Review: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

ketchup clouds

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Zoe stays up late at night and writes to her pen pal, a Texas death row prisoner who murdered his wife.  He is the only one with whom she can share her dark secret:  she too killed someone.  Zoe slowly reveals her story, including her own role in a boy’s death and living with the aftermath of having done it.  Zoe’s story is one of being drawn to two boys, using one against the other, and the startling result of her betrayal.  It is a story of love that is beyond the expected, first romance that is tortured but desperately real, and the wounds left behind that are impossible to heal.

Pitcher, author of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, has returned with a beautifully written second novel.  She lays bare Zoe as a character, giving her the space to reveal herself in all of her remorse and conflict.  Here is one of my favorite passages in the book:

I’d do anything to forget.  Anything.  Eat the spider or stand naked on top of the shed or do math homework every day for the rest of my life.  Whatever it took to wipe my brain clean like you can with computers, pressing a button to delete the images and the words and the lies.

But perhaps what Pitches does best in this novel is to build tension and doubt.  Throughout the book until the final reveal, readers do not know which of the boys died.  Pitcher writes in a way that lets readers fall for both of them for different reasons, so that either one’s death is a grand tragedy and something to destroy lives. 

This is a book that is burning and compelling.  It is a book that is beautifully honest, vibrantly written.  This is Zoe’s heart on a page in all of its wounds and glory.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Review: Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth

parrots over puerto rico

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

This exceptional nonfiction picture book tells the story of the Puerto Rican parrot.  It is a bird that has flown over Puerto Rico for millions of years but almost became extinct in the 1960s.  The book tells of the changes that came to Puerto Rico and its environment thanks to settlers, wars, hunting, and foreign invasive species.  Forests began to disappear too, so the parrots were limited to living in just one place.  By 1967, only 24 parrots lived in Puerto Rico.  With them almost extinct, people started trying to save the parrots.  The book tells the story of rescued parrots, storms and the dedicated scientists who figured out how to save this species from disappearing entirely.

Roth and Trumbore tell this story deftly.  They focus on what was almost lost, a sky crowded with these blue and green birds.  The book explores the history of Puerto Rico, tying it closely and innately into the story of the parrots themselves.  The entire book is fascinating and becomes even more compelling when the story turns to the rescue efforts.  Small victories such as saving a young parrot’s wings are celebrated, while the larger effort is also looked at in detail. 

Roth’s collages are exquisite.  She captures the beauty of the birds, as you can see from the cover image above, but also the beauty of Puerto Rico itself with all of its lush greens.  The book is beautifully designed as well.

A dazzling nonfiction book that will be welcome in classroom discussions and units about conservation and environment.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Lee & Low and Edelweiss.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

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

Top 10 Lists: Books for under 3 year olds


15 Kids Books That Are Better Than the Movie #kidlit

Book Trade Announcements – Little Rebels Award For Radical Children’s Fiction Returns #kidlit

Books for the whole family – The Horn Book #kidlit

Boys to men – The Horn Book #kidlit

Harry Potter and the 15 Secret Pieces of Trivia| #kidlit

If the weather outside is frightful – The Horn Book #kidlit – great books for non-Christmas holiday reads

‘Pinkwashing’: why you’d be crazy not to censor your children’s books – Telegraph #kidlit #reading

The United States Postal Service Has Designed 20 ‘Harry Potter’ Stamps – GalleyCat #kidlit

Why Picture Books Are Important by Daniel Kirk #kidlit

Ylvis Lands Deal for ‘What Does the Fox Say?’ Picture Book – GalleyCat #kidlit

So true! :)


11 Amazing Librarian Tattoos | Mental Floss #librarians #libraries #tattoos

31 Free Live Webinars for Librarians in November #libraries

Thousands to play games on all seven continents on Nov. 16 for International Games Day @ your library

Top 10 Knowledge Centers and Libraries That Were Tragically Destroyed #libraries

Will Google Helpouts Disrupt Libraries? | Eduhacker #libraries #google


A Case for Letting Kids Read Books on Digital Devices | The Stir #ebooks #reading

New Statistical Report Avail From #Bowker: “Self Publishing in the United States 2007-2012″ via @infoDOCKET

Technology aids children’s reading comprehension – study #reading

Why I’m an unapologetic book-quitter – The Globe and Mail #books #reading


RT @KateGardiner: Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps (@theguardian)

The Ellen Hopkins Quote of the Day is from SMOKE


Gaiman explains reason for ‘unprofessional’ delay in rest of that Sandman prequel | Blastr

Read-alikes: Calling All Gender Identities, by Ann Kelley | Booklist Online #yalit

RT @Scholastic: Cast of The #HungerGames #CatchingFire shares their favorite YA books of all time: #YAlit #yalitchat

Sometimes The ‘Tough Teen’ Is Quietly Writing Stories : Code Switch : NPR #yalit

Stacked: Contemporary YA Books Featuring Humor #yalit