Archive for December, 2020

Review of A Long Road on a Short Day, by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney

Monday, December 14th, 2020

A Long Road on a Short Day

by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney
with illustrations by Eugene Yelchin

Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2020. 60 pages.
Review written December 10, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

A Long Road on a Short Day is a gentle but engaging story for kids ready to start chapter books. There are twelve short chapters with large print. The pictures show us that the story is set in a time before cars, in a farming community that gets cold in the winter.

This is one of those stories about trading up, about making a series of trades and ending up with something much better than what you started with. But I love that everyone who makes a trade in this book is convinced they made a good trade. It’s a story about a community helping each other out and everyone ending up happier.

Here’s how the book begins:

Early on a white January morning, Samuel’s mother said, “I do wish we had a brown-eyed cow to give us milk for the baby.”

Samuel’s father set down his mug.

“And for your tea,” she said.

Samuel’s father smiled and got up from the table. He took his best Barlow knife from the mantel and said to Samuel, “Dress warm if you’re coming with me.”

Samuel ran to get his coat off the hook. “Where are we going, Papa?”

“To find that brown-eyed cow for your mother,” Papa said.

There’s a strong sense of time constraint, as each chapter ends with a reminder that it’s “a long road on a short day.” First they look up at gray clouds, then a dark sky, then a few snowflakes, then a dusting of snow, then thick and dark clouds, then a storm, then steady snow and a low sun with gusts of wind.

Finally, after a series of stops and a series of trades that each neighbor confirms is a good one:

The snow was falling fast and the light was almost gone when Samuel and his father turned toward home. They walked down Hurd Hill, past the tall white pines, past the Everetts’ farm, toward the Wire Bridge and town. “Come, Bossy,” said Papa.

Along the way, Samuel wishes several times that a brown-eyed cow wasn’t what Mama had wanted. So it’s all the more delightful when the final farmer throws in something special for Samuel.

The authors don’t have to tell us that Papa is clever and observant and knows his neighbors well. He manages the trades beautifully, and he and Samuel have an adventure of a day, even if it is a short one with a long road.

hmhbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/long_road_on_a_short_day.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Beast Player, by Nahoko Uehashi

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

The Beast Player

by Nahoko Uehashi
translated by Cathy Hirano

Godwin Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2019. 344 pages. First published in Japanese in 2009.
Review written July 8, 2020, from a library book
2020 Printz Honor Book

The Beast Player is set in a detailed fantasy world. Elin’s mother is a steward of the Toda, fearsome beasts that are used for war. But when the Toda under her care get fatally ill, Elin’s mother is executed. Before they can carry it out, she sends Elin on the back of a Toda to a faraway land.

In that land, Elin encounters a friendly old beekeeper who was once a teacher. He finds an eager pupil in Elin. When she grows to be a teenager, he gets her a place learning to care for the Royal Beasts of that country, which are even more fearsome than the Toda.

Elin doesn’t think it’s right to force the beasts to do the will of humans with the Silent Whistle that paralyzes them. She takes on the care of an injured cub and by listening and care, learns to communicate with that beast.

But meanwhile, there are political intrigues at work in the two parts of the country. Elin being able to communicate with a Royal Beast is going to become political if anyone with power finds out. And when the leader of the country is threatened in sight of Elin and her beast, they do find out.

I love the character of Elin in this book, determined to let beasts and people make their own choices, but caught up in large events she’d rather avoid. The world is rich and detailed. I understand there are going to be more books coming out, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

fiercereads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/beast_player.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Martin Rising, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, paintings by Brian Pinkney

Sunday, December 6th, 2020

Martin Rising

Requiem for a King

by Andrea Davis Pinkney
paintings by Brian Pinkney

Scholastic Press, January 2018. 128 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#9 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

I’m writing this review on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday in 2018. It’s a shame I can’t post it today, but I have to remain silent online about any 2018 children’s books until after we announce our Newbery winners.

This book is poetry combined with art, telling about the events that happened 50 years ago in 1968, the last months of Martin’s life.

I have to confess I’m not the best audience for unrhymed poetry. I haven’t spoken with anyone else yet about this book, and I have a feeling that when I do, others will be able to point out details of the craft that went right by me.

But what we have here is history in the form of poetry. There is symbolism – a progression from daylight to darkness to dawn. Some more symbolism that even I could catch was in a poem about forcing forsythia to bloom where that’s compared with forcing garbage collectors in Tennessee to do degrading work in harsh conditions. March is said to come in like a lion – but no progress is made, and it leaves much more quietly.

And the event that sparks the chain of events in this book was the death of two sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, and the protests that sparked. There are lots of facts here – you’ll learn about what happened, along with the dignity and nobility of those who protested.

(I’m now going to pause and reread the book as a fitting way of celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday.)

Here are some good bits:

In the poem “Come: February 24, 1968”:

But, Lord,
even with your handiwork
hard at work,
it is hard, hard work
not to strike back violently,
especially when you’re striking.

In the poem “Roar! March 11, 1968”:

These strikers have volunteered for
peaceful protest.

When the police handcuff
and shove them,
and choke hold their hope,
and cart them away,
these men and women,
and girls and boys
who have volunteered
for self-dignity,
will not
enter jail
in the same way
March
enters the calendar.

These strong, quiet
strikers,
and all who stand by them
refuse to Roar.

Going out like lambs,
they are ignored.

From the final poem, “Rejoice the Legacy: January 15 – Martin Luther King Day – Forever”:

And so, today, though his candles stopped
at thirty-nine,
we celebrate Martin’s exquisite life.

His sparkling-eyed vision
of tomorrow’s promise.
His destiny.
His dream.

How he led us to the mountaintop
on the path of light, love, and truth.
He didn’t get there with us.
But he showed us the way.

So that’s this book – a poetic tribute to Martin Luther King’s life and the story of his final months. I love the suggestion in the author’s note at the back to perform these as a group reading or as a classroom play. It is all too easy to rush through these poems. I’m pretty sure that the harder I look at them, the more riches I’ll find.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/martin_rising.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book sent by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Rita and Ralph’s Rotten Day, by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Pete Oswald

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day

by Carmen Agra Deedy
illustrated by Pete Oswald

Scholastic Press, 2020. 48 pages.
Review written March 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

I want to read this book in a storytime! I recognized some elements from stories I’ve heard before, and sure enough, an Author’s Note at the back explains that the story is adapted from “the classic hand game, ‘Mr. Wiggle & Mr. Waggle,” and explains the hand motions you can use as you read the book. I think I would want to prop the book up and do just that.

But the story goes beyond that. It’s also a story of hurt feelings and reconciliation.

Here’s how the book begins:

In two little houses,
on two little hills,
lived two best friends.

Every morning, Rita and Ralph would
open their doors,
step outside,
close their doors,
and run . . .

. . . down the hill,
and up the hill,
and down the hill,
and up the hill.

They’d meet under the apple tree and high-five,
pinkie-shake,
do a cha-cha-cha,
play zombie tag,
and make daisy chains.

But one day, they try a new game, “Sticks and Stones,” and Rita gets hurt.

They don’t handle it well to start (running away) and feelings get hurt.

What follows is a tale of reconciliation. But that reconciliation involves a whole lot of going down the hill and up the hill and down the hill and up the hill.

And I think it’s going to be tremendous fun to read aloud. The story is enhanced by the long thin format showing all the hills between the two houses.

carmenagradeedy.com
scholastic.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/rita_and_ralphs_rotten_day.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?