The Cover Wars

The Executives control Oichi’s senses, her voice, her life. Until the day they kill her.

An executive clan gives the order to shoot Oichi out of an airlock on suspicion of being an insurgent. A sentient AI, a Medusa unit, rescues Oichi and begins to teach her the truth—the Executives are not who they think they are. Oichi, officially dead and now bonded to the Medusa unit, sees a chance to make a better life for everyone on board.

As she sets things right one assassination at a time, Oichi becomes the very insurgent the Executives feared, and in the process uncovers the shocking truth behind the generation starship that is their home.

Jane: Ummmm….I have no idea what any of this means. Who are the Executives? What is an “executive clan”? Why should I be surprised at the reveal that the Executives aren’t who “they “think they are, when I have no idea what an Executive is, or who the “they” is? Is this a sequel? Will this makes sense to some readers? Also, the tagline kind of bugs me – I want to rewrite it in the past tense – “The Executives controlled Oichi’s life. Until the day they killed her.” The cover is kind of intriguing, but it doesn’t really make me want to pick it up.

Janet: The cover is so intriguing, I want to know more! Jane is right, though, the back blurb doesn’t give enough. It’s also immediately obvious that the Executives are bad new: the goodies don’t control senses, voice, and life. So while the revelation may be shocking to Oichi, it’s old hat to the reader. That said, I love medusa variations, so should I come across this I would look inside.

Nafiza: This cover is so intriguing that even though the back copy makes it less than my thing, I am super curious about it.

In a racially polarized classroom in 1970 Alabama, Lu’s talent for running track makes her a new best friend — and tests her mettle as she navigates the school’s social cliques.

Miss Garrett’s classroom is like every other at our school. White kids sit on one side and black kids on the other. I’m one of the few middle-rowers who split the difference.

Sixth-grader Lu Olivera just wants to keep her head down and get along with everyone in her class. Trouble is, Lu’s old friends have been changing lately — acting boy crazy and making snide remarks about Lu’s newfound talent for running track. Lu’s secret hope for a new friend is fellow runner Belinda Gresham, but in 1970 Red Grove, Alabama, blacks and whites don’t mix. As segregationist ex-governor George Wallace ramps up his campaign against the current governor, Albert Brewer, growing tensions in the state — and in the classroom — mean that Lu can’t stay neutral about the racial divide at school. Will she find the gumption to stand up for what’s right and to choose friends who do the same?

Jane: I really like this cover – the striking colour-blocking really seems to capture Lu’s sense of being stuck in the middle, trying to find where she fits in a world that seems to be forcing her to take sides.  This sounds like a really interesting story – I don’t know that much about how Latinx individuals were perceived or treated in this period in history, so this could offer a much needed perspective.

Janet: The cover feels oddly empty; it leaves Lu visually isolated despite a story that promises to focus on community tensions. Like Jane, I don’t know much about this era and scenario. I do like how the blurb promises a story grounded in small scale problems as it tackles large scale events. Growing pains and friendships going awry don’t stop just because of massive injustice – and the solutions to the smaller issues offer hope, or at least comfort, in the face of the unendurable.

Nafiza: I like the cover. Lu being in full colour balances out the starkness of the background. The back copy is intriguing and I want to read this.

Patina-Jason-Reynolds

Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

Jane: Alright, I’m going to be a bit biased here, because I’ve already read this one. Toxic stress is a terrible reality for far too many children, and can cause real and lasting damage if not managed. Being taken away from family, having a seriously ill family member, or having to change schools can cause extreme stress, and can make it difficult for children to develop relationships or trust others. Many readers are likely to see themselves and their experiences embodied in Patina, and reading about young people in similar situations can be extremely moving and meaningful, even if the details aren’t exactly the same. Just knowing that there are other kids out there who might understand what you’re feeling can mean the world to a young person in a tough situation, and the importance of telling stories like this cannot be overstated. This is a wonderful book with great characters, but don’t take my word for it – check out Yash’s review. 😉

Janet: I have no idea what a junk in this context is, and I don’t care. This looks wonderful. Tbr asap.

Nafiza: I’m usually not a fan of empty space on a cover but this works. I need to read this.

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian

Fresh, accessible, and inspiring, Shaking Things Up introduces fourteen revolutionary young women—each paired with a noteworthy female artist—to the next generation of activists, trail-blazers, and rabble-rousers. From the award-winning author of Ada’s Violin, Susan Hood, this is a poetic and visual picture book that celebrates persistent women throughout history.

Among the powerful pairings: Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall takes on heroic World War II spies Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne; Selina Alko is matched with the brave Malala Yousafzai; New York Times bestselling illustrator Emily Winfield Martin is paired with the inventor of the controversial one-piece bathing suit, Annette Kellerman; and Shadra Strickland introduces America’s first known female firefighter, Molly Williams.

While women make up over half of the U.S. population, they face discrimination, have less representation in government and other fields, and struggle every day for their human rights. It is more important now than ever to raise a generation of girls who, in the face of adversity, persevere. This book was written, illustrated, edited, and designed by women.

Includes a foreword by a prominent female activist, an author’s note, a timeline, and additional resources.

This book features: Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet.

JaneSWOON. A book about women that’s written, illustrated, edited and designed by women?!?! Be still my beating heart!! I really, really love that this book features a blend of famous and lesser known female role models, and uses a different a illustrator for each figure. Also, as an educator, I very much appreciate the inclusion of an author’s note, timeline and additional resources. This sounds like a wonderful, wonderful title to inspire and engage readers of any gender.

Janet: The cover. The see-saw balance of that extended foot. Her expression, which can be read in a hundred ways. And the back copy: what Jane said.

Nafiza: Yes,  Janet and Jane have already said it all. I want this!

In 1960s Texas, a white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston’s color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.

The Silence of Our Friends draws from the childhood of Mark Long, who, with co-author Jim Demonakos, has created a powerful portrait of a volatile moment in US history. With art from the brilliant Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) bringing the tale to heart-wrenching life, The Silence of Our Friends is a new and important entry in the body of civil rights literature.

Jane: Graphic novels are a fantastic resource, and can help make history more engaging, accessible and relatable for young readers. Given that this has the same illustrator as the March graphic novels, readers will likely be immediately be drawn to it. The back copy leaves me a little uninspired, though – who is Mark Long exactly? Is he one of the individuals on the front cover? Or is one of them his parent or older sibling, since the story is based on his childhood? I’d just like to know a little bit more about the author, and his connection to the story he’s telling.

Janet: We’ve done this on Cover Wars before, but I haven’t managed to read it yet. Must remedy.

Nafiza: Whoops, sorry. But what Janet said.

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Jane: Poetry has always been near and dear to my heart, despite my high school curriculum’s best efforts to suck every ounce of joy out of it. Any book that helps make poetry accessible and meaningful for teenagers and portrays poetry with honesty and authenticity makes my heart thrill. Poetry isn’t about rhyming couplets from long-dead English men, it’s about putting your heart and soul onto a page or out into the world. This book seems to capture that reality perfectly – poetry can provide you a voice in a world that’s determined to silence you.

Janet: Ah, shoot, that cover. It is bold, dreaming, graphic, fluid: just as the back copy promises the contents will be. Poetry and poets – bring this on!

Nafiza: I hadn’t realized this was a verse novel! Now I needs must get my hands on it!