Saturday by Oge Mora (9780316431279)
Saturday is Ava’s favorite day. It’s the day of the week that her mother doesn’t have to work and where they spend special time together. On Saturdays, they go to storytime at the library, have their hair done at the salon, and have a picnic in the park. And this Saturday, they were also planning to go to a puppet show that night. So off they set. But when they got to the library, the storytime was cancelled. Leaving the hair salon, their hair got splashed and ruined. The park was too crowded and loud for their regular picnic. Finally, when they got to the show, Ava’s mother had lost the tickets. Their Saturday was ruined! Wasn’t it?
Mora has written a picture book about the joys of busy families spending time together, even if things don’t quite go as planned. Both Ava and her mother are disappointed with each failure of their plans, but they are also resilient and optimistic about things turning around. When it all goes wrong, it is Ava who lifts up her mother’s spirits, explaining that it’s all about spending time together.
In her bright illustrations of an urban setting, Mora captures the hustle and bustle, the hurry to do something special. As a result, she also shows the love of this African-American mother and daughter as they help one another cope with disappointment. The illustrations are bold, colorful and celebratory.
Another winner from a gifted artist and storyteller. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker (9781549303043)
Nova lives with her grandmothers and helps out in their magical bookshop where they serve witches in the community with potion ingredients as well as spell books. One night, she discovers someone from her childhood in the woods, a werewolf named Tam. Tam has been battling a horse demon in the woods. Nova’s grandmothers head into the woods to capture the demon and discover something with far more power than they expected. Something is out to get Tam and merge werewolf magic with the demon. As Nova and Tam try to figure out the key to accessing Tam’s werewolf powers, they steadily fall for one another too. When the villain targeting Tam is revealed it will take everything they have to defeat them.
This graphic novel is an intoxicating mix of fantasy and romance with strong LGBTQ elements. The characters are layered and complex, something that is more difficult to achieve in a graphic novel format. The childhood connection between Tam and Nova gives them a place to build from in their relationship. The romance is lovely and sweet, progressing naturally as the two become closer. Family elements are also vital to the story from the grandmothers to ghost parents who also have opinions about how Nova is being raised.
Tam uses the pronouns they/them/theirs which is great to see in a graphic novel for teens. The grandmothers are a lesbian couple as well. These elements offered in a matter-of-fact way create a harmonious world full of queer love. The book offers this in a way that makes it simply part of the fabric of life, which is very refreshing.
A fantasy romance graphic novel worth falling for. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from library copy.
Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo (9780763694647)
This is the third novel in the Raymie Nightingale series, focused this time on Beverly Tapinski. After her dog dies and is buried under the orange trees, Beverly just leaves town. She catches a ride to Tamaray Beach, not having any plans other than getting out. There she finds herself a job bussing tables in a fish restaurant, even though she hates fish. She also finds herself a place to live with Iola, a friendly woman who lives in a trailer near the ocean. Beverly spends her days working hard enough not to think anymore. She makes a new friend at Zoom City, a boy who gives children a dime to be able to ride the mechanical horse outside the store. Beverly seems to be building a new life, but it’s still connected to the one she left behind even as she celebrates Christmas in July in August, joins a labor dispute, and finds a boy to hold hands with.
There is something very special about DiCamillo’s writing. She writes with a purity and simplicity that is immensely inviting for young readers. In doing so though, she lays the entire world open in front of the reader, filled with longing, loss and finding yourself no matter how far you may run. She also writes amazing secondary characters, who are alive on the page, filled with their own struggles and humanity too. Deftly paced, this book takes place in a very focused setting that belongs specifically to Beverly.
It’s a great feat to have a trilogy of books, each just as strong as the next and each focused on a different character almost entirely. The stories are just as compelling as the writing, skillfully telling the story of a girl’s heart on the page, and allowing readers to fall deeply into that person’s world.
A third winner in a powerful trilogy. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Candlewick Press.
The 2020 Indie Book Awards Longlist has been announced. The awards celebrate the best books from Australia every year. They include books in a variety of categories, including ones for young people. Here are the youth books on the longlist:
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
I Am Change by Suzy Zail
Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard
It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
Land of Fences by Mark Smith
Monuments by will Kostakis
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
This Is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield
Weapon by Lynette Noni
The Glimme by Emily Rodda, illustrated by Marc McBride
How to Make a Movie in 12 Days by Fiona Hardy
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals by Sami Bayly
Into the Wild: Wolf Girl Book 1 by Anh Do, illustrated by Jeremy Ley
Mr. Chicken All Over Australia by Leigh Hobbs
The Painted Ponies by Alison Lester
Tilly by Jane Godwin, illustrated by Anna Walker
The Tiny Star by Mem Fox & Freya Blackwood
A Trip to the Beach by Gwyn Perkins
Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
Rabbit and the Motorbike by Kate Hoefler, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9781452170909)
Rabbit is the sort of creature who stays close to home, never venturing far from his home in the wheat fields. He does dream of leaving at night, but never does. He also loves to hear about Dog’s adventures on his motorbike. Dog is older now and doesn’t ride any longer, but his stories are wonderful and carry Rabbit far from his home. When Dog dies, he leaves his motorbike to Rabbit. Rabbit tries to make it part of his life, leaving it in his garden, taking it inside his house, but never riding it. Then one day, he decides to just ride the bike to the end of the road. But roads are long, and soon Rabbit is off on his own adventure that echoes that of Dog, who he can feel riding along with him at times.
Hoefler’s skill at poetry is apparent on the pages of this picture book. Her words here loop the reader into the quiet of Rabbit’s wheat field, the beauty of his dreams at night, and the reluctant return to his regular life after listening to Dog’s stories. The longing in the story is beautifully drawn out, lingering across the wheatfield and whispering stories of the road as Rabbit weaves the motorbike into his everyday life.
That same emotional tug is shown in the illustrations as well, wheatfields in the sunshine and also wheatfields at night with the moon illuminating single blades. The drama of Dog (and later Rabbit) riding the motorbike is accompanied by swirls of color, showing the freedom and delight of the ride. The colors are a great mix of dramatic night and gentle colors in the daytime scenes that are airy and inviting to sink into.
A picture book about taking risks and finding freedom. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
The William C. Morris YA Debut Award honors a book for teens that is published by a first-time author. The winner will be announced during the ALA Youth Media Awards in early 2020. Here is the 2020 shortlist of five titles:
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool
Nya’s Long Walk by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (9781328781338)
This is a companion picture book to the author’s novel A Long Walk to Water. It shows the plight of people in the South Sudan as they search for clean and safe water sources within walking distance of their homes. The book focuses on Nya and her little sister Akeer. The two head out on a two-hour walk to get water for their family. But today, Akeer is not merry and active along the way. She drags behind and eventually is revealed to be sick and unable to walk any farther. It is a two-hour walk back home, and Nya has to dump much of the precious water back out to be able to also carry Akeer on her back. She finds that even when she thinks she can’t make it all the way back to the village, she can take one more step.
Park’s writing is captivating in picture book format, a lovely combination of pared down writing with dramatic content. Readers will believe that Akeer is simply going slowly at first, until her waterborne illness is revealed. The difficult decision to leave just enough water behind to make the walk possible is gut wrenching. The long and difficult walk is a gripping series of pages that show human resilience and strength vividly.
Pinkney’s art is full of movement and lines. They twirl around the characters who stand out on the page that has bright sunlight and brown dirt. The lines form halos around both of the girls, dancing on to mark their path and show the way.
A look at the impact of unclean water and the health crisis happening in South Sudan, this book also offers solutions. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.