Bite-Sized Reviews of Sick Kids in Love, Slay, Look Both Ways, Parker Looks Up, & Missions to Mars

November 29, 2019 Reviews 12 ★★★★½

 

I’ve got five reviews for you today: two YA contemporaries, a MG book of contemporary short stories, a picture book and a non-fiction kids’ book. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!


Bite-Sized Reviews of Sick Kids in Love, Slay, Look Both Ways, Parker Looks Up, & Missions to MarsSick Kids In Love by Hannah Moskowitz
Published by Entangled Teen on November 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 300
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Elizabeth Turner Stokes
My content rating: YA (Deals with chronic illness, Characters have sex)
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Isabel has one rule: no dating.It's easier--It's safer--It's better----for the other person.She's got issues. She's got secrets. She's got rheumatoid arthritis.But then she meets another sick kid.He's got a chronic illness Isabel's never heard of, something she can't even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who's a doctor.He's gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.Isabel has one rule: no dating.It's complicated--It's dangerous--It's never felt better----to consider breaking that rule for him.

add-to-goodreads 

This book shines a (glaring) spotlight on ableism. The main characters, Isabel and Sasha both have chronic illnesses that aren’t life-threatening (at least not directly) but are serious. Isabel has rheumatoid arthritis and lives in near-constant pain. She decided long ago that she didn’t want to be in a relationship—her life is just too complicated, and she knows darn well that she’s not always the most cheerful companion. But when she meets Sasha, her feelings start to change. Sasha has Gaucher Disease, an illness that puts him in the hospital often. Isabel relates to Sasha in a way she hasn’t with anyone else—he understands her, and he understands the challenges of living with a chronic illness. One aspect of the book that I love is how it explores the ways that different illnesses can be seen (and felt) differently—Sasha has always known he was sick. No one expects him to just “get over it” and move on. But Isabel’s illness is invisible. She sometimes even wonders herself if she’s making symptoms up in her head or turning them into something more than they actually are. She’s left constantly feeling like she’s letting people down or like she should be trying harder to ignore her symptoms. Moskowitz just delves into so many nuances of chronic illness—it’s obvious this is an #ownvoices book when it comes to chronic illness—including exploring the more philosophical side of the issue, bringing up a lot of topics I had never given much thought to.

This story captured my heart. I was wrapped up in the romance between Isabel and Sasha, and I was completely engaged in their friendships and family relationships as well. I definitely recommend this book!!

***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Sick Kids in Love, Slay, Look Both Ways, Parker Looks Up, & Missions to MarsSlay by Brittney Morris
Published by Simon Pulse on September 24, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 323
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: YA (Issues of racism, death, video game violence explored; Characters have sex but it's not shown)
My rating:
4.5 Stars

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man."

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination."

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

add-to-goodreads 

Again, this book helped me gain perspective on an issue I will never be able to experience or understand firsthand. This book looks at what it means to be black: all of the pride, prejudices, fears and expectations that go along with blackness (from within the black community and without). I’ve read other books that explored this topic, but somehow this book feels more accessible than some others, even though it’s almost more in-your-face and unapologetic about the issues. I loved that Kiera, the main character, often felt torn between wanting to fit in with white friends, fulfilling her mother’s expectations of how she should behave, and fulfilling her boyfriend’s expectations of what a black girl should be. The constant push and pull of all these different expectations (which often yank her in clearly opposite directions) kept me completely invested in Kiera. I’m not much of a gamer, but this didn’t feel like a story about gaming—it’s much more focused on relationships and society’s views on race. I was eager to find out how everything would end up with the game, but that was because I was engaged with Kiera (and her friendship with Cicada, her co-moderator). Basically, this is one of those books that made me think—a whole lot—and that, in my opinion, is the best kind of reading!

***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Sick Kids in Love, Slay, Look Both Ways, Parker Looks Up, & Missions to MarsLook Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
Illustrator: Alexander Nabaum
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books on October 8, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Short Stories, Contemporary
Pages: 208
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG (Deals with topics of illness, death, homophobia, bullying, abuse)
My rating:
3.5 Stars

From National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds comes a novel told in ten blocks, showing all they different directions a walk home can take.

This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—

Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Skateboarding.
Wiping out.
Braving up.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
Making jokes.
Lotioning up.
Finding comfort.
But mostly, too busy walking home.

Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.

add-to-goodreads 

First off, I need to point out that this is a collection of short stories about a group of middle schoolers, not really a novel. While the stories are loosely tied together because the kids are all on their walk home from school (one story per block), there is no central story, and you only get a snippet of each group of kids’ lives. If you go into this expecting to read a book with an overarching plot, you’ll be disappointed.

