Review of A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, by T. Kingfisher, read by Patricia Santomasso

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

by T. Kingfisher
read by Patricia Santomasso

Tantor Audio, October 2021. 8 hours, 30 minutes.
Review written March 30, 2022, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2020 Andre Norton Nebula Award Winner
2021 Locus Award Winner for Young Adult Fiction
2021 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Winner for Children’s Literature

I loved this book! I listened to it while driving to and from vacation, and it helped make the driving delightful. Patricia Santomasso’s English accent captured the voice and tone of the main character beautifully.

The book begins when 14-year-old Mona goes in to work in her aunt’s bakery in the wee hours of the morning — and finds a dead body! Even worse, when the authorities are alerted, they think Mona is suspicious because she’s a magic worker. Never mind that her magic is confined to working with bread.

Mona can make dough rise quickly, keep bread from burning, and even make gingerbread men dance. She’s got a sourdough starter in the basement named Bob that seems to be sentient. But she certainly wouldn’t be able to kill anyone with bread!

Fortunately, when Mona is brought before the duchess, things get straightened out — but that’s only the beginning. More magic workers are dying, and Mona, even confined to bread magic, may be a target. And things keep going and escalating — until the fate of the entire city may depend on Mona using bread magic to defend against an invading army.

This book is just so much fun. Mona is resourceful and compassionate and knows her own limits. The book is full of humor and joy as we read about a worthy heroine thrust into impossible situations and figuring out how to do her best.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/wizards_guide_to_defensive_baking.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 Galloping Gertie, by Amanda Abler, illustrated by Levi Hastings

Galloping Gertie

The True Story of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

by Amanda Abler
illustrated by Levi Hastings

Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch Books), 2021. 48 pages.
Review written February 19, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Galloping Gertie tells the story of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that collapsed in 1940 only four months after it opened.

To keep the book from being too somber, it gives us the point of view of a boy named Dale Wirsing. He could see the bridge from his house and walked across it once with his parents. The windy day of the bridge’s collapse was Dale’s birthday. As a kid, he thought it was an incredibly exciting event to watch the bridge twist in the wind and eventually blow apart.

The book gives plenty more background, both in the text itself and in the back matter.

A local engineer, Clark Eldridge, had designed the bridge to be lightweight and flexible . . . perhaps a little too flexible.

When the wind blew, the center span bounced up and down. The men who built the bridge nicknamed her “Galloping Gertie.” People said they could see the cars ahead of them disappear and reappear as they drove across her. Others claimed it was like riding a roller coaster!

We are presented with the drama of the day of collapse, and how the few people on the bridge before it shut down did make it to safety (but alas! not the dog). The bridge designer, being local, had driven across the bridge early that morning and actually watched its destruction.

I knew about the bridge because of an exhibit on bridges at the St. Louis Science Center – where our family used to go frequently with my kids. It had a video running of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse and claimed the reason was due to resonance — so I was interested in the discussion at the back that said experts now believe the collapse was due to aeroelastic flutter. I also enjoyed the terms to search for on YouTube and I again watched the bridge collapse.

This subject could be very grim, but this author and illustrator make it dramatic, compelling, and fascinating.

LeviHastings.com
sasquatchbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/galloping_gertie.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?

Friday Night Wrestlefest, by J. F. Fox, illustrated by Micah Player

Friday Night Wrestlefest

by J. F. Fox
illustrated by Micah Player

Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 48 pages.
Review written March 31, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

I met the author of this book at the Highlights Foundation Retreat Center, doing a writers’ retreat. I found the book on our library shelves and was completely charmed.

The picture book shows us a Friday night tradition. After a pizza dinner, there’s a blocked off “Arena” with lots of cushions and pillows and blankets. A banner declares “FRIDAY NIGHT WRESTLEFEST” with a sign saying “Main Event: Battle to the Bedtime.”

In this corner it’s — DANGEROUS DADDOO!

He’s mad. He’s bad.
He’s DAD.

Over on the kid crew we have — THE TAG TEAM TWINS. Featuring tthe nutty-by-nature PEANUT BROTHER and the wriggly-giggly JELLYFISH

*with special guest star* . . . BIG BALD BABY!

