Friday, May 29, 2015

Should You Be a River

 Cover image for Should you be a river : a poem about love
Should You Be A River
by Ed Young
Little, Brown and Co. 2015 Picture Book

Ed Young has won numerous awards, including a Caldecott Medal.  This new book is a free verse poem affirming unwavering love.  "Should you be a calm lake, I'll hold you, reflecting your every mood/ Should you be a seed, I'll dream you a vision of towering trees." The lyrical text is illustrated with collage created from beautiful nature photography.  Some of the figures in the illustrations are shaped like Chinese characters, and there more characters (the text in Chinese?) inside the front cover.  An end note explains that the poem was written after the death of the author's wife. This is a lovely and culturally rich offering for all ages to share.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cover image for Room for Bear 
By Ciara Gavin
Random House Children’s Books, 2015. Picture Book.

Bear came to live with a family of ducks. He became one of the family. However, it becomes difficult to accommodate a large bear in the home of the ducks. This cute picture book with a large huggable bear and 5 cuddly little ducks follows bear as he tries to find his place. With fun illustrations and a great message, this book is a keeper. Bear learns that families and their members come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. A great book for discussing different types of families with young children.

Grandma in Blue with Red Hat

Cover image for Grandma in blue with red hat
by Scott Menchin
illustrated by Harris Bliss
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015. Picture Book

A boy likes to go to his art class at a museum each week.  His teacher tells the students that objects can be considered art if they are beautiful, unique, different, or tell a story.  The boy decides that his grandma is all those things and wonders if she should be in a museum.  Instead he produces an art show dedicated to his grandma. This is a sweet book about inter-generational affection.  It is also a great way to help children know different ways of looking at art.  Menchin's simple text and Bliss's cartoon illustrations make the art principles very accessible to even small children.  This is a good pick if a visit to an art museum is part of your family's summer plans.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Arcady's Goal


Arcady's Goal
by Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt, 2014.  234 pgs. Fiction

     Arcady is an orphaned ward of the state, because his parents were considered enemies of the Soviet state. He manages not only to endure but to prosper to a degree because of his soccer skills. He plays against the other orphans for food and respect and gets along as best he can until the unimaginable happens - he is adopted by a school teacher who wants to become his father in honor of his dead wife, who passed away before she could deliver a child. Arcady and Ivan Ivanych are often at cross purposes, Ivan trying to show love to his new son, and Arcady wishing to maintain his independence and to achieve his dream: to play for the Red Army soccer team. He is scorned at school because of his parents, and denied a tryout with the Red Army team because of his parents; but there may yet be a way, thanks to one boy who decides to be his friend. Eugene Yelchin, author of the Newbery honor book Breaking Stalin's Nose, has based this equally heartening book on his father's true story.  A terrific read for young and old.

The War that Saved my Life

Cover image for The war that saved my life
The War that Saved my Life
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Dial, 2015.  316 pgs. Fiction.

     Ten-year-old Ada is never allowed outside because she has a club foot which shames her mother. She has always been responsible for her healthy little brother Jamie, who can now leave her whenever he wants, and about whom she ceaselessly worries. Her mother is one of the most abusive women in the history of children's literature, surely, and so Ada and Jamie are not altogether sorry when they are shipped out of London and into the countryside during the Blitz of World War II. They are sent to live with one Susan Smith who didn't plan on displaced children, nor want any. She is still grieving for the loss of her partner Becky, dead from pneumonia. By and by, in a story very similar to Michelle Magorian's Goodnight, Mr. Tom, Ada learns to ride Becky's pony Butter, makes friends with the neighbors, and comes to believe a bit more in her ability to live a life of her choosing, though she continues to push Susan away, fearful of becoming too attached and then losing her new home. When Ada and Jamie's mother shows up, demanding their return, all seems lost - but is not. The War that Saved my Life has some hard to believe elements such as that Ada would be as able and as kind as she is given her  circumstances (she has never been out of her house to see grass before, nor learned to read, nor been in the company of anyone other than her terrible mother and her beloved but inattentive brother). Also, the ending, though happy, seems overly fortuitous. Still, The War that Saved my Life is a good, readable, and heartening story of two young children rescued by a woman who loves them in spite of her own inadequacies and their insecurities and pain.

It's Only Stanley

Cover image for It's only Stanley
It's Only Stanley
by Jon Agee
Dial, 2015.  Unpaged.  Picture Book

     The Wimbledons remain generally unfazed, even though their dog Stanley keeps waking them up at all hours banging on this and drilling on that. "It's only Stanley," they say.  He is fixing the furnace, or boiling up some catfish stew, or fiddling with the television. Also, he howls at the moon, which is appropriate since the moon is his ultimate destination along with the unwitting Wimbledons whose hom has become Stanley's rocket ship. What kid wouldn't like finding that Stanley's putterings are rocket science after all. And of course, with Jon Agee's classically hilarious illustrations.

The Crossover

 Cover image for The crossover
The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin, 2014. Fiction

Josh and Jordan Bell are middle-school-aged twins who are both basketball proteges.  The boys make an unstoppable team on court and are leading their school in a undefeated season.  The twins have always been close, until a new girl moves into town.  Jordan's growing relationship with the new girl forces a wedge between the brothers. At the same time both boys worry about their father who used to be a pro ball player, but now suffers from health problems.  When Josh's hurt feelings lead him to make a bad choice, more than the basketball championship is at risk.

Alexander's fast-moving novel is written in verse.  Some sections have the pulsing beat of rap music while others are written in more reflective free verse.  It is a great choice to give to a reluctant reader who is a sports fan. This quick read, full of heart and exciting basketball action, well deserves its Newbery medal.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Down by the Cool of the Pool

Cover image for Down by the cool of the pool

Written by Tony Mitton
Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
Orchard Books, Inc. 2002. Picture Book.

After frog begins a song and dance, farm animals begin to join in one by one with their own contributions to the song and dance. Duck “flaps” and pig “wiggles” in this fun rhyming romp that takes place near a pond on a farm. With illustrations that are colorful and vibrant, young children will love this clever and engaging book. The repetition in the song allows the reader to learn the rhymes and sing along.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Meet the Dullards

Cover image for Meet the Dullards

by Sara Pennypacker
Balzer & Bray, 2015. Picture book.

Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are determined to protect their children from the dangers of excitement and ensure them a perfectly dull life. They let them watch television, but only when it’s unplugged. They let them read, but only blank white paper. They order them ice cream: “Five vanilla cones. Hold the cones. And extract the vanilla.” And they don’t let the neighbors use exclamation marks in front of the kids. But Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud begin to show disturbing signs: reading books, asking to go to school, and even trying to play outside. Will the parents’ heroic efforts to squash this dangerous behavior work, or will the children find a way to express their creativity? The illustrations are full of visual jokes and details that reward careful viewing. This tongue-in-cheek story is full of silliness and wordplay that even older children and adults will enjoy.

Deep Blue

Cover image for Deep blue
Deep Blue
by Jennifer Donnelly
Disney Hyperion, 2014. Fiction 340 p.

Serafina is a mermaid princess, just about to go through a rite of passage marking her ascension to the thrown.  As soon as the ceremony is over her kingdom is attacked and she sees her mother, the queen, mortally wounded.  She is forced to flee by advisers who want to preserve the royal line.  Thus she starts a quest to find and stop the evil force that is terrorizing all of the mer-kingdoms.  During her quest she meets five other mer-maidens  who, like her, have been lead by dreams to seek out the sea witches for help. Donnelly has created interesting characters and an imaginative setting. This is the first in an exciting new "girl power" series, fast paced and full of adventure.