Archive for July, 2021

Review of Allergic, by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Allergic

by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter

Graphix (Scholastic), 2021. 238 pages.
Review written June 25, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Allergic is a sweet graphic novel about a girl who’s planning to get a dog for her tenth birthday – and breaks out in a rash after she’s given her heart to one. It turns out that she’s allergic to anything with fur or feathers.

This has repercussions. Maggie’s class can’t have a class pet. When her new friend who moved in next door gets a puppy, that means Maggie can’t come over any more.

She tries to cope in ways that turn out to be both bad and good. The idea of trying to secretly keep a mouse in her closet turns out to be not so great. Meanwhile, Maggie’s mom is expecting a baby soon, and Maggie’s feeling a little left out.

The pictures in this graphic novel are adorable, and the reader will love Maggie and her family. Her plight will capture the sympathy of readers, helping them see a perspective maybe different from their own. All while reading and viewing a great story with plenty of conflict in a popular format. This book will fly off the shelves, and deservedly so.

meganwagnerlloyd.com
michellemee.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.

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.

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Review of We Are Not Free, by Traci Chee

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

We Are Not Free

by Traci Chee

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 384 pages.
Review written November 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 National Book Award Finalist

We Are Not Free is a novel about Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated during World War II. An interesting and effective choice made for this novel is to present the story from multiple perspectives. Every chapter has a different perspective.

We start with a 14-year-old kid in a community of Japanese Americans living in “Japantown” in San Francisco. We hear about the older teens he looks up to who will end up being viewpoint characters as the book goes on.

The book starts three months after Pearl Harbor when people of Japanese descent are getting targeted by racists. It continues as they have to sell off their possessions, because they’re only allowed a little bit of luggage in the slightly-refurbished racetrack where they’re taken next. It goes on through the war as the people in the camps have to decide if they will declare their loyalty to a government that removed their rights and volunteer to fight in the war.

By using so many perspectives, we get a broad view of what happened to different groups of people, including those who went on to fight in the war and those who refused. We learn about various levels of inhumane treatment, from the horrific conditions for those who were deemed a threat to the smaller indignities such as happened to those set loose with $25 and having to find a new place to live.

The teens have widely different attitudes. Many are angry. Some just want to make the best of things and move on with their lives. All of them encounter grave injustices, and seeing the situation from so many different eyes helps the reader understand the whole thing better.

And, yes, there are a lot of painful things that happen. This isn’t a feel-good book, but it is a book that shows you many sides of a terrible historical injustice perpetrated by our own government. I wish this book weren’t as timely as it is.

tracichee.com
hmhbooks.com

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

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Review of Before They Were Artists, by Elizabeth Haidle

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Before They Were Artists

Famous Illustrators as Kids

by Elizabeth Haidle

Etch (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2021. 64 pages.
Review written July 6, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a picture-book-sized nonfiction book for children in graphic novel format telling about the childhoods of six distinguished illustrators.

I would have never thought to put these particular illustrators together in a book, and I love the variety of backgrounds they represent. We’ve got:

Wanda Gág, who wrote Millions of Cats, born in 1893 in New Ulm, Minnesota.
Maurice Sendak, who wrote Where the Wild Things Are, born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York.
Tove Jansson, who wrote Finn Family Moomintroll, born in 1914 in Helsinki, Finland.
Jerry Pinkney, who wrote The Lion and the Mouse, born in 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Yuyi Morales, who wrote Just a Minute, born in 1968 in Xalapa, Mexico.
Hayao Miyazaki, who wrote Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, born in 1941 in Tokyo, Japan.

Each illustrator gets a title spread with one book featured (the one I listed above), a picture of the illustrator as a child in the landscape of their own books, with a quotation coming from a speech bubble. There’s a time line across the bottom with notable events in their lives, including other books they’ve written. Then they each get six to eight more pages with panels in graphic novel format telling about their childhoods, how they got started in art, and their many accomplishments.

This book is delightful to look at and presents lots of information in an entertaining way. It’s sure to inspire other young artists or at least get them thinking about what their love for art could lead to.

There’s a spread at the front with the title “What makes an illustrator?” It talks about how they had many different backgrounds, but they loved to draw.

