Flashback: January 2006

A look at what I reviewed in January 2006.

Boy Proof by Cecil Castelluci. From my review: “Victoria, 16, prefers to be called “Egg” like the character in her favorite science fiction movie. She’s smart, she’s confident, she’s not afraid to dress like the character she loves. . . . Egg is vocal and strong in her likes and dislikes and her passions. Slowly, she begins to see that she is using her passion as a shield, to keep people out. This is not a book about someone giving up on passion; rather, the realization that its OK to need friends, and to be a friend, and use that passion to include others rather than exclude. It’s OK to be alone and solitary; but not when it’s the result of fear. And not when it’s the result of being excluded. Egg find the balance between being herself and being part of a community, and never loses her integrity.”

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of 4 Sisters, 2 Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. From my review: “This is an old-fashioned style book about siblings having fun together. Oh, they fight sometimes and are jealous, but at the heart of it they are a group of sisters who love each other fiercely. Their adventures are important to them, but they are not outlandish or overly dramatic; instead, this book captures the fun of the little things that really happen. How they spend the summer is typical; yet, despite being “typical”, Birdsall makes the tale and the sisters compelling. This book has kids you want to know, doing things you want to do.”

mocking birdies by Annette Simon. From my review: “One of my ALA treasures is this picture book, written and illustrated by Annette Simon. A blue bird sings in blue text; a red bird copies that singing in red text. Stop singing my song! Stop singing my song! But after the initial copycat dialogue, the two begin talking: i sing red as the dawn, when the sun peeps hello” i sing blue as the noon, when the sun calls to play” Next thing you know, the two birds are singing together. And red and blue voices overlap to make purpleAnd then the purple bird shows up! And then there’s a green cat. “Skit scat” “copycat” “copycat cat CAT.

Once Upon … 1001 Stories by Lila Prap. From my review:How much time do you have? The story starts with the little girl on her way to her grandmother’s house. Do you want to find out what happens to the girl? Or do you want to find out what happens to a rude little boy? That’s the first in umpteen decisions to make, before reaching the end. “Have you had enough? Then close the book and turn to the back cover,” or decide to go further with the story.

Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot. From my review: “Heather Wells used to be a pop-idol to tweens. But her Mom stole all her money and left the country; her record label dropped her; she lost her boyfriend; and she’s gone up a size or two. Heather’s current life includes being happy being a size 12 (size 12 is not fat!) and working as an assistant dorm director for a New York college, hoping to be able to go back to school and be a doctor. She’s also started writing her own songs so maybe that’s what she’ll do…. She also has a crush on her ex boyfriend’s brother (she’s already named the children: Jack, Emily, Charlotte.) Then one of the girls dies in the dorm, the result of an elevator surfing accident. Heather is convinced that something happened and soon takes up another new career: girl detective.

Babymouse: Queen of the World and Babymouse: Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. From my review: “Babymouse is the first of the GNs aimed at the younger set that I’ve read, and it’s fantastic. It has exactly what I like about GNs — good dialogue, pictures that add to the story, and references to books and movies. Babymouse is like an older Olivia. She is a quirky mouse with an active imagination; in Babymouse’s case, it is fueled by books and movies. The plots are the typical school stories: in QotW, Babymouse wants to be invited to Felicia Furrypaw’s sleepover party because Felicia is “queen of the world.” In OH, Babymouse faces that most dreaded of school sports: dodgeball. While not the most popular kid in school, she does have good friends, a funny way of looking at things, and an active dream life. You know when one of Babymouse’s daydreams is happening because of all the pink. (The book is black and white, with the occasional splash of pink; except, as noted, when the Walter Mitty daydreams begin.)

Over and Over You by Amy McAuley. From my review: “Penny has her fortune told, and finds out she’s been in love with the same guy for a thousand years. And she’s going to meet him again, soon. Penny doesn’t believe it. Then the strange dreams start, giving her glimpses of her past lives. And in each dream, her best friend dies. With Penny-in-the-past being responsible. And her best friend in her dreams looks exactly like her real best friend Diana. Even if Penny does believe, can she save Diana? It doesn’t help that Penny is falling in love with Ryan; and it’s Diana’s boyfriend, Rick, who looks like Penny’s dream guy. It’s a love story! With reincarnation! Of course it’s good. The past lives include the famous and not so famous, with the history part being well researched. McAuley also gives a clever reason why the history stuff may not be a hundred percent correct (and why its always in English): “When you remember [the past lives], you’re stuck seeing things through Penny’s eyes, which includes her experiences and preconceived ideas.” I also love that while it’s about Destiny and Fate, it’s also about the ability to make choices and to not be trapped by the past.”

