Looking for age-appropriate own voices books for your entire family? Check out these four new releases. Each one will give you something to think about.
I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.
Family Nerd Night for the Entire Family
Some families had game night. Us? Our entire family would gather in the living room for nerd night. We’d all curl up in our favorite comfy spot and read. Back when our girls were growing up, we didn’t have many options for reading variety, though. Yes, we had the American Girl series chronicling the lives of Kaya and Josefina. But the authors wrote about characters and cultures they didn’t belong to.
And while the books opened our eyes to different cultures, they gave secondhand information. Reading about a culture in the words and vernacular of a culture brings new insight into the lives of marginalized people. If we could have a family nerd night do-over, I’d make sure to offer a plethora of books from own voices writers for the entire family.
A word of warning, though, when reading own voices books, the reader must enter the experience with a non-judgmental attitude. The authors write from their experience, and it might not fit my lily-white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant picture of what the world ‘should’ look like. They write about their world and their experience. It is an honor to read.
By Jamaree Stokes, illustrated by Charli Vince, Bird Upstairs Books, May 2021, 32 pages, 3-8 years.
This delightful book bursts with descriptive words which exude the energy of someone who can’t stop moving. The illustrator perfectly captures a wiggly, boppity, bouncing kid who feels the need to move but knows he needs to learn to channel his energy so he he can have a ‘smooth-sailing day.’
Gonna Move, Gotta Bounce, Have to Jumpity Jump! helps youngsters with hyperactive tendencies learn self-awareness and coping mechanisms for dealing with their extra energy. The playful tone helps normalize extra energy while at the same time offering solutions. If your child has sensory processing challenges or trouble sitting still, this is the perfect book to help him or her understand what to do with all that extra energy.
The exercise solutions to extra energy were researched and developed with input from occupational therapists to specifically target areas kids need to help them develop. Parents will need to help explain the exercise examples to non-readers. The entire family will enjoy the book, especially if someone has the need to move all the time.
By Michael Hutchinson, Second Story Press, April 2021, 208 pages, 9-12 years.
The Mighty Muskrats have a new case! This time cousins Sam, Atim, Otter, and Chickadee seek to discover who stole the sacred treaty bundle from the National Assembly of Cree Peoples. On the second morning of the four-day celebration, hosted by the Windy Lake community, the sacred bundle goes missing.
The four amateur sleuths combine helping their community host the event with digging into the mystery of who stole the Treaty Bundle and why. These modern-day Boxcar Children won’t give up, no matter how discouraging their progress.
The goodwill of their community and other Cree groups depends on the return of the sacred bundle. Along the way they learn valuable lessons about ceremony, respect, and keeping faith.
Why I Love This Book
The world needs to hear more about First Nation and Native American ways of seeing, doing, and being. For too long, Whites have believed the myths passed down through the centuries. The myth of the stoic Native, the myth of Natives stealing, the myth of Natives as savages all get put to rest as Hutchinson shares the culture of his people through the eyes of four youngsters.
Teachers, librarians, parents, and grandparents will want to add this book (and the first two Mighty Muskrat books) to their libraries. Those who work with Native American or First Nations children will delight in a well-written mystery series with Cree protagonists.
By Angeline Boulley, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), March 2021, 496 pages, adult themes.
A recent high-school graduate, Daunis Fountaine thinks she knows what her future holds. College, and an opportunity to move away from the place she’s never seemed to fit in. But the summer changes everything. Her grandmother has a stroke, and Daunis decides to stay home for her freshman year to help her fragile mother and ailing grandmother.
Growing up the illegitimate daughter of a dead Ojibwe hockey star and the ‘whitest girl in town,’ Daunis lives between two worlds. White World, where her parentage marks her as different but her light skin helps her fit in, and Native World, where her skin tone makes her stand out.
To complicate matters, she struggles to keep Real World from clashing with Hockey World. A world inhabited by her half-brother, Levi, and all his friends. When a new hockey player comes to town and joins Levi’s hockey team, the Sault Ste. Marie Superiors, her brother convinces her to act as the new guy’s mentor.
And new guy intrigues her—even her best friend Lily thinks he’s cool. Jamie seems more mature than the average high school senior, and his skating skills hint at more than he lets on. Despite her vows to stay out of Hockey World, Jamie just might make Daunis change her mind.
When Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, she gets sucked into an FBI investigation of a new and deadly drug wreaking havoc on both sides of the border. Her search for answers leads her into danger she never imagined and makes her question everything she ever thought she knew about her world.
Why I Love This Book
I love tightly-written suspense or crime thriller novels, and Firekeeper’s Daughter kept me up late at night. But this book isn’t just a crime thriller. It introduces readers to the gritty, heartbreaking reality of growing up an Indigenous woman. Although Daunis looks White, her heart yearns for acceptance from her father’s people, too. Her whiteness will only protect her so much in a society that disdains Native girls and women.
A hockey star in her own right, she’s tough, tender, curious, and smart. You’ll laugh, cry, and hold your breath for chapters at a time as Daunis plays a vital role in a Federal investigation to save the people she loves.
As an educator working with Native American students, I’m thrilled to have this novel with a kick-ass Native protagonist to share with my students. Due to mature themes (murder, birth-control, pre-marital sex, rape), I’ll reserve it for upper-grade students.
By Brandon Hobson, Ecco, February 2021, 288 pages.
The Echota family still struggles after all these years to come to grips with the tragic death of Ray-Ray, the oldest boy. Family members peel layers of the story back chapter by chapter. Edgar, from a drug-induced haze; Maria, from a loving mother’s struggle to keep the family together while she takes care of her husband with is fleeting memory; Sonja, from the angst of a grieving, vengeful older sister.
Interspersed, Tsala, a Cherokee living during the time of the Trail of Tears, shares his prophecies and stories of the old ways.
Each scene peels back another layer into the mystery of Ray-Ray’s death and how his family members have struggled. The results of generational trauma invade the lives of each family member in a different way. Much of the book seems devoid of hope.
The book is not easy to read, but it is necessary to read. I read most books of this length in a day or two, but The Removed took weeks. The sorrow contained within its pages requires time to sit with the grief. Multiple points of view (Maria, Sonja, Edgar, and Tsala) seem disparate and the reader wonders how the author can bring closure to the story before the final act.
Hobson, a Cherokee who gained knowledge of Tsala from translating his grandfather’s notebook into English, skillfully weaves the legends and beliefs of the Cherokee into a story of present-day pain and grief.
In the end, the reader feels a glimmer of hope for the future of a people who have been removed.Outstanding own voices books from @FineAngeline @bwhobson @MHutchinson_CTV and @JamareeStokes. There's something here for the entire family. Click To Tweet