Kent State by Deborah Wiles

Historical Fiction, Novel in Verse Social Justice themes Vietnam War 132 p.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I thought the format and writing style of this book was very interesting; it is a novel in verse, and Wiles moves the conversation very quickly between the students, the townies, the National Guard, and the protesters. It is a quick read, just 132 p. The font style changes between the 4 groups making it easier to tell which group is speaking. I don’t have many books about this topic so it makes a great addition to the library. Added Note: I think the cover is interesting: the daisy as it is May and spring, and then the gun that destroys the beauty and peace of the day.

Allison, Bill, Sandy, and Jeffrey are the four students killed at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard. Their stories become more personal as Wiles brings them to life by relating what they liked to do, who their friends are, and what their dreams and aspirations are. She shows how chaotic and confusing those days were: the bewilderment of the town folks, how young the National Guard was who were trained to follow orders, students protesting the war, while other students were just trying to get to class but were shot or injured along the way. I think the book would make a great oral interp, drama, or reader’s theater. Also, great for Lit and History classes–what connections can be made to today?

Almost American Girl

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Graphic Novel, Memoir 227 p. South Korean-American

Chuna lives in South Korea with her mother. She loves spending time with her friends exploring the city and reading her favorite comics. Then, her mother announces that they are going on vacation to Alabama in America. But the vacation turns into them staying in America. Chuna is lonely, doesn’t get along with her step-family and misses her life in South Korea. She is also discriminated against in school. The only good thing is that she gets to change her name to Robin. Then her mom takes her to a comic book store and signs her up for a class. She makes many new friends and her English improves. This is a well written and very relatable for teens. I think it will be enjoyed in my library!

Superman Smashes the Klan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Graphic Novel Science Fiction 239 p.

It’s 1946 when Roberta Lee, her brother Tommy, and her parents move to Metropolis. Their neighbor is Jimmy Olson and they become quick friends, but not everybody is as welcoming. They quickly become the targets of the Klan of the Fiery Cross. Clark Kent is investigating the Klan and meets Roberta and Tommy. Then the Klan leader has a procedure to receive enhance power and Clark Kent (Superman) needs to intervene. A thrilling adventure that involves racism dealing with immigrants. The end of the book has material that describes Yang’s own immigrant experience, along with the history of the Klan.

This book trailer is narrated by the author, Gene Yang.

Three Keys

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Realistic, Historical Fiction 271 p. sequel to Front Desk

I loved Front Desk, but I think this was an even better book. Mia and her parents are still running the Calivista Motel and Mia is now in the 6th grade along with her friends Lupe and Jason. She has a difficult relationship with her new teacher, Mrs. Welch, who is in support of Pete Wilson’s political campaign for governor and the bill, Proposition 187, plus Mrs. Welch doesn’t seem to think her writing is all that good! And, the motel is not earning enough money to satisfy all the investors.

Leading up to the election, there is growing racism with people leaving unwelcome signs and graffiti in school and the motel. Lupe reveals that her family is undocumented which creates a scene of growing fear as her father is jailed with the threat of deportation and family separation looming over their heads. Mia and Lupe learn to use their voices and their pens to fight back.

I loved everything about this book and was very impressed with the author’s research and back notes. Will definitely be recommending to our kids!

Prairie Lotus

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Historical Fiction 261 p. Asian-Pacific American Award Winner

Hannah, age 14, is half-Chinese and half-white. She and her father are seeking a new start in South Dakota after her mother has died. The novel is inspired by the Little House books with a new outlook. Author Linda Sue Park said she wanted  to present a different view of Native Americans than Wilder did. Hannah and her father face discrimination and struggle as they work to start a clothing store and Hannah attends school. Most of the townspeople even refuse to send their children to school once they discover that Hannah is Chinese, but Hannah forges ahead and even makes new friends. Parks well-researched book includes Lakota/Dakota customs, history, and even a few words as Hannah meets a few Ihanktonwan women outside of town and they teach her a new recipe. Eventually, the store is opened and Hannah is even allowed to create a new dress to show at the opening. I loved the book and it felt very true to that era in time.

Dress Coded

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Realistic Fiction, Gender Issues, Social Justice 303 p.

Eighth grader Molly is outraged when she sees a friend crying while being yelled at by two administrators at school for violating the dress code, even though she had a good reason for doing so. Molly decides to take action and starts a podcast where she interviews girls who have been victimized and shamed because of the unfair policy. The podcast becomes very popular and Molly and others begin writing petitions and letters and eventually have a “camp-in” on school grounds.

Outside of school Molly’s family is under a lot of stress because her older brother is vaping and even selling it to other students. I enjoyed the short chapters that alternated between podcasts, letters, and Molly’s day-to-day life. There’s a variety of diverse characters, even a couple with disabilities. I think most teens would enjoy this book.

You Should See Me in a Crown

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Romance 324 p. Stonewall Award Winner

Liz Lighty, the main character in You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, doesn’t particularly care about prom and who is prom king and queen. She is more focused on getting into college and becoming a doctor and playing in the orchestra. But then, the financial aid she was counting on for school falls through and she remembers that there is a $10,000 scholarship given to the prom king and queen. So despite the fact that she hates all of the hoops she will have to go through to become prom queen, she is determined to do whatever it takes to win. Then, a newcomer to school, Mack, arrives and a budding romance develops between the two. I think most readers will fall in love with all the hoopla and drama that is involved with Liz’s efforts to become queen.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sports & Realistic Fiction 357 p. Pura Belpre Award

Furia is an own-voices book–the story takes place in Argentina and the author is also from there. Camila, aged 17, must tell lies and conceal her passion to play futbol and to have a relationship with her childhood friend, Diego. Her parents are very strict and her father is abusive. Camila’s dreams is to earn a scholarship to play futbol and attend college in the U.S. but are there too many obstacles blocking her path? And what will happen to her relationship with Diego? He wants her to come to Europe to watch him play there. The story is told so well, I thought I was on the field cheering for La Furia and so wanted her to succeed!

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Biography 372 p. (includes bibliography and notes) YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

A very readable biography about Charles Lindbergh. It grabs you in the beginning when it talks about his grandfather’s arrival in the U.S. and how he accidentally cuts off his arm. The story is important because Charles believes that he has inherited his grandfather’s bravery and confidence. I’ve always liked to read about Lindbergh, maybe because he is from Minnesota, or maybe because there seems to be something heroic about him. He became an instant celebrity after his non-stop flight from New York to Paris, but he didn’t always enjoy the attention. After his son was kidnapped and the trial was over, the attention had become overwhelming and he moved his family to England.

The most interesting parts for me were the new information concerning the controversy involving his following of Hitler and pushing the “America First” talking point. Many people who had before loved him now hated him–cities even changed the names of streets and schools that had been named after him. And he completely believed in eugenics and white supremacy, so when reading this it was easy to go from being in awe to being disgusted by him. There are even secrets I knew nothing about that were revealed in the end. All in all, a very well written and enjoyable read.

When Stars are Scattered

Graphic Novel 264 p. Awards: YALSA, National Book Award Finalist

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What a wonderful book!! Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. They have seen their father shot and killed, and been separated from their mother when their home was attacked. They do not know if she is even alive. Omar feels responsible for his brother who suffers from frequent seizures and is non-verbal. They are also helped by a woman named Fatima who has lost her children. When an opportunity to attend school occurs, Omar begins attending and loves it.

The novel describes the harsh realities of life in a refugee camp: no jobs, the surrounding desert and dust, the constant waiting in lines, and boredom. Even though the book has much despair in it it also contains hope. Omar and Hassan are eventually chosen for resettlement to America and they eventually do find their mother again.