The Cover Wars

Brooklyn middle-schooler MaKayla can only think about one thing–taking her double Dutch team all the way to the National Jump-off at Madison Square Garden. That is, until her mother breaks the news. Kayla has to spend the summer at her aunt’s house in North Carolina while her parents work out their problems . . . or decide to call it quits.

Kayla does not feel at home in the South, and she certainly doesn’t get along with her snooty cousin Sally. It looks like her Jump-off dreams are over.

Hold the phone! Turns out, double Dutch is huge in the South. She and Sally just need to find two more kids for a team. And a routine. And the confidence to stand up to the double Dutch divas who used to be Sally’s BFFs. Time to show those Southern belles some Brooklyn attitude!

Janet: The cover is lively and matches the tone of the blurb. I like how the ropes look like friendship bracelets. Not so keen on the incorrect placement of one rope against Kayla’s thigh – that just would not work. On the other hand, hey, I’ve never seen double dutch so much as mentioned in passing in a book, so that’s cool.

Nafiza: This sounds super cool. I like the cover and I like the back. Count me in.

Mason Buttle is the biggest, sweatiest kid in his grade, and everyone knows he can barely read or write. Mason’s learning disabilities are compounded by grief. Fifteen months ago, Mason’s best friend, Benny Kilmartin, turned up dead in the Buttle family’s orchard. An investigation drags on, and Mason, honest as the day is long, can’t understand why Lieutenant Baird won’t believe the story Mason has told about that day.

Both Mason and his new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, are relentlessly bullied by the other boys in their neighborhood, so they create an underground club space for themselves. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself in trouble again. He’s desperate to figure out what happened to Calvin, and eventually, Benny.

But will anyone believe him?

Janet: That style of cover has been done before; what sets this one apart is that Mason is shown, and Mason is fat. That is so cool. Finally! The first paragraph of the synopsis catches my attention, despite the repetition of “day” in the last sentence. The last paragraph almost loses me. (so. predictable. an ending. for a middle grade novel.) Still. I’d look at the first few pages.

Nafiza: A beautiful cover, a summary that tugs at the heartstrings. I’ll read it.

Along the train lines north of New York City, twelve-year-old neighbors Myla and Peter search for the link between Myla’s necklace and the disappearance of Peter’s brother, Randall. Thrown into a world of parkour, graffiti, and diamond-smuggling, Myla and Peter encounter a band of thugs who are after the same thing as Randall. Can Myla and Peter find Randall before it’s too late, and their shared family secrets threaten to destroy them all? Drawing on urban art forms and local history, Finding Mighty is a mystery that explores the nature of art and the unbreakable bonds of family.

Janet: Enh. The cover doesn’t do much for me, and the back is all situation, no character. I’ll pass.

Nafiza: Do you know how difficult it is for POC children to find books in which they are the ones having adventures instead of being sidekicks? Very difficult. This book is exciting and I’m IN.

Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems.

Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a crossbow-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her—but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?

Janet: The cover is pretty but nothing particularly stands out except that the parade of adventurers is led by a brown girl. Which, okay, makes me want to look again and maybe glance inside. The back copy is a fairly standard mash-up of MG and edging-into-YA tropes.

Nafiza: What a gorgeous cover. I’m in love. I will give this a try as well.

When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Lora has barely been outside of Havana — why wold she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Lora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Lora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Lora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Lora know for sure when that time has come? Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen’s coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author’s note and a timeline of Cuban history.

Janet: I like that cover. Wow. I love how boldly Lora strides toward the reader, how the cover carries some of the look of paint on cloth, how Lora’s attire captures the uneasy contradiction of army and booklearning. The back raises two small flags: one, abuela is italicized (WHY OH WHY – this may be common practice but is colonial, misleading, and SO ANNOYING); two, this is most definitely not #ownvoices. On the other hand, the back makes me curious about this time and place in history, and makes me want to read this particular story. *insert shrugging emoji*

Nafiza: Another beautiful cover. The summary is intriguing. I hope the subject is dealt with sensitivity. I shall put this on my TBR as well.