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Loose Canon Recommends:
HomegoingGrade(s): 10, 11, 12
A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation. Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer. —From Random House
Suburban GospelGrade(s): 10, 11, 12
When the deacons at Mark Beaver’s Bible Belt church cue up an evangelical horror flick aimed at dramatizing Hell, he figures he’d better get right with God, and soon. Convinced he could die at age seven and spend eternity roasting on a spit in the fiery furnace of Hades, he promptly gets Saved. But once adolescence hits, the Straight and Narrow becomes a tight squeeze. But Suburban Gospel offers more than a look inside Bible Belt suburbia, circa Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority—it’s a tale of faith and flesh. Beaver invites us into a world filled with Daisy Duke fantasies and Prince posters, Nerf Hoops and Atari joysticks, raggedy Camaros and the neon light of strip malls. As much about the adolescent heart as the evangelical mind, the story explores similar emotional terrain as coming-of-age classics like Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and Mary Karr’s Cherry. Suburban Gospel is a tale of growing up Baptist, all right—but also of just growing up. —Hub City Press
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of FranceGrade(s): 3
The day Ben Franklin first set foot in Paris, France, he found the city all abuzz. Everyone was talking about something new—remarkable, thrilling, and strange. Something called . . . Science! But soon the straightforward American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wearing a fancy coat of purple silk and carrying an iron wand, convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force that can make water taste like a hundred different things, cure illness, and control thoughts! But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical approach of observing, hypothesizing, and testing get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks? A rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history shows the development and practice of the scientific method—and reveals the amazing power of the human mind. Discover how Benjamin Franklin’s scientific method challenged a certain Dr. Mesmer’s mysterious powers in a whimsical look at a true moment in history. —From Candlewick
The Moor’s AccountGrade(s): 10, 11, 12, College Plus
In these pages, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America: Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico. The slave of a Spanish conquistador, Estebanico sails for the Americas with his master, Dorantes, as part of a danger-laden expedition to Florida. Within a year, Estebanico is one of only four crew members to survive. As he journeys across America with his Spanish companions, the Old World roles of slave and master fall away, and Estebanico remakes himself as an equal, a healer, and a remarkable storyteller. His tale illuminates the ways in which our narratives can transmigrate into history—and how storytelling can offer a chance at redemption and survival. åÊ—From Penguin Random House
Rhyme SchemerGrade(s): 5, 6
Kevin has a bad attitude. He’s the one who laughs when you trip and fall. In fact, he may have been the one who tripped you in the first place. He has a real knack for rubbing people the wrong way—and he’s even figured out a secret way to do it with poems. But what happens when the tables are turned and he is the one getting picked on? Rhyme Schemer is a touching and hilarious middle-grade novel in verse about one seventh grader’s journey from bully-er to bully-ee, as he learns about friendship, family, and the influence that words can have on people’s lives. —From Chronicle
MinnowGrade(s): 7, 8, 9
Minnow is an otherworldly story of a small boy who leaves his dying father’s bedside hunting a medicine for a mysterious illness. Sent by his mother to a local druggist in their coastal town, Minnow unexpectedly takes a dark and wondrous journey deep into the ancient Sea Islands, seeking the grave dust of a long-dead hoodoo man to buy him a cure. With only a half-feral dog at his side, Minnow’s odyssey is haunted at every turn by the agents of Sorry George, a witch doctor who once stirred up a fever that killed 52 men. Meanwhile, a tempest brews out at sea, threatening to bring untold devastation to the coastal way of life. Minnow is a remarkable debut novel that evokes the fiction of Karen Russell and Lauren Groff a Low Country Heart of Darkness about the mysteries of childhood, the sacrifices we make to preserve our families, and the ghosts that linger in the Spanish moss of the South Carolina barrier islands. —Hub City Press
Bigfoot is Missing!Grade(s): 3, 4
Children’s Poets Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt team up to offer a smart, stealthy tour of the creatures of shadowy myth and fearsome legend—the enticing, the humorous, and the strange. Bigfoot, the Mongolian Death Worm, and the Loch Ness Monster number among the many creatures lurking within these pages. Readers may have to look twice—the poems in this book are disguised as street signs, newspaper headlines, graffiti, milk cartons, and more! —From Chronicle
Blackbird FlyGrade(s): 5, 6, 7
Future rock star or friendless misfit? That’s no choice at all. In this acclaimed novel, twelve-year-old Apple grapples with being different; with friends and backstabbers; and with following her dreams. Publishers Weekly called Blackbird Fly “a true triumph,” and the Los Angeles Times Book Review said, “Apple soars like the eponymous blackbird of her favorite Beatles song.” Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is. Erin Entrada Kelly deftly brings Apple’s conflicted emotions to the page in her debut novel about family, friendship, popularity, and going your own way. —From HarperCollins
Open: An AutobiographyGrade(s): 9, 10, 11, 12
Far more than a superb memoir about the highest levels of professional tennis, Open is the engrossing story of a remarkable life. Andre Agassi had his life mapped out for him before he left the crib. Groomed to be a tennis champion by his moody and demanding father, by the age of twenty-two Agassi had won the first of his eight grand slams and achieved wealth, celebrity, and the game’s highest honors. But as he reveals in this searching autobiography, off the court he was often unhappy and confused, unfulfilled by his great achievements in a sport he had come to resent. Agassi writes candidly about his early success and his uncomfortable relationship with fame, his marriage to Brooke Shields, his growing interest in philanthropy, and—described in haunting, point-by-point detail—the highs and lows of his celebrated career. —From Penguin