Harmony Music Camp is a big deal. You have to apply and be accepted for camp, and each week you audition for your seat in the band.
This is Andi’s first year at camp, and it kind of feels like her aunt and uncle are trying to get rid of her for the summer. Her mother died ten months ago and she hasn’t been able to adjust to life with her aunt and uncle or enjoy the things she used to, like playing the trumpet.
Zora has been going for many years and has many friends, but because she and Andi are black, people seem to think they should be best friends. And at first, they are definitely not. Andi wears all black and mostly keeps to herself. Zora is bubbly and colorful and friends with everyone. But behind it all, Zora feels all this anxiety to be the best and make her parents happy. And as Andi and Zora get to know one another, they grow closer. Each helps the other be truer to herself and happier.
If you couldn’t already tell, this book deals with some difficult subjects: death of a parent and anxiety among them, but also self-harm. However, this is also the story of first love and a first kiss.
Do you believe in aliens? The new girl, Jennifer, does, but Mallory knows admitting that would make Jennifer an outcast. Mallory decides to help Jennifer to fit in, but when Jennifer goes missing, she has to admit that maybe her “help” was actually bullying.
Mallory wants to find Jennifer, so she looks for clues in Jennifer’s journals, and asks her former friends to help. As they search, weird things start happening; things that could be connected to Jennifer’s disappearance, or even aliens. Will Mallory risk her popularity and current friendships to find Jennifer?
This story is told by Mallory, who goes back and forth from talking about what happened before and after Jennifer’s disappearance. She can be an unreliable narrator, especially when she tries to convince herself and others that she didn’t do anything wrong. Reading a story from the perspective of the bully was new and interesting to me. This was an interesting and realistic mystery, with the best kind of mischief (to help find the truth). The author writes at the end of the book about her own experience being bullied as a child, and I really, really appreciated that. This story was exciting, sad, even funny sometimes, and I recommend it to fans of mysteries and books like Wonder and Restart.
Ophelia, or Ophie, wakes up one night to her father telling her she needs to get out of the house. Moments later, some men from town come and set it on fire. It is only later that Ophie discovers her father was killed the night before, and that his ghost came to give her the message. She and her mother flee Georgia for Pittsburgh, where they must live with Ophie’s sweet great aunt, but also her horrible aunt and cousins. Seriously, they are really unpleasant! Ophie’s mother gets a job as a maid in a very rich family’s home, and soon Ophie must come to work there as well. All the while, she keeps seeing ghosts, and what’s more, the ghosts know she can see them. They start to ask her for things, things they need said or done so they can pass on. Ophie stumbles across a mystery at her job, and her curiosity and desire to help cause her to put herself in danger, all in the name of solving the mystery and helping one very charming ghost.
This book takes place in the 1920s, and Ophelia’s family is black. Her father is killed because he tried to vote. Even though black men got the right to vote in 1870, it was basically impossible in the South at that time. And even though Ophie and her mom come to the north, they still experience a lot of racism and bad treatment. The story is a hard and sad one, but also very exciting, and by the end, I was so proud of Ophie for her bravery and compassion. If you like your ghost stories with some historical facts sprinkled in, pick up Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland. I listened to the book, which was wonderful, so if you like audiobooks, give it a listen.
In a couple of hours, life on earth will end. It is the year 2061 and a comet is heading towards earth. Only a few hundred scientists, politicians, and their children are escaping. Petra Peña and her family are some of the lucky ones who will be put into a sort of sleep paralysis, and wake up 380 years later on a new planet to start over. Everyone believes it is a chance to make the world a better place. When they arrive, it is nothing like what Petra expected. She will have to use her skills as a storyteller, passed down by her abuelita (grandma) who she calls Lita, to reverse the damage that has been caused. This thrilling dystopian story looks at the power of stories, and the beauty that comes from our differences. It is exciting, scary, sad, hopeful, and a book I absolutely loved reading! This may be a science fiction story, but readers of all types should give it a try. This book also won a Newberry Medal and the Pura Belpre Award, meaning librarians think it’s pretty special.
Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera
J B BROOKS, G.
Discover the life and legacy of this famous Chicagoan in a biography that is beautiful to read and look at.
Gwendolyn Brooks grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a family that didn’t have much money, but was rich in love and books. Hearing her father read poems made her want to write her own poetry, and her parents truly believed in her dream to become a great poet. Her first poems were published when she was only 11, but writing poetry didn’t help her make friends or pay bills once she became an adult. But still she wrote and wrote, and before long, she won the greatest prize in poetry, the Pulitzer Prize! Her poems were about her life on the South Side of Chicago, and about the inequalities she and her neighbors faced because they were Black.
I loved learning about Gwendolyn’s life in this quick, award winning read with gorgeous illustrations. I bet you will too!