Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it. – Goodreads
This is the final book required for my literacy class and it was one of my favorites. Esperanza Ortega is a privileged girl on her father’s ranch. She has grown up with servants and nice clothes, horses and dolls, everything handed to her. Until her father is killed. Her uncles try to force Esperanza’s mother into some things, so they flee for California, where the land of opportunity awaits. Of course, it’s not exactly what it seems either. Esperanza is privileged, like I said, and spoiled and prejudiced. She treats “peasants” with some scorn, she has never bathed herself without the help of a female servant, and she is startled when one of the field worker’s sons points out that the lighter skinned Mexicans are top tier and the rest work. She doesn’t seem to understand that her family is fleeing to California to work, not continue the life they had in Mexico. She’s bratty, but it’s almost endearing, because you know what’s coming next, and you know it will change her.
Like all the books I had to read for this class, Esperanza Rising is a coming-of-age tale. Esperanza has to leave her old life behind and become someone else, which isn’t easy when other girls call you “Cinderella” and you don’t even know how to sweep a platform. Esperanza also has to try to understand foreign terms like “strikes” and is presented with the other side of the Mexican civil war, the side of those who tried to bring men like her father down. It’s a lot of change happening at once for a thirteen-year-old girl, and I felt enormously sorry for her. But she does rise. Oh, does she rise.
When her mother is sick, Esperanza takes to the fields. She becomes one of the best workers. She transforms. She becomes a real person. She endures hardships, and loss, and sadness. She grows and doesn’t hold onto any grudge or hate. This story was inspiring and eye-opening. One of the best stories I’ve read all year.
When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.
Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental–and emotional–turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength. – Goodreads
You know it’s going to be rough when even the summary describes the story as “heart-wrenching.” Newbery winners make me cry every. Single. Time. Having a baby has made me go soft, I’m afraid. The “free verse” style of writing makes it a little hard to read on an ereader, but it was fine otherwise. I am not the biggest fan of books written in verse, but this one wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It could have been written with dialect (shudder).
I find the whole history of the Dust Bowl really heartbreaking and frustrating, since we did it to ourselves. People basically farmed their way into this period of time, and people starved, were choked by dust, and the land didn’t recover until decades later. So whenever I read anything about this period (based in fact or not), I get this feeling of dread while I wait for something terrible to happen. Billie Jo’s father is a farmer in a place that hasn’t been able to harvest decent crops in three years, and her mother is pregnant. This cannot end well, can it? It’s a Newbery winner. Someone is going to die. And someone does. Two someones. And it’s terrible, and Billie’s Jo’s guilt. Well. That’s almost worse.
I didn’t want to read this at first because I knew it would be a punch to the feelings, but that’s what really made it work for me in the end. It’s a quick read, like all these required books have been, but it’s hard to rate it highly because it’s a story that hurts. Death and the Great Depression spares no one, old, young, animal, or human. I got used to the “free verse” style the book was written in, and as a novel that will be used to teach younger kids history, and how to relate, and the horrors that sometimes live in our collective pasts, I think it does more than just a good job.
This critically acclaimed winner of the Newbery Medal and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award joins Scholastic’s paperback line.
When May dies suddenly while gardening, Summer assumes she’ll never see her beloved aunt again. But then Summer’s Uncle Ob claims that May is on her way back–she has sent a sign from the spirit world.
Summer isn’t sure she believes in the spirit world, but her quirky classmate Cletus Underwood–who befriends Ob during his time of mourning–does. So at Cletus’ suggestion, Ob and Summer (with Cletus in tow) set off in search of Miriam B. Young, Small Medium at Large, whom they hope will explain May’s departure and confirm her possible return. – Goodreads
Continuing my reading for literacy class with another Newbery winner, this book was guaranteed by my professor to require a box of tissues. Considering everything from Pampers commercials to inspirational tweets makes me cry these days, I figured I needed at least two boxes. She was right. This book is quick, only 89 pages, and I was feeling the tears coming on page two. Summer is an orphan whose mother died when she was young, and she was passed from aunt to uncle until finally May and Ob visited Ohio and took her away with them. For six years Summer has lived a fantastic existence in the mountains with her aunt and uncle, and she’s happy. Until May is suddenly gone, and Ob and Summer are, in Summer’s words, “lost.” I know what that kind of lost feels like.
