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We Still Belong

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Wesley is excited about Indigenous Peoples' Day and about the school newspaper publishing the poem she wrote. Her language arts teacher has a policy of discussing articles written by class members and she is eager to hear what her peers have to say about the poem. But the entire class period goes by and he never brings it up. When she questions him about it, he says the poem was a missed opportunity and that she didn't really have a "clear thesis statement." As a friend points out to her later, the thesis statement is the title of the poem itself, "We Still Belong." What could be a clearer position to take about the continued existence and relevance of Indigenous people?

That isn't the only disappointment of the day. Like other middle school students, Wesley is figuring out who she is. She has friends, family, hobbies, and skills that make her unique. She is working up the nerve to ask a friend to a school dance, but hears through social media that he is unavailable. Her science teacher has rearranged the seating assignments, so that Wesley is now working with a new student who also seems to be having a hard day. Is anything going to go right?

But this is a resilient girl with a big heart. She makes unexpected friends by reaching out when she sees others in need. Her family and best friend Hanan, as well as others at school, praise her poem. There is an intertribal powwow to look forward to in the evening. And one of her favorite online gamers recognizes Indigenous Peoples' Day and gathers donations through a charity live stream event. Not everything has gone wrong after all.

Christine Day, herself a member of the Upper Skagit Tribe, has crafted another thoughtful and engaging story with believable characters that deal with situations that reflect real life. Perfect for readers who enjoy realistic fiction.
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We Still Belong
by Christine Day
Pub Date 01 Aug 2023 
 HarperCollins Children's Books,  Heartdrum
 Children's Fiction  |  Middle Grade  |  Multicultural Interest 

A copy of We Still Belong was provided to me by HarperCollins Children's Books, Heartdrum, and Netgalley for review purposes:

From the very first word to the very last, this middle novel will captivate the reader's attention.

Wesley is going to have a very special day. In addition to her poem for Indigenous Peoples' Day, she plans to ask her crush, fellow gamer Ryan, to accompany her to the school dance.
However, as soon as Wesley boards the morning bus, her day begins to unravel. The day is filled with jittery emotions, unexpected encounters, and awkward conversations with her teachers.

Wesley is in store for even more surprises when she attends an intertribal powwow and discovers some truths that she does not find surprising. This includes the knowledge that she is as brave - and as loved - as she could ever hope to be.

I give We Still Belong five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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Wesley is excited and nervous about two things - asking Ryan to the dance, and publishing her poem about Indigenous Peoples Day in the school newspaper. However, all her well thought out plans go awry, and she must figure out what she wants and what is important to her. Wesley's kindness and compassion is on display throughout the book. Her character is one you wish you had as a best friend! In the book Day also weaves in information about modern Indigenous culture seamlessly. The story was beautiful and hopeful and exactly the right type of book we need right now. Highly recommended.
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me review this book. This book talks about the main character, Wesley and how it’s like being Native American and a middle schooler. She’s unsure of herself at times, as are most middle schoolers. She thinks she is the only Native student at her school but she later learns she isn’t. I like that the author put facts about Christopher Columbus that many people probably haven’t heard or forgotten about.
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A short, bittersweet, and compelling middle grade novel that takes place over one day (Indigenous People's Day), We Still Belong follows Wesley Wilder, an indigenous seventh grader as she navigates family, friends, and identity. 

Day weaves in Wesley's connections to others throughout the book, from her conversations with her grandfather and mother to her sweet moments with the family cat, Vader. Her friends (old and new) make appearances here too, and no matter what goes wrong throughout her day, Wesley knows she can rely on them.
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Wesley, a descendant of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, is having a bit of a complicated 7th Grade year and a lot of firsts. For starters, she's living in a multigenerational home with her grandfather, mother, aunt, uncle and baby cousin after the rent is raised on her mother's booth in a nearby salon. Her deeply personal poem about Indigenous Peoples' Day has been published in the school newspaper and while her ELA teacher raves about it, her band teacher ignores it because it "lacks a thesis". Adding in to mix are her plans to ask Ryan Thomas, a fellow Spacefaring Wanderers fan, to the Tolo dance.
The plot includes friendships, first loves and family relationships that all middle school students can relate to or learn from. The addition of Native American customs, culture and issues added an extra layer to the story that will help students expand their knowledge and want to learn more about Indigenouse Peoples' Day.
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The deep, rich emotions and characters Christine Day creates in We Still Belong allow the reader to be transported to a day in the life of Wesley, a 12-year-old girl living with her mom and extended family. Wesley is Upper Skagit, although not an "official" member on the rolls. Christine Day masterfully blends serious topics such as family, identity, and asking a crush to the school dance into the story in a very natural way that elementary and middles school readers will connect with. I recommend this book to fourth-grade children and above. 5/5 stars.
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When it comes to middle grade, Christine Day absolutely cannot miss. This book is, in some ways, less plot-driven than her earlier works, but it's simply stunning in its character-building, Indigenous-centered storytelling, and heart.
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We Still Belong follows Wesley (12-yo, fmc) throughout the course of a day. She had high hopes and expectations, but the day doesn't go exactly to plan. However the day has its own suprises.

