In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

By Bette Bao Lord

Year of the BoarFirst published in 1984, this lively and funny book is as fresh as ever today. Shirley Temple Wong leaves her warm extended family in China and moves with her parents to Brooklyn, New York, where she enters fifth grade.

She learns to play stickball, befriends a bully, takes walks with a parrot, and interacts with kids and adults from many backgrounds and races. She also loves listening to radio broadcasts of baseball games and particularly admires #42, Jackie Robinson.

But this story about her first year adapting to America is so much more than that. It has charming drawings, witty humor, and lovable characters.

As the author of a new book about a kid from China learning to love baseball in his first year of living in America, I tip my hat to Bette Bao Lord. Her book deserves its status as a classic. 

The Way Home Looks Now

By Wendy Wan-Long Shang, selected for CCBC Choices, Amelia Bloomer project, and BookPage Best of the Year, Grades 4-6.

The Way Home Looks Now cover.jpg

Chinese fathers seldom get a positive portrayal in American books. They tend to be stiff, distant, strict, and overly focused on grades. In this delightful book, a Chinese American father turns out, in the end, to be loving and wise. One of many surprises that make this a compelling and lovely story!

Boys and girls who love baseball will love this book, as will many others. At its heart is Peter Lee, who shares his passion for the game with his whole family—until a tragedy strikes and his mother is paralyzed by grief. At first, Peter can’t get back to baseball, but then he gets the idea that he can win back his mother’s attention by playing again. He never imagines his coach will be his stiff, by-the-book father.

The characters are charming and unique, and just when you think you know how the story will end, it takes an unexpected twist. Clearly, Wendy Shang is a master story teller!

For more on the author, see: or

Wolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk, ages 10 and up, a 2017 Newbery Honor book

WolfHollow-201x300Wolf Hollow deserves the many awards and accolades it won as the best children’s book of 2016. Haunting and disturbing, it harkens back to what many think of as a simpler, more innocent era, the 1940s, in a bucolic setting of western Pennsylvania.

But there is nothing innocent about the mean-hearted girl who moves up from the big city, and there’s nothing simple about the thick-bearded veteran who roams the hills with three rifles on his back. Eleven-year-old Annabelle learns hard lessons about uncovering evil and protecting the wrongly accused.

Highly recommended for readers ready for complexity.

For more about the author, Lauren Wolk, here is her website. 

Save Me a Seat

by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan


On his first day of fifth grade in an American school, Ravi is relieved to see one other Indian face in his classroom—that of an American-born boy named Dillon. A popular and good student back in India, much-loved by his parents and grandparents, Ravi is confident he will make friends and shine like the sun he was named for.

By contrast, Joe is not so confident. Wearing earplugs because of his auditory processing disorder, he knows Dillon to be a bully and a petty thief. Told in alternating voices, this story of one crazy week at school captures the dislocation both boys feel. By the end, they each have learned something valuable about themselves.

A satisfying story, fun and accessible, with a much-needed message.  In today's America, it's more important than ever for kids to reach out across cultural divides and befriend others who have different backgrounds. 

Click these links to find out more about Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Epitaph Road

by David Patneaude, a young adult novel, now available in Kindle format


Imagine a future world run by women: no war, no violence, almost no crime. The military budget has been diverted to support infrastructure, and the jails have been converted to schools and libraries. But the cost was high: A terrible plague has wiped out most of the male population, and strict population controls limit the males to three percent. Kellen is a fourteen-year-old boy living in this future society, and he misses his dad.

Underlying this utopian but regimented world lies a disturbing secret. When Kellen and two girls uncover it, they set off on a bicycle journey to warn his dad. The tension ratchets up as they discover a secret underground lab where an even darker evil is being hatched.

Compelling and gripping, David Patneaude’s stunning story draws you in with both cinematic action and heartfelt poetry. Each chapter opens with an epitaph written by a woman or girl for the man or boy she lost in the plague. The premise—a world run by women—fires the imagination, and the ending will keep you pondering long after you have finished reading. 

More about Dave at 

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