Tag Archive: families


saving lucas biggs

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague

When Margaret’s father is sentenced to death, she can’t believe it since she is certain he is innocent.  But this is what happens when someone tries to stand up to the company that owns the entire town.  It’s also the company that owns Judge Biggs.  The only way that Margaret can see to save her father is to change Judge Biggs’ mind.  According to Grandpa Josh, her best friend’s grandfather, Judge Biggs used to be a good person until his father was accused of murder and hung himself.  The only person who can change the course of time is Margaret who has to use her family’s forbidden power of time travel.  But history resists change and Margaret only has a few days before history rejects her to make the necessary changes to save her father.

De los Santos and Teague have written a book that takes on time travel in a very refreshing way.  The idea that history actively resists change and that there is a physical toll on the time travelers makes for frustrating time travel.  Yet it feels right and also creates tension in the story at just the right moment.  The authors also explore company towns and how workers tried to stand up to unfair business practices.  Here there is plenty of action in that fight, including murder and gunfire as well as quiet desperation. 

Margaret is a winning character, one who travels in time very reluctantly but is given little choice when she is the sole person who has a chance of saving her father.  The story dives into complexity, never making things easy or simple.  One aspect of this is the way that redemption is viewed.  Characters are seen as changeable, able to be rescued from what happened to them even in their elder years.  This book is about getting chances to make the right choice in the end, forgiveness for poor choices earlier, and friendships that stand through time and betrayal. 

A rich and vibrant look at time travel, this fantasy will also appeal to history buffs.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

migrant

Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker by Jose Manuel Mateo, illustrated by Javier Martinez Pedro

In this bilingual book, a boy from Mexico talks about the changes in his family and his village as people leave Mexico to find work in the United States.  The story begins with the boy speaking about his village and how it used to be as a farming community with small farms where he would play.  But then things changed and soon the village was just women and children with all of the men gone to find work elsewhere.  When his mother was unable to find work in the village and his father’s money stopped arriving, the had no choice but to leave too.  The story changes to one of escape, hiding and running, one that mirrors that boy’s games as a small child, but they are no longer fun here.  The family makes it safely to Los Angeles, but there are new barriers in the way with the new country.

migrant inside

Told in a unique vertical format that echoes the ancient codex, this book uses its format to great effect.  First, it mirrors the sense of a journey across distances, across cultures.  Just opening this book feel different and special and then the length of the single page captures that sense of travel and quest.  The voice of the book is also exquisitely done.  The boy looking back on his childhood, seeing the changes and then the contrast of his childhood with the frightening present is filled with a taut tension that never goes away.

migrant pages

Even as I gush about the writing, I can’t say enough about the art.  Done in a single pane that continues through the entire vertical book, it shows the village, the train that allows their escape, and finally LA.  The art has an ancient feel to it, filled with tiny details, many people, plants, houses, and more.  It’s a tribute to the history of Mexico, the thousands of people who cross the border, and the beauty of their courage.

Unique and incredibly lovely, this book is one that won’t work in public libraries due to the format.  But it’s one that is worth celebrating despite that limitation.  Get this in special collections!  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books.

infinite sky

Infinite Sky by C. J. Flood

This book begins with the death of a boy but the identity of the dead person is not revealed.  We are then taken back to the beginning of summer, three months after Iris’ mother has left their family and just as the travelers come to stay in the field near Iris’ home.  She lives with her father and Sam, her brother, who continues to struggle with his mother leaving.  Iris starts watching the travelers in the field and becomes friends with Trick, a boy who is easy to talk to and easy to listen to.  Tensions start to rise as a theft is discovered and the travelers are blamed for it.  The long, hot British summer inexorably leads towards the death of one of the boys, but who is it?  Is it Trick or Sam?

Flood’s writing is beautiful and detailed.  The setting she creates of the British countryside in summer is one that is so finely drawn that you can see it in its entirety.  In fact, you can hear it, feel it, smell it too, so clear and strong are her descriptions.  The book’s structure of starting with the tragedy that defines the story adds a great amount of tension.  Because the boy who dies is not revealed until towards the end of the book, that mystery is a focus.  Yet at times one is also lost in the summer itself, its heat and the freedom it provides.

Flood has also created a complicated group of characters in this book.  All of the characters have complicated family lives, whether it is a mother who left or an abusive father.  Yet these characters are not defined by those others, they are profoundly affected by it, but are characters with far more depth than just an issue.  This is a book that explores being an outsider, falling in love, expressing emotions, and most of all being true to yourself and doing what you know is right.

