Ancestor Approved was a delightful collection that wove stories from talented storytellers and poets. It was edited by the wonderful award-winning and bestselling Cynthia Leitich Smith it shows hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride. The event of Ancestor approved are all shown at the events at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog).
They are the heroes of their own stories.
Featuring stories and poems by: Joseph Bruchac Art Coulson Christine Day Eric Gansworth Carole Lindstrom Dawn Quigley Rebecca Roanhorse David A. Robertson Andrea L. Rogers Kim Rogers Cynthia Leitich Smith Monique Gray Smith Traci Sorell, Tim Tingle Erika T. Wurth Brian Young
In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.
Ancestor Approved was woven together masterfully. I realized the book was an anthology, but once I caught on they were all happening at the same place (at about Rez Dog) it was magical now I want to go back and reread it to go back and spot the characters I missed in the earlier stories that I pick up in the later ones. There were so many good stories in here, but I think my favorite was the one about Bad Dog and Big Loon, because of the ending. Other favorites include the boy who couldn’t ‘read’ and the boy and girl at the raffle. Truly there wasn’t a story I didn’t like in the bunch and sped through this book in a few days.
Five stars loved the book and I would totally add it to my personal collection. Great book for your brain and your cultural understanding.
I thought I’d present you with a unique group of heroes in the books that are releasing this week.
Not All Heroes
Even though her family moved across the country for a “fresh start” after her little brother’s death, eleven-year-old Zinnia Helinski still feels like she’s stuck waiting for her new life to begin. Then she spots her new neighbor, Kris, climbing down the fire escape of their apartment building. He’s wearing a black eye mask! And Spandex leggings. . . . And a blue body suit?
Soon Zinnia finds herself in a secret club for kids who want to be heroes. The Reality Shifters don’t have superpowers, but they do have the power to make positive change in their neighborhoods. And a change is just what Zinnia is looking for!
At first, she feels invincible. Zinnia finally has friends and is on the kind of real-life adventures her little brother, Wally, would have loved. But when her teammates lose sight of their goals, Zinnia must find the balance between bravery and recklessness, and learn to be a hero without her cape.
Josephine Cameron grew up writing and singing in Northern Wisconsin but currently lives in Maine, where she writes fiction for young readers and teaches music and songwriting to K-8 students. Josephine received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame.
Her song “Long Track Blues” was included in the New York Times Bestseller “Hip Hop Speaks to Children,” a book/CD set edited by Nikki Giovanni. Josephine is the author of the critically acclaimed Maybe a Mermaid and A Dog-Friendly Town, which received three starred reviews and was a Parents magazine Storytime Pick. Her newest novel, Not All Heroes, is a Junior Library Guild selection.
Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots and outdated school administration, Jeremy decides to make some noise—and how better than by challenging his all-star ex-boyfriend, Lukas for the title of Homecoming King?
Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss long-term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. But when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas kick starts a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign.
When both boys take their rivalry too far, the dance is on the verge of being canceled. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny.
Zabé / Z. R. Ellor is a writer and lit agent from Washington, DC. He holds a BA in English Lit and biology from Cornell University. When not writing, he can be found running, playing video games, and hunting the best brunch deals in Dupont Circle.
You know how in Bollywood when people are in love, they sing and dance from the mountaintops? Eleven-year-old Sonali wonders if they do the same when they’re breaking up. The truth is, Sonali’s parents don’t get along, and it looks like they might be separating.
Sonali’s little brother, Ronak, is not taking the news well, constantly crying. Sonali would never do that. It’s embarrassing to let out so many feelings, to show the world how not okay you are. But then something strange happens, something magical, maybe. When Sonali gets upset during a field trip, she can’t bury her feelings like usual—instead, she suddenly bursts into a Bollywood song-and-dance routine about why she’s upset!
The next morning, much to her dismay, Sonali’s reality has shifted. Things seem brighter, almost too bright. Her parents have had Bollywood makeovers. Her friends are also breaking out into song and dance. And somehow, everyone is acting as if this is totally normal.
Sonali knows something has gone wrong, and she suspects it has something to do with her own mismanaged emotions. Can she figure it out before it’s too late?
