June 22, 2017

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13 Must-Read Titles for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Covering a wide array of genres and time periods, the following YA and middle grade, fiction and nonfiction titles are perfect for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month displays and booklists—in fact, they’re excellent picks all year-round. Two collected works (Ellen Oh’s Flying Lessons & Other Stories and Kelly Jensen’s Here We Are: 44 Voices Write, Draw, and Speak About Feminism for the Real World) feature pieces by such stellar talents as Grace Lin and Wendy Xu.

FICTION

GOO, Maurene. I Believe in a Thing Called Love. 336p. Farrar. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374304041.
Gr 7 Up–While she is an overachiever in the realm of academics and extracurricular activities, Desi Lee is socially awkward when it comes to romance. She has perfect SAT scores and is possibly Stanford-bound. Yet when boys are involved, Desi is an accident-prone wreck. She lives with her dad, who loves Korean dramas. Both are still struggling with the loss of Desi’s mother years earlier. When an embarrassing incident involving a crush occurs, a miserable Desi hunkers down and spends a weekend binge-watching Korean dramas. The teen comes up with a 24-step plan to snag a boyfriend, which is based on the formula of success for every K-drama television show. Desi has her heart set on the new kid in school, Luca, and puts her scheme into motion. This book extends beyond a typical romance story, as it also deals with parent/teen relationships, grief, and the stress of college admission. VERDICT A humorous romantic comedy with a Korean drama twist that should be on all YA romance shelves. Purchase where Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han are popular.–Vivian Ho, Port Washington Public Library, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue.

KARIM, Sheba. That Thing We Call a Heart. 288p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062445704.
Gr 9 Up–The summer before college is a fraught one for Shabnam. Although she and Farah were once practically sisters, there’s a distance between them now that Farah has chosen to wear hijab. Shabnam feels uncomfortable with the attention her friend’s decision often attracts. Meanwhile, Shabnam falls hard for Jamie, navigates her relationship with her family, and, under her father’s guidance, discovers the beauty of Urdu poetry. The story line is slight and the romantic plot predictable, but what sets this funny, dialogue-heavy read apart is its nuanced examination of identity. Beneath Shabnam’s snide commentary about herself, her Pakistani and Muslim heritage, and her family lies genuine insecurity, which Karim teases out deftly. The protagonist’s careless actions and blunt, sarcastic voice may put off some readers (for instance, she describes her great-uncle as being “a turban away from scary mullah”), but she is a relatable adolescent who is willing to grow and who eventually comes to gain a fuller appreciation of her culture. Many secondary characters are also well written. Karim has crafted a complex portrait of a young Muslim woman with Farah: though devoted to her religion, she is an outspoken feminist who smokes marijuana and attends punk rock concerts. Jamie, however, feels like more of a plot device than a well-developed character. Sexual situations, drug use, and profanity make this title appropriate for older audiences. VERDICT Fans of Sara Zarr and Jenny Han and readers of realistic fiction will enjoy this thoughtful, witty offering.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

MG-SL-Kelly-HelloUniverseredstarKELLY, Erin Entrada. Hello, Universe. illus. by Isabel Roxas. 320p. ­HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062414151.

Gr 3-7–The universe comes together unexpectedly when a unique set of circumstances cause four tweens to cross paths. Central to the story is Virgil, an 11-year-old Filipino American whose grandmother, Lola, helps him to come out of his shell and face the world. When Virgil and his pet guinea pig, Gulliver, end up trapped in a well in the woods at the hands of a bully, Chet, it is up to the stars to align before it’s too late. Coming together like spokes on a wheel, everyone converges in the woods—Valencia, a Deaf girl on whom Virgil has a crush; Kaori, an adolescent fortune-teller and free spirit; Kaori’s sister, Gen, her jump-roping apprentice; a feral dog Valencia has befriended; and a snake, which is the only thing Chet fears. Unlikely friendships are formed and heroism abounds as the group of young people try to find their way in the world. Plucky protagonists and a deftly woven story will appeal to anyone who has ever felt a bit lost in the universe. VERDICT Readers across the board will flock to this book that has something for nearly everyone—humor, bullying, self-acceptance, cross-generational relationships, and a smartly fateful ending.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue.

MG-Khan-AminasVoiceredstarKHAN, Hena. Amina’s Voice. 208p. S. & S./Salaam Reads. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481492065.

