Review of Everything I Thought I Knew, by Shannon Takaoka

Everything I Thought I Knew

by Shannon Takaoka

Candlewick Press, 2020. 308 pages.
Review written December 7, 2020, from a library book

Everything I Thought I Knew is the story of 17-year-old Chloe, six months after she got a heart transplant from an unknown donor. She’s recently been set free by the doctor to live her life, though her parents are anxiously keeping tabs on her, and she’ll be taking medication for life to keep her body from rejecting the new heart.

Chloe’s friends are spending the summer getting ready to go to college, but she has to go to summer school to finish the classes she missed the last semester of her senior year. And besides the nightly dreams about a terrible accident, she’s finding herself drawn to new things and acting out of character.

Without telling her parents, when she’s supposed to be at the library, she starts taking surfing lessons from a teen trying to make a little money. And she makes a friend at summer school and finds out what teens who have no parental supervision can get up to.

Chloe and Jane start doing a little research and discover internet theories about cellular memory, and stories of heart transplant patients who suddenly have skills their donor had and know people who were important to their donor.

Could this explain some of Chloe’s strange experiences?

At this point in the book, I almost put it down. It seemed a little too predictable. And while I think cellular memory might be a thing on some level, my suspension of disbelief didn’t extend to the detailed memories Chloe was experiencing.

But it turns out the book was not predictable at all. There’s a twist at the end I didn’t see coming and did enjoy – though it also was a little too much for my own suspension of disbelief.

But I did enjoy the way this tale is told. You feel Chloe’s bewilderment and her pressure to make the most of her life after the gift of a heart. Although I didn’t completely believe everything about this book, I did thoroughly enjoy it.

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

This review is only on the blog.

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 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 As Good as Dead, by Holly Jackson

As Good as Dead

by Holly Jackson
read by Bailey Carr with a full cast

Listening Library, September 2021. 15 hours, 4 minutes.
Review written July 20, 2022, based on a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

Big thanks again to my coworker Lisa, who recommended this trilogy to me. She was anxious to read an Advance Reader Copy of the third book, and I had never read any of them. So I was lucky and didn’t have to wait long in between books, because they were all published by the time I got to them.

In my review of the second book, I’d said that they stand alone okay, but now I say No, not at all. You absolutely need to read the other two books before you read this one. For one thing, you’d find out some major events of the earlier books, but mostly you’d understand the ins and outs of this one better.

Things escalate tremendously in each book. In the first book, Pip is a Senior in high school and takes on a 5-year-old murder case because she doesn’t think the dead boyfriend was actually the murderer, despite a texted confession. In the second book, Pip stumbles into an immediate case where a friend goes missing, but the police don’t think there’s anything to worry about. That case bumps up against another long-ago case of a serial killer.

Well, in this book, Pip gets involved again in an old case involving a serial killer. But this time, a person keeps commenting on her podcast episodes, “Who will look for you when you go missing?” and then some things happen to her that are eerily similar to experiences reported by victims of a Connecticut serial killer from years ago. But there’s someone in prison for the crimes, and there haven’t been any more since he was arrested. So when Pip gets a message from the mother of the convicted man, Pip doesn’t actually want to see the evidence that he is not the serial killer after all. Because that means he’s still out there and may have taken an interest in her.

I won’t say any more about the plot. There was a big turning point about a third of the way into the book, and I really disagreed with the decision Pip made. It had to do with not trusting the police.

As I kept listening and thought about it more, I had to admit that Pip had many, many reasons not to trust the police, and even though I wouldn’t have made that choice, I could believe that Pip would have.

And that choice contributed to an incredibly tense story from start to finish. I was listening this past week when traffic was terrible after a thunderstorm had gone through and stopped electricity and downed trees, and the audiobook had my nerves stretched tight — but at least I wasn’t bored for a second when my normally 15-minute drive took me an hour!

This trilogy is incredibly good, but be aware it’s extremely intense. And the crimes escalate from book to book and get closer and closer to Pip.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/as_good_as_dead.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 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 Cold, by Mariko Tamaki

Cold

by Mariko Tamaki
read by Katharine Chin and Raymond J. Lee

Macmillan Young Listeners, 2022. 4 hours, 37 minutes.
Review written August 19, 2022, from a library eaudiobook

Cold is told in two voices, and one is the voice of Todd, a boy who just died. He’s hovering over his body, in a park naked and frozen in the snow, when his body is found by a dog. Detectives come and begin trying to figure out what happened to him and who killed him.

The other narrator is Georgia, a girl who didn’t even know Todd. But as she learns about him, she feels like they have some things in common. They’re both queer and don’t have many friends at their respective high schools. It turns out that Todd was a Senior at the boys’ school where Georgia’s big brother Mark is also a Senior. Mark tells her he didn’t know Todd, but something’s bothering her about that statement.

