More Books I read in June

Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Rating: 5 out of 5.

494 p. Mystery

A wonderful book about teen Daunis Fontaine existing in two different worlds: the white world of her mother and the nearby Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) reservation of her father’s family. She feels that she doesn’t quite fit into either world. She is all set to start college when there is a death in the family and she decides to live at home and attend community college. Then she meets Jamie, a new hockey player on the local high school team, and starts to fall for him. But Jamie isn’t quite who he says he is and Daunis becomes entrenched in a mystery that involves her friends and family, drugs, and an FBI investigation in which Daunis becomes a part of.

I liked this book because it is so much more than a thriller, it is also about Ojibwe traditions and culture in a modern setting. It also deals with sensitive topics like drugs and sexual assault. I loved this book and couldn’t put it down once I got into it!

“My girl, some boats are for the river and some are for the ocean.”

― Angeline Boulley, Firekeeper’s Daughter

Red, White, and Whole by Rajani Larocca

Rating: 5 out of 5.

217 p. Historical Fiction, Novel in verse

Like the previous post, this book is about a girl, Reja, who is torn between two worlds: the one at school where she is the only Indian American student, and the one at home with her family’s traditions and expectations. Reja feels very disconnected from her mother and feels misunderstood until she finds out that her mom has leukemia. The scenes where Reja evolves and is involved with her mother’s care and her relationship with her father is beautifully done. Highly recommend.

Take back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

226 p. Realistic Fiction

Wes faces reality when his beloved neighborhood is going through gentrification and his urban neighborhood is being taken over and now his neighbors are being bough out and moving away. Wes decides to stand up and support his neighbors and gets his friends and classmates involved. A wonderful book about a topic I haven’t seen much in books for teens and great for showing activism. Highly recommend–would be a good read aloud or book buddy book.

The Black Coats by Colleen Oakes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

376 p. Action/Adventure


Thea obviously doesn’t know what she is in for when she joins the Black Coats, which she soon discovers is a vigilante group that exacts revenge from men who have hurt females. At first, Thea believes in the group whole-heartedly, but as the brutality increases, Thea must decide what is right and what is wrong. I could understand the feelings behind the desire for revenge and I thought the topics of trauma and grief were well done, but for me, the violence was a little over the top. I would recommend for some of my students.

Soulevez-vous, femmes de la vengeance…from Black Coats

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

289 p. Realistic Fiction Islam/Muslim Asian Literature (India)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I enjoy books with multiple perspectives, and although this book is categorized as realistic, it also reads like a thriller. After posting on FB about a fire on a train and lack of police response, a young Muslim woman is accused of a terrorist attack on that train where over 100 people were killed. She is charged with the crime and sent to jail to await trial. There are two other people involved in the story’s plot: one a former teacher and the other an aspiring actor. Will these two acquaintances risk their careers in order to help her and tell the truth?

I enjoyed this book because it talks about the inequity in Indian society, the caste system, and how people can be blamed without any physical evidence. Shocking buy yet very realistic. Students may not be aware of how Muslims may be treated in India and how easily that hatred can be stirred up.

“And then, in the small, glowing screen, I wrote a foolish thing. I wrote a dangerous thing, a thing nobody like me should ever think, let alone write.” 

A Burning p. 5

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

247 p. Action/Adventure

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This story is told in two perspectives: from viewpoint of one Black girl and one white girl. It starts out with the girls at a football game where a racially motivated fight breaks out. Shots are fired; then a protest occurs that finally leads to riots, looting, and rioting. The two girls are thrown together and have to help each other to escape and survive the night. I thought the topic was good but at times it was hard to stay with the ongoing violence and rioting.

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

370 p. Mystery/Thriller

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Tress Mentor had a normal life until her parents disappeared and she is sent to live with her grandfather. Now she has become an outcast at her school. The only person who knows something about what happened is her former best friend Felicity who was the last person to see them alive. But Felicity has a mental block and is unable to remember. This book is told in alternating viewpoints from the two girls’ perspectives. A reading of Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado” would be in good order as there are many references to it. And possibly a second book?

Books I Read in June

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

Rating: 5 out of 5.