In all cases, inspiration from someone else helped pave the way: another artist, animator, cartoonist, or painter whose books, films, or paintings moved hearts and imprinted themselves on minds. These heroes and mentors made a path of possibility to walk down.

May the stories in this book inspire other artists in turn.

hmhbooks.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 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 Hidden Palace, by Helene Wecker

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

The Hidden Palace

by Helene Wecker

Harper (HarperCollins), 2021. 472 pages.
Review written July 14, 2021, from my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com
Starred Review

I loved The Golem and the Jinni so much, I preordered this book as soon as I heard that there was a sequel. I think you’ll enjoy this more if you’ve read the first book (and you definitely want to read it!), but even though it had been eight years since I read the first book, the important parts came back to me as I read.

Like the first book, I’m tempted to call this Historical rather than Fantasy, because the historical details of life in New York, both the Syrian neighborhoods and the Jewish neighborhoods, ring true. This comes after the crisis of the first book, and talks about what’s next for the golem and the jinni, now they’ve found each other. How do you build a life when your lifespan goes far beyond your human neighbors?

Meanwhile, we find out about two other creatures like our heroes: There’s a golem whose master is the young orphaned daughter of a rabbi, hiding in an orphanage. And across the sea, there’s a jinniyeh, outcast from her own kind because she can tolerate touching iron, but who hears about the iron-bound jinni who lives across the sea.

Chaya the golem still hears the thoughts of all around her, so she discovers when they notice that she’s not ageing. She’s going to need to make a new life for herself. Ahmad the jinni is much less deliberate. When his partner dies, he becomes obsessed with making a palace out of metal inside their warehouse. And when someone who doesn’t need to eat or sleep becomes obsessed, he can truly withdraw from the world.

This is another rich tapestry of a book, dealing with two people who aren’t actually human, but who are full of nuance. Can they stay in each other’s lives, or are they too different? This book feels completely realistic as it explores this question. We also see how each one has become part of a community, and lives all around them are touched by their existence. And we’ve got further thoughts about what it means to be human from the perspective of those who, technically, are not human at all.

This is a wonderful follow-up to an amazing story.

harpercollins.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 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 Red, White, and Whole, by Rajani LaRocca

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Red, White, and Whole

by Rajani LaRocca

Quill Tree Books (HarperCollins), 2021. 217 pages.
Review written April 28, 2021, from a library book

This is a novel in verse, so it goes quickly. Reha is telling her story and this is how she introduces herself:

I have two lives.
One that is Indian,
one that is not.
I have two best friends.
One who is Indian,
one who is not.

At school I swim in a river of white skin
and blond hair and brown hair
and blue eyes and green eyes and hazel,
school subjects and giggles about boys,
salad and sandwiches.

And on weekends,
I float in a sea of brown skin and black hair and dark eyes,
MTV music videos and giggles about boys,
samosas and sabjis.

In both places I have
gossip and laughter
music and silence
friendship.
But only in one place do I have
my parents.

I’ve read quite a few books set in middle school lately. As always, there’s plenty to navigate. Reha’s got her two lives, and at school is assigned to work on a project in English with a boy and wonders what that means. And she wants to go to the school dance, but will her parents let her?

Then her mother gets sick with leukemia, and all other concerns fade in comparison. This book is set in 1983 and reflects the treatments available then.

It’s a tough story, but I like the way Reha’s friends rally round. I also enjoyed the Indian folk tale Reha tells us about, regarding a princess who charmed Lord Death and won the life of her husband.

Reha’s mother’s red blood cells and white blood cells need to work together. She’s a hematologist, so she knows what’s going on with leukemia. Just as those blood cells need to work together, Reha wants the parts of her life to work together.

This novel is poignant and insightful, a quick read that doesn’t feel trivial.

rajanilarocca.com
harpercollinschildrens.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 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 Garden of Small Beginnings, by Abbi Waxman

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The Garden of Small Beginnings

by Abbi Waxman
read by Emily Rankin

Penguin Audio, 2017. 9 hours, 51 minutes.
Review written June 15, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

I read this book after reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by the same author, because all of Abbi Waxman’s books had been recommended in my Silent Book Club Facebook group as feel-good reading. They were right! This is a nice happy story about a young widow named Lilian, the mother of two girls, who gets signed up for a gardening class by her boss – and the class is led by a handsome instructor from Europe with a marvelous accent (especially appreciated in the audiobook version) who is also attracted to Lilian.

