Archive for March, 2017

Review of Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Lily and Dunkin

by Donna Gephart

Delacorte Press, 2016. 331 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #10 Children’s Fiction

Neither Lily nor Dunkin is happy with the name they were given at birth. Dunkin doesn’t like his name because it’s Norbert Dorfman, after his grandfather and great-grandfather. Lily doesn’t like her name because it’s Timothy. Lily knows she’s really a girl, and is trying to be brave enough to wear girl’s clothes to school when eighth grade starts, but she doesn’t quite manage it.

Dunkin met Lily before school started, and even saw her wearing a dress, but when he asks about it, Lily backs down and says it was just on a dare. Dunkin would like to be friends with Tim at school, but when the guys on the basketball team take an interest in him because he’s so tall, he can’t stay away — even though they’re the same guys who bully Tim.

On the surface, this is an issue book. Lily is dealing with being transgender and trying to get up the courage to go public with that. She also wants to go on hormone blockers before it’s too late, but her Dad’s having a hard time with it.

Meanwhile, Dunkin has his own issues. He’s got bipolar disorder. His mother decided to trust him to take his own medication this year. But if he takes his antipsychotic pills, he doesn’t have enough energy to play basketball. So he sneaks a pill into the trash each day.

As an issues book, I enjoyed this. It’s for a slightly older reader than George but I like the way both books help you understand how it would feel to be transgender and some of the many difficulties you’d face.

But the book does have more to it. There’s navigating friendships and eighth grade, and there’s an old tree in front of the library that’s scheduled to be cut down. It’s a tree that meant a lot to Lily and her grandfather who is now deceased. As for Dunkin, he’s the new kid. He’s just moved to Florida, leaving behind some kind of family disaster involving his Dad. He knows nothing about basketball, but now he has a chance to be somebody because he got his growth early. If he can learn enough about the game before it’s time to play.

donnagephart.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 Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do! by Daisy Hirst

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do!

by Daisy Hirst

Candlewick Press, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #12 Picture Books

This book about being a big sister of an annoying little brother charmed me with its specific details.

The drawings are simple, such as a child would do. Natalie and her little brother Alphonse are some sort of monster. Natalie is red and Alphonse is blue.

The story is also simple.

They both liked naming the pigeons, [Banana! Lorraine!]

bouncing things off the bunk beds,
and stories in the chair.

And they both loved making things.

Except that Alphonse did sometimes draw on the things that Natalie made,
or eat them, and Natalie hated that.

I like that the author doesn’t need to tell us that Alphonse is being aggravating.

One day when lunch was peas
and TV was awful
and Mom did not understand, [What a lovely dog! It is a HORSE.]
Natalie found Alphonse under the bunk beds . . .

eating her favorite book.

“ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO!” said Natalie.

What follows is Alphonse trying to reconcile with Natalie, and Natalie needing some time first. She draws a picture of awful things happening to Alphonse. I especially like the touch of the “swarm of peas.” Then she shuts herself in the bathroom and takes a bath.

But while she’s in the bath, she thinks she hears things happening to Alphonse like what she drew.

When she comes out and learns that Alphonse just created disasters while trying to get the tape to fix Natalie’s book, she’s just glad that Alphonse is okay.

It’s a simple story, but it warms my heart. Sometimes little siblings are incredibly annoying – but sometimes they’re creative partners.

candlewick.com

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

Review of Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Three Dark Crowns

by Kendare Blake

HarperTeen, 2016. 398 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #12 Teen Fiction

I’m going to say right up front that the only bad thing about this book is that it’s apparently only Book One of a series. If I had realized that from the start, I might not have been so disappointed when the book stopped at an exciting place where the story is far from over.

This book takes place on the enchanted Island of Fennbirn, favored by the goddess. It is the queens’ 16th birthday. But there are three queens — a queen who is a Poisoner, a queen who is an Elemental, and a queen who is a Naturalist. Each queen is supported by those of her kind, who have particular powers from the goddess.

At Beltane, four months away, the queens will meet for the first time since they were children. There will be great ceremony and each queen will display her power at the Quickening. Then, in the next year, each queen will attempt to kill the other two. The last queen alive will rule over Fennbirn.

There’s a problem right from the start. Queen Katharine of the poisoners and Queen Arsinoe of the Naturalists have so far displayed no gift at all, unlike Queen Mirabelle of the Elementals, who is strong in her gift. But the families behind them aren’t going to lose power easily.

