Tag Archives: prejudice

Review: Sail Me Away Home by Ann Clare LeZotte

Sail Me Away Home by Ann Clare LeZotte

Sail Me Away Home (Show Me a Sign #3)
Ann Clare LeZotte
Scholastic Press
Published on November 7, 2023

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About Sail Me Away Home

This gripping, stand-alone story, set in the world of the award-winning SHOW ME A SIGN and SET ME FREE, shines a light on the origins of formal deaf education and celebrates the fullness of the Deaf experience.

As a young teacher on Martha’s Vineyard, Mary Lambert feels restless and adrift. So when a league of missionaries invites her to travel abroad, she knows it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Paris is home to a pioneering deaf school where she could meet its visionary instructors, Jean Massieu and Laurent Clerc—and even bring back their methods to help advance formal deaf education in America!

But the endeavor comes at a cost: The missionaries’ plan to “save” deaf children is questionable at best—and requires Mary’s support. What’s more, the missionaries’ work threatens the Wampanoag and other native peoples’ freedom and safety. Is pursuing Mary’s own goals worth the price of betraying her friends and her own values?

So begins a feverish and fraught adventure, filled with cunning characters, chance encounters, and new friendships. Together with SHOW ME A SIGN and SET ME FREE, this stunning stand-alone story completes an unforgettable trilogy that will enrich your understanding of the deaf experience and forever alter your perspective on ability and disability.

My Review

I loved revisiting Mary and her family in their island community. In this book, it’s not a terrible crisis that pulls her away from home, but a growing awareness of how some people are marginalized or excluded. In part, this happens as she teaches school for her community, and the local leaders only agree to keep her on as a teacher if she refuses to allow Irish children into the classroom. Mary balks at this and finds a way around this ruling, but she feels stifled and angry at the cruelty of it.

In some ways, this is a gentler story than the previous two in the series. It still reveals to readers some of the prejudices the Deaf faced in the early 1800s. This time, we’re introduced to the development of a formal sign language and a formal school for the Deaf.

I liked getting to see those historical moments brought to life through a character as vibrant and creative as Mary is. I also loved that the whole story reads as if it were Mary’s journal. The chapters aren’t written as journal entries, but the tone felt like that to me. It feels as if she’s speaking directly to the reader, the way someone might write in a diary or journal.

On the whole, I think this is a great series and I’ve really enjoyed reading it.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
Mary is Deaf and speaks only in signs. Other characters are Deaf and speaking or Wampanoag tribe members.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Mary travels with some pretty judgy missionaries. They turn their noses up at other Christian churches and shun anyone they deem not holy enough. They also manipulate and pressure others or flat-out try to control them. There is some discussion about the harm this high-pressure mission work can cause to the communities it infiltrates by forcing indigenous people to convert. Mary also worries about the construction of a school near an indigenous village. She worries the children will be forced to give up their culture or not allowed to return home.

Violent Content
Someone attempts to kidnap Mary. A few members of Mary’s community say harsh, judgmental things to her. Mary faces some ableist and prejudiced treatment from her traveling companions. She tries to write some of it off as well-meaning ignorance, but some of it is deeply hurtful and harmful.

Drug Content
Someone brings Mary a breakfast tray containing a glass of champagne.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything but help support this blog. I received a free copy of SAIL ME AWAY HOME in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane
Joan He

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About Descendant of the Crane

In New York Times and Indie bestselling author Joan He’s debut novel, Descendant of the Crane, a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggles to do right in a world brimming with deception. This gorgeous, Chinese-inspired fantasy is packed with dizzying twists, complex characters, and intricate politics.

TREASON

For princess Hesina of Yan, the palace is her home, but her father is her world. He taught her how to defend against the corruption and excesses of the old kings, before revolutionaries purged them and their seers and established the dynasty anew.

Before he died, he was supposed to teach her how to rule.

TRIAL

The imperial doctors say the king died a natural death, but Hesina has reason to believe he was murdered. She is determined to uncover the truth and bring the assassin to justice.

