Latest

Iron Cast


by Destiny Soria
Amulet Books, 2016
Young adult, fantasy
Ages: 12-18, Grades 9-12
ISBN: 978-1419721922

In Prohibition-era Boston, speakeasies and underground clubs aren’t just places that serve black market liquor—they’re also places that house hemopaths and give them jobs as entertainers. Hemopaths carry an “affliction” that gives them the ability to control what others see and feel using art (spoken word poetry, music, etc.), and the two main characters, Ada and Corrine, use their powers in their acts at the Cast Iron Club, dousing the paying audience in warm fuzzy feelings. On the side, they perform low-level cons for the club’s owner; that is, until a job goes wrong and one of the girls ends up in a notorious “institution” for hemopaths, where they are experimented upon and killed.

On the surface, this book is a lot of fun (who doesn’t love a good fast-paced heist/flapper story/tale of solid girl friendships?), but it’s held together by the question of how society justifies its abuse and marginalization of people who are different. Hemopathy is outlawed, bringing up the question, how does a government outlaw a person? How do we, the people who live in a country, let that sort of thing happen?

The book is set in 1919, but what Ada and Corrine are dealing with will be familiar to any reader who is even remotely familiar with current events. Iron Cast is a fantastical way to consider the strength of female friendships, racial profiling, oppression, and human rights.
-AN

The Hate U Give


by Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray,  2017
Young adult, fiction
Ages: 12 and up, Grades 8-12
ISBN: 978-0399546440
Honors:
New York Times #1 Bestseller * Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction

Starr Carter is just 16 years old when she sees a police officer shoot and kill her childhood friend Khalil. Suddenly, the RIP hashtags and Tumblr memorials to slain youth hit home, and Starr must decide whether or not to share what she knows.

The sole witness to the killing, she’s the only person who can reveal the truth. But in the real world, speaking up could put friendships, community alliances, and even her life at risk. She’s already in a precarious position as an outsider in both her poor neighborhood and at Williamson, the wealthy prep school she attends across town. Stepping forward amid national controversy and community unrest could cement her marginal status—or worse.

The magic of this book is the way it explores major social issues—police violence and racism—through the intimate prism of one teen girl’s life and perspective. It grapples with large questions of justice and equity on the same pages as family drama and social media snafus. It is big drama rendered in small strokes—memorable characters, textured relationships, and vivid language.

Readers will root for Starr as she navigates grief and works to honor her friend’s life and her own principles—her way.
-MPS

Piecing Me Together


by Renée Watson
Bloomsbury USA Children’s, 2017
Young adult, fiction
Ages: 12 and up, Grades 8-12
ISBN: 978-1681191058

High school can be exciting, but for teens who are struggling to fit in, it also can be a long few years to get through. Jade, the main character in the young adult novel Piecing Me Together, is among those who count the days until graduation.

Jade is openly smart and secretly sassy, and happens to love Spanish as much as she loves her modest neighborhood. Every morning, she boards a bus to attend a predominantly white private school on the other side of town, where she can check most of the “other” boxes that exist: minority student, thick rather than thin, child of a single parent, a product of a low-income household. She endures feeling invisible and “not enough” so that she can someday give wings to her mother’s dream that she experience a better life.

When she is coerced into joining a mentoring group that offers encouragement and opportunities, Jade balks. Yet once she settles in, she is surprised to learn that it is just what she needs, and that perhaps rather than solely being the recipient of others’ generosity, she, too, has much to give.

Author Renee Watson has produced a compelling first-person story that can help readers value their own, and others’, experiences and circumstances.
– SHA

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal


by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona
Marvel, 2014
Young adult, graphic novel
Ages: 12-18, Grades 9-12
ISBN: 9780785190219
Honors:
Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story*  Harvey Awards Nominee for Best New Series, Best Writer* Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for: Best New Series * Best Writer (for G. Willow Wilson) * Best Penciller/Inker (for Adrian Alphona) * Best Lettering (for Joe Caramagna)* Best Cover Artist: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics

A regular teenager in New Jersey accidentally develops the ability to BECOME VERY LARGE or *shrink down very small* (among other superpowers), leading to a frenetic life of both trying to not fail high school, attempting to keep her family happy, and, oh yeah, save the world a few times.

