Archive for May, 2019

Review of A Piglet Named Mercy, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Friday, May 31st, 2019

A Piglet Named Mercy

by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Candlewick Press, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 20, 2019, from a library book.

Here it is! A picture book that tells how a Mercy the Porcine Wonder came to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Watson just when they needed something a little less predictable in their lives.

When a baby piglet falls off a pig transport truck in the night, Mr. Watson discovers her next to his newspaper in the morning. They fall in love. Of course the next-door neighbor Eugenia Lincoln is horrified and her sister Baby Lincoln helpfully brings the piglet a bottle of warm milk.

It doesn’t take long before they learn that the little piglet loves buttered toast very much. She is a wish come true and a mercy, and that’s how she gets her name. (With Eugenia exclaiming in frustration.)

It helps, of course, to have met Mercy before, but it’s actually a wonderful and self-contained story of a couple adopting a piglet. I’m going to use it soon in storytime – which will perhaps entice those children into the longer beginning chapter books when they are ready to read on their own.

Delightful all by itself.

candlewick.com

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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 On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

On the Come Up

by Angie Thomas
performed by Bahni Turpin

HarperCollins, 2019. 11.75 hours on 10 discs.
Starred Review
Review written May 18, 2019, from a library audiobook

Here’s a second book by Angie Thomas, set in the same city of Garden Heights as her award-winning debut novel, The Hate U Give. Sixteen-year-old Bri has noticed a greater police presence in Garden Heights since the shooting from the earlier book and the protests that followed. They’ve also found that the security guards at her private school target the black and brown kids.

But right now, all Bri is concerned about is getting her big break. She’s loved to rap since she was a little girl. Her father was a rapper before her, but he was shot in gang violence when she was small. Now Bri is going to compete in the Ring, and what happens there gets her some attention.

Meanwhile, Bri gets harassed and thrown to the ground by school security, who called her a hoodlum. That’s simmering in her brain when she gets a chance to record a song, “On the Come Up.”

The song is popular – but plenty of people take it the wrong way. And that gets Bri’s temper flaring. Which doesn’t make her mother happy. But what her mother doesn’t know won’t hurt her. She recently lost her job, and if Bri can make it big as a rapper, maybe she can keep the electricity on and change all their lives.

One thing I love about this book and listening to the audio is that you get to hear the rapping. It bothers me when authors write about characters doing well in a competition but don’t let you see or hear what they use to compete. (A recent book that did that was Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo. It’s a wonderful book – but what poems did Xiomara use in the poetry slam?) In this audiobook, you get to hear “On the Come Up,” and I promise it will start going through your head.

One word of warning is that there’s plenty of profanity in this audiobook, so you probably won’t want to make this family listening – young kids might pick up more than the songs.

But if you’re looking for a profound book about dreams of making it as an artist combined with social issues and dealing with poverty and family dynamics and friendship dynamics and the question of what constitutes selling out – this wonderfully entertaining audiobook does all of that.

angiethomas.com
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.

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 Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Monday, May 27th, 2019

The Undefeated

by Kwame Alexander
illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Versify (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2019. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 16, 2019, from a library book

Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson pretty much form my dream team of picture book creators. Kadir Nelson creates lavish, lush paintings of people who are radiant with light. Kadir Nelson writes poetry that sings. In this book they use those powers together to celebrate black Americans through the ages.

Kwame Alexander wrote a poem beginning in 2008, the year his second daughter was born and the year Barack Obama was elected the first African American president of the United States. He explains in the back many reasons he wrote the poem, culminating in this one:

But mostly I wrote a poem to remind Samayah and her friends and her family and all of you, and to remind myself, to never, ever give up, because, as Maya Angelou wrote, “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose.”

Keep rising.

The poem references African American history, and the magnificent portraits that accompany the poem show people in action, some historical figures and some unnamed.

There are lines like this, accompanied by a portrait of Jesse Owens leaping:

This is for the unforgettable.
The swift and sweet ones
who hurdled history
and opened a world of possible.

There are lines like this, accompanied by a large portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.:

This is for the unlimited,
unstoppable ones.
The dreamers
and doers
who swim
across The Big Sea
of our imagination
and show us
the majestic shores
of the promised land:

There are lines like this, accompanied by a portrait of Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion:

This is for the unflappable.
The sophisticated ones
who box adversity
and tackle vision.

There are several pages with a whole group of people shown – and in the back you can check a list of historical figures with short bios to find out who they are.

The poem finishes:

This is for the
undefeated.
This is for you.
And you.
And you.
This
is
for
us.

And every portrait is of an African American person – but lifting the dignity of other humans raises us all. Celebrating triumph over obstacles elevates us all. So I believe this book is for me, too.

