The Sandwich Swap

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Raina of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Lily and Salma are best friends.  They do a lot of things together very happily.  But one thing they did’t agree on was the sandwiches they had for lunch.  Lily brought peanut butter and jelly on white bread every day.  Salma brought hummus on pita bread every day.  Each girl thought that the other girl must be suffering eating that icky looking sandwich every day.  One day, Lily blurted out what she thought of Salma’s sandwich and then, feeling very angry, Salma told Lily that her sandwich looked gross and smelled bad.  The two girls didn’t play together that day.  Their argument started a larger one in their school and then a food fight!  The next day, they sat together and each offered the other a taste of their sandwich which once again led to the whole school getting involved.

The writing in the book has a delightful rhythm to it, using nicely subtle repetition to underline how similar the girls are even in their differences.  The glimpses of their home life as each girl thinks about how their sandwich is made by loving hands adds a lot to the story as well.  Tusa’s illustrations are done in her signature style with plenty of emotion.  They also have a lovely interplay of white space and color washes that make them eye catching and work well when placed with little text or a page filled with text. 

Highly recommended, this book is ideal to start a discussion of differences in a classroom, especially cultural ones.  I love that the book uses food to bring children together, because it can be such an ambassador for different cultures and even different families in the same culture.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

Bruiser was voted “Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty” by the kids at school.  So when Tennyson’s twin sister Bronte starts dating Bruiser, he is very concerned.  Bruiser is a real loner, involved in almost nothing at school, just heading home directly after classes end.  When Tennyson follows him home, he discovers that Bruiser lives with his abusive uncle and his half-brother.  Tennyson never backs away from confrontations with others, so he is surprised to find himself shaking Bruiser’s hand in friendship and even helping to dispose of a dead bull carcass.  As the relationship between Bruiser and Bronte deepens, Tennyson becomes closer to Bruiser too.  That’s when strange things begin to happen that show them just why Bruiser is a loner and why his uncle is desperate to keep him home.  Written from the perspectives of Tennyson, Bronte, Bruiser, and Bruiser’s brother, this book transports the reader to a powerful place where love and friendship carry a unique pain.

I have been a fan of Shusterman ever since reading The Eyes of Kid Midas back in the 1990s.  I love that he writes of magic in the real world, yet never shies away from what the magic brings to life.  No one wakes up from a dream in these books or loses their powers.  Instead they have to learn to live with what they have.  Shusterman’s novels are also allegories for real life without magic.  Here readers will find a physical manifestation of the pain and power of love and friendship.  Bruiser and his flesh are tangible examples of the torment of life.

Shusterman’s writing here is well done.  His characters are multi-dimensional and interesting.  The twins are more than simply two sides of a coin, showing great depth of character.  When Bruiser takes his first turn as narrator, Shusterman’s writing soars.  Bruiser’s sections are in verse, unlike the others.  His pain and torment is right there, shouting to the reader about the frustration and loneliness of his life.  It is gorgeous and extraordinary.

Highly recommended, this book takes readers on a journey that will be difficult to forget.  If you enjoy this book, make sure to check out others by Shusterman.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.