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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Imagine how excited I was when I figured out Nidhi Chanani, the author of Pashmina, came up with a new book! I was dying to get my hands on that book and thanks to the Macmillan publishing house, I have! (Thanks so much Macmillan!) Introducing Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani! This graphic novel is recommended for ages 10-14.

When Shaheen’s music loving father goes missing she starts to panic. She starts to feel really bad because of all of the bad things she did to her dad. At first her family just thinks he is out for a long time but when days pass they start to worry. Her babysitter takes her out to distract her and they get a snack. After a long time passes Shaheen gets worried and drags her babysitter to her dad’s music shop. They have to break into their dad’s shop because it is closed and get scared when they see Shaheen’s dad’s glasses on the floor. They go upstairs to explore. You have to read the book though to see what kind of secrets they uncover!

I love this book because of the colors. This is about the most colorful graphic novel I have seen in my life and that is SAYING SOMETHING.That is one of my favorite things about this book because when the scene is really sad you still can not help feeling happy because of the flourishing colors and your mind can not decide whether you should be happy or sad. This is definitely one of those books to lighten your mood. I also love this book because the author is making a graphic novel mystery, something that you come across very little. This is a truly unique book! I hope that you enjoy this book too!

**Thanks so much to Sofia for giving us an advanced review of this book! We were excited to see it came out this week!**

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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Today I have gathered my top 5 favorite girl power graphic novels. I really hope that you enjoy them! These books are all surprisingly different so there is still hope that if you don’t like one you will still like another. These books are probably for ages 7+.

El Deafo by Cece Bell is a really funny and sad book at the same time. It is a true story about the author but everybody is drawn as a rabbit. Cece is only four when she gets meningitis, an illness that swells the brain and can make you deaf. When her parents figure out she can’t hear, they send her to get hearing aids. At first at school she gets sent to a school for people who are hard of hearing. Then they move to a different place after her first year of school. This school is not specialised so when school starts she has to get a much bigger hearing aid called the Phonic Ear. It is big but it helps Cece understand her teacher much better. Cece always finds it embarrassing to give her teacher a microphone for the Phonic Ear.

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neil is the complete opposite of El Deafo. It is a very calm and peaceful book and for the record the characters are ADORABLE! This is an anime kind of graphic novel. Greta is a little goblin whose mom is teaching her how to be a blacksmith. Greta saves a tea dragon from a pack of hungry wolves. Greta wants to keep the dragon but her father knows who the dragon belongs to. She returns the dragon to her owner and gains respect from him. She meets a humanlike unicorn called Minette. Minette has a tea dragon too, her dragon’s name is Chamomile. They soon become friends and play together and Greta finally learns more about her mysterious friend, Minette.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani is an amazing book even though it is really sad. It makes you question the world you live in. Priyanka is a girl of Indian heritage who grows up in the US. She does not have a father but she has a very overprotective mother. Her uncle, Jatin, plays the role of her father. Her mom never ever tells Priyanka about India or her father. When her uncle’s wife gets pregnant Priyanka starts to become jealous because she always had her uncle to herself and she has always been his favorite child. Priyanka is so jealous that she goes downstairs in the middle of the night and makes a prayer to the Indian god Shakanti so that the baby dies. When she makes the prayer right after she feels really really guilty. When she wakes up the baby becomes sick. She thinks it is all her fault and she tears open her mom’s suitcase. There she finds a pashmina, a scarf, which will soon turn everything around!!!

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a Newbery award winning book! It is hardcore fun for everyone, especially Raina Telgemeier fans! Astrid is a girl who has a friend named Nicole. Astrid is not a good friend, she only cares about herself and wherever she wants to go or what she wants to do is happening. She never considers her friends’ ideas. She always expects Nicole to like what she likes so when Astrid’s mom takes them to roller derby Astrid falls in love with it and Nicole gets scared. When Astrid hears that there is a roller derby camp she signs up instantly. But when Nicole doesn’t go Astrid gets MAD! It gets worse on her first day of camp. Astrid realises she is terrible at roller skating and tumbles into the outside of the practice arena and starts to cry. Read to see what happens to Astrid and her terrible life!

