On the busy streets of Tokyo, Yoshio asks a koto player her favorite sound. She replies that the most beautiful sound to her is ma, the sound of silence. Yoshio tries to hear the sound of silence, but can’t find it. Noise seems to be everywhere: kids at school, traffic on the street, his family’s chopsticks and chewing during dinner. It’s not until Yoshi is engrossed in reading a book in an empty classroom that he realizes he’s hearing a moment of ma.
Fifteen-year-old Lucy, whose immigrant Chinese family lives in a poor neighborhood of Melbourne, is recipient of the first Equal Access scholarship offered by Laurinda, an upscale, private girls school. The economic and racial disparity between Lucy and her Laurinda classmates, most of who are white and wealthy, is glaring.
Endpapers showing a block of city apartments in the rain with a small boy and even smaller girl in two windows begin this account of their family’s airplane trip. The little girl packs her beloved stuffed animal monkey herself, resulting in a not-quite-securely-fastened suitcase. The family arrives at the airport, checks in, goes through security, and gets settled on the plane. The flight includes safety instructions, snacking, and cloud-watching. After landing they must wait for their luggage before going outside and into the arms of the children’s grandparents.
After Obayda’s family moves from Kabul to the village where her father grew up, the 10-year-old’s aunt suggests she become a bacha posh—a girl who passes as a boy—to give her family the advantage of a son. Obayda’s parents reluctantly agree. Obayda, now Obayd, likes being a girl, and doesn’t know how to move through the world with a boy’s swagger and certainty. Befriended by Rashid, an older bacha posh, Obayd soon is relishing the freedoms and privilege her older sisters do not enjoy, even in their progressive family.
“Once upon a time there was a hungry lion, a penguin, a turtle, a little calico kitten, a brown mouse, a bunny with floppy ears, and a bunny with un-floppy ears….” The list goes on. But with each turn of the page, some of the animals disappear, until finally the narrator notes, “Umm…I guess Once upon a time there was just a HUNGRY LION and a dwindling assortment of other animals.”
Prior to 1847, little round cakes fried in lard were a dietary staple for sailors aboard ships. They were easy to prepare and easy to eat. But Hanson Gregory, a 16-year-old cook’s assistant aboard a schooner, listened to his fellow sailor’s complaints about the cakes, which they called “sinkers” because the centers were so heavy with grease, and he came up with a way to improve them: He took the top of a pepper shaker and cut the centers out of the cakes before he fried them.
“There’s no Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids. How is that possible?” Mary’s invitation to be in her older cousin’s wedding launches a laugh-out-loud story genuine in its depth and warmth. Mary’s family is about to move to North Dakota to join her dad, who’s been there for a job since their small-town family hardware store failed. Middle school-aged Mary and her younger brother, Luke, are staying with their grandmother and bride-to-be Edie’s family in St. Paul for the summer while their mom, exhausted from holding things together at home alone, joins their dad to find a place they all can live.
The premise is not unfamiliar: a dangerous creature, in this case a snake, eats a series of unsuspecting victims, here beginning with a boy, only to be outsmarted and meet its comeuppance. But everything about the telling is fresh and full of delight in this begs-to-be-read-aloud rhythmic, rollicking tale.
Eleven-year-old Genie and his older brother, Ernie, are staying with their Virginia grandparents while their parents go on vacation. It’s Genie’s first time meeting his grandfather, who’s never visited Brooklyn. Genie is fascinated to discover the older man is blind, although so capable in the house that Genie doesn’t realize it at first. A story full of small dramatic arcs and ongoing mysteries.
Alfred Ely Beach was a genius who was ahead of his time. In the mid-19th century, he came up with an idea that would help to solve New York City’s congested streets: an underground train. His vision was of a train powered by an enormous fan, but he knew the idea was unlikely to be approved by Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, so instead he proposed building a system of tubes underground to carry mail. After getting permission to proceed, he rented the basement of a clothing store to use as his headquarters and hired workers to come in each day to start digging a tunnel.