Book Review: Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu

July 18th, 2021 by

Take one part graphic novel, swirl in an immigrant family’s experience, mix in a cooking competition, and sprinkle in some friend drama. What do you have? The recipe for a sweet and satisfying treat — in this case, the book Measuring Up, written by Lily LaMotte and illustrated by Ann Xu!

The book begins in Taiwan, right before 12-year-old Cici and her parents immigrate to the United States. After the move, Cici makes new friends and starts getting used to her new life. But she desperately misses her grandmother (A-má) back in Taiwan. They used to visit the market together every week, and spend lots of time together cooking and chatting. But now all they have are video calls — which are obviously not the same! Fortunately, Cici soon cooks up a plan to bring A-má for a visit: she’ll enter a local kids cooking competition and use the cash prize to buy A-má a plane ticket! But will Cici have the culinary skills to take first place?

As a foodie, I loved the book’s focus on cooking. I especially enjoyed the close-up illustrations of all the mouth-watering dishes created by Cici and the other competitors. For example, check out these sample panels from the book, featuring cookies sprinkled with smoked sea salt:

Yum yum! Be right back, I gotta get a snack…

Okay, I’m back. Just eating a little cookie over here. Anyway…

Despite a feast of food scenes and images, Cici’s journey doesn’t just take place in the kitchen. She’s also dealing with her parents’ expectations, including her dad’s disappointment when her grades begin to slip after she spends so much time working on her recipes that she starts neglecting her schoolwork. Plus, Cici also faces racist remarks from some of her classmates and even the competition judges! Sometimes Cici wonders if her friends see her as too Taiwanese, too different from them.

Will Cici gain the confidence she needs to triumph in the competition and proudly be her full authentic self with her friends, family, and neighbors? I definitely suggest that you read Measuring Up and find out!

What is YOUR favorite food to cook/bake or eat? Leave a comment below!

— Karen

Karen doesn’t really enjoy cooking, but she loves to bake — especially brown sugar blondies. In fact, she has some sitting right here. Hmmm, is it time for another snack? Gotta go, byeeeeeee!

Book Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

June 19th, 2021 by

What are your plans for the summer? Maybe you’re traveling with your family, maybe you’re attending camp, maybe you’re looking forward to hanging out with your friends at the beach or by the pool or in the park… Well, whatever your plans, I bet you WON’T be spending your summer the same way as Tristan Strong: teaming up with gods to fight monsters made out of iron chains. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a fun summer to me either! But in Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, Tristan doesn’t have a choice. That’s because he caused part of the problem…

You see, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky isn’t just a cool title — it also literally describes an event that takes place in the book. One night, Tristan is awakened by a little creature stealing his most prized possession, the journal belonging to his best friend who recently passed away. There’s no way that Tristan is letting that journal go without a fight, and in the process, he accidentally rips a hole between his/our world and another land. 

In this other place, called Alke, the African gods and the heroes of African-American folktales are real — from John Henry to Brer Rabbit to Anansi. And unfortunately, they and all other residents are under constant attack by iron monsters called fetterlings, controlled by an evil spirit (or maybe even two). Now Tristan has made things worse by creating the hole in the sky, so it’s up to him and his new allies to find a solution, or else he’ll never get back home.

As you can tell, this book is full of fantasy, action, and adventure. If you like battle scenes, you’ll definitely find plenty in this book. But there’s also a lot to enjoy even if you don’t consider yourself a huge action fan. There are quieter moments when Tristan reflects on his grief over losing his best friend and starts working through his feelings, with the help of his new friends. And throughout the book, there are many moments when the magic of storytelling takes center stage. Plus, the book is funny! In particular, I think you’ll laugh out loud at the exploits of Gum Baby, a pint-sized “doll” who is absolutely full of energy and self-confidence — and always spoiling for a fight. 

For a taste of Gum Baby’s antics — and the beginnings of Tristan’s adventurecheck out the video below where author Kwame Mbalia reads a short passage from the book and talks about his inspiration for the story:

For more of Tristan and Gum Baby, pick up a copy of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. And once you’re done with that, you can read the sequel, Tristan Strong Destroys The World. The third book in the series, Tristan Strong Keeps Punching, comes out in October 2021.

Which characters from folktales or mythology would YOU like to meet? Which ones do you hope you never have to face? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

— Karen

Karen recently learned about Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett, a heroine from tall tales of the American West. As you can tell from her name, she is feisty and powerful and loud and brave — and Karen would love to meet her and learn more about her incredible feats of courage and strength.