The author shows us each queen and her way of living, the people she loves and the plots around her — and I found myself hoping that, somehow, all the queens will survive.

Mind you, that still might happen — like I said, the book doesn’t finish the story. It takes us only up to the Quickening. Now the queens have a year to kill each other. But it’s more and more difficult to imagine how things could end so tidily.

The writing is wonderful. The author alternates between the three queens, but I never found myself impatient to skip one story — each queen has a fascinating and tension-filled story as they all progress toward Beltane. We also learn much about their friends and foster families. Arsinoe has a friend with a cougar as her familiar. Katharine has a young man teaching her how to attract the Suitors who will come to court the queens. And Mirabella, surrounded by priestesses, does have loyal servants who help her when she dreams of when she was young and still with her sisters.

The world-building is well-crafted. There’s no exposition hell, with the details of this world skillfully woven into the stories.

I will say that all three queens are still alive at the end of this book. And I desperately want to find out how long they will stay that way and what will happen next.

kendareblake.com
epicreads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/3_dark_crowns.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 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?

Review of Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story, by Caren Stilson

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Sachiko

A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

by Caren Stilson

Carolrhoda Books, 2016. 144 pages.
Starred Review
2016 National Book Award Longlist
2017 Sibert Honor Book
2016 Cybils Award, Middle Grade Nonfiction
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Children’s Nonfiction

This book is what the title says it is: The story of a survivor of the Nagasaki atom bomb.

Sachiko Yasui was six years old when the bomb fell on her city. The book first sets the stage, briefly explaining how the war was going and American attitudes toward the Japanese at the time. Throughout the book, background information is inserted with spreads on darker-colored pages, so it’s clear they are background. But we’re given a detailed, hour-by-hour account of what happened in Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Of course Sachiko and her family lost their home. But one by one, she also lost all her family members.

The first to die was her two-year-old brother, who had a wooden stick go through his head in the initial blast. All of the girls Sachiko was playing with at the moment the bomb went off also died. Her other two brothers took longer to die of radiation sickness.

Fortunately, Sachiko had her parents to take her out of the city and to help her survive and to put her in school. Though years later, it was cancer that took their lives, a result of the radiation from the bomb.

Sachiko herself suffered from radiation sickness and was bullied in her new school because she lost her hair and had scaly skin. I do like the way the author weaves in stories of those who inspired Sachiko: Her father revered the teachings of Gandhi; Sachiko got to see Helen Keller when she visited Japan; and she was impressed by the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was a long time before Sachiko was ready to tell her story, but since 1995, she has traveled around the world, especially speaking to students, and promoting peace.

Sachiko also tells young people that, as she was inspired by Helen Keller, she hopes to inspire them. “I’ll try to speak about how strong you can be as a human being when you encounter difficulties in the future.”

This book is illustrated with plenty of photographs and presents a powerful and important story, in a way that young people can understand and that will move anyone’s heart.

May her words be true: “What happened to me must never happen to you.”

hibakushastories.org
lernerbooks.com

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

Review of The Cow Said Meow, by John Himmelman

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

The Cow Said Meow

by John Himmelman

Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

This book makes me laugh. I think even toddlers who have learned their animal sounds will get the joke. Older kids will have fun explaining all they see happening.

The story is told through pictures – with the only words being the sounds the animals make shown in speech bubbles.

It’s raining. A cow is grazing in front of a house. We can see a warm living room inside the window. A cat stands at the door and says, “Meow.” On the next page, a little old lady with thick glasses lets the cat in as it purrs.

Then we’ve got a close-up of the cow’s face. It’s wet and its face droops, but it raises one eyebrow, clearly thinking.

On the next page, the cow goes to the door and says, “Meow.” The little old lady with thick glasses and squinty eyes lets it in, too. The cow is sure to purr as she goes in – and we see a pig in the foreground.

A close-up of the pig’s face shows the pig thinking. It mimics the cow. Followed by a chicken, a donkey, a goat, and a duck. There’s also an element of the Telephone Game, because each animal from the donkey on says Heeow instead of Meow.

Finally all the animals are in the house, saying variants of Meow and Purr, with the cat behind a curtain saying Hiss. But then it all falls apart, and the animals start making their own noises. The little old lady’s eyes get opened, and they’re sent back out into the rain.

Then we see a dog say “Woof.” The lady opens the door….

You might be surprised how good wordless books are for getting little ones to use their own words. This one has the added attraction of silly animal sounds and situations.

Wonderful silly fun.

mackids.com

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