Tag: siblings

Review: How to Share with a Bear by Eric Pinder

How to Share with a Bear by Eric Pinder

How to Share with a Bear by Eric Pinder, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Thomas made a pillow cave on a cold day. But when he went to get a flashlight to read by, he noticed that something big had taken over the cave. Something with two brown eyes looked back at him when he looked inside. It was a bear! To get the bear out of his cave, Thomas laid a trail of blueberries down the stairs and sure enough, the bear followed eating them up. Thomas ran to get books to read in his cave, but he was too late and the bear had already returned. He tricked the bear with a back-scratching stick and then got inside the cave, but stray bear fuzz had him sneezing and running for a tissue. In the meantime, the bear returned. Thomas tricked the bear again and again into leaving the cave, but when the bear returned finally and Thomas was already in the cave, something happened. The bear started to cry, revealing himself to be Thomas’ younger brother. There was only one thing to do!

Pinder has created a book sparkling with creativity. His young protagonist who is battling the invasive brother bear comes up with clever ways again and again to trick the bear into leaving the cave. Pinder keeps each of the tricks appropriate for both a bear and a little boy, keeping the audience entirely fooled until his reveal. I was completely convinced of this being a little bear and expected the book to end with a teddy bear of some kind. It was a delight to discover a different twist that speaks to how to be a good older sibling.

The illustrations from Graegin are key to keeping the audience convinced of the bear being real. She subtle makes sure that the face is not shown until that moment of reveal. The book glows with a yellow warmth that invites curling up under a blanket or in your own pillow cave to read it.

A great pick for bear story times, this picture book shows how hard sharing can be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Review: Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus

Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia

I’ve been a big fan of Anna Hibiscus since the first titles were released. Those books were chapter books and it’s great to see the transition to picture books about Anna continue. In this book, Anna wakes up one morning to discover that her mother has given birth to two baby brothers. Her cousins inform her that baby boys are trouble and Anna Hibiscus quickly sees that that is true. When she wants to snuggle with her mother, she is sleeping. Her grandmother too is sleeping after being up all night helping with the birth. Her uncle is too busy making food for her mother to get Anna her regular breakfast. Her aunts are busy rocking the babies. Finally, it is too much for Anna Hibiscus to take and she starts to yell and cry. After all that fuss though, Anna Hibiscus quickly realizes that while things may take longer now, her family is still right there beside her.

The story deals directly with the mixed emotions that come from having new siblings, from the surprise of their arrival to the lack of attention for the older sibling. These classic emotions are shown clearly here, despite Anna Hibiscus having such a large family around her. Readers will notice that she has lots of support, though she is not noticing it at all. The emotions build quickly and steadily to a breaking point and the resolution of Anna Hibiscus’ outburst is filled with understanding and kindness.

The art work is lovely, clear and clean. The beauty of African life is shown on the page as is the loveliness of the mixed races of Anna Hibiscus’ family.  As always, the warmth of the lifestyle that Anna Hibiscus grows up in is radiantly shown in the images.

Another winning Anna Hibiscus book, perfect for new older siblings who may have double or single troubles of their own. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Kane Miller.

Review: Untwine by Edwidge Danticat

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat (InfoSoup)

Giselle and Isabelle are identical teen twins on their way to Izzie’s concert at school when their car is crashed into and their lives changed forever. Giz wakes up in a hospital room, unable to speak or move. She can hear though and is in a semi-conscious state. That’s how she realizes that everyone thinks that she is Isabelle. People don’t mention her at all, avoiding the subject, but Giz is sure that she would know if Isabelle had died. Her parents eventually come to see her, both physically battered by the accident and with bruises, broken bones and casts. Trapped and unable to communicate, Giselle thinks about her past with her family, their strong ties to their Haitian heritage and the bond that she and her sister have always had.

Danticat is an award-winning author of several adult books. This is her debut YA title. Her writing is superb. Told in Giz’s voice, the prose lilts and dances like poetry. It weaves around the reader, creating moments of clarity and then as Giz reminisces about her family and sister lifting into pure emotion. Nothing is told, all is shown and there is a radiance to the entire novel that is sublime.

Giz is a strong heroine. Haitian-American, she is solidly connected to her heritage through her grandparents who still live in Haiti. It’s a joy to see a depiction of a family of color who are complex and far from stereotypical. Giz is a large part of this. Her voice is clearly her own, her upbringing affects everything around her, and being a person of color is at the core of this novel yet not at center stage. It is done with a delicate yet firm hand.

One of the most beautifully written teen novels of the year, this look at sisterhood, death, grief and family is hauntingly lovely. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.

Review: A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder (InfoSoup)

Luna lives in a swamp that was formed when a dam formed in the river by fallen trees. She lives with her mother, grandmother and little sister Willow in a village on stilts above the swamp water. Everyone in the village knows not to drink the swamp water, particularly the water near the slick. But when Luna has Willow out on her boat with her, water accidentally gets into her mouth. The water was helped by a creature who lives deep in the muck of the swamp. Now Willow only has a few weeks to live, since everyone exposed to the water dies at the exact same time after drinking it. Luna is desperate to find a way to save her sister, even going so far as to offer herself to the creature under the water. But that creature too has her own story that is wrapped around Luna and Willow’s. It too is a story of sisters and also a loss so deep that it poisons. In her desperation can Luna find a way to save her sister?