And then the Wrestlefest begins! All the participants have homemade costumes and specially named moves appropriate to them. (Daddoo’s may involve tickling and kissing.) There’s a twist in the action coming from MAMA-RAMAAAAAA doing a Flying Mom Bomb. And it all wraps up with a surprise offensive from Big Bald Baby.

And then, like all the best picture books, the story ends with the kids tucked into bed. I like the way the bedtime routine gets wrestle move names, too, like Brush-n-Flush and Book-n-Tuck. The wrestlefest becomes a nestlefest.

It’s all got simple language, fun pictures, and big, dramatic action.

What especially made the book fun for me was hearing from the author that this Friday Night Wrestlefest was based on actual Friday nights in their home. Perhaps readers can start their own Friday night tradition!

jffox.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/friday_night_wrestlefest.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?

Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown

Atlas of the Heart

Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of the Human Experience

by Brené Brown

Random House, 2021. 304 pages.
Review written March 17, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Brené Brown does an amazing job of taking scholarly research on human emotions and communicating the information in a way people can understand and apply it to their lives. With this book, she’s outdone herself.

This book is in a large format with glossy pages and color photographs, so it’s something of an art book as well. The bulk of the book is a catalog of emotions. They’re presented in thirteen chapters, which gather similar emotions. For example, the first chapter is “Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain or Too Much” and includes Stress, Overwhelm, Anxiety, Worry, Avoidance, Excitement, Dread, Fear, and Vulnerability.

With each emotion, she explains what it is and how you can notice it in yourself, as well as what psychological research says about it. It’s all fascinating as well as helpful. And it helps us understand ourselves better.

But the end of the book quietly packs a punch. After exploring all the emotions, there’s a section called “Cultivating Meaningful Connection,” which she explains is built on grounded confidence, the courage to walk alongside others, and story stewardship. It’s all explained beautifully, and there’s even a comic to help the reader understand how it looks.

At the back, she explains how the entire “atlas” of emotions was building to these ideas:

As you review the model, you’ll see that knowing and applying the language of human experience and emotion is a key property of all the major categories that support meaningful connection. That’s how we ended up here, together, sharing this book. When this emerged from the data, I thought, “Damn. I can’t write a book on meaningful connection without including some kind of glossary or compendium of emotion and experience words.” It was and remains weirdly shocking to me that access to and application of language are central to grounded confidence, walking alongside one another, and story stewardship. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see language emerge as core to one of these, but that it’s central to all three speaks to its power.

So learn about the language of emotions in order to build meaningful connection with the people in your life. This book will help you on that journey.

brenebrown.com
randomhousebooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/atlas_of_the_heart.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 Stuntboy: In the Meantime, by Jason Reynolds, drawings by Raúl the Third

Stuntboy #1

In the Meantime

by Jason Reynolds
drawings by Raúl the Third

A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book (Atheneum Books for Young Readers), 2021. 268 pages.
Review written March 5, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Schneider Family Honor Book

Stuntboy is not quite a graphic novel, since it doesn’t use speech balloons — at least, not very many. But it does have drawings on every page and lots of variety in the way the text is presented. If a kid, like Stuntboy himself, is easily distracted, the fact that each page is different in this book should keep their interest going.

Stuntboy is Portico Reeves. He lives in a castle — well, at least in the biggest house on the block, what other people call an apartment building.

We learn early on that Portico sometimes gets the Frets.

What?
You’ve never heard of the frets?
You’re kidding, right?
The un-sit-stillables?
The worry wiggles?
The bowling ball belly bottoms?
The jumpy grumpies?
(Or the grumpy jumpies, depending on who you ask.)
The hairy scaries, or worse, the VERY hairy scaries?
No?
Maybe it’s because your mom probably calls it what Portico’s grandma calls it – “anxiety.”

Portico is a character impossible not to love. I love his bright outlook on life. He and his best friend are fans of superheroes, so they decide to be superheroes themselves. Stuntboy is a superhero who does the stunts for other heroes (like his friend Zola) so they don’t have to get hurt. Often those stunts involve bouncing off walls, and Stuntboy doesn’t mind practicing. And he’s happy to save heroes when they don’t even realize it.

