For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama Lockington

4.5 stars Middle School

It’s hard walking in Makeda’s shoes.  The body that occupies those shoes, misses her best friend that she had to leave behind, when she moved with her family this summer.  That same body, is stared at and harassed by her peers when she begins 6th grade at her new school.  That same body, feels that no one understands exactly what she goes through, not her mother nor her sister, even though they think they do.  That same body, doesn’t know who she is or where she belongs. The battles that Makeda faces are real, they’re typical of what’s happening in our world today and that’s important.  It’s looking at these conflicts through the eyes of Makeda, that makes this book significant.   

Makeda, is an 11-year-old African American girl who was adopted by a white family. Before they moved, Makeda had a best friend named Lena, who was also adopted. This connection, linked the two girls and they became very close to one another.  Now, Makeda feels as if she’s connected to no one and her connections with Lena are now long-distance.  It’s hard being a teen and moving into a new neighborhood but for Makeda, the situation becomes even more difficult when she’s questioned about her parents on the that first day of school.

Adoption.  Moving.  Racial tension.  Teen and school issues. Mental illness (suicide attempt).  How much more can an 11-year handle?

No one can walk in Makeda’s shoes.  Her situation is her own.  She’s unique and special but she doesn’t see it that way. She feels alone, isolated and hurt. 

This is an important book to read and I highly recommend it.    

The Year We Fell From Space by A.S. King

5 stars Middle School

This is an important novel that addresses divorce and depression for children, that speaks their language. Addressing the promises, the hopes, the disappointments, the stresses, the anger, the blame, and just about every emotion that a child feels as their parents separate and divorce, this book confronts them directly.  A.S. King delivers another great book.

The arguing the occurs between Liberty’s parents has reached its limit and now, her dad was moving out.  He was making promises to Liberty and her sister, Jilly to smooth out the situation but nothing he could say would ever make this move easy. Liberty and her dad were close.  They spent a lot of time together, they loved to unravel the night sky together.

Liberty’s world begins to fall apart when her father moves out of the house yet she keeps everything inside her.  She continues to try to find comfort in the night sky but like everything else in her world, it just isn’t there anymore.  Wishing upon stars, asking for guidance, Liberty calls upon the night to help restore her balance. Liberty is spiraling.

I liked the difference between the two sisters.  Liberty was the older sister and she tried to keep her emotions inside and in-control. Her younger sister, Jilly made me smile and laugh numerous times, as she’s young, carefree and she’d let’s go with what’s on her mind, when given the chance.  Liberty couldn’t talk openly so what she really needed was to talk privately with some individuals throughout the book but she just couldn’t. 

I enjoyed how the book dealt with all the different emotions that occur during a divorce. Children are a major part of a divorce yet some parents feel that they’re not, forget to include them, or just don’t want to get them involved.  Children need to be able to talk about their feelings, ask questions and get a truthful (as truthful as they can handle) response to their questions.  Children need to feel valued and respected during this time. I think this book addressed these topics very well. 

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.  Another fantastic book by A.S. King!   

Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy

4 stars Realistic Fiction/ Middle School

I didn’t know what to expect from this book when I first started listening to it. I knew that I wanted to read it as it was on my TBR list but as I started to listen to it, I didn’t like how the book was starting out.  I continued listening and, in the end, I liked the rollercoaster ride that I took with Riley. 

When Riley was checked into the treatment center by her mother, Riley acted standoffish and I thought she wouldn’t make it.  She didn’t see herself belonging to the individuals on this floor.  She didn’t feel that she had an eating disorder and she believed that she would be in-and-out of the center within hours.  She hid behind the truth because she believed it, she’d convinced herself that she was normal, so why was she there? 

Riley liked salad and she liked to run.  Actually, I thought Riley was obsessed with running.  If you could look inside her head, you would see a different Riley but of course, you couldn’t.  Riley had convinced herself that what she was doing was normal because that was the world that she lived in. I could totally understand what Riley was saying and why she was saying it.  Riley had not just convinced me but I looked at Riley’s life and I saw things the way she saw them. While at the center, Riley was playing the staff and not being totally honest with them.  I felt that if she continued, they might just release her, and then what?  She’d go right back to being Riley and hiding her eating disorder.  Riley really needed to see that eating healthy wasn’t a bad thing, she needed someone to help her take those first few steps.

