• Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha, #2)Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi


    There are loads of twists in this sequel. It was at such a fast pace at times where I thought it could linger a lot more to allow the action to unfold more slowly. I am looking forward to the next one since the ending was such a cliffhanger, though.

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    Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This is such a unique and rich new fantasy world with fascinating characters and relationships. I was blown away by a few conversations that reflected race and privilege in our real world so well. The females in this book are FIERCE and emotional and fierce because they are emotional.

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    KindredKindred by Octavia E. Butler
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    I wouldn't call this science fiction just because it has time travel. I would say that this book is important to read. Butler turns the entire premise of time travel on its head by showing how there are huge groups of people for whom time travel would be dangerous based on their skin color. Butler illustrates the relentlessness of the system of enslavement so well. The emotional entanglements among the characters make this book very hard to put down.

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    Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I had a hard time getting into this one. I am trying to decide if I will keep reading the series. I am interested in the general idea of how a society can be affected and controlled by censorship, so I might read the next one and see if it grabs me sooner.

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    Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay (Fantastic Beasts: The Original Screenplay, #1)Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    For me, it's not nearly as fun reading a screenplay as it is a book with narration. However, if you're looking for a quick read that helps you escape from reality, this book will provide both. It's also pretty fun to imagine wizard life in New York. It's definitely different than Harry Potter, though, because these characters are adults. I think if you've already liked the Harry Potter books, you will enjoy this one and the sequel. It will make you rethink a few things in the original series, too.

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    Forge (Seeds of America, #2)Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This series offers such an enlightening look into unsung heroes of the Revolutionary War and the founding of our country. We remember big names and big thinkers who had a platform, but we don't remember the names of people who built the country with their labor, hoping for a chance for freedom and trying to get people in power to honor their efforts. I cared so much about these characters.

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    Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This book is really fun. There are some great characters. The connections to the mythology and folklore of West Africa and the American South are so fresh and ought to be enjoyed by everyone. This book also provides a great look into how to heal from grief. The social-emotional journey of the main character is an integral part of the story and provides relatable descriptions and images of big feelings.

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    Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle ButlerStar Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Star Child feels like something totally new. Author Ibi Zoboi describes this unique middle grade biographical work as a “constellation.” It connects the bright lights of influence that formed a picture of Octavia E. Butler’s remarkable and implausible journey, beginning as a shy daughter of a shoe shiner and maid and ending as a brave voice who redefined science fiction and mentored young writers who came after her.

    Star Child oscillates between poetry and accessible prose along with notes and quotes from the author, including my favorite item: an original story in young Octavia’s handwriting, misspellings and all, that will look familiar to middle grade teachers and be relatable to their students. Even at a young age, Octavia had a voice, a tendency to empathize, and the inclination to pay attention to the type of details that make a story come alive; 10 year-old Octavia showed something special about her, something that Zoboi calls “stardust.”

    Zoboi doesn’t talk down to kids and trusts them to be able to understand concepts like miscarriage, poverty, war, racism, sexism, and religion while she teaches about historical touchpoints that would have shaped Butler’s upbringing: the Great Migration, WWII, the baby boom, the space race and the Cold War, and the Civil Rights Movement. Zoboi is able to keep Star Child informative and meaningful by providing readers with the information they need to understand how this acclaimed author clawed her way into the career of her dreams, (“So Be It! See To It!”) while framing important moments with symbolic imagery like archery’s influence on Butler to “aim high and past her target” to help her young audience see how pieces of one’s life can contribute to a bigger story.

    Zoboi highlights the seeds of Butler’s books to help even her young readers understand how a writer can draw on their own experiences to form images, scenes, and foundations of stories. She illustrates the connection between important features of the Parable series having roots in Butler’s childhood memories of a house fire and building empathy by adopting her dog’s perspective. Rather than merely retelling the type of events that one would normally see in a biography, Zoboi gives weight to the context, circumstance, and surroundings toward which Butler paid scrupulous attention and formed the thoughts she would turn into worlds. Zoboi leads us on a discovery of what might have been in Butler’s head while she worked her craft, giving us our own lesson in empathy.

    Teachers will be excited about this work, in part, for the heavy lifting it does providing a collection of model texts. Zoboi includes a variety of poetic forms for students to learn from: free verse, rhyme, haiku, acrostic, and concrete are all common forms that middle school students will often attempt in English class, and Zoboi provides elevated examples that will speak to and inspire her audience. These poetic pieces echo the biographical information Zoboi shares and even Butler’s own quotes, helping the readers gain a deeper understanding of the world that shaped the world-maker. One of my favorites is “Science Fiction” for how it perfectly distills what makes Butler such a treasure by illustrating the way she adopted the behaviors of different professions like anthropologist, astronomer, and psychologist to create authentic characters and plots but also became a mathematician to figure out how she could make her dream of becoming an author a reality while still being able to provide for herself.

    This is a book that I will be pulling off of the shelf again and again; it is not just an opportunity to learn about one of our American literary giants. It is a collection of inspiration, not just as a constellation of Butler’s, but it is inspiration for all of us, too, inviting us to reflect on our own bright lights of influence to see what is shaping us.

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