Lucky by Linda Williams Jackson; Candlewick Press, 320 pages ($18.99). 8 to 12 years old.
Linda Williams Jackson, author of ‘Midnight Without a Moon’ and the sequel ‘A Sky Full of Stars’, offers an engaging portrait of a boy who dreams of becoming a lawyer or a teacher to lift his family out of poverty. inspired by Robert F. Kennedy’s 1967 “Poverty Tour” in the Mississippi Delta.
Ellis Earl Brown, 11, lives with his widowed mother, eight siblings and a niece in a leaky shack at the end of a long road that sometimes stays flooded for days at a stretch. Ellis enjoys the lunch his teacher serves the students every day and especially enjoys learning about Thurgood Marshall and civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman. He is thrilled to be among the students invited to greet Senator Kennedy at the airport. But will his family’s dire financial situation mean he will have to quit school to help support the family like his older siblings did?
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The author paints a vivid portrait of what it was like to be so poor: gnawing hunger, threadbare clothes, only pallets to sleep on, no indoor plumbing, no money for a doctor for Dad’s brother. ‘Ellis, Oscar. Ellis’ loving mother wears herself out working for pennies as a white women’s maid, leaving 14-year-old Jeannette in charge of the children.
The author also offers an engaging portrait of the day-to-day concerns of a loving family, sibling rivalries and squabbles, a mother’s worries, Ellis’ annoyance at his little sister for leaking every detail business of his family. The novel begins with Ellis’ hilarious negotiation with 8-year-old Carrie Ann over how to split the two remaining Moon Pies from the school afternoon snack.
The trip to host RFK in Mississippi gives the kids a shocking look at the ugly realities of a segregated South, including racist protesters at the airport and the hostility of staff at a restaurant where they stop for breakfast. -lunch.
The author explains the storybook ending she imagined for this novel in an afterword. She grew up in the Mississippi Delta in a family helped by Head Start, food stamps and assistance for families with dependent children, but says she wanted a more hopeful, stigma-free outcome for Ellis and her family. . Hence the success of the singing group Brown Blues.
Forge money into stars by Brigitte Kemmerer; Bloomsbury, 542 pages ($18.99) Ages 13-17.
This exciting first book in a new series is set in the fantastical world of Brigid Kammerer’s wonderful Cursebreaker series, after the events of “A Vow so Dark and Deadly”, and can be enjoyed even without having read those books. Kemmerer features engaging characters, swashbuckling action, compelling political intrigue, slow-burning romance, and wonderful touches of fantasy, including the bird-like scratchers.
Magic had been banished to the land of Syhl Shallow but is legal again when Queen Syhl Shallow marries the King of Emberfall, a magesmith or practitioner of magic. Distrust of magic persists in Syhl Shallow, and a rebel faction known as the Truthbringers plots the assassination of King Grey.
In the remote village of Syhl Shallow in Briarlock, neighboring teenagers Callyn and Jax are wary of magic but are too busy making a living to have a strong allegiance to either side of the debate. The magic killed Callyn’s parents: her soldier mother during the war and her father during a violent protest at the royal palace, leaving Callyn alone to run her family’s bakery and care for her younger sister. Despite an accident that cost him a foot, Jax works as a blacksmith in his family’s smithy, enduring physical and verbal abuse from his bitter, alcoholic father.
Desperate for money, Jax accepts a stranger’s offer of money to hold messages for the anti-magic forces. Then 19-year-old Tycho, the dashing courier charged with investigating threats against the king, arrives in Briarlock. The compelling narration alternates between Callyn, Jax, and Tycho, and the explosive finale leaves the reader eager for the next episode.
Alone like me by Rebecca Evans; Anne Schwartz Books/Random House, 40 pages ($17.99) Ages 4-8.
A little girl moves with her parents from the mountains of China to a big city and feels desperately alone until she makes a friend in a nearby apartment in this poignant picture book with delicate pencil and ink illustrations. the watercolor of the first author-illustrator Rebecca Evans.