Supriya is an author, illustrator, and screenwriter who grew up in the Midwest, where she learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week.
Water seems to be the theme for this week, the river, seas, and lakes. Prepping for summer for perhaps? We’ll have to see as future releases come out.
Donna has always loved life by the river. Until her beloved aunt Annabelle died in a tragic kayaking accident. Now with money tight, her mom working, and her friends distant. Donna finds herself in the sway of an old woman who moves in next door. The woman hires Donna to clean part time and Donna figures this is a great opportunity to get over her friendship troubles. Plus she can help her family since the woman pays in gold!
But as time goes on Donna finds out the woman is an ancient, ornery thunder mage, and it doesn’t take much to make her angry. Before Donna knows it, the friend who dumped her is in danger and Donna’s family is about to lose their home. To save the day, Donna will need the help of a quirky new friend and the basketball team . . . plus the mysterious, powerful creature lurking in the river.
Thirteen-year-old Prince Noa, has always hated the ocean since it took his mother from him. But staying away from the sea isn’t easy when you live on a tropical island. And if he wants to keep his brother Dagan who is the brawn to his brains in line he’s going to have to deal with his fear of the sea.
However when a vengeful pirate lays siege to their home Noa and Dagan barely escape with their lives. They are armed with a stolen ship and a haphazard crew. They also have a magical map that make little to no sense, with this they sail to other kingdoms in search of help.
But navigating the seas proves deadlier than Noas fears. To free his home, Nos much solve the confusing map and charts and confront a dangerous one-eyed Pirate before an evil force spreads across the land and destroys the people Noa was meant to protect.
Everyone knows that twelve-year-old Madison “Madi” Lewis. Is a stray animal magnet, to the point there is a rule she’s not allowed to bring home any more animals. After all, she’s rescued hairless mice, two birds, a rabbit, and a stray cat that ended up destroying their front porch.
Madi’s parents have put their foot down if they find one more stray animal in the house Madi won’t be allowed to meet Jane Goodall at an upcoming gala event.
But Madi finds the promise hard to keep when she and her two best friends Aaron and Jack rescue beaver kits whose mother was killed. The trio soon finds themselves at the center of a local conspiracy that the beavers and their natural habitats in danger.
Madi and her friends race to uncover the threat targeting the beavers, in using her animal skills and staying out of best skills in staying out of trouble.
Peppi and Jamie are able to team up despite their differences and not only become friends but save both of their clubs from being disbanded. While they had their ups and downs which was realistic for the age group. Eventually they find that both art and science really aren’t that different all along.
The reason I chose this book is because Peppi and Jamie are able to see through the artifical divides of middle school cliques and and make a true friendships.
These two are an unsual team up considering Sakina thinks Mimi is stuck up at first but eventually the two bond over Mimi teaching Sakina English and Mimi learning about her home culture, they don’t realize they are the answer to each others problems but they slowly become friends and help change as problems come up throughout the book.
The reason I chose this book is because while they may be different eventually they push each other to solve each other’s biggest issues which is what makes them a good team.
Avery and Bett are another pair that hate each other at first, the only reason they come together is to keep their dads apart. But they start working together and realize they make a great team, even if they don’t want to admit it for like a good half of the book.
The reason I chose this book is I also love how their relationship forms natrally, they go from hating each other to being best friends but not in a way that feels forced.
When her circle of friends suddenly shrinks as growing up happens Lora is determined to have fun on her own and not bow to the social pressures and be like everyone else. So one day Lora has a tea party with a supernatural twist that leads to her rediscovering Alexa, the ghost that haunts her house and her old imaginary friend!
I picked this book to show that a team up can’t (and maybe shouldn’t) last forever. These two make a wonderful pair but their goodbye is as poienient as their hello.
Even though Moon and Christine are nothing alike when Moon moves in next door the girls become fast friends. Christine appricates Moons confident and impulsive personality, she’s unlike any person Christine has ever known. The two have fun sharing their favorite music videos and painting their toenails: something Christine’s strict parents don’t allow.
But Moon shares a secret with Christine , she has visions sometimes, of the the celestial beings who speak to her from who reassure her that earth isn’t where where she really belongs.
