Review of The Keeper of the Mist, by Rachel Neumeier

February 18th, 2017

The Keeper of the Mist

by Rachel Neumeier

Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 391 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Speculative Fiction
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #9 Teen Fiction

Here’s a fantasy story that warmed my heart. It had plenty of danger and suspense, but I liked these people. I enjoyed spending time with them. The fantasy world was unique and interesting.

Keri runs a bakery she inherited from her mother, and is struggling to keep it going. She’s the illegitimate daughter of the Lord of Nimmira, but she doesn’t have time to think about that, even when her best friend Tassel speculates which of the Lord’s sons will inherit his title and magic, the magic that keeps a mist around Nimmira.

Nimmira is a small country on the boundary of two countries at war with one another. On one side is Tor Carron, and on the other Eschalion, which has been ruled by a powerful sorcerer for hundreds of years and has a habit of conquering and absorbing its neighbors. But the mist around Nimmira magically makes outsiders forget that anything is there. Eschalion and Tor Carron think they have a border only with each other.

But when Lord Dorric dies, the magic of Nimmira chooses Keri to be the next Lady of Nimmira, much to her surprise. The Timekeeper comes to her door with the news, and right away her friend Tassel becomes the Bookkeeper and her friend Cort becomes the Doorkeeper.

However, immediately the Mist fails, and Keri’s ascension does not bring it back. A group of soldiers crosses the border from Tor Carron, and a sorcerer comes from Eschalion. Keri decides to pretend that she let down the Mist on purpose to get to know their neighbors and invite them to her ascension. But that can only hold off more trouble for a little while.

This story was creative. I’m not sure why the author chose the essential people of the magic to be a Lord or Lady, a Timekeeper, a Bookkeeper, and a Doorkeeper, but I like the way they worked out in the story. Though there were some questions about the magic of Nimmira and the other lands, it all did follow rules and didn’t change willy-nilly. During the course of the story, they’re threatened by a powerful sorcerer, and I like the way they used their own unique magic against him.

This book portrays a girl who’s always been underestimated who suddenly becomes the ruler of a magical kingdom when the magic may be failing. I like the part where she tries to make the representatives of the other countries think she wants a big strong man to take the burdens off her shoulders, though not so much when her half-brothers think that’s actually a good solution. I also like where Keri goes to the House kitchens and makes an exquisite cake when she’s feeling stressed.

Keri’s up against huge obstacles, and you root for her all the way.

RachelNeumeier.com
randomhouseteens.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin

February 11th, 2017

When the Sea Turned to Silver

by Grace Lin

read by Kim Mai Guest

Hachette Audio, 2016. 7.5 hours on 6 CDs. Unabridged.
Starred Review
2016 National Book Award Finalist
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Children’s Fiction

Like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky, Grace Lin weaves Chinese fairy tales throughout this story, bringing elements from the various tales into the conclusion at the end. It’s okay if you haven’t read or don’t remember the other two, as this story stands well on its own.

The audiobook includes a pdf file of the illustrations, but I chose to check out a copy of the print book so I could enjoy them as I went. Each day after my commute, I’d look at the pictures as far as I’d gotten in the audiobook. Grace Lin is an illustrator as well as a writer, and this book includes color plates at intervals, and small one-color illustrations at the start of each chapter. This book is a treat to hold in your hands, and would make a wonderful read-aloud.

At the start of the book, the evil emperor comes with his soldiers up the mountain, during a winter that has lasted far too long, and takes away Pinmei’s grandmother, the Storyteller. When the neighbor boy Yishan protests, the emperor tells him that they can have the Storyteller back if they bring the emperor the Luminous Stone that Lights Up the Night.

The soldiers set fire to the hut and leave, but Yishan rescues Pinmei from her hiding place, and the two travel together to try to find a Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s Amah. Their adventures take them to the City of Bright Moonlight and the kingdom of Sea Bottom. Along the way, Pinmei tells stories she’s learned from her Amah – and those stories provide clues to what the emperor is looking for and how to thwart him and get Amah back.

This book has a theme of immortality, the importance of stories, and finding your voice. At the start, Pinmei is too shy to even speak in the presence of others, but by the end, she can speak truth even in front of the emperor.

This book would make a wonderful family or classroom read-aloud. The fairy tales woven throughout give it a timeless appeal for a wide age range.

gracelin.com
HachetteAudio.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Horrible Bear, by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora

February 10th, 2017

Horrible Bear!

by Ame Dyckman
illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #10 Picture Books

I confess: I’m a big fan of Zachariah OHora’s exuberant illustrations. They’re just right for this book.