Why? by Lila Prap. From my review: “Why? is an interactive nonfiction picture book about animals that is fun. . . . Each page has a picture of an animal, a question about that animal, silly answers and a real answer. The layout of each page includes a picture of the animal, bordered by the question and silly answers; the questions and answers are in different fonts, which adds to the silliness. The real answer has a star. An example: “Why do crocodiles cry?” “They’re spoiled.” “They cry when they’re sleepy.” “They’re afraid of water.” “Because nobody wants to play with them.” And then, the real answer: “Crocodiles are not sad, and they don’t really cry, but they do like to lie in the sun. Their eyes can dry out when they are not in the water, and the tears help to keep their eyes wet and comfortable.



ALA Midwinter 2014

I’ve been busy preparing for ALA Midwinter 2014, including a flurry of committee work.

I’ve finished the rest of the YALSA Nonfiction Titles, but I haven’t had time to finish my reviews — they’ll be coming, don’t worry!

I’m looking forward to the Youth Media Awards, to see who wins the Printz and who gets Honors.

And I’m looking forward to having some free time after next weekend, and to start reading 2014 titles.

Review: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2013. Personal copy. Morris shortlist.

The Plot: James Whitcomb, sixteen, has nicknames for his parents: the Brute and the Banshee.

That may be all you need to know about his home life. But here’s some more: his parents threw his older sister out of the house. All James wants is for her parents to allow Jorie back in the house. Well, and for the school to un-expell her so she can graduate high school.

As for high school — well, James loves Walt Whitman poetry so Yawps a lot. He has been known to hug a tree. And then there’s the time when he tried to impress a girl, Beth King, by saving a bird and ended up getting hit by a school bus. Oh, and he managed to save a Tastykake wrapper. Not a bird.

He does have one friend: Derek.

And then there’s Dr. Bird. His imaginary therapist, who is a large pigeon.

Dr. Bird, Derek, Beth, Jorie — it’s not a lot of people, especially since one is imaginary, one is real but will be graduating soon, one doesn’t know he exists, another is missing. But it’s a start.

The Good: Oh, all the layers of plot that connect!

There is the mystery of why Jorie was expelled from high school. For James to figure out the mystery, he must learn more about Jorie. You’d think, with just one year difference between them, that he’d know his sister. And he thought he did. When Beth asks him about Jorie’s poetry, James discovers his sister wrote for the literary magazine and this starts James finding out more about his sister. To do that, James has to take a closer look at himself and his family.

The reader knows that if James calls his parents the Brute and the Banshee, his home life is not simple and happy. Whether the labels are that of an angry teen, or deserved, is revealed slowly. James doesn’t even quite realize, or acknowledge, the full dynamics of his family. James — like other teens — is recognizing the way his family works and his own role in it. Yes, they are deserving of the labels Brute and Banshee — but enough is shown of their own pasts to show how they ended up the way they are. And that they aren’t just their label.

What James wants is to get his sister back. This forces him into action, with one thing leading to another. His wanting to learn more about his sister’s poetry leads him to being involved with the literary magazine, using his own poetry and photographs. He wants to see a therapist, recognizing his own anxiety and depression needs more than in imaginary pigeon (even if Dr. Bird’s advice is sometimes good), but to do so needs a job, so starts working at a pizza place with Derek.

So one step in James’s life leads to more steps, that both open up his world but also result in James own personal growth, including the steps he takes for his own depression. And that those steps are more than “make friends, get out of your house, find a hobby” (all things that James does in fact end up doing) — they are meeting with a therapist (a real one) and using that.

This is a Favorite Book Read in 2014 — because of James and Jorie. And the yawps. And Roskos’s writing. And the way that therapy is shown, not as “the” answer, but as part of James’s life.

Other reviews: Stacked; Beth Reads; Miss Literati; Good Books, Good Wine; Author Interview at SLJ.


Review: The Nazi Hunters

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb. Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. 2013. Library copy. YALSA Nonfiction Award Shortlist.

It’s About: In 1960, a group of Israeli spies and operatives captured the Nazi fugitive, Adolf Eichmann.

Eichmann had been in charge of “Jewish affairs,” the head of operations for the Final Solution. In the chaos of the aftermath of World War II, he had disappeared.

