There are traditional youth organizations with badges, bake sales, and award ceremonies. But what about those who don't fit neatly into a group structure? is there a place for them?
Meet four girls who appear to have little in common. Lane DiSanti, artist and instigator, lives with her wealthy grandmother while her parents work out an impending divorce. Ofelia Castillo, aspiring journalist struggles under the watchful eye of over-protective Cuban American parents. Cat Garcia feels pressure from her close-knit family to participate in a local contest. She'd rather spend her time birdwatching. Gourmet chef Aster Douglas lives with her African American grandfather, a researcher and retired college professor. Her widowed mother is overseas.
Pérez has created a fascinating cast of characters. Each girl is unique with her own talents and interests. Each faces her own set of challenging circumstances. Each is a "strange bird" who doesn't fit into established norms.
Aster couldn't help smiling. She liked the feeling of having friends.
The girls come together and meet in a well-furnished treehouse to form The Ostentation of Others and Outsiders, an organization, with its own rules and expectations.
Inspired by Cat's concern over a century-old feather hat revered by the local girl's troupe known as the Flores of Sabal Palms, the foursome formulate a plan to raise awareness of the mistreatment of birds. Their campaign targets the Flores use of the hat adorned with feathers. "Return the Feathers" becomes their rallying cry. They create stickers and affix them to brownies sold at a local festival. Next they blanket the Flores House grounds with plastic pink flamingos displaying information about birds. Eventually, they hatch a plot to steal the Flores hat.
Their schemes are filled with excitement and intrigue. Results are not what the girls anticipated. Activism isn't easy. The girls manage to achieve some of their goals, though not without ruffling several feathers. They learn more about themselves and that trust is a critical factor in maintaining friendships.
Pérez includes a delightful assortment of bonus material that will appeal to a wide range of interests: birdwatching tips, meaning and uses of specific crystals, recipe for baking chocolate chip cookies that have an unusual ingredient: crushed potato chips, suggestions for researching and writing about topics of interest, and instructions for creating your own badges.
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers is a richly flavored multidimensional tale of friendship and the value of diverse individuals pooling their unique talents and concerns to create positive change. Gracias Celia C. Pérez for introducing young readers to this fabulous foursome. I want to know what happens in the next chapter of their lives. More stories of The Ostentation of Others and Outsiders, please.
Uncorrected copy provided by publisher.
Pub date: September 3, 2019 Publisher: Kolika ISBN: 978-0425290439
Two recently published books share a common denominator: a young girl anonymously authors a local newspaper's advice column. The two books are quite different: Dear Sweet Pea is contemporary fiction for middle grade readers and The Downstairs Girl is historical fiction for young adults. Both are standouts.
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
Dear Sweet Pea,
I could use your advice...
Snippets from the advice column are interspersed throughout the narrative and deal with topics important to tweens: building and repairing friendships, dealing with awkward situations, weathering and surviving change at home,
Dear Sweet Pea oozes with southern charm. There's so much to love here: A vulnerable young girl caught up in a messy predicament. Concerned and sometimes overprotective parents. The agony of clothing shopping when nothing fits. As a bonus, there is a fifteen-pound live cat named Cheese, a dead stuffed cat who goes by Bette Davis, and a whole lotta Aretha Franklin. It's as good as gravy. Thank you, Julie Murphy.
Audiobook accessed via Overdrive.
Pub date: October 1, 2019 Publisher: Balzer + Bray ISBN: 978-0062473073
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Dear Miss Sweetie,
Hold your horses. What's next? Shall women and men be forced to exchange wardrobes - pants on her and petticoats on him? I think you need to rein in your brazen ideas.
In time she discovers some of Atlanta's darkest secrets, including a shocking revelation about her own past. There is plenty of intrigue: Clandestine meetings in a graveyard. Confronting a despicable Atlanta criminal. Listening in on private conversations via a secret connecting tube.
Readers will discover several fascinating tidbits scattered through this first person narration: Elaborate Chinese knot work (Take a look at some gorgeous samples.) Horse racing in 19th century Atlanta and a female jockey. A glimpse into a suffragette meeting. (Love those snazzy sashes.)
Heart-warming, pulse-pounding, eye-opening historical fiction. The Downstairs Girl is a captivating read.
Uncorrected copy provided by publisher.