A little girl with a wild mop of curly red hair is flying a kite. (I like the way the front end papers are filled with her hair and the back end papers are filled with the furry top of the bear’s head.) The kite flying is shown silently on the title page. If you look closely, you notice the string has just snapped. The kite is next to a mountain with an open doorway near the top and a welcome mat.

On the next page, the text just reads, “A girl peeked into bear’s cave.” The pictures show us that the kite has entered the cave and is sitting on top of a sleeping bear lying in the middle of the floor with a pillow.

The next page says, “She reached – but he rolled.” And we see the kite go “Crunch!” beneath the bear.

That’s when the drama begins.

HORRIBLE BEAR! the girl shouted.

She goes stomping off, continuing to shout about the horrible bear.

Then the bear gets angry in his turn. After all, SHE barged in! SHE made a ruckus! SHE woke him up!

Then he gets a horrible bear idea to show her what it feels like.

Meanwhile, in her house, the girl, still angry, accidentally tears the ear off of her stuffy. She didn’t mean to! And that’s when she realizes maybe the bear didn’t mean to be horrible.

But the bear is practicing to show the girl how it feels. He comes stomping down the mountain.

When the girl meets him with an apology and tears, the situation takes a whole new flavor.

This book is a child-sized look at anger and apology and accidental wrongs. That it involves a bear wearing a “Froggy Hollow Summer Camp” t-shirt and sneakers makes it all the more accessible. I love the way the two come up with Sweet Bear ideas at the end, with an acknowledgement that the Sweetness may not last forever. There are lots of points of discussion with small readers in this book.

And those exuberant Zachariah OHora illustrations! The Horrible Bear has as much giant-sized gentleness combined with ferocity as Nilson in No Fits, Nilson!

I also love some clever details in the illustrations – a copy of Wolfie the Bunny in the girl’s room, and then a book called Goldilocks that she kicks. In the bear’s cave, we see a stack of books with titles, Blueberries, The Goldilocks Myth, and 1000 Ways to Cook Porridge.

And I just noticed for the first time that the back cover of the book shows the bear riding happily on the little girl’s purple bike with his friend the bat (animal, not baseball) in the basket.

@AmeDyckman
zohora.com
lb-kids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Games Wizards Play, by Diane Duane

February 9th, 2017

Games Wizards Play

by Diane Duane

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 620 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Teen Fiction

Games Wizards Play is the tenth book in the brilliant Young Wizards series by Diane Duane. I’m very sorry to report that I didn’t get the ninth book read – but I was still able to follow this one.

However, this is a series that you will appreciate more if you start from the beginning. The way magic works in these books is very well-worked-out by the author and all follows definite rules – but it will be easier to understand those rules if you’ve been coming along on the journey from the start.

And things do get complicated and esoteric. Somewhere around Book Five, the characters started dealing with alternate universes. In Book Three, they dealt with other galaxies and planets and sentient computers.

The books have gotten longer and longer, too, which I confess is probably why I never got around to reading Book Nine, A Wizard of Mars. It’s also why I hadn’t gotten around to reading this book until I had a whole weekend where I was planning to spend as much time as possible reading.

This book was actually perfect for a Reading Interlude. I had a nice chunk of time set aside for reading – and how lovely to get to spend that time with these characters I’ve enjoyed so long. I think if I tried to read this book a little bit at a time, I might have got lost in the technical details of wizardry, which do fill a lot of the book. As it was, this was delightful weekend reading, and I put off going to my gaming group until I got the last chapter read.

In this volume, initially neither the universe nor the planet is even at stake. There’s an Invitational competition for young wizards to present new spells they’ve worked out. These Invitationals happen once every eleven years, and our heroes – Nita and Kit and Nita’s sister Dairine – are being asked to act as mentors.

Their mentees are interesting but talented characters. Penn, mentored by Nita and Kit, has a spell designed to protect earth from sunspots (as far as I can translate the technical language, anyway). Dairine’s mentee Mehrnaz lives in Mumbai and is from a large family of wizards, but has oppressive family dynamics.

Penn behaves like a jerk, especially toward Nita, but his wizardry is good – and there seems to be more going on there than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Nita and Kit have decided to become boyfriend and girlfriend – and are bothered by how much that changes things between them. And everyone around them seems to be talking about sex. But they’re too busy being wizards.

