Tag: families

Titans by Victoria Scott

Titans by Victoria Scott

Titans by Victoria Scott

Astrid’s family has been destroyed by the Titans, mechanical horses raced at a track near her Detroit neighborhood. Her father lost everything betting on the horses and now they may lose their home. Yet Astrid also finds herself drawn to the Titans and spending time figuring out the math to create the best approaches to turns. So when Astrid meets a strange old man who has a Titan of his own, the first generation ever made, Astrid knows that she just has to try to ride it. It is up to Astrid now to secure the future for her family if she can only prove that a poor girl and an old horse can win.

Scott has written such a rip-roaring story. It is a book that will hook those who love horses as well as those who love racing. It’s a book that is science fiction, but a near future that is all too possible, where the division between rich and poor is even more strong than today and where impossibly complex robotic horses come to life. Even better, it is a world that makes sense for the reader, one with great appeal and a strong heroine to cheer for.

Astrid is an amazing heroine. She has a brain that thinks in mathematics and physics, naturally bounding ahead of others. And she uses it not just to ride differently than the others but also to face the horrible traps set into the race track that change from one race to another.  Astrid is complex. She is deeply loyal to her family, yet does not tell them what she is doing. She also takes longer than the reader to fall for her Titan, something that works very nicely so that the reader is cheering them on together.

A riveting read that is compulsively readable, this teen novel has great appeal and will set anyone’s heart racing. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

My Dog’s a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari

My Dogs a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari

My Dog’s a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari and Anne Wilsdorf (InfoSoup)

Lula Mae really wants a puppy, but her mother tells her that times are hard and she will just have to make do. So Lula Mae takes a look around and decides that maybe a chicken could be a good dog. She finds the most likely chicken, one that is confident, and grabs it. She names the “dog” Pookie and puts a hair ribbon on its head. Her mother insists that whatever Lula Mae calls it, she’s not to bring it into the house. Soon Pookie is starting to act like a dog. She shepherds the other chickens around. She acts like a guard dog when Cousin Tater threatens Lula Mae and the baby with a garter snake. Pookie even manages to perform a search and rescue when Baby Berry goes missing.

This fanciful picture book is brimming with down home warmth. The book’s premise is wonderfully quirky, the substitution of a chicken for a dog. Readers will expect it to go very badly, but this book takes a more positive spin. Even as Pookie starts to act like a dog, she is still clearly a chicken reacting the way a chicken would in that situation. The humans interpret it differently, adding to the fun of the entire story.

Wilsdorf’s illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. They are filled with bright colors and show a vibrant rural lifestyle filled with chickens, woodpiles, and crops. Some of the illustrations show the paths of people (and chickens) running around and convey the panic of trying to find Baby Berry. Sharp-eyed children will spot him by following Pookie’s path.

Funny and entirely individual, this picture book is about making do and following your own heart. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.

Bear Is Not Tired by Ciara Gavin

Bear Is Not Tired by Ciara Gavin

Bear Is Not Tired by Ciara Gavin (InfoSoup)

This is the second book featuring Bear and his adopted family of ducks. In the first book, the bear and ducks had to figure out a home that worked for all of them. In this follow up, bear is getting steadily more and more sleepy as winter approaches. But ducks don’t hibernate and Bear worried about missing out on things throughout an entire season. So Bear decided not to sleep, but the ducks started to notice that Bear was acting differently. Bear tried and tried to stay awake, but nothing seemed to work. Finally Mama Duck pulled Bear aside and promised that if he slept through the winter, he would not miss a thing. And it was true!

Gavin has written another winning picture book about the unusual pairing of a family of ducks and a solitary bear. Here the story focuses on Bear and his unique need to sleep through the cold months. It’s a story that will speak to families who have people who respond differently to things, who like different activities, but still want to be with one another. Perhaps the ducks’ ways of including Bear in everything despite him being asleep will inspire new ways of thinking for human families to stay close even when they are doing different things.

Gavin’s art work has a lovely gauzy quality to it, giving Bear his huge softness. Meanwhile the little ducks are done in firmer lines. All of them have personalities that brighten the page and enhance the story. The little ducks are all characters, and it is clear through their body language alone how much all of the animals love one another.

A lovely winter read, perfect for curling up on a cozy couch or snuggled at bedtime. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad (InfoSoup)

Inge arrives at the small island town of Bornholm, Denmark via boat. She hasn’t eaten since the morning of the day before, thanks to missing her mother and the fish guts on the boat. Inge has never met her grandmother before, but now the two of them will be living together at her small farm. Inge brings with her plenty of laughter and trouble, but her grandmother does not seem amused by any of it. Over and over again, Inge gets into mischief, whether it is in a kicking contest with the donkey, learning how to walk in wooden shoes, or insisting that in 1911, girls can play on the grass at school too. Inge’s vibrant personality never stays down for long, but can this small island community survive her?