Gr 4-6–A satisfying read about an 11-year-old girl navigating friendship, family, religion, and dreams of becoming a soul-singing sensation. In a quiet Milwaukee suburb, Amina and her best friend Soojin grapple with their own ethnic identities and the pressure to Americanize. Soojin is Korean American and on the pathway to citizenship. She’s contemplating changing her name to solidify her American identity, while Amina, who is Pakistani American, must reconcile her love of singing Motown with her Muslim faith. Popular Emily, a white girl, who has a history of bullying, creates a wedge when she tries to befriend the pair, drawing skepticism from Amina. Things begin to unravel when Amina’s uncle comes to visit from Pakistan and her deficiencies in Urdu and Arabic are exposed—along with the fact that Amina and her older brother, Mustafa, aren’t necessarily the perfect children her father would like them to be. When the neighborhood mosque is vandalized, the greater community comes together. Amina’s struggles to balance her faith, friendship, and aspirations are all resolved—albeit a bit too neatly. VERDICT A universal story of self-acceptance and the acceptance of others. A welcome addition to any middle grade collection.–Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Wesley Chapel, FL

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

MENON, Sandhya. When Dimple Met Rishi. 384p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481478687. POP

Gr 7 Up –Dimple is a headstrong girl who is passionate about coding and web development much to the chagrin of her parents, who wish she would focus more on her appearance and attracting a husband. Basking in her acceptance to Stanford, Dimple is surprised when her parents agree to let her attend a six-week “Insomnia Con” in San Francisco. Not long into her convention, Dimple discovers why her parents were so willing to let her go. She has been set up to meet a potential husband—the very traditional yet charming Rishi. The plot is moderately paced as the romance between the pair flops, then flourishes. The characters are refreshing, even if familiar. Rishi has a hidden love of comics, Dimple is a feminist who secretly yearns to please her parents, and the “Aberzombies” are the superficial prep school kids who get their jollies by making Dimple and Rishi feel like outsiders. The strength of the story comes from its blending of Indian culture and values into a modern-day romance that scores of readers can enjoy. This novel touches on issues of identity while remaining light and fun. VERDICT A strong choice for any young adult collection.–Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Wesley Chapel, FL

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

flying-lessonsredstarOH, Ellen, ed. Flying Lessons & Other Stories. 240p. Crown. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101934593.

Gr 4-6–This anthology, published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, presents 10 short stories from a stellar list of authors: Kwame Alexander, Matt de la Peña, Jacqueline Woodson, Soman Chainani, Grace Lin, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Federle, Meg Medina, Tim Tingle, and Kelly Baptist. De la Peña’s linguistically grooving basketball story will have readers swaying in their seats. Verbal roadblocks are hurled at the protagonist from the street-smart players inside the gym: he’s too young, too skinny, too Mexican. His resolve yields multiple life lessons on and off the court. Woodson’s haunting “Main Street” follows Celeste, the only girl of color in an all-white New Hampshire town, and her friendship with lifetime resident Treetop. Both are suffering from different losses: Treetop’s mother has recently passed away, and Celeste isn’t accepted in her new home. Their warm connection soothes their mutual pain and promises to last even after Celeste and her mother decide to return to familiar and welcoming New York. Each tale offers realistic and fully developed characters with whom a wide range of readers will identify. VERDICT Inclusive, authentic, and eminently readable, this collection of short stories is an excellent addition for libraries and classrooms.–Diane McCabe, John Muir Elementary, Santa Monica, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal November 2016 issue.

redstarROSENBERG, Madelyn & Wendy Wan-Long Shang. This Is Just a Test. 256p. Scholastic. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338037722.
Gr 4-8–It’s 1983, and David’s got worries: his impending bar mitzvah, his constantly competing Chinese and Jewish grandmothers, the cute girl who makes him nervous, and his popular new friend, who dislikes David’s longtime best friend—plus, it’s the height of the Cold War, and nuclear annihilation could hit at any second. David’s lightly anxious tone; the progressively funny handful of short, dialogue-based scenes per chapter; the realistically kooky family members; and the 1980s middle-class suburban setting are so strongly reminiscent of Judy Blume’s “Fudge” books that a well-versed reader might accidentally refer to the protagonist as “Peter.” The authors cram in a lot of 1980s references (David Hasselhoff, Betamax). It’s refreshing to meet a male protagonist who, like Tara in Paula Freedman’s My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, is struggling with how to be authentically Jewish in a bicultural family. VERDICT Giggle-inducing, light, and charmingly realistic fiction that will resonate with a wide variety of readers.–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

STAR-YA-Wang-TheTakedownredstarWANG, Corrie. The Takedown. 384p. Freeform. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484757420.