The pace of the book is leisurely. There is tension and they’re in a hurry to get ready for the competition – but the author puts in more scenes than are absolutely essential and takes some time exploring subtleties and thoughts and feelings. You often read the point-of-view character’s thoughts in this book. And yet, in this case, I didn’t find that annoying. Maybe because I already know and love these characters? Maybe because I’m already interested in all the different relationships and the various subtleties of life as a Wizard. Anyway, that was partly why it was nice to have a long, concentrated span of time set aside to read this book. I wasn’t impatient to get to the end, and I enjoyed the journey.

I wasn’t surprised that a fairly significant earth-changing situation did come up at the end. Though mostly this book was about relationships between wizards when there was not an earth-shaking crisis.

If you haven’t started with this series and if you like science fiction at all, I highly recommend it! Go back to the first book, So You Want to Be a Wizard? It turns out that all over our world Wizards, dedicated to reducing Entropy, are helping the Powers That Be and fighting the good fight against the Lone Power. These books tell that story and take the reader all over the universe.

youngwizards.com
hmhco.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Singing Bones, by Shaun Tan

February 8th, 2017

The Singing Bones

by Shaun Tan

Foreword by Neil Gaiman
Introduced by Jack Zipes

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016. 185 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Children’s Nonfiction

This is a book of art. But all the art is based on fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. Shaun Tan has created sculptures based on the tales. On each spread, there’s a short excerpt from the featured fairy tale on one page, and a photograph of the sculpture on the other page.

In the Afterword, Shaun Tan tells us about the sculptures:

The main materials I’ve used are papier-maché and air-drying clay, carved back and painted with acrylics, oxidized metal powder, wax, and shoe polish. The resistance of clay in particular at a small scale encourages simplicity, especially where the key tools are blunt fingers and thumbs: Faces and gestures are abbreviated, just like characters in the tales themselves. The concept of a thing also becomes more important than a detailed likeness: A fox need only be a few red triangles, a sleeping man requires no body, and a queen’s face can be eroded away by the force of a single, elemental feeling: jealousy. What matters above all else are the hard bones of the story, and I wanted many of these objects to appear as if they’ve emerged from an imaginary archaeological dig, and then been sparingly illuminated as so many museum objects are, as if a flashlight beam has passed momentarily over some odd objects resting in the dark galleries of our collective subconscious. Like the tales themselves, they might brighten in our imagination without surrendering any of their original enigma.

He achieves this feeling of simple forms, of the bare bones of the stories. As Neil Gaiman says,

Shaun Tan does something else here: something profound. His sculptures suggest, they do not describe. They imply, they do not delineate. They are, in themselves, stories: not the frozen moments in time that a classical illustration needs to be. These are something new, something deeper. They do not look like moments of the stories: instead, they feel like the stories themselves….

Here they gather for you, timeless and perfect, a mixture of darkness and light that manages to capture Grimms’ stories in a way that nobody, to my knowledge, has done before.

Shaun Tan makes me want to hold these tales close, to rub them with my fingers, to feel the cracks and the creases and the edges of them. He makes me want to pick them up, inspect them from unusual angles, feel the heft and the weight of them. He makes me wonder what damage I could do with them, how badly I could hurt someone if I hit them with a story.

All of Shaun Tan’s work is eerie, abstract, and creepy. But combining his images with timeless folk tales gives them whole new power.

In short, you really need to see these images. Check out this book and take a look!

shauntan.net
arthuralevinebooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Sonderling Sunday – Chapter 22 – Desolation Day is Coming

February 6th, 2017

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

I’m afraid it’s actually been months since the last time I did Sonderling Sunday. When I was reading for the Cybils, it was hard to fit in, and then I got out of the habit… and went to ALA Midwinter Meeting….

So tonight, I’m going to write a short one, even though it’s late — the better to get back in the habit!

I’m going back to my stand-by, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, by James Kennedy, known in the original English as The Order of Odd-fish.

Last time, we finished a chapter! So we are now beginning Chapter 22, which is on page 296 in the English edition, and on Seite 376 in the German edition.

It’s always nice to start a chapter with the first sentence, and this time I’ll go with the first two:

“The rain kept coming. Two months into the rainy season, Jo found it hard to remember life without rain.”
= Es regnete unaufhörlich. Nach zwei Monaten Regenzeit konnte Jo sich kaum noch daran erinnern, wie das Leben ohne Regen gewesen war.

