Tag: love

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian

Worm Loves Worm by JJ Austrian

Worm Loves Worm by JJ Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato (InfoSoup)

Two worms have fallen in love and decide to get married. They get lots of advice from other insects. Cricket offers to marry them. Beetle insists on being the “best beetle.” The Bees want to be the bride’s bees. Cricket tells them that they need rings for their fingers, but they don’t have fingers so they wear the rings as belts. There has to be a band and a dance even though the worms don’t dance, they just wiggle. Then come the clothes and the cake. But which worm is the bride and which is the groom?

Austrian has created a completely fabulous picture book. What starts as a look at weddings and marriage broadens to become about the ability to marry whomever we love. By the end, the gender of either worm stays completely ambiguous and all that matters is that they can be married to one another because they love each other. The message is simple and creatively shown. The gender-free worms are a perfect pick for the main characters, offering lots of personality without committing to either gender.

Curato’s illustrations are wonderfully jolly. They capture the rather sanctimonious Cricket and the stuffy beetle with their conservative dress and attitudes. The merry bees are more friendly, but also help insist on a bride and groom. The worms themselves contrast with the others in their plainness and joy in one another. While they are unruffled by the rules of being married, their take on love wins in the end.

A celebration of the freedom to marry, this picture book is sure to cause a new stir among the same crowd bothered by And Tango Makes Three. Enjoy! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Balzer + Bray.

The Red Hat by David Teague

The Red Hat by David Teague

The Red Hat by David Teague, illustrated by Antoinette Portis (InfoSoup)

A boy named Billy Hightower lives at the top of the tallest building in the world, so high that he is above the clouds. Then one day, another building is built nearby. Billy soon sees a girl on top of the building wearing a red hat. Billy tries to call to her, but the wind sweeps away his words before she can hear them. He tries to send her a note via paper airplane, but the wind snatches that away too. The kite doesn’t work either. When Billy tries to use a blanket to fly across the gap to the girl, the wind pushes him down to street level and takes the girl’s hat too. The vicious wind continues to push Billy around, but soon Billy has figured out where the girl lives and finds a way through the wind to see her.

Teague keeps his text very simple in this picture book. He tells a straight forward story, but one that also is about loneliness and how important it is to reach another person. It is also clearly a book about love, about obstacles and finding an alternate way to connect and be together. Children may see it as a book more about wind, and that is completely wonderful too. Some of the best books work on different levels.

Portis’ illustrations use a little gimmick of the wind being shiny on the page. But these illustrations are beautiful in their simplicity and the wind itself is so capricious and involved in the story that it deserves its own style and feel. Done in only a few colors, the red pops on the page, the color of love.

A lovely picture book that can be enjoyed on different levels by different readers. It would make an interesting discussion for slightly older children about imagery and hidden meanings. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

The Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is transformed into a tale of modern English teens in this masterful novel. Claire and Ella are the closest of friends, in fact Claire is in love with Ella. The two spend all of their time together and with their larger group of friends. When Ella is forbidden to go on the trip with all of the friends to the beaches of Northumberland, Claire goes without her. Throughout though, Claire is longing for Ella. Then she meets Orpheus, a strange and handsome musician whose music is so powerful that all of nature seems to stop when he plays. She calls Ella and holds the phone out so that Ella can hear the music too. That one impulsive moment sets in motion a story of profound love, deep loss, death and beyond.

Almond’s own writing is like the music of Orpheus. It creates an intoxicating blend of timeless Greek myth and wild modern teens. The girls become legends, their longing the desire of ages, their love the love to last all time. Orpheus is directly from myth, a wanderer who is captured in a love that seems to have been in existence for all time. There is such beauty here, not only in the myth itself but in the characters too. This book speaks to the power in each of us to live a story, a legend, a myth and to love in that way too.

Almond’s language is exquisite. His writing flows around the reader, inviting them into the magic that is happening on the page. He focuses on small things, showing how the tiny things in life are the most profound from falling rain to trees in the wind to sand drifting by. It is Orpheus’ music that brings these things to life for his listeners. And the reader falls in love with him alongside Ella, never having heard the music itself but having felt its impact to their bones.

Beautiful, mystic, and mythical, this book is a love song for young people, capturing the tumultuous feeling of tumbling into love and the tenuous nature of life and death. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

belzhar

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Jam has been taken by her family to The Wood Barn, a boarding school in Vermont for fragile teens.  After losing her British boyfriend, Reeve, Jam has been unable to function at all.  She just wants to be left alone with her grief and loss.  Jam spends her days sleeping and thinking about Reeve and how in only a few weeks their relationship grew into love only to have him die suddenly.  At her new school, Jam finds herself selected for a small and exclusive English class where they will read one author for the entire semester.  They are also given journals to record their feelings and ideas, old books that look ancient and valuable.  As Jam starts to write in hers for the first time, she is transported to a world where Reeve is still alive, where they can spend a brief time together, and where they can relive their experiences with one another.  All of the students in the class are having this experience and together they decide to only write in the journals twice a week to make them last, because no one knows what happens to this strange world of the journal when the pages run out.  By the end of their experiences in the place they call Belzhar, Jam must face the truths of her loss and her grief.

