Being part of a critique group means that you see drafts way before they hit the shelves, which means that you spend a while wishing that you could tell absolutely everyone about this amazing book that they have to read right now.
Fortunately I don’t have to hold back my enthusiasm any more, because The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan, because it is available today! That’s right, you lucky readers you–you can now own your very own copy of one of the most powerful, touching books I’ve ever read. There’s totally a reason why this book has four (yes, four!) starred reviews.
For fans of Linda Sue Park and A Long Way Gone, two young boys must escape a life of slavery in modern-day Ivory Coast
Fifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two years what has mattered are the number of cacao pods he and his younger brother, Seydou, can chop down in a day. This number is very important. The higher the number the safer they are because the bosses won’t beat them. The higher the number the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home to Baba and Auntie. Maybe. The problem is Amadou doesn’t know how much he and Seydou owe, and the bosses won’t tell him. The boys only wanted to make some money during the dry season to help their impoverished family. Instead they were tricked into forced labor on a plantation in the Ivory Coast; they spend day after day living on little food and harvesting beans in the hot sun—dangerous, backbreaking work. With no hope of escape, all they can do is try their best to stay alive—until Khadija comes into their lives.
She’s the first girl who’s ever come to camp, and she’s a wild thing. She fights bravely every day, attempting escape again and again, reminding Amadou what it means to be free. But finally, the bosses break her, and what happens next to the brother he has always tried to protect almost breaks Amadou. The old impulse to run is suddenly awakened. The three band together as family and try just once more to escape.
Happy Friday, everyone! This weekend is Valentine’s Day, and I am a big Valentine’s Day fan–red, hearts, chocolate, bring it on. So for today’s Friday Fifteen, I’m going to change it up a little and make some book recommendations.
When I was a teen, I never dated anyone. I had a ton of guy friends, but there was never anyone I was interested in dating, so my closest relationships were with my friends and family. And I’m guessing I wasn’t the first nor the last teen to feel this way. When people get down on Valentine’s Day for being all about couples, I want to remind them that love exists in all kinds of relationships, and that love is just as real as romantic love. Today, I want to share fifteen favorite YA/children’s lit book recommendations that put the focus on friend and family love.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: the ultimate book about kindred spirits and sometimes you have to find your family.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: in case you didn’t cry enough at Anne of Green Gables.
A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle: four generations of women come together to help one move on in this beautiful portrayal of family.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: about being sisters, being friends, and learning how to grow apart and together.
The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: DJ Schwenk is my favorite, and this is the Dairy Queen book that focuses most on her family; so genuine and so touching.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki: a touching, beautiful story about growing up and realizing your family is more complicated than you thought.
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty: forever my go-to book about how friendships form and grow and change.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr: love Zarr’s look at grief and loss and hope and how families can evolve.
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma: the complicated and dangerous devotion of two sisters who can only rely on each other.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: a devastating story of bravery and friendship and all my feels.
Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler: even when their paths may be diverging, Reagan and Victoria’s supportive friendship rings so true to me.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt: this story about the messiness of grief and love and illness sticks with me.
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: this layered story of generations of friends wrecked me in the best way.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth: I got to the end of this book and thought, “Oh my gosh, this is a family love letter.”
Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker: fighting for your family with a creepy Southern gothic style.
Other favorite non-romantic love stories? Share them in the comments. Happy Valentine’s day, everyone!
A fantastic TED talk by Linda Sue Park about how children’s books make kids better human beings:
I love hearing about real kids who are connecting with their greater world and challenging injustice because of books. Major kudos to authors like Park and educators and librarians who are helping young readers practice empathy.
Emma Watson, aka Hermione Granger, aka magical bookworm, is starting her own feminist book club. She’s starting off with Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, but it got me thinking about what books I’d include in a feminist book club.
For powerful and thoughtful YA novels about girls and family and their place in the world:
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
For YA novels about girls fighting back in many different ways:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
YA feminism isn’t limited to the real world:
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Fire Wish by Amber Lough
Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
And graphic novels are perfect for a feminist book club:
Bitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma, Robert Wilson
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki
Lumberjanes #1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen
And some of your favorite elementary/middle school reads are perfect for feminist book club:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
This is obviously not a complete list, because there are so many awesome books featuring compelling female characters and dealing with feminism and what it means to be a woman.
Did I leave out a favorite? Shout out in the comments.