Book Review: When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

May 2nd, 2021 by

When I began this book, my plan was to read just a little bit, and then go to sleep. Can you guess what happened? I finished the whole thing in one sitting and finally went to bed at 1:00 am. Once I started, I just could not stop! Well, I do not recommend staying up so late — but obviously I highly recommend reading When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed.

To be honest, I also knew nothing about the book beforehand. But that didn’t matter, because I was immediately sucked into Omar’s story. The book takes place in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, where Omar lives with his younger brother, Hassan. The two boys were forced to leave their mother and their home in Somalia after the civil war began, and now they live in the camp. Omar spends his days taking care of their tent, doing chores like getting water, and watching over Hassan, who doesn’t speak and sometimes suffers from seizures. But Omar also hangs out with his friends and their community, including their loving foster mother, Fatuma.

Check out a couple sample pages below, from the publisher’s website. These are from the very beginning of the book, and you can see how the illustrations bring you smack dab into the middle of the camp and Omar’s life right away.

See a longer excerpt of the book here

The book takes place over multiple years. During that time Omar, Hassan, and the many others who live at Dadaab all wait to see if they’ll ever have a chance to start their lives again outside of the camp. At first, Omar hopes he’ll be able to return to Somalia, reunite with his mother, and run their family farm. But as the civil war shows no sign of ending, he starts to dream about moving to America. Unfortunately, it feels like his chance will never come.

In the meantime, Omar is given an opportunity to attend school with his friends, which he has never considered before because he has always takes care of Hassan. But now a community leader is encouraging Omar to spend a few hours in school each day while Fatuma watches over Hassan. It’s a hard decision for Omar — and not the last tough choice that he’ll have to make throughout the book.

On that note, I have to warn you all: I cried a lot as I read this book. I do tend to cry easily. Sometimes my eyes get moist at the mere mention of sappy commercials. So yes, I am prone to crying. But Omar’s story — and the experiences of his community at Dadaab — are truly difficult. His life is also full of love and generosity, good friends, caring community leaders, a brother and foster mother he cherishes… But still, there is no denying the hard realities of Omar’s situation. So if you’re like me, you may want to discuss the book with a parent, teacher, librarian, or friend, either afterwards or as you read. Or maybe even read it together!

Have you already read When Stars Are Scattered or any of Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novels? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts! I really enjoyed her other books, but I have to say that this one now tops my list.

— Karen

Reading this book reminded Karen of the “Reading Without Walls” challenge issued a few years ago by author Gene Luen Yang (the National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature at the time). He challenged everyone to get out of their comfort zone and read: 1) a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you, and/or 2) a book about a topic you don’t know much about, and/or 3) a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. For Karen, When Stars Are Scattered fits categories 1 and 2 — and now she’s thinking about what she’ll read for category 3!

More about Karen »

Book Review: Stargazing by Jen Wang

April 17th, 2021 by

In a recent post, I reviewed a book where a new girl arrives in town and becomes fast friends with the main character (The Only Black Girls in Town). Well, today I’m reviewing another book where the same thing happens — this time, in graphic novel form!

In Stargazing by Jen Wang, Moon and her mom move into the apartment attached to Christine’s family’s backyard. The two girls are both Asian-American, but otherwise they seem like complete opposites: Christine is on the quiet side and worries about fitting in, whereas Moon is a boisterous, confident, free spirit. But even so, Moon and Christine become best friends. Soon, they’re hanging out together all the time — until their bond is tested in a couple different ways…

For more details about the story, check out this official book trailer, which also gives a sense of the illustration style:

I also wanted to share a couple of my favorite pages, which feature a vegetarian version of dan dan mian, a delicious Chinese noodle dish that I loved as a kid. Since I stopped eating pork when I was in middle school, a long time went by before I got to enjoy dan dan mian again — until a few years ago when my friend shared a vegetarian recipe that replaces the meat with mushrooms. Imagine my surprise and delight to see Moon’s family eating their dan dan mian the same way that I do!

As a Chinese-American myself, I also identified with the characters in other ways — like dealing with the judgement of who qualifies as “Asian” enough. But you definitely don’t need to be Asian or Asian-American in order to enjoy this book. I bet every reader will relate to Christine and Moon’s experience in some way, especially some of the friend drama that happens with their classmates.

Do you have a book (graphic novel or otherwise) that you feel captures your experience in certain ways? Please share in the comments below!