Pub date: August 13, 2019 Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Reader ISBN: 978-1524740955
Nina Soni, Former Best Friend
Nina Soni’s life just got more complicated. She accidentally destroys her best friend's art project. Nina fears that Jay will no longer be her friend. She is stymied when her teacher assigns a Personal Narrative Project. She has nothing to write. Her life is as boring as plain rice.
Then she discovers an interesting phenomenon that will be the basis for her person narrative. To her dismay, she learns that her idea is the same experiment used by Jay at last year's science fair. She is discouraged.
When her sister's birthday party plans fall through, Jay and Nina come together and develop a clever solution to the birthday dilemma. Upon reflection, Nina realizes that retelling events of the past twenty-four hours will make an interesting writing project.
The narrative is liberally sprinkled with her unique definitions. Some are spot on. All feature her quirky perspective.
For=get-ful-ness means your mind becomes so full of new thoughts and ideas that it pushes out the old ones.
Former means once-upon-a-time.
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Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds ill by Alexander Nabaum
Reynolds has penned a novel comprised of interconnected stories. Read independently they are insightful vignettes, zeroing in on the ten city blocks students attending Lattimer Middle School traverse each day. Collectively the stories reveal the hearts of those bound together by geography. The lives of these unique individuals intersect in unexpected ways.
In the push and pull of everyday life, we meet students affected by life-altering events such as sickle cell anemia, cancer, dementia, incarceration, and gay-shaming.
These ten blocks are jam-packed with a rich assortment of sensory details.
"There's a smell in the air. A mix of exhaust and exhaustion. Also cooked food and cooked hair.
There's a feel in the air. A stickiness like walking through an invisible syrup. A thickness to life.
There's a sound in the air. A shrill and chill. The scream and whisper of the world making a symphony of so good and so what."
Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya
Emilia Rosa is juggling a plethora of problems. Let's start with family. Dad, a Marine who was deployed during most of of her childhood, returns home. He seems to be a different person from the father she remembers. Mami, who keeps Emilia focused and organized, will be away on an extended business trip. Abuela, her maternal grandmother has definite notions about Emilia’s life, including the need for a quinceañera. This is something she emphatically does not want.
Sixth grade is a struggle. Not because she isn't intelligent, but because she processes stimuli in a different way. She needs time and individual attention in order to complete her homework. Some school assignments are difficult to untangle without guidance from her mother.The noises associated with school rallies in the gym are a horrific assault on her senses.
Author's Note includes resources on the following topics: Code of Ethics, News Services, Immigrant Rights, Neurodiversity, Veterans Support Services. There's a nice shoutout to libraries, librarians, and original research.
More stories from Pablo Cartaya
Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing" Inspired Generations
by Kelly Starling Lyons ill by Keith Mallett
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
It is a common occurrence for me to cry when I finish reading a book, it is uncommon for my heart to swell and tears begin to spill down my cheeks from the very first page. Sing a Song: "How Lift Every Voice and Sing" Inspired Generations had me instantly reaching for tissues.
Kelly Starling Lyons has penned a soul-stirring recital of the Black National Anthem's story. Inspired by her family's history, she traces the song through five generations. Beginning with a birthday celebration of Abraham Lincoln, the anthem is an integral part of the family. The music journeys with the family through the Great Migration, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement and culminates with opening of the National Museum of African American History.
An Author's Note provides helpful background information.
Back straight, head high, heart and mouth open
Keith Mallett exquisitely captures the hope and resolve of individuals as they sing. A master of his craft, the images of these portraits of faith, determination, and joy are indelibly imprinted on my heart.
Both Sing a Song and Going Down Home With Daddy, create a deep personal bond with readers. These are stories which nourish the soul.
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Looking for More Inspiration? Try these books
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander ill by Kadir Nelson
When times are tough and faith gives only the thinnest glimmer of light, there is hope, there are heroes. Newbery Award-winner Kwame Alexander's poetry pays tribute to Black Americans who with determination, persistence, dignity, courage, and vision have survived and thrived.
The Undefeated honors some of the individuals, past and present, who embody the struggle to dream and achieve. Authors, artists, athletes, poets, politicians, Civil Rights leaders, and musicians are among those referenced through soaring verses which capture the dignity and grace of the human spirit.
Alexander also pays tribute to those who suffered, sacrificed, and lost their lives.
Probably the most moving spread is a blank page, devoid of any face, acknowledging those who did not survive.
