Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What About Worms!?


Written and Illustrated by: Mo Willems and Ryan T Higgins
Disney-Hyperion, 2020. Easy Reader.

There is a new Elephant and Piggie book! Check out this new book about a brave Tiger who isn't afraid of anything except ..... worms! In true Mo Willems style this charming funny book written by Ryan T Higgins, author of Mother Bruce and We don't eat our classmates,  portrays a tiger who discovers that all of his favorite things, apples, dirt, and books have worms. Worms ruin everything and they could be anywhere! What should he do? Leave it to the worms to work through their fears. Those slimy, wiggly worms do some reading and find out that things they are afraid of like tigers may not be so bad after all.

I really enjoyed this book about facing our fears. This is an excellent beginning reader book for children who enjoy reading books with humorous colorful illustrations and not a lot of text. You will fall in love with Tiger and the worms as they learn to look at the world and their fears in a different way.


Monday, May 25, 2020

Here in the Real World



Here in the Real World 
By Sara Pennypacker
Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2020. 308 p.

Ware is a total introvert. He is excited to spend his summer vacation with his grandma in Florida where she won’t care if he spends long hours alone by the pool doing pretty much nothing. Only when his grandma has an accident and is taken by ambulance to the hospital, Ware is taken home and signed up for a Summer Rec program—which he hates. Instead of going into the community center Ware starts to head to the vacant lot next door after his mom drops him off. There he meets Jolene who is trying to garden and keep all her secrets. Ware loves knights and medieval chivalry, so he tries to transform the church building ruins on the lot into a castle. Meanwhile Ware learns from Jolene (and Ashley who comes and goes through the lot as well) what is fair, what is right, and what happens in the real world. Ware is a good boy with a heart in the right place. He is very shy and doesn’t totally understand how to interact with others, but he does have a heart of gold and tries his best to look for the good and right in the world around him. Readers will cheer Ware on as he tries his best to make the real world the best place it can be.

Friday, May 22, 2020

On Snowden Mountain





On Snowden Mountain
By Jeri Watts
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2019. Historical Fiction.

As Ellen's mother's depression gets worse after her father leaves for war, she is forced to reach out to her aunt for help. Her aunt moves them both to the countryside to live in a cabin at the base of Snowden Mountain. Life is very different for Ellen there. At first she misses her old life and struggles to adjust to her new circumstances. Ellen begins to make some friends and discover more about herself as she spends time on Snowden Mountain. Although she worries that she too may struggle with depression some day, she learns that no matter what our circumstances may be growing up, we can decide who we will become.

A powerful story filled with symbolism, On Snowden Mountain explores mental health and other real issues in a way that brings hope. This book gives us a glimpse of how families were impacted by the separations that were caused by war. It shows how family and friends can come together to offer support in trying times and how gratitude can lift your spirits.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Mañanaland

Mañanaland
By Pam Muñoz Ryan
New York: Scholastic Press, 2020. Fiction.

12-year-old Max is excited to spend his summer vacation playing futbol with his friends and preparing to try out for his city's junior league in the fall. Then he finds out that the league is going to be extra-strict at tryouts this year, requiring a birth certificate from each player. For Max, this is a problem because his birth certificate disappeared with his mother when she left him as a baby. Desperate to reconnect with his mother, Max uncovers a long-held family secret and embarks on a dangerous mission to lead a young refugee to Mañanaland -- hoping that he'll find his mother there.

This beautiful and incredibly layered story reads like a fairy tale - imbued with magic, mystery and adventure. The repeating motif of the La Reina Gigante, a hideout used as shelter by generations of refugees fleeing dictators and war-torn countries, provides beautiful and hopeful imagery (as shown on the cover). But, despite its fable-like tone, this book is grounded in a mythical sort of reality, the fictional country of Santa Maria is said to be "somewhere in the Americas" and Max's ordinary 12-year-old desires will feel familiar to young readers. As she did with the incomparable Esperanza Rising, Pam Muñoz Ryan shares a story of hope and compassion perfect for readers of all ages.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Haunting


By: Lindsey Duga
New York: Scholastic, 2020. Fiction

Twelve year-old Emily has lived in an orphanage her entire life and has only ever known loneliness. She thinks that she is to old and plain to be considered for adoption until a young couple comes to the orphanage and decides to adopt her. Emily can't believe her luck! She is about to start a new life at Blackthorn Manor with her new family. One day while she is exploring the grounds of her new home she meets a girl about her age who seems to know everything about the old house. As Emily and Kat start to explore strange things begin to happen, a bookcase in the library tips over and almost lands on Emily and fire from the fireplace erupts and almost burns her hand. As time goes on those strange things start to become more dangerous and Emily begins to wonder if these accidents are just a coincidence or if someone or something is trying to kill her.

The Haunting is a fast paced read that has just the right amount of creepy for young readers and is suspenseful enough to keep you turning pages. If you are a fan of ghost stories and enjoy books by Mary Downing Hahn then you will really like this new book by Lindsey Duga.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Lift



Lift 
By Minh Lê
Illustrated by Dan Santat
Disney-Hyperion, 2020. Picture Book.