“a dull weariness” = eine dumpfe Trägheit

“colorless, drenched, and dead” = farblos, nass und tot vor

This just doesn’t have the same sound in German:
“when the rain pattered gently on her windowpane”
= wenn der Regen sanft an ihr Fenster klopfte

“bang of thunder” = Donnerschlag

“Jo tried to shove it into the back of her mind”
= Jo wollte den Gedanken eigentlich beiseiteschieben
(“Jo wanted the thoughts actually to aside-push”)

Here’s a nice long word:
“background noise” = Hintergrundgeräusch

“constant worry” = ständiger Furcht

“didn’t dull its edge”
= schmälerte das die Intensität des Gefühls nicht
(“reduced it the intensity of the feeling not”)

“She needed distractions.”
= Sie brauchte dringend eine Ablenkung.
(“She needed urgently a distraction.”)

“specialties” = Fachgebiete

“slept over” = genächtigt hatte

“but no, it was too nerve-wracking to think about”
= Doch nein, schon darüber nachzudenken, war eine zu große Belastung für ihre Nerven.
(“But no, already about that overthinking, was a too big burden for her nerves.”)

“Desolation Day” = der Tag der Verwüstung (“the day of devastation”)

“special festival” = besonderes Fest

“It was bad luck even to mention Desolation Day.”
= Es brachte bereits Unglück, wenn man den Tag der Verwüstung auch nur erwähnte.

And I’m going to stop there, with just the first section of Chapter 22 finished. But I’m going to look for reasons to talk about Hintergrundgeräusch this week.

Bis Bald!

Review of The Water Princess, by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

February 4th, 2017

The Water Princess

Based on the childhood experience of Georgie Badiel

by Susan Verde

illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #9 Picture Books

Here is a picture book with a message – but the creators wisely made telling a good story a higher priority than just getting the message across.

As the book opens, we are introduced to Princess Gie Gie. I’ve long been a fan of Peter H. Reynolds, and here his work is more detailed – and more beautiful – than ever before. We see Princess Gie Gie first looking up into a sky full of stars.

As we turn the page, we learn her location:

My kingdom . . .
the African sky, so wide and so close.
I can almost touch the sharp edges of the stars.

First, Gie Gie talks about the things she can do – taming the wild dogs, making the tall grass sway, and making the wind play hide-and-seek. But Gie Gie cannot make the water come closer or run clearer.

Each morning, when it is still dark, Gie Gie and her mother set off to collect the water. Most of the book is about that journey. I love the way Gie Gie is still dramatic and joyful, even though she doesn’t want to get up early and go for the long walk. Even though she wishes she could bring the water by magic.

I also love the way Gie Gie’s parents consistently address her as “princess.” I like the way, when she brings the water back, she celebrates the achievement.

At the water hole, Gie Gie plays with her friends while her mother holds their place in line. The water there is dusty and earth colored, but it is flowing, and they make the journey back with full pots on their heads.

I also love the page at the end of the day, after they have used the water:

Clothes and body clean,
I sing to the dogs.
I dance with the tall grass.
I hide from the wind.

At bedtime, Gie Gie asks her mother “Why is the water so far? Why is the water not clear? Where is our water?”

The final spread answers:

“Sleep,” she says.
“Dream,” she says.
“Someday you will find a way, my princess.
Someday.”

I am Princess Gie Gie.
My kingdom?
The African sky. The dusty earth.

And, someday,
the flowing cool, crystal-clear water.
Someday …

After that final page of the story, there is a spread with a note from the creators and photographs of children in Africa getting water. They explain that nearly one billion people around the world don’t have access to clean water.

This crisis is what motivated African model Georgie Badiel to work to make a difference and get clean water to those in need. As a young girl in Burkina Faso, Georgie spent her summers living with her grandmother. Every morning, Georgie and the other girls and women of the village walked for miles to fill pots with water and return it home to be used for the basics – drinking, bathing, cooking – only to wake up the next morning and make the journey again.

Georgie Badiel is now working with Ryan’s Well to bring clean water to people of Burkina Faso and beyond.

This book has a wonderful message – but they communicate that message by means of a lovely story. They manage to show a joyful, playful child who happens to face a difficult task every morning.

ryanswell.ca
georgiebadielfoundation.org
susanverde.com
peterhreynolds.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Still Life with Tornado, by A. S. King

February 3rd, 2017

Still Life with Tornado

by A. S. King

Dutton Books, 2016. 295 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Speculative Fiction
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Teen Fiction

Wow. This book is original.