The Nazi Hunters traces the rumors of Eichmann being in Argentina; the steps to investigate whether the old man living in a small house is, indeed, the man responsible for the death of millions of men, women, and children. And, then, what was involved in Israel sending in a team to capture Eichmann and get him back to Israel for a trial.

The Plot: The Nazi Hunters tells two complicated stories, both with a lot of characters. (A list of characters at the front of the book helps the reader keep track.) One is the story of Eichmann, what he did, his escape to Argentina, how his family joins him. It’s the story of the Final Solution, and includes the stories of survivors.

The other is the story of discovering Eichmann and what happens then. It includes Nazi Hunters like Simon Wiesenthal, and ordinary people like the young woman in Argentina who brings a boyfriend home only to realize it’s the son of Eichmann. It’s the story of the various Israelis involved in the mission. And, it’s a story that has required some secrecy because of how dangerous it was. Eichmann was in Argentina in part because it was known to be favorable to Nazis; people were risking their lives in helping to capture them. It’s a fascinating, intense story of spies, many who survived the Holocaust and lost loved ones.

It’s also the story of civilians, people just doing the right thing. Sylvia Hermann, for example, the young woman who brought Nick Eichmann to meet her parents in 1956. Nick was born Klaus Eichmann, and was about 20 at the time. He’d been nine when the war ended; lived through his father’s disappearance, to then be reunited with him in the 1950s. To get an idea of how safe it was in Argentina: while Eichmann himself was living under an assumed name, his three oldest sons were using “Eichmann.” Nick boasted that his father had been a high ranking official; he said the Germans should have “finished the job.” Sylvia’s father was half-Jewish, something kept secret because of the continuing prejudices in Argentina. When father and daughter later realized that Nick’s father was Adolf Eichmann, they wrote to a German prosecutor. This was a crucial beginning to the search and capture of Eichmann.

Part of what The Nazi Hunters does is explain just why capturing and trying Eichmann is so important. Revenge and vengeance, even, some would argue, justice, would be served by an assassination. It would also, arguably, be safer for international relations — what Israel was doing was going into another country, kidnapping someone, and then spiriting them out of the country. Doing that was dangerous, as was the risks of what would happen later.

The government of Israel wanted something public. They wanted to remind the world what had happened. “Bringing the fugitive to justice and airing his crimes in a public trial would remind the world of the Nazi atrocities, and the need to remain vigilant against any groups that aimed to repeat them.” This also gives the reason why The Nazi Hunters is a needed book: it’s been over fifty years since Eichmann was tried and executed, but hate groups remain; people deny the Holocaust happened; and other atrocities take place. The Nazi Hunters is both a powerful tale, and a reminder, but it also serves to show: justice will not be denied.

Other reviews: Nerdy Book Club; The Children’s War; The Book Smugglers. 



Flashback: January 2009

A flashback to what I was reading in January 2009:

The 2009 Printz Award and Honor Books! Because I was on the committee, and reading and rereading a ton of books, and then the committee met at Midwinter and the rest is history.

The booksJellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, the 2009 Printz Award winner;

and the four Printz Honor books, 

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson; 

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart;

Nation by Terry Pratchett; and

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan.

Being on the committee was one of the best professional experiences I’ve ever had.

So, now looking back from 2014 — what did you think of the 2009 winners at the time? What do you think now?

Review: The President Has Been Shot

The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson. Scholastic. 2013. YALSA Nonfiction Award Shortlist.

It’s About: The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. 

The Good: The past November — the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK — I watched a lot of specials and documentaries about Kennedy, his life, his presidency, his death, the assassination, the aftermath.

While “where were you when Kennedy was shot” is a defining question for the generation before mine, a moment of cultural unity, a loss of innocence.

For the rest of us, it’s a story. A story known from fragments, here and there: a short home video; a handful of photographs; names and moments, recognized before they were understood or comprehended.

Swanson tells the story of Kennedy; and I’m reminded of why it is I like young adult fiction. Because it can get to the point and explain things so succinctly. There are books written just about the Bay of Pigs: Swanson explains it in a handful of pages. It’s all you need, really; and if the reader wants more, they can pursue that independently.

Swanson takes the reader through the days of Kennedy’s assassination, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, the murder of Oswald, Kennedy’s funeral. And it shows just why, well, why this is a fascinating subject. Swanson shows the Kennedy mystique: the looks, the family, the charm, and it’s that mystique that continues to attract attention. In this one volume, a reader can find out about Kennedy’s family, see him with his young children — children so young that it made Kennedy himself seem younger than his 46 years.

