Archive for July, 2019

Review of The Lost Words, by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

The Lost Words

A Spell Book

by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Anansi Press, 2018. First published in the United Kingdom in 2017. 132 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 6, 2019, from a library book

This gorgeous book focuses on twenty words from nature that had been removed from the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionaryacorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker, dandelion, fern, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, magpie, newt, otter, raven, starling, weasel, willow, and wren.

The book is large, oversized, and heavy, making it awe-inspiring. The only trouble I see with that is I can’t imagine children carrying it around to read it over and over. This is a coffee table book that’s physically heavy to pick up. Perhaps they could make a small version for everyday use? Though this one is stunning.

Each word first has a simple spread where the lost word is hidden among other letters, but highlighted in a different color. Then we have an acrostic poem featuring the word with a painting of the object on the facing page. Next there is a full-color glorious painting on the following spread.

I had gotten through almost the entire book before I realized that these poems absolutely must be read aloud. I went back and made up for my mistake of trying to read them silently. The poems are magnificent. I will highlight a few stanzas with wordplay I especially like.

From the Willow poem:

Willow, when the wind blows so your branches billow,
O will you whisper while we listen so we learn what
words your long leaves loosen?

From the Otter poem:

This swift swimmer’s a silver-miner – with
trout its ore it bores each black pool deep
and deeper, delves up-current steep and
steeper, turns the water inside-out, then
inside-outer.

From the Fern poem:

Reach, roll and unfold follows.
Fern flares.

Now fern is fully fanned.

From the heron poem, coming just after the marvelous line that the heron “magically . . . unstatues:

Out of the water creaks long-legs heron,
old-priest heron, from hereon in all sticks
and planks and rubber-bands, all clanks and
clicks and rusty squeaks.

Now heron hauls himself into flight – early
aviator, heavy freighter – and with steady
wingbeats boosts his way through evening
light to roost.

From the Ivy poem:

You call me ground-cover; I say sky-wire.

May this magnificent book open our eyes again to nature.

johnmuirtrust.org/initiatives/the-lost-words
houseofanansi.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 Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend, read by Gemma Whelan

Monday, July 29th, 2019

Nevermoor

The Trials of Morrigan Crow

by Jessica Townsend
read by Gemma Whelan

Hachette Audio, 2017. 11 hours on 9 discs.
Starred Review
Review written July 1, 2019, from a library audiobook

Big thanks to my co-worker, Amanda Snow, for recommending this audiobook! I didn’t have time to read it while I was on the Newbery committee because the author is Australian (and therefore not eligible), but I’m so happy to make up for lost time.

Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide, which means she’s under a curse and bad luck for everyone she encounters. Her father has to pay constant claims for damages because Morrigan was around when something bad happened, so clearly it was her fault.

It also means that she will die the next time Eventide happens. So when it happens on her eleventh birthday, her family spends the day preparing for her death. Then a surprising stranger with a contract appears. His name is Jupiter North and he takes her into the “free state” of Nevermoor, outrunning the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow who want to track her down and kill her.

The trouble is, Morrigan’s presence in Nevermoor is illegal, and those in charge of border security plan to deport her. However, Jupiter has entered her into the trials to become a member of the Wundrous Society, along with hundreds of other children from whom only nine will be chosen. As long as Morrigan is in the trials, she’s under the protection of the Wundrous Society and can’t be deported.

And Nevermoor is full of wonders. There’s a Magnificat (a giant talking cat) who helps run the Hotel Deucalion where Morrigan now lives. Strange and magical things happen all the time.

But Morrigan must undergo four trials to get into the Wundrous Society, the fourth one being to display her talent. Jupiter refuses to tell her what her talent is. If she is not selected for the society, she will have to leave Nevermoor, and she’ll be killed by the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow, so the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The comparisons to the Harry Potter books are obvious, and normally I roll my eyes when people make that claim. But in this case, the comparison is actually not bad! Morrigan has discovered a magical world; she gains friends and companions as she explores the new world; and she must learn how it all works. There’s a sinister shadowy figure in the background and Morrigan has some sort of special calling, despite a wretched home life where she was not appreciated. Author Jessica Townsend even has an amazing imagination like J. K. Rowling and comes up with delightful magical details.

This book would make wonderful family listening. Great accents, lots of humor, and magical adventures! How could you go wrong?

lbyr.com
HachetteAudio.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 The State of Affairs, by Esther Perel

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

The State of Affairs

Rethinking Infidelity

by Esther Perel

Harper, 2017. 320 pages.
Review written June 3, 2019, from a library book

I’m not completely sure why I read this book. A library customer had me put it on hold for her, and it sounded interesting to me, so I put it on hold, too. And then it wound up on the top of my huge nonfiction-books-to-read stack, and it really did fascinate me.

