Harris, Meena. Ambitious Girl.(2021). Little Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)
Summary: Hooray for her confidence and poise! This book is about young girl who is determined not to let others tell her who she is or what she can do. She dreams with a clear vision and displays ravishing moments of empowerment that are a benefit from the exposure to strong women. She is determined to accomplish her goals by using her skills and voice to acknowledge her worth.
Overall, she is indeed ambitious from start to finish and proud of it.
Strengths: This book has great illustrations that set the tone for the reader. It has diverse representation that is motivational for all races, class, and gender. She makes strong reference to her community and extended family which paints a portrait of the "Village" often referred to an in old African proverb. The vocabulary exemplifies pertinent self-reflective character traits embedded in rich English Language Arts and Reading curriculum everywhere.
Weaknesses: The character does not have a name, but that is not necessarily a weakness. Readers will remember the main character simply as she is referred to in the title "Ambitious Girl".
Thoughts: This is yet another wonderful book that supports positive self-esteem for young girls of all ages.
Parker Rhodes, Jewell. Black Brother, Black Brother. (2020). Little Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)
Summary: Have you ever wanted to be invisible in your own skin? Donte a 12-year-old tween is not your average black male according to his peers and the staff at Middlefield Prep. Like most siblings he is quite different than his brother Trey. Donte's skin tone is a determining factor of how quickly he becomes the target and how he is treated in school. He is the constant center of attention in every possible thing that goes wrong. However, Donte has a gift. He is spectacular in the sport fencing which ultimately saves him but not without accusations, twists and turns.
Strengths: This book has life lessons that focus on many issues regarding discrimination, and justice. It also highlights accountability for adults and students when examining their actions. The storyline will capture the attention of the reader by the details that are presented about a sport that is less publicized. Did you know you that a fencing match is called a bout? This easy read is full of information and touches such relevant issues on the forefront for youth today.
Weaknesses: This book will leave you wanting more. Readers will want to know what happens in the future for Donte, Trey, and the other characters in the book. The epilogue is detailed but makes you wonder if Donte will continue competing in fencing and how his choices will guide him on his journey.
Thoughts: This is a wonderful way to hook tweens into reading. It is written in manner that prompts thinking, teaches new information and is perfectly paralleled to common issues that occur in the school setting.
Magoon, Kekla. The Season of Styx Malone.(2018). Random House Children's Books
Summary: Styx Malone is a boy trying desperately to find his way. He is new to a small town in Indiana and meets a few friends whose lives are hugely different. Styx has been around the block a few times and stability has not been a fair game in his life. He introduces his new friends to a challenging bout of entrepreneurship that causes tension and questionable moments of honesty and integrity. During a disagreement Styx let’s his anger get the best of him and finds himself in a near tragic accident. Will he survive? What will be next for his life that already seems so complicated? How will the incident impact his friendship?
Strengths: The relationships in this book provides the reader with the opportunity to get a clear sense of each character. Styx is the leader of two siblings Caleb and Bobby Gene who quickly become his friends. It appears Styx wants to be a good friend without any negativity, but his life has been complicated by frequent moves in his 16 years of life. In the end, he learns that his friends and even their parents are genuinely good people.
Weaknesses: Styx keeps his chaotic life a secret, but it creeps out. Although it is not a weakness it would have been nice to know just a little bit more of his background.
Thoughts: This story has several chapters that are relatable for students who experience the challenges presented. It also promotes a sense of hope for those who need placement and permanency.