by Lauren Wolk
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
12-year-old Crow has spent all but the very first hours of her life on Cuttyhunk Island, off the coast of Massachusetts. When she arrived on the shore of the island’s loner, whom she eventually named Osh, he adopted and raised her as his own. But now that she’s twelve, she’s more interested in where she came from. A stranger comes to the nearby island of Penikese, which held a former leper colony and from where everyone on the island suspects Crow came from (and they keep her physically distant because of it). As Crow grows over the novel, she learns not only the truth but also that it doesn’t need to define her. My one word of warning is that the stranger on Penikese turns out to be two strangers, and one of them is rather scary. I would not give this to a reader who is easily scared, especially of large, angry men breaking into their house in the middle of the night.
There’s actually quite a lot about this book that reminded me of Show Me a Sign: historical fiction about a little-known historical community on an island off Massachusetts, complete with a scary man and a first trip to the mainland without adults. Overall I enjoyed this story very much. It was a very fresh topic; as someone who also reads adult fiction, its similarity in subject matter to Molokai by Alan Brennert was what initially intrigued me. The writing is detailed and quiet in a way that seems to reflect Crow’s quiet life on the island, most of the time. I liked that she got some, but not all, resolution to her quest, and that the two adults in her life didn’t suddenly fall in love. Who knows, maybe there will be a sequel – but this book honestly doesn’t even need one.
by Christine Day
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
12-year-old Edie discovers a box in her attic with photos of a woman named Edith who looks just like her. In a flash, she and her best friends, Serenity and Amelia, are deep in the mystery. All Edie knows is that her mom was Native American and was adopted as a baby by a white family; she knows almost nothing of her heritage (though the book opens with a scene of her and her parents at a fireworks event on a reservation, seemingly engaging with other American Indians for the first time).
Along Edie’s journey of family discovery, she comes to grips with her changing relationships with her best friends and her family, and matures into an almost-teen who is ready for the truth. Spoiler alert: it turns out that Edie’s family story involves forcible separation of her mother as a baby from her mother, and it was awful and traumatic and systemic, even in the 1970s.
Debbie Reese, the gold standard for questions of American Indians in Children’s Literature (and has the website to prove it), gives this one a “recommended” rating on her website, so I made sure to snag it, and it does not disappoint! There is a reference to a boy of interest, but in general Edie’s focus is so laser-like on her family and on the dog she meets at the same time, so if young readers aren’t into romance, they will barely notice it.
by Dusti Bowling
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
13-year-old Aven Green’s life was easier when she lived in the same town she’d lived in since she was 2 (when she was adopted) and people were used to seeing her in all her armless glory. But now Aven and her family are moving from Kansas to Arizona and she’ll have to make friends all over again, not to mention deal with the stares. But she perseveres, befriending a kid with Tourette’s syndrome and an overweight kid, and even getting the courage to join the soccer team (one sport she can definitely do well). I also liked how she describes how she manages many daily activities (but not in such great detail that it takes over the story), lists the pros and cons about them on her blog, and also refuses to answer more intimate questions (like how she wipes her own butt – so stop thinking about it already).
This was brought up in my book club as a Wonder readalike. Wonder was, well, wonderful when it came out, but now it’s almost trite. I’m always amazed at how well kids take to the story, and how they flock to the library when their teacher is reading it to get more books like it. I keep a mental list of readalikes and I’m definitely adding this one to it! It’s much less sappy than Wonder, and the story is not just about how other people see her, or her struggles in life. In fact, it’s a pretty typical middle grade novel.
The Knife of Never Letting Go
by Patrick Ness
Something about the combination of the reader’s voice (Nick Podehl, if you’re interested) and the whiny opening had me hitting the eject button after just a few minutes. The concept is intriguing: a boy escapes from his world where everyone can read minds (“noise”) to one where there is privacy but at a cost. However, the opening scene has the boy interacting with his dog, who can also talk but is very unintelligent, in such a mean way that really ruffled my feathers. It’s possible there was something about the boy’s home life, or maybe just that society in general, that made him be so mean and annoying, but I wasn’t about to stick it out to find out. (I do suspect it was the words and not the voice, so apologies to Mr. Podehl.)
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This is the second book in The Missing series. The first one, Found, was incredible! But, as I suspected, because the first one was all about solving the mystery, and then it was solved, I did not like the second book. Spoiler alert: the trick was time travel, so in the subsequent books, the kids go back in time to 1453. Could be a good way to learn about different eras of history, and definitely good to have in a librarian’s toolbelt, but I wanted to free up that CD player space for something new.
Onward! So many books, so little time.