— Karen

This morning, Karen woke up thinking about the yummy fried chicken drumsticks that her family used to take out from a Chinese place nearby, back when she was a kid. Maybe this book is inspiring Karen’s subconscious to revisit all her childhood culinary treats! Like dim sum, rice porridge with pickles, white sugar sponge cake, mango juice boxes… om nom nom nom…

More about Karen »

Book to Movie: Concrete Cowboy

April 2nd, 2021 by

You know how every time you go on Netflix, a video immediately starts playing and you have to scramble to turn off the sound or scroll down the page to get it to stop and you’re super aggravated and annoyed? Well, maybe that’s just me… But today I was actually incredibly excited by the video that greeted me: a trailer for the new movie Concrete Cowboy!

The film is based on the book Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri, which I previously reviewed for Kidsmomo. I recommended the book back then, and I still recommend it now! Here’s part of my review:


“With each turn of the page, I was drawn even more into the action and wanted to know what would happen next. And I also really enjoyed learning about this community I’d never heard of before — even without the illustrations, all the vivid descriptions brought it to life in my imagination, but the pictures by Jesse Joshua Watson are also awesome.”

To learn more, watch the movie trailer below and read my full book review!

And if you’ve already read the book or seen the movie, please leave a comment below with your thoughts!

— Karen

Karen also recently learned about cowboy poetry, which originated in the late 1800s when cowboy crews spent months on long-distance cattle drives across the West. These crews (including Black cowboys) would entertain themselves on the road by singing and playing music, telling stories, and composing their own songs and poems. Now Karen has spent literal hours reading cowboy poetry and watching their performances online!

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Book Review: The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

March 7th, 2021 by


In The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert, Alberta has things pretty good: She’s an amazing surfer, she has two actually cool artistic dads, and she has a best friend she’s grown up with — whose older brother always gives them free ice cream at his job at the local scoop shop. But being the only Black student in her grade (out of only four Black students at school), Alberta sometimes feels like she doesn’t quite fit in. Finally, though, that’s about to change! A Black family is taking over the bed and breakfast across the street from Alberta’s house, and she’s thrilled to learn that the daughter is exactly her age. Hello, instant friends for life, right? Well, not exactly…

It turns out that Edie and Alberta don’t have a ton in common. Edie dresses like a goth, she’s into Victorian novels, and she misses her old home in New York City — which she is constantly comparing to their small town. But despite their differences, Edie is nice. And she immediately understands Alberta’s experiences dealing with microaggressions from Nicolette — their classmate, neighbor, and Alberta’s biggest surfing competition. Unfortunately for Alberta, her BFF has always been quick to overlook Nicolette’s mean remarks, and now Alberta is starting to feel a distance grow between them.

That makes it the perfect time for Alberta and Edie to dive into a mystery! They discover a box of old journals in the attic of the bed and breakfast, and they are soon sucked into investigating the identity and story behind the writer. Who was she, why did she leave the journals behind, and what became of her? Edie and Alberta are determined to find out!

But life doesn’t stop just because there’s an intriguing mystery at hand. Alberta’s also dealing with friend drama, crush drama, school drama — and on the plus side, a lovely visit from her birth mom. To me, that’s what makes this book so great: It’s got so much going on, just like in reality. This could have been a one-dimensional story — a mystery OR a realistic fiction book about friendship and family OR a book about Alberta’s experiences with race and racism. But just as there are many interconnected parts to our identities and lives, there are multiple layers to this book. My only disappointment was getting to the end and having to leave the world of Ewing Beach and Alberta’s community!

I’d recommend this book for fans of The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre, Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught, Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai, and Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick.

Have you already read The Only Black Girls in Town or any of the other books I mentioned above? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

— Karen

In the book, Edie moves from New York City to California — which is the reverse of Karen’s life! As a proud New Yorker these days, Karen really sympathizes with Edie’s homesickness for Brooklyn. To be honest, Karen would never want to leave NYC!

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Book Review: A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

February 13th, 2021 by

In 2020, our country lost an amazing hero, Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. One of his most famous quotes is: “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” But sometimes it’s easier said than done. We may know the importance of raising our voices and fighting for racial justice, but sometimes we can doubt ourselves, especially in instances where our friends, family, teachers, or neighbors disagree. In A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée, the main character struggles with whether — and how — to speak up for what she believes in.

