Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (InfoSoup)
Released September 13, 2016.
Catrina is moving with her family to Bahía de la Luna in northern California. They are moving because her little sister has cystic fibrosis and the cool and salty air from the sea will be good for her. The girls explore their new town and hear from a boy they meet that the town is full of ghosts. Cat starts to feel ghosts in the breezes and air around them, feeling scared of meeting one. Her little sister Maya though is drawn to them, knowing that she has a health issue that will eventually lead to death. Cat is terrified at Maya being drawn too closely to the ghosts, particularly after she sees one and realizes that they are real. Cat has to balance her own fears with her sister’s need for answers.
Whenever a new Telgemeier book is announced, I am thrilled. I know that she only puts out high quality work with huge child-appeal. In this graphic novel, we have her signature welcoming graphic style that captures emotions with ease and tells a brisk story filled with the wonder of ghosts. It’s full of so much appeal for its target audience that this one will never sit on the shelf for long!
As always, Telgemeier is aware of having diversity in her book. Here the girls are Hispanic but don’t know a lot about their heritage. This offers a way for readers to learn along side them about the Day of the Dead and the sugar skulls. The pace stays always fast and fun though, even as learning happens along the way.
A funny, touching and fabulous graphic novel for kids. A must buy for every public library. Appropriate for ages 7-11.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.
You Belong Here by M.H. Clark (InfoSoup)
This poetic picture book celebrates both nature and the child themselves. The book opens with the text talking right to the child, telling them that just as the moon and stars belong so do they belong right with the person reading the book. It then moves on to talk about different animals and how they belong too either deep in the sea, in the woods, or in a nest. Then the book returns to the child and it continues to move back and forth between nature and child, demonstrating how much that child simply belongs to the world as well.
Told in rhyme, this picture book’s poetry is very well done with none of the rhymes feeling forced. In fact, the text almost dances particularly as it moves between child and nature, each of those transitions feeling a little like a graceful twirl to bring to back around in a circle. There is attention throughout too to ecosystems and showing how each animal or plant has a place that is important and vital to that place. It’s a book that creates both warmth and the opportunity for conversation as well.
The illustrations by Arsenault are subtly colored and almost ethereal. They show the intertwining nature of the world with buildings and homes interspersed with natural scenes of animals and plants. The creatures on the page are almost lit from within, white against the watercolor backgrounds.
A beautiful celebration of home and the world that all sorts of families will find welcoming and heart warming. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna (InfoSoup)
Wordless except for a few lines of text at the beginning and end, this graphic novel picture book is a blazing wonder. It shows the epic beginning of the wood that will one day become Pinocchio. A young tree is hit by a bolt of lightning and a branch falls off, a branch with clear limbs, body and head. The branch runs and is joined by a cat and fox. The three travel together to a snowy woods where there is also fire and now the branch is alight. As the story continues, a snake eats the fiery branch then spits it out. A dove flies with it, and drops it into the water. The branch sinks and is eaten by a shark. Image after image flies past, each with a story to tell and only a few moments to tell it. Finally, spring arrives and the branch sprouts leaves and roots, becoming a full tree itself, and the story of Pinocchio begins.
Unique and wondrous, this picture book is something entirely special. It is an origin story about far more than Pinocchio himself, showing that we all originate from a certain spark. Then along the way we are filled with fire, discover companions, take adventures, grow into our own, and our story at that point is just beginning.
The illustrations are spectacular. Done in watercolor that flows on the page, creating light and energy. There is also clever detailed use of the paint with leaves flowing to create characters and allowing space for almost mythical moments to take place on the page. There are deep colors of undersea and the dark of sky against snow.
Beautiful, raw and filled with innate energy, this picture book is something very special. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Not As We Know It by Tom Avery (InfoSoup)
Jamie and Ned are twins growing up together on a tiny island in the English Channel. They love to do things as a pair, from scouring the beaches for treasures that wash up from the sea to watching Star Trek on DVD. But Ned is not well. He is fighting cystic fibrosis and the most recent treatments don’t seem to be working. Then one day, the brothers find a strange creature on the beach. It is hurt and they carry it to their garage where they fill a tub with saltwater and care for it. It’s like nothing they have ever seen before with its scales and gills combined with arms and legs. As the boys care for the creature, their grandfather tells them tales of mermen and mermaids. Jamie starts to hope that the creature can work a miracle for Ned, though Ned sees it very differently.
This novel for middle grade readers is riddled with sorrow and the drain of watching a loved one slowly decline. Yet Ned is also a ray of light himself, refusing to let his disorder rule his life. Still, the book is clearly headed for Ned to go where Jamie can’t follow, a journey he has to take on his own. As the creature brings hope to Jamie, it also brings him distress as he recognizes that his hope may be futile and readers will see it as a natural way to keep from facing his brother’s approaching death.
Both boys are strongly written characters. Jamie is pure heart, trying to be there for his brother and leaving school to be homeschooled alongside his brother. Jamie is a source of adventure and normalcy for Ned, something that keeps them close and also buoys up Ned’s moods and health. Ned is unwilling to do anything but face the truth of his situation and yet that doesn’t limit his activities. Instead it seems to fuel his desire to be more than just a dying boy. The pair of them together are pure radiance.
A powerful, tragic and hopeful book about brotherhood and death with more than a touch of magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.
