The Sea in Winter

Author: Christine Day

Publisher: Heartdrum

Release: January 5/21

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

I requested this eARC because I enjoyed the author’s first book, I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE, and the cover on this book totally sucked me in. I’m so glad I did, because this is a book I’ll be recommending for several reasons. It’s also from a new publisher, Heartdrum, that’s focus is Native creators and their stories. I’m excited to read other releases from them, including an anthology entitled ANCESTOR APPROVED which comes out in Feb, 2021.

All Maisie wants to do is recover from her ACL injury, and get back to dancing. She has dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer, and auditions are already taking place for summer intensives. But although she’s making strides, the injury is taking time to heal, and she’s frustrated, feeling alienated from the world that she feels is like a second home. Her mom and step-dad want to help her, but she has so many feelings inside that she starts directing them at the people she loves. A family hiking trip leads to emotions coming to a boil, just when Maisie is going to need her family the most.

I loved this story, partly because Maisie’s passion was so palpable, but also because the frustration, impatience, and longing to return to something she loved is so relatable. Many young athletes will face a setback at some point in their lives, and learning how to deal with the realities of it and looking outside the narrow path one has chosen is a valuable learning experience. I also really loved her relationship with her family, and how supportive her mom and step-dad try to be. There is a lot of love in this family, clearly visible even through the hurt and anger. I also really enjoyed Maisie connecting to her family heritage. Her mom is Makah, her father was Piscataway, and her step-dad, Jack, is from the Elwha Klallam Tribe. Jack knows a great deal about the Pacific Northwest history, and through his stories, and the stories of her mom during their hiking trip to her area where she grew up, there is a lot of valuable Native history taught through this story.

I will definitely be adding this book to my collection in the new year, and look forward to reading more from this author.

Recommended: Gr. 5-8

Hockey Night in Kenya

Authors: Danson Mutinda and Eric Walters

Illustrated by Claudia Dávila

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to Eric Walters for sending me an eARC of this story.

This is a story I will definitely be adding to my collection. It’s a chapter book set in Kenya where two boys, Kitoo and Nigosi, share with the reader what life looks like for them in their orphanage. Kitoo loves books and reading, Nigosi loves soccer and learning to fix trucks. Kitoo learns about hockey from a book about sports around the world, and dreams of playing some day. When he comes across a pair of broken and discarded roller blades, and some players offer to share spare parts, Nigosi helps fix up a pair of skates so Kitoo can learn how to play. One thing leads to another, and Kitoo’s dream of learning to play ice hockey may be closer than he thinks.

There are too few realistic chapter books with Black male protagonists, and I really loved that this book took a sport that many Canadian children take for granted, and shows readers a new perspective of it. Danson Mutinda, one of the authors of this books, grew up in Kenya, and I cannot think of another ownvoices chapter book that’s available to Canadian readers that would show them a world so different from their own. I also love how supportive Kitoo and Nigosi are of each other; though they have different interests, they respect and acknowledge what’s important to the other person.

This is a must add to school and public libraries in Canada, but I think it’s relatable enough that I’d love to see it find an audience beyond that our borders.

RECOMMENDED: Gr. 2-5

The Puck Drops Here

Author: Kevin Sylvester

Publisher: Scholastics Canada

Release: September 1/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Can I first tell you how much I love this author as a person? I’ve been so glad to connect with him on social media, not only because he’s a Canadian author, but because he’s just a really great guy. I met him for the first time at nErDCampMI in 2019, and his welcoming and outgoing nature definitely helped calm my nerves. I’ve also had the pleasure of having him visit our library, along with Richard Scrimger, and he is an AMAZING presenter. If you ever have the opportunity to see him speaking to kids, or are looking for a great Zoom author visit, I highly recommend him.

I was anxiously awaiting the release of this book because my patrons LOVE hockey stories. I think it will have huge appeal with young readers because it’s not only about a group of six friends who love to play hockey, but also an evil genius, some mutant squids who form an opposing team, and a magical blue light that gives everyone some unexpected skills on the ice. It’s funny, entertaining, and also focuses on the importance of teamwork.

This is the first book in the series, and the second one comes out in November 2020. I would call it a lower MG book, and a great one for transitioning between chapter books and middle grade. The story moves along quickly, and there are illustrations throughout to break up the text that I really enjoyed. I’d recommend this book to kids who like sports book, but also ones who enjoy humor.

There are many elements of it that remind me of Mucus Mayhem by the author, so if you enjoyed it, be sure to try some of his other middle grade fiction, too. My favorite writing by him is the MiNRS trilogy which is a science fiction series about some kids who must learn to survive on the planet Perses after an attack leaves them as sole survivors on the run.

Recommended: Gr. 3-6

Turning Point

Author: Paula Chase

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 15/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book to review.

I absolutely love this author’s writing, so I was delighted to get a chance to read this September release ahead of time. TURNING POINT is a stand alone story, but focuses on characters from The Cove we know from SO DONE and DOUGH BOYS. This story is told from the dual perspectives of Mo and Sheeda, and their very different summers apart from each other. Mo attends a with a three week ballet intensive with Mila out of town, and is thrust into a dance world that shakes her confidence. Sheeda is left behind and stuck going to church, while exploring her feelings for Lennie that don’t fit with her aunt’s expectations of her. Both girls grapple with who they are when outside pressures build and force them to deal independently.

I love how the author writes her characters, and how fleshed out and real they feel. I love the dual perspectives because the story feels rich and complex, and there’s so much for readers to take in. The girls deal with issues common to many young teens, and yet being Black adds extra layers and nuances to their experiences. I would love to see even more kids finding these books and enjoying them as I have.

Recommended: Gr. 6-8

Shelly Struggles to Shine

Author: Kit Rosewater

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

This is the second book in The Derby Daredevils series, and it’s written from Shelly’s perspective.

While everyone on the team seems to have a specialty, Shelley doesn’t feel like she’s the best at anything. She’s good at lots of things, but she wants to stand out at something important to her team. She decides to design some additions to their derby gear to help her teammates excel at their special skills, but when her plan backfires, Shelly wonders if she really matters to this team at all. Shelly struggles with her self-esteem until an unexpected disaster turns into an opportunity for her to see where she excels, too.

This author has a special knack of writing books that are written at an ideal level for lower middle grade readers. She explores many of issues they face, such as self-esteem, friendships, and developing their sense of self, while at the same time entertaining with the very cool derby focus.

I would definitely recommend this series for classroom and public libraries, and would put it in the hands of readers who like sports, creative expression, and characters who are exploring who they are.

Recommended: Gr. 4-6