Can Christine be the Moon needs when her visions turn out to have an all to earthly root and Moon is soon in the hospital fighting for her life?
Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself. One where she can be her authenic Indian self the girl who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food. And the one she is at school where she has to hide her true self. So when another Indian girl Avantika moves to town she thinks she’ll have someone who will understand. And while they don’t always agree, they are together in what they eat and share customs through good times and bad. Lekha understands the role food plays in her life she’s not just Indian or American, and her food reflects that that’s why I chose this book.
Cady’s world is turned upside down when she has to leave her dad because he can’t take care of her. She goes to live with her aunt who own a pie shop where they teach her about making food. Through food, baking especially and trying new foods Cady find a family, a community, new friends and a willingness to try new things. I picked this book especially because of the sense of community Cady gets after living with her aunts.
Food is the central focus of this retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Rajani LaRoca. Mimi’s baking affects the whole family in ways she never expexts and a ‘new’ friend gets helps her get out of a very old trap. Creativity and cooking abound making you want to whip up some donuts while reading. That and the mystery througout the story are the main reasons I chose this book.
This book explores themes of food, friendship, family, and belonging, featuring sixth graders Sara, and Elizabeth, two sixth graders who couldn’t be more different. Sara is having a hard time fitting in at their new shared school after transferring from her small Islamic school that she used to at attend. Meanwhile Elizabeth has her own problems her British mom has been struggling with depression. This book continues to fit into what I think I’ve established here as the cooking middle grade sub-genre.
I pick it one because the food descriptions sounded wonderful and two because it was an interfaith endeavor which is awesome.
Twelve year old Cici loved her life back in Taiwan, especially the time she spent with her grandmother, or A-má. But when her family moves to Seattle so she can have better opportunities she has to leave her grandmother and friends behind. But when her family doesn’t have the money to bring her A-má to the US for her seventy birthday Cici swears she’ll find a way. When she see a local cooking competition she enters for the prize money even if she’s never cooked American food. I chose this book because it focuses on the importance of staying true to yourself no matter what people thing.
I’ll be honest I didn’t think I’d like this as much as Finding Perfect, but Swartz has done it again. I swept though the pages just as quickly as I did with finding perfect, the character are charming and the mental health is handled with a deft hand.
Maggie’s family has always been important to her, she’s coached by her dad at trapshooting, and cheered on by her mom. She visit her grandfather regularly, but her gradmother’s recent death has left a hole in Maggie’s heart and her life. She thinks she can fill it, thinks she can’t, won’t forget like her grandma did if she starts keeping things from her important days like candy wrappers, milk cartons, tassels of her Nana’s favorite scarf all stuffed in cardboard boxes under her bed.
During this time her family decides to take in a foster infant and Maggie loves the baby deeply not wanting her to be adopted and making her hoarding worse. She soon finds herself taking and taking until she spirals out of control, with some help from family and friend she learns love can also mean letting go.
Maggie is a sweet and relatable character with big feelings around her hoarding that are made easy to understand for someone that doesn’t have anybackground in childhood mental health issues. It’s a very approachable book, also I love the fact that Maggie isn’t just her hoarding she’s a very well rounded character. I’d put this in the hands of any kids in upper elementary, lower middle grade. I also like her thearpist and wish all child thearipists in life were that cool (and well dressed) also love the system for Maggie’s recovery they use which I’m pretty sure is actually based on real mental health methods.
Overall I’d give this book 5 stars it another book in my mental health library.
In Duegons and Dragons Bards are storytellers who use the power of their music to make magic and expand what their party can do. They can do cureing wounds with their magic to charming people, and their past is often not as important as the stories they tell about them.
For this list, I left the actual bards to Young Adult, and here focused on musical characters finding their voices or music and learning how to use them.
Summaries from Amazon.
The Mystwick School of Musicraft
Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period. Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?
