Archive for the ‘Children’s Fiction Review’ Category

Review of Cloud and Wallfish, by Anne Nesbet

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Cloud and Wallfish

by Anne Nesbet

Candlewick Press, 2016. 385 pages.
Starred Review

One day both Noah’s parents come to pick him up from school. He is informed that they are taking a sudden trip to Germany, leaving now. And not West Germany, the one they’d talked about going to for vacation some day, the other Germany. Noah’s Mom is going to continue her PhD research, looking at education for people with disabilities on both sides of the Wall.

That’s only the beginning for Noah. They also tell him that he’s going to be called Jonah and he has a different birthday than the one he’s always used. They even made a book for him, showing him the history of his life – with fake elementary school pictures and fake places they supposedly lived.

It’s 1989, and Noah and his parents – now the Brown family instead of the Keller family – are going to live in East Berlin for six months.

They’ve got a set of Rules. They must not draw attention to themselves. They must smile. They must not talk about serious things indoors, where they’ll be bugged. If Noah absolutely must talk about the past, he must stick to the Jonah Book.

Noah has a stutter, which makes German, with all its consonants, even harder for him than English, even though he has a gift for languages and can understand. But the authorities don’t think he can speak it well enough to go to school. He meets a girl named Claudia (pronounced “Cloud-ee-a”) who lives in their apartment building with her grandma and missed school because she was sick.

Before contact is forbidden, Noah/Jonah and Claudia, who both feel like Changelings, invent a fairyland and draw pictures of that place on a map of Berlin. On the map, West Berlin is blank, so they fill it in as fairyland.

The adult reader will know this was an interesting time to be in Berlin – and sure enough, things progress as events move toward the Wall coming down. To fill in historical details, every chapter has a “Secret File” giving some background. I was a little ambivalent about those being included. But since it was information I had already, it seems only fair that kids should have that information, too.

I was pulled into this book right away, as Noah was bewildered by his parents’ news of the sudden move and name change. The characterization is brilliant as his parents take on East Germany, and Noah observes, follows the Rules, and makes a Changeling friend.

Of course, I’ve got a soft spot for this book since I lived in Germany for 10 years, though it was after the Wall fell. There was even a Sonderschule mentioned. It’s a school for special needs kids, but hey, it’s part of a special book.

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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.

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Review of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill

Monday, March 13th, 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

by Kelly Barnhill

Algonquin Young Readers, 2016. 388 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Newbery Medal Winner

In the Protectorate every year, the youngest baby is left in the woods for the Witch.

But this year, the mother of the child protests and goes mad and has to be locked up.

And Antain, the young apprentice to the Elders is disturbed by what he sees and asks uncomfortable questions. But the elders leave the baby anyway.

They left her knowing that there surely wasn’t a witch. There never had been a witch. There were only a dangerous forest and a single road and a thin grip on a life that the Elders had enjoyed for generations. The Witch – that is, the belief in her – made for a frightened people, a subdued people, a compliant people, who lived their lives in a saddened haze, the coulds of their grief numbing their senses and dampening their minds. It was terribly convenient for the Elders’ unencumbered rule. Unpleasant, too, of course, but that couldn’t be helped.

They heard the child whimper as they tramped through the trees, but the whimpering soon gave way to the swamp sighs and birdsong and the woody creaking of trees throughout the forest. And each Elder felt as sure as sure could be that the child wouldn’t live to see the morning, and that they would never hear her, never see her, never think of her again.

They thought she was gone forever.

They were wrong, of course.

Now, there is a witch who lived in the woods named Xan. Here’s her perspective on the Day of Sacrifice:

For as long as Xan could remember, every year at about the same time, a mother from the Protectorate left her baby in the forest, presumably to die. Xan had no idea why. Nor did she judge. But she wasn’t going to let the poor little thing perish, either. And so, every year, she traveled to that circle of sycamores and gathered the abandoned infant in her arms, carrying the child to the other side of the forest, to one of the Free Cities on the other side of the Road. These were happy places. And they loved children.

But this year, which was turning out so differently from usual, something about the baby caught at Xan’s heart. And as she journeyed with the baby, she accidentally fed it moonlight rather than the usual starlight.

There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known. But because the light travels such a long distance, the magic in it is fragile and diffused, stretched into the most delicate of threads. There is enough magic in starlight to content a baby and fill its belly, and in large enough quantities, starlight can awaken the best in that baby’s heart and soul and mind. It is enough to bless, but not to enmagic.

Moonlight, however. That is a different story.

Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.

So, baby Luna gets enmagicked, and Xan realizes that means she must care for the baby herself. So Luna grows up in the forest with tiny dragon Fyrian (who thinks he is Simply Enormous) and bog monster Glerk. When her magic comes in, there may be disastrous consequences, so Xan has to take momentous steps to control it.

Luna has no idea of her origins. And Xan has no idea what she has set in motion – things that are going to change the lives of everyone in the Protectorate and the forest. They will find the source of all the Sorrows and discover how to fight against it.

This is a lovely book with a fantasy world not quite like any other. We have the usual quest of good versus evil, but it proceeds in surprising ways.

I like the way this book celebrates Love and Joy. And conquering those who feed on Sorrows.

kellybarnhill.wordpress.com
AlgonquinYoungReaders.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 Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Lily and Dunkin

by Donna Gephart

Delacorte Press, 2016. 331 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #10 Children’s Fiction

Neither Lily nor Dunkin is happy with the name they were given at birth. Dunkin doesn’t like his name because it’s Norbert Dorfman, after his grandfather and great-grandfather. Lily doesn’t like her name because it’s Timothy. Lily knows she’s really a girl, and is trying to be brave enough to wear girl’s clothes to school when eighth grade starts, but she doesn’t quite manage it.

Dunkin met Lily before school started, and even saw her wearing a dress, but when he asks about it, Lily backs down and says it was just on a dare. Dunkin would like to be friends with Tim at school, but when the guys on the basketball team take an interest in him because he’s so tall, he can’t stay away — even though they’re the same guys who bully Tim.

On the surface, this is an issue book. Lily is dealing with being transgender and trying to get up the courage to go public with that. She also wants to go on hormone blockers before it’s too late, but her Dad’s having a hard time with it.

Meanwhile, Dunkin has his own issues. He’s got bipolar disorder. His mother decided to trust him to take his own medication this year. But if he takes his antipsychotic pills, he doesn’t have enough energy to play basketball. So he sneaks a pill into the trash each day.

As an issues book, I enjoyed this. It’s for a slightly older reader than George but I like the way both books help you understand how it would feel to be transgender and some of the many difficulties you’d face.

But the book does have more to it. There’s navigating friendships and eighth grade, and there’s an old tree in front of the library that’s scheduled to be cut down. It’s a tree that meant a lot to Lily and her grandfather who is now deceased. As for Dunkin, he’s the new kid. He’s just moved to Florida, leaving behind some kind of family disaster involving his Dad. He knows nothing about basketball, but now he has a chance to be somebody because he got his growth early. If he can learn enough about the game before it’s time to play.

donnagephart.com
randomhousekids.com

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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.

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

Saturday, 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 The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz

Thursday, 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 Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, by John David Anderson

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day

by John David Anderson

Walden Pond Press (HarperCollins), 2016. 300 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Children’s Fiction

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day is both a middle grade boys’ caper novel and a heart-warming tearjerker. How did John David Anderson manage to pull that off?

We’ve got three viewpoint characters, best friends Topher, Steve, and Brand, sixth grade students in Ms. Bixby’s class. One day, Ms. Bixby tells them she’s got to take a leave of absence a month before school’s out. She has cancer. They’re planning a class party for her last Friday, next week.

Topher has a taxonomy of teachers.

There are six kinds of teachers in the world. I know because we classified them once during indoor recess. First you have your Zombies: those are the ones who have been doing it for a few centuries, since Roosevelt was president — the first Roosevelt, with the broomy mustache from those museum movies….

Then there are the Caff-Adds. Brand calls them Zuzzers. You can spot them by their jittery hands and bloodshot eyes and the insulated NPR travel mugs they carry around with them….

Then you have your Dungeon Masters. The red-pass-wielding ogres who wish paddling was still allowed in schools. The kind who insist on no talking, whether it’s reading time, work time, sharing time, lunchtime, after school, before school, the weekend, whatever. You are supposed to just sit still and shut up….

Then you’ve got your Spielbergs. They’re not nearly as cool as Steven Spielberg. We just call them that because they show movies all the time….