Meanwhile, while Georgia is thinking about Todd’s death and what might have happened, Todd’s ghost is following the investigation. The detectives are interested in the one teacher who was kind to him. Todd didn’t have a lot of friends, and maybe if he hadn’t wanted one so badly, things would have turned out differently.

This isn’t really a detective story, as the mystery isn’t solved so much as slowly revealed. When Georgia and the reader find out the answer, all the pieces fall together.

Todd’s ghost watching events takes some of the sting out of the story of a 17-year-old being murdered — but not entirely. I was left with a sense of sadness, as Georgia’s left thinking about what it all means.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/cold.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 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 to Raise an Elephant, by Alexander McCall Smith, narrated by Adjoa Andoh

How to Raise an Elephant

by Alexander McCall Smith
narrated by Adjoa Andoh

Recorded Books, 2020. 8.5 hours on 8 compact discs.
Review written October 7, 2021, from a library audiobook

Here’s the latest installment of the adventures of Mma Ramotswe and her associates with the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. This audiobook has a new narrator, and I wasn’t crazy about some of her character voices, but I did love the way she rolls all her Rs and of course her delightful accent.

If you haven’t read any other books in this series, I do recommend beginning with the first book, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. That one is better written as a detective story, but the main point of these stories are not the cases the agency must deal with, but the relationships between the delightful characters and their observations on life and human nature.

In this one, there are three main cases to be considered: a distant cousin of Mma Ramotswe’s asking for money, new neighbors moving in next door who seem to be having marital troubles, and Charlie borrowing Mma Ramotswe’s tiny white van for a mysterious purpose.

The cases aren’t solved by figuring out puzzles, but as we see the ins and outs revealed, we gain insights on relationships and approaching life with compassion. Though Charlie’s story – which is not too surprising because of the title – ends up involving an orphaned baby elephant.

I’ve taken to listening to these books on my commute because I don’t quite have patience for the rambling and meditative observations on human nature when reading an actual book. But stuck in traffic, they never fail to make me smile. The books are anchored in Botswana, and I’m starting to feel like the country itself is a beloved friend.

recordedbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/how_to_raise_an_elephant.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 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 The Lucky Ones, by Liz Lawson

The Lucky Ones

by Liz Lawson

Delacorte Press, 2020. 343 pages.
Review written December 12, 2020, from a library book

The Lucky Ones in this book are teens who survived a school shooting in their high school the previous year. The reader does learn they’re not very lucky.

We follow two teens with a very different relationship to the tragedy. May was in a closet when the shooting happened in the band room. Her twin brother, her favorite teacher, and several of her friends were killed. She stayed in the closet. After the tragedy, she kept lashing out at school, and was eventually asked to take a leave of absence and home school. Now it’s second semester of the following school year and students from May’s old high school have been moved to the two closest high schools. She’s trying to go back to class. At least it’s a new building.

Zach’s mother is the lawyer who took the case of the school shooter. And when that happened, he lost all his friends except one. Someone – Zach doesn’t know it was May – has been vandalizing their house at night. But then a new girl shows up in class and smiles at him.

It feels good to both May and Zach to find new romantic interest in someone. Then they find out who the other is.

This is a tough book, dealing with so many awful emotions in the aftermath of a school shooting. It’s terrible how many teens may relate to it. It’s a well-written story, with both kids figuring out what’s going on in their own heads and how to communicate and what’s the best way to express all those mixed-up emotions. And not all the trauma happens before the story begins.

This is a good story and does end with a note of hope, but it’s not light reading.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/lucky_ones.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 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 I’ll Go and Come Back, by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Sara Palacios

I’ll Go and Come Back

by Rajani LaRocca
illustrated by Sara Palacios

Candlewick Press, 2022. 36 pages.
Review written April 23, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

I’ll Go and Come Back is a lovely picture book telling two parallel stories. First, a girl and her parents fly across the world to India “to see aunties and uncles, cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters, and Sita Pati.”

At first, she feels lonely when her cousins are in school. It’s all so different. She wants to go home.

But even though they don’t speak the same language, she and her Sita Pati do fun things together, filling the time with love and joy.

When it was time to go home, I didn’t want to. I held Pati’s hand with its soft, soft skin. Her sari rustled and smelled of silk. “Goodbye,” I said.

“Poitu variya?” asked Sita Pati. “Will you go and come?”

And I remembered that no one in India just said “goodbye.” “I’ll go and come back,” I said. “Poitu varen.”

Then it’s Sita Pati’s turn to visit. The next summer, she visits the family in America. She, too, seems lonely at first.

But the girl and her Sita Pati find parallel things to do together. As before, they spend their days playing and reading and cooking.

And when it’s time for Sita Pati to go back to India the words of farewell are again, “I’ll go and come back.”