And that’s saying something. Here’s how the book begins:

Nothing ever really happens.

Or, more accurately, nothing new ever really happens.

My art teacher, Miss Smith, once said that there is no such thing as an original idea. We all think we’re having original ideas, but we aren’t. “You’re stuck on repeat. I’m stuck on repeat. We’re all stuck on repeat.” That’s what she said. Then she flipped her hair back over her shoulder like what she said didn’t mean anything and told us to spend the rest of class sorting through all the old broken shit she gets people to donate so we can make art. She held up half of a vinyl record. “Every single thing we think is original is like this. Just pieces of something else.”

Two weeks ago Carmen said she had an original idea, and then she drew a tornado, but tornadoes aren’t original. Tornadoes are so old that the sky made them before we were even here. Carmen said that the sketch was not of a tornado, but everything it contained. All I saw was flying, churning dust. She said there was a car in there. She said a family pet was in there. A wagon wheel. Broken pieces of a house. A quart of milk. Photo albums. A box of stale corn flakes.

All I could see was the funnel and that’s all anyone else could see and Carmen said that we weren’t looking hard enough. She said art wasn’t supposed to be literal. But that doesn’t erase the fact that the drawing was of a tornado and that’s it.

Sarah is having an existential crisis. She stops going to school. Her parents don’t know what to do, and they don’t know where she goes.

Sarah goes different places and tries different things. Nothing seems original. And she suddenly can’t do art.

In chapter two, she’s planning to go to City Hall and change her name to “Umbrella.” But this happens:

A woman walks up and sits down next to me in the bus shelter. She says hello and I say hello and that’s not original at all. When I look at her, I see that she is me. I am sitting next to myself. Except she looks older than me, and she has this look on her face like she just got a puppy — part in-love and part tired-from-paper-training. More in-love, though. She says, “You were right about the blind hand drawings. Who hasn’t done that, right?”

I don’t usually have hallucinations.

I say, “Are you a hallucination?”

She says no.

I say, “Are you — me?”

“Yes. I’m you,” she says. “In seven years.”

“I’m twenty-three?” I ask.

“I’m twenty-three. You’re just sixteen.”

“Why do you look so happy?”

“I stopped caring about things being original.”

Sarah later meets 10-year-old Sarah and 40-year-old Sarah as well. They keep popping up at odd times. When 10-year-old Sarah comes to the house, Sarah’s Dad doesn’t even recognize her, but Sarah’s Mom does.

They help Sarah — and the reader — piece together what happened to her and what that means. And what sort of tornado has taken over her life.

A lot hinges on that trip to Mexico that is still fresh in the mind of 10-year-old Sarah. That was the last Sarah saw her older brother Bruce.

16-year-old Sarah is piecing together and remembering what happened in Mexico, but also piecing together something that happened at school, at the art show, and what it means.

We also get a peek into the mind of Sarah’s mother, an E. R. nurse who doesn’t love her husband. They’re staying together for the sake of Sarah. And the effect is that Sarah is growing up surrounded by lies.

I haven’t been able to convey the power of this book. It’s a straight contemporary novel — except that 16-year-old Sarah converses with her 10-year-old, 23-year-old, and 40-year-old selves — and other people interact with them, too, so they are indeed not hallucinations.

This is a powerful story about what happens when a metaphorical tornado goes through a seemingly still life — that was really swimming in lies.

(Tip: If you believe a woman should stay in an abusive marriage for the sake of the kids, this book will not support your views.)

as-king.com
PenguinTeen.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz

February 2nd, 2017

The Inquisitor’s Tale

Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

by Adam Gidwitz

illuminated by Hatem Aly

Dutton Children’s Books, 2016. 363 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Newbery Honor Book
2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award Gold Medalist
2016 Capitol Choices selection
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Children’s Fiction

This book is marvelous! Set in France in the year 1242, it tells the story of three children with miraculous powers. Jeanne, a peasant girl, has fits during which she can see the future. William, an oblate at a monastery whose mother was a Saracen from Africa, has strength like Samson. And Jacob, a Jewish boy, has miraculous healing powers. Their other companion is a holy dog. This dog saved Jeanne’s life when she was a baby, but died. Now the dog, Gwenforte, has come back to life.

