I’ll be taking a long Christmas break with my family until January 4th.
May your holidays be filled with great books, reading together, and plenty of love and food.
One of the Survivors by Susan Shaw
Joey’s mother died in a fire a little more than a year ago, so when the new fire alarm system at his school starts to go off, it makes him jumpy. Finally, when the static combines with the alarm to garble the message from the office, Joey insists that his class has to leave the building. But no one listens to him except for his best friend Maureen. They are the only two in their class to survive the fire. Now Joey and Maureen are being accused of setting the fire by those who lost family members. Joey begins a journal to try to get some of the images out of his head, hoping that he can start to heal himself even as he struggles with the grief of an entire community.
Shaw, author of The Boy from the Basement, writes spare, electric prose. She has an ability to take an overwhelming subject and tame it enough for readers to truly understand the emotional wreckage left behind. Joey and Maureen seem younger than high schoolers in this novel, something that makes them read as even more vulnerable and damaged. Joey is a fascinating lens to see the events through, as he battles the guilt and loneliness of being a survivor. Joey’s story is told with honesty and great strength.
Highly recommended, this novel is a gripping and also thoughtful book about the consequences of small choices and the bravery it takes to survive them. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
A Friend Like You by Tanja Askani
Through photographs taken at her animal shelter and rehab center in Germany, Askani explores friendships. The photographs are unusual pairings of animals from pigs and dogs to owls and squirrels. The book has one line of text per photo making it very child-friendly though the textual content never matches the quality of the photos. It is the photos and the afterward that is filled with details about the relationships of the animals that really make this book special. Children will page through it again and again, and even adults will want to share the image of the bunny sticking his tongue out at a hedgehog. OK, I want one for my office wall.
Don’t let it’s cutesy cover and text fool you, this is a charming book with lots to offer. The book features wild animals as well as domesticated, making for some of the most intriguing photographs. Readers will ignore the text provided, and instead have conversations about the animals and friendships of their own. No one will miss the message that no matter how different we seem, we can be friends.
Recommended for libraries where the photographs will easily get this into the hands of animal-loving children. This won’t work well for a story time, because the pleasure is in the end pages and the personal discussions, but children will love having a chance to pore over the pages and share their favorite images. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by 4IQREAD.