Continuing on with my read-through of the Cybils finalists in my favorite categories. I had already read Flight of the Puffin by Ann Braden, and I’m so happy that it made the finalist list! I still have three books to go – one I can check out today, and two that I’m waiting on hold for.
Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh. HarperCollins, 2021. ISBN 9780062987983. Read from library copy.
Junie is dreading going back to middle school, where she’s bullied every day for being Korean-American. And when horrible racist graffiti keeps appearing in the gym, her longtime best friend, Patrice, feels that they need to take action to show people that their actions or silence are hurting them. But Junie’s efforts to stop the bully have only made things worse. Then, she starts asking her beloved grandfather for stories of his childhood – during the Korean war. The resulting stories from him and from her grandmother show such suffering and resilience that Junie is determined to share their story, and to stand up more to the bullies herself. She may not be comfortable with standing up in front of the school, but she can find other ways to support her friends and maybe make things better for herself as well. This is such a beautiful book, and I learned so much about the Korean war and what life was like during it. Highly recommended.
Many Points of Me by Caroline Gertler. Greenwillow, 2021 ISBN 978-0063027008 Read from library copy.
Georgia has been struggling since her father, a famous artist, died. Not only is her mother completely absorbed in putting together a retrospective show of his work, but everyone seems to expect Georgia to follow in his footsteps as an artist. Meanwhile, she can’t seem to find any of the artistic inspiration that used to come so easily to her, and the big show only reminds her that she was never a subject of any of her father’s famous asterism portraits. Both of these aspects are making it hard for Georgia to relate to both her mother and her best friend. This is a thoughtful story of a girl finding her way through a hard time and back to herself, with special appeal to young artists.
Violets are Blue by Barbara Dee. Aladdin, 2021. ISBN 9781534469181. Read from library copy.
Seventh-grader Rennie would really just like to escape from her life. Her parents have divorced, and her father moved to New York City, a plane flight away, and announced that he’s getting remarried. Her mother has grown increasingly grouchy and withdrawn, yelling at Rennie alternately for keeping secrets from her and then for trying to pry into her own secrets. On top of that, her former best friend has turned out to be not such a good friend after all.
Her escape is her new hobby: watching YouTube videos by the famous CatFX, who does amazing special effects makeup tutorials, including the beautiful mermaid face shown on the cover. Between her mom and her new stepmom, she’s able to put together enough supplies to practice the looks herself. And when her mother moves to a new town, Rennie relaunches herself as Wren, tiny but fierce, finally making some friends as she joins the musical as makeup specialist when her mother pressures her to spend less time on her computer. But warning signs that her mother is really not doing well keep building up, even as Wren doesn’t want to see them. Will her hard work on makeup help her when things in real life start falling apart even more?
Not only does this have a great balance of Wren’s problems and fun obsessions, but her parents are shown as real people trying their best, even when it would have been easy to make any of them neglectful villains. This is one I think my daughter would love if I could convince her to read about anything but demigods or dragons.