The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane (InfoSoup)
Maggie is starting middle school and is getting more and more worried. She has rules to live by that keep the people she loves safe, but there is much more to worry about than that. There is the murderer who was loose in their neighborhood after shooting someone at a local mini mart. There is the boy at school who is going to get a gun for his birthday. There are the rabbits next door owned by a man who doesn’t seem to really love them. Plus there are issues in her own family with a teen sister who is pulling away from Maggie and her little sister and a father growing more and more distant too. Maggie starts to plan new ways to protect her family from danger as her fears mount, but it’s all too much for one person to try to control.
Lane has written an incredible novel for middle grades, particularly as a debut author. She captures the intoxication of danger, the thrill of fear, and then what happens when it becomes more than that, toxic and dark. She shows the problems with fear and worries, the way they mount and the intricate ways that children have of coping in a world where nothing seems firm and solid for them, not even their families. As Maggie copes with OCD tendencies, she is also courageous and caring, striving to control the uncontrollable around her.
Lane captures the real world with honesty here. Rabbits are sold for meat. Children are sometimes not cared for. Marriages have problems. Sisters withdraw. It is all there in this book, but there is more too. There are loving parents, helpful neighbors, friends, apple trees and baby rabbits. So not all is dark and dreary, there is light too and hope here. If only one can see it for the worries.
A bright new voice in children’s literature, this debut novel is delicious and rich. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
Who Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane, illustrated by KG Campbell (InfoSoup)
Released July 19, 2016.
A little girl has been longing for a puppy for her entire life. She has lists of dog names, read about training, and dreamed about life with a puppy. So when she opens the box with holes in the top on her birthday, she is dismayed to discover a tortoise inside. Her father had told her he was allergic to dogs, but she had still dreamed of having one. Now she has a cold-blooded reptile. She has no ideas for names for him, so she doesn’t name him anything. She figures out that he can’t play fetch, does not like rolling over, doesn’t do many tricks, and doesn’t get excited when she returns home. Slowly though, she does figure out things that she can do with a tortoise, including selling turns holding it and painting its nails. When she tries playing hide-and-seek though, she discovers that tortoises are far too good at it. Now she is the owner of a lost tortoise. How will she ever find him again?
Keane has written a witty story that shows the natural progression of falling in love with a different kind of pet. The protagonist tells the story in her own voice, filled with righteous indignation at being given a reptile and then turning to grudging respect for what it can do, and finally becoming an expert on tortoises. The characters throughout the book are thoroughly realistic and human, from the father who mentions his allergy to no avail to the little girl and her friends as they try to find the hiding tortoise. The reactions and emotions here are honest and true, creating a book that is funny and heartfelt.
Campbell’s illustrations add so much to this picture book. The little girl’s pigtails show her emotions just as much as her face. They are perky when hopeful, limp when lonely, and almost stiff when angry. Using plenty of white space, the illustrations show both a loving family and a warm community where people are willing to line up for lemonade and a tortoise.
A dynamite picture book that is ideal for pet-themed story times or to introduce a new pet to a classroom or family. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.