Lê and Santat have made yet another beautiful book! (If you haven’t yet read Drawn Together, then please go out and put that one on hold as well—and you can read my review here where I tell you all why I don’t think that book should be missed!)

Anyway, back to the story at hand. In Lift a young girl named Iris is frustrated that her job of pushing the elevator button has been usurped by her younger sibling. This causes an increasingly large amount of resentment and frustration. When an elevator in the building is being fixed, Iris swipes the old elevator button and puts it in her room so that she can push it as much as she wants without her brother getting in the way. Only, when she pushes the button in her room something magical happens—she is transported into a jungle (with a tiger that is somewhat reminiscent of Iris’ brother’s stuffed toy). And so the adventures being, though along the way Iris discovers that maybe, just maybe it is okay to have her brother be part of the adventures too. Brilliant. Really. You should all go put this one on hold now. Because you won’t want to miss it.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Women Artists A to Z


Women Artists A to Z
Written by Melanie LaBarge
Illustrated by Caroline Corrigan
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. Information picture book.

With fun pops of color and informative blurbs, Melanie LaBarge and Caroline Corrigan bring a fascinating history of art into picture book form. "Women Artists A to Z" covers twenty-six different women artists, and their different styles and impacts on the world of art. Including Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe, and many others, this book celebrates the amazing women whose art we are lucky to have. Appropriately, this book is diverse in subject matter, and features artists of different backgrounds, races, and ethnic groups. The very back of the book gives more information on each artist, as well as a small question or assignment that has to do with their unique style or subjects, giving the reader a way to participate in the art itself. This is a fun and educational read that just might inspire some tiny artists to try something new!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Nonsense!: The Curious Story of Edward Gorey

Nonsense!: The Curious Story of Edward Gorey
By Lori Mortensen
Illustrated by Chloe Bristol
Boston: Versify, 2020. Picture book biography.

Often called the godfather of goth, Edward Gorey is one of those very famous people you may never have heard of. A child prodigy who taught himself to draw by his first birthday and read by his third, Edward Gorey grew up with a special interest in the macabre. As a child he read quaint, sweet stories and frightening tales, and as an adult he wrote, illustrated, and self-published over 100 books that were a little bit of both - sort of sweet, but dark and creepy.

There is almost no point in writing a biography about Edward Gorey unless you are prepared to match his demented eccentricity - fortunately, this book strikes just the right tone. Chloe Bristol's illustrations are sketchy, dismal, and moody and a perfect match for this quirky book that celebrates the value of being yourself. This book pays a subtle homage in lyrical tone and overall aesthetic to the man who served as an inspiration for our favorite dark artists like Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Tim Burton. If you've never heard of Edward Gorey, start here. If you're familiar with his twisted sense of humor, let this book help you fall in love with him all over again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Peter's War: a boy's true story of survival in World War II Europe


Written by: Deborah Durland DeSaix and Karen Gray Ruelle
Illustrated by: Deborah Durland DeSaix
New York: Holiday House, 2020. Biography. 

As a twelve-year-old would you have been able to survive World War II on your own? That is what Peter Feigl, a German-Jewish boy did in 1942. His family were secular Jews who didn't practice their faith but because they were of Jewish descent they were still in danger. Peter's parents tried to keep their son safe by staying one step ahead of the Nazis. They spent years moving from country to country, leaving and moving again each time the Nazis took over.  Eventually they ended up in France but as the German's began to infiltrate France Peter's parents began to get nervous so they sent Peter to a summer camp. While he was at this summer camp his parents were arrested and he never saw them again.

The holocaust was a dark time in our history but we can learn a lot from the experiences of the those that survived. Peter's story was inspiring and I enjoyed the beautiful illustrations depicting the events in his life leading up to his escape into Switzerland . This book is an informative account of the Holocaust and what one young boy did to survive. 


Monday, May 11, 2020

A Boy Called Bat



A Boy Called Bat 
By Elana K. Arnold
Pictures by Charles Santoso
Walden Pond Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. 198 p.

Bixby Alexander Tam is called Bat (for his initials and due to the fact that he really, really likes animals). One day Bat’s mom (a veterinarian) brings home a baby skunk kit that she needs to take care of until it can be taken to a wild-animal shelter. Bat is smitten and he knows that he has a lot to do in order to prove to his mom that they should keep the kit forever. Even though Bat is the star of the show in this beautifully written story, there are a few other details that make this book memorable. First of all, Bat is somewhere on the autism spectrum. He wears earmuffs to keep loud noises out, he sometimes sucks the front of his shirt if he is upset or thinking, he processes everything very literally, etc. The thing that I love about this is that Bat is Bat and how he thinks and acts is just part of who he is and is not the main focus of the story. Second, Bat’s parents are divorced. Every-other-weekend Bat and his sister go and spend time with their dad. Again, this isn’t the main part of the story. It is just a normal part of Bat’s life. I love that these major bits are the background of the story and that Bat and his coming to love Thor (the name of the skunk kit since it was found on Thursday) is the story—the other parts are treated just as normal bits of life. This is a good book, and for those readers who like audio books, it is a good audio as well.