Archive for the ‘Contemporary’ Category

Review of Hens for Friends, by Sandy De Lisle

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Hens for Friends

by Sandy De Lisle
illustrated by Amelia Hansen

The Gryphon Press, Edina, MN, 2015. 28 pages.

I’m dedicating this review to my lifelong friend Kathe, who had to campaign to get her town to allow her backyard chickens, as well as a nod to my sister-in-law Pam and Facebook friend Shannon, who have kept chickens.

This is a simple picture book story about a boy whose family got six chickens from a hen rescue agency.

I love them all, but Margaret is my best hen friend. When I sit on the ground, she jumps into my lap and tucks her head under my arm. When I stroke her back, she makes a funny sound, kind of like a purring cat.

The family almost didn’t get the hens because some people in their city didn’t want chickens there, thinking they’d bring rodents and diseases. The book shows how they take care of the chickens to make sure that doesn’t happen (including more details in a note at the back).

Basically, this book is propaganda for owning chickens! But it’s done as a charming family story. At the end, the family uses two of Margaret’s eggs for our narrator’s little brother’s birthday cake.

When the other hens aren’t looking, I give Margaret a piece of strawberry from Eduardo’s birthday cake. She gobbles it right up. “You’re special, Margaret,” I whisper in her ear. She makes a squawk that sounds just like “You are too.”

Mom’s right: our hens are lucky to have us. But I feel lucky to have them too, especially Margaret.

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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 Sam Sorts, by Marthe Jocelyn

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Sam Sorts

(One Hundred Favorite Things)

by Marthe Jocelyn

Tundra Books, 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a wonderful picture book full of early math concepts that can be used in many different ways. It’s also good as a story (Well, a little bit – a story about a boy tidying up), and for those children who enjoy super-detailed illustrations (like I Spy and Where’s Waldo).

Mainly, it’s about Sam’s quirky collection of one hundred favorite things and the many different ways they can be sorted and counted.

After a page declaring that his things are in a heap and need to be tidied up, Sam starts in:

First he finds Obo the robot, one of a kind. Then two snarling dinosaurs, three little boxes, and four fake foods. How many things is that?

Sam gathers many things in various groupings. I like the page that shows a Venn diagram with three circles made of string.

Spider Rock joins the other rocks. Sam’s favorite rock is the round one. He looks for more round things. Two of the buttons are exactly the same. What else comes in twos?

The Venn diagram shows rocks in the first set, then round things, then things that come in twos. There are things in both intersections. There are things that don’t fit any of those categories on the outsides.

Things continue to be sorted in various ways.

Another way Sam makes a pair is by finding a rhyme.

Some things match because they have stripes. A few have dots or holes. Only one has checks. The snake is striped AND green . . .

On another page, the things are sorted onto a rainbow by color. Then many other categories are shown. (“Soft,” “Noisy,” “Pointy,” . . .)

Sam gets overly exuberant after putting out all his “guys.” “Look out, guys . . . The animals are coming!”

Once things are in a heap again, Sam decides to tidy up again. The next page has all the things laid out, separated by a striped background. The text asks, “How many categories? How many things?” There are ten categories with ten things each, so here is a great exercise in counting to one hundred. (One little problem with that page is that for at least a couple categories, it’s hard to figure out what the category might be.)

But if nothing else, this introduces the concept of sorting and sets and looking at things in different ways. This is a wonderful early math activity, and I love the playful approach.

www.penguinrandomhouse.ca

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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 Under the Sabbath Lamp, by Michael Herman

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Under the Sabbath Lamp

by Michael Herman
illustrated by Alida Massari

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2017. 32 pages.

Here’s a lovely story about inheritance and traditions. A group of neighbors has a tradition of hosting each other for Shabbat dinner. The first time Izzy and Olivia Bloom host, the children notice there are no Shabbat candles. Then Izzy shows them the Sabbath lamp that burns oil and has been in his family for one hundred fifty years.

There’s a story-within-a-story as Izzy tells about how his great-great-grandfather Isaac moved to America for a better life. But they couldn’t afford for his whole family to come.

As Isaac packed his belongings, Rachel handed him the drip pan from the Sabbath lamp.

“Take this with you,” she told him. “Just as this part is separated from the rest of the lamp, we will be separated from you. When we come to join you, we will bring the other parts, and the lamp will be whole again. Just like our family.”

One by one, the children and his wife joined Isaac in America, and when they were all together, they lit the Sabbath lamp.

When Izzy and Olivia got married, his father entrusted the lamp to them.

I like the way the book brings the tradition into the present with Izzy and Olivia enjoying the Sabbath lamp together with their friends.

karben.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.

