Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Two Naomis

Two NaomisRhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola and Vernick, Audrey. Two Naomis.
September 13th 2016 by Balzer + Bray
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

Naomi Edith is living with her father, Tom, since her parents divorced and her mother has gone to California to be a costume designer. Her father isn't very organized about things, and meals are a haphazard affair, but they get along. Naomi Marie's parents are also divorced, but her father lives close by and often spends time with her and her young sister Brianna. When Valerie, Naomi Marie's mother, and Tom start dating, the two Naomis have to learn to put up with each other. Brianna is young enough that she is just glad to have more people around her, and doesn't have a problem with two girls having the same name-- she occasionally refers to them as "black Naomi" (Marie) and "white Naomi" (Edith). The two families spend a lot of time together, hanging out at both of the bakeries that the girls love, and even enroll the girls in a "Girl Gaming the System" coding class. There are some problems along the way, but the families are a strong support network for each other, and the girls eventually learn to like each other. 

There are so many books out right now that deal with the death of a parent or some other horrible tragedy that has befallen a middle grade family, so it was extremely refreshing to read about a problem that many middle school students actually have: divorce and remarriage. While neither Naomi was tremendously enthusiastic about the their parents remarrying, they were okay with it, but had understandable problems that were resolved after a lot of hard, thoughtful work. 

I almost wish that a city were specified, because the setting was very vivid. The families don't have cars but rent them, and they go to the bakeries a LOT. I loved that Naomi Marie hung out at her local library and was involved in African Dance, and her little sister when to a Little Nubians play group, while Naomi Edith had her own interests and friends. Not surprisingly, since the book was a collaborative effort by two middle grade authors, there was a lot of discussion about how to get along with others and appreciate their differences even if you don't embrace them. 

The inclusion of the computer coding class for the girls was fantastic! I wish that more readers would investigate the different coding languages that are out their and try their hand at it. 

Perfect for fans of realistic fiction like Naylor's Alice series or Margolis' Boys Are Dogs that includes light drama, Two Naomis is a great book to show students that life can be challenging but isn't impossible to figure out. 

Do have to say that I found this a little confusing, since both voices were very similar, and there was a cognitive disconnect between the expected audience (10 year olds) and the very tiny font. Perhaps the finished copy won't have that problem. 

25689018Pink, Randi. Into White
September 13th 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Toya and her brother Alex are in a school with very few other Black students in Montgomery, Alabama. Toya has so many problems, including being bullied by aggressively Black Deante, that she prays to Jesus to be turned white. Jesus appears to her and grants her wish, although to her family, she still appears Black. Her family situation is not terrific, since her father wanted a big, expensive house, and her mother resents the fact that she can't home school Toya because she needs to work to afford the house. For a while, Toya manages (as Katarina) to befriend two popular but mean white girls, Amelia and Amera, and attract the attention of the popular Josh, but after Josh attacks her at a party, she learns more about why Deante acts the way he does and realizes that she would rather remain Black, despite the difficulties. 
Strengths: This was an interesting book about putting oneself in someone else's shoes. 
Weaknesses: This was definitely more of a Young Adult book, with a few sexual references and some more mature language. I was also a little disturbed by the frequent disparaging references Toya makes to her hair and her body. There are some issues with eating that are disturbing as well, with Amelia and Amara not eating enough, and Toya perhaps eating too much. 
What I really think: I'm not sure what this book was trying to accomplish. At any rate, it is one to consider for high school readers, but not middle school ones. 

It's good to know that I didn't imagine that this had issues. Here is the School Library Journal review, which I have copied from the Follett Titlewave web site. 

School Library Journal (September 1, 2016)

Gr 9 Up-After a terrible day at school, and humiliated by a fellow African American student, LaToya Williams decides she wants to be white. As a devoted Christian in Montgomery, AL, she calls upon Jesus to make her "anything but black." Miraculously, she wakes up with the features of a white girl. Her recent change is apparent to outsiders but not her family. For a brief moment, Toya lives life as a white teen and experiences different treatment from the kids at school and people in town. This troubling novel grapples with several conflicts, such as racism, colorism, and economic struggles within the black community. These sensitive topics, as well as rape, are ill portrayed and bleak. Although the ending tries to tie up loose ends, such as the protagonist reclaiming her beauty and speaking out against prejudice and her offender, the conclusion is resolved too quickly. Reading this would be a disservice to the targeted audience or those experiencing similar conditions as Toya. The underdeveloped characters and outlandish plot do an injustice to the issues explored in this work. Language and tone are also not authentic considering the narrator's age. VERDICT Not recommended for any collection.-Briana Moore, Elmont Memorial Library, NY © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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