All Summer Long
Thirteen-year-old Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he’s off to soccer camp for a month, and he’s been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it’s up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own. At first it’s a lot of guitar playing, boredom, and bad TV, but things look up when she finds an unlikely companion in Austin’s older sister, who enjoys music just as much as Bina. But then Austin comes home from camp, and he’s acting even weirder than when he left. How Bina and Austin rise above their growing pains and reestablish their friendship and respect for their differences makes for a touching and funny coming-of-age story
Lauren and her best friend, Tara, have always done absolutely everything together. So when they don’t have any classes together in sixth grade, it’s disastrous. The solution? Trying out for the school play. Lauren, who loves to sing, wonders if maybe, just maybe, she will be the star instead of Tara this time.But when the show is cast, Lauren lands in the ensemble, while Tara scores the lead role. Their teacher explains: Lauren just doesn’t look the part of the all-American girl. What audience would believe that she, half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren, was the everygirl star from Pleasant Valley, USA?From amidst the ensemble, Lauren tries to support her best friend. But when she can’t bring herself to sing anymore, her spot in the play and her friendship are in jeopardy. With the help of a button-making business, the music of Patsy Cline, and her two bickering grandmothers, can Lauren find her voice again?Acclaimed coauthors Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang return to the 1980s world of Sydney Taylor Honor Book This Is Just a Test with this laugh-out-loud coming-of-age story.
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani-American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.
SING (Like No One’s Listening)
Since her mother died, Nettie Delaney hasn’t been able to sing a note. This wouldn’t be a problem if she wasn’t now attending Dukes, the most prestigious performing arts college in the country, with her superstar mother’s shadow hanging over her. Nettie has her work cut out for her and everyone is watching.
But one night, in an empty studio after college, Nettie finds herself suddenly singing, as someone behind the curtain accompanies her on the piano. Maybe all is not lost for Nettie. Maybe she can find her voice again and survive her first year at Dukes. But can she do it before she gets thrown out?
SING (Like No One’s Listening) by Vanessa Jones is a novel about dreaming a dream, finding your voice, and not throwing away your shot!
We most of on the ace and aro end of the spectrum know that Valentines Day doesn’t exactly acknowlodge us as an important part of the holiday. So I thought what better day than to showcase some ace and aro books than one traditionally focused on hetronormative love.
Summaries from Amazon
Before I Let Go
Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their tiny snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. But as Kyra starts to struggle with her bipolar disorder, Corey’s family moves away. Worried about what might happen in her absence, Corey makes Kyra promise that she’ll stay strong during the long, dark winter.
Then, just days before Corey is to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused, because Kyra said she wouldn’t hurt herself. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones, saying Kyra’s death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.
The further Corey investigates―and the more questions she asks―the greater her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. Can she piece together the truth about Kyra’s death and survive her visit?
Corey is a wonderful ace lead and there are also many other LGBTQ characters thoughout the book.
Sea Foam and Silence
Long, long ago, a little mermaid became intrigued by the way tall-crabs don’t act at all like the prey she’s more comfortable chasing. Her quest to understand will take her places she had never dreamed possible – onto land and beyond the endless cold.
But quests always come with a price and hers is no exception. If she cannot find love within a year, she’ll become sea foam. With only a month left and no closer to understanding ‘love’ at all, what is Maris to do? Tall-crabs – humans – are confusing and contradictory and love comes in so many forms, how can she ever know which one is right to win her life amidst friends and family on land?
Fantastical worldbuilding meets verse novels in this queerplatonic retelling of The Little Mermaid, the first story in a series of queer fairytale retellings.
Elatsoe—Ellie for short—lives in an alternate contemporary America shaped by the ancestral magics and knowledge of its Indigenous and immigrant groups. She can raise the spirits of dead animals—most importantly, her ghost dog Kirby. When her beloved cousin dies, all signs point to a car crash, but his ghost tells her otherwise: He was murdered.
Who killed him and how did he die? With the help of her family, her best friend Jay, and the memory great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother, Elatsoe, must track down the killer and unravel the mystery of this creepy town and its dark past. But will the nefarious townsfolk and a mysterious Doctor stop her before she gets started?