And then the surprise and the horror of Oswald killing Kennedy, and the aftermath. Swanson gives enough details to satisfy a curiosity — why is this so important, still, that any show set in the past has to have a JFK episode? Why are we shown how fake people react to a real death? And, along, the way, the reader moves from curious to engaged, to caring about the young widow in her bloodstained clothes.

Also: I loved all the photographs, maps, charts, and other material to help show the people and places.

Other reviews: Bookends; Literacious; Abby the Librarian.



Review: Belle Epoque

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross. Delacorte Press, Random House. 2013. Review copy from publisher. Morris shortlist.

The Plot: Paris, France. 1888/1889. Maud Pichon, 16, had big dreams when she ran away from her small village in Brittany and an arranged marriage.

Her dreams have changed to one thing: survival. The money she took from her father is almost gone, the rent in due in the small garret room she found, and she needs a job.

She answers an ad: “young women wanted for undemanding work. Propriety guaranteed.” She is shocked to discover that the Durandeau Agency provides a special type of woman to a special client: a repoussoir.

Plain and ugly women. To be a companion. To sit next to someone, and in their ugliness make someone look prettier than they otherwise would appear.

Maud flees: insulted that she is viewed as perfect for the job. And all her own fears and insecurities are stirred up, as she hears all her flaws described. She tries another job, but in the end, she has no choice. She returns.

Maud’s first assignment: a Countess buys Maud’s time for the countess’s daughter, to be around for the whole season, to make the daughter, Isabelle, more desirable and more marriageable. There’s a catch: Isabelle must not know anything about it. And Maud is to report everything back to her mother, reveal every confidence, so that her mother can manipulate the best marriage possible.

Maud must practice deception upon deception: pretending to belong to society. Pretending to be Isabelle’s friend. Pretending not to want more, not to be more, than the ugly friend.

The Good: A fascinating look at late nineteenth century Paris. “Beauty” is supposed to be so important that people hire someone plain to sit next to them in a cafe, at a dinner, at the opera. Yet it’s also a time with changing standards of what beauty is, as shown by the building of the Eiffel Tower. It’s different, it’s unique, and we, the reader, know that one day it will become synonymous with Paris, that it will be viewed as beautiful and elegant, but in Maud’s time? Not so much.

Maud is doing her best to make her own way. Back home, she worked in her father’s store, so she has little or no formal education. Her shop skills, without a reference, cannot get her a job. The position she does get, in a laundry, is tough and demanding and hardly pays. Being a repoussoir is physically easier and pays better. She makes friends with some of the other women. The problem is she also starts to make friends with Isabelle. Isabelle, it turns out, is someone who could care less about the season or marriage; she likes learning and her dream is to attend the Sorbonne. Maud pretends to Isabelle’s mother that Isabelle has good prospects, doesn’t tell about Isabelle’s dreams, but Maud knows that she can only play that game for so long.

Being the ugly, plain friend is draining. It does something to a person. To always, always, be the lesser one: Maud doesn’t really belong at any of the fancy affairs she goes to; she doesn’t have money or connections; and, of course, she doesn’t even have the looks. Even her personality must be muted and downplayed, used to flatter and highlight the person who hired her.

And here is where Maud’s age matters. For any repoussoir this would be difficult. For a teenage girl, it’s almost impossible. It’s not just having your worst fears about your appearance confirmed, though part of it is that. It’s also that Maud is at a time in her life where she is trying to figure out herself: enjoying Paris, wondering where life will take her, figuring out what she wants, and, yes, falling for a young man. How can she do all that while she is being told to be second? Less than?

A quick aside about the young man: yes, there is a bit of a romance, as well as some feelings about some of the eligible men courting Isabelle. I mean, Maud is having fancy parties and dinners and meeting young men who are handsome and rich. Of course there will be feels. But it’s a bit secondary to the main story: the story of Maud discovering herself.

All too often, historical fiction is about the “fancy” things, so, the things that the rich and well to do have. It is about the options that those people have. Isabelle, then — the daughter of wealthy parents who years only for an education — would be the main character, so that the parties and events and dresses could be described but you’d also have a “good” main character, one who values education over appearance and strives for independence.