Of course, my initial reason to be interested in the topic is that my own marriage ended after my ex-husband had an affair for a year and a half. The number of lies it took to pull that off ended up shaking my whole sense of reality when I finally found out.

I’m not sure this book gave me a whole lot of insights about that affair, though I did have the ability to understand a little better why some people have them. The fact that I could read this book at all without being overwhelmed by pain or anger says to me that I’ve come a long way in my healing process!

You won’t be surprised when I say this book is not written from a Christian perspective. From my perspective, adultery is wrong, and that’s pretty much all there is to say about it. It deeply wounds someone you’ve promised to love. However, because this author approaches it without judgment – she can find out much more that’s going on under the surface.

She doesn’t judge, but she still doesn’t recommend having an affair. She put it this way:

While I prefer to sidestep flat-out condemnation to allow for a thoughtful inquiry, I do not approve of deception or take betrayal lightly. I sit with the devastation in my office every day. Understanding infidelity does not mean justifying it.

In the Introduction, the author convinced me that it was worth reading on:

There is one simple act of transgression that can rob a couple of their relationship, their happiness, their very identity: an affair. Yet this extremely common act is poorly understood….

Affairs have a lot to teach us about relationships – what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. They offer a unique window into our personal and cultural attitudes about love, lust, and commitment. Through examining illicit love from multiple angles, I hope to engage you, the reader, in an honest, enlightened, and provocative exploration of modern relationships in their many variations. I would like to stimulate a conversation between you and your loved ones about issues such as fidelity and loyalty, desire and longing, jealousy and possessiveness, truth-telling and forgiveness.

I’m afraid she does destroy the idea of an “affair-proof” marriage. And she’s even looked at open marriages where affairs happened. She says that wherever humans set up rules, others will get a thrill from breaking them.

This reminded me of a concept I learned in the book Forgive for Good, by Dr. Fred Luskin: Unenforceable rules. He says that we make rules for our loved ones that we can’t enforce. Instead of saying, “My spouse must not cheat on me,” which you can’t enforce at all, he suggests, “I hope my spouse will not cheat on me.” Then your spouse’s faithfulness becomes a loving gift, rather than meeting a demand. Either way, though, I was reminded in this book – you can’t actually make your spouse do anything.

She explores many different sides of affairs in this book and how it plays out for all parties involved, in many different situations. At the end she’s got a section with the heading, “What Can Marriage Learn from Infidelity?” I’ll finish with some paragraphs from that section:

Some relationships die, some survive and revive. What are the lessons of infidelity, for all of us who love? I hope these pages have served to illustrate that affairs are many things, but at best they can be transformative for a couple. I began this book with the analogy that while many people have positive, life-changing experiences as a result of terminal illness, I would no more recommend having an affair than I would recommend getting cancer. What many people want to know, then, is what they can learn from affairs without necessarily having to go through one. It comes down to two questions: How can we better fortify our relationship against infidelity? And how can we bring some of the erotic vitality of illicit love into our authorized union?

The answer is counterintuitive. The impulse to protect your marriage is natural, but if you take the common “affair-proofing” approach, you risk heading back down the narrow road of stifling constraints. Outlawing friendships with the opposite sex, censoring emotionally intimate confidences in others, nixing water-cooler conversations, curtailing online activity, banning porn, checking up on each other, doing everything together, cutting off exes – all of these homeland security measures can backfire. Katherine Frank argues persuasively that the “marital safety narrative” creates its own demise. When a couple tries to safeguard their relationship through various forms of surveillance and self-policing, they risk setting themselves up for the exact opposite: the “enhanced eroticization of transgressions.” The more we try to suppress our primal longings, the more forcefully we may rebel….

Rather than insulate ourselves with the false notion that it could never happen to me, we must learn to live with the uncertainties, the allures, the attractions, the fantasies – both our own and our partners’. Couples who feel free to talk honestly about their desires, even when they are not directed at each other, paradoxically become closer….

We also learn from affairs that for most, the forbidden will always hold an allure. The ongoing challenge for steady couples is to find ways to collaborate in transgression, rather than transgressing against each other or their bond….

