Month: September 2013

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is the new girl at school.  She is different from everyone else with her bright red hair and men’s clothes.  Park has gone to this school forever, he knows everyone on the bus and just wants to keep his head down and be ignored.  But Park can’t ignore Eleanor when she is standing in the aisle and needs somewhere to sit.  So he lets her sit by him.  They don’t talk though, until he notices that she is reading his comics too.  Their relationship slowly grows and they start talking together only about comics.  Eleanor doesn’t want to talk about her horrible home life that had her kicked out of the house for a year.  Park doesn’t want to scare her off by pushing.  Little by little, this becomes a book about first love between two teens who didn’t fit in anywhere else.  Little by little, this book steals your heart too.

I honestly don’t think I can voice how good this novel is.  Rowell writes with such truth and passion through the entire book that it makes your breath catch at times.  She does not turn away from the most horrible parts of being a teen, bullying, family crisis, the stumbles on the way to a connection.   These are the moments that cast the others in such light, that make the others shine and dazzle. 

Eleanor and Park both narrate the story in turns.  That decision was critical to this book, allowing each teen to talk about what they love about the other and the amazement they feel that someone likes them too.  The two characters are so different, from such differing backgrounds.  They are living people, ones who enter your dreams because you feel like they are part of you. 

Her book is just like first love.  It is stunning, honest and raw.  It is unforgettable.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Year with Marmalade by Alison Reynolds

year with marmalade

A Year with Marmalade by Alison Reynolds, illustrated by Heath McKenzie

One autumn, Maddy told Ella that she is going away for a year and asked her to take care of her cat, Marmalade.  Both Ella and Marmalade cry and cry when Maddy leaves.  Ella can’t find anyone to play in the leaves with her, pick and munch apples, or stomp in puddles.  Then one frosty morning, Ella wakes up to find her feet warm and Marmalade sleeping on her bed.  As winter arrives, Ella and Marmalade get closer and closer.  Spring comes and the two work together in the garden and head to the beach together.  Maddy returns with the autumn, but what will happen now with Marmalade?

This book is a smart mix of waiting for a friend to return and seasons.  Along the way, there is also the chance to make a new friend too.  The dance of the seasons moves the story along nicely, creating a timeline along which readers can see the relationship between Ella and Marmalade growing and changing. 

It is the illustrations that make this book more than just a book about friendship in a crowded picture book market.  McKenzie combines black and white line drawings with bursts of color.  Marmalade is always shown as a pop of orange, while the human characters remain black and white.  The effect has an appealing lightness.

A picture book about moving, friendships and change, this lovely little picture book would make a nice addition to units on seasons as well.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Review: Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane

deep in the sahara

Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

Released October 8, 2013.

Lalla wants to wear a malafa just like the other women in her family do.  Lalla tells her mother she wants to be beautiful just like her, but her mother says that a malafa is about more than beauty.  Lalla tells her sister that she wants to be mysterious just like her, but her sister says that a malafa is about more than mystery.  Seeing all of the women in their malafa, Lalla tells her cousin that she wants to be like all of them, but she replies that a malafa is more than that.  Her grandmother too says that a malafa is about more than tradition.  Finally, Lalla goes back to her mother and explains that she wants to be able to pray like her mother does.  Her mother agrees, saying “A malafa is for faith."  And the two face east and pray together in their malafa.

Set in Mauritania, this book celebrates the Muslim faith in a very beautiful way.  Written in the second person, readers are invited to see themselves as Lalla and learn about her faith and her world.  Cunnane writes beautiful descriptions of both the malafa themselves and also the community where Lalla lives.  There are donkeys, camels, and other exotic things, but Cunnane goes deeper than that and paints a world with pink houses shaped like cakes and silver heels that click on tiles.

Hadadi’s art is jewel toned and filled with details.  She has created a warm and loving community for Lalla to explore with the reader.  The beauty of the malafa are shown, the colors of the rooms, and the tangible love of an extended family.

An accessible and beautiful look at a Muslim community that dazzles.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.

Review: Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Nino wrestles the world

Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Everyone cheer for the incredible, the amazing Nino!  He is challenged to fight by wild opponents like The Guanajuato Mummy who is taken down by a tickle attack.  Next to challenge Nino is Olmec Head whose stony face is walloped by a Puzzle Muzzle move.  He has tricky moves to use on each one, taking one down at a time using all sorts of toys.  But finally, his real serious opponents arrive, Las Hermanitas!  Nino is going to have to use all of his wrestling and mental skills to beat these two little sister opponents.

Bold and colorful, this book evokes Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling, right from the get go.  Morales celebrates this aspect of Mexican culture but puts her own child-friendly spin on it with wrestling different monsters using toys in Nino’s room.  She mixes the history of Lucha Libre masks with the actual monsters and the joy of a child who loves to wrestle any comers. 

The book nicely mixes Spanish and English and also switches fonts to further evoke the marquee effect of wrestling.  Add in the comic-book fonts for the various moves that Nino does and you have one very dynamic and inspired book.