Wolitzer has earned acclaim as the author of adult literary novels and her short works of fiction.  Those skills really show here as she turns what could have been a novel about teenage love and loss into a beautiful and compelling work of magical realism.  When I started the novel, I had not expected the journals to be anything more than paper, so that inclusion of a fantasy element thoroughly changed the novel for me.  It made it richer, more of an allegory, and lifted it to another level. 

Jam, the protagonist, is a girl who does not open up readily.  The book is told in her voice and yet readers will not know her thoroughly until the end of the book.  It is because of Wolitzer’s skill as a writer that readers may not even realize until the twist comes that the book has even more to reveal.  Jam is also not particularly likeable, and I appreciate that.  Instead she is lonely, prickly, eager to please and complex.  That is what makes the novel work.

This is a particularly deep and unique novel for teens that reveals itself slowly and wondrously on the page.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Dutton.

Review: Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

hug machine

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

A little boy considers himself a hug machine in this fanciful cheerful picture book.  All day long the hug machine goes around giving hugs, because he is simply the best at hugging.  He cannot be resisted.  His hugs do many things, they can calm you down, cheer you up.  He hugs objects, animals, and crying babies.  He even hugs things that never get hugged, like porcupines (but not without the proper protection).  Huge whales are not too big for him to hug either.  What is the secret to his amazing hugging?  Plenty of pizza for power and knowing when he is too tired to hug anymore and just needs to be hugged by someone else.

Campbell uses simple text in this picture book, focusing mostly on the action of hugging a lot on each page.  He uses repeating structures but always throws in a nice little twist or change up that keeps the book fun to read.  The entire book exudes the warmth of a hug and the wry little touches of humor add to that feeling.  I must also say that having a book with a male character who loves being hugged and giving hugs is refreshing.  It’s also a pink book about a boy, hallelujah!

The art in the book is wonderfully warm and cozy.  It captures not only the loving hugs of the boy but the various reactions by the things being hugged.  Readers will find that the text often does not match what is happening on the page, making for more comic moments in the book.  After all this is the hug machine telling the tale, so he thinks people are a lot more excited to be hugged than they may actually be.

A loving and hug-filled book that avoids being too sweet and instead is a bright cheerful picture book perfect for sharing.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

half a world away

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Jaden was adopted from Romania four years ago.  He knows that he’s a huge disappointment to his adoptive parents, who had expected a much younger child than the 8-year-old who came off the plane.  Jaden gets angry sometimes and shows it in destructive ways like burning his stuffed animal.  He also hoards food, particularly bread.  He is obsessed with electricity and can’t seem to stop his bouts of aggressive running that always end with him hurting himself.  Now his parents are heading to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby from there.  But Jaden knows that he is being replaced by this new baby, a way to fix the failure that he has been.  When the family gets to Kazakhstan though, the baby they had chosen has already been adopted.  Now they have a new baby to try to bond with and it doesn’t feel right to any of them.  Meanwhile, Jaden has met a toddler named Dimash who is three years old and barely talks.  Jaden feels an immense bond with Dimash, but his parents say that they came for a baby.  For the first time, Jaden starts to feel a powerful emotion that is not pure rage.  The question is what he can do with this newfound love.

Kadohata gives us a completely unique novel for children.  The point of view of an adopted child is not new, but one this troubled and angry in a children’s novel is a powerful new voice.  As a character Jaden is a study in complexity and contradictions.  His emotions are constantly high, but he mainly feels rage.  He has never felt love, but manages to make connections with people that are meaningful for them.  He is not a stereotype in any way, wildly human and profoundly troubled. 

Yet Kadohata allows us to live with this boy without fixing him, without changing him, just allowing him to grow before us.  While Jaden does have a therapist and it is clear he is getting all the help his parents can find, that is not the focus of this book.  It is not a book about repairing the damaged child, rather it is one that gives that child a voice.  That’s courage in writing.

Strong, marvelous writing allows this book to be a stirring tale of love in its many forms.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 

Review: Love Monster by Rachel Bright

love monster

Love Monster by Rachel Bright

Love Monster lives in a world filled with soft and cuddly pastel animals and everyone loves them.  But no one loves a red, googly-eyed monster who isn’t so cute.  So Love Monster decides to head out and see if he can find someone who will love him despite not being cuddly.  Love Monster searches and searches for someone like this.  He even thinks he’s found them, but then discovers that he has not.  He’s just about to give up, but learns some things are worth working hard to find.

Bright does an admirable job of creating a book that has a very large message without it consuming the story too much.  She uses a narrator voice that is strong and individual which helps keep the book from becoming to sweet as well.  Love Monster is a great character, primarily because he isn’t a complainer and refuses to just settle for a life alone.

Bright’s art is bight and large.  Love Monster pops against each pastel page with the pages getting darker colored as the story progresses.  Finally, night has fallen and the stars come out in a black sky and Love Monster pops there too.

Monsters and love, sounds like a great Valentine’s Day book for little monsters.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.