Amina’s Voice is a thoughtful middle-grade novel about a girl finding her voice and figuring out who she is. There is a lot going on here–perhaps too much–but all tied together by Amina’s strong voice as a character. I especially enjoyed the focus on Amina’s Muslim faith and religious identity.
Victoria Jamieson’s new middle-grade graphic novel, All’s Faire in Middle School, is a gem. Impy has been homeschooled her whole life but has decided to go to public school in 6th grade (what a time to make that decision!). There’s plenty of intrigue connected to middle school, of course, but Jamieson surprises the reader with a twist on just who the mean girl might be. It’s the other setting, though, that makes this book really special: Impy’s parents work for a Renaissance Faire, and in her spare time, she’s a knight apprentice. I loved that part of the story and the way that Jamieson wove Impy’s different identities together.
In this sequel to Sunny Side Up, Sunny has headed home from visiting her grandpa in Florida and finds herself trying to navigate middle school and the absence of her beloved older brother, Dale. Once again, Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm nail a tone that’s both humorous and poignant.
This is a collection of essays about the life lessons Heather Lende learned through her day job of writing obituaries in very small town Alaska. Well worth a look for those who enjoy personal essays. My favorite, not surprisingly, was the one about her cat.
I am unreasonably proud of myself for finishing Thornhill, an illustrated novel by Pam Smy. I have a horrible habit of borrowing books, not reading them, AND not returning them. (Seriously: NEVER loan me a book.) And a recommended title is the kiss of death: I always have great intentions but I never read anything that’s recommended to me. But I read Thornhill! And I returned it to its owner! It helped that it’s an illustrated novel. I’ll read anything with pictures. There are two parallel stories, one set in 1982 and told through diary entries and one set in 2016 and told through wordless illustrations, that eventually come together in a creepy way. The story didn’t entirely work for me, but it’s atmospheric and spooky and perfect for readers who love haunted houses and creepy dolls.
My Favorite Things is weird and wonderful and so very Maira Kalmanesque. She selects objects from her own oddball collections, from the Cooper-Hewitt and from the Smithsonian for an exhibit, and then she paints the objects and writes little blurbs about them. I can’t put into words why Maira Kalman’s books give me so much pleasure, but they do.
I was not bored one single time in this wordless ABC picture book by Patrick McDonnell that features his signature little red cat. Very clever story and creative use of the alphabet format.
I can see how Dave Eggers’s picture books might not be for everyone. They’re really quirky. But they work beautifully for me. I loved this story of the origins of the Statue of Liberty with a special focus on that right foot–which I’d never noticed before.
Jeanette Winter’s nonfiction picture book biography of architect Zaha Hadid introduced me to an important figure in 20th-century architecture–whom I’d never heard of before. This book sent me straight to the Internet to do some research and marvel at the incredible buildings that Hadid designed.