Believe in yourself

Is Life not Going as You Expected?

Do you ever feel that you have no control over your life? That people don’t see you as you’d like them to? Has something thrown a monkey wrench in your plans? Don’t feel so alone, it happens to us all. And people see more good in you than you thought was deserved?  These three books touch on this theme in interesting ways. They encourage us to find the best in whatever situation befalls us. So have faith in yourself and the people around you.

I went through high school feeling that no one would ever be my friend and that I probably didn’t deserve friends. I did have friends and I did and do deserve them. So do you and so do the characters in these book

Anything but fine cover

Luca has a career-ending fall, that destroys the boy’s hope for his future. This is the story of how he learns to deal with it.

Anything but Fine

Tobias Madden

Luca’s life’s plan comes tumbling down when he falls down the flight of stairs leading from the dance studio in his private school to the street. He breaks all the bones in his arch and knows he’ll never be able to stand on his toes again. Ballet is the only life he’s ever wanted, so now what will he do? Since he never bothers to study for any of his other classes, he’s kicked out of the school. He ends up going to the local public school, feeling all alone. He ignores all his friends from his private school feeling that they’ll not want to continue the friendships. He does find a boyfriend in his new school and slowly begins to realize that there are things in life than ballet. That there are academic classes that he actually likes and for which he has some aptitude. He even learns that he can find pleasure in participating in other ways with dance. There are many areas of discussion in the book, so teachers and caregivers can recommend it for students to learn from.

BIBLIO: 2022, Page Street Publishing, Ages 14+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult Fiction

ISBN: 978-164673323

Jordan and Max, Showtime (Orca Echoes)
Jordan and Max: Showtime

Jordan and Max: Showtime

Suzanne Sutherland

Illustrated by Michelle Simpson

Jordan is going to a new school and, being a shy boy who wears his hair almost to his shoulders, doesn’t feel he fits in. He likes wearing his hair long because he likes to play dress-up with his grandmother where he lives. He meets a boy, Max, in his class because the two are paired for a school project to tell everybody else a bit about themselves. Max is a bit of a showoff and brags about how good he is acting. Max wears a shirt that has NO THANKS emblazoned on the front of it. The two boys hit it off when they decide to dress up in Jordan’s grandmother’s fancy clothes and wigs. Jordan is sure they’ll flop, which they did, but the two boys become good friends. Jordan learned that it was alright to be what he wanted to be. The message of the book is that everyone can be acceptable, especially if they are genuine about who they are. However, it would have to nice to learn why Jordan was living with his grandmother why he’d had to switch schools. Teachers and caregivers can find many messages to discuss with children.

BIBLIO: 2021, Orca Echoes/Orca Book Publishers, Ages 7 to 9, $??

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book Fiction

ISBN: 9781459826953

ISBN: 9781459826960

ISBN: 9781459826977

Spell Sweeper

Spell Sweeper

Spell Sweeper: Magic is Messy

Lee Edward Fdi

Cara Moone feels she’s probably the least magical person in the whole of the school for wizards that she goes to. But she’s not sure she wants to live at home with her non-wizardly family. Her older sister, Su, is no longer the supportive older sister she used to be and her mother is busy most of the time. The family was devastated when Cara and Su’s father was killed in a car accident. Cara hardly remembers him but feels his absence acutely. She has been assigned to the “loser” class at wizard school where she’s learning how to sweep up the remnants of magic. Turns out performing magic leaves a residue that can be dangerous. She has a special broom with which to clean up what’s left. But after cleaning up the leftovers of the latest magical performance of Harlee Wu, the top student in the school, Cara encounters a terrifying creature and a breach in the magical universe. She’s convinced that Harlee is using an illegal magic which causes the problem. Along with Cara’s friend and fellow Spell-Sweeper-in-Training, Gusto, along with their teacher’s magical fox, the teacher, and the hated Harlee, end up going on a top-secret mission to see what’s causing the breach. Turns out Cara’s sister Su has joined a cult and blames magic for the death of their father. As part of the cult they are performing their own magic and that’s what’s causing the rupture. In the end, Cara learns that she actually has special talents which make her one of the few who can clean up the magical messes. She also discovers that Harlee is not an evil person. Teachers can use the story to discuss why we should not be too hasty to judge people.

BIBLIO: 2021, Harper/HarperCollins Children’s Books/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Grade Fiction

ISBN: 978-0-06-284532-0

Never give up on your dreams and do learn to have faith in yourself. You are most decidedly worth knowing, so believe in yourself.

Where Does Each of Us Belong In this World? 

Hello again, after what seems like ages since I’ve posted. I’m blaming all on the events that are happening around the world and in just the U.S.A. alone. Being fearful of being exposed to the virus, I have stayed home a lot and gotten more and more depressed.

Well, ENOUGH OF THAT. My promise to myself is to carry on as if life were indeed normal. And at some point in the future, perhaps it will be what I consider normal.

In the meantime, I have been reading books—lots of books. Some okay, some good, and some outstanding.

The three I’m sharing today all fall into the final category.