Shayla is already having a tough time navigating junior high to begin with. She and her BFFs, Julia and Isabella, have always been a tight trio. They even call themselves “the United Nations” because Shayla is African-American, Julia is Japanese-American, and Isabella is Puerto Rican — yet they are a united force, three besties against the world. But junior high has changed everything. All of a sudden, Julia is ditching them to hang out with another group. Plus, Isabella is catching the eye of Shayla’s crush!

On top of all that friend drama, Shayla is also upset by the police violence that she sees on the news. Her older sister is active in the Black Lives Matter movement, but Shayla has always been a stickler for following the rules and staying out of trouble. Also, she doesn’t see why race should be such a big deal. For example, why do her Black classmates judge her for hanging out with Isabella and Julia instead of spending time with them? Why do things have to be so complicated?

Soon, however, Shayla finds that she can’t ignore the racial injustice in her community. And the more she learns, the more she wants to take action. But what difference can she make — especially when her principal warns her against certain forms of protest at school? Shayla has to decide if she’s willing to get into trouble for taking a stand.

I would recommend this book for everyone, since there are so many parallels to real life and to news of police brutality that you may have discussed with your family or at school. Or this book may echo some of your own personal experiences and dilemmas. I’d especially recommend this book if you liked Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado, You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino, or Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez.

Have you already read A Good Kind of Trouble? Or do you have another book to recommend, where the characters also advocate for their beliefs and their community? Leave a comment below!

— Karen

Karen absolutely loves the cover art for this book. Like Shayla, she used to have various pins on her backpack when she was in school. And also a rubber chicken keychain that she attached to the zipper! Why? Who knows?

More about Karen »

2021 Newbery Award Winners

January 31st, 2021 by

During the pandemic, there are no more fancy awards shows with live performances, red carpets, and good-looking celebrities chatting with even better-looking celebrities while wearing glittering gowns. But you know one thing that social distancing cannot take away from us? Book awards!!!

On Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2021 Newbery Medal Winner and 2021 Newbery Honor Books. Every year, the Newbery is given to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

This year’s big winner is When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller — which also won the 2021 Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature! When we were growing up, it seemed like only a few novels featured Asian-American kids like us, so it’s pretty exciting to see this book selected for both awards.

Plus, the double award was apparently essential to surprising the author with her Newbery news. Tae Keller told Publishers Weekly Magazine that she learned about her Asian/Pacific American Award on a Friday, but then her editor said the awards committee wanted to do a video call with her that Sunday. All weekend, she was super nervous and unsure what they were going to say. Then it turned out that the call was to surprise her with the news that she won the Newbery Medal! We don’t know about you, but that sounds about 100 times more thrilling than any of our recent Zoom calls!

So if you’re trying to decide what to read next, check out When You Trap a Tiger or Tae Keller’s first book, The Science of Breakable Thingsor any of this year’s Newbery Honor recipients (official descriptions from the publishers):

2021 Newbery Medal Winner:

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni’s Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now they want it back. And when one of the tigers approaches Lily with a deal — return what her grandmother stole in exchange for Halmoni’s health — Lily is tempted to agree. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice… and the courage to face a tiger.

2020 Newbery Honor Books:

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

On June 23, 2018, twelve young players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon’s adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a 17-day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe. As the world sits vigil, people begin to wonder: How long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water? Luckily, the Wild Boars are a very extraordinary “ordinary” group. Combining firsthand interviews of rescue workers with in-depth science and details of the region’s culture and religion, author Christina Soontornvat — who was visiting family in Northern Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing — masterfully shows how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the 13 young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission. 

BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood

Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as Box, he “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next — as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope — and help — came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape!

In stanzas of six lines each, each line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Carole Boston Weatherford powerfully narrates Henry Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from slavery to freedom.

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ten-tear-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf — her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in 7th grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties.

Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing 7th grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his 12-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing.

The Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project — they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

All light in Chattana is created by one man — the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice — and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.

Are you adding any of these books to your to-read list? Or have you already read them? Leave a comment and let us know!

Best of 2020 Books

January 5th, 2021 by

For us, 2020 seems like it went by really quickly — at the same time that it seems like it dragged on forever. How could so much history happen in a single year, and yet almost every day from mid-March to December felt the same? It was certainly a challenging period for everyone, and a time of loss and grief for many. We hope that you and your families, friends, and communities are ringing in 2021 with good health — and the hope that things must get better.

Now that we’ve reached the new year, here at Kidsmomo we thought it would be fitting to revisit the best books of 2020. So we went through a bunch of “Best of 2020” lists from our favorite sources around the internet, and we compiled a list of the best of the best. See below for the top 12 titles that came up over and over again — at least four times each!