A perfect read for a hot summer day, this is a compelling mix of romance, mystery and tragedy.  Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

this one summer

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

Rose goes to Awago Beach every summer with her parents, but this summer things don’t feel quite the same.  Rose’s friend Windy is also there and the two of them hang out together just like every other summer.  But Rose’s parents are always arguing and her mother won’t go swimming with them at all.  Rose and Windy find their own way to escape the fighting, they rent horror movies from the local shop.  While they are there picking out and returning their movies, they watch a summer of teenage drama unfold in front of them.  This is a summer unlike any others, one where secrets are hidden and revealed and where sorrow mixes with the summer sun.

Done by the pair that did Skim, this is an amazing graphic novel for teens.  It deals with that fragile moment in life where children are becoming teens and everything around them is changing.  These two girls are suspended in that time during the summer, learning about themselves, about their parents and witnessing events around them in a new way.  The use of a summer vacation to capture that moment in time is superb.  Yet this book is not a treatise on the wonder of childhood at all.  It deals with deeper issues, darker ones, ones that the two girls are not ready to handle yet.  And that’s what makes it all the more wondrous as a book.

The art in the book is phenomenal.  The two girls are different physically, one a little stouter than the other and both are real girls expressing real emotions.  And the larger of the two girls is not the shy, meek one.  She has a wonderful sassiness to her, an open grin, and rocks a bikini.  Hoorah!  The art captures summer days, the beach, what a face of sorrow looks like and how it tears into ones entire physique.  Done in blue and white, the images are detailed and realistic.

A glimpse of one summer and what happens during it, this book is about capturing a moment in time, one that is filled with depth, despair and desire.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from digital copy received from

crossover

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Josh Bell is a 13-year-old basketball star along with his twin brother Jordan.  They are the sons of Chuck “Da Man” Bell, who used to play European ball.  Now their father plays only with them, helping them learn the tricks of being a great ball handler.  Josh also has a beat, a rhythm that he patters when he plays, creating rap riffs as he runs on the court.  As he tells his story in verse, he also reveals more than just playing ball, he shows how he and his brother are becoming strong young men.  It just may be though that the strongest man that they know has some weaknesses of his own, ones that come at a huge toll. 

Can I just say how important this book is?  It is a verse novel, A VERSE NOVEL, for pre-teens that is about young African-American boys who are being reared by two involved parents in a middle-class home.  This book takes stereotypes and turns them on their heads.  Then you have the incredible verse by Alexander, capturing the rhythm of basketball and also the beat of an entire family.  The writing is so strong, so vibrant that the book can’t be put down. 

Josh is a great character as is his entire family.  None of them are stereotypes and both boys are different and yet similar to one another too.  They both struggle with playing the best, meeting girls, living up to their parents’ expectations, and discovering the truth about their father.  This is a coming-of-age story, but one that is dynamic and fresh.

Perfect for sports fans, this verse novel will surprise with its rap feel and its incredible depth.  Simply spectacular.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from library copy.

chandras magic light

Chandra’s Magic Light: A Story in Nepal by Theresa Heine and Judith Gueyfier

Chandra and her sister Deena were at the market when they saw a man selling a strange lamp.  There was a large crowd around him as he explained that the lamp gathered energy from the sun.  It would cost less money than a kerosene lamp over time, and it was much healthier too.  Chandra’s baby brother had a bad cough, and she knew that this lamp would help him.  But the lamp was too expensive for them so they headed home quickly to tell their father of the lamp.  But their father didn’t understand the need for a magic lamp or have the funds to spend on one.  The girls even showed their father a solar lamp that their neighbor had purchased, but still the cost was too high.  So the sisters decided that they would work to get the down payment for a lamp.  They picked rhododendrons in the hills and sold them at the market.  But even then, they did not have enough money.  This story focuses on the efforts of two girls to change the lives of their family members through one act of kindness and hard work.

This book draws the reader into the world of Nepal, evoking the sights, smells and sounds of the busy market before launching into an explanation of the importance of the solar lamps.  The authors make sure that readers understand the poverty of the family, the hardships they face and their inability to purchase the lamp they need.  The final pages of the book contain facts about Nepal and the way people live there. 

The illustrations are bright colored, filled with the colors of Nepal and with the bright colors of the clothing.  When the girls head to pick rhododendrons, the pages fill with the blossoms.  Those deep pinks and reds are also echoed throughout the home of the family and the clothes that the girls wear.  The colors are rich and saturated.

A strong female protagonist, a just cause, a glimpse of Nepalese culture, and a message of sustainability make this a strong addition to any library.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

we were liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Cady has been spending her summers on the family’s private island for her entire life.  She and her two cousins Johnny and Mirren were joined by Gat, a boy who became almost a cousin but also so much more for Cady.  The foursome call themselves The Liars, and during the summers were inseparable but barely contacted one another during the rest of the year.  But then one summer it all changed and now Cady can’t remember what happened.  She was found bedraggled and wet on the beach of the island, alone.  Now she suffers from amnesia and migraines, spending days in bed in severe pain.  But she is determined to find out what happened, even if the other three refuse to contact her any more, so she returns to the island.

