Ballyhoo Bay

Ballyhoo Bay by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Derek Anderson

Every Saturday, Mira Bella taught art classes on Ballyhoo Beach.  She taught grandmothers, babies, squids, seagulls, crabs, otters, and seals.  The Ballyhoo Art Fair was about to be held, until one dreadful day where a billboard announced that instead of a beach there would soon be penthouse apartments and a casino.  But Mira Bella refused to stop, she gathered everyone together to create a Plan B and save the beach!  They headed to the city hall with banners and signs.  When all of them raised their voices together something wonderful happened at Ballyhoo Bay.

Put art and activism together in a picture book and you have one that I will cheer for.  Add the clever rhymes and silliness of Judy Sierra coupled with the bright and funny illustrations by Anderson and you have something worthy of a demonstration of your own.  This is a great testament to the power of art, the freedom of speech and the necessity of standing up for what is important to you. 

Share this one with art teachers in your schools.  Children will also love it because of its humor and style.  It is a breeze to read aloud because Sierra writes to be shared.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

It starts with a day off of school where a light snow in the Portland area brings everything to a halt.  The snow melts by mid-morning and Mia heads off for a day with her family in their car.  They argue about what to listen to on the radio, tease her mother about her cooking, and all is near bliss.  Until the accident.  Now Mia has to decide.  She is the one in control though she doesn’t want to be.  She has to choose life…or death.

This slim volume contains such heartache, such wonder and such tenderness that it should take twice the amount of words it does!  Somehow in under 200 pages, Forman has created a character who becomes not only real, but open and vulnerable and achingly available to the reader.  Through flashbacks, we get to learn about her love of the cello, the gift for music, her early relationship with her boyfriend, and her amazing parents.  Things are beautiful but honest: life with a boyfriend is not perfect and her parents are different from most.  This is real life with all of the troubles but all of the joy too.  Forman’s writing is gripping,honest and at times so gentle that it’s a caress.  Her writing is what makes this book work.  It never tumbles down the slope of melodrama, instead keeping true and unflinching.

Make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy for this one.  It’s nearly impossible to put down and equally difficult to get out of your head.  Readers of Lurlene McDaniel will love this, and find a book with writing to match the emotions.  Appropriate for ages 13-17.