Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Sierra loves to play soccer, especially on the field that is well maintained with a real soccer goal, not two garbage cans next to each other. But now that she plays on a team, her aunt can’t come to her games because she has to work. Sierra’s coach tells her he is glad to have her on the team and asks her if there is anything she needs, but Sierra always says no. When her aunt manages to get time off to attend Sierra’s final game of the series, the game is rained out. Sierra knows that her aunt can’t get two Saturdays off in a row, can’t ask for two favors so close together. Sierra has to figure out how to fix this herself, because her aunt just has to see her play at least once this season!
Boelts has written this book poetically, with the lines in stanzas that make it read like a poem. She also uses phrases that turn it into poetry, repetition and spare but true language. Her writing has a great lilt to it, pointing to someone who speaks with an accent that makes their own phrasing dance. It’s beautifully done, fully capturing the love between Sierra and her aunt and the fact that the two of them are a complete family.
Castillo’s art adds to this feeling of family. The book is set firmly in an urban environment, one that is escapable by bus but also one that is home. The illustrations cement that setting. The thick black lines and bright colors also have a subtlety that is unexpected.
A celebration of a small family, an urban community and sports, this picture book glows with love. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
When the girl is found dead on the highway near Becca’s small hometown, the entire town is enveloped in the question of who she was and who killed her. All Becca knows is that she is going to leave town at the end of the summer, and leave her boyfriend behind too. But then her boyfriend breaks up with her right after they have sex, and Becca’s world shifts. She too becomes captured by the drama of the murdered girl and finds herself unable to move forward with her plans to head to college. Amelia Anne, the dead girl, was already in college. Caught with a boyfriend who no longer understands her, Amelia continues to date him waiting for the best time to break up. Two girls who end up in the same small town for very different reasons, one at the beginning of her life and the other at the end.
Rosenfield’s writing is unique and heady. She writes with all of her senses, creating a feeling that is almost smothering at times, flying high in others, and always remarkable. Her writing is best when creating a world for just two people, something that happens often here. Those dynamics ring true and painful and wistful.
Her writing about the small town and its history of death is also beautifully done. As readers, we inhale along with the characters, breathing in the scents of the woods and the roses. We witness the fact that small town knowledge can also kill, work through grief with people, and jump to the wrong conclusions. It’s an exhilarating ride of a novel that also takes the time to truly create its own setting and history.
Amazing writing, a violent mystery and a small town setting create a book that is impossible to put down, yet invites you to linger with it longer. Appropriate for ages 16-18.
Reviewed from copy received from Dutton Books.