Archive for the ‘Contemporary’ Category

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.

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Review of Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy, by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy

by Laurel Snyder
illustrated by Emily Hughes

Chronicle Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

It’s another beginning chapter book about Charlie and his little brother Mouse. In this book their grandfather, Grumpy, comes to visit.

This book hits just the right note, telling about interactions of the boys with Grumpy. There are four short stories. The parents don’t come into it at all (except being referred to a bit), but each story is strictly between the boys and Grumpy.

My favorite story is “Pouncing.” Here’s how it begins:

Charlie woke up.
Mouse woke up.
“Grumpy is here!” said Charlie.
“Should we pounce him?” asked Mouse.
“Of course!” said Charlie.
They snuck downstairs.

Grumpy was in the kitchen.
Grumpy was drinking coffee.

Mouse looked sad.
“Why are you sad?” Grumpy asked Mouse.
“We wanted to pounce you,” said Mouse.
“So pounce me!” said Grumpy.
“We can only pounce
when you are sleeping,”
said Charlie.
“It is a rule,” said Mouse.
“That makes sense,” said Grumpy. “But you will have to get up very early to catch me sleeping.”

As the story continues, Grumpy “rests his eyes” and his nose begins to snore. I like that the author doesn’t tell us what the boys decide to do. We know what will happen!

There’s all kinds of charm in these stories. They’re suitable for a beginning reader to read themselves or for a young one to listen and enjoy. Grandparents will especially enjoy reading these to their grandchildren.

laurelsnyder.com
chroniclekids.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 City Moon, by Rachael Cole, illustrated by Blanca Gómez

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

City Moon

by Rachael Cole
illustrated by Blanca Gómez

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Such a lovely book! I love the simple way it celebrates that it gets dark early in the fall. Here’s how it begins:

In the fall,
when leaves are coming down,
it gets dark before we go to bed.

After dinner,
after tooth-brushing time,
we put on pajamas,
then coats and shoes.

We take keys,
and bang the big front door
behind us.

It’s evening. It’s night.
We are going on a walk
to look for the moon.

The illustrations show a busy city, with people doing things in their apartments and other walking on the sidewalk. The child asks questions, and the mother answers. The moon hides behind buildings and clouds. They see stars (which are not little moons) and a reflection of the moon. The child learns about those things and that there is only one moon, even though it looks like it’s in a different place.

It’s all simple and lovely as a walk with a mother and small child.

I liked this page:

“Mama, why doesn’t everyone look?”
“They’re busy,” Mama tells me.
“Walking and riding bikes home
and cooking dinner
and putting children to bed.”

This book makes me want to go look for the moon. And I will do so with new eyes. Best of all, it gives me a whole new perspective on getting home from work when it’s already dark. That doesn’t have to be an annoyance.

And like all good bedtime books, it ends with a child asleep in bed, the moon shining down.

rachaelcole.net
cosasminimas.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 Thanks for the Trouble, by Tommy Wallach

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Thanks for the Trouble

by Tommy Wallach

Simon & Schuster, 2016. 276 pages.
Starred Review

This book opens as Parker Santé is in a hotel, looking for something to steal. He sees a girl with silver hair pay for her coffee.

She reached into her purse and pulled out the fattest stack of hundreds I’d ever seen in real life. I’m talking a hip-hop video kind of wad, thick as a John Grisham paperback. She peeled off one of the bills — (I see you, Mr. Franklin) — and handed it over. “Keep the change,” she said. The waiter nodded a stunned little bobblehead nod, then peeled out before the girl could think better of her generosity, leaving her to tap idly at the top of a soft-boiled egg in an elaborate silver eggcup. I stared at her staring off into space, and counted the many ways in which she was incredible.

He’s attracted to the girl, but that doesn’t stop him from stealing the wad of cash when she leaves her purse behind. However, he makes a fundamental mistake, a mistake that reminds him of the myth of Orpheus.

But my dad said it was the most perfect myth ever written, because it represented the most fundamental human error: we all look back.

When I did, I saw that the silver-haired girl had returned to her seat. In spite of the fact that her purse was open and half its contents had spilled out across the tablecloth, she wasn’t screaming or crying or scrambling around, looking for the culprit. Why, you ask? Because she’d been distracted by something else. By what, you ask? Well, by my journal, of course! I’d left it behind when I tore off with all that money. It had my name in it, and my e-mail address, and an incredibly embarrassing story I’d recently written called “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Kingdom,” which she was now reading.

They get to talking. Or, I should say, the girl talks and Parker writes. Parker hasn’t been able to talk since the accident when his dad died.

But the girl tells him her plan:

“I am waiting for a phone call. And when it comes, I’m going to give this money to the first needy person I see. Then I’ll take the trolley to the Golden Gate Bridge and jump off it.”

Parker doesn’t like the sound of that. So he negotiates. He thinks he’s talking her out of jumping off the bridge, but they end up with the deal that she’s going to spend all that money on him (and with him), and he is going to apply to and attend college.

As their adventure takes off, they get to know each other better. When Parker tries to find out more about Zelda, she tells him that she was born in 1770 in Kassel, Germany. She doesn’t age.

Now her second husband is dying of old age, and she’s had enough.

But whether or not he believes her, Parker has some things to show her about life.

And she has many things to teach Parker.

I like all the questions this book opens up. What would it be like not to age? What would you do?

