Archive for January, 2021

Review of The Edge of Anything, by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

The Edge of Anything

by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Running Press Teens (Hachette), 2020. 362 pages.
Review written December 21, 2020, from a book sent by the publisher
Starred Review
2020 Cybils Finalist
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#7 General Teen Fiction

The Edge of Anything is a friendship story, and a powerful one. Len has never really had friends, except her sister, and now she’s avoiding calls from her sister after something terrible happened. She’s finding herself extra sensitive to dirt and germs, and kids at school think she’s a freak.

But when Sage’s life turns upside-down, Len is the person who sees what she’s going through. Sage faints after a volleyball game, and thinks it was low blood sugar. But it turns out to be something that can keep her from playing sports ever again. Volleyball was her passion and her whole life.

It turns out that Len is dealing with something that’s also huge, but the reader and Sage don’t find out what that is until well into the book. But we do come to understand why Len is better at understanding what Sage is going through than her other friends.

That’s the skeleton of what happens in this book, but the beauty is in the carrying it out as Len and Sage become friends and figure out how to be good friends to each other, when neither one wants to face what’s going on.

This book gives a good look at mental illness as an illness, not something you can shake by being strong.

noracarpenterwrites.com
runningpress.com/rpkids

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/edge_of_anything.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 Sounds All Around, by Dr. James Chapman

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

Sounds All Around

A Guide to Onomatopoeias Around the World

by Dr. James Chapman

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2020. 165 pages.
Review written November 13, 2020, from a book sent by the publisher
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 General Children’s Nonfiction

Here’s what it says on the page at the front of this book:

Let’s Make Some Noise

Learning the sounds animals make is an essential part of language learning. Spending hours and hours pretending you’re a chicken or a dog is not only great fun, it’s educational, too. If you grew up speaking English, you probably already know your woofs and meows from your clucks and quacks – but how does the rest of the world describe sounds?

[This next part has cartoon animals.]
In Japanese, cats don’t go MEOW. “NYAN!”
In German, pigs don’t go OINK. “GRUNZ!”
In Hindi, frogs don’t go RIBBIT. “TARR!”

There’s a whole world of words for all the sounds you know and love! (And even some words for sounds that don’t show up in English.)

The words that imitate sounds are known as “onomatopoeia.” These words are a wonderfully strange and interesting part of language. After all, we hear the same sounds, but we interpret and write them differently in different languages.

If you sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in French, your farmyard ducks go “coin coin” instead of “quack quack,” and in Russian they go “krya krya.” From the sound of a speeding car, to the sound a dog makes, to the sound of rain, there are almost as many words for these sounds as there are languages!

The format of this book is chapters of types of sounds with spreads looking at one certain type of sound in multiple languages. It’s in graphic novel format, so we see the sounds in speech bubbles coming from cartoon animals or characters or things. The chapters are “Animal Noises,” “On the Farm,” “In the Zoo,” “Loud Noises,” “Natural Noises,” “Noisy Machines,” “Sounds of the Human Body,” and “Sounds of Emotion.”

We learn fascinating things, such as “Kusukusu” being the Japanese word for “Ha Ha” and “Tagaktak” being the Filipino word for “Splat” and “Vzheeh” being how Russians say “Zoom.” It’s all mind-expanding to think about the many different languages, but also mind-expanding to realize how many different words we have in our own language for sounds.

This isn’t a book that fits neatly into a curriculum anywhere. You couldn’t use it to learn a language. But it’s super fun to read and to think about. This is a book that could easily capture a child’s imagination. I know it captured mine.

The one little thing that I wish it had is a pronunciation guide, since I know in some languages, English letters don’t make the same sounds. Though perhaps they left that out because once they started, it would have gotten tricky with so many languages used. This keeps it light and fun, but still informative.

andrewsmcmeel.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/sounds_all_around.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 Before the Ever After, by Jacqueline Woodson, read by Guy Lockard

Friday, January 29th, 2021

Before the Ever After

by Jacqueline Woodson
read by Guy Lockard

Listening Library, 2020. 2 hours, 15 minutes on eaudio
Review written January 4, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2021 Capitol Choices selection
2021 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#8 Children’s Fiction

This is a novel in verse written from the perspective of twelve-year-old ZJ, talking about his Dad, a professional football player.

