Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani

Girls Who Code

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Middle grade nonfiction, nonfiction, ARC

Synopsis: Coding can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately, stereotypes in today’s society tend to make us think that coding and STEM opportunities are for boys only.  That is, until today.

Review: I picked up this ARC a few months ago, and just now finally had the chance to read it.  Overall, I really enjoyed it!  It made coding accessible, interesting, and really fun–and that’s coming from someone who was required to take an intro to coding class for library school.  I learned a lot that I hadn’t previously known, and everything was made so palatable.  But as I was reading it, I was wondering at first whether the spotlight would only be on coding.  To my pleasure, it wasn’t!  There was also engineering, robotics, web design, and app design, which was really great.

Not only that, but Saujani interviews some girls who worked on the original Girls Who Code to highlight what projects they worked on in order to show the variety of what can be done with some code.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable and informational read–it’s certainly worth perusing!

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Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Wishing Tree

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Middle grade fiction, speculative fiction

Synopsis: Imagine a world where trees can talk.  They just don’t do it much.  Or with humans.  Ever.  But humans love interacting with Red, a 300-year old tree, anyways.  Every wish day, they tie a wish to her branches in hopes that it’ll come true.  Yet when a little Muslim girl and her family move across the street, Red knows that she must do everything in her power to make this girl’s wish come true.

Review: This is my second Applegate book in such a short amount of time!  Unlike The One and Only Ivan, this book focuses on the perspective of Red, a 300-year old tree.  There’s much to be said about nature and how it actively interacts with humans, and how humans actively interact with nature.  Carving is a violence against nature, but it might be a violence against humans too, depending on what it says.  Tearing down a tree might be violence, but it also might be a part of the circle of life.  Humans love their wishing ceremony that revolves around Red, but this very ceremony also leaves behind quite a bit of garbage.  There’s much to work out on this topic, and even more when racism and speciesism come into play.

Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of mixed messages, and I can’t necessarily speak to how successfully she speaks to them.  Nevertheless, this is a wonderful book for us adults familiar with The Giving Tree, and a wonderful conversation starter for discussing why protecting nature matters.

The Pink and the Black: Homosexuals in France Since 1968 by Frederic Martel, translated by Jane Todd

The Pink and the Black

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Nonfiction, lgbt nonfiction, French history, history, lgbt history

Synopsis: Martel describes the ways in which French homosexuals fought for their right to liberty, equality, and happiness in France from their publications of magazines to their drag personas to simply occupying public spaces.  Though gays and lesbians frequently crossed paths in terms of having the same goals, they both exuded differences in how they were to achieve it.  But when HIV/AIDS travels to France, much changes in terms of legislation, health, and society.

Review: I’m all about homosexuality, and I’m all about France, so this was the perfect nonfiction book for me.  It was so nice to read something less America-centric, though it was obviously very European-centric.  Still!  I’m loving the recognition that Stonewall wasn’t the be all end all of every gay liberation movement.  Even so, there was a lot of dialogue and discussion in this book from the publication of Gai Pied, the closeted homosexuality of Michel Foucault, and the Le Pens (always a nuisance, aren’t they?).

Moreso, what I found most captivating and horrifying was the discussion of HIV/AIDS.  As an American myself, I’m familiar with the history and stigma that HIV/AIDS had and still has today, but not how it’s affected other western countries.  Reading about how France handled it was horrifying, from the ignorance and lack of acknowledgement that a pandemic was on the loose, to the dichotomy between living and dying and having safe sex and just going wild.

Additionally, Todd’s translations appear to be extremely accurate and well-toned.  I’m definitely impressed with this book, and I think it’d be a wonderful start for those interested in non-American homosexual liberation movements.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Young Adult literature, dystopia, Native American/Indigenous Lit

Synopsis: French is on the run.  In a world where everybody has lost the ability to dream except for indigenous folks, new assimilation schools are being built and indigenous people are being hunted for their marrow–the only cure for being dreamless.  There’s no way to escape.  He can only survive.

Review: Wow.  At first, I wasn’t too sure what I was getting into.  I mean, it’s been so long since I’d read any Native American/Indigenous literature, but all the ones that I’d read were based in historical fiction, and not future dystopia.  The Marrow Thieves represents a past, present, and future full of genocide, assimilation, and survival.  It shows a world full of hope, survival, deceit, and failure.  As French struggles with the separation of his family and the foundation of a new one, he begins to learn the traditions and languages of other cultures, as well as what is called Story, the reason behind everything happening the way it is, the reason why they’re on the run.

This is a beautiful story which weaves narrative and dire straits, as well as waht it means to retain a language and culture that has so willfully hated it yet adored it.  What it means to have a connection to the land and to the people and to traditions across various cultures and years.  It’s an amazing read, and an even more amazing social commentary.

The Girl Who Saw Lions by Berlie Doherty

The Girl Who Saw Lions

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Middle grade literature

Synopsis: Abela has lost her family to the AIDS crisis in Tanzania.  What she expects to be an opportunity of a lifetime–living with her uncle and his new wife in London–ends up bringing only pain and suffering.  Meanwhile, Rosa and her mom toy with the idea of welcoming a new member to their family.

Review: The Girl Who Saw Lions was such an incredibly impactful story that touched on so many serious topics.  Middle grade literature never ceases to amaze me.  This book tackles the tough topics of HIV/AIDS, child trafficking, adoption, and death.