I wasn’t crazy about the framing — It’s supposedly Parker’s college application essay. I didn’t actually believe you’d be able to submit a book-length manuscript online. Though that does add to the fun because you don’t know if it really happened to the character. Though it certainly supports how dramatically his life changed.

An entertaining book that you can think about for a very long time.

tommywallach.com
simonandschuster.com/teen

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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 Hello, Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Hello, Universe

by Erin Entrada Kelly
performed by Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera

HarperAudio, 2017. 5 ¼ hours on 5 discs.
Starred Review
2018 Newbery Medal Winner

I was disappointed when I hadn’t read this year’s Newbery Medal Winner before it won – though not too disappointed, because now I had a good book to read! The only problem: When to read it? I need to be reading books eligible for the 2019 Newbery Medal.

However, our committee is trying to avoid listening to eligible books, since a good or bad narrator can influence your opinion of a book – so when the library purchased this book in audio format, I knew what my next commuting book would be.

It’s a quirky story. One thing I like about it is that it stands a writing rule on its head: Don’t use coincidences to move the plot. But in this case, coincidences are used repeatedly – and it’s perfect for this story. It reminds me of the old book by Edward Eager, Magic Or Not? — you aren’t sure if the things happening are coincidences or magic. In Hello, Universe you aren’t sure if events are coincidences or fate.

Among the characters, though, Kaori Tanaka is absolutely sure it’s a fateful day. She says over and over: “There are no coincidences.”

Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic. Her little sister follows her around and helps, in a gratifying and subservient way. Kaori has one client so far, Vergil Salinas. Vergil is very shy, and he feels like a complete failure because middle school ended, and he never said one word to that nice girl he saw in the resource room every Thursday, Valencia Somerset. Valencia is deaf, and she’s recently learned that the girls she thought were her best friends are tired of making the effort to communicate with her. She’s started having the same nightmare every night.

But after Kaori asks Vergil to post her card at the grocery store – with the line “no adults” – the one who picks it up and makes an appointment is Valencia. She hopes to get help with those bad dreams. But the day that Valencia makes an appointment to see Kaori is the same day that Vergil has not shown up for his appointment. What could have happened to him? And will the Universe help them find him?

I like the way the apparent coincidences combine to help each character make some changes.

It’s fun to get a peek when fate brings people together. But then, I was also pretty sure in the Edward Eager books that magic was involved.

harperaudio.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 audiobook 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 Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump! by K. L. Going, illustrated by Simone Shin

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump!

by K. L. Going
illustrated by Simone Shin

Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), 2017. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Ah! Here’s a lovely new book just right for toddler story time. The words sing, and point out the sounds a child might hear as they go about their day.

Here’s how it begins:

Wagon on gravel goes bumpety-bump.

Pebbles in the pond fall dunkety-dunk.

Toes in the grass go thumpety-thump.

Bumpety, dunkety, thumpety-thump.

The above takes up a two-page spread for each line.

Then the action continues: The children pick berries. When plopped into the bucket, they go plunkety-plunk. They take them home and make a pie with their parents, with more onomatopoeia happening.

Then there’s washing up – both dishes and children.

The final set of the day goes like this:

Nose taps nose with a bumpety-bump.

Snuggle in the blankie in a lumpety-lump.

Hearts beat close with a thumpety-thump.

Bumpety, lumpety, thumpety-thump.

Like all good bedtime books, this one ends with children asleep in bed – but there is enough action and rollicking rhyme going on, that it can be read any time of the day.

This sweet book begs to be read aloud.

klgoing.com
simoneshin.com
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 We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

We Are Okay

by Nina LaCour
read by Joyeana Marie

Listening Library, 2017. 5.5 hours on 5 compact discs.
Starred Review
2018 Printz Medal Winner

While I’m reading for the Newbery, I’m trying not to listen to any audio versions of eligible books – since we don’t want to bias our opinions by good or bad readers. This leaves my commute time open to listen to the award winners from last year that I didn’t get read.

We Are Okay begins with Marin saying good-by to her roommate for Christmas break. She’s about to be the only person in the dorm for a few weeks – in a cold part of upstate New York. But she’s expecting a visitor – Mabel, her long time friend, has told Marin that she’s coming – and didn’t give her a chance to refuse the visit.

We gradually find out why Marin is there alone, why she would plan to be all by herself when everyone else has gone to visit family. We learn what happened to Gramps, whom she used to live with. We learn that Marin ignored hundreds of texts from Mabel – but that now Mabel has come to see her anyway.

Once there, the girls get caught in a snowstorm that puts the power out, but they aren’t in danger, since the groundskeeper, who was meant to keep an eye on Marin, helps them out. Something about the snow and the situation help Marin start to open up about what happened.

We also find out that Marin and Mabel were more than friends. The memories of that aspect of their relationship are woven into all the feelings about Marin’s disappearance and Mabel’s search for her. (I always feel I should warn audiobook listeners that there are some sexy times. Why is it more embarrassing to listen to sexy passages than to read about them? Well, at least you wouldn’t want anyone else to be in the car.)

When I was almost to the end of this audiobook, I had almost decided that the whole book was far, far too sad. That I would not be able to recommend it because the situation Marin had come through was almost too much to bear.

However, to my surprise, the author pulled off a happy, tear-jerking ending. With just the right touch, she brings great big hope despite and even because of all that went before. By the time I finished, I’m a huge fan of this book – a tender and compassionate story about fragile people and family and belonging.

Just beautiful.

ninalacour.com
listeninglibrary.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 audiobook 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?