His Dad is a star, with a Super Bowl ring. Or at least he was – before. When ZJ goes through his memories, we learn that his Dad was also a wonderful, active, loving father. He did lots of things with ZJ and ZJ’s friends.

But then one day, he didn’t play a game they expected him to play. He started getting awful headaches, forgetting their names, and acting strangely. And they didn’t know what was going on. Different doctors had different ideas, but nothing was working.

The way the book covers “Before,” your heart breaks with ZJ when his Daddy starts to change.

Normally, I think I enjoy novels in verse more by seeing the poetry with my own eyes. It’s easier to catch what the author’s doing. In this case, I did enjoy listening to the warm voice of the narrator, and I did figure out it was a novel in verse before I looked at the book.

This is a heartbreaking tribute from a kid to his dad.

jacquelinewoodson.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/before_the_ever_after.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 Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Cemetery Boys

by Aiden Thomas

Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan), 2020. 344 pages.
Review written December 18, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 National Book Award Finalist
2020 Cybils Finalist
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#8 Teen Speculative Fiction

I’ll confess right up front that I was predisposed to like this book because it features a transgender main character in a paranormal fantasy. But as I read, it’s also a well-written paranormal fantasy even if that weren’t true.

Yadriel has grown up in a Latinx culture in East Los Angeles where his family trains to become brujos and brujas. But when he got to be fifteen years old and refused to become a bruja, his family wasn’t ready to take him through the ceremony to make him become a brujo.

So the book begins with Yadriel and his friend Maritza going through the ceremony on their own. Lady Death indeed blesses him and bonds him to his portaje, the ritual dagger of a brujo.

As soon as the ceremony finishes, though, all the brujx sense the sudden death of one of their own, Yadriel’s cousin Miguel. But no one can find his body. So, to prove himself, Yadriel summons Miguel’s spirit – and ends up summoning someone else entirely – a kid from his school named Julian. Still trying to prove himself, Yadriel unsuccessfully tries to help Julian pass on to the other side, but Yadriel’s portaje won’t cut Julian’s tether to an object he cares about.

Still Julian agrees to go nicely if Yadriel will first help him check on his friends. It looks like there might be a connection between Miguel and Yadriel, because both their bodies are missing. But there’s a deadline – Dia de Muerte is coming, and Yadriel wants to prove himself by then and join with the other brujos.

Most of the book is the complications of hanging out with an irrepressible spirit and trying to solve the mystery of what happened. And of course trying to keep the spirit hidden from the other brujos who won’t like that Yadriel summoned him on his own. It’s all told in a compelling way, and the reader cares more and more about Yadriel and Maritza and Julian – and more sorry that Julian’s dead.

This is an own voices book, coming from a queer trans Latinx author who shows us both the beauty and frustrations of being part of this culture. They don’t tell us how much of the magical part is based on truth.

aiden-thomas.com
swoonreads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/cemetery_boys.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 Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, by Amy Alznauer, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity

A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan

by Amy Alznauer
illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Candlewick Press, 2020. 48 pages.
Review written July 11, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Nonfiction Picture Books

The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity is a longer-than-usual picture book biography of the mathematical genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan. The book focuses on his growing-up years with his constant thinking about mathematical ideas and passion for it that couldn’t be contained.

Here’s how the author talks about the young Ramanujan’s thoughts:

What else is small? Ramanujan wondered. He remembered the legend of the single egg that cracked open to reveal the entire universe. He thought about a mango.

