Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner

Gee would much rather be out running than sitting and hearing about the leaf project that is due next week.  Her place in sectionals is in jeopardy though, if she doesn’t get this project in on time.  But her life is more complicated than that and she has always had problems with deadlines.  Now with her grandmother’s health in decline, Gee has very serious things on her mind.  Plus her relationship with one of her best friends could be turning into something other than friendship.  And another girl is out to steal her place on the team.  Sometimes a girl just can’t catch a break! 

Perfectly set during the glory of changing autumn, Messner captures the season’s sounds, smells and feeling.  As Gee faces difficult situations that have her world changing, nature too is in mid-change.  Messner manages to capture this with a delicate hand, allowing readers to connect the two themselves. 

Gee is a wonderful heroine.  The combination of athlete and artist is an unusual one that works very well.  The characterization is very strong for not only Gee, but all of the people around her.  Nonna, the grandmother, is captured with a warm and heart that is exceptional.  The passages about her becoming more foggy and forgetful are written with a beauty and grace that is breathtaking. 

This is a pre-teen book that is not about kissing, not boy-crazy, and not pink!  It is a book that will work for many kids who are looking for something real and beautiful.  And who isn’t?!  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from publisher.

Also reviewed on A Patchwork of Books, Writing and Ruminating, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, and Welcome to My Tweendom.

Check out Kate Messner’s blog.

Nonfiction Monday: Building on Nature


Building on Nature: the Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Rodriguez, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

This picture book biography of the renowned Spanish architect and artist is a true celebration of his art and gift.  Readers follow Gaudi from his sickly boyhood to his dreams of rebuilding cathedrals and his study of architecture.  Then, of course, Gaudi goes his own way, covering a house in colorful tiles, creating ramps for horses to reach a stable in the basement, and making balconies from what looks like huge bones.  All of his buildings are unique and unlike anyone else’s.  They turn the rules on their head and are filled with imaginative touches, both small and big.  The book ends with a fascinating author’s note, links to see photos of the buildings online, and a bibliography.

Rodriguez takes a complicated subject and lengthy life and distills them down to just the right level for young readers.  She excels as using only a few words, not over-explaining things, and letting Gaudi’s work speak for itself.  As she describes Gaudi’s buildings, her prose is almost poetry.  Paschkis’ gouache illustrations are vivid, colorful and dynamic.  Her work embraces the swirling lines of Gaudi’s celebrating him in ever whorl. 

Recommended for art classes in elementary schools, this picture book captures the essence of Gaudi with style and color.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Check out the interview with illustrator Julie Paschkis on Jacket Knack.