Summary: Gabrielle is a 10-year-old girl who suddenly must make a quick shift in life. She not only experiences the newness of living without her parents, but she will also explore what seems like a whole new world. The leap from Haiti to Brooklyn, New York includes moving with relatives she is unfamiliar with and learning how she fits in or not. Along the way she encounters unusual friendships and the pit of bullying. She is also met with a chance to make three wishes. What will they be? Will she overcome the frustration of her newfound home, or will she give in to things that are not good for her?
Strengths: The story plot is a wonderful way to infuse two cultures that experiences many of the same obstacles.
Weaknesses: There are no weaknesses and although it supports cultural relevance parents might stray when they hear that the good vs bad in the story is portrayed through the voice of a witch.
Thoughts: This story is a perfect example of how the transition to an unfamiliar environment can be troublesome. The key to overcoming such obstacles is to stay true to oneself and to remember what is important in life even at a youthful age.
Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson
Summary: This story is about Homer, a twelve-year-old boy who bravely takes on the responsibility of escaping slavery with his little sister. His strong-willed personality seems timid until he finds a level of comfort in his newfound maroon community. He is in awe with the way that the community has created a new world for themselves within the greater distance of surrounding plantations. The relationships, methods of survival and new way of living is captivating. Throughout his journey to the newly found freedom, he knows that he will have to return to check in on his mother. In the quest, to check on her he confirms that the life that he once lived is no longer one that is familiar or desired. Will Homer decide that his priority is to be committed to serving his new community? Will he embrace “Freewater” as his own?
Strengths: This story is fascinating and gives insight on the maroon community. It is a revelation and exposes another perspective on how people lived in the escape to freedom.
Weaknesses: You will have to do a little research to understand the basis of maroon communities. This story is doable for students who are established readers; however, it may be challenging for those who are emerging and strategic.
Thoughts: Do not let the cover or length fool you! This is a beautifully written story with characters that are adventurous, sacred, and courageous.
Summary: The sounds of melodic music in Tyron, North Carolina was a gift identified at an early age for Eunice Kathleen Waymon. Growing up in a home where her father was a jazz musician and mother a church minister made the crossroad of life somewhat challenging for Eunice who later changed her name to “Nina Simone”. Nina attended Julliard School of Music in New York City which created opportunities to showcase her talent in the bustling times of the “Harlem Renaissance”. As a pianist she inherited the great ability from her father and later as a vocalist she became strong on demand in the night club. Nina experiences several upsetting moments throughout her journey which include segregation, discrimination, and sexism. She was known for her aggressive activism during the civil rights movement which played out in her music.
Strengths: This story is well written. The illustrations are beautiful and speak volume.
Weaknesses: The details of this story that have been included are plentiful, however parts of her life are excluded specifically her battle with mental health. Also, there is very little information about her personal life such as marital status, motherhood, and relationships.
Thoughts: This is a colorful biography for intermediate and middle grade students. There was room for “more” regarding the history of Nina Simone however the collaboration between the author and illustrator makes this biography stellar.