Review: Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur

listening for lucca

Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur

Siena and her family move to Maine from Brooklyn to help her little brother Lucca.  He doesn’t speak, using only gestures to communicate with them.  Siena isn’t sad to move, since she didn’t have lots of friends to leave behind.  Maine should be a new start for all of them.  When they arrive at their big old house on the beach, the family gets to work fixing it up.  But both Lucca and Siena believe that the house is haunted by a family that used to live there.  Siena finds a pen on a high shelf in her closet that seems to connect her to a young girl who used to live in the house.  She also dreams about the girl’s brother Joshua as he fights in World War II.  The stories of the two families have striking similarities that give Siena the idea that she may be able to not only fix the present but also the past.

I adored this book.  LaFleur tells a story of mystery and ghosts where the past is just as alive and changeable as the present.  Throughout the book has a sweetness and wistfulness to it that makes it a pleasure to read.  I also appreciated the way that Siena has a tie to the past through her collection of lost items.  LaFleur builds her story carefully, so that each element makes an innate sense as it happens.  Beautifully done.

The characters are strongly written.  Siena is a heroine who can be prickly at times, but has the courage and talents to make a difference.  She is an incredible older sister, loving and attentive, but is much more critical of herself.  Her parents and younger brother are just as fully realized in the story.  The friends that Siena makes in town all also have touches that make them whole as people.

This lovely book transcends genres with its mix of mystery, historical fiction, and fantasy.  It’s a winning combination.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Wendy Lamb Books.

Review: Little Owl’s Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney

little owls orange scarf

Little Owl’s Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney

Little Owl lived with his mother on the edge of Central Park.  He loved lots of things like ice cream and riding his scooter, but he did not like his new scarf.  First of all, it was orange.  Second, it was itchy.  Third, it was way too long.  So Little Owl avoided wearing it whenever he could, but his mother kept on finding it and having him wear it anyway.  Nothing worked!  Then Little Owl took a class trip to the zoo and came back without his scarf.  It was lost for good this time.  So Little Owl helped his mother make his new scarf.  He loved it.  First of all, it was blue.  Second, it was soft.  Third, it was just the right size.  It was even perfect for visits to the zoo.

Feeney has struck just the right tone with this picture book.  Happily, it does not come off as whining but as a child who just does not like an article of clothing.  His attempts to lose the scarf or at least give it away are clever and cute.  The working together with his parent to create a new scarf is a smart turn in the story that leads to satisfaction for everyone.  When the little twist at the end is revealed, the story is entirely satisfying.

The art is kept very minimal and simple.  I must mention that the orange in the hardcover version I have is much more bright and intense than the cover above shows.  The entire book is done in black lines, orange and teal, making the colors very important.  The black lines are done with curls and playfulness that add to the light touch of the story as a whole.

Light and fun, this is a book that will work well at toddler story times, especially on winter days with scarves of their own.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.