For Viola and Ross, it meant creating secret email accounts through which they could conduct private, X-rated conversations during meetings, playdates, and parent-teacher conferences. For Allan and Joy, it was occasionally leaving the kids with her mom and going out with no curfew. Dancing all night with a sense of unboundedness is the opposite of the regimentation of family life. Bianca and Mags can’t afford to go out, but they want to affirm that they’re not just parents. So once a week they put the babies to bed, light candles, dress up, and have a date at home. They call it “meeting at the bar.”…

Our partners do not belong to us; they are only on loan, with an option to renew – or not. Knowing that we can lose them does not have to undermine commitment; rather, it mandates an active engagement that long-term couples often lose. The realization that our loved ones are forever elusive should jolt us out of complacency, in the most positive sense.

On reflection, I was one of those people who thought that an affair could never happen in my marriage – and I was completely wrong. It’s tempting when I think about starting a new relationship to try to go into it with lots of “safeguards” in place. I think that’s something of what I gained from reading this book – a deeper understanding that people are people. I can’t make someone I love behave a certain way. But a deeper understanding of marriage and what people want out of it and what an affair does to that – is not a bad thing to have, not a bad thing to process.

In the end, this book is fascinating reading about people and relationships.

estherperel.com
hc.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 Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell, illustrated by Ana Ramírez González

Friday, July 26th, 2019

Maybe Tomorrow?

by Charlotte Agell
illustrated by Ana Ramírez González

Scholastic Press, 2019. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 5, 2019, from a library book

Oh, this is a wonderful, joyous, and tender book about grief and about sharing burdens in friendship. I wish I could show the bright and joyful pictures. The editor here did the perfect match of illustrator to words.

Elba is a pink hippo-like creature (reminds me of a Moomin) with downcast eyes and Norris is a crocodile who walks upright. They live in a bright, springlike landscape. Here’s how the book begins:

Elba had a big block.
She’d been dragging it around for a long time.

It made her walk slowly.
It made her think darkly.
It was heavy.

Norris danced everywhere he went, even uphill.

One day, Elba was sitting on her block in the park, like she usually did.

Along came Norris in a cloud of butterflies.
At first Elba couldn’t see him in all that shininess.

Norris tries to get Elba to go on a picnic with him, but she wants to sit on her block, like she usually does. (The block is the one dark thing in the pictures.)

Norris stays and talks with Elba. He feels something sad in the block that wants to come out, but they don’t know how. By the end of the day, they say, “Maybe tomorrow.”

The next day, it’s raining, and Norris brings tea to Elba. “They had good, quiet tea with rain in it.”

The next day, Norris shows up again.

Tomorrow didn’t come, but another today did.
“It’s really time,” said Norris, “because I want you to come to the ocean with me.”
“Okay, I’ll just take my block,” said Elba, surprising herself.
“But it’s too heavy,” she added. “Right?”
“My butterflies and I will help you,” said Norris.

Indeed, the butterflies carry the block for Elba, slowly, all the way to the ocean. We learn what’s causing Elba’s sorrow as she tells about her friend Little Bird, whom she misses so much.

And after that, Elba’s block is smaller and lighter.

I hope I’m not giving too much away, and you really do need to read this book yourself, but I especially love this page at almost the end:

Together they stood and faced the roaring sea.
“I’ll always have this block, you know,” said Elba.
“Yes, maybe you will,” said Norris.
“But I will help you carry it sometimes.”

One lovely thing about this book is that you don’t have to be an Elba to appreciate it. If you’re a Norris, you can learn from his sweet, listening spirit, and his generosity with his butterflies.

It’s a friendship story and works as a friendship story. If there’s a big dark block of grief in your life, it will resonate all the more, but you don’t need that to love this book.

charlotteagell.com
scholastic.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 Rocket to the Moon! by Don Brown

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Big Ideas That Changed the World

Rocket to the Moon!

by Don Brown

Amulet Books, 2019. 132 pages.
Review written July 22, 2019, from a library book

I’ve long said that comic format is the best possible way to make a book of nonfiction for children. Accompany all the facts with pictures, and it’s going to be much more memorable and easier to understand. Don Brown is particularly good at communicating information to children in this format.

This book about the history of space flight and particularly rockets to the moon was perfect reading for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

He covers the history of mankind’s use of rockets, the first visionaries who thought of going into space, and the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Then he covers what it actually took to get men on the moon – including the big ideas behind the mission (Direct Ascent, Earth-Orbit Rendezvous, or Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous?).

This covers both the science and the history of flights to the moon in a compact graphic nonfiction form. A great way to communicate the big ideas!

booksbybrown.com
amuletbooks.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 Chronicles of Avonlea, by L. M. Montgomery

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Chronicles of Avonlea

by L. M. Montgomery

Grosset & Dunlap, 1970. Originally published in 1912. 306 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 6, 2019, from my own copy

In preparation for a trip to Prince Edward Island in September, I’m rereading all my L. M. Montgomery books in the order they were published. Chronicles of Avonlea is number five in this endeavor.