Instead, there is Maud. Maud, who ran away and finds that life in Paris, while magical, is also about being hungry and desperate when you’re poor without connections. It’s about having to sit silently while someone describes the flaws of face and figure. Despite the cover image, this is not about someone who is beautiful. When she gets to wear pretty clothes, they are not truly hers: they are part of the person she has to pretend to be. She is only just now learning about the world of art and music, and Isabelle introduces her to photography. Maud discovers things and people to care about, and has to decide whether her job is more important than her integrity and her relationships with others. And she has to do so while wondering how to pay rent and buy food. Because she already has independence, her struggle is how to maintain it.

Other reviews: Slatebreakers; The Book Smugglers; YA Romantics.





Review: Charm and Strange

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2013. Library copy. Morris Shortlist.

The Plot: Win, 16, is at a New England boarding school, physically distanced from his family in Virginia, emotionally distanced from his classmates.

Flashbacks show him as an angry child, Drew, sometimes violent.

Win has secrets. Secrets about who he was; who he is; who he may be. And it may involve that body found in the woods near school.

The Good: Can I do this without spoilers?

Charm & Strange is a brilliant look at a damaged child, and the teenager he becomes. It’s about what happens when the world breaks a child, and he’s left alone to pick up the pieces and reconstitute a life and a personality. Even better: Charm & Strange is told entirely from the point of view of Win, who doesn’t recognize the damage or the impact. He is an unreliable narrator who believes he is a telling us the truth.

Win truly believes that he is telling us the truth about what hurt Drew, about why he is now Win, even if he is reluctant or holds details back. Win thinks he is well aware of his own secrets. He doesn’t realize that he embraces a past different from what it really was.

Win/Drew is one of those narrators easily called “unlikable.” I know I did, when I sensed how easily he manipulated those around him, and how little he cared. “The red blossoming beneath her olive skin pleases me.” “She mistakes my distance for mystery, and she wants to know why I do the things I do.” The first flashback to his childhood, to Drew, shows a child angry over the loss of a tennis match. What does Drew do? Sneak up on the boy who won, and attack him so severely he breaks the other child’s jaw.

Win, in his own words, is telling us: I am dangerous. Stay away. Be warned.

Win believes he is a werewolf. Win believes that is his family curse. Win believes he may have changed, and killed the person found dead in the woods by school, and he just doesn’t remember. The reader learns all this on page 23; so, in a way, hardly spoilers.

Why does Win believe this? Why is Win waiting for this to happen?

The flashbacks to Win’s childhood, as Drew, show a privileged and snobby childhood (“our family looked down on everybody“) that is also lacking. The family, we are told, is well off. The father is controlling and judgmental; the mother is distant. There is a sweet younger sister, Siobhan, and a responsible older brother, Keith. Win concentrates on one summer in particular, when he and his older brother stayed with his father’s parents and met his three cousins. This, the summer the boys are almost fourteen and ten, is the summer before the tragedy that leads to Drew calling himself Win and living at a boarding school, before Drew learns things that makes him believe his family is cursed and they are werewolves.

The family is cursed, in a way. And since Win is telling the story — well, I’m not sure if I figured it out before Win because Win is in denial, and Kuehn had him give the reader enough clues that most readers would understand before Win; or if because I’m reading this book as a forty-something reader who brings enough life and reading experiences that I picked up on the clues for those reasons. And, since Win is telling the story, I’m still unsure about who knows what. About just how cursed his family is, to use Win’s own terminology.

What happens, that summer, leads Drew to believe that his family is werewolves and he will one day become one because that reality is easier for him to accept. What happens leads to a tragedy so terrible that Drew is now Win, and has been attending boarding schools since he was twelve.

Win is waiting for his transformation. No, really. He studies the moon, truly believing he will change. His relationship with his classmates is odd and tortured, in part because he isn’t very good at making human connections. But, a new girl at school, and his estranged roommate, turn out to be better friends than perhaps Win deserves. (Or, better than Win thinks he deserves.) As Win attends a late night party in the woods, with this girl and his roommate and his classmates, he studies the moon and watches those around him, and something happens and the violence he keeps inside him comes out.

I’m fairly pleased with how much I’ve danced around the truth of Win’s life. That night, though, forces Win to being to deal with his past. And here is why I also admire Charm & Strange: not only is it a terrific, unique unreliable narrator; but it’s also one that, in the latter half of the books, includes looking at mental health and how Win is treated. It doesn’t shy away from what Win’s beliefs mean, and that they are not something simple and easily taken care of. It’s not something that Win can take care of by himself.