A mango is like an egg. It is just one thing. But if I chop it in two, then chop the half in two, and keep on chopping, I get ore and more bits, on and on, endlessly, to an infinity I could never reach. Yet when I put them back together, I still have just one mango.

He loved this idea, small and big, each inside the other. If he could crack the number 1 open and find infinity, what secrets would he discover inside other numbers? It felt like he was setting out on a grand chase.

Numbers were everywhere. In the squares of light pricking his thatched roof. In the gods dancing on the temple tower. In the clouds that formed and re-formed in the sky. Every day he wrote numbers in the sand, on his slate, on slips of paper, his slender fingers flying, each number a new catch.

The book tells about Ramanujan’s life in India before he finally got an answer from the mathematician G. H. Hardy and was invited to England. It captures his obsession with numbers and his difficulty in doing other things. His parents tried him in a new school every year, because he didn’t fit into the molds they wanted. Eventually he failed college because all he would think about was math.

I love that the author is also a mathematician, and I think she does a great job expressing Ramanujan’s genius, overflowing ideas, and desire to be heard. The artist paints wonderful illustrations to go with the text, showing us an imaginative boy dreaming about numbers and living in a land with lots of sunshine.

The book ends as Ramanujan travels to England:

As he rocked on the steamer and gazed up at the great night sky, so full of stars that it looked like a glittering infinity, he never could have guessed that someday scientists would use his ideas to help explore that sky and that his work would change the course of mathematics forever. One hundred years later, people would still search his notebooks in wonderment, trying to discover what he was thinking.

candlewick.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 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 The Earth in Her Hands, by Jennifer Jewell

Monday, January 25th, 2021

The Earth in Her Hands

75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants

by Jennifer Jewell

Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2020. 324 pages.
Review written September 22, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 General Nonfiction

This amazing and beautiful book features seventy-five plantswomen who work in a multiplicity of jobs, mostly jobs I didn’t even know existed before reading this book, and serve plants and the earth in some way.

The format is consistent for all the featured women. On their opening spread in this generously-sized book, one page is filled with a picture of them among their plants. There’s a quote from the subject next to the picture. The text of the feature begins with “Her Work,” telling what she does. Then either “Her Plant” or “Her Landscape” featuring a plant or landscape that’s special to her. The bulk of the feature is the next part, “Her Plant Journey,” which goes into the next spread, giving an outline of her life story and how she came to her current work and the things that excite her about what she does. The second spread has another, smaller picture. The features finish off with “Other Inspiring Women,” a list of women whose work has inspired the featured woman. And yes, some of those are featured, too.

The women are listed alphabetically rather than by type of work, but there’s such a wide variety of work, that approach probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Some jobs are a little more traditional – nursery owners and farmers, photographers, artists, and writers. There are many horticulturists, gardeners, botanists, and landscape architects. But then we’ve got the owner of a houseplant shop in New York City, seed savers, and collectors, floral designers, garden directors, educators, advocates, herbalists, a soil scientist, a plant pathologist, and a horticultural therapist. And that doesn’t express the many aspects of these jobs that I learned about in these pages, each woman bringing love and passion to what she does.

Also amazing are how these women are located all over the world. Yes, the majority live in the U.S. or the U.K., but there are also women featured from India, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

This is a beautiful book. The photos of the women on the large, glossy pages usually highlight flowers, or maybe some lovely landscape or setting. I read the book usually one feature per day (I confess I had this book out from the library while we were closed for the pandemic so I had extra time.), and it made me want to get out there and do something with plants – at the very least got me noticing plants more on my daily walks by my lake and taking more close-ups of flowers.

This is in the adult section of the library, but I think putting this book into the right teen’s hands might set someone on the path of working with the earth, because it opens your eyes to all the possibilities.

For me, I found that sitting and spending a couple minutes reading one of these features was guaranteed to put me in a peaceful mental state, like taking a deep breath.

timberpress.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/earth_in_her_hands.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?

American Library Association Virtual Midwinter Meeting

Monday, January 25th, 2021

It’s time for ALA Midwinter Meeting!

