This quarter I focused on reviewing books with boy main characters and had a lot of fun looking at the world from a male point of view. Below are some reads from my bookshelf:
Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Growing Up by Tommy Greenwald – This is the sixth and final book in a series about a middle school boy who doesn’t like to read and is not afraid to say it. In this installment Charlie Joe is getting ready to graduate from middle school and is hesitant to move forward to the unknown. Reminiscent of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Charlie Joe Jackson’s antics should crack up the reluctant reader and keep them turning the pages.
Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth – Eleven-year-old Jarrett is none too pleased when his mother takes in slightly older, foster kid, Kevon, and his little sister Treasure, in this heartwarming, coming-of-age story set in Newark, NJ. Kevon is taking over Jarrett’s room space and shaking up his social standing at his summer hang out, The Center. When Kevon crosses the line of the “bro code” threatening Jarrett’s budding romance with long-time crush Caprice, Jarrett exposes an embarrassing secret, and both their world’s explode. The book perfectly captures the emotional ups and downs preteen and teen boys go through on their journey to manhood and explores serious issues like sexual identity, mental illness, and fractured family structures, in an engaging way. I’d love to share this story with my kids.
Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan – Books on kids dealing with bullies are popular these days and I really enjoyed this one by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. Alternating chapters in the voice of protagonists Joe and Ravi give their unique views of life in Einstein Elementary, a place where bully Dillon Samreen reigns supreme and being different is definitely not cool. Fresh off the plane from India-Ravi, and learning disabled-Joe bond through their shared experiences of being tortured by Dillon, and show that outside appearances are not always what they seem.
Wing & Claw: Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park – I recently met the Newbery Medal winning author of this book, when she was the keynote speaker a writer’s conference I attended, so it was an extra thrill to read her story about Raffa Santana, a gifted young apothecary, who takes a dangerous journey to save his forest friends. In this first novel of her Wing & Claw fantasy trilogy, Park has created an imaginative world that includes plenty of mystery to keep readers engaged. A bat, a bear, racoons and a menacing owl feature in the book to interest animal lovers. Dark and scary, at times, the book gets you thinking about deep issues like the ethics of animal experimentation and nature preservation, and family bonds and loyalty, while it enthralls with the excitement that builds, page after page. During her conference speech, Park shared that Echo, the bat Raffa heals and befriends in the story, was inspired by Texas Hill Country bats she’s spied. I was also tickled that she had the main character knit a tunic he wore, since Park named knitting as a favorite hobby. Fantasy-loving kids will devour this book and beg for the two others in the set.
Tonya Duncan Ellis is author of the Readers’ Favorite “Five Star” rated Sophie Washington children’s book series, geared toward readers ages 8-12 and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
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