Crowder writes so beautifully. The setting of the swamp comes alive with her words, the creatures of the swamp, the trees, the colors, the smells and the subtle beauty. She takes what could have been a desolate poison swamp and instead wraps it in beauty and wonder. The magic that permeates the story is deep and dark, and keeps the humans trapped in the swamp with it. It’s lovely to see a fantasy book use magic in a way that is twisted and corrupted and yet entirely organic and realistic too.

The parallel stories of the two sets of sisters is delicately balanced. There is the main story of Luna and Willow, two human sisters who adore one another and the place they live. Then there are the water sprite sisters, Perdy and Gia. The sprites are trying to leave this world and build a door to another place that doesn’t have humans in it. Gia spends her time near the door, waiting for it to be complete while Perdy explores far and wide. But disaster happens once the door is completed and Gia is unable to call Perdy home fast enough.

Lushly written and filled with details that bring the swamp to life, this novel is a magnificent fantasy read. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Little Big by Jonathan Bentley

Little Big by Jonathan Bentley

Little Big by Jonathan Bentley

A little boy thinks that it would be much better to be big than so little. After all, his older brother can reach the cookie jar and ride a bicycle. If the little boy had legs as long as a giraffe, he would be able to outrace his brother up the hill. On the other hand, he wouldn’t be able to ride in the wagon behind his brother’s bike anymore. If he had big hands like a gorilla, he would be able to open the cookie jar with no problems. But then, he wouldn’t be able to fit in his playhouse to eat them. If he had a mouth as big as a crocodile’s, he could tell his brother to go to bed early. But then, he would miss him too. Perhaps being little isn’t entirely bad after all.

Originally published in Australia, this picture book has a lot of playful appeal. The universal feeling of younger siblings is that they wish that they were bigger. Here, that yearning for being bigger is combined with some even larger animals. The book tells the story purely in the little boy’s voice, keeping the perspective clearly that of a small child. Yet the logic all works from that point of view too.

The illustrations are a mix of watercolors, pencil and scanned textures. They have a warmth and vibrancy to them which is very appealing. While the thought of a small child wanting to be bigger is not unique to this book, it is the illustrations which make this a book worth seeking out. The animals that the toddler dreams of being like are his toys that he carries around from one page to the next, making for a book that has a completeness and wholeness about it.

A delightful book that shows littler ones that they have advantages too, this picture book is ideal for sharing one-on-one so the details of the illustrations are not missed. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Review: Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols

Maple and Willow Apart by Lori Nichols

Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols (InfoSoup)

Maple and Willow love playing together but what is going to happen when Maple goes off to kindergarten for the first time. On the first day, Maple came back from school and talked all about it. Willow had spent her day with a new friend, Pip, a friendly acorn she met. The next day Willow explored outside and Maple once again had lots of stories about her day when she returned home. Each day, Maple has stories about school but Willow also has stories about her day with Pip and all of the things they did together. Soon Maple is rather regretful about heading off to school, but the girls soon figure out a way that their days can still keep them in touch with one another.

This third book about Maple and her sister Willow delicately captures the experience of both the sister being left behind at home and the sister going off to school. There is the excitement of a new adventure for the older sister, the feeling of abandonment for the younger. There is the pull of wanting to be together for both of them, especially when the games at home seem so much fun. Nichols nicely figures out a way that works perfectly in the story for the girls to be connected and for their stories and experiences to continue on together in unison.

The art in all of the Maple and Willow books shines. Done in pencil on Mylar and digitally colored, the illustrations have a lightness that is captivating. The use of big colorful maple leaves is also very effective, and adds a distinct fall flavor to the entire read.

A great pick for families with children heading off to school for the first time and also for those left behind too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Review: Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (InfoSoup)

Sunny has been sent to spend the summer with her grandfather in Florida. He lives in a retirement community where there are no children or pets allowed. Sunny tries to make the best of it despite the squeaky fold-out bed and her grandfather’s slow pace of life where an outing is a trip to the post office. Then Sunny meets Buzz, the son of the groundskeeper who teaches her about superheroes and comic books. Throughout the story, there are flashbacks to before Sunny came to Florida that involve her wild older brother. His behavior went from disobeying small rules to abusing drugs and alcohol. The tension builds until Sunny’s perfect beach vacation with her best friend has to be changed to sending her away to stay with her grandfather. This book explores the impact of having a family member who is an addict, the guilt children feel about it, and the shame they experience.

In the final pages of the book, Holm reveals that they grew up in a home where a close family member had addiction issues. You can see their first-hand experience in the book where Sunny’s deep emotions about what is happening to her family are held inside until they become too much. All of the emotions throughout this graphic novel are done superbly and communicated in a way that makes them easy to understand and relate to.

Sunny is a great lens to view addiction through, first naively and then as she starts to understand what is happening with a feeling of being part of the problem and contributing to her brother’s deteriorating situation. Even as she goes to Florida and fills her days with finding cats and collecting small rewards that she spends on comic books, she can’t escape what having a sibling with an addiction has done to her and her family.

A book that demonstrates that graphic novels with lighthearted illustrations can deal with big issues, this graphic novel is superb and belongs in every public library. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Graphix and Edelweiss.