A Boy Is not a Ghost

The first one continues the journey of Natt Silver’s horrors under Stalin’s Russian rule. He was a cruel man and prone to disliking those who didn’t approve of his way of doing things.

A Boy Is not a Ghost

Edeet Ravel

Presumably based on the author’s family history, this story continues Natt Silver’s saga of escaping antisemitic sentiments during WWII. Natt’s father has been sent to a gulag in Northern Russia for no reason that Natt can figure out. He and his mother are shipped off to Siberia for no reason that he can figure out. The continuance of his journey in 1941 from his original departure from Romania apparently because he’s Jewish, and Stalin doesn’t like Jews. Stalin doesn’t seem to like anybody very much. The story takes us along with Natt first on a train and then from one internment camp after another. Because things aren’t bad enough, his mother is sent to prison for trying to get food for her very hungry son. Natt now has to live with a foster family, who fortunately help him get his mother out of prison. The story is based on the author’s personal history. Along the way, Natt does make friends and discovers that there, indeed good people in the world. Teachers can many discussions started in this book, such as why there are such villains in the world and are there still such villains.

BIBLIO: 2021, Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Grade Historical Fiction


Those of us who live in the so-called developed countries can’t conceive of not having running water and good sanitation. Of course, that really isn’t true when you think about it. Even in the U.S. we have places where the drinking water is poisonous. Of course, these areas are where poor people live, especially those who aren’t lily-white or native English speakers.

Burying the Moon

Illustrated by Sonali Zohra

Latika hates the moon because she has to wait until dark to “do her business” with all the other females in her Indian village. Which means, if the moon is bright, everyone can see her. Men, of course, can “do their business” where ever. The small, very poor, village has no running water, not even a common well, from which to get their water and, of course, there are no toilets. Latika, though she has the interest and the intelligence, know she won’t be allowed to become an engineer, just because of her sex. But then a very nice government water engineer comes to town to build a common well, so the town will have a safe water supply. He encourages all the children, girls included, to aspire to being engineers. Latika points out to the engineer the lack of sanitation in the village and that she wants to build latrines. He encourages her ambitions and helps build latrines for the villages. He also encourages her to think about continuing her education. Teachers will find a wealth of information to mine in this book, starting with the health risks of not having clean water available.

BIBLIO: 2021, Groundwood books/House of Anansi Press, Ages 8 to 12, $19.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Grade Fiction




Again, on the theme of not feeling welcome where you live, this book discusses how living in a country that is not of your cultural genealogy affects you. In this case a woman of Punjabi heritage, who grew up in Africa. She doesn’t feel she belongs anywhere. Or perhaps we should think of her belonging everywhere.


Gayatri Sethi

Illustrated by Divya Seshaori

Ms. Sethi was born in Tanzania to Punjabi parents and, as an adult, moved to the United States where she married an African-American man. Together they have children who could most decidedly be considered American Mutts, as are most of people born and raised here, including the Native Americans. In her memoir/commentary on human cultures and societies, she uses free verse and short non-fiction to write about her life and her ways of trying to figure out where she fits in the scheme of things. Of course, she has been plagued with racism and discrimination, never feeling she really belongs anywhere. She may be ethnically Indian Hindi/Pakistani Muslim, but she really knows little of life there. She, of course, knows something of the foods from the area. She could be considered African since that’s her continent of birth, but she’s not of Negroid genetic background. In the U.S.A, she is an immigrant, and though she’s genetically Caucasian, her skin tone is not so-called white. Here she is called a “person of color.” The book is well written and intriguing, but it too pithy to be read in one sitting. Still, teachers most decidedly could and should use the book to launch year-long projects on the issues of race, ethnicity, and where we all belong.

BIBLIO: 2021, Mango & Marigold Press, Ages 14 +, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult Memoir

ISBN: 975-1-7370550-2-0

My ethnic and cultural heritage is a mix. One my father’s side I am French, Scottish, Welsh?, Irish, and, according to his mother, a dash of Cherokee. Since I’m a faded redhead with very white skin, I don’t see the Cherokee, but my grandmother was a raven-haired beauty, with an impish grin. She looks like she could have had a bit of Native American blood in her. People do say I have what they decide is an indication of such genes. They say I have high cheek bones.

On my mother’s side of the family, aside from a smidge of English blood and a bit of Swiss blood, I’m almost exclusively German. The bottom line is I am an American Mutt. For the most part, both sides of the family tree have been in the U.S. since before it even was such. In fact, my fifth-generation paternal great-grandfather was Thomas Jefferson’s grammar school teacher, along with other well-known men.

My point of all this family history, is that even I don’t feel I fit comfortably in any particular niche. Though, of course, it’s not the same as being slandered and sneered at and disregarded because of the simple fact of my skin color or ethnic background.

We should all try to find the good in other people and how much we do have in common. Mostly we have more similarities than differences.

As I have in the past, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my blogs. If you disagree with what I’ve said, that’s fine. All I ask is that you be civil in your response. Thanks and stay healthy. Sarah