Review of Sofia Martinez: My Fantástica Family, by Jacqueline Jules

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Sofia Martinez

My Fantástica Family

by Jacqueline Jules
illustrated by Kim Smith

Picture Window Books (Capstone), 2017. 96 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely beginning chapter book. There are three stories with three chapters each. There are full color beautiful pictures throughout.

I like the story because it’s about a great big family. I have a great big family, and these are rare in children’s books. This particular family is Hispanic and they have brown skin. Their speech is peppered with Spanish words (printed in red and defined in the back), but otherwise these are simply fun family stories.

In the first story, the whole big family is going to spend a week at the beach. Sofia decides to pack games instead of very many changes of clothes. (This won my heart right from the start.) When they get a rainy day, Sofia’s a hero.

The next story deals with making a Time Capsule for the family – and Sofia’s curiosity about it. (I was a little confused and didn’t realize they were back home from their trip. But I eventually figured out about there being three separate stories. There’s a big title page for each story, so I could have paid more attention to clues like that.)

The final story is about the whole family going shopping for school supplies and the preschool-age cousin getting lost in the store.

Again, this is all done with big colorful pictures, simple language, short chapters, and Sofia’s personality shining through. This is a great new heroine for kids ready for chapters.

capstonekids.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 We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson

Monday, August 20th, 2018

We Are the Ants

by Shaun David Hutchinson

Simon Pulse, 2016. 451 pages.
Starred Review

Henry Denton has been repeatedly abducted by aliens for years. They usually deposit him somewhere in his hometown of Calypso, Florida without his clothes. It was soon after the first time that his father left them. Who could handle having a kid who claimed he’d been abducted by aliens?

Now, as high school student, the aliens are giving him a choice. They showed him a button. If he doesn’t push the button, the world will blow up. If he pushes the button, he’ll save the world. And he knows when it will happen — in 144 days from when he was given the choice, on January 29, 2016. (I was wishing they set the book in the near future, to give a little more suspense. But that date is around the publication date of the book.)

Henry can’t figure out if the world is worth saving.

Henry is bullied relentlessly. The word got out that he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. In fact, his own older brother Charlie was the one who let that out.

The bullying didn’t matter when his boyfriend Jesse was alive. But Jesse committed suicide a year ago.

What’s wrong with Henry that people leave him like this? Even their good friend Audrey disappeared for months after Jesse’s death, when Henry needed her.

Since then, Henry’s been secretly hooking up with Marcus, who is one of the bullies in public. Maybe with Marcus, Henry can forget Jesse’s death.

But then a new kid comes to town. He seems to think the world is worth saving. But he’s got secrets in his past, and Henry isn’t good for people anyway.

There are a lot of reasons the world might as well end. Henry’s Mom is struggling. His grandma’s losing her memory. His brother’s girlfriend is pregnant. And the bullying has gotten much worse.

It’s hard to decide how to categorize this book. There’s the one science fiction element as Henry tells about what the aliens do to him. But the majority of the book is about coping with life and bullying and friendships and family and romance. And whether life is worth it.

I like the slightly morbid chapters sprinkled throughout the book that each relate a way that life on earth could end.

I also like that this is a book about romance with a gay boy as the main character, but the book isn’t about the fact that he’s gay. It’s about everything else he’s up against.

I didn’t expect to love a book where the first sentence is “Life is bullshit.” and the first chapter hammers home the absurdity of life. But I did love it. I want Henry to push the button. And I want him to want to push the button.

shaundavidhutchinson.com
simonandschuster.com/teens

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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 Which Is Round? Which Is Bigger? by Mineko Mamada

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Which Is Round?
Which Is Bigger?

by Mineko Mamada

Kids Can Press, 2013. First published in Japan in 2010. 28 pages.
Starred Review

I thought this was going to be a ho-hum concept book. But it surprised me.

The first spread asks the question, “Which one is round?” We see an apple and an armadillo. The answer seems obvious.

But when we turn the page, the apple has been eaten down to the core, and the armadillo has curled into a circle. Now the page asks, “Which one is round? What do you think?”

We get similar questions – and shifts – with questions about which one is bigger, longer, faster, higher, and red (an apple versus a watermelon – outside and inside).

It’s a simple book, and very short. But I love the question after each shift, “What do you think?” What a wonderful opening for interesting conversations with your children! And what a lovely way to get them to think critically and look again.

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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 Short, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Monday, August 13th, 2018

Short

by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 296 pages.

Julia Marks is short. She looks two years younger than she really is. The summer has started and her two best friends are away on vacation, and she misses her dog Ramon, who recently died. Then her mom makes her audition with her little brother Randy at the local university for a summer theater production of The Wizard of Oz.

Julia and Randy get to be Munchkins, and Julia’s summer changes. She makes friends with Olive, one of three little adults who are playing Munchkins along with the kids. And then Julia and Olive get chosen to play winged monkeys as well.

