Sahara Special and Vive la Paris, companion novels by Esme Raji Codell, the lovely librarian in Chicago whom I met at a local conference in November. Both protagonists are African American girls in Miss Pointy's fifth grade class in an inner city Chicago school. Miss Pointy (short for Poitier) is a fantastic teacher who believes in her students and never reads their FILES. The girls' voices are so engaging, earnest, and fierce - I did not want either book to end.
Sahara has always been labeled "special ed." and yet she is a super talented reader and writer. Her mother refused "special services" and said to the school, "If Sahara's not doing the work, don't label her, fail her!" So that's why Sahara is in Miss Pointy's class. I wish more parents had that level of insight and guts.
Paris' piano teacher is a Holocaust survivor and their friendship teaches Paris what she needs to do to fight the bullies in her own life. Paris reminds me of the super organized, focused, and multitasking female student who is mature but still a kid.
I read American Born Chinese in about a day - I laughed through 95% of it. In this young adult graphic novel, three narratives intertwine and ultimately merge in a way that surprised me, but I'm easily surprised. I really REALLY want someone who does not share so much personal history with the book (as I do) to read the book and discuss the book with me! So, if you are not Asian American and do not know much about the Chinese legend of the Monkey King, then PLEASE read it ...
I still haven't finished Persepolis - I have so little background knowledge about Iran, and it's taking me a long time to absorb the personal and historical information in this brilliant graphic memoir-turned-animated movie. I don't place it in the young adult category - it's a challenging read. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the drawings - bold and simple lines. I was captivated by Satrapi's portrayal of her preteen self during the Iranian revolution, her extraordinary (preteen) political passion and intellect mixed with "normal" growing pains, especially in the 1980's (we're about the same age).
Now go read something good!