This time of year is all about caring, sharing, and giving back. Although I've personally suffered a few cuts and bruises throughout 2016, I do have lots to be grateful for. One of my favorites is having been part of an amazingly supportive group of 2016 debut authors. So I want to give back.
Welcome to my first of four fabulous @TheSweet16s middle grade reads installments, my next contribution to Shannon Messenger's MMGM genius plan to give middle grade reads their just due! Click HERE for the other participants.
My first spotlight:
THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM
by Kathleen Burkinshaw
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Description: Following the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this is a new, very personal story to join Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.
Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan's fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden fom its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home.
When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.
This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.
My Splats: Sweet at times. Heart-breaking at other times.
The true-to-life historical foundation created at the onset of the story ignites the human curiosity we all possess. School kids of this age group will go bonkers over the realness of the history. Told from the view of one their age, one who was there. I mean, there were so many interesting historically-based details I never knew about, and I'm a huge history buff! This will be a fabulous tool for teachers in schools to share this era.
But this story is more than mere history. It explores the physical, emotional, and economic impact of one of mankind's most devastating and self-created tragedies - war - through the innocent yet courageous voice of a young girl. Such a great way to share this segment of our world's history. The reader feels the fear, confusion, and threat of war through Yuriko, and then experiences the horror of its aftermath. This story gets even more personal, though. Woven within its fibers is a tale of family traditions, culture, and secrets that change all involved.
My next spotlight:
I AM DRUMS
by Mike Grosso
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Description: Sam knows she wants to be a drummer. But she doesn’t know how to afford a drum kit, or why budget cuts end her school’s music program, or why her parents argue so much, or even how to explain her dream to other people.
But drums sound all the time in Sam’s head, and she’d do just about anything to play them out loud—even lie to her family if she has to. Will the cost of chasing her dream be too high?
My Splats: Totally rockin'!
Sam has a great voice - authentic and flows with ease. Basically, she breaths off the page. Like most kids her age (heck, myself included), she questions much about herself and her world, constantly exploring to find her place. Sam experiences loads of inner conflict, which just adds to the way others misunderstand her, her mannerisms, her loves, her hopes, and her dreams. She's a thinker, which I love! The author does a great job showing and exploring the stereotypes of this age by peers and even adults, and the effects.
The element that Sam wants something and is willing to work hard to get it is a great plus for this story. Granted, she might - I said might because I don't want to feed you any spoilers ;) - go about achieving her goal in a few less desirable ways than she should have. But those are all learning opportunities for both Sam and the reader. The longer she works the more she sees value in reaching a goal in her own power. Lastly, the adult role models' speeches, choices, and intimate conversations with Sam and others are lifelike. Some are supportive, while others leave Sam feeling deserted. Like I said - life. And, of course, there's tons of musical references! Very, very cool...