This book is pure silly and shimmering perfection. Inge is a marvelous protagonist, filled with life and the ability to get into great trouble even on a small farm on a tiny island. Inge is the real reason this book works so well, but so is her grandmother who proves the perfect foil for the rambunctious child. While I don’t want to spoil the book, it is the grandmother’s reaction to Inge that makes this book so special by the end.

The setting of the small Danish island also plays a huge role in the book. Set in 1911, the strict community rules rub Inge entirely the wrong way. Though some areas are moving in a more modern way, the small town keeps things traditional. With a strong focus on food, children will enjoy the changing menagerie of gingerbread creatures, the question of how thick a piece of cake should be, and the way that the grandmother feeds Inge with a beautiful determination held together by lots of cream.

A gem of a book, this would make a great read aloud for a classroom thanks to the large amounts of guffaw-level humor throughout as well as a winning young female protagonist. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.

Whatever Happened to My Sister by Simona Ciraolo

Whatever Happened to My Sister by Simona Ciraolo

Whatever Happened to My Sister by Simona Ciraolo (InfoSoup)

A little girl knows that something strange is happening to her older sister. She has gotten a lot taller lately and never wants to play any more. She doesn’t like pretty things and has become very secretive. She spends a lot of time in her room alone with the door shut. The little girl tries to seek out advice from her sister’s friends, but they all seem to be acting in a similar way. Her mom and dad are no help at all either. Then the little girl realizes that she misses her big sister so much and the way they used to be together. But maybe someone else feels that way sometimes too.

Ciraolo has created a funny and shining look at the transition from childhood to being a teenager. Told from the first-person perspective of the younger sister, the book reflects her confusion about the changes she sees in her older sister. Any child living with a tween or teen will relate to this book, laugh at the teens with their earbuds in, and also share in the feeling of being left behind. Throughout, Ciraolo honors the emotions of the child with a real tenderness.

The art is modern and dynamic with playful colors that surprise with some page turns. They beautifully convey the emotions, pages with loneliness are filled with gray while moments of connection are a glowing orange that jumps off the page.

A strong book about a moment in life that can be painful to process, this book shows how growing up can also be done side-by-side. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Flying Eye Books.

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

When an earthquake hits Japan, Kai tries to help his elderly grandparents escape the tsunami waves, but he is unable to get them to move fast enough. After the immediate crisis, Kai is moved from his home in Japan to the safety of Oregon to live with his cousins. His parents stayed behind in Japan to work on the nuclear power plant that was damaged in the storm. Jet is the cousin that Kai moves in with. She dreams of being the pilot of a boat on the Columbia Bar. One day she misses checking the tide though and puts her little brother in serious danger on the water. These two cousins, each wrestling with the results of their actions and the tug of their dreams, have to find a way to forgive themselves and move forward.

Parry, author of Heart of a Shepherd, has once again captured the courage of children on the page. The two protagonists are unique voices in children’s literature. Kai from Japan looks at everything in America as different and foreign. He struggles with his own role in his grandparent’s death and feels a loss of honor for leaving Japan and escaping to safety himself rather than helping rebuild. Jet is a courageous girl who struggles to make and keep friends. She is passionate about sailing and boats but also about her family. Jet doesn’t warm to people easily, and the two cousins face interpersonal issues between them that are organic and realistic.

The setting too is beautifully rendered. The Oregon coast and the Columbia River Bar add real drama and danger to the story. The ever-present weather and tides, the concerns with sailing and family honor, and the dreams of Jet herself meld together into a mix of adventure and destiny. The book has facts at the end about the Columbia River Bar Pilots and about Captain Deborah Dempsey who appears as a character in the book, the only female Columbia River Bar pilot.

Realistic and dangerous adventure in a beautiful and unique part of the United States, this book speaks to working to forgive yourself and overcoming adversity by doing the right thing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Two Is Enough by Janna Matthies

KidsLogoORIGINALFILE

Two Is Enough by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning (InfoSoup)

This picture book shows how one-parent families thrive with lots of attention to the child. It speaks to two being a great number, just right for snowball fights and ice skating. Two is perfect in spring too when planting seeds or picking bouquets. In the summer, two is just right for ice cream cones, building sand castles, and riding tandem bikes. When fall arrives, two is right for playing in leaves, carving pumpkins and marshmallow roasts. Two is just right the whole year long.

Matthies has written a bouncy rhyme here that lends a lot of dash to this picture book. The rhyme bounds along, encouraging children in one-parent families to see themselves as having something entire special. The book can also offer encouragement for children who have a parent who is away often too. As Matthies runs through the seasons and the joy of doing things with one another, she makes sure to show how two people can have a great time doing all of the things you may see as group activities. In fact, they are all the more special when done one-on-one.

Mourning offers a multicultural look at these families as well. Parents of different races appear throughout the book with three families forming the heart of the story. There are mothers with a child and fathers with a child. Grandparents also make an appearance, taking care of grandchildren in much the same way.

This engaging picture book offers a cheery look at small families and the joy that they bring throughout the seasons. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.