The dog started the trouble, really. People of the village had been venerating her grave. Jeanne finds Gwenforte alive in the Holy Grove where she’d been buried just before a group of knights arrives to destroy the grove, because obviously venerating a dog is false worship. When Jeanne saves the dog and the knights learn that she has visions, she becomes a target, too.

We know at the start of the book that in the last week, the three children have become famous through all of France and that now King Louis himself is after them. Their story is told at an inn outside Paris. Our unnamed narrator wants to find out about the children. He finds people at the inn who can tell their stories. So the chapters of the book have titles that remind one of The Canterbury Tales, “The Brewster’s Tale,” “The Nun’s Tale,” “The Librarian’s Tale,” and the like.

We hear the stories of all three of the children and how their paths intersected. They end up on a mission together to save books from burning.

Each of the children is a victim of prejudice. Jeanne because she’s a peasant, William because of his dark skin, and Jacob because he’s a Jew. Jacob’s is by far the most serious, as his whole village was burned. They find a kinship together, and maybe their tolerance for each other is slightly anachronistic — but it’s beautiful enough, this can be forgiven. William has done much reading in the monastery, so he knows about the wisdom found in Jewish books.

The story is told with plenty of humor. And it’s a wonderful story, with miracles and twists and turns and people chasing the children and plots and quests. All throughout the book, we have illuminations. Here’s what it says about that at the beginning:

This book has been illuminated — as a medieval text might have been — by the artist Hatem Aly. Some of his illustrations will reflect the action, or the ideas, in the story. Some will be unrelated doodles, just as medieval illuminators often doodled in the margins of their books. There may even be drawings that contradict, or question, the text. That, too, was commonplace in medieval manuscripts. The author and the illuminator are unique individuals, with unique interpretations of the story, and of the meaning behind it.

There are almost thirty pages of notes and bibliography at the back — Adam Gidwitz did plenty of studying about medieval times. I love the way he based the children’s miracles on actual medieval sources. He also wove in actual historical characters and places. I love the way Mont St. Michel is featured. (I really want to go there some day.)

The story’s engaging, exciting, and funny, but it also has a lovely message about tolerance which feels very timely. This is from the Author’s Note at the back:

It was a time when people were redefining how they lived with the “other,” with people who were different from them. The parallels between our time and theirs are rich, poignant, and, too often, tragic. As I put the finishing touches on this novel, more than a hundred and forty people were killed in Paris by terrorists. It turns out they planned the attack from apartments in the town of Saint-Denis. The tragic irony of this haunts me. Zealots kill, and the victims retaliate with killing, and the cycle continues, extending forward and backward in history, apparently without end. I can think of nothing sane to say about this except this book.

This book is marvelous — both filled with marvels and magnificently carried out.

adamgidwitz.com
metahatem.com
penguin.com/youngReaders

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Hat for Mrs. Goldman, by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

February 2nd, 2017

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman

A Story About Knitting and Love

by Michelle Edwards
illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Picture Books
2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award Silver Medalist

Oh, here is a picture book for knitters to love!

Unlike many stories about knitting, it acknowledges that knitting is difficult and takes a long time. And this ends up being a beautiful story about showing love by knitting.

Mrs. Goldman knits hats for the whole neighborhood, including Sophia.

“Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,” says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. “This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.

Sophia goes with Mrs. Goldman when she walks her dog Fifi, and Sophia notices that Mrs. Goldman doesn’t have a hat any more. She gave it to Mrs. Chen.

Sophia gets an idea.

Last year, Mrs. Goldman taught Sophia how to knit.
“I only like making pom-poms,” decided Sophia after a few days.
“Knitting is hard. And it takes too long.”

Now Sophia digs out the knitting bag Mrs. Goldman gave her. And the hat they started.
The stitches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.

Sophia holds the needles and tries to remember what to do. She drops one stitch. She drops another.

Still Sophia knits on. She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.

Sophia works hard on that hat. For a long time. Finally she finishes knitting and sews it up.

I love that the hat doesn’t look very good. In fact, it looks like a monster hat.

But Sophia’s solution is wonderful, and fits with what went before. She covers the hat with red pom-poms. When she gives it to Mrs. Goldman, she says it reminds her of Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes.

And now her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.

The book finishes up with instructions for knitting a simple hat and for making pom-poms.

(Hmmm. Now as I post this, I think it’s pretty much a Pussy hat. But you can cover it with pom-poms if you like. Or not.)

This is a beautiful story, as it says, about knitting and love.

michelledwards.com
gbriankaras.com
randomhousekids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/hat_for_mrs_goldman.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?