But when Portico walks in on his parents having a fight and they ask him to go to Zola’s apartment “in the meantime,” he figures that’s the time in which his normally nice parents are being mean to each other. And the meantime starts happening more and more often.

And every superhero has a nemesis. Stuntboy’s is another kid in the castle, Herbert Singletary the Worst.

I’m excited this is only the beginning of this series about an extremely likable kid. This will keep young readers turning pages.

JasonWritesBooks.com
RaulTheThird.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/stuntboy.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 Punching Bag, by Rex Ogle

Punching Bag

by Rex Ogle

Norton Young Readers, 2021. 207 pages.
Review written January 6, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

In Punching Bag, Rex Ogle continues to tell about his life. Free Lunch</em> told about the difficulty of being poor when he was in middle school. In Punching Bag, he’s in high school and his family is no longer desperately poor, but he gets frequently beaten by both his mother and his stepfather.

The book is framed with a story about coming home from a summer away when he was seven years old. His mother tells him a baby sister was born while he was gone. But she died. She tells Rex that it’s his fault because he left.

Then we flash to high school. When things get rough, Rex imagines his sister watching him, helping him cope.

Meanwhile, he’s got his actual little brother with him, to help, to entertain, and to try to protect. Rex doesn’t want to turn to violence like his mother and Sam do, but sometimes it all wells up inside him.

There’s lots of humor in this terribly sad book. His style gives us a taste of how surreal the situation must have been for a teen and how trapped he must have felt. The book is powerful, but painful. I’m so glad I read it.

Let me pass along the Author’s Note at the front of the book:

This is a true story. This is my story. It happened to me.

And as painful as it was for me to write, it may be equally or more painful for you to read – especially if you’ve lived through something similar.

If you’re not ready to read this, then don’t. Please, go enjoy some sunshine, watch a funny movie, or buy yourself an ice cream. This book will be waiting for you when you are ready.

But know this: I lived this, I survived. You survived your past too, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. We are both alive. We may have a few more scars than we’d like – inside or out – but we made it through. No matter how dark the past, or even the present, the sun will always come up tomorrow. There is hope.

This story (and that ice cream) are waiting . . . whenever you’re ready.

nortonyoungreaders.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teen_Nonfiction/punching_bag.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 We Wait for the Sun, by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, pictures by Raissa Figueroa

We Wait for the Sun

The Story of Young Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Her Grandmother’s Enduring Love

by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe
pictures by Raissa Figueroa

Roaring Brook Press, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 7, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book

We Wait for the Sun is not a traditional picture book biography, but it is a lovely picture book story about a little girl going berry-picking with her grandmother and friends before the sun comes up. The illustrations catch the dawning light so beautifully. The text gives you the feeling of fresh, sweet, juicy berries in your mouth.

But then the wonderful part, in both text and illustrations, is when the sun comes up. Grandma stops everything and watches the sun rise with Dovey Mae.

Again and again, Grandma reaches low or stands tiptoe to pluck berries. And then, suddenly, in the middle of her rush, she stops.

“Look, Dovey Mae,” she whispers. “Over yonder.”

Slowly, slowly, the horizon pinkens.

“Here she comes!” Grandma whispers. She draws me to her, and together we watch the pink turn to red, the red to gold.

Then, all at once, as if at my grandmother’s command, the orange ball that is the sun shows its face.

It rises up over the edge of the world, and as it does, Grandma rises, too, and stands, just looking, her face shining in the light.

It’s a beautiful story of community, family, and sweetness. Then at the back in a four-page author’s note, we learn about Dovey Johnson Roundtree and the remarkable life she lived, breaking boundaries in the military, law, and the ministry. This story came from the autobiography she wrote with the help of Katie McCabe before she died.

It’s a lovely story for children that comes from a remarkable woman who spent her life shining like the sun.

rizzyfig.com
mackids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/we_wait_for_the_sun.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 City Beautiful, by Aden Polydoros

The City Beautiful

by Aden Polydoros

Inkyard Press, 2021. 462 pages.
Review written February 1, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Sidney Taylor Award Winner, Young Adults
2021 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Speculative Fiction

The City Beautiful is set in 1893 Chicago, during the World’s Fair. Alter Rosen works in a print shop, scraping and saving to bring his mother and sisters to America from Romania, still haunted by the death of his father during their voyage to America.

