The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg
This Australian award winner is the story of 12-year-old Candice who is completing a school project that is supposed to be a paragraph for each letter of the alphabet that reveals something about her. But Candice can’t keep it to one paragraph, so she begins to do chapters for each letter and the words she chooses for each letter are unexpected too. As she writes, Candice is telling the story of her family and her pet fish. She worries about her family falling apart, since her mother is still grieving the loss of Candice’s baby sister Sky to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Her father is working on software in his spare time to prove that he can be as successful as his brother, Rich Uncle Brian, or flying his toy plane. Either way, both parents are self-absorbed rather than paying attention to Candice. She also doesn’t have any friends, until an unusual boy comes to school, a boy who believes that he’s traveled to another dimension and spends his time trying to get back home by falling out of a tree. It seems to Candice that it’s up to her to fix a lot of what’s wrong, but how can she?
Jonsberg has crafted a unique character in Candice. She may or may not be on the autism spectrum, but it is clear that she is different from the others in her grade and that they know it. Yet Candice functions fully, just in her own way. She loves her family, makes connections with others, and cares deeply about what is happening around her. She just does it in her own way, one that makes sense and that shows just how smart she is.
The book is wonderfully funny, with situations that are almost slapstick at times and others that are cleverly worked. The scene where Candice forces herself to get on her uncle’s boat to talk about the problems between him and her father is classic nausea humor that is done to perfection. Yet the book has plenty of depth too, with the deep depression that her mother has fallen into and even a little romance.
Strong writing keeps this complex book from tangling into knots and a strong protagonist gives it a unique and smart voice. A great Australian import that is ideal for middle grade readers.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Chronicle Books and Edelweiss.
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Frida Kahlo is one of the most celebrated female artists in the world. This picture book is less a biography and more a celebration of her life and art on the page. Written in brief sentences, the book shows her unique perspective on the world. It pays homage to the rich love she had in her life, her pet monkey, and all of the inspiration she found around her. In a world that needs more diverse picture books, this is one worth celebrating.
The book is told entirely in short sentences from Frida Kahlo’s point of view. Cleverly done, the sentences are done in English and Spanish, the Spanish almost a bright floral note next to the black English words. It is the illustrations here that are exceptional. Morales is known for her paintings but her she chooses a different medium entirely. Kahlo is shown as a doll and the illustrations are photographs of that doll as she moves through her day. Kahlo retains her distinctive single brow as well as her signature beauty.
Using a doll in this way plays directly against the blonde bombshell beauty of Barbie. With the same plastic structure, this Frida Kahlo doll with her black hair, warm brown skin and intelligent eyes shows a much richer form of beauty. The images are cleverly photographed, showing Kahlo from different and interesting angles and moving into a dream sequence where the illustrations turn to paintings.
A dynamite addition to any library, this is a necessary purchase that speaks to why diverse picture books are needed for all children. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
2014 Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Judges | Cybils Awards http://buff.ly/1qYTZ53 – Thrilled to be part of the Cybils again!Enchanted Lion: A Visit with the Brooklyn-Based Indie Publisher http://buff.ly/1qLKkjw
Final Skulduggery book in best-selling series is a blast http://buff.ly/1uDzGKR
James Dawson says ‘there are too many white faces’ in kids’ books | Books http://buff.ly/1wtfbRm
Jon Scieszka interview: On my latest tour a woman asked me to sign her baby | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1maH00g
#we need diverse (picture) books – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1qZDi9F #kidlit #diversity
Radical Librarianship: how ninja librarians are ensuring patrons electronic privacy – Boing Boing http://buff.ly/1y6FvVL
7 Excellent YA Sci-Fi Romance Series – BOOK RIOT http://buff.ly/YPxqoZ
Meghan Cox Gurdon: Heather Has Two Genders – WSJ http://buff.ly/1snWpH6
#transgender #kidlit #yalit
Q & A with Rick Yancey http://buff.ly/ZqkSEP