It All Comes Down To This by Karen English

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*Thanks to the @kidlitexchange for a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

It is 1965 in Los Angeles California. Twelve-year-old Sophie has never been good at making friends. Instead, she’s always kept to herself. Ever since her family moved into a new neighborhood, Sophie has had to deal with change. First off, they are the first black family to live in the neighborhood. Her new housekeeper doesn’t seem to like Sophie very much. And even though her neighbor, Jennifer, seems to be a promising friend, others in the neighborhood refuse to accept Sophie. And this is only the beginning.

Wow, this book blew me away. Not at all what I was expecting (even though I do not know what I was expecting). It is the kind of book that wraps around you and will not let you go until you finish. Only to wish it wasn’t done. I picked it up and finished it in one sitting despite its 300+ pages. I appreciated the honest, raw take on family life. No fairy tale, perfect family here! Viewing life through Sophie’s eyes was vivid and real. She will stay with me. Thank you, Karen English! I recommend this book for grades five and up.

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Book Review: REFUGEE by Alan Gratz

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Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are on the run. Josef’s family is escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930’s via the St. Louis, traveling to Cuba. Isabel’s family is avoiding jail in Castro’s Cuba in 1994 by sailing on a makeshift boat headed for Miami. And Mahmoud’s family is leaving behind war-torn Syria in 2015, in hopes to make it to Germany. All three families are leaving behind the only life they have ever know, risking everything for a better life. They are refugees.

Author, Alan Gratz, is one of my favorite middle-grade historical fiction writers. And he knocked it out of the park with REFUGEE. I could not put it down and finished the book in one sitting. REFUGEE was intense, real, heart-wrenching, yet hopeful. As a reader, you will ride the roller coaster of life on the run. An important book for everyone to read, especially now. I recommend it for grades four and up.