A breathtaking debut novel featuring an asexual, Apache teen protagonist, Elatsoe combines mystery, horror, noir, ancestral knowledge, haunting illustrations, fantasy elements, and is one of the most-talked about debuts of the year
Let’s Talk About Love
Alice had her whole summer planned. Nonstop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting—working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating—no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library-employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
Claire Kann’s debut novel Let’s Talk About Love, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, gracefully explores the struggle with emerging adulthood and the complicated line between friendship and what it might mean to be something more.
Anyone who has been reading the blog know I’m a huge fan of Rajani Larocca.I loved Midsummer’s Mayhem. I also can’t wait for Much Ado About Baseball which is coming out this summer so I can’t wait to read this one.
Reha lives in two worlds: school where she’s the only Indian American student, and home with her family’s traditions and holidays. Her parents don’t understand the conflict though they only seem to notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations.
Reha feels universes apart from her mother even though their names are linked Reha mean “star” and her Amma’s Punam means “moon”
But then Reha finds out her Amma is sick, really sick,
Reha dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, she is determined to make her mother well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter if it means saving her mother’s life.
In 1985 ten-year old Gabrielle is excited to move from Haiti to America. Unfortunatly, her parents won’t be able to join her and she’ll be living with relatives she’s never met in Brooklyn, New York.
She promises her parents she will behave, but life in the US proves to difficult, from learning the language to always feeling out of place, and being bullied. So when a witch offers her a chance to be a perfect “American” Gabrielle makes the deal.
But she soon realizes how much she’s given up trying to fit in and. Now she must reverse the spell along with her two new friends (one of them a talking rat). as she takes on the witch in an epic battle.
There aren’t supposed to be any polar bears left on Bear Island. At least that’s what April’s father says. April’s father is there for his scientific research, that takes them to the faraway Artic outpost
But one night April catches a glimpse of something that is distinctly bear shaped loping across the horizon. A polar bear who shouldn’t be there who is hungry loney and a long way from home.
Now as an an Autistic #OwnVoices reader I like to read whatever comes out, but as an Autistic #OwnVoices Reader I have very high standards for things being good. So I’m just reading the desciption here knowing that it’s going to take quite a bit to win me over.
My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old. Actually, thirteen years plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I have not spoken a sentence since I was born. Each dawning day, I live in terror of my unpredictable body that no one understands.
Charity may have mad math skills and a near-perfect memory, but with a mouth that can’t speak and a body that jumps, rocks, and howls unpredictably, most people incorrectly assume she cannot learn. Charity’s brain works differently from most people’s because of her autism, but she’s still funny, determined, and kind. So why do people treat her like a disease or ignore her like she’s invisible?
When Charity’s parents enroll her in a public junior high school, she faces her greatest fears. Will kids make fun of her? Will her behavior get her kicked out? Will her million thoughts stay locked in her head forever? With the support of teachers and newfound friends, Charity will have to fight to be treated like a real student.
I’m going to have to break blog protocol and talk about how wonderful this book is so SPOILERS AHEAD!
Even if We Break
FIVE friends go to a cabin. FOUR of them are hiding secrets. THREE years of history bind them. TWO are doomed from the start. ONE person wants to end this. NO ONE IS SAFE.
For five friends it was supposed to be one last game. A getaway before everyone went their separate way, a chance to say goodbye. To each other and the the the game they’ve been been playing for the last three years of high school.
But everyone has their their own demons and everyone is hiding secrets. Some of them have reason to be paranoid, but others are hiding secrets that puts the whole group at risk.
Finn doesn’t doesn’t trust anyone since he since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular rich girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it, Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career, the only thing that shaped her life in high school. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations to be the best. Finally Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can at all costs.
But when the line between game and reality start to blur, with deadly consequence
For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways—a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past three years. But they’re all dealing with their own demons, and they’re all hiding secrets.
Finn doesn’t trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.
When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it’s a race against time before it’s game over—forever.
This novel is amazing, it’s a the way Nijkamp constructed the mystery around the game. Also her construction of the game. You can tell they are an experinced RPG player and perhaps DM. As for the spoilers, who the killer was was such as a surprise. And for who survive they are the people who never survive horror movies and it’s perfect and wonderful and now my standard for horror and thrillers. There was was facing personal demons, there was romance but not too much, there was friendship and disability and queerness and it was near perfect.