Magnificent.

kwamealexander.com
kadirnelson.com
hmhco.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 How to Find Love in a Bookshop, by Veronica Henry

Friday, May 17th, 2019

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

by Veronica Henry

Pamela Dorman Books (Viking), 2017. First published in Great Britain in 2016. 340 pages.
Review written April 6, 2019, from a library book

I picked up this book because I was looking for something light and fluffy after reading the first two books of The Broken Earth trilogy, by N. K. Jemisin, where all life on earth is probably coming to an end. This book filled the bill nicely. It’s not just the main character who finds love in a bookshop, but several other couples as well.

And there is some richness to the story, despite it being essentially about everyone getting nicely paired off. Emilia’s father purchased Nightingale Books in a small town near Oxford when he was a widowed young father with a small baby on his hands. Now he is dying, and Emilia has come back to the place she grew up to carry on the bookshop in his place.

We learn how much her father and his shop meant to the people of the town – and all the romance that has happened and is happening in and around the bookshop.

My one quibble is that a few of the happy couples are in relationships with someone else at the beginning of the book, and I’m less enthusiastic about falling in love with someone who’s supposedly committed to someone else. In fact, we get the story of an affair that played out over years and we’re told it ended happily, with no one getting hurt. As someone who’s been cheated on, I always feel like authors are cheating the reader when they write about an affair where nobody gets hurt. Let’s just say I’m super skeptical.

But it was all nice for these characters, and the author even got me feeling sympathetic toward the couple in question. Read this if you want a story of book lovers finding each other and a lot of ultimately happy love stories. As for me, it sustained me to tackle the third book in the science fiction trilogy about the earth being torn apart.

veronicahenry.co.uk
penguin.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 Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits, by Julian Gough & Jim Field

Monday, May 13th, 2019

Rabbit & Bear

Rabbit’s Bad Habits

story by Julian Gough
illustrations by Jim Field

SilverDolphin, San Diego, 2018. First published in Great Britain in 2016. 101 pages.
Starred Review

I want to call this a charming beginning chapter book, but it doesn’t actually have chapters. It’s got the format and length and skill level of a beginning chapter book, though, and is perfect for those readers. (I find myself wishing they’d stuck chapter breaks in just so the kids could say they’d read a chapter book.)

The story is about Bear waking up early in the middle of winter and deciding she’s going to build a snowman. She meets Rabbit, who knows much more about making a snowman than Bear does, and has plenty of advice.

Along the way, they make friends, even though Rabbit has done some not-very-nice things. But he has given Bear a carrot for her snowman, so when a Wolf is after Rabbit, Bear uses what she’s learned to save the day.

And we learn that you can be friends with someone who may have some quirks and may not be nice every moment. Not that you should be friends with someone who’s mean, but read the book! It manages just the right balance.

What’s more, we learn why rabbits eat their own poo! (Their food is only half-digested. But it’s all explained clearly.)

The overall product is a making-friends story with charmingly flawed and friendly characters.

And it’s the start of a series! I can’t wait for more.

silverdolphinbooks.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 Shade, by Pete Souza

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Shade

A Tale of Two Presidents

by Pete Souza

Little, Brown and Company, October 2018. 240 pages.
Review written February 19, 2019, from a library book

Pete Souza was the official white house photographer when Barack Obama was president and has already published the wonderful book Obama: An Intimate Portrait. In this book, he uses some of the same pictures to throw some shade.

He explains what he’s doing in an introduction. Let’s just say that he was struck by the contrast between things our current president was doing and saying and things a competent president whom he knew well had done. So he began posting photos on Instagram that directly contrasted with things the new president was doing. People loved it, and some said he was “throwing shade,” so he tried to figure out what they meant. Here’s what he says about it:

So, finally, I googled “throwing shade” and Merriam-Webster explained it to me: it’s a “subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone – sometimes verbal, and sometimes not.”

Yup, that’s what I was doing – throwing shade. And I kept it up for the first 500 days of the new administration, and I plan to keep going long after you’ve read this book. My comments are often humorous, and I’d even say they are more or less respectful. They are certainly more respectful than the tweets coming from this president.

I also try to make subtle comments with my Instagram posts without directly revealing what the current president has said or done. Many people tell me they see my posts and then try to find out what they missed in the news.

In this book, I take a turn to full transparency and let it all hang out. In the pages that follow, you will see adaptations of my original posts matched up directly with what inspired them – a presidential tweet and/or the news that caught my attention in the first place. You can call it shade. I just call it the truth.

I hope you laugh, and maybe even cry, as you read this book. During the past 18 months, outrage has bubbled up inside me. I have become more and more appalled at the person that we, with help from Russia, elected to represent our nation. With this book, I’m standing up and shouting out. I can’t be subtle any longer.

