Review: Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre

giants beware

Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre, illustrated by Rafael Rosado

Claudette lives in a town protected by a huge wall to keep the giant out.  Years earlier, the town had been terrorized by The Baby-Feet Eating Giant who still figures into most of the stories to keep the children in town in line.  Claudette though knows that she is brave enough to slay any giant, so she sets out with her wooden sword to kill the giant.  She brings along her friend Marie who desperately wants to be a princess and her younger brother Gaston who is a disappointment to their father who wants him to be more brave.  Gaston on the other hand wants to be a chef.  The three children head out on their quest that will take them through the Forest of Death, across the Mad River, and up to the Giant’s Peak.  Unfortunately, their parents are following them to bring them back home before their adventure is really complete!  Can Claudette kill the giant before being dragged back to safety?

How I love a book that turns gender stereotypes on their head.  In Claudette, a spunky girl who is brave and ferocious, the author does just that.  Claudette is wild, heroic and along the way learns a lot about being a better friend and sibling.  Told with plenty of humor, the storyline is tight,  and the world building is amazing.

Rosado’s illustrations shout with color and energy.  This full-color graphic novel gets a lot of its appeal from the strength of the illustrations, their clarity and the skill with which the story is depicted. 

Highly recommended for all library collections, this is a graphic novel that has broad appeal.  Here’s hoping there are more monsters to slay in upcoming episodes of this feisty red-headed heroine!  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

Review: Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

dying to know you FINAL

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

When Karl’s girlfriend Fiorella asks him to write down his feelings about their relationship and answer a list of questions, he turns for help to a famous writer who lives in their town.  Karl is dyslexic which makes writing very difficult for him, as was the author who suffered as a child from minor dyslexia.  The author agrees to help Karl as much out of loneliness as a willingness to help.  He is drawn to Karl, who is similar in many ways, bright and eager.  He insists that Karl meet with him and give his own answers to the questions which the writer will in turn polish into something worthy of Fiorella’s attention.  As the two spend time together, their relationship deepens slowly into a true friendship.  When Fiorella finds out about the truth of the letters, it impacts the relationship not only of her and Karl but also of Karl and the author.

Chambers has created an amazing book here.  I found it nearly impossible to summarize because so much of the book is the growing connection between the two male characters.  It happens slowly and believably during fishing, quiet moments of driving, and conversation.  It is a look at how we choose connections in our lives and how they impact the life we lead.  While the book may be a quiet one, it also is daring in its own way, revealing the inner world of a young adult, written with truth and honesty.

The two men both face previous losses that have colored the way they face the world.  Karl lost his beloved father at a young age, and still struggles with his connection to his father and with disconnecting from that loss.  The author has recently lost his wife.  The two of them both struggled with depression and grief, sinking lower into a dangerous place with thoughts of suicide. 

Chambers also weaves in the role of art in our lives, the power of that to connect us to the world and the drive to create and be imaginative.  With Karl, who is a plumber, this connection to art is not an obvious one.  It takes time, just like their budding friendship, for the reader to come to understand Karl more deeply. 

I wish I could easily capture this book in paragraphs, since I feel like I have danced around the edges and not captured its heart here.  Let me say that this is a book that is powerful, quiet and filled with revelations about life.  It is honest, beautifully written and deep.  It is a book where you miss the characters for days after finishing it, because you too have befriended them.  Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet Books.