Book review: Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors get Real about Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America, edited by Amy Reed

Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors get Real about Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America. Ed. by Amy Reed. Simon Pulse, 2018. $18.99. 288p. ISBN 978-1-5344-0899-9. Ages 13+. P7Q8

The non-fiction narratives from these women across the generations—many of them members of ethnic and sexual minorities—related their struggles to survive in a hostile environment, sometimes both within their own homes and within the communities where they lived when they were young. Each one ends with explanations of their survival processes and encouragement for their readers to move forward and fight back against oppression. Because, or perhaps in addition to, their minority status, many also discussed the devastation of the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president and how his position has changed their cultures for the worse. One of the most outstanding statements comes from Aisha Saeed, bullied and persecuted while she was growing up as a Muslim. Her mother-in-law taught her “that I am not defined by what others think of me.” As Saeed pointed out, the lesson is not a panacea against pain but it allows her to move on.

Verdict: Powerful and heartfelt yet diverse, these intersectional essays from authors of books that speak to young people give insight into the ways that youth can change the world. Recommended.

March 2019 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: The Weaver, by Qian Si

Shi, Qian. The Weaver. Andersen Press/Lerner, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5415-1454-6. Ages 4-8. P9Q9

The adventures of a good-natured spider named Stanley begins with the wind dropping him off in a place where he can begin collecting tiny objects and weave his web. The rain’s destruction of his elaborate creation does not deter Stanley’s determination: he simply starts all over after a short time of mourning. Shi’s depiction of Stanley as a fuzzy black ball with big eyes and stick legs manages a grand sense of motion, and his colorful friends—frog, lady bug, butterfly, caterpillar, and bees—add to the view of Stanley’s life.

Verdict: Stanley’s experience of losing everything and bravely starting over again sends a valuable message to young—and not to young—readers about the importance of moving on from difficulties, and the charming artwork is memorable. An excellent debut picture book.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Breaking News, by Sarah Lynne Reul

Reul, Sarah Lynne. The Breaking News. Roaring Brook, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-250-15356-2. Ages 5-7. P8Q8

Sudden and overwhelmingly bad news negatively affects two children while they are planting seeds with their parents at the kitchen table. The parents become so preoccupied with the disaster that they ignore the children, and the older child, a girl, cannot cheer up her parents. She keeps trying to find one BIG way to make everything better but then decides to start with small things that may make a difference. The book is timely, and the illustrations that go from brightly colored into gray before the girl gets help from her parents to plant flowers in pots that they share with the neighborhood.

Verdict: A superb book about optimism, resilience, and community in a time of crisis as well as a lesson that children are not powerless. Because the terrifying “breaking news” is never defined, the book can be used for many situations. An important book for children and adults in our current time of need.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.