Review: After the Kill by Darrin Lunde

after the kill

After the Kill by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Catherine Stock

Explore what happens after the lioness kills a zebra on the Serengeti Plain.  While the hunt and the kill are part of the story, they are only the beginning.  After the zebra is killed, the lion pride comes to eat and then other species start to gather.  There are the vultures who share with the lions.  Then the hyena clan that is able to drive the lions away and claim their share.  Jackals use trickery to grab some food for themselves.  The lions reclaim the carcass and continue to eat until they are sated.  Other vultures arrive.  The small scraps of flesh that remain are eaten by meat-eating beetles until the bones are white in the African sun. 

Lunde, a mammalogist at the Smithsonian Institute, creates a compelling story here.  There is no shying away from predator and prey, just a frank description of the food chain.  Nicely, Lunde injects his narrative with plenty of detail, noises, and an obvious love of his subject.  He paints a verbal picture of what is happening, helping young readers better understand what is actually happening.  The pieces of the book in the smaller font have additional scientific information that readers will find fascinating. 

Stock’s illustrations have a bright, hot quality to them thanks to the yellow tones throughout.  The heat of Africa is built into every page.  She also embraces the kill, the scavenging, and the story, creating a book filled with action-filled images.

An unflinching look at the battle for food on the Serengeti Plain, this book will be riveting for young readers.  Appropriate for ages 5-8, though this is a book that some children may find upsetting, so it is important to be aware of the sensitivity of the child you are sharing it with.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

Review: Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

level up

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, illustrations by Thien Pham

As a child, Dennis was forbidden from playing video games.  When his father died, he played them all the time.  He was even good enough to consider playing on the professional circuit.  But that was before THEY showed up.  Four cute little angels with plenty of attitude and a lot of bossiness seemed to know exactly what Dennis should be doing with his life, and it certainly was not video games.  Instead, they pushed and insisted in his father’s name that he start studying hard and then go to medical school.  But will Dennis find happiness there?  Or will he return to his love of gaming?

Yang captures the tension between following your own dreams and following those of your parents.  The four angels serve as universal parental voices, insisting that the future path is set and that one must fulfill one’s destiny.  The writing is infinitely readable, down-to-earth and yet striking.  The book wrestles with important themes, using the graphic format to lighten things but still looking deeply at the choices that shape a life.

Pham’s illustrations are filled with simple lines, washes of color, and often have a play of light and dark backgrounds in different frames on a page.  But if one looks at the illustrations, they are well rendered, interesting and far more than the simple lines may originally seem.

This book has teen and gamer appeal galore.  Before I got to read it myself, my husband and two sons had to read it first.   Both the theme of video games and the graphic format made it impossible for them to pass up.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

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2011 National Book Award Nominees

The nominees for the 2011 National Book Award have been announced.  And this year, the Young People’s Literature category has six nominations instead of the normal five due to miscommunication.

Here are the six nominees:


Chime by Franny Billingsley (my review)

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (my review)

My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson


Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (my review)