When crazy Cletus Underwood shows up, Summer is skeptical but Ob is sort of rejuvenated. As Summer puts it, “Ob appreciated anyone crazier than him.” Cletus is a collector of random junk who claims to have had a near-death experience. This endears him to Ob even more, and Summer starts referring to Cletus as “the afterlife antenna.” This book touched me in a lot of ways. I’ve known some terrible grief, and this book is just full of it. Summer has a grown up mind in a twelve-year-old body, and she says things that I have thought myself. Things like, “just like there are certain ways people expect you to get married, or go to church, or raise kids, there are certain ways people expect you to grieve” and “we had to see them watching our faces for any sign of a nervous breakdown” and “May’s funeral turned Ob and me into temporary sort of socialites, and we never really got the chance to howl and pull our hair out. People wanted us to grieve proper.”
This book made me cry. A lot. But it was so good, so easy, so relatable, so Newbery, if that makes sense. It’s a great book for late elementary and middle-school, and it’s great for adults, especially those of us who have forgotten what it’s like to be adrift as a preteen, unsure of ourselves and the world, and how to make our own way in it. I loved this book dearly.
BE WHO YOU ARE.
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.
George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. – Goodreads
This book is life changing. That’s the best way to put it. It’s a book I couldn’t help but read in one sitting. It’s a book I couldn’t help but cry at. It’s a book I want to get into the hands of everyone. When I finished it I actually turned to the right of me, put the book out to my mom and went “read this.” I very rarely give my mom books to read because my mom’s not a reader, but because this isn’t on audio…yet. I gave her my ARC and she started to read it right away and couldn’t stop.
George transcends age ranges. It really does. George is about a girl, who the world views as a boy. George just wants to be herself, but it’s hard when everyone thinks you’re making a joke about your situation (which you aren’t.) Slowly George starts to tell people “hey, I’m a girl.” And it doesn’t go well. George is in fourth grade. Bully’s are strong. Crying in class is rough for anyone that age, but the end of Charlotte’s Web really got to George. Her mom sees her as her “little boy” and her brother, well he’s in high school. Who know’s what’s going on in his brain. George decides her moment to shine will be when the class puts on Charlotte’s Web.
Of course, her teacher, who she thought was on her side, thinks George is making a joke out of the situation, but her principal seems to get it. It’s hard for George. It’s hard for anyone that age. Why this story transcends age ranges is because George just wants to be accepted and loved for who they are. It’s also a story about friendship and love and one that needs to be read by all.
Grace can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.
Now, at age sixteen, she’s come back to stay – in order to solve the mystery of her mother’s death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved. – Goodreads
Poor Grace. Her mother is dead, her father is in the Army and her brother is not around. Because of this she is sent to her grandfather who happens to be a fairly powerful ambassador on Embassy Row. While Grace spent every childhood summer there, she hasn’t been back since her mother’s murder which still haunts her. Grace’s grandfather’s right hand woman puts Grace in her mother’s old room which hasn’t been touched since she was last there. This doesn’t help Grace, because Grace was already haunted.
What Grace doesn’t expect is to find friends Noah (oh, sweet, sweet BFF Noah), Alexei, the Russian diplomats son who is friends with her brother, and Megan, a friend who grew on her. What I enjoyed is that Carter wrote a group of friends I could relate to like my group of crazy misfit friends. We all get along together, but we also get along seperately, which is very much how the friendships in All Fall Down worked.
Something her friends don’t know, is that Grace has a secret, everyone around her thinks she’s crazy. All she wants is someone to believe her, that she saw the man who killed her mother. Grace hides this from her friends, and when they ultimately find out they are annoyed that not only they were lied to, but that she lead them on a wild goose chase drove them away from her.
“I don’t need a bath!” I’m shouting now. I can’t help it. “I need someone to listen to me! I need someone to believe me!” –pg 124. ARC
I, as a reader, didn’t know if I could believe her until about the last chapter. This made for a nail bitter page turner type of novel. Ally Carter wrote a lot in a 300 page novel, but All Falls Down is a quick enjoyable read. I adore Ally Carter’s writing. I have been a fan of her two previous series so I was very excited to start All Fall Down. And All Fall Down did not disappoint. This is not a light fluffy book, but it has all the types of characters I’ve come to love from Carter’s novels. A strong heroine, who you wouldn’t always want to be best friends with, because has she lost her mind? A group of friends who shouldn’t work together, but do, and people who care about you, even when you don’t want them to. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series and see where Carter takes it.