My personal favorites are the Noobs. The overachievers. Fresh picked from the teacher farm. With their bright eyes and their colorful posters recently purchased from a catalog and the way they clap like circus seals when you get the right answer. They don’t stay Noobs for long. They get burned out pretty quick. A year. Maybe two. I don’t think it’s the students’ fault, though. I blame the system.

The last kind we simply call the Good Ones. The ones who make the torture otherwise known as school somewhat bearable. You know when you have one of the Good Ones because you find yourself actually paying attention in class, even if it’s not art class. They’re the teachers you actually want to go back and say hi to the next year. The ones you don’t want to disappoint.

Like Ms. B.

But then on Monday, it turns out that Ms. Bixby is already out, with a substitute in her place. Brand, Steve, and Topher make a plan to go visit her on Saturday. But then they overhear some teachers saying that Ms. Bixby is getting moved to Boston on Saturday. They are going to have to skip school to visit her on Friday.

They devise a plan to sneak off the school grounds, ride buses, pick up the specific items they need, and make it to the hospital. Everything that can possibly go wrong with their plan does go wrong. That’s the middle school boys’ caper part of the book. Sadly, I found myself laughing quite hard at their bad luck and, in a few cases, poor judgment. Though how they deal with each setback approaches brilliance in places.

As they narrate their journey, each boy also gives the readers memories of Ms. Bixby. We find out how she noticed them and saw them for who they are. We learn why they chose these specific items they need to bring to her. We also learn each boy’s back story and how they really needed someone like her in their lives.

This book made me think of my first college roommate, Colleen Jenks. Colleen was teaching high school English before she died of brain cancer. Truly, teachers get to touch lives in ways that will never be forgotten.

This book is, as Brand would say, frawesome (freaking awesome)!

johndavidanderson.org
harpercollinschildrens.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 Princess in Black Takes a Vacation, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

princess_in_black_takes_a_vacation_largeThe Princess in Black Takes a Vacation

by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2016. 88 pages.
Starred Review

Oh, how I love the Princess in Black! This is the fourth book about frilly and pink Princess Magnolia, who disguises herself as the Princess in Black to fight monsters with ninja moves.

In this book, I was happy to see the Goat Avenger finally step up to help out. We found out about him in Book One. But even if you haven’t read Book One, you’ll find out what’s up:

The Goat Avenger was the same height as her friend Duff. He even had the same smile. But it couldn’t be Duff. Duff did not wear a mask.

The Princess in Black is tired. She has fought fifteen monsters this week. So the Goat Avenger offers to protect the goats while she takes a vacation.

However, no sooner does Princess Magnolia start napping on the perfect beach, than a giant sea monster surfaces.

Maybe if I just lie here the monster will go away, thought Princess Magnolia.

“ROOOAAARRR!” said the sea monster. “EAT PEOPLE!”

The people on the beach screamed.

Fortunately, Princess Magnolia has brought her disguise along with her beach gear. And fortunately, there’s a handy bathing tent where she can change.

Can the Princess in Black save the day against a giant sea monster? And will she ever get a vacation? And can the Goat Avenger protect the goats from monsters?

This series is just so much fun. I love the cartoon-like illustrations. The monsters are monstrous, but not too scary. The language is simple, perfect for beginning readers, but full of humor. I like the way the Princess in Black does use ninja moves (again my favorite is Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash!), but she also tells the monsters to behave, and that they are not allowed to eat goats or people.

Even though there’s a princess on the cover, these books are for kids of any gender. My co-worker’s five-year-old son loves them, as will any kid who likes superheroes or ninja moves or feeling powerful.

squeetus.com
candlewick.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 Ghost, by Jason Reynolds

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

ghost_largeGhost

Track: Book 1

by Jason Reynolds

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 180 pages.
Starred Review

Castle Cranshaw, who’s giving himself the nickname Ghost, learned to run the night his dad shot at Ghost and his Ma.

So when I was done sitting at the bus stop in front of the gym, and came across all those kids on the track at the park, practicing, I had to go see what was going on, because running ain’t nothing I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do.

It turns out that Ghost is as fast as the fastest kid on the team — so the coach lets him join. But Ghost’s Ma will only let him stay on the team if he can stay out of trouble. And then all the other kids have nice shoes. How can he ask his Ma to pay for shoes like that?

