Be My Shy Heroine

Meet Chelsea Jones. She is a high school senior who has very few friends. In fact, she only has one friend, Hannah, and she does not even attend the same school as Chelsea. Even more, she and Hannah do not know what one another looks like because they are virtual friends but do not communicate via camera.

School is extremely unpleasant for Chelsea because she is bullied in the most disturbing way. This is why Zan alerts her readers with a trigger warning on the front cover of the book.

Chelsea’s situation takes a major turn toward the better. A chance event between Chelsea and Steve Wielder allows Chelsea finally to have a friend at school.

Zan explores the issues of bullying, jealousy, toxic relationships, and true friendships. This book will help readers to examine these themes in their friendships and relationships, which occur in every day life. See something, say something!

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Emmanuel Ofosue Yeboah

Imagine being born with a disability and because of it, your own father abandons your family. However, the power of a mother’s love is unmatched; it’s one that cannot be replaced. But your mother’s name is Comfort, and she lives up to her name, and she treats you no differently from her other children. In fact, due to her belief and faith in God, she names you Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

This is the true story of Emmanuel Ofosue Yeboah. Read about how he did not let his disability define him. Instead, he defined his disability. Read about how he became the man of the house to take care of his family when they needed him, despite having a disability. Read about how he had no friends at school. But that quickly changed; not only did he gain many friends but also he was well-respected.

I absolutely love this picture book. It teaches children that although they may be different from their peers, this does not mean that they should be looked down upon, ostracized, talked about, laughed at, and be considered useless and/or a curse. 

I also love how this book demonstrates that despite a physical challenge, children can live a full, complete, and normal life and be respected for who they are and not for what they look like. It also teaches children to define themselves and not to let something or somebody define them.

The illustrations are realistic, creative, and colorful. I am always amazed at an illustrator’s talent, and this is no different. Quall’s work is bold and detailed. The readers do not have to guess what or who something or someone is; the pictures say it all. There is a phrase which says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In the case of this book, yes, it is!

Always Forever Reading’s Rating = 💕💕💕💕💕

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Kids’ Funniest Jokes

Because I am an adult, I know my readers are wondering how I learned about the book, Kids’ Funniest Jokes, and why I read it. A student recommended this book to me because she thought that I would like it. She was so excited about me reading it that there was no way I was going to reject her suggestion. 

The nature of this book is indicated by its title, Kids’ Funniest Jokes. Therefore, this book of jokes is written by kids for kids. When the reader opens the book, he or she does not randomly read jokes. They are organized by categories. “That’s Life!” “Very Wild!” “Knock-Knock!” “What Was That Again?” “What Could It Be?” “Back to School.” “How Do They Do It?” “Food Frenzy.” “Work & Play.” “Animal Fair.” These categories are the chapter titles for the hilarious jokes. 

As a child, my favorite jokes were knock-knock jokes. Hence, I was not surprised that my favorite chapter was “Knock-Knock!” While reading this chapter, I could not help but to laugh at these jokes because they made me think about the jokes that my friends and I told during our childhood. 

“That’s Life!” is another chapter that I found intriguing. It reminded me about life in the eyes of a child. I laughed at these jokes because a child’s innocence is truly enlightening, and his or her creativity is purely genuine. Hence, let us think about Madonna French’s joke. 

Who won the fight at the candy store?

I don’t know, but the lollipop got licked! 

To some people, this joke may or may not be funny, but to this eight-year-old child, it is extremely comical. As I read her joke, I visualized a child at a candy store licking a lollipop. I also imagined a child’s voice telling the joke. 

Revisit your childhood by reading Kids’ Funniest Jokes. You may read jokes that you and your friends told as children. But if those jokes are not included in this book, it is okay because there are some great jokes in this book. Therefore, I encourage you to take a break from the pandemic, and unplug your devices because these jokes will make you laugh. Remember, laughing is therapeutic. 