Bestselling and award-winning author, Sharon G. Flake, delivers a mystery set in the 1950s that eerily blends history, race, culture, and family.
Octobia May is girl filled with questions. Her heart condition makes her special – and, some folks would argue, gives this ten-year-old powers that make her a “wise soul.” Thank goodness for Auntie, who convinces Octobia’s parents to let her live in her boarding house that is filled with old folks. That’s when trouble, and excitement, and wonder begin. Auntie is non-traditional. She’s unmarried and has plans to purchase other boarding homes and hotels. At a time when children, and especially girls, are “seen, not heard,” Auntie allows Octobia May the freedom and expression of an adult. When Octobia starts to question the folks in her world, an adventure and a mystery unfold that beg some troubling questions: Who is black and who is “passing” for white? What happens when a vibrant African American community must face its own racism?
And, perhaps most important: Do vampires really exist? In her most unusual and probing novel yet, Sharon G. Flake takes us on a heart-pumping journey – Goodreads
Unstoppable Octobia May is the story of Octobia May, who is a ten-year-old that, contrary to those around her, never stops asking questions. She is intrigued about everything, like most ten-year-olds are and Flake works on that. Throughout the story, I felt that Flake had a firm grasp on the character of Octobia. I related to her (even though we have nothing in common) and I understood why she was the way she was.
Which included living at a boarding house with her Auntie, who is not a typical Auntie. She’s unmarried, and and wants to own property during a time period that it was looked down upon and Auntie got along with Octobia extremely well and embraced Octobia for who she was. Even if Octobia was meant to be seen and not heard, her Auntie truly did not try to change her. However, all of her questioning does begin to get her in trouble. Her neighbors are not the people she thought they were and quickly her community turn on each other.
I was fascinated throughout this whole story and I hate saying this, but I could not put the book down. I adored it and wanted more of Octobia’s world. I wanted more inside her brain and the fact that racism was occurring in her own neighborhood where no one expected it. It was a quick read that left me questioning things that I didn’t expect when I began the novel. Highly recommend this clever novel.
What if your birthday wish turned you into someone else?
Lavender and Scarlet are nothing alike. Scarlet is tall, pretty, and popular — the star of the soccer team and the queen of the school. Lavender is . . . well, none of these things. Her friends aren’t considered cool, her hair is considered less than uncool, and her performance at the recent talent show is something nobody will ever forget — even though she really, really wants it to be forgotten.
There’s only one thing Lavender and Scarlet know for sure they have in common: the same birthday.
They’ve never had parties together. They’ve never swapped presents. But this year, because of two wishes that turned all too true, they are about to swap something much bigger than presents. Because the morning after their birthdays, Lavender is going to wake up in Scarlet’s body . . . and Scarlet is going to wake up in Lavender’s. But in order to change back, they’re going to have to figure out how to be someone completely opposite of who they ordinarily are… – Goodreads
There is only one word for me to use to sum up this book and that word is: cute.
This book is super cute. It is the story of two girls who could not be more different if they tried. While Lavender is the awkward, sarcastic girl who has never fit in, Scarlet is the Queen Bee and she knows it. Yet, with the help of a bit of magic the two begin to know each other better than they ever wanted to. On their 13th birthday, they both make wishes and wake up the next morning to find each other in the other persons body. After the initial shock, they both try to adapt. Scarlet starts to pick up Lavender’s sarcasm, while mellowing her out and Lavender picks up being nicer, while making Scarlet have a bit more of a bite.
Lavender also struggles going from the nobody, to the person everyone acknowledges and Scarlet struggles going from everyone’s BFF to the person everyone mocks and makes fun of. Both of them quickly realize the life they haven’t wasn’t nearly as bad as they originally thought. While their lives weren’t ideal, and really who’s 13 year old life is, they both found an understanding of not only the other person, but of each other.
The book worked, even with the bit of “magic” that make it seem out there. It works. Proof that Standiford has the middle grade language down is the fact that most of this was a very uncomfortable read for me. Not that I was bullied as a child nearly as bad as Lavender was, but it was still painful for me to read because everyone has those feelings in them, or knows that child and your heart will go out to them. I wanted more of this book, but I also believed that Standiford left this book in the perfect spot for the reader to imagine what happens next.