Gr 9 Up –The near future in this novel is just close enough to feel incredibly eerie. Wang’s characters are plugged in to a degree that will leave some readers exhilarated and others delightfully spooked. Kyla Cheng and her three best friends are uber-popular girls who constantly use their Docs (next-next-next-gen iPhones) for absolutely everything. Sounds familiar, but the reach of this version of social networking is far greater than anything readers will have experienced, having become not only unavoidable but also unavoidably public. Kyla becomes the victim of an elaborate game of revenge when a cyberbully circulates a fabricated sex video of Kyla and everyone’s favorite young teacher. Using technology not available to the general public, the cyberbully leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that the video is real. Desperate to reclaim her reputation as a community activist, Ivy League–bound student, and future presidential candidate, Kyla, along with her loyal boyfriend, Mackenzie Rodriguez, teams up with friendly hackers to take down the video and her cyberbully. While the tech details may, at times, disrupt the flow of the plot for some teens, Wang has managed to write an exciting, prescient story that brings to mind the unlikely combination of M.T. Anderson’s Feed, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, and Sara Shepard’s “Pretty Little Liars” series, with a little of Libba Bray’s “Gemma Doyle” trilogy and the cult classic film Heathers thrown in the mix. VERDICT Highly recommended for all YA collections.–Nora G. Murphy, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2017 issue.

NONFICTION

STAR-NF-Atkins-FredKorematsuSpeaksUpredstarATKINS, Laura & Stan Yogi. Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. illus. by Yutaka Houlette. 112p. (Fighting for Justice). bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. Heyday. Jan. 2017. Tr $18. ISBN 9781597143684.

Gr 4-8–A compelling blend of free verse, expository text, and artwork illuminates the life and times of Japanese American activist Fred Korematsu. Growing up in Oakland, the child of Japanese immigrants, Korematsu was a typical American kid, joining the Boy Scouts and dancing to big band music. Following Pearl Harbor, he refused to enter the internment camps, instead pretending to be Spanish Hawaiian. His eventual discovery resulted in imprisonment; censure from his family and fellow internees, who feared his noncooperation would make life harder for everyone; and a partnership with an ACLU lawyer. In 1944 the U.S. Supreme Court decided against him, deeming internment justified on grounds of national security. Korematsu lived quietly until the early 1980s, when his case was reopened due to evidence of government misconduct. This time he prevailed, paving the way for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Korematsu dedicated the rest of his life to advocating for social justice. This inspirational work hooks readers through a variety of formats, including dramatic illustrations and direct questions (“Have you ever been an ally to someone who needed help?”). Primary source documents vividly bring the period to life, while time lines and descriptions of contemporary struggles for equality by Chinese, Mexican, and African Americans, among others, offer meaningful context. An endnote provides suggestions for young people who wish to take action against injustice as well as a poignant statement from Korematsu’s daughter. VERDICT An invaluable profile of a civil rights hero whose story deserves greater attention. Middle schoolers will take to the superb writing and original format.–Laura Simeon, Open Window School Library, Bellevue, WA

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2017 issue.

GONZALES, Andrea & Sophie Houser. Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done. 272p. appendix. photos. HarperCollins. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062472502. POP

Gr 8 Up–The authors, two extremely talented teenagers who met at a summer learning program called Girls Who Code, were tired of seeing young men receive most of the encouragement to pursue STEM jobs. They were also done with men driving conversations about women’s bodies. Gonzales and Houser decided to do something about it. The empowering video game they created, Tampon Run, quickly went viral and ultimately changed their lives forever. This book aims to provide students with the inside scoop on coding and what life is like for women in STEM industries. Through alternating chapters, readers discover a bit about each author’s background and how she came to attend Girls Who Code. The inspiration and reason behind their magnum opus are also explored. Gonzales’s and Houser’s writing styles are conversational and work well to dispel the aura of inaccessibility that often surrounds works on technology. (Houser talks at length about her social anxiety, and Gonzales discusses the pressures she felt as a child of two Filipino immigrants.) Curious teens will enjoy a section at the end on getting started in coding. Gonzales and Houser never make their story sound easy, but they do show readers that success in STEM fields is more than possible for women. VERDICT Inspiring and hopeful; a great addition to libraries with novice and expert coders alike.–Elaine Baran Black, Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue.

