Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington
Gr. 5-7. Makeda loves her family, but she doesn’t always know if she fits in. Makeda is Black, and she was adopted by a white family as a baby–and her family members don’t always seem to understand some of Makeda’s questions. When her family moves to New Mexico, Makeda leaves behind her best friend, and the only girl she has ever met who is just like her. Makeda can’t seem to make friends at her new school, and her mom’s moods seem to change every day. Her dad isn’t around much anymore, and her sister is too busy–can Makeda hold everything together?

There are so many layers to this one–it touches on different particulars than many of the recent upper elementary realistic fiction reads focusing on racism and/or social justice. The own voices exploration into Makeda’s life as a Black girl adopted into a white family is wonderful, with the added layer of Makeda’s mom’s mental health. The mental health storyline does seem to get pretty heavy fairly quickly–moving beyond mood swings to depression and attempted suicide in what feels like just a few pages (it isn’t that fast, but the story moves quickly). I wish some elements of that storyline were own voices too–overall there is a lot happening here with these two very strong storylines (plus additional smaller plot points).


Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit
Gr. 4-6. Vivy wants to pitch on her local baseball team, just like her hero, Major League pitcher VJ Capello. After one of his games, he taught her how to throw a special knuckleball pitch, and Vivy has been practicing. But, Vivy is a girl, she has autism, and her mom is very protective of Vivy and Vivy’s activities. Everyone wants her to try softball, but Vivy knows you can only throw a knuckeball with a baseball. Vivy doesn’t think her dream will ever come true when two incredible things happen: a local Little League coach spots her throwing with her brother and invites her to join his team. And legendary VJ Capello actually responds to Vivy’s fan letter. Soon, Vivy is pitching on a real team, while also making friends with her hero through their letters.

THIS BOOK! Vivy is a wonderful, fleshed-out character, made so much more real because this is an own voices autism novel. I don’t like sports or sports books, and by all definitions I should have not enjoyed this–but I loved it. The dynamic between Vivy and VJ is fantastic and such a great example of a positive adult relationship outside of your immediate family. Vivy’s choices always feel honest, as do her emotions, frustrations, and passion for pitching. I’ll never understand the joy some people find in watching or playing sports, but I can understand Vivy’s passion, determination, and love for all things baseball. Buy this for your library and book talk it to everyone.

*I do wish the audiobook had been recorded by an own voices narrator.

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I Love You, Baby Burrito by Angela Dominguez (picture book)
Gr. Baby-Toddler. Adorable story following a family bringing their new baby home. Includes Spanish words throughout, with a glossary on the back end papers. Encourages some body part identification that would be useful in a storytime setting.


Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan (picture book)
Gr. K-1. Carol Olivia misses her parents, but she loves her Mama Rose. While Carol Olivia would love if they could all live together, Mama Rose is everything Carol Olivia needs–kind, strict when needed, and, of course, full of love.

I’m not sure how this one slipped past me last year, but it is a wonderful story with a non-traditional caregiver. A must for your collection.

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This Place: 150 Years Retold by Various
Gr. 8+. A collection of short stories, told by Indigenous creators, chronicling the last 150 years. Some are stories passed down from generation to generation, reading as magical realism, others are rooted in Canadian historical movements and protests, and another ends with a time-travel-filled look into the future. Particular to communities across Canada.

This was fascinating, though I struggled with it a bit, in the way I struggle with many anthologies. Some of these stories held my interest more than others, but I think that was much more my passing interest at the time than anything to be said for the strength of one story over the next. The connecting timelines and history held this one together for me–particularly the returned focus to the idea that for the last few hundred years–since Contact–while much of the world would claim humanity has “flourished”, Native people have literally lived through an apocalypse–of their land, their people, their culture, their civilization. Indigenous people have been trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic world.

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