Tag: friendship

Review: The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi (InfoSoup)

Diva is a little white dog who lives in a grand apartment building in Paris. She is so small that she is smaller than a foot, which makes her run whenever she hears footsteps of strangers coming. She loves to spend time in the apartment courtyard, though even there she is often startled or scared. Flea is an alleycat who spends his time moving from place to the place in Paris. He has had a lot of adventures throughout the city and has many tales to share. This unlikely pair meet when Flea unintentionally upsets Diva by hanging around her courtyard. Diva teaches Flea about things like going inside for breakfast while Flea teachers Diva about exploring out in the public streets and learning to meet people rather than running away.

Willems was living in Paris when he discovered this story right at his own apartment building, a little dog who was friends with a stray cat. He has taken that initial inspiration and created two outstanding characters in Diva and Flea. The combination of being pampered and frightened is quite clever and a much more creative choice than being pampered and spoiled rotten. Flea too is not stereotypical. He has a very metropolitan flair rather than being uncouth and rude. Their friendship develops right on the page, each of them learning from the other and seeing one another in a new way with each encounter.

The art by DiTerlizzi is gorgeous. He captures the compact vigor of Diva and her panic attacks. Then there is the rangy motion of Flea, where you can almost see him move on the page with his shifting muscles under his fur. Paris too is captured along with them as they look at the Eiffel Tower. I was grinning ear-to-ear to see Willems himself pop onto the page as the person that Diva first attempts not to run away from. Clever indeed.

Another winner from Willems, this book offers his fans a new chapter book with some grand new characters. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich

We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrich

We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich (InfoSoup)

Phillip’s best friend is Brock, the problem is that no one else can see Brock except Phillip. The two of them spend all of their time together and Phillip’s parents are supportive, waiting for Brock to move his motorcycle out of the way, giving him imaginary seconds at dinner. One day, the family heads to the Big Fair where Brock wants to ride the Brain Shaker. Phillip and Brock ride a lot of rides together and eventually Phillips falls asleep. Brock though still wants to ride the Brain Shaker, so he is left behind at the fair. When Phillips wakes up in the car, he discovers that they have left Brock behind! Brock is discovered by a little girl who has her own friend, Princess Sparkle Dust. She invites Brock to come home with them. But Brock misses Phillip and Phillip continues to search for Brock. Good friends are hard to find!

Goodrich is the author of the Zorro series of picture books and brings the same humor and charm to this new book. The subject of imaginary friends has been a popular one recently. This picture book shows a child not ready to leave their imaginary friend behind yet, which makes it much less of an issue book and much more cheerful in general.

The illustrations clearly keep the imaginary from reality, with Brock and Princess Sparkle Dust done in child-like crayon drawings that have a single color and a white background. Meanwhile the other art is more sophisticated and colorful. This lets the imaginary characters pop against reality, somehow giving them even more presence rather than less.

A strong and warm book about imaginary friends and friendship in general. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Buddy and Earl by Maureen Fergus

Groundwood Logos Spine

Buddy and Earl by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff (InfoSoup)

When Meredith comes home with a mysterious box, Buddy just can’t quite manage to stay on his bed. Soon he is exploring the box and discovers a strange creature named Earl inside, who claims to be a giraffe, though Buddy is sure that he isn’t and Earl’s not a sea urchin either. When Earl tries to guess what Buddy is, he never guesses that Buddy is a dog. Earl announces that he is a pirate, and Buddy finds himself called a pirate too. The two of them start to play together, sailing the couch into a storm. They are interrupted by Mom, who scolds Buddy for being on the couch and for playing with Earl. But when her back is turned, Buddy is right there near the box again, announcing that he knows exactly what Earl is: a friend.

This little picture book has a lot of depth to it. The simple story is given details thanks to the conversational tone of the text that is focused on allowing children to understand how this unlikely friendship develops. The two animals explore one another but are also figuring out one another’s personalities, something that proves much more interesting to them both rather than labeling their species. Playing pretend together seals the friendship, but then it is made even stronger when Earl tries to take the blame for Buddy being on the couch.

The illustrations nicely break the text into manageable chunks. The illustrations are simple, done in thick black lines and washes of subtle color. They have a pleasing roughness to the edges that offers a modern feel.

Friendship in a nutshell, this picture book offers an adventure for new friends. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

Archer lives in a house that his grandparents filled with all of their discoveries from exploring the world. That’s the closest that Archer has ever gotten to having his own adventure. In fact, he’s really not allowed to leave the house except to attend school because his mother is afraid that he has “tendencies” towards exploring. And she is right! Even though he is stuck in the house, Archer manages to make two close friends in Oliver and Adelaide. The three of them begin planning to rescue Archer’s grandparents from the iceberg where they were last seen two years ago. They have to avoid detection from Archer’s mother as well as their horrible teacher who also lives in their neighborhood. As they plan their escape, the three friends are in for the adventure of a lifetime.

It is amazing that this is Gannon’s debut book. It is written with such surety and clarity. The plot is very strong, one that readers can count on answering questions after allowing the reader to puzzle and stew a bit. The writing is lovely, creating a setting that is clear and crisp. The house itself is a world separate from the rest, filled with mounted animals, surprising gifts, and red trunks. Descriptions are used to create this world and paint it before your eyes. They manage to not slow the pace of the book, which moves from leisurely storytelling to a wild mania at the end.