Being in treatment, Riley is able to take a few baby steps towards a healthy eating plan.  There are others in the program who are struggling, so she is not alone.  It’s not easy, every meal they struggled and there are the inner voices that haunt and taunt them, as their eyes glare down on their food.  It was the voices that got me as I listened to this novel on audio.  I don’t feel that I have an eating disorder but I could totally relate to what they were telling Riley.  I’m health conscious and I think about those extra calories before I eat them.

I thought she was making huge improvements.  Riley was starting to feel good about herself, she was learning to accept her new image, and Riley was living in a controlled environment, yet wait…….what would happen when they set her free?  I hate to be a Debbie Downer but let’s face reality here. What would happen when Riley gets released and she has to face her friends, her family, and the real world?  You have to consider this outside world influences Riley. How is she going to handle this?  Riley is a twelve-year-old teen and pressure is high at this age.  I, seriously had my doubts for Riley.  I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if Riley had issues once she is released. 

I like how this book addressed Riley’s eating disorder. How it began, her struggles and successes, and how her life was like outside the center. This was a great, realistic novel that I’m glad I read and would definitely recommend.  

After Zero by Christina Collins

5 stars Middle School/Children’s Chapter

I didn’t even know they had a name for it but it all makes sense after reading this novel, Selective Mutism.  An anxiety disorder, where a child speaks in a normal fashion at home (or any comfortable, relaxed, safe environment) but in some social situations, that same child, will refuse to speak. When Elise is unleashed into public schooling, she finds that speaking can get her in trouble and perhaps being silent is the way to go.

Elise had heard stories from Mel, her neighbor about how great school was.  Mel talked about school and her “school friends,” so when Elise’s mom quit homeschooling her, Elise was excited to finally be able to go to middle school.

Unfortunately, school turned out not to be as much fun as she thought.  It wasn’t long before Elise found herself in hot water.  School was a new social situation for Elise and she didn’t know the rules.  She wasn’t hurting her peers on purpose but no one had told her the etiquette and now, Elise decided it was just easier to not say anything.  It was better to be quiet than to say the wrong thing so, off went her voice and on, went her tally marks in her book.

I could feel the stress as Elise struggled with dodging answering the questions that were addressed in the classroom at school.  She knew the answers yet to answer them would create a tally in her book, the book that she felt needed to be blank.  Even when her peers addressed her or harassed her for her silence, she felt safe under the cover of her book. She wanted no tally marks, and every day she worked towards that goal.

I liked that she didn’t run back into the safe arms of homeschooling and that she continued to try other things at school, she wasn’t a quitter.  There’s a bit of fantasy in the book as Elise becomes intrigued by an object at school. I thought this gave her something else to focus on while she was there. I think this book is marvelous and I feel that Christina Collins did an excellent job explaining this disorder.  

Small Things by Mel Tregonning

5 stars Mental Health Children’s Picture Book

I know that just about everyone has dealt with the feelings that the boy in the book encounters.  What I didn’t know was the impact this picture book/graphic novel would have on me as it, blew me away. Containing no words, this book carries a strong, important message that I feel that children and adults can relate to.  I feel that this book needs to read together, at least the first time through, because there are many issues that this boy addresses that an adult should talk with a child about to make sure they understand what is truly happening.  

Life becomes overwhelming for this young boy and immediately, I start to see things piling up for him.  He’s not fitting in at school even though he tries, his grades at school are falling, and at home, he’s angry at those who are there for him. Life is not good. 

With powerful, black-and-white illustrations set in graphic novel format, this fantastic, wordless, picture book tells the story of a boy burdened with anxiety that literally, begins to eat at him.  I liked the concept of the emotion eating at him because this is what I typically say when I talk about some emotions so to actually see it, was very effective. The emotions begin to arrive in many places where he encounters his difficulties and then they continue following behind him, in the illustrations.  The boy notices the bites which occur on his arms, pants and his head. The emotions have no particular shape but are just random wiggly shapes and they seem to multiple. 

I just felt for the boy and I understood completely what he was going through.  Day-in and day-out, the same old and nothing was getting better.  Just looking at the illustrations, and watching the boy, you felt his despair.  Those eyes! The cracks on his face!  Who is going to help him!?  Then, a door opens and the look. 

I think reading it more than once and seriously looking at the illustrations is a must.  You definitely need to check out this book.  I highly recommend it.