Shaunta Grimes’ Center of Gravity (2020) is steeped with references to 1980s culture and aesthetics. Tessa, the novels twelve-year-old protagonist, is losing everything: her mother, her best friend, even her home in Colorado. She’s also gaining things shCenter of Gravity Chapter 1e doesn’t want: a twenty-three-year-old stepmom who is pregnant and a beach house in California. Her pre-existing anxiety is amplified amidst all the uncertainty and change.
Once in California Tessa bonds with some local boys with trouble of heir own. This helps put her own in perspective as she slowly begins to process the changes in her life that she has no control over.
Center of Gravity is a beautifully written middle-grade novel. The themes explored, including parental loss and child abuse, are expressed though the perspective of pre-teens whose lives are tethered to those of adults in their lives. This allows for critical reflection on adult-child relationships and constraints on youth agency.
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Isla’s Family Tree (2020), written by Katrina McKelvey and illustrated by Prue Pittock, is a warm and inviting story that manages to be both minimalist and richly specific. The red-haired title character is not excited that her mother is about to give birth to twins. She tells her parents that their family is large enough as is. Her mother patiently and lovingly explains that families, like trees, grow. Continue reading
The Adventures of Princess Pudding Pie (2020), written by Saureen Naik Desai and illustrated by Marco Mazzarello, follows a round-faced little girl with black pigtails and tan-colored skin on a journey around the world. The little girl, Princess Pudding Pie, introduces readers to brief greetings and yummy delicacies from a variety of countries including the USA, France, Kenya, and Japan. The illustrations feature popular landmarks and regionally-specific clothes from the countries explored. Desai’s subtle lyricism makes reading aloud enjoyable for children and adults. Continue reading