The illustrations too are exceptional. Done in old-fashioned full-color panels, they are filled with wonderful details. You get to see the various houses depicted in minute detail. The characters too are shown in a wonderful delicacy that shines with lamplight and sun. Even the darkness of the classroom is lit from the side, glowing with a wonder that matches the storyline.

An imaginative and wonderful read, this book is one to snuggle up with and share aloud. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.

Review: Little Robot by Ben Hatke

Little Robot by Ben Hatke

Little Robot by Ben Hatke (InfoSoup)

The author and illustrator of the Zita the Spacegirl series returns with a lovely graphic novel that is nearly wordless. A little girl climbs out of her bedroom window and heads out into the nearby junkyard where she discovers a strange round object. Upon pressing the button on top, the object transforms into a small robot that has trouble even staying on its feet. But the little robot has been missed in the factory and a huge robot is coming to reclaim it. Meanwhile, the girl and the robot make friends with cats, discover flowers, skip rocks, and play tag. That’s when they realize that another robot is on its way. Now the girl has to figure out how to keep the robot safe while she is also learning the skills of being a good friend.

Hatke has a wonderful sense of story in this graphic novel. The fact that he can tell such a varied story with so few words is testament to the power of his artwork. The story moves from quiet moments of connection between the girl and the robot to times of fast action and chases. Those little quiet moments are presented with a gorgeous solemnity that is occasionally made even richer by moments of humor. The action is riveting and sharp, contrasting beautifully with the quieter moments. The pacing is dynamic and energetic, creating a book that can easily be devoured in mere minutes.

Yet the book is also worth lingering over. The connection between the two main characters is told in such a shining way that this is not a book to rush through. The balance of the book is so well done, from the design of the pages to the skill used to keep readers fascinated and also touched by the budding friendship. Hatke should be congratulated for creating a book with an African-American girl as the one who is drawn to tools and robots. She often uses her tools to fix things, showing that she has knowledge as well as interest. The incorporation of STEM is done with subtlety and yet is also pervasive through the entire book.

Strong and lovely, this graphic novel for younger readers will entrance lovers of robots and science fiction. It’s also a great pick for those ages that are a bit young for most graphic novels but still long to be reading them as well as for young reluctant readers who will enjoy the illustrations and the little bit of text. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from digital galley received from First Second and Edelweiss.

Review: Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett

Leo a Ghost Story by Mac Barnett

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Released August 25, 2015.

Leo has lived for a long time alone in his house. Most people can’t see Leo, because he’s a ghost, but if you are reading this book you are one of the special people who can see Leo. When a new family moves into the house, Leo tries to be welcoming by bringing them tea, but the family is frightened of the floating tray. After hearing how much they dislike him because he’s a ghost, Leo leaves his house and roams the city. He is invisible to everyone until he meets Jane, a little girl with a lot of imaginary friends. She thinks that Leo is just another of them and since Leo was so hated because he was a ghost, he doesn’t correct her. The two of them have a grand time playing together and she even gives him a sheet and pillow to sleep by his side. Leo is so happy that he can’t sleep. So he heads downstairs and that’s where he meets the robber who has entered Jane’s house. But what is an invisible ghost to do to stop a robber?

Barnett immediately invites readers into his world by allowing them to suddenly “see” Leo with the first page turn. It creates a real connection with the story and makes Leo all the more tangible to the reader. Barnett excels at creating a simple story but one that has strong implications to real life running throughout. This is a delight of a light ghost story, but it is also about acceptance, honesty and embracing who you really are.

Robinson’s illustrations are light hearted. Her art is done with acrylics and construction paper. Leo himself is see-through and rendered in what looks like crayon, making him very childlike and welcoming. While Leo is pale or completely transparent, the others are all rendered in deep blue construction paper except for the pale-skinned thief.

A book about acceptance and the power of a strong imagination, this picture book will be a welcome addition to Halloween story times. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Bridge, Tab and Em vowed to be best friends years ago and over a shared Twinkie swore that they would have one rule only: no fighting. Now that the girls are in seventh grade, things are starting to change. Em has gotten some new curves and is spending a lot of time with the other girls on her soccer team. Bridge has started wearing cat ears to school every day, just because they feel right. Tab has joined the social responsibility club and rails against anything sexist. Meanwhile there is a high school girl, nameless, who avoids Valentine’s Day at school and leaves her parents to worry about her, because she has done something dreadful. Em starts to flirt with a boy on her phone, and it progresses until he asks her for a picture of herself after sending her one of him without a shirt. Meanwhile Bridge has become friends with Sherm, a boy whose family just fell apart when his grandfather left his grandmother. As the book progresses, friendships become frayed, betrayals happen, vengeance is taken, and yes, the friends even fight. It is middle school after all!

Stead finely captures the feeling of middle school, of just being in the process of changing and growing up, of different people being at various points of maturity both physically and mentally, of meeting new people and maybe being attracted in a different way, and of trying to stay friends through it all. Happily too, it is a book that shows the heart of girls, the bravery of being a modern kid, and the choices that are made. This is not a book that laughs at the antics of pre-teens, but one that celebrates them and this moment in their lives in all of its baffling complexity.

The characters are all interesting, all likeable except for some of the secondary characters who are mean girls. There are many voices in this book from the three main girl characters to Sherm to the unnamed teen. They are all very distinct from one another. The author uses a technique of doing the teen girl in a different perspective than the rest of the book which sets those chapters apart. Despite the number of voices, the book remains clear and shows in many ways the difficult decisions that come from starting to try to figure out who exactly you are going to be.

Another amazing read from Stead, this novel offers a rich look at middle school. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Wendy Lamb Books.