I probably wouldn’t have tried to go, but since it’s virtual, it’s a whole lot less expensive than when you have to pay for a flight, lodging, and food. Unfortunately, I did not get any free books (I usually bring or ship home more than a hundred advance reader copies!), and I did hear about some books that I preordered on the spot — so I didn’t realize that it would cost me extra money in book orders. Oh well! Money well spent, I’m sure!

I often post my notes from every session I attended, but I thought this year, I’d just hit the highlights.

One thing I liked about this conference is there weren’t nearly as many competing sessions. Most of the things I wanted to attend were on the one main livestream, so I didn’t have to make the tough decisions between which sessions would be most helpful. I did miss the long lines after a session to get the author to sign their books, though! But without those lines, they didn’t make me miss the following session.

I ended up not including the Youth Media Awards. Those are always a highlight! I will update all the books I’ve reviewed with the awards they’ve won, eventually. (It will take a long time.) I’m always so happy for the books I’ve read that win and eager to read the ones I’ve missed.

Okay, highlights:

Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson

These two creators of the Newbery-winning and Caldecott Honor book Last Stop on Market Street told about making that book and the new book they have coming out, Milo Imagines the World. They had great things to say about making picture books. Some good lines:

We shouldn’t have lazy stereotypes in seeing the people around us. Even for a moment on the subway. Everybody has depth. We’re all connected.

The more specific you are with artistry, the more universal it becomes.

Usually, to get the “music” of a picture book right involves cutting.

A great writer for picture books leaves room to create — for the artist and reader both.

Ruby Bridges

It was a real treat to hear Ruby Bridges talk with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayes about what it was like for her as a six-year-old to integrate an elementary school.

How could you explain it to a six-year-old? Her parents just told her, “You’re going to a new school. You’d better behave!”

The innocence of a child protected her. At first, she thought the people shouting and throwing things outside the school were part of Mardi Gras. She didn’t know anything about racism.

She was the only one at school the second day, and she didn’t know it was because of her. The teacher greeted her, and Ruby was surprised she was white and didn’t know what to expect. She thought her mom had brought her too early was why she was the only one there.

But Mrs. Henry showed Ruby her heart and that she was different from the people screaming outside.

When asked, “Were you scared?” she answered that the one thing that scared her was the small coffin the protesters carried with a black doll inside. She’d have nightmares about it.

Mrs. Henry made school fun, but she did miss the other kids. She wasn’t allowed on the playground or in the cafeteria. Federal marshals escorted her to the restroom. She felt like she was being punished for something.

When some white kids did come back to school, the principal hid them from her, but she heard their voices and Mrs. Henry made sure they were finally able to be together. The kids didn’t have a problem with each other.

“Racism has no place in the hearts of our babies.”

I loved the story she told about her son. He’d looked at pictures of the presidents and asked if the president has to be white. She told him, “No, they’re waiting for you!” So he kept telling everyone he was going to be president when he grew up. Then when Barack Obama was on the ballot, he was surprised his mom would vote for him. But she told him, “People are tired of waiting. You’re so young.”

He responded with, “Just because he’s the first, doesn’t mean he’s the best.”

Ruby Bridges has a book for children coming out called This Is Your Time.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Dr. Keisha N. Blain

These two talked about a book they edited that I preordered on the spot: Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019. The book has 80 authors writing essays about five years of history each. In addition, there are 10 poets, who cover 40 years each, and read the eight essays about the time period they were covering.

The editors think of it as a choir, with the poets as soloists.

They tried to have a wide variety of backgrounds in the writers. “Individuals of African descent are rarely allowed to be individuals.” They wanted to show the vast diversity while creating this community piece.

They explored the quotation, “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.” They talked about discovering what their ancestors’ dreams were. In so many ways, those dreams were for full freedom, and the fight for that full freedom continues. We may be their wildest dreams yet, but we can be.