But each of the kids in the book discovers something about themselves on their walk home, and themes of love and loss and personal bravery are all explored. Like most short story collections, some stories excited me more than others. I especially enjoyed “The Low Cuts Strike Again” which turned expectation on its ear—the whole story builds on the kids coming up with a way to turn ninety cents into a whole lot more, but you don’t find out why until the end. Another favorite was “Call of Duty” in which a kid sticks his neck out for a friend who’s accused of being gay. Some of the stories are told in interesting formats—such as lists or verse. I think that this is the type of book teachers will love to read in a classroom setting, but it will be interesting to see if middle schoolers get excited about the concept as well—I suppose time will tell.

***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Sick Kids in Love, Slay, Look Both Ways, Parker Looks Up, & Missions to MarsParker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry, Jessica Curry
Illustrator: Brittany Jackson
Published by Aladdin on October 15, 2019
Genres: Picture Book, Contemporary
Pages: 40
Source: The Publisher
My rating:
4 Stars

A New York Times bestseller!

A visit to Washington, DC’s National Portrait Gallery forever alters Parker Curry’s young life when she views First Lady Michelle Obama’s portrait.

When Parker Curry came face-to-face with Amy Sherald’s transcendent portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, she didn’t just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen—one with dynamic self-assurance, regality, beauty, and truth who captured this young girl’s imagination. When a nearby museum-goer snapped a photo of a mesmerized Parker, it became an internet sensation. Inspired by this visit, Parker, and her mother, Jessica Curry, tell the story of a young girl and her family, whose trip to a museum becomes an extraordinary moment, in a moving picture book.

Parker Looks Up follows Parker, along with her baby sister and her mother, and her best friend Gia and Gia’s mother, as they walk the halls of a museum, seeing paintings of everyone and everything from George Washington Carver to Frida Kahlo, exotic flowers to graceful ballerinas. Then, Parker walks by Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama…and almost passes it. But she stops...and looks up!

Parker saw the possibility and promise, the hopes and dreams of herself in this powerful painting of Michelle Obama. An everyday moment became an extraordinary one…that continues to resonate its power, inspiration, and indelible impact. Because, as Jessica Curry said, “anything is possible regardless of race, class, or gender.”

**FOREWORD BY ARTIST AMY SHERALD**

add-to-goodreads 

Parker Looks Up is a sweet story about the little girl whose picture went viral after she was so entranced by Michelle Obama’s portrait at the National Portrait Gallery. If you’re like me, you probably remember the moment and were delighted by the awe you could see in Parker’s face as she stared up at the portrait.

This story is simple, but that makes sense since it’s told from the perspective of a three-year-old. Parker’s love for dance is tied into her love of Obama, who she sees as a queen. The story highlights how a little girl can see a world of possibilities for the future in one simple portrait. The artwork is beautiful, and it truly brings the museum to life! Oh, and the back of the book features a picture of real-life Parker in her Michelle Obama dress (which she wore for Halloween)—so adorable!

***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Sick Kids in Love, Slay, Look Both Ways, Parker Looks Up, & Missions to MarsMissions to Mars (Destination Space) by Gregory L. Vogt
Published by Focus Readers on 1/1/18
Genres: Middle Grade, Non-Fiction
Pages: 48
Source: The Publisher
My rating:
4 Stars

Explores scientists' thrilling quest to send spacecraft to Mars. Engaging text, vibrant photos, and informative infographics help readers learn about this important advancement in exploring space, as well as the people and technology that made it possible.

add-to-goodreads 

This book will delight kids who are interested in space exploration. It goes into detail about many Mars missions—both successful and unsuccessful. I actually learned a lot about what it takes to get a rover up to Mars and what scientists have learned from the successful voyages (and the unsuccessful ones, I suppose—every mission is a learning experience). The book uses relatively simple vocabulary, but the book doesn’t seem overly simplistic—it doesn’t talk down to kids. This would be perfect for a classroom or a school library!

***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?

12 Responses to “Bite-Sized Reviews of Sick Kids in Love, Slay, Look Both Ways, Parker Looks Up, & Missions to Mars”

  1. Sam@wlabb

    I adored Sick Kids, and I am so glad to see it getting all the love it deserves. I do appreciate books that give me perspective, and I thought Moskowitz did it well. The romances was also sweet and gooey too, which I obviously ate up.

  2. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    I LOOOOVED Sick Kids, so I am pleased and not at all surprised that you enjoyed it too! One of my favorites of like, ever tbh. Slay looks really good too, I have always adored the cover, so I should probably give the book a try. Parker Looks Up just looks completely adorable and like something I’d love, so thanks for sharing it! Great reviews!

  3. Olivia Roach

    Sick Kids Love… I passed up on my opportunity to review that and since then I have forever been kicking myself because everyone is loving it and saying it is a well written and very good story. I so want to read it. Slay is also high on my to read list and I am so happy you were able to love that one too. It sounds like everything I adore on the sci-fi front, and like it tackles important cultural topics well too.

    Olivia Roach recently posted: Odell’s Fall [Book Review]

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.