Today, I’m reviewing a few books I read just for fun. I don’t think I’d get around to writing a true review (even a bite-sized one) for any of these, but I want to give them a mention, since they deserve it. So instead I’m writing “tiny bite” reviews—I hope these will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Turn the Tide by Elaine Dimopoulos
Published by Clarion Books on March 8, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade, Verse
Cover Artist: DanaSanMar
Twelve-year-old Mimi Laskaris is inspired by the Wijsen sisters of Bali to turn her focus from classical piano to a new obsession: forming a grassroots, kid-led movement to ban plastic bags in her new island home in Florida. Written in accessible verse, this timely story of environmental activism has extensive back matter for aspiring activists. With a foreword by Melati Wijsen, cofounder of Bye, Bye Plastic Bags.
Mimi has a plan for her seventh grade year: play piano in the Young Artists competition at Carnegie Hall with her best friend, Lee; enjoy a good old Massachusetts snow day or two; and work in her community garden plot with her dad. But all that changes when her family’s Greek restaurant falls on hard times.
The Laskarises’ relocation to Wilford Island, Florida, is a big key change for Mimi. Where does she fit in in this shell-covered paradise without Lee? Mimi is taken by the beauty of the island and alarmed by the plastic pollution she sees on the beaches. Then her science teacher, Ms. Miller, shows her class a TED Talk by Melati and Isabel Wijsen. At ages twelve and ten, they lobbied to ban single-use plastic bags on their home island of Bali—and won. Their story strikes a chord for Mimi. She’s twelve. Could a kid like her make such a big change in a place that she’s not yet sure feels like home? Can she manage to keep up with piano, her schoolwork, and activism? And does confident and flawless Carmen Alvarez-Hill really want to help her with the movement?
In this story of environmental activism, friendship, and self-discovery, Mimi figures out what’s truly important to her, and takes her place in the ranks of real-life youth activists like the Wijsen sisters, Greta Thunberg, and Isra Hirsi. A foreword by Melati Wijsen, author’s note, and detailed back matter about the effects of plastic pollution and how to get involved are tools for young readers who are moved to turn the tide in their own communities.
Turn the Tide is an inspiring verse novel that will help kids think about the environment and how they can truly make a difference! The book focuses on themes of friendship and feeling out of place in a new place, which many kids will relate to. It also talks about how our dreams and passions can change, which is a topic that doesn’t get explored very often. Mimi has always been an accomplished musician, at competition level, but when she starts to become interested in environmental activism she finds she has less time for the piano. Many kids are discovering that their interests are changing at this age, so this is a perfect theme! A verse novel that will appeal to fans of contemporary middle grade novels.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Published by Macmillan Audio on January 8, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Length: 9 hours and 12 minutes
Source: Library, Purchased
Cover Artist: Celia Krampien
That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.
It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.
Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished—the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box—she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it.
Along the way, they'll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there's Gladys...
Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all...but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”
This book is a master class in middle-grade voice. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Khristine Hvam, who truly makes the character of Coyote come to life. Coyote has an innocent sweetness to her and wonderful country charm. The story is utterly compelling, and the more you learn about the circumstances that sent Coyote and her dad off on a neverending road-trip, the more you want to know more. I was rooting for this girl so hard the entire book. I loved this one so much I had to buy a copy of the hardcover for my collection!
When Winter Robeson Came by Brenda Woods
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on January 11, 2022
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Verse
Cover Artist: Mirelle Ortega
The whole world seems to transform during the summer of 1965, when Eden's cousin from Mississippi comes to visit her in L.A. just as the Watts Riots erupt, in this stirring new novel by Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brenda Woods.
When Eden's cousin Winter comes for a visit, it turns out he's not just there to sightsee. He wants to figure out what happened to his dad, who disappeared ten years earlier from the Watts area of L.A. So the cousins set out to investigate together, and what they discover brings them joy--and heartache. It also opens up a whole new understanding of their world, just as the area they've got their sights on explodes in a clash between the police and the Black residents. For six days Watts is like a war zone, and Eden and Winter become heroes in their own part of the drama. Eden hopes to be a composer someday, and the only way she can describe that summer is a song with an unexpected ending, full of changes in tempo and mood--totally unforgettable.
When Winter Robeson Came is a soulful and expressive verse novel that explores race relations in LA in the 60s. The book starts out with a visit from Eden’s cousin who, it turns out, is there for more than a friendly visit—he’s determined to find out what happened to his father, who disappeared ten years ago. The book is a mystery of sorts because of the storyline with Winter’s father, but then the Watts Riots start, and Winter’s situation takes a backseat to the chaos that erupts around them. Kids will learn about an important historical event and the mystery will keep them hooked!
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic Audio Books on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham, Steve West
Length: 12 hours and 6 minutes
Source: Library, Purchased
Cover Artist: Adam S. Doyle
With her trademark lyricism, Maggie Stiefvater turns to a new world, where a pair are swept up in a daring, dangerous race across a cliff—with more than just their lives at stake should they lose.
Why did I wait so long to listen to The Scorpio Races? Stiefvater is a master at creating atmosphere and surrealistic settings, and this book is no exception. I listened to the audiobook, which is gorgeously narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham. The stakes are incredibly high for both of the MCs in the story, and I kept wondering how (and if) things would work out for both of them. This book was a perfect pair to my running, because it kept me fully engaged and wanting to hear more. Plus, the book had plenty of energy and excitement to keep me going!
(I also own a copy of this book, but I kept putting off reading it for some reason—kind of glad I did, since I loved the audiobook version so much!)