This book shows everyone that books with multicultural characters can be wild fun to read!  Morales wins!  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts this week that you might find interesting:

Tips for reading wordless books to kids, plus questions to ask them to encourage storytelling.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

12 Crazy Reasons Why Books Have Been Banned | HarperCollins Children’s Books http://buff.ly/1dG8PoC #kidlit

CBC Diversity: Is the Race Card Old School? http://buff.ly/1gIeF8E #diversity #kidlit

Dav Pilkey to Illustrate Picture Book of Inaugural Poem http://buff.ly/1aa1Hii #kidlit

Gateway Books: Getting Latino Kids Excited About Reading | Libro por libro | School Library Journal http://buff.ly/1b99X6L #kidlit

Is having a strong children’s section a secret to success for indie bookstores? http://buff.ly/1dJ9aqE

Jen Robinson’s Book Page: Congratulations to Reach Out and Read http://buff.ly/1b9n0Vv #reading #kidlit

The Official SCBWI Blog: SCBWI’s Newest Award Is For Independently Published Writers and Illustrators http://buff.ly/1b9miYA #kidlit

Why science fiction isn’t just for geeky boys | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1b9aeXg #yalit #kidlit

Why you should Register Now for the 7th Annual #KIDLITCON! (because KidLItCon is home) http://bit.ly/1dEsvsS

EBOOKS

8 tips and tricks to get the most of Project Gutenberg http://buff.ly/1gRZb1L #ebooks

Don’t price your ebook at $1.99 — Tech News and Analysis http://buff.ly/1b734Tm #ebooks

Online Information, Ebooks, and Moral Panic | The Scholarly Kitchen http://buff.ly/1dG9F4L #ebooks

Penguin makes its ebooks available to libraries through Overdrive once again — paidContent http://buff.ly/1dJUl7d #ebooks

Simon & Schuster Begins School Test for E-books http://buff.ly/1dISBej #ebooks

New shelving scheme.

LIBRARIES

Blackman: ‘ringfence library budgets’ | The Bookseller http://buff.ly/1dDr6CN #libraries

Chicago Public Library offering programming to combat youth violence http://buff.ly/1b9NCFW #libraries

CILIP, Blackman disgrace Vaizey in UK libraries revolt – TeleRead http://buff.ly/1dH86Dv #libraries

I Don’t Need Two Forms of ID When I’m Standing at Your Door | Advocates’ Corner http://buff.ly/1b9LYEd #libraries

Russian Libraries Get Less Scary, More Sexy | Russia http://buff.ly/1b6Ahy9 #libraries

There’s No Such Thing as Library Leadership | Leading From the Library http://buff.ly/1dLIu8J #libraries

READING

7 Reasons Your Favorite Books Were Banned http://buff.ly/1b7Fkym #reading #books

17 Ways To Find Good Books To Read http://buff.ly/1b7FeGY #books #reading

SOCIAL MEDIA

Goodreads’ growing pains: Attempt to curtail author bullying angers many users — Tech News and Analysis http://buff.ly/1b9a4ir

Pinterest Appeals To Publishers With New Article Pins, Pushes To Become A Bookmarking & “Read It Later” Service http://buff.ly/1bc9zEs

TEEN READS

8 Classic YA Books That Will Screw You Up For Life – Flavorwire http://buff.ly/1b99Jwa #yalit

Book censors target teen fiction, says American Library Association | Books http://buff.ly/1b7yzfZ #libraries #yalit

Five questions for Rainbow Rowell – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/16MbsTY #yalit

Is there life beyond vampires for teenage readers? | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1b7yKI7 #yalit

What’s Your YA Name? Use This Generator To Find Out | Blog | Epic Reads http://buff.ly/18G9siH #yalit

Review: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

fortunately the milk

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young

When Mum left to give a presentation on lizards, she made sure that Dad knew just what he had to do.  One item on the list was getting milk, but that didn’t happen.  So when the family woke to dry cereal and no milk for tea, Dad headed out to get the milk.  He didn’t return for a long, long time.  But when he came back he had quite a story about why he was late.  It involved time travel, a brilliant dinosaur, pirates who don’t have a plank to walk, wumpires with long teeth, and lots and lots of silliness.

Gaiman is a chameleon of an author, keeping us guessing what his next book will be like because one never knows what style he will try next.  Here he is in pure farce mode, something that will enchant young readers even as they can’t read because they are giggling too much.  The humor here is nonstop, one maniac moment after another until you can’t quite tell which way is up.  It’s a grand adventure filled with outright one-liners and puns.

Young’s illustrations are such a part of this book, it is like Gaiman illustrated it himself.  The results are wacky and purely funny.  The father character seems to me to be a marvelous mix of several Dr. Who characters with his dangling striped scarf, wild hair and rather dapper approach to things. 

Hilarious, wacky and wonderful, get this into the hands of elementary aged kids now.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Rotten Pumpkin by David M. Schwartz

rotten pumpkin

Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices by David M. Schwartz, photos by Dwight Kuhn

A dynamic mix of story and nonfiction, this book follows the life of a pumpkin.  He has his shining moment as a jack-o-lantern lit for Halloween, but then is put into the compost.  That is where the story gets interesting.  First he is chewed on by mice, squirrels, slugs and vomited on by flies.  Now he looks a lot different and has fungi growing.  The various molds introduce themselves, explaining what they do, including the fascinating Penicillium.  Sow bugs, earthworms, slime mold and yeast work on the pumpkin too.  It is left as just a pile of seeds and little else.  Until spring arrives!

Schwartz shows readers just how fascinating science is with his in-depth descriptions of the decomposition process.  Children will adore the explanation of how flies taste and eat, the process of earthworm poop, and all of the molds seen up close.  But this book goes far beyond the gross and takes the reader right through the entire process, detailing it with interesting moments throughout. 

The photographs by Kuhn are particularly useful in a book like this.  Capturing the changing face of the pumpkin as it molds over adds real interest visually to the title.  At the same time, the close up images of yeasts and slime mold are grossly gripping.

Perfect for autumn and Halloween, this book will have kids looking at their slumping pumpkins with new eyes.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.