INZER, Christine Mari. Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes. illus. by Christine Mari Inzer. 128p. photos. Tuttle. Sept. 2016. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9784805313961. POP

Gr 7 Up–Born in Tokyo in 1997, Inzer grew up there until her family moved to the United States in 2003. While the book refers to her as a “Tokyo teen,” she in fact has revisited different neighborhoods and provinces and shares accounts from urban and rural locations. This offering will attract a wide range of Japanophiles, both for the humorous stories and her charming and colorful drawings. This is a visually engaging selection, and photographs from Inzer’s visits help to ground this narrative in reality. Readers will appreciate the amusing tales about unfamiliar foods, far-out fashion, and intriguing traditions and will enjoy reading something by a teen author. One minor drawback is the title—while it has lots of teen appeal, it’s not entirely accurate, because Inzer’s experiences take place all over Japan. This work is a newer version of Halfway Home: Drawing My Way Through Japan, which featured a more accurate title. The main difference between the two versions is that this one has additional illustrations and is also in color. VERDICT A sweet and funny book that will entice those with an interest in Japan, as well as fans of Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2016 issue.

here-we-areredstarJENSEN, Kelly, ed. Here We Are: 44 Voices Write, Draw, and Speak About Feminism for the Real World. illus. by Laura Palese. 240p. further reading. illus. photos. websites. Algonquin. Jan. 2017. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781616205867.

Gr 7 Up –The ever-evolving concept of feminism is approached through a variety of mediums, from essays and drawings to comics and poems, in this fantastic collected work. In six chapters, more than 40 contributors explore how necessary feminism is for both women and men, whether they engage with it personally, socially, or politically. A broad but always inclusive experience of feminism is conveyed. In a reproduced interview with Tricia Romano for DAME magazine, Laverne Cox emphasizes that trans issues are feminist issues. Liz Prince’s comic So I Guess This Is Growing Up reveals how she exhibited misogynistic behavior toward other women when she was younger. Interspersed throughout the chapters are lists (“Top Ten Black Female Friendships,” “Great Female Scientists”) and sections titled “FAQs About Feminism.” Bold, patterned borders surround the essays, with doodles and collage-style illustrations by Palese scattered throughout. There are also a number of examples of original artwork (for instance, Tyler Feder’s “Intersectional Rosie the Riveter”). This eclectic assembly will educate, inspire, and prompt further exploration. VERDICT There is something here for everyone. This celebratory examination of feminism is a much-needed addition to teen collections.–Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue.

redstarMARTIN, Jacqueline Briggs & June Jo Lee. Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix. illus. by Man One. 32p. bibliog. further reading. photos. websites. Readers to Eaters. May 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780983661597.

NF-Martin-ChefRoyChoiandtheStreetFoodRemixGr 1-5–Spicy, sweet, colorful, tangy—all the words that authors Martin and Lee use to describe Roy Choi’s Korean Mexican cuisine apply just as accurately to the book they’ve created along with L.A. street artist Man One. Choi’s parents came to the United States from Korea when he was two years old, opening a family restaurant in Los Angeles. After stints as an aimless street kid and a cooking school–trained chef, he combined his local knowledge, Korean heritage, and chef skills to open a taco truck, serving Korean barbecued short ribs wrapped in corn tortillas and loaded with Roy’s “awesome sauce.” One truck turned into many, which led to his first stationary restaurant, Locol, in the Watts neighborhood of L.A. Choi’s dedication to bringing wholesome, flavorful fast food to low-income neighborhoods is reflected in every word and stroke of this colorful book. The jaunty text has the rhythm of a griot’s story (“What? Chefs cook in kitchens, not on trucks!”) without sacrificing readability. Graffiti tags and airbrushed landscapes are the background for energetically warped cartoon illustrations. Lots of diagonals and brilliant colors capture the speed and flavor of street food served hot. One particularly effective sequence juxtaposes Choi in his chef’s whites garnishing a plate of lamb chops with Choi, wearing headphones and a backward baseball cap, scratching a record while mixing up “awesome sauce” on the following page. In both spreads, the focus is on his skilled hands, the concentration evident on his face. If you’re not hungry already, this savory array of sizzling words and art will make your mouth water. VERDICT This excellent picture book biography about an inventive chef doing good belongs on all shelves.–Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

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Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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Comments

  1. M Young says:

    Thank you for this list! These look good, and I plan to buy several of them for my library.

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