Book Review: Emma Dilemma by Kristine O’Connell George

emma dilemma

Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Told from the point of view of the older sister, these poems show the intricacies of relationships between sisters.  Emma can be a very embarrassing little sister, especially at ball games where she is the one dressed in a feather boa and cheering loudly using Jessica’s name.  Emma copies everything Jessica does, but her hand also fits perfectly in Jessica’s when they hold hands.  Jessica is often the only one who understands what Emma is saying.  Emma can be naughty, stealing shoes, scaring people, filling Jessica’s room with loops of yarn.  But there are also the moments when the sisters connect over pet rocks, picture books, and jokes.  The climax of the story comes when Emma tries to reach Jessica and one of her friends when they are in a treehouse.  Emma falls and breaks her arm, and there is no doubt these sisters adore one another.

George captures the ins and outs of siblings with a skilled eye.  The book shows the complexity of the relationship, both the good and the bad, often right alongside each other.  Neither sister is the good or bad one, they are simply themselves.  The book’s tone is just right as well, never too dramatic or over the top.  Instead these are moments from what feel like real days, captured in poetry.  The touches of humor add to the appeal of the book as well.

Carpenter’s illustrations exude a warmth that works so well here.  Done in pen and ink and digital media, they retain their hand-drawn style with the bright washes of digital ink.  Each illustration is a picture of the lives of the characters, they reveal the emotions going on in that moment with a great clarity.

Highly recommended, this is a book of poems that any child with siblings will see themselves in and enjoy.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Young Readers.

Book Review: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

dead end in norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Released on September 13, 2011.

Gantos’ latest may just be one of his best, and with his successes before now, that is certainly saying something.  The book is an intriguing mix of memoir and fiction that has a protagonist named “Jack Gantos.”  Jack is a boy who loves history, war movies, and playing with his father’s war trophies, including a Japanese rifle.  When Jack takes a pretend shot at the outdoor movie theater screen from a long way away, the rifle actually goes off.  Jack gets caught in his parent’s feud over the use of a field, and ends up grounded for the summer.  The only way he gets to leave is to help a neighbor write the local obituaries.  Over the summer, he begins to help with more, including driving her on her other job of medical examiner.  When the original residents of their town start to die off, the question becomes if it’s murder or just old age.   One thing is for sure, you have to pay attention to history to figure it all out.

The writing in this book is clever and witty.  One never quite knows what is going to happen next, what new character will enter the story, or where it will go.  It’s a rollercoaster of a book, but one that is strong and steady as well.  Readers are in wild but good hands here.

Gantos has populated his story with all sorts of characters.  Jack is a boy whose nose gushes blood whenever he is scared, shocked, surprised, or emotional.  It becomes a barometer in the story of his emotions, and is just the first oddity of the book.  The neighbor lady who writes the obituaries is a character who is feisty, elderly, smart and sassy.  She is an unusual character for a tween/teen novel and one that enlivens the entire book.  Then there seem to be endless others that could be listed.  There is the police officer who rides a tricycle, the dead Hell’s Angels member who danced into town and could be carrying a plague, and Jack’s feuding parents too.

Norvelt is a great setting for a book.  It was a town created by Eleanor Roosevelt to give poor people a good start.  The economy was based on bartering, but that has fallen apart during these later years.  Now the homes are starting to empty, no new people want to move to town, and some homes are being sold and hauled away.  It is a town in disrepair that is not aging well.  Rather like the townsfolk themselves. 

A great read, this book has murder, some mayhem, and plenty of blood (though it comes out of Jack’s nose).   Get this into the hands of tweens and teens who enjoy humor and a bit of mystery.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Farrar Straus Giroux.

Also reviewed by

New Hunger Games Promo Shots

Three new photos from the upcoming Hunger Games movie!  You can see a blonde Josh Hutcherson, a brunette Jennifer Lawrence, and an undyed Liam Hemsworth.

You can also take a look at the Entertainment Weekly cover:

Via /Film.