Final observation: Win’s family is pretty bad, all things considered. Since Win doesn’t quite realize it, it’s hard for the reader to know all that has or hasn’t gone on. I look forward to discussing with people just what was going on with his parents, his siblings, his grandparents, his uncle, his cousins.

Other reviews: The Book Smugglers; Katie’s Book Blog; Guys Lit Wire; Presenting Lenore.


Flashback: January 2011

A look back at what I reviewed in January 2011:

The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson. From my review: “The Latte Rebellion doesn’t start as a rebellion. Yes, Asha and her friend Carey got annoyed at a classmate’s casual comments about Asha being a “towel head” and being “Miss Barely Asian.” In a caffeine induced bout of creativity, they come up with the “Latte Rebellion,” for “the cause of brown people everywhere.” In rebellion against what? Against both racism and the insistence of putting people into specific boxes. Asha’s mother is Indian, her father is Mexican-Irish, so what box should she check on her college applications?

Stolen by Lucy Christopher. From my review: “Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped by Ty and brought to the isolated Australian desert. . . . Ty takes her and tries to break her, to shape her into who he wants her to be. The heartbreak of Stolen is the degree to which he succeeds.

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick. From my review: “1910. Giron, the Arctic Circle. Sig, 14, is alone in his family’s cabin except for the dead body of his father, Einar. A stranger knocks on the door — a stranger who says he knows Sig, knows his father, and has been hunting them for ten years. The stranger says he is owed something by Einar. The stranger has a revolver. What the stranger does not suspect is that Sig also has a revolver.”

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. From my review:Evie, sixteen, works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, helping contain paranormals such as faeries, vampires and werewolves. It’s her version of normalcy until a captured shape-shifter makes her rethink everything she knows about paranormals, the IPCA, and herself.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke. From my review: “Yummy’s story was brought to national attention in a 1994 Time Magazine article, Murder in Miniature.  Yummy’s life was short and brutal, full of abuse and neglect. Raised in Chicago, he was a member of the Black Disciples. Because of his age, when he was arrested for the crimes he committed he was let out: “see, back then, the laws were set up so that no shorty [i.e., someone as young as Yummy] could be convicted of a felony. Even for the worst crime, they’d be sent to Juvie and be back on the streets by the time they were 21. So the gangs put shorties to work.” At eleven, Yummy’s crimes escalated from robbery and arson to murder when he shot at gang rivals and accidentally killed an innocent fourteen year old girl, Shavon Dean. Yummy hid from the police for several days; at first, his gang assisted him. When they realized that Yummy had become a liability, he was killed by two of his fellow gang members, brothers aged fourteen and sixteen.”

The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. From my review: “Nineteenth Century England. Elizabeth “Bet” Smith and Will Gardener are sixteen. Will is the nephew and heir of wealthy Paul Gardener, and Uncle Paul wants Will to the the education befitting his station in life. All Will wants is adventure — specifically, the adventure of joining the army! He gets sent home from boarding school after boarding school. Bet, like Will, is an orphan. Unlike Will, she has no rich relatives — she is the child of a maid, and Paul Gardener, in a moment of kindness, offered her shelter when her mother died. Bet has been raised in a no-man’s land: not quite a servant, not quite family, always aware of her place. All Bet wants is the education Will takes for granted. Bet comes up with a plan. Simple, brilliant, foolproof. When Will goes to school… it will really be Bet! It’s yet another new school, so no one will know what the real Will Gardener looks like. While she learns, Will will be free to join the army. She’ll put on one of Will’s suits, cut her hair, learn how to walk like a boy. What could possibly go wrong?

Spies of Mississippi:  The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers. From my review: “In 1956, the Governor of Mississippi, J.P. Coleman, signed the executive order to create the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. The Commission was “a special agency that would preserve the state’s ‘sovereignty’ — that is, its right to govern itself without undue interference from the federal government or private pressure groups.” What was the federal government and private groups doing that created a need for such a commission? Advocating for the end of segregation. In order to preserve segregation, “the Commission would be granted extraordinary powers, including the power to investigate private citizens and organizations, to maintain secret files, to force witnesses to testify, and even make arrests.””

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. From my review: ““Boys, let us get up a club.” In May, 1866, six Confederate soldiers started a “social club.” Bartoletti explores how and why the K.K.K. originated, how and why it spread, and the steps taken to stop it.

And a bonus link to an interview with me at YA Librarian Tales.