Book Review: Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo


Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo

Released July 5, 2011.

A young boy wants a pet very badly, but his parents always say no.  A dog is too big, a monkey too much work, a parrot too noisy.  One day, he sees a turtle at the park who is looking at him and follows him.  So the boy asks if he can keep it as a pet.  His parents agree, and the boy names the turtle Melvin.  But back home, Melvin won’t play.  He won’t eat.  Walking the turtle doesn’t work either.  The only time Melvin comes out of his shell is when he takes a bath.  The boy can see that Melvin is not happy in their house.  So they return him to the pond, where the boy will be sure to visit him often.

This is the first book that Castillo has both written and illustrated.  Her writing is pitch perfect here, offering just enough detail and with the right phrasing and tone.  It really feels as if a child was speaking in first person without becoming distracting.  I particularly enjoy the fact that the boy himself realizes the turtle is unhappy.  His parents follow his lead with the turtle rather than them leading him to a decision.

As always, Castillo’s art is very successful.  Her art emphasizes the urban setting of the book, playing the greens against the concrete colors nicely.  Her use of thick lines and soft colors makes for a book that is welcoming and warm.

A great addition to any story time on pets or turtles, this is also a wonderful read to start discussions about pets and keeping them safe and happy.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.

Book Review: White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick


White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick


Released July 5, 2011 in the US.

In a tiny English village that is being slowly eaten by the sea, Rebecca and her father spend their summer.  Rebecca is all alone, her friends back home ignoring her, thanks to her father being accused of something horrible.  Then Ferelith enters her life, a strange girl who speaks in riddles, plays dangerous and illegal games, and gets Rebecca thinking of something other than her despair.  But everywhere there are secrets, some hidden, walled up and shocking.  Some from long, long ago that have never completely died.  Some that search for angels or devils.  Some that may trap new people.  Secrets are at the heart of this eerie, frightening read that is perfect for dark summer nights.

Nominated for the Carnegie Medal in Literature, this book is a taut, thrilling ride that combines several elements into a disturbing novel that is impossible to put down.  There is the amazing setting of Winterfold, a town that is withering away as the sea reclaims chunks of the cliffs.  The setting is a powerful piece of the book, a presence that is important and vital to the entire story.

Then there are the characters.  Rebecca, a thoroughly modern teen, who finds life in Winterfold even for the summer entirely too dull.  Ferelith, the strange girl, who both loves Rebecca for who she is and also hates her for it.  And finally, the voice from the eighteenth century who speaks of horrors, of blood running, of experiments, that will amaze and torture.  They come together to create a book that is wild, vivid and scary.

A modern gothic story, this book is intense and horrific enough that you will want a light on.  Seriously.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

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