Down the street, Julia’s neighbor Mrs. Chang, turns out to have experience making costumes. She wants to help with the production – if they’ll let her be a winged monkey!

This book is full of the fun and energy of being in a show, with drama between actors and lessons learned and the difficulties of dealing with reviewers and fans. And Julia has a summer of growth. Maybe not on the outside, but on the inside, where it counts.

hollygoldbergsloan.com
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 Yaffa and Fatima, adapted by Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Yaffa and Fatima

Shalom, Salaam

adapted by Fawzia Gilani-Williams
illustrations by Chiara Fedele

Kar-Ben Publishing (Lerner), 2017. 24 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely tale about cross-cultural caring. The note at the front says it’s adapted from a tale with both Jewish and Arab origins about two brothers. The author has changed it to a story about two neighbor ladies, one Jewish and one Muslim.

The story is told simply and beautifully, fitting for a traditional tale.

Here’s how it begins:

In a beautiful land, called the Land of Milk and Honey, there lived two neighbors. One was named Yaffa and the other was named Fatima.

Yaffa and Fatima each owned a beautiful date grove. During the week they both worked very hard gathering their dates.

On most days Yaffa and Fatima sold all their dates at the market and were able to buy plenty of tasty food to eat – which they often shared.

Yaffa loved Fatima’s shwarma. And Fatima loved Yaffa’s schnitzel.

The book tells more about Yaffa and Fatima’s routines. Yaffa is highlighted in blue and Fatima in red, against a lovely brown background. They pray in different places. The read from a different book in the morning. They fast at different times. They celebrate different holidays. But this is still true:

They both loved God, and they both loved to follow God’s way.

They each wish the other “Peace,” but use a different word to do it.

When a drought hits the land, each of the neighbors lies awake at night worrying that the other neighbor doesn’t have enough to eat. So each one goes secretly to put some of her dates in the other’s basket.

Each one is surprised when they find more dates than they thought they had.

The next night, they go to do the same thing – but this time they spot each other. They hug, laugh, wish each other peace – and decide to share a meal of dates and tea.

Now, my summary doesn’t really communicate the charm and warmth of this lovely book. Children will readily understand the message that people can deeply care for one another despite external differences.

karben.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 Waylon! Even More Awesome, by Sara Pennypacker

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Waylon!
Even More Awesome

by Sara Pennypacker
pictures by Marla Frazee

Disney Hyperion, 2017. 204 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2017

Here’s a second wonderful book about Waylon, a fourth grader who plans to be a scientist.

This book jumps right into the action. Dumpster Eddy, the stray dog that Waylon loves but can’t own because of his mother’s allergies, has been captured and is in the police station again.

Baxter is a police officer’s son, and he and Waylon usually break Dumpster Eddy out just before he has to go to a shelter. But this time there are some big obstacles. The first being that someone new is in charge of the animals at the station, so Dumpster Eddy doesn’t have as much time as usual.

Baxter’s helping Waylon, but Waylon’s still not sure he should associate with someone so obsessed with criminal behavior.

Also, it’s winter. The boys don’t want Eddy to be cold – so they build an igloo. But some more problems come up.

The way the obstacles and various subplots are resolved are all satisfying and lovely. Waylon learns about friendship and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and good collaboration. And the story’s engaging, funny, and realistic.

I do love Sara Pennypacker’s characters, children and adults both. They are always quirky, and come alive that way. Waylon’s dad, for example, has taken two years off from working with numbers in order to pursue his dream of making it as a writer, while Waylon’s mother is a scientist. Baxter is obsessed with criminology, and our friend Clementine makes some appearances, still giving her little brother the names of vegetables.

sarapennypacker.com
marlafrazee.com
DisneyBooks.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 Niko Draws a Feeling, by Bob Raczka, illustrations by Simone Shin

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Niko Draws a Feeling

by Bob Raczka
illustrations by Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Review written in 2017

Niko likes to draw feelings.

When Niko was inspired,
it felt like a window
opening in his brain.

An idea would flit through the
open window like a butterfly,
flutter down to his stomach,

then along his arm and fingers to his pencils,
where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of color.

No one understands Niko’s drawings and what they mean. If he draws the hard work of a mother robin building her nest, they expect to see a bird or a nest – not hard work. If he draws the warm of the sun on his face, they expect to see the sun or his face, not the warm.

His friends don’t understand. His parents don’t understand. His teacher doesn’t understand.

But then a girl named Iris moves next door, and she gets it. When she looks at Niko’s drawings, she feels something.

The next thing Niko draws is the feeling of friendship.

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. Honestly, I’m still a little skeptical about drawing feelings. And a little skeptical that this new girl could catch on so well.

But – there’s something about that feeling when somebody finally gets you. This book delivered that feeling and warmed my heart.

lernerbooks.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?