Obviously, this is a book for fans of Obama. I loved the book and indeed laughed over it. I managed not to cry – but it does add to my frustration with the present situation to remember how a president should act.

A few examples. On one side of the page there are headlines about Trump’s Muslim Ban. On the opposite page there’s a photo of Obama talking with young refugees at a Dignity for Children Foundation classroom in Malaysia. There are a couple of times with headlines about how Trump got along with foreign leaders contrasted with pictures of Obama with them (both allies and Putin). There’s a headline about Trump denying climate change contrasted with Obama talking with a scientist on the site of a melting glacier in Alaska. There’s a headline with a Trump attack on the media contrasted with a picture of an Obama press conference – lots of smiling faces in that one. A “Fake news” headline from Trump is contrasted with the range of newspapers and news magazines presented in the Obama white house daily.

Our current president has broken norms over and over again – it’s good to be reminded how a president should actually approach the job. To be honest, I think a photographer could have come up with contrasting photos using almost any other president, not just the outstanding one who came just before Trump. May things go back to normal very soon. Here’s hoping.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy reading this book.

@petesouza
littlebrown.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 Fox on the Swing, by Evelina Diaciutè, illustrated by Aušra Kiudulaite

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

The Fox on the Swing

by Evelina Diaciutè
illustrated by Aušra Kiudulaite

Thames & Hudson, 2018. First published in the United Kingdom in 2018. Original edition published in Lithuania in 2016. 48 pages.
Starred Review
2019 Mildred L. Batchelder Award Winner

This picture book is completely bizarre and utterly delightful at the same time. The creators are from Lithuania, and I guessed a European origin before I looked it up, but even in Lithuania, a boy living in a tree and making friends with a fox who swings on a swing about once a week has got to be somewhat unusual.

When I read this, I happened to be gathering books for a story time of Strange Picture Books. This particular book is a little too long to use in story time, but I would love to sit down and read it with a precocious child. And it fits the category. What Strange Picture Books have in common is completely bizarre details accepted as the matter-of-fact truth. There are no real cues to tell the reader that this situation is unusual except the child’s own knowledge of the world.

In this book, a boy named Paul lives in a very large tree with his father and mother. His father is a helicopter pilot, taking off from a platform at the top of the tree. His mother makes orange pottery. And every day, Paul goes to the bakery to get three fresh bread rolls. (Ah! That’s one thing that tipped me off this book is from Europe.)

What Paul liked best was to take the shortest route to the bakery and the long way home. Walking the same way twice was a little bit boring, after all.

Much of the charm in this book is in the details and the illustrations. Here’s what happens on the way home:

Paul always kept his eyes wide open as he walked home. He didn’t want to miss a thing. He saw strangely shaped stones, fascinating twisted roots, fancy birds that had escaped from the zoo, and puddles that glistened on the ground.

That page shows many birds holding signs that say things like, “No to zoos!” “No to cages!” “Free the birds!” “Parrots for peace!” “Freedom!” and “No, no no!”

But the thing that Paul liked most of all was the old swing in the park. Not to swing on himself, but because there was a fox who liked to curl up and sleep on the seat of the swing. Paul didn’t see her there every day. Maybe about once a week.

Then one day, the fox is swinging on the swing!

Then she stopped, sniffed at the air, looked Paul in the eye and said: “Being generous is like an ocean. Would you like to be a drop in that ocean?”

Paul didn’t understand, but he nodded anyway.

“Then give me one of your rolls,” the fox said.

So begins the friendship of Paul and the fox on the swing. The fox had a grandmother who was a wise old fox, and she likes to tell strange stories and give wise advice. Sometimes the fox would be in a bad mood, and sometimes she would not.

One day, when the fox was in a very good mood, she said, “The best thing to do is just keep on swinging.”

Then she explained that the happiest things in the world are orange.

“Happiness is a fox on a swing and a big orange orange!” she yelled as the swing carried her high into the sky. “Happiness is carrot cake, goldfish, marmalade, and trees in autumn!”

But alas! The time comes when Paul’s father tells him that “soon they would be moving to an even bigger city, where they would live in an even taller tree in an even bigger park. And he would fly an even bigger helicopter.”

So Paul must cope with having to leave his best friend.

But this is not really a book about dealing with loss. Because, after some time, things turn out very nice indeed.

This book reminds me of The Little Prince with its philosophy and childlike matter-of-factness about bizarre details. And a wise fox! It would be a delight to read this book with a child. (I’m sure they will notice many things in the illustrations.) And it certainly helps anyone who reads it notice things around them that bring happiness.

thamesandhudsonusa.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.

What did you think of this book?