Two-time Caldecott Honor-winner Nelson's close-up portraits capture a spirit of quiet strength and determination. The realistic style exudes countenances glowing with warmth and intelligence. Nelson uses a rich variety of skin tones and facial characteristics. Each an individual. Each unique. The faces also portray joyful and proud moments. Eyes shining with tears.
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Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
It begins with a bully, a school locker, and a chicken. Oh. There’s one more thing...a hole in the universe. From the opening scene with a chicken in a school locker, Carlos Hernandez had me hooked.
Meet Sal Vidón recent transfer student to a magnet school for the arts. Sal is a performer, a magician who prides himself on his remarkable sleight of hand skills. He’s confident in his ability to maneuver his way out of difficult situations with his smarts, friendly outgoing personality, and pockets filled with magical illusions.
He will need all these when he matches wits with a no nonsense principal, the school bully, and student council/ school newspaper editor Gabi Reál.
Sal has Type I diabetes, which he handles matter-of-factly. It's part of his life and he is conscious of the importance of caring for himself, but he doesn't allow the condition to limit him.
We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders
introduction by Harry Belefonte
Have you picked up a book and without cracking it open, knew that it was going to be something extraordinary? That was my initial response to We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders.
The case features embossed lettering and Dan Santat's illustration of a John Lewis quote.
We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us.
Sixteen remarkable artists lend their talents to this project. Each illustrator selected a a Civil Rights leader's inspirational words. Art is reflective of the message and unique to the artist's style. Each illustrator's personal consideration of the quotation is included. Images and text are compelling and profoundly moving.
The volume, inspired by the work of the American Civil Liberties Union, echoes a commitment to human rights. Harry Belafonte offers a thoughtful introduction.
Anthology of poetry, essays, and art reflects and honors the ongoing struggle for justice, equality, and respect.
Barack Obama and "We are the change"
Looking for opportunities to be involved in meaningful change? Try this site.
Mommy Sayang by Rosana Sullivan
Aleeya and her mother live in a small Malaysian village, a kumpung. Their days were filled with simple joys: chickens, kittens, hanging out laundry, watering the vibrant red hibiscus. Indoors, there is quiet time for mommy's daily prayers, Aleeya's crayoned drawings, and stories under the mosquito net.
They prepare a variety of tempting dishes and enjoy sharing meals with family and friends.
Little Aleeya and Mommy sayang, always together.
Insh'Allah, I will always be by your side.
Meet the Author/Illustrator
Rosana Sullivan is a storyboard artist with Pixar Animation Studios. She worked on several Pixar movies including The Good Dinosaur, Coco, and Incredibles 2. Her picture book is part of Pixar's Artist Showcase series.
The Gift of Ramadan by Rabiah York Lumbard ill by Laura K. Horton
It's time for Ramadan, a month-long religious holiday honoring the revelation of the first verses in the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. It is a time for prayer and refection, study of the Quran, and helping the poor. It may be best known as a period of fasting, going without food and drink from sunup to sundown.
Sophia is excited as her family prepares to begin observing Ramadan and decides that she will observe the traditional fast. "Count me in!" she joyfully exclaims.
She quickly discovers that what sounds wonderful in theory is difficult in practice. She must awake and eat a meal before sunrise, ignore her rumbling tummy, and resist her brother's chocolate chip cookies.
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To her dismay, the lure of cookies is impossible to resist. An understanding grandmother helps her see that there are other ways that she can participate in this holy celebration. She can observe Ramadan in a manner that is appropriate for a young child.
Use The Gift of Ramadan to introduce this religious celebration to young readers.
The month is about emptying oneself of all that is selfish, then filling oneself with all that is good, true, and beautiful.
Meet the Author: Rabiah York Lumbard
Meet the Illustrator: Laura K. Horton
Alexis York Lumbard aka Rabiah York Lumbard is an American Muslim living in Qatar with her husband and three daughters. The author of several picture books, she is currently pursuing an advanced degree in creative writing.
Laura K. Horton is a freelance illustrator with a degree in illustration & animation from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
She is currently residing in Finland, working on an advanced degree in game design and production.
I like talking about books and interesting ideas. I like thinking about how books affect my life. Not particularly interested in giving out stars or in rating books.
Audio Publishers Association
2013, - present Audies judge
American Library Association Book Awards and Lists
2017 YALSA Award Nominating Committee
2016 Excellence in Nonfiction
2014 Margaret Edwards Award
2012 Odyssey Awards.
2009, 2010, 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens.