comes to school, she decides to make it a mission to draw Marlee out of her shell. The two become fast friends and Liz challenges Marlee with all kinds of fear-defying tricks, while Marlee helps Liz learn to hold her tongue to keep out of trouble. And Liz will need this skill immediately when the whole town learns that Liz is a Negro girl who has been passing for white at school.
Marlee is thrust into the heated controversy around segregation in the South as her hometown decides to simply shut down the high schools to avoid further segregating. Marlee's own family is split apart, not just in ideology, but also literally, as her beloved sister is sent to live with grandma in another town in order to attend school. Marlee's desire to keep on being friends with Liz, in spite of her color, causes all kinds of trouble for both Marlee and Liz, and Marlee's growth as a person coincides with the growth of the heat surrounding their friendship. While Marlee sees herself as being brave, others see her actions as simply dangerous. This realistic and nuanced novel brilliantly blends the self-centeredness of youth with true growth and makes an outstanding novel.(less)
This picturebook depicts Chinese New Year in China. Papa is a migrant worker who can only return home once a year, for the holiday. The book mixes hol...moreThis picturebook depicts Chinese New Year in China. Papa is a migrant worker who can only return home once a year, for the holiday. The book mixes holiday traditions with the real emotions of seeing an unfamiliar loved one and then saying goodbye again. Zhu Cheng-Liang's beautiful paintings are simple and masterful, conveying so much in very child-friendly images. There is one, when they are packing Papa up again, where the angle of their heads conveys their sadness perfectly. A beautiful book.(less)
This one is more of a 3.5 stars... I love Alvin Ho because he has all kinds of neuroses which make him totally accessible and funny for kids, but also...moreThis one is more of a 3.5 stars... I love Alvin Ho because he has all kinds of neuroses which make him totally accessible and funny for kids, but also tackle issues along the way. This fourth volume is an issue book - Alvin's grandfather's friend dies and Alvin agrees to go to the funeral - which is super scary, why did he do that? Death of a loved one is the primary focus of the story, in a multitude of ways, and it is dealt with with humor and tenderness, making this a terrific book for kids to deal with the concept of death, even if they're not dealing with it right then. On the other hand, the jokes in this slightly more series volume didn't have me dying with laughter and remembering them for months, so it's not quite up to snuff on that level.(less)