“As we reflect on the past, may their stories inspire us to forge ahead and make their dreams reality.”

The book writes about history, and itself is a piece of history.

Books I’ll Preorder or Check Out

Besides the books that won the Youth Media Awards this morning that I haven’t read yet, and besides the book above, some other books went on my radar:

The Hidden Palace, by Helene Wecker. This is a follow-up to The Golem and the Jinni. Wow! That’s all they need to say!

My Remarkable Journey, by Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures fame.

Anne of Manhattan, by Brina Starler, which is described as a modern Anne of Green Gables romcom. I’m skeptical, but will at least want to check it out.

As Far As You’ll Take Me, by Phil Stamper, author of The Gravity of Us

A Vow So Bold and Deadly, finishing up the trilogy by Brigid Kemmerer

Merci Suarez Can’t Dance, by Meg Medina, the sequel to our Newbery winner, Merci Suarez Changes Gears!

The Beatryce Prophecy, an upcoming fantasy by Kate DiCamillo.

Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People, by Kekla Magoon. The author talked about her research for this and made it sound so fascinating.

Ethan Hawke

He talked about his upcoming book, A Bright Ray of Darkness, about an actor. (Write what you know!)

He also talked about his love of reading and stories. Acting, at its core, is a celebration of writing. He told stories of playwrights who made the most of every comma and were always striving to improve the art of communication.

The theme of his book is the healing impact of performing. For him, acting is the one place where emotions are wanted and needed. Those emotions are necessary to tell the truth about human experience.

Joy Harjo

She’s the Poet Laureate of the United States.

Poets are truth-tellers. Poetry is like a house or a pocket — it can hold time, grief, questions, joy.

She has a new poetry anthology coming out: When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through.

She also has a new memoir: Poet Warrior: A Call for Love and Justice.

Humans are Story-gatherers.

Le Uyen Pham

She talked about writing her new picture book, Outside, Inside. She wrote it in six weeks in June, when in lockdown but not realizing how long it would last.

She said that it was about this moment when we tested ourselves and learned our humanity and that we’re all the same on the inside.

She used a cat as a character on all the pages, because a human face invites judgment, but a cat can go anywhere, inside and outside.

She made the pictures to reflect the entire world, not simply one neighborhood or even one country.

She watched heartbreaking YouTube videos to get actual scenes in hospitals. She absorbed as much information as she could until she felt like “we” told the story, not just her.

She took scenes of grief and wrapped them in hope. (And she cried even to talk about it.)

“I just kept thinking, at the heart of who we are, not just as Americans, but as humans, we care for one another.”

It doesn’t end with “Spring is here,” but with “Spring will come.” As a metaphor, that’s always true.

Amanda Gorman

The Inaugural Poet read from her upcoming picture book, Change Sings. Wow!

Closing Session: Dr. Jill Biden

When she was a kid, she’d walk to their local library every two weeks and take out as many books as she could. In college, when she met people who couldn’t read, she realized how precious the gift of reading is and decided to be a teacher.

Loving to read means loving to learn. It teaches understanding, kindness, and compassion. It shows us we can do more and dream bigger.

Libraries are also where students learn to research.

What community is all about: Coming together to share our joys and burdens.

To librarians:
Never forget that what you’re doing matters.
Someone’s a better thinker, is kinder, stands a little taller, because of you.

Books are an important way for children to understand their feelings.

Review of Even If We Break, by Marieke Nijkamp

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Even If We Break

by Marieke Nijkamp

Sourcebooks Fire, 2020. 306 pages.
Review written December 9, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 General Teen Fiction

Even If We Break is a Then There Were None-style thriller for teens. As the book begins, five teens are making their way to a high-tech mountain cabin owned by one of them. There was a storm the day before that blocked the path for the car and boulders on the path still make it difficult for the two who have mobility issues.

