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Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh – A treasure for the youth of now and for generations to come

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Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology‚ÄĒwritten by the best children‚Äôs authors‚ÄĒcelebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Pe√Īa, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children‚Äôs publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers.

From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.

I loved¬†Flying Lessons and Other Stories.¬†This book was the perfect book to start off 2017 – it filled me with so much joy, reminded me of the ups and downs of youth, and filled me with so much¬†hope — hope, because kids¬†with marginalized identities may read this book and find themselves in the stories’ characters. And I cannot emphasize how important this is – and consequently how this makes¬†Flying Lessons and Other Stories¬†so important and successful.

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21

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

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I had the privilege of winning this book through the author’s giveaway! Many thanks to the publisher for providing an advanced readers copy.¬†

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking‚ÄĒall while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn‚Äôt want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman‚Äôs son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn‚Äôt always a choice you can make.

Have you ever felt that pure sense of contentment after finishing a book? That’s how I felt after reading¬†The Secret of a Heart Note¬†by Stacey Lee. What a lovely, lovely book.

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Book Recs: Dongzhi Festival & The Importance of Family

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Something I’d like to do is to make¬†Read Think Ponder¬†more personal. Sharing details about my life (aside from my Monthly Recaps!)¬†isn’t really my style, so I thought: why not incorporate cultural festivals or holidays that are meaningful to me into my blog and do something bookish¬†to celebrate?

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20

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

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Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer–a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.

Video gaming and MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role-playing games) have a special place in my heart. I was the kid who stayed at home playing video games with my friends in the summer instead of being outside — and I don’t regret those days at all; in fact, I would say they were integral to my growth as a person. In a way,¬†In Real Life¬†touched on themes and ideas that you¬†knew¬†about when you played MMORPGs, but you didn’t give its real life social and economic implications any thought.

So, here is why you should read In Real Life.

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Book Recs: Fantastic Female Friendships

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I’m tired of¬†books that portray female relationships purely as competition (especially when their interactions are about¬†vying over a boy’s attention), or two-dimensional placeholders to justify the protagonist’s¬†I’m not like other girls!¬†mentality, or even the absence of female friendships.

I love seeing positive female friendships in my books, and I want to see even more of them. Today, I want to share with you some wonderful books that have fantastic female friendships. Usually when I do book recommendations, I like to lay out criteria for the books I recommend.

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14

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition. Written by Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

Beauty Queens¬†delighted me in every way possible. Brandishing dark comedy and satire, it elucidates and explores complex themes such as feminism, racism, ethnicity, identity, disabilities, gender, sexuality, prejudice, and social standards. That’s a¬†lot¬†of themes to explore, but Bray has done it fantastically. Paired with its plot – when a plane crashes on a remote island, thirteen beauty pageant contestants are the only survivors –¬†the result is an excellent¬†book that manages to be ridiculous¬†but also incredibly intelligent,¬†honest and genuine.

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36

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years‚ÄĒa world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity‚ÄĒonly to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

I remember finishing this book in the wee hours of the morning, and¬†I rolled over in my bed and I just…¬†happy sighed.¬†

The Forbidden Wish made my heart swell; swell from its romance, its enchanting world, and the feeling of absolute wonder that this book evoked. It is a gorgeous retelling of Aladdin, but with a twist: the genie/jinni is a girl. Although the story is based on another, The Forbidden Wish manages to be an entirely different and unique story that is captivating from start to finish.

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