But Lilian isn’t ready to date, even though it’s been four years. And she doesn’t believe her kids are ready either. So the book is about Lilian working through that, and the gardening class, and the friends she makes in the class, and the family and relationships around Lilian, including her wonderfully precocious kids.

I do have a caveat: I’m an older single and have my eyes open for a match – with very little luck. I recently told off a couple of married friends who implied that I was overlooking possibilities. Trust me, that’s not a thing! And this destroys my suspension of disbelief when it comes to reading a Meet-Cute story. There is no way I can bring myself to believe that in real life the instructor would be single and available, near her age, handsome, and a good match for her. It just wouldn’t happen. And they are not even the only couple that meets in this book!

So, I’m going to have to switch over and read some murder mysteries or nice tragedies or maybe a revenge novel. I’m still glad, though, I finished this book – sometimes fairy tales are nice to read. And if you’re looking for a happy and thoughtful romance-after-loss about some delightful people you’ll be glad to hang around, I do recommend this book. If you’re turning cynical, though, you might need to set it aside. This is a feel-good book for people who are already feeling pretty happy.

abbiwaxman.com
penguin.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/garden_of_small_beginnings.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 Play Like a Girl, by Kate T. Parker

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Play Like a Girl

Life Lessons from the Soccer Field

by Kate T. Parker

Workman Publishing, 2020. 204 pages.
Review written October 31, 2020, from a library book

Play Like a Girl is another book packed with wonderful action shots of people from the author of Strong Is the New Pretty and The Heart of a Boy. This book features female soccer players – girls and women from all levels of soccer competition. Every photo includes a quote with the subject’s first name and age. Professional soccer players featured are given a short bio at the back.

The book is organized into ten chapters with ten “Rules,” things like “Keep Your Head Up” and “The Team Is the Thing.” The first page of the chapter has a short inspirational text with lessons from playing soccer. The rest is all quotes and photos.

This is another astonishingly beautiful book to look through. Almost made me wish I played soccer! This book would be a wonderful gift for any girl who plays soccer.

katetparker.com
workman.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/play_like_a_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 A Heart So Fierce and Broken, by Brigid Kemmerer

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

A Heart So Fierce and Broken

by Brigid Kemmerer

Bloomsbury, 2020. 445 pages.
Review written October 31, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

A Heart So Fierce and Broken is the second book in the series begun with A Curse So Dark and Lonely. And no, the series is not finished yet. The first book finished with a dramatic breaking of expectations with big implications for what would happen next – and so does this book. Both books seem to resolve most conflict brought up in the book – and then our tidy sense of completion is totally disrupted.

The first book is a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.” Harper is brought from DC in an attempt to break the curse. Meanwhile, the kingdom isn’t getting much governing, but she helps the prince get through that crisis and an attack from a neighboring kingdom. At the end of the book, though, without giving details, we learn there’s a secret older brother who should be the rightful heir to the throne. And he is the child of a magesmith and has magic in his blood.

This book is about that heir, who doesn’t want to claim the throne but also doesn’t want to be killed. We also follow the fate of a princess of the neighboring kingdom who was not chosen to be her kingdom’s heir but wants to see if she can bring peace.

I like the way the author puts realistic political problems (needing a harbor for trade) into the fantasy kingdom. There’s some horrific cruelty in both books which I didn’t like, though it does make the people working for peace shine more brightly.

I enjoyed this second volume greatly. It now doesn’t have much to do with the “Beauty and the Beast” story, but is an excellent tale of a group of travelers trying to navigate dangers on every side and figure out what course of action is best.

Yes, I’m going to want to read the next book. Amazon says it’s called A Vow So Bold and Deadly and will come out on January 26, 2021. And yes, Amazon says it’s the conclusion to the series. It’s been set up well.

brigidkemmerer.com
bloomsbury.com

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