The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier — is another must-read for all tween/teen fantasy fans. Fourteen-year-old Trei lost his family to a volcanic explosion and seeks refuge with his aunt, uncle, and cousin in the neighboring, airborn kingdom of the Floating Islands. Upon arriving he sees men soaring in the skies with wings and dragon magic and is consumed with the desire to also be a kajurai. Soon after his arrival his aunt and uncle become victims of a horrid epidemic. Now is cousin Araene is also an orphan and must decide what she will do with her life. The constraints on woman in her kingdom are unbearable, but she is clever and soon finds a way to pursue her love of the culinary arts, as well as to use her gifts in the art of magic - as long as no one discovers her sexual disguise that is.
In the summer of 1968, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters are shipped off by their father to spend a month with their estranged mother in Oakland, CA. But their mother has no time for them. Instead of taking them to Disneyland as they had hoped, she sends them to the People's Center run by the Black Panthers so she can write poetry. Delphine is a remarkable older sister, wise beyond her years, and an expert at handling her siblings. Each girl has a distinct response to their mother and the ideas and people to which they are exposed. They develop a hard-won, tenuous connection with their mother and an awareness of injustice on a personal and universal level. With endearing characters, a vivid depiction of a pivotal moment in African-American history, and beautiful, poetic language, this is a book worth reading more than once. Readers will wonder what happens to the sisters when they return to their father in Brooklyn with their 'radical' new ideas about the world.