A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by David Roberts (InfoSoup)
A child heads into bear country with a helpful narrator who tries to offer needed advice in dealing with bears. First, the narrator tells the child of the two kinds of bears, but assures them that they will never see one. But then on the next page, the child is lucky enough to encounter a bear right away. And it’s apparently a black bear, not only due to its coloring but because it chases the child right up a tree. The child backs away slowly and runs right into a brown bear next. The child plays dead, but that only invites the black bear to come closer. Pepper spray doesn’t help, it just makes them hungry. But perhaps gum will be the solution! Or maybe not.
It is the interplay between the knowledgeable adult narrator and the child who manages to get into all sorts of furry trouble that makes this book such a great pick to share aloud. The bears are huge and fearsome but the book also makes sure to show that there are ways to interact with nature that leaves everyone alright in the end, if a little shaken. The book also mentions that it is not safe to really interact with bears like the child does in the book.
The illustrations are wonderful. They move from cartoon friendliness to pages of information that have a graph paper background. The use of a gender-free main character who has brown skin, makes this book all the more friendly to children from a variety of backgrounds. And the merry way that the child faces each obstacle adds to the light-hearted feel of the book.
A silly and jolly look at nature and bears that is sure to add laughter to a storytime. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.
The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (InfoSoup)
The author of Eon and Eona returns with an amazing book of fantasy set in Regency London. Lady Helen Wrexhall is getting ready for her presentation to the Queen, something that her aunt and uncle are depending on to offset the claim that Helen’s mother was a traitor to the crown. Helen has also noticed that her senses are growing more acute. Soon she is told by the intriguing Lord Carlston that she has a destiny inherited from her mother that makes her one of only a few people alive who can hunt demons. As part of the upper class, Helen must figure out how to navigate the dangers and darkness she is discovering without losing sight of her place in society.
Goodman makes a great choice here, creating a Regency England setting filled with a secret layer of darkness and intrigue. She keeps the society of the time intact throughout, allowing everything else to seethe under those strict and proper restrictions. This creates a feeling of dread, harrowing danger at every turn, and the reader has no idea who to trust. Goodman keeps revealing new details and truths throughout the novel, even towards the end, creating a book that is rich and detailed.
Helen is a fabulous protagonist. She is a woman who is fighting against the strictures of her place in society already and then given a way to move forward that is exciting and tantalizing but also scandalous. It is to Goodman’s credit that Helen does not leap into action without hesitation, making her someone who really fits into her time period and setting in a natural way.
Add in a little heat with male protagonists and you have a fantasy-laced romantic novel that is luminous and riveting. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from library copy.