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner is THE BEST-BOOK-EVER! It is a bit sad because her father is dead but also very funny. Moth thinks she is a regular girl. She is oddly fascinated by witches though and loves everything witchy. But the tables turn when she realizes that she IS a witch. She completely freaks out (in a good way) and begs her mom to teach her everything about magic. Her mom refuses and says magic can cause terrible things to happen. What she means by that is that there used to be a witch hunt. It was kind of like the real life Salem Witch Trials, just less scary. What Moth does not know is that her mom is also referring to her dad and how he is gone now. When Moth finds a cat and she notices it is a talking cat, she realizes that this must be her witchy companion. One night Moth sneaks into her mom’s room to snatch her diary so she can read it because she figures if she can’t get her mom to tell her about witch stuff her diary will. Read this book to see if Moth gets caught and to see what dark secrets she uncovers!

**Sofia, we love this compilation! Thanks for sharing it with readers!!!**

 

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Charming as a Verb
Author: Ben Philippe
Published October 13, 2020 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.

Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.

Review: This is one of the best examples of characterization that I’ve read in a book. I fell in love with so many characters (even minor ones!), which drew me into the story even more. Henri reminds me of some of my favorite students that I’ve had. He’s charming, driven, and likable. There’s a lot that happens in this book that I don’t want to spoil—but I should write that it teaches an incredibly powerful lesson. There’s one scene that made my stomach do flips, and I will think of that scene often. This would be a great text to use to explore concepts of ethics. It also offers a lot of insight about the college prep experiences for teens. I highly recommend this book to readers. It’s a powerful story and one that will stick with me.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the characterization of the text add to the story? Who were your favorite characters, and why?
  • Which minor characters really stand out to you? How does the author make them so noteworthy?
  • What did you learn from this book?
  • What does this book teach us about ethics? About humanity?

Flagged Passage: 

“There’s no use complaining about it and wishing the world was different. This isn’t how we change things for ourselves.”

Read this if You Loved: Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson; The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe; I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

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Love is a Revolution
Author: Renée Watson
Published February 2, 2021 by Bloomsbury

Summary: From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Renée Watson comes a new YA–a love story about not only a romantic relationship but how a girl finds herself and falls in love with who she really is.

When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.

In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.

Ricki’s Review: There is so much to write about this book! First, I loved the way it elevated body positivity. The comments (implicit and explicit) about Nala’s size felt, at times, infuriating. I was so proud of the way she handled these comments. I also loved the idea that everyone doesn’t need to be a loud activist to be doing amazing work. Nala was keenly focused on her family, and the work that she did was important work. I admired her greatly. The book made me think a lot about my own convictions and what I value most. This is a book that belongs in all classrooms, and I recommend it highly. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is Nala different from the other characters in the book? What do we learn from her?
  • What does Tye value? What do we learn from him?
  • How is Nala and Tye’s relationship perceived?
  • How do different characters in this book perceive family? Which characters reflect your own values, and why?

Flagged Passage: 

I can’t stand when people don’t follow through. Make a plan, stick to it. Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Read This If You Love: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson; Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

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Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Published March 5, 2020 by HarperTeen

Summary: In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Ricki’s Review: I was so happy to see that this book won the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. It is one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read. It made me laugh, it made me weep, and it filled me with so many emotions and so many wonderings. The book is beautifully lyrical, and the voices are so strong. There’s a scene in the book that simply took my breath away. If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend you head out and purchase it now. It’s absolutely magnificent.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the two perspectives of the story work together? How did it enhance your reading of the story?
  • How does place function in the story?
  • Where is home for the characters?
  • How do the characters in the story grieve? What understandings did it offer about grief and loss?
  • How do the characters in this book show strength in many different ways?

Flagged Passage: 

“Can you be from a place
you have never been?

You can find the island stamped all over me,
but what would the island find if I was there?

Can you claim a home that does not know you,
much less claim you as its own?”

Read This If You Love: Books. Seriously, it would be very difficult not to see the beauty of this book. Elizabeth Acevedo is one of the greatest writers of our time.

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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Wow, wow, wow, wow and wow! Presenting…My Life as a Billionaire by Janet Tashjian illustrated by Jake Tashjian! This book was surprisingly good and I loved it because even though the kid was a billionaire he still donated tons of money to charity, gave his school a top-notch media room equipped with green screens and all of that other stuff and even gave a lot of his friends presents like his handicapped friend really wanted this skater BMX wheelchair and Derek gave it to him. Also another friend of his lost her phone and he bought her a brand new one. But what I also like is that it stays really real because like any normal kid of course he buys eight thousand dollar sneakers and his own private skatepark in his backyard! Also what helps it stay real is that there are family problems about the money. This book is recommended for ages 9-12.