There's so much I love about this book - I read it in one sitting - that it's hard to put into words.

Wesley and her family were easy to love and connect to, even with some of the harsher realities they faced, shared via flashbacks that thankfully don't take you out of the story.

I really enjoyed the diversity and inclusiveness, and that it's subtle yet poignant. And its use to remind that stereotypes shouldn't be believed because there's more to people than their outward appearance.

We Still Belong also touches on real events and circumstances that Indigenous Peoples faced, and in many ways still do. I'm glad they were touched upon, but done in a gentle way so that readers of all ages and ethnicities can really engage with these facts & realities.

My only critique is that there were a few instances where Wesley and her peers acted / spoke as if they were much older than twelve-years-old. While every child is different, these moments did briefly take me out of the story even though the messages and these moments were greatly important.

Thank you NetGalley, Heartdrum/HarperCollins, and Christine Day for allowing me to read We Still Belong in exchange for an honest review.
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I was sent this arc from NetGalley for my honest review.

Wesley is a middle school girl. She lives with her single mom in her grandfather’s house. She likes video games and is shy. Wesley has many obstacles to overcome. She wants to be excepted. She struggles with her acceptance as 1/4 and not full Native American, her absent father, and her middle school crush. I appreciated how Wesley took strides to overcome her insecurities but still expressed her feelings of fear. That is the definition of courage.

 I think this story has many good qualities in the characters and the plot. I would recommend it to others.
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Touches upon important themes and incorporates Native American characters, a demographic sorely lacking in middle grade fiction. Unfortunately, there's more telling than showing (e.g. "she tells me" or "I learn that" rather than actual dialogue), and the prose is unremarkable. I enjoyed this book but I feel that it does not live up to its potential.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of this book.   We Still Belong by Christine Day is a wonderful novel where a mixed race girl (part Native American) explores where she fits in the world and her Native community.  To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, Wesley writes a poem and has it published in the school newspaper for potential extra credit.  When her teacher declares it not good enough, she is devastated.  In addition, she intends to invite her crush to the school dance, but he accepts another offer first.  All of this sets her world on it's axis.  With the support of her friends and family, she ultimately reaches a place of tranquility.
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Wesley lives with her mom, grandfather, uncle and aunt and their baby. She is in 7th grade and has recently tried to join the indigenous students group at her school. Her first piece of poetry was published in the school newspaper for Indigenous People's Day. She is hurt when a teacher, who always reads a students published work, does not read hers. Her friend, Hanan, encourages her and states that Wesley did have a strong thesis. 
There are times that Hanan's dialogue seemed a little bit too old for a twelve year old.
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This is the first book I've read by this author; now I need to read more. Great middle grades book; Wesley has so much heart! While there was a hurtful teacher, there were also supportive teachers: yay! Great family support as well.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Christine Day is really a standout Indigenous author. We Still Belong is phenomenal as expected. The story takes place over the course of a single day and that is all it took for me to finish this book. I have not been so genuinely interested in a book that I could not put it down in a while. I was genuinely excited to see what came next, how Wesley's day would pan out, and what other side characters had to do with the plot (in a good way).

The characters are lovable, especially her grandfather (which I was not initially sure about as he heckled her about a gamer Wesley loves to watch). The transition is beautiful as we see that is their family dynamic and he is not serious in some of the stuff he says. It's actually fun to see his development in a single day. I think the target audience will enjoy both him and Wesley, among the other characters.

