H T young woman who may become the greatest mage her world
has ever known.
The Spanish Club. By Danielle Burnette. 2014. 290p. Fine
Kennings, paper, $14.99 (9780692269855). Gr. 9–12.
Three weeks before Brianna goes on a Spanish Club trip to
Mexico, she discovers that she was adopted. Her parents don’t
intend to tell her; she simply sees her birth certificate and
realizes why her hands are slimmer than theirs, her hair less
kinky. She begins to imagine where she might come from as
she suffers déjà vu in different parts of Mexico and as people
she meets identify her as possibly Colombian. In the midst of
her anger and hurt (and in the midst of pursuing her crush,
Enrique), Brianna fails to recognize that her best friend, Dana,
is also struggling with a betrayal by her parents. Readers will
question Brianna’s friendships and love story throughout the
novel, and even the ending opens Brianna’s choices to critique.
With engaging characters and a well-drawn depiction of a
high-school trip, the book is absorbing reading, raising questions about how racial, national, and personal pasts affect our
individual presents and futures.
The Unforgettables. By G. L. Tomas. 2016. 256p.
Rebellious Valkyrie, paper, $8.20 (9781943773138).
Half-Japanese, half-Welsh Paul Hiroshima hates that his parents left Chicago for Portland, Maine, and Haitian American
Felicia Abelard struggles to make friends as a geeky, all-A’s
black girl. Together, however, they make the Unforgettables:
a superhero team able to overcome high school, dictatorial
parents, pestering siblings, and even the biggest danger of all:
falling in love with your best friend. Even the side characters
in Paul and Felicia’s world resist being one-dimensional; the
Portland of Tomas’ novel is surprisingly diverse. Paul’s younger
brother is a boy who likes being a boy despite also liking
“girly” things like nail polish and ponies, and even Felicia’s
strict Christian mother loves exchanging recipes with the gay
couple at her church. This new novel by a pseudonymous
sibling pair is alive with the fun, affection, insecurities, and
complexity of real people’s lives.
Zara Rix received her doctorate from the University of Connecticut, where
she specialized in young adult literature.
Continued from p. 38
Continued on p. 44
as Amina’s voice surely is, this compassionate,
timely novel is highly recommended for all libraries. —Selenia Paz
The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can
Change the World.
By Katie Smith Milway. Illus. by Shane
Apr. 2017. 32p. Kids Can, $18.95 (9781771383318).
Deo Rukundo lives in Burundi, a country in
East Africa, but he must flee his home because
of war and live in a refugee camp in Tanzania. He is forced to leave behind his favorite
possession: a ball made out of tightly wound
banana leaves. Deo spends most days afraid
and friendless in the camp, until a stranger
comes to organize a soccer game using a real
leather ball. Through play, Deo finds friendship where there was none. More text-heavy
(and in a smaller font) than readers might
expect, this inspirational story effectively presents one refugee experience to young readers.
Evans’ earthen palette and dark line drawings
vary in depth and intensity to match Milway’s
emotional narrative. The book concludes with
an author’s note about the inspiration for the
story, Benjamin Nzobonankira, which nicely
clarifies the events. A list of resources follows
this moving story about how a single item can
change a life and how playing can fill that life
with joy. —Karen Ginman
By Alyson Gerber.
Mar. 2017. 304p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.99
(9780545902144); e-book, $16.99 (9780545907637).
Rachel’s life is going really well. She’s 12
and totally crushing it on the soccer field
(which means more time with her best-
friend teammates), and everyone agrees that
the ridiculously cute Tate
is within days of asking her
to be official BF/GF. All of
that comes to a crashing halt
when her Boston special-
ist reveals she has scoliosis.
In fact, the curvature of
her spine is so extreme that
she’ll have to wear a back
brace—a heavy hulk of white padded plastic
stretching from armpits to tail bone—for 23
hours a day. She tries to keep her spirits up but
feels like a freak. Her soccer game plummets,
and it seems like everyone—even her friends
and Tate—are whispering in the halls. How
can everything turn upside down so quickly?
And where can she possibly find the strength
to power through? Rachel’s first-person narration relays her story in a surprisingly intimate,
beautifully earnest voice, likely attributable
to Gerber herself suffering from scoliosis and
wearing a fitted brace in her formative years.
Here she captures the preteen mindset so authentically that it’s simultaneously delightful
and painful. Every hallway whisper and direct
insult will cut to the reader’s heart, and the
details about the process of wearing a brace
in all its agonies—and, yes, benefits—are a
natural and enlightening thread through the
story. A masterfully constructed and highly
empathetic debut about a different kind of
acceptance. —Becca Worthington
Bronze and Sunflower.
By Cao Wenxuan. Illus. by Meilo
So. Tr. by Helen Wang.
Mar. 2017. 400p. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763688165).
When Bronze and Sunflower meet on the
banks of the rushing river, they know they
are kindred spirits. Sunflower is small and
quick, while mute Bronze is patient and calm.
When Sunflower’s artist father suddenly dies
in a tragic river accident, she is taken in by
Bronze’s poor but hardwork-
ing family in the tiny rural
village of Damaidi, China.
Over several years, readers
follow the family as they
celebrate the good things in
life—the circus, Sunflower
starting school, a handmade
gift—and the bad—famine,
flood, and the loss of their beloved grandmother, Nainai. Translated from Mandarin,
the confident, well-paced, episodic storytelling
alternates laughter and tears. The vivid imagery employs all the senses, evoking emotions
and creating beautiful moments of reflection
about the natural world. Written by a cultural
insider, this story provides a window into life as
a child in rural China near the end of the Cultural Revolution. Virtuous and kind, Bronze
and Sunflower’s family reflects important cultural values including filial piety, respect for
elders, the value of hard work and education,
and the importance of saving face. This not-to-be-missed story reminds us to be thankful
for family and love, no matter our station in
life. Helpful back matter provides additional
insight into this specific time in China’s history. —Amy Seto Forrester
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author
By Susan Tan. Illus. by Dana Wulfekotte.
Mar. 2017. 256p. Roaring Brook, $16.99
(9781626725515). Gr. 3–5.
Eight-year-old Cilla Lee-Jenkins is destined for literary greatness. She is up against