TRUTH

But in a broken system, ideals can kill. As the investigation quickly spins out of Hesina’s control, she realizes that no one is innocent. Not the heroes in history, or the father she thought she knew. More blood will spill if she doesn’t rein in the trial soon—her people’s, her family’s, and even her own.

My Review

This book has been on my reading list for SO. LONG. I’m so glad I finally had the chance to read it.

DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE is about 400 pages, which is pretty near the high side in terms of my preferred page count. However. I devoured the story in two days. Every time I picked up the book, I couldn’t stop reading it.

The pace of the story moves quickly– right away, we know there’s been a murder, and Hesina, the new queen, is committed to discovering who killed her father, even risking her own death to ensure the truth is revealed in a trial.

She’s also just become queen of a country on the brink of war with a fierce neighbor. And queen of a country internally torn apart by fear and prejudice against people called sooths, who have the ability to perform magic or read the future.

Add to that all the usual new, young ruler court machinations, and you’ve got a pretty good idea where the story begins. And the stakes only get higher.

One of my favorite characters is Akira, a prisoner that Hesina has been told she needs as her representative in the trial to convict her father’s murderer. He’s mysterious, sardonic, and sometimes turns out to have inside information that Hesina needs to survive. There’s a very, very slow burn romance happening between them, so of course I was all in on that.

Conclusion

I feel like this was a really ambitious story to craft. It’s partly a history-inspired fantasy, partly a murder mystery, and partly a commentary on prejudice and the way that we shape people’s views and values through our telling of history. Which is a lot to tell in just 400 pages!

Not only do I feel like Joan He succeeded in her storytelling, but she also crafted a cast of engaging characters caught up in this compelling drama that I couldn’t stop reading. I think readers who love Elizabeth Lim absolutely need to check out DESENDANT OF THE CRANE.

Content Notes for Descendant of the Crane

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Characters are Chinese-coded.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between a boy and girl. Brief references to sex (A man hastily summoned to court complains that he hates to leave a partner unsatisfied.).

Spiritual Content
Some characters, called Sooths, have the ability to do magic that has to do with time. Some can see the future. Others can influence an object’s state by making its future state present. For example, sooth could turn a rock to sand by changing the rock’s current state to its state in the future after it’s been crushed.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. The court investigates the murder of the king. A couple scenes include battle violence. A violent mob attacks citizens, cutting them and executing more than one. A bomb explodes, injuring several people.

Drug Content
The king died by poison (before the story begins). A man drinks poisoned wine and becomes violently ill.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Skandar and the Phantom Rider by A. F. Steadman

Skandar and the Phantom Rider (Skandar #2)
A. F. Steadman
Simon & Schuster
Published May 3, 2023

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About Skandar and the Phantom Rider

The Island shall have its revenge . . .

Skandar Smith has achieved his dream to train as a unicorn rider.

But as Skandar and his friends enter their second year at the Eyrie, a new threat arises. Immortal wild unicorns are somehow being killed, a prophecy warns of terrible danger, and elemental destruction begins to ravage the Island. 

Meanwhile, Skandar’s sister, Kenna, longs to join him – and Skandar is determined to help her, no matter what. As the storm gathers, can Skandar discover how to stop the Island tearing itself apart – before it’s too late for them all? 

My Review

I think I might have liked this book even better than the first one? I think the writing is stronger in this one, which makes sense. The characters and their friendships, which was one of my favorite parts of the first book, are still strong and still drew me into the story. I thought the conflicts between them and the ways they navigated them were true to their characters and made sense.

We get a lot more of the politics and structure of the island in this book, too, which was really cool. We got to see some of the clashes in leadership, and we learned more about the history behind some of the relationships– and some of the rifts in relationships– on the island, too. I absolutely loved that.

Skandar grows a lot in this book, too. I really liked the way he wrestled with how to use his abilities and how to respond to the prejudice he faced. He also learned who his allies are and how to find places he fit in even with the prejudice that was happening.

