Staniszewski, Anna. The Gossip File (The Dirt Diary #3)
January 6th 2015 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Rachel is excited about visiting her father in Florida, and envisions the two of them going to Disney and having a great time. When she gets there, however, she finds that her father's girlfriend, Ellie, is big into "family time" and has a son, Caleb, about her age. Not only that, but her father's apartment is so small that Rachel ends up living with Ellie. Ellie does staffing for a resort, and the cafe is short a person, so Rachel is pressed into service. The other workers, older teens, mistake her for someone else (Ava), but she plays along, and even tries her hand at baking better food for the cafe so that its business improves. She is frustrated by Ellie, and is encouraged by her coworkers to write gossip about things that happen in the resort in a notebook called the "gossip file". In the end, she makes a tenuous peace with her father.
Strengths: Rachel has several interesting conversations about being part Korean that are very good-- she asks her father why they don't have any cultural celebrations or food, and her coworkers ask her where she is "from", as if being part Korean, she couldn't be "from" the U.S. I think that dealing with parents who are divorced is a much more common experience than dealing with parents who are deceased.
Weaknesses: A few odd turns of phrase ("Oh my goldfish") are awkward, and this does get slightly whiny. I missed book two somewhere along the line; must find.
DePrince, Michaela. Taking Flight
October 14th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
The author was born in Sierra Leone and lost both of her parents (to violence and disease) at an early age. After some time in orphanages, she and a friend were adoptive by a family in the US. Readjusting to life in the US was difficult, but her family was very understanding, and allowed her to investigate lots of different activities, including the ballet that had appealed to her ever since she saw a picture of a ballerina on a magazine. The book then chronicles her rise through the world of ballet, also against the odds, since dancers of color are rather rare. Apparently, she is now with the Dutch National Ballet.
This is the youth version of Hope in a Ballet Shoe, and is very accessible. There are some understandably violent scenes, due to the nature of her experiences in Sierra Leone, but they are delicately done. I'm a big fan of my students realizing that not everyone in the world has an easy life, and this is a good example of someone who persevered against horrible odds.
Nice interview with Ms. DePrince about her life and the book.