Book Review: The Red Wagon by Renata Liwska

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Red Wagon by Renata Liwska

Lucy has a bright-red new wagon that she wants to play with so badly.  When she asks her mother though, her mother sends her on an errand to the market.  Lucy takes her red wagon to help her, but isn’t sure that it sounds like much fun.  On the way, Lucy and her friends have great imaginary adventures that include surviving a flood, being part of a wagon train, performing in a circus, and flying in a rocket.  By the time she gets back to her mother, Lucy is tuckered out completely but finally is free to play with her wagon.

Liwska is the artist behind The Quiet Book and The Loud Book.  This book is her first as both author and illustrator.  One could never tell that she hasn’t been writing books for children for some time.  She has just the right amount of text per page, clever pacing, and humor to spare.  It is all done from a child’s point of view with a child’s voice, making it very charming.

Her art is stellar with its spiraling lines that create soft textures.  There are small touches throughout that add humor and fun to the story.  I particularly like the three-eyed raccoon in the UFO when they are pretending to rocket into space. 

A clever, warm book about helping out and still having fun, this book celebrates the joy of a vivid imagination.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.

Also reviewed by Books Beside My Bed and Twenty by Jenny.

Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Released May 24, 2011.

Printz-award winning author, Libba Bray, returns with another modern story for teens that is filled with satire, sarcasm, and wit.  It is the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on an island. The girls must figure out not only how to deal with several deaths and the wildlife of the island, but also how to keep up their beauty routines and pageant skills.  As the days pass, the girls discover that they have far more skills than anyone would have thought and that it takes a woman to build a village, or at least a hut.  As their chance at a rescue diminishes, they discover that the island is home to far more than they ever dreamed or dreaded. 

The book begins as a chance to giggle at the poor girls who are left to fend for themselves rather ineptly.  Readers will smugly watch the beauties have tiffs and arguments.  It is all very satisfying to see them get their due.  But then the book twists, stealthily, until readers see the real girls behind the makeup and start to root for these heroines.  It is masterfully done and all with a lot of humor. 

Bray takes the opportunity to really give commentary on our American life.  She skewers beauty ads, commercialization, pert actresses, and reality TV.  She mocks popular stores and movies.  But this book has depth as well as biting humor.  The contestants who survive are portrayed as individuals, which gives us a cast of teen girls who are all unique and fascinating.

The book also remedies some of the worst tropes of teen novels.  First, the girls may love hot boys, but they do not need the boys to rescue them.  Second, those same hot boys are great for hot sex scenes, and this book has them for sure.  The girls have sexual encounters with no horrible things happening to them as payback for their slutty ways.  They have sex on their own terms, with the boys they choose, and the world continues to turn.  Imagine that!

Bray also introduces a lesbian character who doesn’t angst over being a lesbian, a bisexual, and a transgendered girl who finds love in a young pirate who steals her high heels. 

The cover is great.  I love the lipstick in place of ammo and the sash that if you look closely is battered and dirty.  It speaks directly to the book, its humor and attitude.

This book is wildly, laugh-out-loud funny.  Bray has created a read that is exactly what I needed in my late teens to see that I was OK the way I was.  Each and every teen girl will see themselves supported by this book, and hey the hot scenes alone make it worth the read!  This is a great feminist read for any teen girl. Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

Also reviewed by: