Archive for the ‘Children’s Nonfiction Review’ Category

Review of Playlist, by James Rhodes

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Playlist

The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound

by James Rhodes
illustrated by Martin O’Neill

Candlewick Studio, 2019. 68 pages.
Review written April 1, 2020, from a library book
2019 Cybils Award Winner, Senior High Nonfiction
Starred Review

This book is visually stunning as well as audibly stunning (more on that in a minute). It’s oversized, but many will realize it’s the same square shape and size as a record album.

Once inside, every spread is a presentation. This is an author who loves classical music and is excited about it. If anyone can communicate that love and excitement to a young reader, this would be the person.

Here’s an excerpt from his Introduction:

I’ll be honest with you: classical music is not usually seen as riveting material for a book. I know that. You know that. It is thought of as dull, irrelevant, belonging to other (usually old) people, and about as interesting as algebra. I will say this though: classical music saved my life when I was a kid. And even today, many years later, every single time I listen to it, it makes me feel amazing.

Classical music has a bad and, in my mind, unfair reputation. Those composers with the white curly wigs, such as Bach and Mozart, might seem super old-fashioned now. But they were the original rock stars. They changed history, inspired millions, and are still listened to and worshipped all around the world today. So I hope you’ll leave behind your preconceptions: even if you think you hate it, give it an hour or two of your time and then decide.

It does have to be said that there are a LOT of classical composers, and it can be quite overwhelming to decide where to begin. I have chosen seven composers to get us started. For each composer I have selected two pieces to discuss and listen to. I’m also going to explain a bit about the lives of the composers. (You won’t believe some of their stories. Did you know Beethoven peed into a chamber pot he kept under his piano and Bach had twenty children?) I’ve chosen Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel: the perfect introduction to classical music.

So that gives the format of what follows: We’ll have a spread for each composer, then a spread telling about his life, then a spread for each of the two pieces of music that James Rhodes analyzes for us. And that’s what makes this book extra vivid: At the front he’s got a playlist of all the music. You put tinyurl.com/jamesrhodesplaylist into a browser, and you’ll get to listen to all the pieces on Spotify. So you get to listen to the music as he describes it.

And his enthusiastic descriptions help you appreciate and understand the significance of the pieces he chooses.

All of his descriptions ring with his love for the pieces. Here’s an example taken from the spread about Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Finale:

As we know, Rachmaninoff was a giant, and this concerto requires really, really big hands. He asks the pianist to play enormous chords and super-fast runs of notes and jumps from the bottom of the keyboard to the top and back again. The last movement, which we’re going to focus on here, is my favorite, for reasons that will become obvious as you listen to it. It has everything that any music fan could ever want – incredible, unforgettable melodies, insane piano pyrotechnics (I mean just listen to the first time the piano enters!), excitement, melancholy, heartbreak, and heroism, all in eleven minutes. There are giant cymbal crashes, sweeping romantic tunes with the entire orchestra and solo piano playing at full volume, and an electrifying ending. But it’s the big tune, perhaps his most famous melody, that really does it for me. It starts at 1’47, and Rachmaninoff, knowing how special it is, repeats it three times during the course of the movement, each time adding little touches and making it fresher and more magnificent until the very last time (9’55 OMG), when it becomes this enormous, grand, sweeping melody that has inspired dozens of Hollywood composers and would feel right at home in one of the Jurassic Park, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, or Incredibles movies.

Speaking of movies, in the section on the composer’s life, he always includes some movies that use music by the composer.

There are some additional spreads with musical terms and a timeline of Western Classical Music, and absolutely nothing in this book is remotely boring. It gives the reader a nice background of classical music, and a wonderful audio sampling of the riches you can find there.

At first when I opened this book, I was reluctant to go to the trouble of listening to the playlist. By the time I was done, I was eager to hear and notice the things James Rhodes pointed out.

As he says to finish his Introduction:

So, this is my plea: give this music a chance. Read the book, listen to the pieces in the playlist I’ve built for you (turn the page!), and then, if you want, NEVER listen to it again, safe in the knowledge you’ve given it a go and hated it. But maybe, just maybe, it’ll blow your mind and improve your life a little bit, and you’ll want to send me a giant box of cookies as a thank-you. (I’m not even joking – send as many as you like.)

Enjoy. Take it slowly. Allow yourself to experience something magical.

Count me as someone whose mind was blown. Though in lieu of sending cookies, I’m writing this review.

candlewickstudio.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.

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 This Promise of Change, by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

This Promise of Change

One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality

by Jo Ann Allen Boyce
and Debbie Levy

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 310 pages.
Review written January 20, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor

Jo Ann Allen was one of the “Clinton 12” – black children who went to the white high school in Clinton, Tennessee, in 1956 when the Supreme Court so ordered. It started out calmly enough, but things got worse and worse.

The main story is told in Jo Ann’s voice, in verse. Many are free verse, but many are also in rhyme, using poetic forms. There’s an immediacy about the poems, and we get the story of how it felt to be Jo Ann in the middle of such big events. I wouldn’t have necessarily liked an author making this up, but I like that Jo Ann herself was an author of this book, so we can trust that she got the feelings right.

Between the poems are headlines from all over the country talking about the events that Jo Ann was part of. There are photos at the back of Jo Ann and her classmates.

Because this book is in verse, it’s all the more readable, and helps the reader understand how it felt to be there.

I think my favorite poem in the book is this one toward the end:

A REAL VICTORY
(THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6)

The day before yesterday,
the same day
we went down the Hill with Reverend Turner
and all that happened
happened,
there was also an election.
Not an election for president
(that was in November; Ike won again)
but for local officials
like the mayor and the city aldermen.

The results are in and

I don’t know if people voted
after hearing what happened at school.
I don’t know if people felt
things have gone too far.

I don’t know if A led to B but –
every single
white supremacist
segregationist
candidate
lost.

Before all this,
before all that happened
happened,
I thought there was nothing I could do
about segregation.
I’m just a girl, I thought,
one girl who tries
to look at the good side of things,
because there’s nothing I can do
about the bad.
I’m still that good-side-looking girl,
but now when I see the bad, I’ll think –
I’ll know
there’s something I can do about it.

debbielevybooks.com
Bloomsbury.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 Infinite Hope, by Ashley Bryan

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Infinite Hope

A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace

by Ashley Bryan

A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book (Atheneum Books for Young Readers), 2019. 108 pages.
Review written January 20, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
A 2020 Capitol Choices selection
2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor

Infinite Hope is visually stunning. The extra large pages are filled with sketches, copies of letters, and photographs, all from the author’s service during World War II.

I was relieved when I realized that all the handwritten letters are transcribed into print. There’s not a whole lot to read on each page, but there is so much to see.

Ashley Bryan is a distinguished Black writer and illustrator of children’s books. World War II came as he was getting started in art, having won a scholarship to art college. His art career was interrupted when he was drafted to serve in World War II, but he spent the whole war sketching what he saw. This book tells his story, illustrated by the actual sketches.

It’s a story of discrimination. Ashley Bryan wasn’t used to discrimination, having grown up in the Bronx, but that was how things worked in the U. S. Army. When they got to Europe, though, they found something different.

The Scottish people were warm and welcoming to all of us Black GIs. For some of the Southern men in our company, this was their very first experience of open, friendly encounters with white people. The Scots offered us unquestioned acceptance as equals, a level of immediate friendship that we rarely received at home.

This did not please our white company officers, who were determined to enforce the US Army policy of segregation. Their general attitude that Blacks were beneath them – that “we do not treat them like that!” prevailed. So they began to circulate terribly demeaning stories about Black people, saying that we would hurt them, that we had tails that would come out at night. Their goal was to make the Scottish people fearful so that they would avoid us.

To the officers’ great annoyance, their efforts did not change the way the people of Glasgow viewed us. The Scots did not have the institution of racism – they weren’t socialized against Blacks. Despite the officers’ attempts to sway them, the Scots trusted our actions and friendliness rather than the officers’ words.

Ashley Bryan even got permission to take classes at the Glasgow School of Art.

The fellows in my company never held it against me that I was free to leave camp to go to the art school, even when they were restricted. I had always shared my artwork with them and had helped some of them write letters to loved ones at home, so they were glad for me, glad that I had a chance to get better at something I loved. For while they were playing cards or dice, I was drawing, drawing, drawing. They also took it as my way of going over the head of our company officer, and cheered me on.

He tells about taking part in D-Day and its aftermath – and throughout it all, he kept on sketching. He stored all those sketches after the war (having regularly mailed batches back to his parents), and now was finally ready to pull them out. I like when he talks about preparing the sketches for an exhibit and turning some into paintings.

Fifty years ago, those paintings would have been dark – grays and blacks. But in really looking at those sketches now, I saw a beauty there – the beauty of the shared human experience. And I was able to face these sketches, face these memories and emotions, and turn them into the special world created by the men. I think of the men who were in the unit with me – I had such respect for what they could do, things I was so inept at. I remember their generosity toward me. I can never give them more than they gave me, so I would paint them in full color, filled with the vibrancy and life I had put into my garden paintings. I was ready.

I chose to paint from sketches of the soldiers playing cards or dice. This was a world they created, sheltered from the segregation and racism they endured. Sheltered from all sorts of war. I look now at the color, open form, and rhythm of those paintings. To me, they seem to have come out of my Islesford garden paintings rather than the drab colors of Omaha Beach! They have that surprise of discovery and invention that comes from seeing a well-known theme anew. They open the door to many other unexpected possibilities – because what is life, if not a voyage of endless discovery.

And so Ashley Bryan takes his sketches and inside story of World War II and makes it a thing of beauty and hope.

ashleybryancenter.org
simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben

Friday, February 7th, 2020

Can You Hear the Trees Talking?

Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest

by Peter Wohlleben

Greystone Kids, 2019. Originally published in German in 2017. 80 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 31, 2019, from a library book
2019 Sonderbooks Stand-outs: #4 in Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

This book says it’s a Young Readers’ Edition of the New York Times Bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees — a book I had checked out for a very long time intending to read, but never did. The Young Readers’ Edition with great big photographs and bite-sized facts in large print on each page – that was irresistible. I couldn’t help but read it! I opened it up to leaf through it, intending to only look at the pictures, and some fact would capture my attention.

Within the seven chapters, which all have a large and beautiful photograph on an introductory page, each spread has a page heading that’s a question. We begin with basics like “How Do Trees Breathe?” “How Do Trees Drink?” and “Why Don’t Trees Fall Over?” and progress to questions such as “Can Forests Make It Rain?” “What Are Trees Afraid Of?” “How Do Trees Know When It’s Spring?” “Do Trees Sleep at Night?” and “Why Do Trees Shed Their Leaves in Fall?”

While I was reading this book, I found myself sharing random facts with my coworkers. Did you know that trees sleep at night – and that when lights are on all night, nearby trees don’t live as long? Did you know that young trees don’t need to drop their leaves because their trunks are so flexible, they can spring back if snow weighs them down? Did you know that trees can communicate with one another through fungi in the soil? They can warn neighbors about insect attacks (so they produce chemicals to repel them) and they can even give sugar to a neighbor who needs it.

It’s all super fascinating and so attractively presented! Maybe I’ll finally read the adult version – but I wish it had the glorious full-color photos of this book!

greystonebooks.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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of How Many? by Christopher Danielson

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

How Many?

A Different Kind of Counting Book

by Christopher Danielson

2019, Charlesbridge. First published in 2018 by Stenhouse Publishers. 39 pages.
Starred Review
2019 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 in Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

I already loved Christopher Danielson’s earlier book, Which One Doesn’t Belong? It came to my attention when it won a Mathical Book Prize. Now Charlesbridge has taken on his books to hopefully reach a wider audience.

Here’s how the book explains that it is different from other counting books:

This book doesn’t tell you what to count.

It doesn’t start with small numbers and end with big ones.

Instead you decide what to count on each page. You have many choices.

The longer you look, the more possibilities you notice.

And that’s what you get. The illustrations are photographs. The pictures show things like an apple being cored and two shoes in a shoebox. The text asks, “How many do you see?”

After that first picture, the narrator says:

If you thought, “how many what do I see?” then you get the idea.

It does give examples of things you can count: shoes, pairs of shoes, shoelaces, holes for the laces, yellow stitches. And it asks, “What other things can you count?”

The pictures get interesting in different ways. There’s a picture of an egg carton with one egg in it. There’s a picture of eggs frying, one of which has a double yolk. The eggshells are by the stove, and the eggs that were not used are still in the carton next to the stove.

In other pictures, some fruit gets cut in half. We’ve got pictures of pizza, and then pizza in slices. Pictures toward the end show kitchen scenes with many of the things we already looked at – including shoes on the floor.

Questions at the back give you ways to extend the ideas. I do love that there are no answers anywhere in this book.

This is a wonderful book for curious children! It builds sophisticated mathematical ideas into preschool and early elementary school children. Anyone who has learned to count will have something to think about with this book.

As the author says at the end, “When you count carefully and clearly state what you’re counting, you’re doing some great math!”

talkingmathwithkids.com
charlesbridge.com
Stenhouse.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 my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

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 Free Lunch, by Rex Ogle

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Free Lunch

by Rex Ogle

Norton Young Readers, 2019. 208 pages.
Starred Review
Review written January 2, 2020, from a library book
2019 Sonderbooks Stand-outs: #4 in Longer Children’s Nonfiction

Free Lunch looks like an ordinary middle school novel. If you don’t pay attention, you might think it’s simply a hard-hitting, gritty story, with the hardships maybe a little overdone. But this story is true.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to quote from the Author’s Note at the back. In fact, knowing that it’s true makes this all the more powerful.

I just finished writing the story you’ve just finished reading. I feel exhausted and sad and a little sick to my stomach. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to puke on you.) The reason I feel like I’m about to vomit, or maybe just burst into tears, is because everything that happened in this book happened to me in real life. Every laugh, every lunch, and every punch that you’ve read about is the result of an emotional deep dive into my past.

Like most children entering sixth grade, I was focused on friends and grades and locker combinations. But I was also worried about other things: where I’d get my next meal, what mood my mom or stepdad might be in when I came home from school, and when other kids would finally discover my darkest secret – that I was poor.

I was beyond terrified of my peers knowing that my parents – and by proxy, me – were on welfare, using food stamps and living in permanent-subsidized housing. Along with living under the federal poverty line, I also dealt with verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis. I hated my life and I hated myself. I didn’t want people to know that my family was scraping the bottom of the barrel, because I believed being poor meant being less-than. And I was deeply ashamed for it. And worse, it made me feel completely alone.

The title comes from Rex being on the free lunch program, and every single day the cafeteria worker would make him tell her he was on the free lunch program and loudly tell her his name so she could look it up in a notebook. This made it tricky to hide it from his friends.

In fact, many things in his life revolved around not letting his friends know he was poor. When they moved to subsidized housing near the school, he’d linger at school until most of his friends had left on the bus, so they wouldn’t see where he lived. And he never told them why he hadn’t gone out for football.

This story pulls you into the mind of a middle school kid, including his surprise at people who are kind and like him for who he is. It also gives you an inside perspective on a major problem in America, where nearly one in five children under eighteen live in poverty. This book is written on a level children can understand, but I hope adults will read it, too.

nortonyoungreaders.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.

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 Ordinary Hazards, by Nikki Grimes

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

Ordinary Hazards

A Memoir

by Nikki Grimes

Wordsong (Highlights), 2019. 325 pages.
Starred Review
Review written November 9, 2019, from a library book

Wow. Nikki Grimes wrote a powerful and moving memoir in verse.

Between this book and Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, I should make a new page on my website for Teen Nonfiction. This book isn’t for children, even though it tells about Nikki Grimes’ childhood. It is for teens, and will speak to teens who have to deal with hard things.

There’s a caption at the front:

MEMOIR:
a work of imperfect memory
in which you meticulously
capture all that you can recall,
and use informed imagination
to fill in what remains.

The author explains that there are blanks in her memory because of trauma. And her childhood had lots of trauma. At the point when she finally found a loving home in a foster home, her mother took her back, and the difficulties began again.

At one point, when she’d described the abuse she went through at the hands of her mother’s husband, she then wrote about being thirteen – and I wanted to cry. So young! Later, when she was in high school and had built a good relationship with her father at last, more tragedy struck.

But she doesn’t ask you to feel sorry for her. And you can see her coping. One of the ways she coped, even as a child, was writing, always writing. She’s got excerpts from her Notebooks over the years, adding immediacy. (Though, alas, they are reconstructed and imagined.)

This is a quietly Christian book. She shows how important prayer was to her and how her faith in God was her lifeline – along with key people who came into her life and helped her through.

And there are tough things in her story, but Nikki Grimes infuses the book with joy. I love the story about going on the subway with her best friends – which goes with one of the handful of pictures in the back of the book.

One afternoon,
we three dressed up
in our finest rags
to help Gail’s boyfriend,
a fledgling photographer
in need of a portfolio
to display his considerable skills.
Debra and I ripped off our glasses,
and we three posed for portraits
in the park
(me in my new coat!),
then hung from a vertical pole
in the middle of a subway car,
swinging round it gleefully,
pretending to be
professional models.
In other words,
we hammed it up, yo!
And those photographs?
Oh, my God! Portraits
of joy.

I love reading this knowing that the little girl portrayed here, up against so much, did become the writer she planned to be.

“I want to write books about
some of the darkness I’ve seen,
real stories about real people, you know?
But I also want to write about the light,
because I’ve seen that, too.
That place of light – it’s not always easy
to get to, but it’s there.
It’s there.”

Yes! She achieved this. Even though this memoir portrays childhood trauma and difficulties, it’s a book about the light.

nikkigrimes.com
wordsongpoetry.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.

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 Heart of a Boy, by Kate T. Parker

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

The Heart of a Boy

Celebrating the Strength and Spirit of Boyhood

by Kate T. Parker

Workman Publishing, 2019. 250 pages.
Starred Review

Oh, I love this book! I was already crazy about Strong Is the New Pretty, the book the author wrote celebrating girls. Now she’s done an equally wonderful job taking photographs of boys. (And the boy on the front cover is the most adorable ever!)

Both are books of photography, with large mostly close-up pictures, focusing on faces. Both books break some stereotypes, so in this book you do have many pictures of boys being tender.

The chapters break the photos loosely into categories. Here are the chapter titles: “The Heart Is Vulnerable,” “The Heart Is Joyful,” “The Heart Is Dedicated,” “The Heart Is Playful,” “The Heart Is Creative,” “The Heart Is Resilient,” “The Heart Is Expressive,” “The Heart Is Independent,” “The Heart Is Curious,” and “The Heart Is Kind.”

Each photograph is accompanied by a caption with the boy’s first name and age and a quote from him. Here are a few random examples:

“I want to be president because I am helpful, kind, and nice.”

“I liked losing my front teeth because I could fit Tic Tacs through the hole!”

“Wrestling taught me perseverance in everything I do. That in order to move a wall, I have to push until I can push no longer. Only then, after giving everything I’ve got, will that wall move.”

“Cade is my best friend. We have so much fun together whatever we do. We can just be really silly and do nothing and still have fun.”

“Baseball is a lot of fun. I love the sport because I can play with my friends and teammates. The hardest part is that I can’t run as fast as the other kids because of my knee disability. So I have to try much harder to keep up.”

“I like soccer. I like baseball. I like to dance, too. The best part is tap dancing becase it is fun and it makes me feel good.”

“People say, ‘You look like a girl. Your hair is too long, your hair isn’t normal, your hair doesn’t look like boy hair. Why are you wearing pink leggings? Why do you wear tight clothes? Why do you wear so much jewelry?’ But I like the way I am.”

“When I’m drawing my characters come alive, and it’s as if they are right there speaking directly to me.”

Now you need to see the boys who have said these words – and many more. This is another fabulously affirming book.

katetparker.com
workman.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/heart_of_a_boy.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.

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?

