Hector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith (InfoSoup)
A bear named Hector was best friends with Hummingbird. But sometimes Hector wanted to just eat a snack in peace and Hummingbird would not stop talking. He wanted to scratch his back on a tree, but Hummingbird kept chatting. He wanted a nap and Hummingbird wanted to tell a story. One day Hector had had enough and stormed away from Hummingbird and into the jungle. Hummingbird let him go, kind of. But having complete quiet was not what Hector expected and soon he was missing Hummingbird. Luckily, Hummingbird was right there when Hector needed him.
Frith captures the dynamics of friendship in a very clear and clever way in this picture book. You have a rather quiet bear and a very talkative bird and the two of them may be best friends but sometimes it’s too much. Seeing an existing and strong friendship run into problems is a good set up for a picture book where often you are seeing new, budding friendships instead. The choice of animal for each of the characters makes the book a joy to share aloud, from the fast high Hummingbird to the slower and grumpier Hector.
The art in this picture book shines. Filled with lovely tropical colors of bright pinks, greens and teal blues, the illustrations have a vintage feel but a modern zing and energy. The color palette changes when the friends are reunited, becoming even more pink and filled with the energy of their friendship. It’s a clever transition that shows visually what is happening emotionally.
A great pick for friendship story times, this book is a winner as a read aloud. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Arthur A. Levine Books.
Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann
The author of Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty returns with a powerful verse novel. Addie is one of the stars of her Catholic high school’s cross country team and dating a popular boy in a band. Then after having unprotected sex, Addie ends up pregnant and decides to have an abortion. After that everything changes as Addie keeps her pregnancy and decision secret from everyone except her parents and her boyfriend. Addie tries to keep on running, but she has lost her drive to excel at it. She quits the team but doesn’t tell anyone about her decision. Spending time in a coffee shop away from school, she runs into Juliana, an old friend who is having her own troubles.
Heppermann writes superb poetry. I enjoyed the fact that she incorporates the title of the each poem right into the poem itself or makes the title turn the poem a new direction for the reader. She uses each word in the same way, creating tightly crafted verse that is distinct for its powerful message. Addie’s own voice in these poems is consistent, aching at times with pain and defiant as hell in others. It is the voice of a teenager struggling with huge decisions and their repercussions as they lead her to really be true to herself.
Throughout the book, the Virgin Mary is used as a symbol but also as a figure of worship. She is seen as intensely human as well as a religious figure. It is the poems about her that really shine in this novel, each one stunningly fierce and unrepentant. Religion is part of Addie’s life and a large part of the novel. Heppermann demonstrates in her poetry how one’s faith is complex and personal and can get one through dark times.
A great verse novel that takes on big topics like pregnancy, abortion and what happens afterwards. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Greenwillow.