This story is simple — a kid’s life is transformed by becoming part of a team — but it’s carried out well. There’s nothing stereotypical about the story, even if you can sum it up in a stereotypical way.

The details of Ghost’s life — the particular ways he gets bullied, his particular temptations that get him in trouble, the particular kids he gets to know on the track team, the particular coach with a bald head and missing tooth who drives a taxi — all those particulars make this story come to life and feel like something we haven’t heard before.

I cringed when I saw “Track: Book 1” on the title page, because the last two books I read were also Book One. But this book is complete in itself — Okay, they don’t tell you who wins the race at the end, which is slightly annoying, but the story is complete and gets us to Ghost’s first race.

All the same, I’m glad I’ll get to find out what happens next for Ghost and his new family on the track team.

jasonwritesbooks.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk

Monday, October 10th, 2016

wolf_hollow_largeWolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk

Dutton Children’s Books (Penguin Random House), 2016. 291 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s the Prologue of this book:

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.

I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears — things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.

It was the autumn of 1943 when my steady life began to spin, not only because of the war that had drawn the whole world into a screaming brawl, but also because of the dark-hearted girl who came to our hills and changed everything.

At times, I was so confused that I felt like the stem of a pinwheel surrounded by whir and clatter, but through that whole unsettling time I knew that it simply would not do to hide in the barn with a book and an apple and let events plunge forward without me. It would not do to turn twelve without earning my keep, and by that I meant my place, my small authority, the possibility that I would amount to something.

But there was more to it than that.

The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered.

So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden.

But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.

At the end of the book, Annabelle says:

But Wolf Ho

So this is a story about Lies and about Truth, about basic questions of Right and Wrong.

It’s not a World War II story, even though that’s the backdrop. Annabelle lives on a farm in Wolf Hollow. She attends a one-room school and looks out for her little brothers.

The story involves a dark-hearted girl who comes to Wolf Hollow, and who looks sweet and pretty to the adults, but is a cruel and relentless bully.

It also involves a homeless man named Toby, a veteran of World War I, who roams the hills with three guns on his back and camps out in an abandoned building. Again, to adults Toby looks scary, but he’s open-hearted and kind.

Annabelle has a window on both those people that isn’t shared with most of the folks in Wolf Hollow.

This book isn’t light-hearted and doesn’t really have a happy ending. But it’s a book about doing what’s right and seeing who people really are.

But it’s also a lovely book about love and friendship that leaves you uplifted in spite of the tough issues it uncovers.

penguin.com/youngreaders

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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.

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Review of Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

towers_falling_largeTowers Falling

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Little, Brown and Company, 2016. 228 pages.

Granted, this is a message book. But the message is timely, and the execution is carried out with a mostly light touch.

Central to the book is Dèja, a 10-year-old girl who lives with her family in an apartment in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. She’s starting 5th grade in 2016 at a new school.

The new school is the best one she’s ever attended, and she makes two good friends — a new boy from Arizona and a Muslim girl — and she loves her teacher, Miss Garcia.

But the class starts a unit talking about what happened on September 11, 2001. The school has windows looking out on the Manhattan skyline.

Dèja knows absolutely nothing about the Twin Towers. She’s confused and shocked by what her classmates tell her — as it gradually unfolds in conversation.

Dèja having a Muslim friend also plays into it, as she is very sensitive about the events as well.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Dèja pretty quickly guesses that her father’s inability to work and frequent headaches have to do with September 11. Sure enough, she snoops into his locked suitcase and learns that he was a survivor. They eventually do talk about it.

What startled me most about this book was realizing that kids today don’t have any memory at all of the Twin Towers falling. They weren’t born yet. In fact, the teacher in the book was a fifth-grade student when the towers fell and saw them fall through the school windows.

So yes, the plot is a tiny bit stilted — with a lot of the events turning on the teacher’s lesson plans. But I think it’s lovely that this book is here, a jumping off place for discussing that pivotal event and talking about what connects us as Americans.

Coincidentally, just this last week my cousin visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City. So I had just heard about and seen pictures of the striking imagery and the wonderful detail that flowers go next to the names of those whose birthday it would be.

And the story also stands as the story of a kid in a homeless shelter trying to cope, trying to make friends. It’s not a long book, but it’s a lovely contribution and will give kids much to think about and talk about.

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

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