Review of Best Friends, by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Best Friends

by Shannon Hale
Artwork by LeUyen Pham
Color by Hilary Sycamore

First Second, 2019. 250 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 3, 2019, from a library book

Best Friends is a follow-up to Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s wonderful graphic memoir, Real Friends, but you definitely can appreciate Best Friends even if you haven’t read the first book.

Best Friends covers one year of Shannon’s life – the year in sixth grade. I give Shannon credit for telling her story – because who would really want to relive sixth grade?

Shannon and LeUyen beautifully portray the questions that come into a kid’s mind as they try to figure out the “rules” of friendship and how they change as you get older. Shannon starts out the year best friends with the leader of “The Group,” which puts her in a good position. But can she stay there? And do her friends really like her for who she is? And what about boys?

Here’s a bit portrayed like a board game:

Sixth-grade friendships were like a game…
only as soon as I’d figure out the rules…
…they’d change again.

Games have losers. I was worried that losing this game meant I’d lose my best friend.

I especially like the way Shannon’s obsessive thoughts and problems with anxiety are portrayed as black clouds hanging over her and around her full of awful accusations (such as “Everyone thinks you’re stupid.”) and scary questions (such as “Is your mom dead?”). At the back of the book, Shannon has a note about anxiety and OCD. Here’s part of that note:

Anxiety is a totally normal feeling, and like all feelings, it’s important. It becomes an anxiety disorder when our worries get out of control day after day after day, when the worries don’t always make sense, when they keep us from doing things we want or need to do, and they make us feel awful. For most people who have an anxiety disorder, “just ignore it” doesn’t work.

Sometimes anxiety gave me feelings of dread – warnings that something bad was going to happen. At times I believed worrying was a power that kept me and the people I loved safe. But that wasn’t true. Talking with people who understand anxiety has helped me to untangle all my feelings. It’s taken me time to develop skills that help me manage anxiety. You can find more information at adaa.org (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).

But my favorite part of Best Friends were the scenes from a book Shannon Hale was writing in sixth grade. (She shows two pages of the manuscript at the back.) I like the way you can see Shannon was dealing with her real-life challenges by having a fantasy princess deal with similar challenges – and overcome them.

I love the way real-life Shannon was reminded by the fantasy book she was writing that the important thing is to be true to her essence.

It’s probably just as well this book didn’t come out last year when I was on the Newbery committee – I love all Shannon’s books so much, I’d feel like I was biased fighting for it to win. This is an example where it’s too bad the Newbery committee isn’t allowed to take the illustrations into account unless they detract – because these illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the story. But the story itself has a whole lot of depth as Shannon portrays that universal experience of growing up to where you’re not quite a child any longer, and everything begins to change.

(Disclaimer: I have no idea what this year’s committee will decide and I have no idea how I would feel about this book next to the other contenders this year or how the book will look to the committee. But one thing I’m sure about – my Newbery radar is still active enough that I would definitely note this as a book to Suggest for all the committee members to read.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’m confident it’s going to be deservedly popular. It reminded me I’m glad I never have to go through sixth grade again, but for kids who are still facing it, this book will encourage them that they’re not alone.

squeetus.com
leuyenpham.com
firstsecondbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/best_friends.html

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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 Birds of a Feather, by Susan L. Roth

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Birds of a Feather

Bowerbirds and Me

by Susan L. Roth

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2019. 32 pages.
Review written June 1, 2019, from a library book

This is a fun take on a science book about a bird. In Birds of a Feather collage artist Susan Roth explains how bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea are collage artists, too.

The males create a “bower,” a sheltering sort of structure, and then create a collage on the floor of the bower in hopes of impressing a female. These are not nests, and seem to be a work of art. The bowerbirds work like artists, choosing colors they like and arranging and rearranging materials. They are just as picky as any human artist.

By putting this story in a book illustrated with collage art, we have a striking and memorable story. There is one photograph in the back of a bowerbird’s bower. I would have liked a few more, so I could see for myself that each bird is making a unique work of art.

The backmatter is interesting, with a list of facts about bowerbirds, a description of how they work, a description of how the artist works, and a list of ways they are the same.

This is a delightful and original approach to telling kids about nature.

HolidayHouse.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/birds_of_a_feather.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.

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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