Maud Montgomery honed her craft by writing stories and getting them published in magazines. She did this for years before her first novel was published. This collection of stories gives wonderful examples of her brilliance. The only I quibble I have with them is that she was being pressured to write more about Anne of Green Gables – and mention of Anne Shirley is shoehorned into almost every single one of these stories. The only one where it’s organic and Anne is an important part of the plot is the first one, “The Hurrying of Ludovic.”

The most brilliant story of all in this collection is probably my favorite short story ever. I’ve done readings of this story when I was in college to entertain my friends and, yes, when I came to this story this time through, I was compelled to read the whole thing out loud.

That Most Delightful Story Ever is “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s,” the story of a woman who hates men and her cat trapped in the home of a man who hates women and his dog. The woman, who is the narrator, does come off best – and both change their attitudes by the end. The process is all the fun and reading it in the narrator’s voice saying, “I am noted for that” makes it utterly delightful.

Honestly, in this read-through, I’m constantly being shocked when I realize these older characters are now younger than me! Angelina Peter MacPherson is forty-eight years old in this story. In fact, many of the main characters in these stories are deep into adulthood. I’m going to file this book in with Teen Fiction, but really these are family stories. It’s all innocent and G-rated, about life and love, but there’s a lot of focus on older folks coming to understand whom they truly love, whether in romance or the love of a child.

This is a delightful collection, written by a master storyteller at the height of her powers.

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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 They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, art by Harmony Becker

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

They Called Us Enemy

by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott
art by Harmony Becker

Top Shelf Productions, 2019. 208 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 17, 2019, from my own copy purchased via amazon.com

I got to hear George Takei speak at ALA Annual Conference and received an excerpt from this book which I got signed by all of the creators. All of that got me so excited about it, I went ahead and preordered my own copy and read it the day it came in.

I didn’t know much at all about the incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, even though one of my best friends has parents who were imprisoned as children at that time. And I guess I thought I knew more than it turns out I did. George Takei presents his memories as a five-year-old sent to the camps, but he inserts the facts of what was going on to make it possible for American citizens to be imprisoned simply because of their ethnicity.

The whole timeline and explanation is laid out. After Pearl Harbor, Americans of Japanese descent were regarded with suspicion, and young men were turned away from army recruitment centers. Next came curfews, and then the families were rounded up and sent to camps. George talks about the irony of going to school and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance surrounded by barbed wire and guards. The story is told from the perspective of a five-year-old who doesn’t know that anything he’s experiencing isn’t normal.

George’s father emerges as the hero of this story. He did what he could to help his family at the time. As George grew up, his father talked with him about democracy.

Our democracy is a participatory democracy. Existentially, it’s dependent on people who cherish the shining, highest ideals of our democracy and actively engage in the political process.

His father said about FDR:

Roosevelt pulled us out of the depression, and he did great things, but he was also a fallible human being, and he made a disastrous mistake that affected us calamitously. But despite all that we’ve experienced, our democracy is still the best in the world.

The art in this book is wonderful. Young George is adorable and mischievous. His parents’ love for each other and firm resolution to take care of their children is communicated in the pictures. At times, a manga style is used to show George’s excitement, with stars coming out of his eyes. It’s used with a light touch, but effectively.

The book is framed with a modern-day George reflecting on his experiences and the book touches on where his life went from there. Taken all together, this book is powerful and moving. And it’s also shocking – what the government was able to do to United States citizens. Unfortunately, it’s also horribly timely.

This is a book everyone should read. Since it’s in comic format, it doesn’t take long. Invest an hour of your time reading this. You won’t forget it.

topshelfcomix.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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Sonderling Sunday – Seltsamen Sonderlinge Kapitel 25

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday, that time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books. This week, we’re back to the book that started it all, The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, otherwise known as Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge.

Last time, we left off ready to begin Chapter Twenty-Five! There are twenty-eight chapters in the book, so we have almost given tidbits from the entire book — without giving away the plot, I might add. I hope I have merely tantalized my readers, while giving them handy phrases to use the next time they travel to Germany. This first sentence, for example, could come in handy:

“Jo didn’t remember how she got back to the lodge.”
= Jo konnte sich nicht daran erinnern, wie sie zum Logenhaus zurückgekommen war.

