Review: I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black

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I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

The dreaded boredom has set in in this very funny picture book.  A little girl is so bored she is flat on her back moaning when she notices a potato.  When she tosses the potato away, not knowing what to do with it, the potato says that it too is bored.  The potato goes on to tell the little girl that kids are boring.  She insists that no, kids are fun and the potato challenges her to prove it.  She shows the potato all the physical things she can do, then demonstrates using her imagination, but through it all the potato stays unimpressed.  There is a great twist at the end of the book that you will have to read for yourself.  A funny read that will have even the most bored child enjoying themselves.

Done entirely in dialogue, this is a fast-moving picture book.  It begs to be read aloud with a grungy, dusty potato voice.  The ever-bored potato is a great foil to the little girl who despite herself loses herself in her imagination and actions.  It’s a lesson that kids are anything but boring, even when they themselves are bored.

The illustrations have a great rough feel to them.  Done digitally, there is a feel of the organic roughness of a block print.  I particularly enjoy seeing a little girl not in pink or done up cutely.  This little girl is a real one, one that throws herself into things and that includes being willing to argue with a potato.

This is one book that is anything but boring.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Review: The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O’Roark Dowell

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The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Abby has always been on the outskirts of her group of friends, considered the fat one who could be teased endlessly about her weight.  She has to be careful not to give her real opinion and to always toe the line set by the group leader.  Privately, she considers them to be “medium girls” and nothing special, but they are her friends.  As Abby starts to investigate the abandoned lot across from her house, she gets gently bitten by a fox.  It is from that point on that she is no longer content to be a medium girl herself.  Following the fox and then a dog, Abby discovers a creek she never knew was in her neighborhood and then a farm on the other side.  A boy lives there with his grandmother and his father who is recovering from battle in Afghanistan.  As their friendship grows, Abby gains self confidence and is able to give a lot back too. 

This book had me from the very first page.  Told from the point of view of the fox, the first short chapter invites readers to speaks to the power of story, the role of fabled characters in our lives, and moments when the real world and myths intertwine.  It sets the stage perfectly for what is to come.  This is a realistic story that has magic and myth moments.  The writing is outstanding, bringing magic into our world through empty lots filled with weeds, foxes who live in urban settings, edges of suburbs, and newfound friends.

Abby is a great character.  She is chubby and ridiculed for it by not only her friends but her parents.  Yet she has a quiet strength, an underlying confidence, that allows her to withstand those opinions and grow into the person she really is.  She is a wonderfully normal child, not the brightest, not the strongest, but one who is willing to see beyond the weeds to the flowers.

This is a radiant book that celebrates the quiet, the mythical, the connections that are too often missed in our rush.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.