Robin Gunn

December is Peiling Wang's least favorite time of year. She's the only student in the whole fifth grade whose family doesn't celebrate Christmas. In the Wang family, the important holiday is Chinese New Year, held in January or February. Sure, Peiling loves her family's New Year celebration, but in December she feels left out when she hears her classmates' stories of Christmas carols, family dinners and especially all those presents.

But this December, things are looking up for Peiling. School is very busy, thanks to Miss Rosensweig, who is unlike any teacher Peiling and her friends have ever had before. There are rehearsals for the school play, and an unusual winter art project to work on. Best of all, for the first time since immigrating to America seven years ago, Peiling's Mama and Baba have agreed to have an American Christmas, with a real Christmas tree, and presents, and a real American Christmas dinner. Unfortunately, nothing about Peiling's Christmas turns out quite right. Instead of roasting the turkey, Mama cooks it Chinese style. No one wants to sing carols, and the aunts and uncles end up playing mahjong. Mama even invited Miss Rosensweig, who doesn't celebrate Christmas. If it weren't for the presents from Mama and Uncle Samson, Peiling's Christmas would be a disaster. Funny thing is, only Peiling seems to notice that it's all going wrong. Everyone else is having a fun time. Back at school in January, Miss Rosensweig even tells the other fifth graders about her wonderful Chinese-style Christmas celebration. At first Peiling is embarrassed, until she notices that perfect Laura Hamilton actually seems jealous that their teacher spent Christmas with the Wangs.

Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas is a gentle, fun and truthful tale that will connect with anyone who's felt uncomfortable about being different. Author Pauline Chen invites readers into the lives of a Chinese immigrant family to experience the joys of cultural tradition, while acknowledging the awkwardness that often arises as people from different backgrounds learn to live and celebrate together.

 

Writer Robin Wright Gunn celebrates her holidays in Savannah, Georgia.

December is Peiling Wang's least favorite time of year. She's the only student in the whole fifth grade whose family doesn't celebrate Christmas. In the Wang family, the important holiday is Chinese New Year, held in January or February. Sure, Peiling loves her family's New Year celebration, but in December she feels left out when […]

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias knows exactly how everything in her life is supposed to be. As narrator of A Crooked Kind of Perfect, she spells it out on the first page, with the help of first-time author Linda Urban. Zoe will become a child piano prodigy and perform in Carnegie Hall, dressed in a ball gown, tiara and elbow-length gloves.

Zoe's real life is anything but perfect, however. Mom is at her office all the time. Best friend Emma has ditched Zoe for another girl she met over the summer. Dad holes up in the house, earning correspondence course diplomas from Living Room University. When he ventures outside, things often go awry, like the time he bought 432 rolls of toilet paper.

Zoe is excited when Dad goes shopping for a piano until he returns with a wood-grained Perfectone D-60 electric organ plus six months of free lessons. Before Zoe knows it, she's agreed to compete in the Perform-O-Rama organ contest, only weeks away. While she practices every afternoon, her dad bakes cookies for his Bake Your Way to the Bank diploma, assisted by Wheeler Diggs, a kid from Zoe's school who followed her home on the bus.

There's plenty to love about A Crooked Kind of Perfect. Author Urban has a knack for delivering quirky character details with a 10-year-old's spin and creating a storyline that's fresh, a little wacky, yet still plausible. The first-person narration not only keeps the reader engaged in the action but also reveals a vulnerable side to Zoe. Urban has crafted an atypical framework for a common situation the child who feels like an outsider. In many children's books, the characters experience grueling and sometimes tragic circumstances, with lessons that can be sad or painful. Urban delivers her perfect life lessons with joy, originality and fun. Freelance writer Robin Wright Gunn lives perfectly happily in Savannah.

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias knows exactly how everything in her life is supposed to be. As narrator of A Crooked Kind of Perfect, she spells it out on the first page, with the help of first-time author Linda Urban. Zoe will become a child piano prodigy and perform in Carnegie Hall, dressed in a ball gown, […]

It's the fall of 1960, and Louise Collins is a sixth-grader at William Frantz Elementary School in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Orleans. Louise's mother Pauline is keeping her out of school as part of a boycott against court-ordered integration. Almost the only child attending Frantz this year is six-year-old Ruby Bridges, the first African- American student to enroll there.

While Louise stays home helping out at her mother's boarding house, Pauline is busy as a member of the Cheerleaders, a group of white mothers who gather daily to taunt Ruby as she enters the school. When a quiet stranger rents a room at Pauline's boarding house, both Louise and her mother can tell right away that there is something that makes him different from anyone they've ever met before. What they can't predict is the chain of events that his arrival will launch, touching every facet of their lives.

In My Mother the Cheerleader, first-time author Robert Sharenow brings readers into the heart of America's civil rights battle. Sharenow succeeds where few authors have dared to venture crafting a convincing first-person account, and opening a window of understanding toward people supporting the wrong side of historic issues.

No one would blame Sharenow if he tied up the end of this novel in a tidy bow, transforming Louise and her mother from segregationists into civil rights freedom fighters. But the author travels a more difficult path, revealing the incremental ways that real change often takes hold. Robin Wright Gunn lives in Savannah, Georgia.

It's the fall of 1960, and Louise Collins is a sixth-grader at William Frantz Elementary School in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Orleans. Louise's mother Pauline is keeping her out of school as part of a boycott against court-ordered integration. Almost the only child attending Frantz this year is six-year-old Ruby Bridges, the […]

Take the runaway adventures of an orphaned country girl and throw in a half-dozen dragons, a handsome young nobleman, an evil princess and a pair of magic slippers. With all the ingredients of a tried-and-true fairy tale, author Jessica Day George has cooked up Dragon Slippers, a magical, fun-filled page-turner for middle-grade readers that's a far cry from an old-school Cinderella story.

When Creelisel Creel Carlbrun's dimwitted aunt asks Creel to sacrifice herself to a dragon in the caves near their village, the niece really doesn't mind. Everyone knows there hasn't been a dragon in those caves, or anywhere else in the kingdom of Carlieff, in hundreds of years. Creel plans to use the sacrifice as a ploy to run off to the city, making a new life as a fine seamstress for the gentlewomen of the kingdom.

The elderly and cranky dragon that captures the young seamstress at the cave is hardly a ferocious monster, but Creel is still in big trouble. Talking fast, she persuades the dragon to release her, bartering for a beautiful and seemingly worthless pair of blue slippers from the dragon's hoard of shoes. Creel's skill at thinking on her feet and her independent spirit lead her on many adventures in this fast-paced novel, and it's those dragon slippers that cause most of her problems. Ultimately the girl finds herself, and her treasured blue slippers, in the middle of a raging war that pits the good folks of Carlieff against a nearby kingdom armed with a battalion of dragons under the spell of Creel's nemesis selfish, hateful Princess Amalia.

How did Creel get into the middle of this? Can she help save the kingdom of Carlieff? What do those slippers have to do with this terrible war? Grab a copy of Dragon Slippers to find out. But don't expect everything to find everything wrapped up in a nice tidy bow. Just when it looks like George has everyone living happily ever after, a new dilemma lands at Creel's doorstep and she's on her way again. Hopefully the author will spin that quest into another fantastic fable.

Freelance writer Robin Wright Gunn lives a fairy-tale life in Savannah, Georgia.

Take the runaway adventures of an orphaned country girl and throw in a half-dozen dragons, a handsome young nobleman, an evil princess and a pair of magic slippers. With all the ingredients of a tried-and-true fairy tale, author Jessica Day George has cooked up Dragon Slippers, a magical, fun-filled page-turner for middle-grade readers that's a […]

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