Our compiled list: Top 12 of 2020

Listed in alphabetical order. Official descriptions from the publishers.

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz

From a beloved voice in children’s literature comes this landmark memoir of hope amid harrowing times and an engaging and unusual Holocaust story. … Uri Shulevitz … details the eight-year odyssey of how he and his Jewish family escaped the terrors of the Nazis by fleeing Warsaw for the Soviet Union in Chance. It was during those years, with threats at every turn, that the young Uri experienced his awakening as an artist, an experience that played a key role during this difficult time.

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted? To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together. As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

After losing almost everything in the Great Depression, Ellie’s family is forced to leave their home in town and start over in the untamed wilderness of nearby Echo Mountain. Ellie has found a welcome freedom, and a love of the natural world, in her new life on the mountain. But there is little joy after a terrible accident leaves her father in a coma. An accident unfairly blamed on Ellie. Ellie is a girl who takes matters into her own hands, and determined to help her father she will make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as “the hag.” But the hag, and the mountain, still have many untold stories left to reveal.

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf–her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed. Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family. It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy — that he thinks he might be gay. “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?” But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King’s friendship with Sandy is reignited, he’s forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother’s death.

Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories — beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968 — come together to create one unforgettable journey. Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South. Inspired by storytelling’s oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America’s struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it. The novel’s unique format invites us to walk in their shoes. Each encounters an unexpected mystical gift, passed down from one family member to the next, that ignites their experience what it means to reach for freedom.

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the fantastical tale Buelo tells him about a mystical gatekeeper who can guide brave travellers on a journey into tomorrow. If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team, and whether he’d ever find his mother, who left when he was a baby. Papa refuses to talk about her, so Max has learned to stop asking. But when Papa is forced to reveal his involvement in an underground network of guardians that led people fleeing a neighboring country to safety, and the surprising reason Max’s spot on the fútbol team may be threatened, everything he knew about himself and his family is upended. A treasured compass, a haunted tower, a mysterious stone rubbing, and a peregrine falcon propel Max on a dangerous search for clues about who he is and what the future holds.

only-black-girls-in-town-book-coverThe Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her. Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living. When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there, including Mary are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage. But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary’s brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a live specimen in a cruel experiment. Deaf author and librarian Ann Clare LeZotte weaves a riveting story inspired by the true history of a thriving deaf community on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 19th century making readers question their own ideas about what is normal.

Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright

Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!

Ways To Make Sunshine by Renée Watson

Ryan Hart has a lot on her mind — school, self-image, and especially family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means some changes, like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. As her brother says when he raps about her, she’s got the talent that matters most: it’s a talent that can’t be seen, she’s nice, not mean! Ryan is all about trying to see the best in people, to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend. But even if her life isn’t everything she would wish for, when her big brother is infuriating, her parents don’t quite understand, and the unexpected happens, she always finds a way forward, with grace and wit. And plenty of sunshine.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future … but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.

Happy reading, and here’s to a better new year!

New Alex Rider Streaming Series

July 16th, 2020 by

I have to admit, it’s been a while since I’ve thought about Alex Rider, the fictional British schoolboy turned spy for MI6. The first book in the series by Anthony HorowitzStormbreaker, was published in 2000. A big screen adaptation and a graphic novel version were released in 2006. And then, you know, like 14 years went by.

Actually, additional Alex Rider books have been coming out all this time — but it can be hard for me to pick a series back up if I’ve had to wait a long time for the next installment. However, I might have to revisit the Alex Rider books, in preparation for the new streaming series!

The drama will premiere for American audiences on IMDb TV on November 13th. Based on the incredible trailer below, it looks pretty INTENSE!

Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle all the tension and violence. You may recall I’m a real scaredy-cat when it comes to action and suspense.

On the other hand, it definitely looks like an exciting update compared to the 2006 movie — check out the old trailer below:

Kinda cheesy, right? Well, then you really won’t like this book trailer that we created for Kidsmomo back in the day:

Yeah, there’s no denying the videos in this post get more and more low-fi as you go… Of course, if you want to truly go old school, you should read the original books! Check out some reviews from Kidsmomo readers!

If you’re already a fan of the Alex Rider series, leave a comment below and tell us what you think of the new streaming show!

— Karen

Karen would be extremely surprised if she learned that her family had been training her as a spy when she was growing up. Perhaps all those piano lessons were supposed to help her stop bad guys in some way?

More about Karen »

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