Juna’s Jar

Juna's JarJuna’s Jar
by Jane Bahk

Juna is so sad when her best friend Hector moves away unexpectedly and without saying good-bye. To cheer her up, her brother helps find things for Juna to put into her special kimchi jar. Each night, Juna imagines an adventure with item in the jar, until she is finally able to say good-bye to Hector. A sweet story about dealing with the longing for a lost friend. Recommended for grades K-2.

The Honest Truth

The Honest TruthThe Honest Truth
by Dan Gemeinhart
Grades 4-7

Mark is on a mission. He is clearly no spur-of-the-moment runaway. Every step is calculated and planned out, from the misleading clues to his final destination. But Mark, of all people, should know that life doesn’t always go the way you plan it, and he hits several unexpected snags along the way. There are people he meets who both help him and hurt him, as well as those who want to help but he won’t let them. And of course there are people who he helps as well. As he gets closer to his final destination, we also feel the his parents’ pain as well as that of his best friend, Jessie — the only one who has figured out his plan. But he once asked her to be his secret keeper, so surely she cannot tell this one, the biggest one of all. As Mark gets sicker and the winter storm gets worse, readers will be hoping for a happy ending but fearing the worst, just like Jessie and his parents. Recommended for grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher.

Gone Crazy in Alabama

Gone Crazy in Alabama (Gaither Sisters, #3)Gone Crazy in Alabama
by Rita Williams-Garcia
Grades 4-7

In this third book about Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, they are off to spend the summer of 1969 down home in Alabama with their grandmother Big Ma and their great-grandmother, Ma Charles. The main focus of this book is family, as Delphine finds it harder and harder to get along with Vonetta. The three girls also become embroiled in a decades old family feud between Ma Charles and her “over the creek” half sister, Miss Trotter. While there has been certainly been tragedies in the past, their family story is told with love, laughter, and a hope for the future. The contrasts between their life in Brooklyn, their mother’s life in Oakland, and what life is still like in Alabama are drastic but believable. Readers of the first two will not want to miss this final installment. It does stand alone but readers will appreciate it much more if they have read the other two. Recommended for grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens

The Book That Proves Time Travel HappensThe Book That Proves Time Travel Happens
by Henry Clark
Grades 4-7

Ambrose and his best friend Tom are on their way to the fortune-tellers’ tents at the travelling carnival when Ambrose learns that his history teacher father is in danger of losing his job for being a “Trans-Temp” — someone who dresses outside of his/her own time period. At the carnival, Ambrose meets Frankie, Madame Janus’s daughter, who persuades him to help her on a dangerous mission. The three middle schoolers set off to rescue Frankie’s family heirloom, and find themselves in 1852. They are almost immediately captured by slave catchers and must find a way to return to the present without disrupting history. They use both the ancient Chinese fortunetelling book the I-Ching and the Morse code hidden in the hexagrams to help with their decisions.

If you are a stickler for time-travel standards, this book does bend the rules of time-travel as it is usually portrayed. It is necessary for the plot, and will not bother most casual readers. More disturbing to me were some of the stereotypes used towards the beginning of the book, particularly the Chinese “Tiger Mom” and the use of the word Kemosabe (once). As I continued reading, I realized that the author purposefully included these and other examples of disrespect and intolerance to make the message of the book that much stronger. It is an exciting adventure that also drives home the point of acceptance and the importance of diversity. As an adult the message feels a bit heavy-handed, but I do not believe that the intended audience will see it as such. There are a lot of conversations to be had after reading this book.

Recommended for grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher.

Listen, Slowly

Listen, SlowlyListen, Slowly
by Thanhha Lai
Grades 4-7

Mia’s summer is ruined. Instead of hanging at the beach in Laguna with her best friend and the boy she likes, she has to travel halfway around the world with Ba, her grandmother, to the small Vietnamese village that her family came from. There she is Mai, reluctant to speak Vietnamese but understanding much more than she lets on, while she tries to survive the humidity, mosquitoes, and lack of Internet. As she slowly begins to appreciate village life and her many maybe-relatives, she also has to help her grandmother come to terms with her grandfather’s disappearance during the war. This book will draw readers in immediately, as they feel Mai’s frustration at being ripped away from everything that is important to her. There is an excellent combination of humor, poignancy, and adventure as we join Mai and her Ba on their journey. Highly recommended to grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher

Spic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen

Spic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth's Wonder KitchenSpic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen
by Monica Kulling
Grades 2-4

Lillian Moller Gilbreth and her husband Frank were efficiency experts in the early 1900s. They analyzed how workers performed their jobs and made suggestions on how to make the work flow more smoothly. When Frank died suddenly, Lillian had to reinvent herself in order to support their 11 children. She is best known for improvements to the modern kitchen that would make life easier for the women in the house. She not only redesigned kitchen layouts, but invented the electric mixer, the garbage can that opened with a foot pedal, and the storage compartments that we find on refrigerator doors today. In 1965, she was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering. A fascinating story about a woman who has made all of our lives easier. Recommended for grades 2-4.

Honey

HoneyHoney
by Sarah Weeks
Grades 3-6

Melody’s mother died right after she was born and she has longed for her father to find a girlfriend. When she overhears him calling someone “honey” on the phone, she starts investigating. Some chapters are told by Mo, a French Bulldog, who is living at the new beauty salon in town. The plot of the story is based on a lot of misunderstandings and misheard gossip, with more than a few crazy coincidences to resolve itself. For grades 3-6.

ARC provided by publisher.

Echo

EchoEcho
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Grades 5-8

This epic novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan is more like 3 1/2 books in one. It traces the path of a magical harmonica on its mission to save a life. We first encounter the harmonica when it appears seemingly out of a fairy tale and into the hands of Otto, lost in the woods. Next it is found by Friedrich, at the rise of Nazi Germany. Friedrich has a disfiguring birthmark and is being targeted as not “pure” enough for the Nazi regime. His father, a musician, also has loudly expressed his opposition. The harmonica gives Friedrich not only comfort but the bravery to do what he must to save his family. In the second story, we are transported to Philadelphia a few years later. Mike and his younger brother Frankie are struggling to stay together in an orphanage after their mother and grandmother have passed away. Again, the harmonica plays a pivotal role in their lives. In the third story, Ivy and her family have just moved from Fresno down to Southern California, where her father has been hired as a a caretaker for a Japanese-American farm while the owners are in an internment camp. Ivy faces challenges of her own, as she is sent to the Mexican-American annex school instead of the main elementary school. The harmonica also plays a key role here. Each of these stories cuts off at a pivotal moment, leaving the reader worrying about the fate of these characters. Fortunately, Ryan ties everything up in a glorious ending that traces how the harmonica moved from child to child and ultimately fulfills its mission. Readers who can make it to the end will be rewarded with a story that will stick with them for many years to come. A tribute to the power of music and family. Highly recommended for grades 5-8.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss

Jinx’s Fire

Jinx's Fire (Jinx #3)Jinx’s Fire
by Sage Blackwood
Grades 4-7

In this thrilling conclusion to the Jinx trilogy, the epic battle for the Urwald has begun. Jinx must first rescue Simon and then defeat the Bonemaster once and for all, but something is happening to the Urwald’s lifeforce that he is used to drawing upon. After those challenges, he & Elfwyn must unite the Urwald’s residents, including people, trolls, werewolves and more in order to face the three invading armies. Can Jinx battle his old friend Reven (now King Raymond) without using death force magic? This is a satisfying end to an epic adventure. You must read the first two before this one. Recommended for grades 4-7.

eArc provided by Edelweiss

Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You

Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being YouMe Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You
by Todd Hasak-Lowy
Grades 9 & up

15-year-old Darren’s life is turned upside down by news from his recently divorced father. That news and an unexpected kiss from a jazz ensemble bandmate shake him to the core, prompting him to run off to spend the the weekend at the University of Michigan with his older brother Nate while he tries to make sense of it all. Along the way he falls head over heels, obsessively in love with classmate Zoey Lovell, who is clearly in trouble. This phenomenal book, told through lists, is Darren’s story as he tries to put the pieces of his life back together. No one is who he thought they were — not his mother, not his father, not Nate, not Zoey, and not even himself. Highly recommended for grades 9 and up.

ARC provided by publisher.