Then Alter’s best friend Yacov is found dead. Alter hadn’t even been able to admit to himself that he was in love with Yacov. He’s convinced this is connected to the disappearances of other Jewish boys in the neighborhood, but the police scoff at the idea.

And then when Alter is trying to tend Yacov’s body, he gets possessed by Yacov’s dybbuk. He is haunted by Yacov’s memories and a compulsion to find the man who killed Yacov — and his family back in Russia. It’s clear that if Alter doesn’t fulfill this mission soon enough, the dybbuk will take over, and they will both die.

So we’ve got a mystery with some twists and turns. Along the way, we learn about the horrible hatred that followed the Jewish people across the ocean. And a young gay teen trying to come to terms with his emotions. And a young man trying to survive in America and make a home for his family.

The author helps you understand the world of 1893 Chicago and what kids and immigrants were up against, simply trying to survive. One of Alter’s friends works for an anarchist newspaper, and we’ve got background about that movement as well.

This is an atmospheric historical mystery with heart.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/city_beautiful.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 Opening the Road, by Keila V. Dawson, illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Opening the Road

Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book

by Keila V. Dawson
illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Beaming Books, Minneapolis, 2021. 40 pages.
Review written April 7, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Opening the Road is a picture book that explains in simple and understandable language how Victor Hugo Green saw injustice and inconvenience and turned it into an opportunity.

First, in several spreads the book lays out the situation:

Black motorists were told:
No food . . .
No vacancy . . .
No bathroom . . .
for Black people.

White American travelers could stop at any roadside restaurant, hotel, or restroom.

But Black Americans had to pack cold food, blankets, and pillows for sleeping in the car . . . and a make-do toilet.

Then it tells how Victor saw a Kosher Food Guide put out by a Jewish newspaper and wondered if he could make a book with similar information for Black Americans.

So Victor asked his friends and neighbors in Harlem where they safely dined, shopped, and played in the city. Victor worked as a mail carrier. Along his postal route, Victor asked folks about places that were welcoming to Black people too.

It tells how The Negro Motorist Green Book took off and expanded so Black travelers took it with them to safely travel the country. I like the detail that black female entrepreneurs rented out rooms in their homes in cities with no hotels willing to rent to Black people. The discrimination turned into an opportunity.

A lovely and interesting picture book about a pertinent and inspiring bit of history.

beamingbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/opening_the_road.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 Look, Grandma! Ni, Elisi!, by Art Coulson, illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight

Look, Grandma!
Ni, Elisi!

by Art Coulson
illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight

Storytelling Math (Charlesbridge), 2021. 32 pages.
Review written December 29, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s another book from the amazingly good Storytelling Math series. All of them present math concepts in a real-life setting that will appeal to children. All of them also present cultural information, not presented as “other” or “exotic” or “different,” but from the perspective of a child within that culture, excited and proud and enjoying things their family does.

In this book, Bo is working on large colorful stone marbles for the Cherokee National Holiday coming up. The marbles are used in the game Cherokee marbles, digadayosdi, and Bo wants to sell them in his family’s booth at the festival.

Bo has a lot of marbles, and he wants to display them at the booth. But when he finds a nice tray to use to display them, Grandma tells him that the tray is too big. Their booth is small and he can display the marbles in the booth, but whatever he uses needs to fit on a small mat she shows him.

So it’s a volume problem. Bo is trying to find a container with a base as small as the mat that will still display the marbles well. And not so tall that it’s hard to reach inside.

After Bo finds the perfect container (which takes lots of tries), they show him happily displaying them in his family’s booth — and then playing Cherokee marbles together to get a break.

The book weaves in some Cherokee words, and there’s a glossary at the back along with the feature at the back of every Storytelling Math book called “Exploring the Math.” In this book, that section gives ideas of activities to help kids explore volume and area. I love the way these stories are jumping-off places for more learning.

artcoulson.com
madelyngoodnight.com
terc.edu
charlesbridge.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/look_grandma_ni_elisi.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?