When twelve year old Derek wins the lottery everybody goes ballistic. The money technically isn’t his though even though his older brother gave him the ticket for doing his own chores for him. Derek isn’t old enough to cash in his check though and his older brother is. Derek has two choices, split the money half and half with his brother or want it all to himself and then their mom will take it and give all of the money to charity. Derek takes the typical approach of course and shares with his brother so he at least has some of the money and that some is in the millions! Derek is super excited to pick up his prize and his parents tell him he can do it after school. When school is over Derek is the first out of the school building and as soon as he gets the money his parents already put some aside for college tuition. His brother who is over eighteen goes off and gives his band enough money to go on tours and other stuff like a brand new super nicely furnished band bus. Since Derek is only twelve though his parents still have control over him and they have a few rules. First of all they don’t want Derek spending nearly as much money as his brother and therefore forbid him to spend way too much. So when his dad drops him off at the sneaker store he tells him only to buy two pairs of sneakers. A friend came with him too. The thing is his friend has some other ideas. He convinces Derek to buy an eight thousand dollar shoe pair for himself and a one thousand dollar shoe pair for him, his friend. Derek barely wears those pairs of shoes because he does not want his parents asking him about them since they cost so much.

Derek starts noticing that his classmates and all of the kids in school treat him differently now that he is rich. For example they exclude him from things they used to do as a group. Derek also realizes that kids who have never talked to him or noticed him are now buzzing around him like bees around a beehive. Also a lot of people have been telling him about what they really want and maybe when they lost their phone or something else, probably hoping to be noticed by Derek and get what they want or a replacement for their lost stuff.

This book is great because it shows how somebody lucky enough to win the lottery shares his money and gives it to charity and buys gifts for all of his friends. I also like this book because it teaches about spending. It helps you understand not to buy overpriced things or buy things with ridiculous price tags that may be the same quality of the same thing just with a much much much lower price tag. But mostly I love this book because it was so funny and entertaining! I almost blew up in laughs while reading it. The great thing about this book is that there was so much suspense that I carried this book everywhere I went. LITERALLY! When my parents took us for a bike ride I read the book on the way there! I am so reading all of the other books in this series!

 

**Thanks so much to Sofia for this review! It made us smile!**

 

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Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Author: Erin Yun
Published February 4th, 2020 by Fabled Film Press

Summary: Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”

At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.

As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

A Contemporary Reimagining of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for Middle Graders

About the Author: Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas. She received her BFA in English from New York University and served as president of its policy debate team. This experience came in handy when she became the debate consultant for the Tony-nominated Best Play on Broadway―What the Constitution Means to Me. Erin is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has written reviews and articles for BookBrowse. She developed her author program, an interactive writing workshop, which she has conducted in person and virtually at schools, libraries, and bookstores. She currently lives in New York City, and yes―she used to play basketball as a middle grader!

  1. She’s obsessed with personality quizzes and takes them for her characters.
  2. She is half Korean, and half Polish/Germanic.
  3. Her favorite foods include: kimchi-jjigae, cherry ice cream, and walnut cakes filled with red bean.
  4. She ran a bubblegum-selling business in middle school until it was shut down.
  5. Her family lore says that her grandfather lost part of his farm in a game of Go-Stop.
  6. She likes creating scavenger hunts in which participants dress like secret agents and follow clues.
  7. Her favorite places in the world include Seoul, London, and Tokyo.
  8. She was president of the New York University policy debate team.
  9. Her family dogs, Belle and Yoko, both bark incredibly loudly despite being foolishly tiny.
  10. She lives in New York City, but folks can tell she grew up in Texas by how often she says ya’ll.

Review: Okay, okay, I know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this cover was yelling READ ME to me, and I am so glad that I finally had the chance to and now share it with you all!

There is so much good happening in this book!

First, I love a good retelling! It brings a classical tale and its themes to a modern era.

Second, so many readers are going to connect with Pippa either because they understand what it is like to go to a new school or to fit in with a cool crowd or to have people not understand how important something is to you.

Third, there is so much to discuss with the book! You’ll see below in the discussion questions that in addition to connecting it with Great Expectations, there are opportunities to discuss family, the American Dream, culture, empathy, friendship, and more!

Fourth, I loved how complex the characters and situations were. Pippa is our protagonist but anything but perfect. Mina, Pippa’s sister, is so strict and seems heartless, but there is more there. Eliot is so cold, but there is a whole story there. And more! Such truth in the characterization of these middle schoolers and secondary characters.

