The House that Zack Built by Alison Murray (InfoSoup)
Zack built a house out of blocks outside under a tree. A fly buzzed by, the cat stalked the fly, then got more interested in the cream up high on a shelf. The dog was asleep when down fell the cream, knocked over by the cat who was still looking to catch that fly. The lambs in the field are calm and quiet, then the dog runs through still covered in cream and the sheep dash out of the field. Then Zack looks around, amazed at the mess of the farm. He jumped into action and set it all right. Then they all sat quietly and looked at the incredible house that Zack had built.
This British import is a cumulative tale that doesn’t solely stick to the traditional structure of building and building onto the length of the sentence with each new addition. Instead here it is the story itself that is the focus and the cumulative structure is used when it works and then merrily abandoned to make the storyline work better and to also make the book much more enjoyable to read. The result is a cumulative tale that will not leave you breathless or with a spinning head when shared aloud.
Murray’s art is simple and friendly. The illustrations will work well for a crowd since they are not filled with small details. Children will enjoy the cat in particular as it causes almost all of the problems that emerge.
There is a real satisfaction in this story of watching chaos happen and then having it set to rights. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
After the Woods by Kim Savage (InfoSoup)
Julia can’t remember what happening in the woods except in brief flashbacks. She knows that she saved her best friend from an attacker and then was taken by the man for 48 hours. A year later, Julia is still trying to understand what happened to her in the woods. Liv, her best friend, is urging her to forget and move on. Then a girl’s body is found in the same woods, triggering more memories that Julia had suppressed. Liv too is caught up in what happened, seemingly intent on her own destruction by dating a dangerous boy and participating in other risky behavior. As Julia starts to recreate what really happening in the woods, the incredible truth will lead to understanding what makes someone a hero.
Savage’s writing is dark and gorgeous. Early in the novel as the two friends enter the forest, the writing shows the danger coming:
Despite the desolation – no one runs at four p.m. in November after weeks of rain – the woods pulse. The canopy shatters fast-dropping light into glittering shards. A chipmunk skitters close to my foot and ducks into a hole.
Throughout the novel, Savage offers clues of what happened in her language. It’s a wrenching combination of what Julia is discovering herself and also allowing the reader to see a bit farther ahead towards the conclusion without revealing all quite yet. The tempting and seductive mixture makes this book an especially great read.
Julia is a jagged character, covered in the pain of what happened to her, striking out at those who protected her, reaching out to those who wronged her. At the same time, she is very bright, looking at the world and this mystery as something that logic can solve. And she is funny and sarcastic too. She’s a survivor, a hero and everything that that complexity brings is shown on the page.
A brilliant novel for teens about heroism, survival and what bravery it takes to keep on going. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Edelweiss.