The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo (InfoSoup)
Yoshio heads out of his house and into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. He hears all sorts of things, like splashing puddles and rain on his umbrella. Then he hears the sound of a woman playing a koto and visits with her. He asks her what her favorite sound is and she replies that it is the sound of silence. Yoshio spent the rest of the day looking for silence. But there was always some kind of sound, others talking, the breeze in the bamboo, traffic and trains. He couldn’t find silence anywhere, not in the bath where water dripped or in bed where he could hear a radio playing far away. He went to school early the next day, still seeking silence and then for one moment, he heard it. Even inside he was still. He discovered it was in between all of the other sounds, just waiting for him there.
Goldsaito has written a beautiful contemplative picture book where seeking the sound of silence is a search for finding your own inner place of peace. Even as the book looks towards silence, it celebrates the other sounds of a bustling city, a busy school and a family at home. As the sounds grow quieter, the book slows too allowing readers to see the way towards silence as they move through the book.
Kuo’s illustrations are gorgeous with their fine lines and details. They capture a city with many inhabitants walking together, traffic moving, and plenty of action. They also show the beauty of the bamboo garden, the loving family eating together and then Yoshio eager to find the solution to hearing silence. Readers will hear silence on many of the pages thanks to the beauty of the illustrations and the moment it takes to really look at them.
A very special picture book that will speak to many readers in our busy modern world who are themselves looking for a peaceful break in their day. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde
Timminy is not looking forward to starting a new school, particularly one where his father is Assistant Principal. Now he won’t be able to disguise from his parents how bullied he has been at school due to his small size. But his parents try to make the move more palatable by giving him a puppy, Maxi, who is a huge white furry ball of energy and love. Eventually, they discover that Maxi is deaf and have to figure out how to keep her safe in their woodsy new home. Meanwhile Timminy is busy worrying about school, dodging bullies who put him in lockers. When he meets his neighbor, Abby, she doesn’t put up with his whining about his size. After all, she doesn’t let her blindness slow her down at all. It is up to Timminy to realize that his size doesn’t define him any more than Abby’s or Maxi’s disabilities do. It’s time for them all to stand tall.
Plourde has created one of those dog books. You know, the ones where the dog dies. But at least she admits it right up front, warning readers that Maxi is one to be adored and loved but that she will be gone before the story is done. The book happily is about much more than that. It is about bullying and the ability to keep strong in the face of being different and unique. It is also about everyone being more than they seem on the surface, even those who may appear to be bullies at first.
The writing here is heartfelt and fast. Timminy is a great protagonist and though he can whine at times, it is always justified. The fact that he learns a lot from those around him is to his credit. He is also someone who offers second chances to others and seeks them himself when he does something wrong. This is a book about friendships and allowing people into your lives even if they are different in ways other than hearing and sight and size.
A tearjerker of a book, this is one with a huge heart to go along with the huge white dog. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Nancy Paulsen Books.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (InfoSoup)
Perry has lived in the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility for all eleven years of his life. His mother is incarcerated there and the warden has made it possible for them to be together. He sleeps in his own small room and makes the morning announcements out to the cell blocks. There are many people at the facility that he adores and who love his too, making up his family. He goes to school in the community nearby but obviously can’t invite his friends over to his house. As his mother’s parole date nears, a local DA discovers that Perry is living in the prison and has him removed. Perry is moved to live with the DA and his step daughter, who happens to be Perry’s best friend. There is also some question about whether Perry living at the prison will stop his mother’s parole. As the parole date is moved back, Perry works on a class project about how he came to live in the county and that means telling the stories of his prison family, particularly his mother’s.
Connor writes a piercingly honest book about the power of family and love, and the way that families don’t need to be nuclear to be functional and loving. Taking the unique perspective of a boy who grows up inside a facility, Connor demonstrates what a good prison looks like, how it can be a community and a home and how it can heal and allow for people to forgive themselves. The perspective of Perry’s mother is also shared in some chapters, giving the loving mother a voice as she tries to protect Perry from her own truth.
I must complain a bit about the title, which I continue to find confusing even after finishing the book. Add to that the cover which I also don’t relate closely to the book. It’s too bad, given the high quality of the writing and the story and I do hope that the paperback version does a better job of selling the real story inside.
A superb read that looks at prisons, families and the power of community. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Katherine Tegen Books.
One last week of vacation this summer that starts with a big meeting out of town. It also has my oldest returning to college and a week of bonding with my youngest, preparing for the school year, reading and recovering from the oldest being gone again.
May you survive all of the transitions the end of summer brings!
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
5 Ways To Keep Books Relevant Today
13 Books Every Parent Should Read Their Child Before They Start School
Bumper crop of first-day-of-school books
‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul’ Adds Alicia Silverstone (Exclusive)
How Did Children’s Literature Evolve From Prim Morality Tales to the Likes of Captain Underpants?
Wait, in This Children’s Book, the Robbers Steal the Little Kid and What Happens?!
Finland’s Hot New Karaoke Bar Is a Public Library
I Can’t Even with Librarians Who Don’t Read Diversely
Library use in England fell dramatically over last decade, figures show
Public Library of the Year 2016 – nominations:
Public libraries serve the homeless more than just books
Removal of Confederacy books opens debate; director calls it routine process
When a child is born in Aarhus, parents press a button in hospital & a huge bell rings in the library
2016 Aurora awards winners | Aurora Awards
In defence of grit lit – YA writers dealing honestly with the modern world