Author Guest Post: Visit our Author Guest Post by Erin Yun as she shares five classics reimagined as middle grade novels.

Also, in her latest blog, Erin opened up on why she wrote this Korean American story for kids and how the recent #AAPI conversation about the lack of diverse Asian voices mirrors her own experience as a young reader. Read the blog here.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: At Pippa Park.com, there are so many wonderful resources to help use this book in classrooms!

The Tween Book Club Activity Kit includes the discussion questions below, word games, writing prompts, language arts guide, virtual author visit program, and an escape room activity! (The Common Core Language Arts Guide, Escape Room Activity, and Author Program Worksheet can also be downloaded separately.)

Erin Yun is also available for author events!

Discussion Questions: 

From the back matter (some aspects of the questions removed because of spoilers)

  • Pippa isn’t an orphan, but at times she feels like one. Describe Pippa’s relationship with Mina, her older sister. Why is Mina so tough on Pippa? Discuss whether Mina resents taking care of Pippa. How is Jung-Hwa, Mina’s husband, a father figure to Pippa? How does he make Pippa feel better after she has a fight with Mina?
  • What is the definition of family? Explain why Pippa’s mother had to return to Korea. How are Mina and Jung-Hwa realizing the American Dream? Discuss how Pippa’s family situation is similar to that of new American’s throughout our nation. How are many of them separated from their loved ones? Discuss why it’s important to celebrate all types of families.
  • Pippa says, “At Lakeview I could be anyone, as long as they didn’t find out the truth about me.” What doesn’t she want the kids at Lakeview to know about her? What does she do to keep her home life private? What does Pippa think would happen if the girls found out the truth about her?
  • How does trying to fit in cause Pippa Pippa to lose her sense of self? Why is she ashamed of her family and the way they live?
  • Pippa’s best friend at Victoria Middle School is Buddy Johnson. Think about how she betrays him.
  • Why does Pippa think that Eliot’s life is more messed up than hers? How does knowing about his family make her better understand Eliot?
  • Olive Giordana is the student ambassador that shows Pippa around the school. How does Olive’s desire to be popular affect her judgement?
  • Discuss what Jung-Hwa means when he says, “The lower you fall, the more room you have to rise.” What is Pippa’s lowest point? How do you know that she is about to rise? Have you ever felt that way?
  • Pippa’s family celebrates Chuseok: Korean Thanksgiving Day. Learn more about the traditions associated with this holiday on the Internet. Describe and discuss the holiday and the food that is prepared. What cultural holidays does your family celebrate? Is there anything special that you eat?
  • Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a contemporary reimagining of Great Expectations. Use books or the Internet to find out about the main characters in Great Expectations. What is each character’s counterpart in Pippa Park Raises Her Game? List the characters side by side and as a group apply two or three adjectives that best describe each of them.
  • Think about all that has happened to Pippa. Then consider the following quote from Great Expectations: “And it was not until I began to think, that I began fully to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces.” What is the metaphorical ship that Pippa sails? at what point does Pippa realized “how wrecked” her life is? How does she turn her life around once she begins “thinking”?
  • If you were to pick on character from Pippa Park Raises Her Game who is most like you, who would it be and why? Who is most unlike you and why? Which character from the book would you want as your friend and why?

Flagged Passages: “Chapter One: The Strange Encounter

I was the only person in the park.

Tucking a damp strand of hair back behind one ear, I surveyed the abandoned slides and empty benches. It was just past six p.m. on a Friday, but it looked like nobody else wanted to be out in the rain. As I strode briskly forward, icy wind numbed the tips of my fingers, making me clutch my basketball tighter. Even though we hadn’t officially left summer behind, the cold front that had settle over Victoria, Massachusetts, did show any signs of leaving.

So … empty court. Lousy weather. And things at home were just as dismal.

My older sister, Mina, had just grilled me for nearly an hour after finding out about the ‘unacceptable’ grade I had received on my latest algebra quiz. When she finally finished, I stormed out of the apartment, making sure to grab my basketball and water bottle; I planned on being gone awhile. Now I kind of wish I had taken a warmer jacket, too. Or at least a hat. But rain or shine, I wasn’t ready to go home yet.”

Read This If You Love: Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit; Bouncing Back by Scott Ostler; Kiki and Jacque by Susan Ross; It Doesn’t Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich; Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

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**Thank you to Dienesa at Fabled Films for providing a copy for review!!**

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