“crumpled” = zerknittert

“boiled furiously” = kochte brodelnd

“twisting up her guts” = verdrehte ihr die Gedärme

“exhausted” = erschöpft

Sometimes the translator just had to draw out and explain the playful English:
“Her brain itched with needles and worms and fizzing sparks”
= Nadeln schienen sie ins Hirn zu stechen, Würmer wanden sich und Funken stoben
(“Needles seemed her in the brain to pierce, worms writhed and sparks flew”)

“pleaded” = angefleht

“slosh around” = herumschwappte

“rattled and bounced” = ratternd und schaukelnd

“exciting” = aufregend

“enticing” = verlockende

“exuberant crowd” = ausgelassene Menge

“disinfectant” = Desinfektionsmittel

“opposite corner” = gegenüberliegenden Ecke

I hope you’ll never say this, but here it is if you need it:
“If you die, too bad.”
= Wenn ihr sterbt, Pech gehabt.

“Razzle-dazzle” = Tamtam

“Deceit” = Arglist

“left big toe” = linken dicken Zeh

“thigh” = Oberschenkel

“show of respect” = Respektbezeugungen

“fondling” = liebkoste

That’s all for tonight! If you encounter any ausgelassene Menge this week, I hope you will find it aufregend and verlockend, but that you won’t be too erschöpft for some Tamtam! Bis bald!

Review of Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born, by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

Nine Months

Before a Baby Is Born

by Miranda Paul
illustrated by Jason Chin

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 10, 2019, from a library book

This book tells us, with a simple rhyming text, the progress of a little girl becoming a big sister – but the stunning part of the book comes from the actual-size pictures of the growing fetus inside the mother.

For most of the book, the growing fetus is on the left side of the spread and the expectant family on the other side, with the soon-to-be big sister obviously anticipating her new status. By the end, the newborn infant takes up the entire spread.

I didn’t check until I’d finished reading who the illustrator is – and immediately thought, “Oh! No wonder those pictures are so amazing!” I find myself wanting to reach out and touch the newborn baby.

The text is very simple, with gentle rhymes. Here are a couple of examples. (On the left side, it tells which month we’re in. There’s a spread for each month.)

[Month Five]
Lips.
Flips.
Curve, dip, and groove.
She has a face.
She likes to move!

[Month Six]
Grasp.
Clasp.
Ears that can hear.
Sing as she listens.
Tell her you’re near.

The text is simple – based on the pictures, this is designed for a preschooler becoming a big sister – but there are five pages in the back with more information for the curious.

It does begin with the fertilized egg and doesn’t say one little bit about how the egg got that way. You’re on your own if your child has questions! But that does keep the book about the new baby.

This is my new go-to book for kids about to become older siblings. And it’s an immediate gift choice for my three-year-old niece and her big sister who are welcoming a new baby brother in a few months.

HolidayHouse.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 Marilla of Green Gables, by Sarah McCoy

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Marilla of Green Gables

by Sarah McCoy

William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2018. 300 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 4, 2019, from my own copy, a birthday present from my sister Becky

This book came out toward the end of 2018, when I was in the thick of reading for the Newbery, and couldn’t possibly get to it. After the winner was chosen, I’d forgotten about it, so I was completely delighted when my sister sent it to me for my birthday. The gift was all the more perfect because I’m planning to go with two girlfriends to visit Prince Edward Island in the Fall, and I’ve been rereading all my L. M. Montgomery books in preparation. One of those girlfriends was at my house on my birthday when I opened the gift. So the timing was perfect to read this prequel to Anne of Green Gables.

Sarah McCoy takes us into the heart of Marilla. We see her as a young teen living with her parents and her older brother Matthew. The author gave Marilla’s parents the same names as L. M. Montgomery’s parents, Clara and Hugh, in a nice act of tribute.

Clara is expecting a baby, and her twin, Marilla’s Aunt Izzy comes to stay and to help. When both mother and baby are lost, Marilla must carry on, taking care of Matthew and Hugh.

But it’s delightful getting a glimpse into Avonlea in the years before Anne. Marilla’s friendship with Rachel started when they were young, and we hear many more names that will be in the village in later years. Yes, we knew that John Blythe had been Marilla’s beau, and we get the story of their quarrel.

A part of the story that surprised me was when Green Gables becomes a safe haven for runaway slaves, under the protection of Izzy. I hadn’t realized that slave catchers could even come into Canada looking for them. There is also some political unrest in Canada at that time, which I’d known nothing about.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It’s a gentle story, a story of a reserved young woman growing up in a small village in Canada in the 1800s. She’s living a quiet life, and love seems to pass her by. At the end of the book, they think that Matthew could use some help on the farm….

This was perfect preparation for a visit to Prince Edward Island, and I heartily recommend it for all other Anne fans out there. The style isn’t the same as L. M. Montgomery’s, but it made me feel I understood Marilla better than when I had only seen her through the eyes of a precocious orphan.

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