The story ends in a great place, too. It left me satisfied but also really excited for the next book in the series. I’m super interested to see where the story goes next.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
Skandar’s friend Flo is Black.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
No profanity. A few mentions of passing gas.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Unicorns have magical abilities based on different elements like wind, fire, water, earth, and spirit. Spirit magic has been illegal, so Skandar and his unicorn are judged, excluded, and blamed for things because of their use of it.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Some battle scenes. One character is imprisoned against their will.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of SKANDAR AND THE PHANTOM RIDER in exchange for my honest review.

Review: My Name is Hamburger by Jacqueline Jules

My Name is Hamburger
Jacqueline Jules
Kar-Ben Publishing
Published October

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About My Name is Hamburger

Trudie Hamburger is the only Jewish kid living in the small southern town of Colburn in 1962. Nobody else at her school has a father who speaks with a German accent or a last name that means chopped meat. Trudie doesn’t want to be the girl who cries when Daniel Reynolds teases her. Or the girl who hides in the library to avoid singing Christian songs in music class.

She doesn’t want to be different. But over the course of a few pivotal months, as Trudie confronts her fears and embraces what she loves–including things that make her different from her classmates–she finally finds a way to say her name with pride.

My Review

I recently read another historical novel in verse by this same publisher (not on purpose, just the way things worked out). It looks like they primarily publish picture books with a few middle grade titles. Another novel I read earlier this year, THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER, is also by Kar-Ben Publishing.

I really enjoyed MY NAME IS HAMBURGER. Some historical events are hinted at but kept really within what a ten year-old would ask or understand, which I also really liked. I absolutely adored Trudie. She’s driven and smart, but she has such a big heart, too. I especially loved her friendship with Jack and the way that she began to think differently about the way kids spoke to her and treated her because she saw it from the outside. It also gave her courage to stand up not only for herself but someone else, too.

I felt like this book had really deep characters. Like, Trudie’s parents were both super different, and had obvious strengths and weaknesses. Each character was really well-developed. I’m always blown away by that in a novel-in-verse because there are so few words on the page. It’s amazing to me when authors deliver such rich characters in a story with so few words. It’s so cool.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading MY NAME IS HAMBURGER. I loved the small town and all the relationships between people. I loved Trudie’s strength and courage and her love for others. This is a great book for fans of Jacqueline Woodson or Tricia Springstubb.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
Trudie and her family are Jewish. Her dad came to America as a child to escape Nazi Germany. His family was not able to escape and did not survive. A new boy at school and his family are Korean Americans.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Kids in Trudie’s class make racist comments about her and about a Korean American boy who joins her class. They comment on her facial features, belittle her intelligence, or say she’s only smart because she’s Jewish. She’s excluded from a school music class because she objects to Christian songs, and the principal felt it wasn’t fair for them to change the program for one student. There are no slurs spoken or written in the text.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Trudie looks forward to Shabbos with her family and especially the prayers with her dad. She attends a synagogue and enjoys services there.

Violent Content
Other kids make racist comments or bully Trudie for being Jewish. A boy kicks her ankle as she walks past and makes cruel comments. A man is injured in a fall.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of MY NAME IS HAMBURGER in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Antiracist Kid by Tiffany Jewell

The Antiracist Kid: A Book About Identity, Justice, and Activism
Tiffany Jewell
Versify
Published October 4, 2022

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About The Antiracist Kid: A Book About Identity, Justice, and Activism

From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of THIS BOOK IS ANTI-RACIST, Tiffany Jewell, with art by Eisner-nominated illustrator Nicole Miles, THE ANTIRACIST KID is the essential illustrated chapter book guide to antiracism for empowering the young readers in your life!

What is racism? What is antiracism? Why are both important to learn about? In this book, systemic racism and the antiracist tools to fight it are easily accessible to the youngest readers.

In three sections, this must-have guide explains:

– Identity: What it is and how it applies to you
– Justice: What it is, what racism has to do with it, and how to address injustice
– Activism: A how-to with resources to be the best antiracist kid you can be

This book teaches younger children the words, language, and methods to recognize racism and injustice—and what to do when they encounter it at home, at school, and in the media they watch, play, and read.