248 p. Narrative Non-Fiction

I enjoyed this non-fiction book about Lawrence Anthony, an animal conservationist who accepts a herd of rogue elephants to keep on his reserve in Africa. Lawrence accepts the animals knowing otherwise they would be killed. If you are an animal lover, you will be sure to enjoy the book. It is a heartwarming and interesting story and I learned much about elephants.

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

196 p. Narrative Non-Fiction

An unlikely truce develops between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man during the war in 1967. The Palestinian family had been removed from their home in al-Ramla when Israel was created as a state in the War of Independence in 1948. This book follows the friendship between the two during times of war and peace and seems to endure even as Bashir becomes a freedom fighter and Dalia becomes even more resolute in her defense of Israel.

understanding can only come from a recognition of each other’s history.

The Lemon Tree

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer

Rating: 5 out of 5.

383 p. with index Non-Fiction

This is a very thoughtful book written by author Anton Treuer, who is a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University in Minnesota. His inspiration for writing the book stemmed from encounters he has had and a way for navigating and correcting the misconceptions about Native peoples that occur. That, and the fact that Native Americans are the First people on this land but are so under represented and even educated people are very ignorant of their culture.

Treuer covers topics such as “traditional” Indian fry bread taco, wearing Indian costumes for holidays, mascots, and Dakota pipeline. I appreciated that Treuer states that all humans and nations have dark chapters and things to be ashamed of, but these things must be examined and learned from. The book also has an index which makes looking up topics easier.

The Light of Days by Judy Batalion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

265 p. Non-Fiction

This book relates the stories of women and the role they played in resisting the Nazis during World War II. The author is the child of Holocaust survivors and brings to life the stories of resistors who had would otherwise be forgotten. The women showed such incredible courage and many were not yet 20! They went undercover, stole documents, built bombs, and even killed Nazi soldiers. But often, their stories were not told; here, the author pulls their stories out of her careful research and brings them to the light of day in this book.

Dawn Raid by Pauline Vaeluaga Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5.

217 p. Historical Fiction

Told through diary entries, Sofia Christina Savea shares what life is like during times of political unrest in 1970s Wellington, New Zealand. Sofia has just turned 13, is biracial, and is just becoming aware of the changing world around her. There are protests in her community against dawn raids, which are raids by the police hunting for people who have overstayed visas–mainly people who are Pacific Islanders. She begins learning about civil rights and the Polynesian Panthers which are modeled after the Black Panthers in the United States. She also describes joyful experiences such as purchasing a pair of fashion boots (this is the 1970’s!) and tasting McDonalds for the first time. She is also learning more about her culture such as Maori songs and dances. The book is very readable for middle schoolers and can introduce them to a new culture and viewpoints. I highly recommend!

The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham

Rating: 5 out of 5.

297 p. Non-Fiction

Markham tells the story of identical twin brothers, Ernesto and Raúl Flores, who grew up in rural El Salvador in the aftermath of its civil war. In Markham’s look at contemporary immigration and the migrant experience, she provides a nuanced portrait of Central America’s child exodus, and critiques American immigration policy.

Danger had driven the twin brothers from El Salvador which was full of gangs to California where their older brother Wilbur lived. They were so desperate to leave that they made the harrowing journey on their own (93% of unaccompanied minors come from El Salvador, Honduras, or Guatemala.) In a California high school they meet the author who was the program coordinator at the school. It was also eye-opening to see the emotional toll this situation was for family members. Dealing with poverty, family back home, school, jobs, language, filling out forms, etc. seemed as a whole nearly insurmountable. The book ends on a precarious note with Donald Trump just elected with promises to build a wall.

Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran

Rating: 4 out of 5.

306 p. Non-fiction memoir

This story is written in a kind-of disjointed style which also represents the chaotic life he was forced into with his family escaping Vietnam and coming to the US as refugees in the 1970’s after the war. Tran and his family spent time in a refugee camp before being relocated to the town of Carlisle, PA. Adjusting to their new life was difficult with his father who was a lawyer in Vietnam now working at a tire store. And with Tran’s first name you can imagine the teasing he would have received in school. Tran identifies with the music he is surrounded with and in school he falls in love with literature, after discovering a copy of The Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman. He attends college on a scholarship and becomes a Latin teacher and a tattoo artist.