We get the perspective of different teens in each chapter. Finn and Ever are transgender, with Ever using they/them pronouns. Finn uses crutches and Maddy, who is autistic, has been in an accident recently that changed her from a star lacrosse athlete to someone whose knee hurts when she walks, especially over boulders. Liva is the one whose parents own the cabin, and Carter works for her father’s company.

They are all high school students, but Liva, Carter, and Finn have graduated and will be going off to college at the end of the summer. So their three years of playing a role-playing game together will come to an end. They’re going to have one last immersive game experience in the mountain cabin first. Even though Finn hadn’t been joining them as often lately, and even though Liva’s ex-boyfriend Zac had stopped altogether.

There are stories that the mountain is haunted, and Ever, the gamemaster, weaves that into their adventure. Every adventure started with a murder, as the group are Inquisitors from the land of Gonfalon, and the Council hires them to use magic and skills to solve crimes. For this adventure, a councilor herself (represented by a pile of blankets) is dead.

But as the adventure begins, things begin to become all too real. The power goes out. They hear a music box, just like the story of the haunted mountain. Then bloody handprints. And yes, there’s murder. And that high-tech cabin? It’s hard to get out when it locks.

Never mind solving the murder – the teens who are left want to escape with their lives.

The author pulls the story off well. I’m tempted to say more, but won’t for fear it will give you clues. I did love the central role of the transgender teens and enjoyed that all the characters had emotional depth.

And I was very glad I had a chance to finish it in one sitting! This is not a book you want to set aside.

mariekenijkamp.com
FIREreads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/even_if_we_break.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 Almost American Girl, by Robin Ha

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

Almost American Girl

by Robin Ha

Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2020. 233 pages.
Review written May 13, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

The graphic format is so wonderful for a memoir about dealing with middle school and high school under exceptionally trying circumstances. I hope this will enjoy the popularity of similar books such as Smile, Best Friends, and New Kid.

When Chuna Ha’s mother brought her to America one summer, Chuna thought they were just taking a vacation. They went to Alabama, a place Chuna had never heard of, and stayed with a “friend” of her mother. At the end of the “vacation,” her mother said she was getting married and they were in America to stay.

Chuna took the American name of Robin, but it was hard to pronounce. She didn’t speak English very well and had a lot of trouble in middle school in Alabama. We see Robin having trouble getting along with her step family, bullies teasing her cruelly at school, and how hard it is to make friends when you don’t speak the same language. She finally meets kids she connects with when her mother finds a comics class at a comics store.

She and her mother move to Virginia when she’s ready to start high school, and then there’s an entire classroom full of English Language Learners, so she no longer feels so out of place, and doesn’t stand out. At the end of the book, Robin visits her hometown in Korea and sees her old friends and learns that not only is she different from them now, she has different hopes and dreams for her future.

This graphic-format memoir brings you into Robin’s experiences with all its struggles and triumphs.

banchancomic.tumblr.com
epicreads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/almost_american_girl.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 Blue House, by Phoebe Wahl

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

The Blue House

by Phoebe Wahl

Alfred A. Knopf, 2020. 36 pages.
Review written September 9, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Standout:
#8 Fiction Picture Books

Here’s a picture book about having to move from a much loved house. It’s done with sensitivity and particularity that’s just lovely.

We meet Leo and his Dad. I like that Leo is a boy with long hair. They live in an old blue house with leaks and creaks. They like to dance and make music together.

Leo loved the blue house in winter, with its hiding places and cozy spaces.

When the old heater broke, they would bake a pie just to warm up the kitchen.

But the neighborhood is changing. Leo’s dad tells him that their house is going to be torn down and they will have to move.

Leo doesn’t respond well at first. But eventually, they use music to express their anger.

They shredded on guitar, and Leo did a special scream solo. It made both of them a little less mad.

They do further things to adjust, like painting on the walls of the empty house before it’s torn down. Even after they’ve moved, they find ways to remember the old blue house. And ways to make their new house feel more and more like home.

This is a lovely story of a small family dealing with something hard and making a new home together.

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

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