Day: November 4, 2015

Review: The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

Sophie lives above her parents’ bookstore that is actually much more than a place to sell books. Downstairs below the store is another shop, the dream shop, where her parents deal in dreams harvested from dreamcatchers and then bottled. Sophie never has dreams of her own and she has been forbidden from ever drinking a dream. One day though she tries one and discovers that she has the ability to bring things back from her dreams into real life. That’s how she gets her best friend, Monster, a creature from a nightmare. Dealing in dreams can be dangerous business since it is done on the black market. When the dream shop is robbed and Sophie’s parents are taken, Sophie has to figure out who is responsible and the find a way to free her family that will mean trusting outsiders and breaking family rules.

Durst is a master storyteller. Her flights of fancy here are intoxicatingly original and yet also pay homage to traditions too. Monster is one of my favorite characters, a wise-cracking, fuzzy and loveable creature who is ferociously loyal, brave and hungry. Then there is a snooty pegasus who has his own attitude and speaks harsh truths, not to mention the multicolored ninja bunnies. Durst builds a story that has room for all of them and remains wonderfully clear and focused on the real story going on.

Sophie is a character who is known by classmates as being prickly. It’s difficult to create a character who is embraced by the reader as a hero but faces real issues at school with making friends. Durst does it with real skill, giving Sophie a personality that is by necessity very private but also making her warm and loving to those in her inner circle. The use of that privacy is also used to isolate Sophie, making the adventure all the more harrowing and forcing her to open up to those she would not otherwise trust.

A strong fantasy for elementary readers, this book is filled with smart humor and great characters. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Clarion Books.

Review: Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia (InfoSoup)

A picture book all about skin and how important it is to our bodies, this book also celebrates the different colors of skin we all come in. The book begins with the joy of baby skin in all of its sweet colors of cocoa, cinnamon, honey and ginger. It then talks about how skin forms a protective barrier for you, forming scabs when you hurt yourself and growing along with you. The way skin reacts to sun and to cold is also talked about and then the book talks again about how your skin is unique and so is everyone else’s too.

Written in rhyming couplets, this picture book has a jolly galloping feel to it with they rhymes propelling the text along. The book is a wonderful mix of scientific information about skin that is appropriate for very small children and praise for the beautiful variety of skin colors that you see. This is a wonderful book to start discussing diversity with very small children. The urban setting is a delight with people of differing abilities, Muslim families, and children and adults of all races. The book does focus on one family in particular where one of the parents could be any gender, making this book all the more welcoming.

The illustrations by Tobia go a long way to making this book inclusive and diverse. From henna on hands to families of mixed races, these illustrations are celebratory of the vast diversity we have. At the same time, there is a universal nature to all of them, with all of the families loving their children, adoring their infants, and spending the day outside together as a community.

A fresh and lovely look at diversity for the smallest of children, this book will serve as both a mirror and a window for all. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.