Kamala Khan is ordinary: she goes to school, has a few close friends, attends her local mosque, and is close with her parents and (mostly annoying) older brother. She’s also a mega-nerd who writes fanfiction about her favorite superheroes and who plays MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games) in her spare time. So when a strange mist floating through Jersey City abruptly gives her superpowers and has her teaming up with some of her heroes (hello, Wolverine and Carol Danvers), Kamala finds her life totally turned upside down.

The best part about Ms. Marvel is that Kamala isn’t a “chosen one.” The acts of bravery and heroism she performs are all stand-ins for moral choices teens and adults face every day, especially now. Kamala would be a hero even without her powers, because she fights for justice. Readers will be inspired to go out and be a little better, a little kinder, a little more heroic every day.

-AN

Our Favorite Trilogy! By Rita Williams-Garcia

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Our 2017 Girls of Summer guest author is the fantastic Rita Williams-Garcia!

We are thrilled to share Rita in person with our RVA Community at the 2017 Girls of Summer party at the Richmond Public Library on 6/21. Check out this Richmond Times-Dispatch interview with Rita, Read Toward Your Dreams.  We encourage all of our Girls of Summer readers to dive into this beloved trilogy and all of  Rita’s incredible work.

We celebrated the first volume of the trilogy, One Crazy Summer, in 2011 – our first year of Girls of Summer – with this review by Meg:

by Rita Williams-Garcia
Middle grade
Amistad Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-076088-5
Awards/recognitions: * National book Award finalist * Newbery Finalist * Coretta Scott King Award *Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

Once I got past the fact that a time period I actually remember qualifies for historical fiction, I warmed up to One Crazy Summer. I’m glad I did. This middle grade novel is about three dueling sisters, a mother who abandoned them, and the summer they are reunited — all against the backdrop of working with the Black Panthers in the late 1960s. Regardless of whether you think the Black Panthers were an armed leftist group or a justified response to the racial injustices of the time, this is a story that offers readers a more nuanced and honest look at the Civil Rights movement beyond Dr. King’s non-violent model, which has been the safer topic in children’s books. Williams-Garcia makes us look through the eyes of children who are awakening to the racism around them and to the power of their own response.

There’s so much to love about this book (note the long string of awards it has received), but for me what shines most are the characters of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern. Eleven-year-old Delphine occupies the revered and burdensome role of oldest sister as they leave Brooklyn alone to spend the summer in Oakland with their mother, whom they haven’t seen since their infancy. Cecile now calls herself Nzila, and she is working as a poet associated with the Black Panthers. Their grandmother, Big Ma, refers to Cecile as a troublemaker, and at first, it seems as though Big Ma may be right. The girls immediately find themselves practically on their own, dodging Nzila’s gruff ways and spending their days at the community center run by the Panthers. They catch their evening meals at Mean Lady Ming’s Chinese takeout and eat on the floor.

This is the story of funny, squabbling girls who are developing personal power, and for that I adore this book.  In Delphine, I see depth, resilience and the practical skills of survival. I see a girl finding her voice and questioning what is around her. What is “mother”? What is fairness? What is the difference between making trouble and insisting on dignity? Delphine keeps her wits about her as she tries to decide whom to trust with what, keeping her heart open to what surprises the grown world brings. MM

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
Henry Holt, 2009
ISBN: 978-0312659301
Middle grade, fiction
Ages 9-12, Grades 4-7
Additional formats: ebook
Honors:
Newbery Honor Award * IRA Children’s Book Award, North Carolina Young Adult Book Award, TN YA Volunteer State Book Award, Virginia M. Law Award * Josette Frank Award * Chicago Public Library Best of the Best * Junior Library Guild

Set at the end of the 19th century, eleven-year old Calpurnia Virginia Tate is having a difficult time learning”housewifery” things. She prefers swimming in the river or thinking about science to cooking or knitting. “Callie” sets out to be independent and do what she likes while learning to bond with her grandfather. He helps her learn about the natural sciences and how to cope with change and growing up.

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx

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by Sonia Manzano
Scholastic Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-545-62184-7
YA, memoir
Ages 14 and older (Some sensitive adult content)
Additional formats: ebook

This is a compelling memoir about one of our cultural icons, Sonia Manzano, known to many as Maria on Sesame Street. For an entire generation of children, she was the face of their own family, foods, and language. But sometimes a girl’s rise to success is much harder than it appears.

Sonia Manzano grew up in the Bronx to parents who were Puerto Rican immigrants struggling economically and socially in New York. Themes of domestic abuse, sexism, and alcoholism run throughout, but above all, this is a story of a girl, blessed with her own gifts and imagination, who carves out a place for her dreams.