Going between Abela and Rosa allowed for insight into two vastly different cultures, but cultures that do interact with each other in both social and institutional ways.  This is, of course, not to mention the dialogue between the two about privilege, autonomy, and what it means to be or have family.

Doherty is a master of showing her readers what’s going on–when I was with Abela, I felt like I was in Tanzania, and when I was with Rosa, I felt like I was in London.  The individual struggles and strife became so real and apparent to me, and each time I got off of the metro, I couldn’t wait until the next time I had to hop on to continue reading this.  Overall, this is a truly  poignant book that’s completely deserving of a read.

 

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

The Lorax

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature, picturebook

Synopsis: The Onceler took down all the Truffula trees to make a Thneed despite the Lorax’s warnings, and now all he has left is a Truffula seed.

Review: It’s been a long time since I’ve read this or seen either movie adaptation, so I was glad to revisit this for a class.  And wow, what a book this is.  I mean, there’s a reason why it’s critically acclaimed, and not just for its environmental value and message.  But, speaking of the message–it’s powerful.  Certainly as many others have noted, this book is a call to action now instead of at some point in the future.  It’s a critique of capitalism and the use of resources at the cost of nature and natural life.  However, there are also some potentially less obvious parts as well?  At least to me–I definitely didn’t really catch or think about these when I was younger.  Such as the fact that the Onceler is somehow completely absolved of his past capitalistic horrors in giving the young boy the last truffula seed?  Or the fact that we never see the boy plant the seed???  We’re left hanging in suspense here!!  But dang, if this book isn’t a reflection upon our own society based on all of this, I don’t know what is.

Engelsfors #2: Fire by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg

The Fire

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Genre: YA Literature, fantasy, modern fantasy

Synopsis: The chosen ones return to school after a period of rest.  Their comfort, however, doesn’t last for long–the demons return to Engelsfors, too.  The school is still shaken by Elias’s suicide, but find solace in the new group in town: Positive Engelsfors.  But something’s lurking just underneath the surface, and the chosen ones must figure out what it is, and fast.

Review: Ahh!  This book was so riveting!!  Normally sequels are a little bit difficult for me to get into, but this one sucked me in immediately.  Besides, what bigger threat and push for a resolution could there be besides an entire community trying to force happiness onto themselves and others?  Not to mention more information about the council and the guardians…UGH.  There was so much depth here, so many ways for our beloved characters to be fleshed out.  There are new relationships, twists, spins, powers…not to mention threats.

And can we talk about Ida???  I love her.  I feel like if anybody I knew read these books, they wouldn’t like her on account of her being very strict and unwilling to participate but oh my god……..I LOVE HER.  The authors did such an incredible job of making her character more understandable while not making her more palatable.  And all the family and friend drama that’s surrounding this…after all, these poor girls are still in high school.

Just!!  The stakes are so high in this book.  I just started the third and final book in this series, and I just don’t know how much higher the stakes can go…and if it’s anything like this book, it’s gonna take me for a spin.

Logans #3: Song of the Trees by Mildred D. Taylor, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Song of the Trees

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature

Synopsis: Times are hard.  Cassie’s father is away trying to earn money for his family, and everyone else is left behind.  Luckily, the children have a large wood behind their house that they love to play in.  Unluckily, a group of white loggers make a very nice offer for their resources.  What are the Logans to do?

Review: For those in the unawares, this is part of the same series that Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is in–I didn’t know that prior to reading this for class, but I loved seeing the childhood books that I’d read expand in ways I didn’t think possible.  The class I read this for was for Ecocritism, and it’s so easy to see why through the destruction of trees, their personification, and the blatant environmental racism.

This is a quick read (I think my copy was about 90 pages?), so get on it, folks!  There’s so much to be said here–like that climax??  The barren landscape??  The connection to the land and the earth??  It was honestly so incredible, and everything tied in together so neatly.  Now, I just have to reread Roll of Thunder and begin the rest of this series…

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Poetry

Synopsis: In this collection, Vuong highlights pieces of his family and his life through topics such as love, war, grief, and melancholy.

Review: This was a beautiful little romp through Vuong’s personal life.  Every poem is tinged with some drops of melancholy and nostalgia, which makes it perfect for reading at dusk when the sun makes everything look golden.  Vuong’s poetry seems to come alive, and it’s absolutely beautiful.  There’s history here, and modernity too.  Overall, this collection manages to be soft and hard at the same time, apathetic and emotional, distressed and relaxed.  And it’s a joy.

The World is Not a Rectangle by Jeanette Winter

THe World is Not a Rectangle

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit, biography

Synopsis: Zaha Hadid has always found beauty in nature.  The shapes, the fluidity, the structure…why didn’t buildings reflect the same design?  Though she faces sexism and racism, she fights for her designs.  Follow her as she becomes an architect and fights for beautiful and artistic buildings.

Review: Jeannette Winter is one of the absolute best biographers out there, in my opinion.  She chooses to tell the stories of well-known women, lesser-known women, and those in between.  She highlights their accomplishments in a way that doesn’t diminish their struggles, and does so in a way that’s hugely inspiring and breath-taking.  Not to mention, of course, the illustrations are inspiring and breath-taking themselves.  Her biographies are just wonderful for younger minds.  This one, for example, introduces STEM careers and does so in a way that’s enticing and challenging.  This is definitely worth a read!