One Last Word, Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 120 pp., $18.99; ages 9 and up
The primary influence on Grimes' own poetry was the work of the great Harlem Renaissance poets, including Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jean Toomer and Ohio-born Clara Ann Thompson. Here Grimes gathers poems by them and others, then responds with a form called the Golden Shovel: Taking key words from the original poem, she creates a new one. The Harlem Renaissance, she writes, was a time "when poetry burst like a dam / and a river of wisdom-words / rushed through the streets / I call home." Biographies of each of the poets, and artwork by stellar contemporary African-American illustrators, make the book both a moving tribute and a fresh, inspiring collection. Grade: ADial
Holly Goldberg Sloan
Dial Books for Young Readers, 304 pp., $16.99; ages 8-12
Julia is so small she can crawl through the dog door. Her size worries her parents, and their worry worries her. Come summer, Julia's mother enrolls her in a local theater production of "The Wizard of Oz." Cast as a Munchkin, Julia begins to realize that stature is indeed relative. She befriends an actress with dwarfism, shares her grief over her dead dog with an elderly costumer, and flies, literally and emotionally, as a winged monkey. Laugh-out-loud funny, "Short" is a wonderful look at how context affects identity. "I grew this summer," Julia muses. "Not on the outside, but on the inside. And that's the only place where growing really matters." Grade: ALittle, Brown
Stef Soto, Taco Queen
Estefania's Papi owns a food truck, the Tia Perla. Proud as she is of the food he sells and how hard he works, Stef wishes he and Mami would quit being so protective and let her experience the same independence as the rest of her seventh-grade classmates. When she and her best friend win tickets to a rock concert, her parents refuse to let her go. Stef, broken-hearted and furious, works the taco truck instead, only to have an experience that, first, makes her the envy of the school, then gets her into deep trouble. This gentle story about family is rich with Spanish phrases and delicious descriptions of food. Orale! Grade: BRoaring Brook Press
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team
Roaring Brook Press, 280 pp., $19.99; ages 9 and up
Sheinkin, author of "Bomb" and "Most Dangerous," can make the past as suspenseful as any thriller, as compelling as any character-driven novel. Here he traces both the notorious history of the Indian School and the evolution of football, by focusing on the great athlete (and by all accounts, wonderful human being) Jim Thorpe. Thorpe, who grew up in the Dakotas, was shipped off to the Pennsylvania school, where an unknown, chain-smoking Pop Warner happened to be the track and football coach. Despite continuous discrimination, Thorpe had an astonishing athletic career that included - though he was not an acknowledged American citizen - two Olympic gold medals. Nonfiction is rarely more entertaining or illuminating. Grade: A+Dial
See You in the Cosmos
Dial Books for Young Readers, 320 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up
Whether you like this book depends on how you feel about the stream-of-consciousness voice of the narrator, Alex. Like the hero of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," Alex is a brilliant boy baffled by much of human interaction. Carl Sagan is his idol (as well as the name of his dog), and Alex records his every (every) thought on an iPod he plans to send off to aliens. Adults (many adults) help in his unlikely quest to find his father. He, in turn, helps get their messy lives in order. The ending is moving, but for this reader, exhausted by Alex's unfiltered thoughts, it was too little, too late. Grade: C+
Springstubb is a critic in Cleveland Heights.
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