This picture book will resonate with anyone who has loved ones who live far away.

rajanilarocca.com
candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/ill_go_and_come_back.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 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 Merci Suárez Plays It Cool, by Meg Medina

Merci Suárez Plays It Cool

by Meg Medina

Candlewick Press, September 2022. 346 pages.
Review written July 23, 2022, from an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Annual Conference, signed to me by the author.
Starred Review

This is the third book about Merci Suárez, in a trilogy that began with the book my committee chose to win the 2019 Newbery Medal, so it has a special place in my heart. But even though it didn’t seem possible, Merci grows on me even more with each volume.

And yes, I think you should read all three books in order, growing with Merci from sixth grade to eighth grade. She’s growing in her perspectives, but she still has issues with friends and family to face.

Now starting eighth grade, she’s got an in with one of the cool girls because of being on the soccer team together. And her schedule has more classes with her than with her older friends. But can she navigate that without hurt feelings? And how does she feel about it?

Then at home, her Lolo’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse, which is hard on everyone. And the twins are as incorrigible as ever.

None of this sounds funny and interesting and engaging when I give it in summary, but it’s all of that. It’s a solid book about an eighth grade girl growing up and navigating relationships with family and friends, and all packed with humor and heart. If you’ve read the others, you’ll be eager to spend more time with Merci. If you haven’t, good news: You can read the entire trilogy without waiting to find out what happens next!

megmedina.com
candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/merci_suarez_plays_it_cool.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 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 Grandmother School, by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney

Grandmother School

by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney

Orca Book Publishers, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written September 11, 2020, from a library book

Grandmother School is a picture book based on the true story of a school in India that was made especially for the grandmothers in that village.

The story is told by a little girl who walks her Aaji to Grandmother School.

Aaji started school a year ago. My teacher said almost everyone in the village could read, write and count except for all of the grandmothers.

So he built Aajibaichi Shala – Grandmother School.

Ajoba – my grandfather – shook his head and said that learning at this age was a waste of time, but most of the people in the village were happy for the grandmothers.

When Aaji first learned to spell her name, she did a little dance.

The book shows Aaji with daily tasks made simpler, and happy in her new-found knowledge. Her granddaughter helps her with homework and they have a new bond together, since they are both students.

This lovely picture book celebrates the joy and power that come from learning as well as the love between a grandmother and granddaughter.

orcabook.com

Buy from Amazon.com

This review is only on the blog

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 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 Berry Song, by Michaela Goade

Berry Song

by Michaela Goade

Little, Brown and Company, 2022. 36 pages.
Review written August 15, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

This picture book is gorgeous, as you’d expect, since it’s created by a winner of the Caldecott Medal. Instead of illustrating a book from another indigenous person’s traditions, she has written and illustrated this book from her own Tlingit traditions. Here’s how she begins the author’s note at the back:

Like the young girl in this book, I too live on an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea where I grew up picking tléiw, or berries. My home is Sheet’ká, or Sitka, Alaska. It is the same island my Tlingit grandmother, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents called home. All year long I excitedly wait for berry season, for the juicy salmonberries that strum the first notes of berry song, and the cranberries after the first freeze that signal its end. Every time I wander back into the forest, I am a little kid again, spellbound by the magic and joy of berry song.

The text of the picture book is a lyrical adventure of a grandmother showing her granddaughter how to get food from the land — especially the berries. As they pick, they sing the names of the berries — many more kinds than I even knew existed — and thank the land for taking care of them.

The book doesn’t give the tune, but you can hear the music in the words:

Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry.
Huckleberry, Soapberry, Strawberry, Crowberry.
The berries sing to us, glowing like little jewels.
We sing too, so berry — and bear — know we are here.

At the end of the book, in another season, the girl brings her little sister to gather more berries.

This is a lovely celebration of family and traditions and living in harmony with the land.

The endpapers identify all the berries named, with some additional photographs along with the Author’s Note.

michaelagoade.com
lbyr.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/berry_song.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 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 A Very Large Expanse of Sea, by Taherah Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

by Taherah Mafi
read by Priya Ayyar

HarperAudio, 2018. 6 hours and 43 minutes.
National Book Award Longlist.
Review written August 17, 2020, from a library eaudiobook

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a book I didn’t get around to in 2018 mainly because it was obviously geared more for young adults than for children. This book is set in 2002 about Shirin, a Muslim girl who wears a headscarf, at yet another new high school for her Sophomore year. Her parents move the family often, always moving up to a better neighborhood. But it means that Shirin and her older brother have trouble making connections in high school. Or at least Shirin does.

Shirin is disgusted with humanity and the way she gets treated because of her scarf. She wants nothing more than to be invisible. She doesn’t look people in the eye. She listens to music under her scarf and gets away with it.

Then in her Biology class, she’s given a lab partner whose name is Ocean. Romantic sparks start up between them. But Shirin doesn’t think he realizes what he’s getting into, and it turns out she’s right. What she doesn’t realize is that he’s the school basketball star and the whole school is interested in whom he dates.

This is a romance about teens who face some formidable obstacles, and it includes characters who feel realistically flawed, but who will find their way into your heart.

taherehbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

This review is only on the blog.

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 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?