Friday, March 30, 2012

Mini Reviews: The "I'm Just Trying to Find My Place in the World" Edition

Where I Belong
by Gillian Cross

In the hot desert of Somalia, Mahmoud is kidnapped and held for a ten thousand-dollar ransom. His older sister, Khadija, is in London, thousands of miles away; and yet Mahmoud s life is in her hands. Someone has discovered her identity, that she is Qarsoon the Hidden One the face of famous fashion designer Sandy Dexter s newest collection. Who can Khadija trust to help her? She now must appear as planned on the Fashion Week runway. Only then can she possibly earn the money to save Mahmoud s life. Also involved is Abdi, a fourteen-year-old boy coming to terms with the mysterious disappearance of his father, and Freya, the totally unfashionable daughter of Sandy Dexter, trying to find her place in her mother s world of haute couture. (description from

I thought that this was an interesting way to introduce a lot of information about Somalian culture. The kids each brought a totally different viewpoint to the story and it was intriguing to read how they interacted with each other and the adults around them.  I had trouble sometimes keeping track of who was the narrator of the different chapters, though, and while this was a sometimes exciting story that was easy to read, it didn't totally enthrall me. 

Tall Story
by Candy Gourlay

Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long-lost half-brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London where he belongs.

Then Andi's biggest wish comes true and she's minutes away from becoming someone's little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he'll turn out to be tall and just as crazy as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he's tall all right. Eight feet tall, in fact—plagued by condition called Gigantism and troubled by secrets that he believes led to his phenomenal growth. (description from

I hadn't been sure I would like this story, but it was actually a very touching, almost folk-story feeling tale. I loved both Bernardo and Andi in different ways.  He was a wonderful boy, who just happened to grow 8 feet tall, and had to deal with how that affected how all the people around him viewed him.  Andi was fiesty, loyal, and incredibly impatient to be independent...and yet, she loved her brother without reservation.  With a slight touch of "magic" and a great, loving family, this turned out to be a great read!

PS - The audio version is phenomenally done. A fun one to listen to!

Full disclosure: Audio book received to review for SLJ
*2012 Debut Author Challenge title*

The Mostly True Story of Jack
by Kelly Barnhill

Enter a world where magic bubbles just below the surface. . . .
When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his strange aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for quite a long time.

When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends -- not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible. (description from

This was a magical tale. It was that side of magic that turns out to be creepy.  I felt bad for Jack as he was trying to figure out who and possibly what he was...and yet, he was good and he made new, loyal friends. I liked the style of this book a lot, and will be checking out Barnhill's next book.


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