School Trip by Jerry Craft


Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

5 Stars

Illustrated book cover shows three smiling boys, African American and Caucasian, taking a selfie with their luggageSchool Trip by Jerry Craft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: Jordan and his friends from Riverdale Academy Day School are heading out on a school trip to Paris. As an aspiring artist himself, Jordan can’t wait to see all the amazing art in the famous City of Lights. But when their trusted faculty guides are replaced at the last minute, the school trip takes an unexpected—and hilarious—turn. Especially when trying to find their way around a foreign city ends up being almost as tricky as navigating the same friendships, fears, and differences that they struggle with at home.

My thoughts: I laughed! I (almost) cried! I love the way the New Kid middle grade fiction series wraps up with this book. (I mean, it’s an informed guess on my part that this is the series finis.)

Once again, this author shows the genius of good graphic novels—how the art speaks just as much as the words do. The imagery here is on point, and the Easter eggs are fun to spot, like in movies.

Dealing with adolescence, travel, family, friendships, race, class, and more, this novel is a wonderful mix of the hilarious, the delightful, the insightful, and the parts that break your heart a little or hit you in the gut. (Honestly, some of the clever Easter eggs are pretty gut-punchy too.)

I so identify with the fact that this author makes the kinds of books he wishes he once had and didn’t. That’s one of the reasons why I became an author.

I almost hated for this novel (and series?) to end, but hey. What a great way to end it!

Here’s my review of the novel that started it all, New Kid.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Go to Nadine's Books of Hope and Inspiration

A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser


Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

4 Stars

Blue illustrated book cover shows a boy and girl outside in the evening, looking up at smiling children in the lighted windows of Huey HouseA Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description: It’s June’s first day at Huey House, a homeless shelter. As if losing her home weren’t enough, she also can’t bring her cherished viola inside. Tyrell has been at Huey House for three years and gives June a glimpse of the good things about living there: friendship, hot meals, and a classical musician next door. Can he and June work together to oppose the government, or will families be forced out of Huey House before they are ready?

My thoughts: Given that you could round this book up to 400 pages, it isn’t the shortest middle grade novel I’ve ever read. There wasn’t any point during the reading where I found myself disliking it, but it didn’t fully pull me in until more than halfway through.

It was then that I really got a sense of community at Huey House, so the impermanence of it hit me. The thought of kids who can lose their housemate friends at any time.

The climax was exciting. And even if it did begin to feel more perfect than something like it might play out in real life, I appreciate stories that show kids being proactive about what concerns them. Yes, children do have limits, but even they can do more than just let life happen to them.

I had a little comedown right after the climax as the story ended faster than I’d anticipated. I wanted a little more for one of the main characters.

But, hey. I think the kids will be okay anyway.

Go to Nadine's Books of Hope and Inspiration

Futureland: Battle for the Park by H.D. Hunter

Science Fiction Book

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

3 Stars

Illustrated book cover shows three amazed African American kids in a futuristic theme parkFutureland: Battle for the Park by H.D. Hunter
Illustrations by Khadijah Khatib

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description: When an extraordinary flying theme park arrives above Atlanta, one boy, Cam Walker, must stop a sinister force from stealing the park’s tech and taking over the world.

My thoughts: I’m a fan of this middle grade sci-fi novel’s cover art (front and back!), and although I forgot exactly what I read in the book blurb last year, I knew I’d found this story’s premise intriguing.

The memory of my intrigue kept me going when my interest dipped during several chapters. A story can start to lose me the longer it takes for me to get a strong sense of “what” and “why it matters.” About a third of this novel went by before any of the theme park’s main attractions and their purpose became clear enough to keep my interest steady.

Then I gradually became more engaged as the story became creepier, like a bad dream. (And I mean that in a good way.) Also, I really liked the illustrations spread throughout the book when, here and there, the action turned all graphic novelly!

However, perhaps partly due to the fact that I did indeed used to have creepy childhood dreams resembling Cam’s challenge here, I found it unbelievable that it took so long for him to realize what a certain major problem was. Especially given the fact that he’s been around artificially intelligent creations his whole life.

And regarding the AI elements, I couldn’t share Cam’s emotions for a lifelike computer/robot (a creation called a “rev”) friend of his. Nor did a late but key aspect of the story concerning “humanness” and AI creations vibe with me. So, while I was all in during the climax, I didn’t connect with the ending.

Still, I appreciate it when stories depict young people in more than passive roles—when they’re thinkers who stand up and take positive action as they’re able.

Go to Nadine's Books of Hope and Inspiration

The Sisters Impossible by J.D. Landis

Vintage Book

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

3 Stars

Book cover shows a serious teenage ballerina and her serious younger sister looking over their shoulders at each otherThe Sisters Impossible by J.D. Landis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nine-year-old Lily admires her rather haughty but beautiful teenaged sister Saundra, who’s a dancer. But that doesn’t mean Lily wants to go along and enroll in ballet school. Saundra doesn’t want her there either. But the girls’ parents insist in The Sisters Impossible by author J.D. Landis.

It took digging through rather numerous performing arts/ballet-themed books for me to find this late ’70s novel I first discovered and read back in the ’90s. While I’d forgotten the title and author, I distinctly remembered the sisters pictured on the (Bantam Starfire) cover. Ah! There they are!

And, gee. I don’t know exactly what gave my kid-self the impression that I was reading something more grown-up than children’s fiction, at the time. Maybe it was Saundra’s teen-ness displayed on the cover? Or the serious way the story gave my kid-eyes an enlightening glimpse of some unlovely elements behind the loveliness of the dance and the dancer’s life? Or was it the inclusion of a bit of language in the story? (A few instances of “hell” used for nonliteral purposes and one instance of the eight-letter variation of “bull.”) Dunno.

But this is very much a middle grade read rather than YA. It’s all from Lily’s perspective. It’s technically simple, child-level reading with repetition that seems to be there to help young minds understand.

It’s kinda weird. It’s kinda funny. It’s sometimes in some in-betweeny place where I can’t tell if it means to be funny or if it’s just what it is. It’s kinda on the dull side at times, belaboring over rather mundane moments.

But at its core, it’s a meaningful story of sisterhood, and not in a shallow or even particularly juvenile sense. There’s notable depth in what these two sisters experience, learn, and ultimately decide, and the ending trusts the reader’s intelligence.

A nice visit down memory lane for me, even if I didn’t remember it all.

Go to Nadine's Books of Hope and Inspiration