This book also handles an abundance of topics, from really difficult things to typical teenager angst. Wesley is antsy with excitement and nerves over asking her crush to TOLO, and what everyone will think of her poem that was published in the school newspaper for Indigenous Peoples' Day. These events are very central to the plot of the book, but it offers a lot more. Such as a family being crammed into a small household, a young and single mother doing her best, and prejudices against Indigenous people. This is paired with the importance of family (related and chosen), community, and Indigenous pride. It is about overcoming fears/nerves and it being okay if it takes time to overcome them. And that even if everything hadn't panned out how you planned, that is okay too. Ultimately, there is so much wonderful messaging packed into this book and none of them really outshine the other. They all play a central role in this story.

My one critique was there being an inkling of moments where characters seemed a bit older/mature than they are, but not in a way that was bothersome or too unbelievable. Every child in different, anyway. Not only that, but the dynamic between Wesley and certain characters felt very much age appropriate. I almost forgot that I am 28 while reading it, and felt I was reading it through my 12 year old self. I was excited for Wesley and remembered so vividly those feelings.

Despite this being a middle grade novel, I enjoyed it so much. This book has reminded me that not every book we read has to be so serious, so high stakes, so grown up. That it's okay to let yourself feel a younger age again. Because that part of you never truly leaves.

I will be recommending this book highly to everyone.
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Wesley Wilder has big plans for this day. Her poem for Indigenous People’s Day will be printed in the school newspaper, and she looks forward to reading it aloud in class. She also plans to ask her crush, Ryan Thomas, to the TOLO dance. However, her day takes one unexpected turn after the next. By the time she returns home, a day of hope and promise seems to end with disappointment and gloom. Still, Wesley braves an outing to an intertribal powwow. There, she finds her courage to use her voice and claim her place of belonging.

We Still Belong is a homely novel that captures a single day in the life of its protagonist. Flashbacks help paint the larger picture and add more depth to Wesley’s story. While author Christine Day touches on important topics about Native rights and the controversy around Christopher Columbus, in-depth exploration is left up to the reader. Day’s own work mirrors Wesley’s hope with her poem: to celebrate Indigenous People and not engage in debate. By taking that approach, Wesley’s poem and story remain solidly her own, safeguarded from anyone intent on coopting her message. In the end, We Still Belong is heartwarming with a happy ending, something that many young readers do and will enjoy.

While We Still Belong includes some important touchpoints for discussion, Day leaves the heavy lifting for readers. Opportunities exist to dive deeper, but the moments are brief. Still, the novel lends itself as a perfect text for younger readers, younger classrooms, or book clubs. Just as Wesley belongs, so does her story among other great titles of the middle grades genre.

Thank you to NetGalley and publisher, Heartdrum, for an eARC of this book.
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Wesley has a plan. Her poem on Indigenous Peoples' Day is set to be published in the school newspaper which should prompt a class discussion given her teacher's reactions to other published pieces. And... she has a plan to ask fellow gamer, Ryan, to the school dance. 

Of course, nothing goes to plan. Wesley's poem, sharing with other Indigenous students that their voices matter and they still belong, is shrugged off by her teacher. Her plan to ask out Ryan comes crashing down when an anonymous social media post pairs up popular kids like Ryan.

In this heartwarming story Wesley explores her identity as an Indigenous person, hurt that she is the first generation in her family to be excluded from tribal membership. As she fights to be seen by both whites and Indigenous for the whole person she is, she resoundingly speaks her truth: We still belong.
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2.5 stars First love set in the Pacific Northwest where Wesley plans on asking Ryan to the TOLO dance.  Kids in Wesley's school play a big part in bringing social issues to the reader's attention.  Her family's dynamics are another focal point. There is not a lot of depth to the story, but for intermediate grader readers will identify with Wesley's story while learning a bit about Indigenous customs.
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A glimpse into 7th grader, Wesley’s, day in the life. 

Today is Indigenous Peoples Day and Wesley wrote a poem for her school paper. But she doesn’t get extra credit because there’s no clear thesis (why would she have to mention Columbus Day?!). 

Her plan is to write a note to her crush and gamer club friend, and ask him to the school dance doesn’t go as planned either. 

Her Dad isn’t in the picture but she lives with her mom, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin. It’s fun to see the different interactions between them. 

This is a beautiful story and easy read that addresses important and relatable topics.
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E-book provided by NetGalley :)) 

What a beautiful story about belonging, family, crushes, friendship and passions. Really loved how the story felt so easy to read, while addressing discrimination and undermining of the Native Americans in the U.S. 

Truly a must read for young readers!!!

The time line of the story was a little confusing, but other than that it was very enjoyable. ❤️
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