Always Forever Reading = 💕💕💕💕💕

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The Hottest Summer Ever, Elijah R. Freeman

Always Forever Reading’s Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Hottest Summer Ever is truly about the hottest summer ever, but it has nothing to do with the weather. Set in College Park, Georgia,  Freeman introduces his readers to Richelle Kemoni Love aka Kush. Richelle is a daddy’s girl, who never has to worry about a thing. However, the life to which she is accustomed, changes after Richelle’s father is murdered. Living with only her mother, Richelle experiences another event, one that is repulsive, which causes her journey to begin.

When his audience begins reading this novel, they will not want to put it down. As I was reading this novel, I experienced many emotions. In fact, it will be hard not to have feelings, especially with the ups and downs and twists and turns that take place. Furthermore, you will be playing the guessing game of Who Did It? I also love the use of onomatopoeia; using this literary device really makes the action in the novel come to life.

If you are looking for an urban novel that will appeal to your five senses, keep you turning pages, and most of all, will not be disappointing, then, I recommend reading The Hottest Summer Ever.

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The Underground Railroad

Purchased at Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore

Always Forever Reading’s Rating =

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Consisting of ten chapters and 108 pages, this book teaches young readers all about the Underground Railroad. It focuses on the great and many risks that slaves took to gain their freedom. For example, the opening chapter tells readers about Henry Brown’s harrowing escape to freedom in a box. McDonough also explains to readers that the Underground Railroad was not a physical train but an invisible system that helped African American slaves escape the cruel treatment of slavery.

The illustrations in the book reflect the time period in which slaves lived. Instead of using illustrations with color, they are sketches, like what a person would create on a drawing pad. The sketches seem extremely real, and they are clear and easy to view. There are also maps that display the journeys of the Underground Railroad system, free and slave states, territories, and the Middle Passage. Moreover, young readers will learn about the chief crops of slavery.

I also like the inclusion of the photographs, which are great primary documents for the readers to view and/or read to learn more about the Underground Railroad. These pictures consist of slaves, railroad routes through Indiana and Michigan, abolitionists, receipts for purchased slaves, railroad conductors and operators, newspapers, novels, and even wanted signs advertising rewards for captured slaves. These details help readers to understand what life was like for slaves.

Should these young readers ever need to conduct research, write an essay for school, or want to read more about this timeframe, the timeline helps them to keep track of the year(s) that particular events occurred. The bibliography at the end of the book lists more resources that students can read about the Underground Railroad.

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We’re Moving Where?! Glen Blackwell

As a member of Goodreads, I am afforded the opportunity to meet individuals who, like me, love reading books. This is how I met Glen Blackwell. He sent me a message to ask me if I would review his preview copy of We’re Moving Where?! Because the synopsis sounded interesting, I agreed to read and review it.

Harry and his parents, Mark and Jess Jones, reside in England. Harry is living the fun life of a ten-year-old, watching cartoons, playing with his toys, and spending time with his friends. However, unbeknownst to Harry, his life is going to change in a major way. 

This change focuses on Harry’s dad. When his father receives an offer for a new job, one that he should not turn down, Harry will have to relocate with his family. This new job is in Canada, and Mark and Jess are concerned with how Harry will react toward this news. At first, like most children, Harry does not want to leave his friends. But once he learns that they will be living adventurously in the woods and that he will be able to keep in touch with his friends, Harry warms up to the idea. Hence, moving to and living somewhere in the middle of the woods in Canada gives this novel its title, We’re Moving Where?!

While reading this novel, I also noticed the British spelling of certain words, such as mum, whilst, coloured, pyjamas, and favourite. I do not know if this strategy was intentional, but I liked it. It teaches children that the same words used in different countries have different spellings. This is a great way to allow students to learn about different countries. At the end of the novel, I did not want to stop reading, so I hope that Blackwell writes another book to give this story some closure.

I enjoyed reading this novel, as it was full of positivity. Page after page, I kept waiting for something terrible to happen. But with each page, I did not find anything negative. Moreover, this novel is full of adventure, and the events make this novel fun for students to read.

I was curious about the readability level of this novel, that is the appropriate grade level of it. To determine the grade level, I used two popular readability formulas to see if the grade levels of this novel were consistent. The first formula that I used was the Fry Graph Readability Formula. I randomly selected three 100-word passages. Then, I counted the number of sentences and syllables in the these passages. Next, I calculated the average sentence length and syllables; after calculating the average sentence length and syllables, the determined readability level of this novel is for students in the 7th grade. 