My Review

I liked the way this book is divided into sections. Each section spends some time defining terms, which builds a great foundation for conversations about diversity, racism and prejudice. We communicate best when we agree on what terms mean and how they’re used. So I like that the book is careful to establish important terms at the beginning of each section.

I also like that the book gives specific examples showing social situations that might involve prejudice or racism. Even though the title specifically labels the book to be about antiracism, the book actually addresses other identities in which people could face persecution or prejudice.

The book also gives a brief timeline of how and when the construct of race emerged and how it has impacted our culture. I think that overview timeline is particularly well done. It’s succinct but identifies critical moments in history in a way that’s easy for kids to understand.

All in all, I think THE ANTIRACIST KID would make a great foundational book to both define different terms in the conversation about race and diversity as well as inviting kids into the discussion. I read and enjoyed THIS BOOK IS ANTI-RACIST by Tiffany Jewell, which is for slightly older readers, but has the same straightforward, open, conversational style. I recommend both.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
The book uses examples about three kids: Shawn who is Black and has two moms, Dani who is nonbinary and Puerto Rican, and Ruby who is biracial.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Reference to holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

Violent Content
None.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE ANTIRACIST KID in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Where We Go From Here by Luca Rocha

Where We Go From Here
Lucas Rocha
Translated by Larissa Helena
Push
Published June 2, 2020

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About Where We Go From Here

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.

An absorbing debut novel about three gay young adults in Brazil whose lives become intertwined in the face of HIV, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Bill Konigsberg.

My Review

I think it’s really hard to write an issue-driven story and have it read really authentically with facts and information presented in a natural way. This book does a pretty great job of that, though.

The premise had me intrigued already– the author wrote WHERE WE GO FROM HERE in part to address some misinformation and prejudices about HIV and AIDS. So judgments and myths do come up in the story as the characters face either their own diagnoses or their prejudices about people who’ve been diagnosed as HIV positive.

Splitting the story into three points of view, three characters all having different experiences or at different places in their experience helped the conversations feel organic. It allowed people to be in different places in terms of what they knew or understood. It allowed them to be in different places in their emotional journey, too.

Ian might have been my favorite character, but I loved Henrique, too. Both had a vulnerability that drew me into their stories. I thought the relationships they had– in particular Henrique and Eric’s relationship– were great. I liked that each relationship was different and handled things in different ways, but all of them showed love and support.

One of the issues the story explored was about the right to privacy versus the openness that comes with intimacy. Victor is really upset that he learned about Henrique being HIV positive after having sex with him. He has to wrestle a LOT with that issue. At first he doesn’t feel that Henrique has a right to privacy at all, even if he took precautions to protect Victor. I think in particular the way the story explored that issue, showing both sides and the broad range of emotions the situation triggered, made this a deep read.

Conclusion

The only thing that kind of tripped me up a bit was that some of the dialogue was a little stilted and awkward, probably just from being translated. (Which has to be an incredibly challenging job!) Other than that, I enjoyed reading the book, and it really made me think.

The cover copy above says readers who enjoy Bill Konigsberg or Adam Silvera should check this book out. I agree. I think it would appeal to those readers for sure.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
All characters are Brazilian. The three main characters are gay men. One has a roommate who is a drag queen.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two boys. References to sex and oral sex.

Spiritual Content
A couple characters examine whether they believe that being HIV+ is God’s judgment against them for being gay. They decide it isn’t.

Violent Content – Trigger warning for homophobia.
A couple characters have been cast off by their families because of who they love. There are some brief recollections of the hurtful things they’ve said. One character is outed by someone online and receives awful messages on social media and via spray paint on his building.

Drug Content
Several scenes show characters drinking alcohol. All the characters are of legal drinking age (at least 18) in Brazil.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of WHERE WE GO FROM HERE in exchange for my honest review.