Review: First Snow by Peter McCarty

first snow

First Snow by Peter McCarty

Pedro is visiting his cousin Sancho.  While he is there, snow starts to fall, something that Pedro has never seen before.  But he knows already that he won’t like the snow since it’s so cold.  The next morning, his cousins are thrilled to head outside into the fresh snow that fell all night long.  Pedro is very doubtful, saying again how cold it is.  When the other children make snow angels, Pedro doesn’t even want to try.  Other children in the neighborhood arrive with their sleds.   One of them shows Pedro how to catch snowflakes on his tongue.  They all take their sleds to the top of the big hill.  Pedro is too cautious to go first, but soon he finds himself joining everyone else riding down the hill.  He is thrown off his sled and lands in the cold snow, but he no longer finds it too cold to have fun.

McCarty deftly shows the reluctance of a child experiencing something for the first time. He handles it with a delicacy that shows the hesitation clearly and the hanging back.  Yet Pedro still tries things as the day goes on, and the other children don’t force him to try anything he doesn’t want to.  By the end of the day, Pedro is just as merrily playing in the snow as the others.  This book shines with a gentle spirit and allows children to see themselves clearly on the page.

As always McCarty’s illustrations are a treat.  I particularly enjoy seeing characters from his other picture books in this story.  Plus you have the added bonus of little creatures in snow suits with room in the hoods for their ears! 

An ideal pick for snowy days or a way to discuss trying something new in a gentle and supportive way.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

geek girl

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Released January 27, 2015.

This British import is hilarious, geeky and great fun.  Harriet Manners knows that she is not a popular person.  She shares too many factoids about things, she doesn’t care about fashion to the point that she took wood shop to avoid going to a fashion event, and she even has a list of the people who hate her.  So when Nat, her best friend, demands that she come along to the fashion event, Harriet knows that she has to.  Nat has dreamed her entire life of being a model, something that Harriet doesn’t even start to understand.  She’d much rather be a paleontologist and spend her time watching nature documentaries.  But everything goes wrong and it is Harriet who is discovered at the fashion show, and now Harriet starts a series of lies and cover ups to keep both her best friend and her step mother from knowing anything about her being discovered.  Modeling is hard when you’ve never walked in heels before, when you don’t know the rules and when you are sitting next to the most gorgeous boy you have ever seen.

Smale has managed to give us a perfect mashup of geek and Next Top Model in this novel.  Harriet is an unforgettable heroine, someone who is awkward in the extreme, entirely herself, and uncertain about who she wants to be.  She is bullied by a classmate even as she is being discovered as a model.  Even as she wants modeling to transform her into someone else, Harriet manages to be a voice for teens who are different, fascinated by facts, think in charts and graphs, and who are different from the rest.

Smale is also deeply funny.  Harriet has wonderful asides that reference geeky movies and books.  Her father and step mother have the most marvelous arguments, ones that read like a real argument when things stop making sense and have plenty of zinging comments.  Best of all, the arguments don’t end their relationship but somehow form a basis for it.  The writing throughout is clever and witty, making it a book that is impossible to put down.

The first book in a trilogy, this book came out in the UK in 2013 and was nominated and won several awards.  It certainly lives up to the hype with its wit, strong heroine and inherent joy.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Harper Teen and Edelweiss.