Review: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

vanishing season

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

After her mother lost her job in Chicago, Maggie and her parents move to Door County, Wisconsin to a home they have inherited.  Just as they move to the peninsula, teen girls start to disappear and are found floating in the water.  Maggie misses her best friend and all of the activity of Chicago, but she is also taken in by the quiet and the beauty of Door County.  She quickly makes friends with the unusual girl next door, Pauline, who is beautiful, wealthy but also ignores both those facts and is downright childlike most of the time.  There is also Liam, a boy desperately in love with Pauline, though Pauline just wants to remain friends forever.  Maggie enters their world of canoe rides, building saunas in the woods, bonfires and marshmallows, that is interrupted as the winter comes with more deaths of teen girls.  Soon a curfew is imposed and no one is allowed to travel on their own.  Maggie can still hang out with Liam and Pauline, but the isolated peninsula begins to become even more separated from the rest of the world.  Add to this a voice in the novel that speaks of death, of being dead, and you have a haunting teen read.

Anderson’s prose is incredible.  She has written a book where it is all about isolation, winter, and death.  Yet at the same time it is rather desperately and fragilely about life too.  There is warmth, first love, beautiful friendships, and the wonder of nature.  It is a novel of contrasts, one that hints at a ghost story but is not overtaken by it.  It is a book about love, but it moves beyond that as well, turning to life and death eventually.

As I said, Anderson’s writing is beautiful.  She captures moments with a delicacy and poignancy that makes even the smallest moments of life spectacular.  Here is one example from Page 61 in the digital version of the ARC:

If I could show you the lives of the people below me – the colors of what they all feel heading into this chilling, late fall – they’d be green and purple and red, leaking out through the roofs, making invisible tracks down the roads.

She plays with perspectives in the novel.  Maggie’s story is told in third person, while the voice of the ghost, as seen in the quote above, is told in first person.  Anderson is not afraid to create a book filled with tiny pieces that come together into one full work by the end.  She writes without the need for action to carry the book forward, instead capturing a place and a time with an eye for detail and discovery.

Haunting and wildly beautiful, this quiet book is not for everyone but those who love it will love it desperately.  Appropriate for ages 14-16.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and HarperTeen.

Review: The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

midnight library

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

The Midnight Library only opens at night.  Then a little librarian and her three owl assistants help all sorts of animals find the right books.  The library was quiet and peaceful until a band of squirrels showed up looking for a place to practice.  Luckily, the library had an activity room where they could play music without disturbing anyone else.  It was quiet again until it started to rain, but it was raining inside the library.  It was Mrs. Wolf crying about something she read in a book.  The librarian and her assistants helped her finish the story and reach the happy ending.  Finally, it was time to close for the night and there was one very slow patron who would not leave, but the little librarian solved that situation happily too.  This is a clever and creative look at libraries and their services in a way that children will easily relate to.

Kohara is author of several other picture books all done in her signature style.  Here she cleverly takes a library and adds mystery by making it open at night.  The addition of animals as patrons also creates an interesting twist.  I also appreciated a library being depicted as a place that you can play music.  So often the focus is on the quiet and solitude, but this is one happening library!

Kohara uses the colors on the cover of the book throughout the story.  The deep blues and blacks are enlivened by the bright yellow-orange that forms most of the background.  Her use of printmaking techniques creates thick lines with an organic dappling effect.  These prints feel like woodblocks but have lines that swirl and curve unlike most block prints.

Clever, lively and great fun, this picture book is perfect for sleepy library fans.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.