Lockhart has created a mystery and thriller that is written like modern poetry.  She plays with construction in her novel, dancing between verse and prose masterfully.  This disjointed approach to construction also speaks to the way the entire novel is deconstructed and put back together again.  The book moves in time, flashing forward and backward, yet is never confusing.  Still, readers will be caught in this sparkling web, unable to piece together the mystery until Lockhart is ready for the reveal.  And she does it with great style and technique.

With such a character-driven book, the depiction of the characters is of paramount importance.  Lockhart excels in all of her books in creating characters who are real people, human and flawed.  She does the same here, creating in Cady a very complicated character that readers have to put together as a puzzle until it clicks together in the end.  The other supporting characters are equally well rendered.  Even the parental figures who seem stereotypical at first reveal surprising depth as the story continues.

Superbly crafted and brilliantly written, this book is one of the best of the year.  Get your hands on it now!  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Delacorte Press and Edelweiss.

abuelo

Abuelo by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Raul Colon

A boy and his grandfather spend time together riding horses and camping.  They have adventures outdoors losing the trail and even facing a mountain lion.  His grandfather taught him to stand strong like a tree.  Then one day the boy moved with his family to the city, leaving his grandfather behind.  The city was very different.  The stars were hard to see, but they were the same stars.  The boy learned to use what his grandfather taught him in the countryside.  He even stood up to a bully on the first day of school, standing strong as a tree.

Told in graceful free verse, this book reads quickly rather like a brisk horseback ride.  Completely controlled and peppered with Spanish, the book evokes the freedom of the countryside and also the lessons of strength being taught across generations. 

Colon’s illustrations evoke the differences between the country and the city.  The open freedom of the countryside is contrasted against the constraints of the city, yet the sky ranges wide above both and there is freedom when riding your bike just as when riding your horse. 

Free verse mingles with the freedom of the range in this multi-generational title, a perfect masculine accompaniment to Dorros’ Abuela.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

mermaid and the shoe

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell

King Neptune’s 50 daughters are all special and talented in their own ways.  All except for Minnow who tries to be like her sisters, but only manages to ask lots and lots of questions about things.  Minnow did not fit in with her sisters at all, often drifting alone on her own.  Then one day, she found a remarkable object in the water, a red shoe.  She tried asking her sisters what it was for, but none of them knew, so Minnow headed out to answer her own questions and find out what the red object was for.  Minnow swam closer and closer to shore, discovering answers to some of her other questions like why crabs don’t have fins.  Then she found out exactly what shoes were for and headed home to tell the others.  In the end, Minnow not only discovers the answers she is looking for, but she discovers exactly what her special talent is too.

Campbell, author of the uproarious Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters, returns with a quieter book that shows the same sort of depth as the first.  This book beautifully wrestles with deep questions about one’s purpose in life and how to remain true to oneself rather than give in to external pressure.  Disney’s The Little Mermaid comes to mind throughout the story, but in the end this is a unique mermaid story that holds up well against the Disney version.

The illustrations are rather haunting.  They pair the darkness of the deep water with a near glowing brightness of the mermaids.  The mermaids have drifting white-blonde hair that moves with the currents, fish tails that look like real fish, and small seashells to cover their chests. 

Beautiful, quiet and deep like the ocean, this book will find readers in Little Mermaid fans who may just have found a new favorite mermaid to adore.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

night gardener

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

A book sure to create some shivers, this is a thrilling gothic horror book for children.  Molly and Kip are two Irish children abandoned by their parents as their family fled to England due to the Great Irish Potato Famine.  No one will hire Molly as a servant until a man hires them to work for his family at their isolated and decrepit mansion.  It quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem in this family.  Molly finds a painting done of the family a year earlier, and they have changed considerably with their hair turning black and dull to their skin losing all color.  Perhaps it has something to do with the locked green door in the house, a door that Molly yearns to find out what is behind.   But opening that door unleashes a terrible force, one that answers your wants but destroys you in the process.  How can two children stand up to a centuries old curse?

Auxier’s storytelling skill is incredible.  He weaves a world of darkness, creeping misery and despair so cleverly that readers will feel the chill on their skin before it reaches their thoughts.  The children are steadily drawn into the strangeness surrounding the house and family, succumbing to the temptation of safety, the illusion of a home, and not seeing the proof around them of what is happening.  For the reader, this is a book that steadily builds and builds as the tension mounts and the nights get more frightening.  It is a wonderfully creepy read, one that simply can’t be put down.

The themes of the book are beautifully crafted.  The book speaks to the importance of love and family, but even more so it is about what happens when greed becomes consuming, literally.  It also is about the power of storytelling and stories, the way that they can teach, terrify and soothe.  And finally about the terror when a story comes to life right in front of you. 

An extraordinary horror novel for children, this book will be enjoyed by young readers but maybe not right before bed.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,021 other followers