The SMOG Readability Formula is the second method that I used to determine this novel’s readability level. With this formula, I randomly selected three passages consisting of ten sentences. Next, I found all the polysyllabic words, words with three or more syllables, in each passage. Then, I totaled the number of polysyllabic words in each set of three passages and found the closest perfect square of the sum. For the next step, I found the square root of the number closest to the perfect square. After finding the square root, I added three to the calculated square root; this will be the readability level. According to the SMOG Readability Formula, this novel is for students in the eighth grade. Therefore, I recommend that this novel, We’re Moving Where?!, is for for middle school students. It is a clean, appropriate novel that is full of much imagery, which will allow readers to use their imagination as they read.

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Protostar Love Sheopatra Smith

Do you have a love of your life? A soulmate? A ride or die boyfriend or girlfriend? Nia Nayeli Badi and Boyden “Bizzy Boy” Miller have this kind of relationship, one that is undeniably  strong. Nia will not allow anyone to disrespect Boyden, and it is the same for Boyden. When it comes to one another, they are loyal to the soil. 

Everything is going great until one particular day. Nia’s decision to become a single woman does not sit well with Boyden. In fact, Nia does not even like her decision, but she has made a choice, and she is going to see it to the end. However, Boyden is not going to allow the end of “Noyden” (Nia and Boyden) to be a reality. 

One thing that Smith does well is bring her characters to life. While reading this novel, you will feel like you know these characters. In fact, you might find yourself thinking, for example, Nia  reminds me of _____; Boyden reminds me of _____; Halima reminds me of _____.  While reading Protostar Love, I felt like I personally knew the characters, and I was able to experience their every thought and emotion.

In Protostar Love, Smith examines the dynamics of relationships. She focuses on the good and the bad of them. When reading this novel, you may be reminded of or you may be familiar with some of the aspects of these relationships. Hence, this is what makes Smith’s book extremely real.

Although I did notice a few spelling errors, they did not distort the meaning of the sentences; I was still able to follow the storyline. Overall, this is a great novel to read, so I recommend reading Protostar Love.

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New Book Review

Through Goodreads, I am a member of the Black Coffee community. In January 2021, our group read Deesha Philyaw’s novel, The Secrets Lives of Church Ladies. I was really excited to read this collection of short stories. Although there were a few short stories that I enjoyed reading, I am not able to say that I loved the book. Therefore, I encourage you to read the book to determine your feelings about it.

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Slavery in 1921?

This book focuses on a piece of history that Freeman’s friend found and shared with him. “A friend had been looking through some historical material on his family in the area of middle Georgia where these events took place, and he found a brief account of the killings in a local history book” (Freeman 92). Deeply affected by this story, it was one Morgan knew he had to tell. Read this story to learn about the concealed system of slavery. 

The year is 1921, and the places are Jasper and Newton Counties in central Georgia. These two counties become widely known due to the horrific murders of eleven plantation slaves. The accused, John S. Williams and Clyde Manning, are on trial for these horrendous murders. This loss of human life occurred as the result of peonage.

In 1865, the institution of slavery officially ended in the United States, but unofficially, it did not.  This unofficial form of slavery was known as peonage. Peonage was a system in which “blacks were fined for vagrancy or other supposed crimes and then forced to work off the debt on local farms for what often became a lifetime of brutal conditions” (Freeman 60). This was the situation for Clyde Manning and other African-Americans on the Williams’ plantation. For whatever “crime” they committed, these individuals wound up on the plantation and never left. 

Freeman allows his readers to clearly understand the racial dynamics between whites and blacks during the time in which these murders occurred. Also, the way Freeman describes these murders are quite vivid but not in a good way. The details are horrific, and heartbreaking. As a reader, this is what made this novel extremely difficult for me to read. In fact, I almost stopped reading this novel, but I was determined to finish reading it because I wanted to know the fate of these two men after the jury rendered its verdict. If you want to learn about a hidden piece of history, then this novel is for you.

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