The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando (InfoSoup)

Six kindergarteners were taken and now eleven years later, five are returned. The six teens who had disappeared have no memories of their captivity or those that took them. Now they are sixteen and seem to be remarkably OK. They have vague memories of one another, but none of them have any memory of the six child who was taken with them. Avery, the younger sister of that still-missing boy, finds it difficult to deal with the others returning but her family being forgotten. Scarlett, one of the teens taken, returns home to find a sober mother with a serious boyfriend, a vast difference from her mother before. Scarlett though feels that she is not able to figure out the person she actually is. Lucas returns home to see his father die in front of him and is accused of being involved in his death. As all of them struggle to figure out what happened to them and what their future is bringing, there are more questions than answers.

This taut thriller of a book takes a daring look at memories, families and what makes us who we are. Readers will have to set aside their incredulity at the memory loss and go along for the ride here, allowing themselves to be part of the whiplash of the riveting plot and the horror of what happened to these children. There is real depth in this novel for teens, looking beyond the bleakness of the kidnapping and into the question of childhood trauma and what makes a normal teen and adult.

The three main characters are well developed and interesting, particularly Avery, who has a unique point of view and intact memories. Her skepticism at the teens’ story of memory loss will echo that of the reader. Her continued concern for her own brother demonstrates the additional victims of the crime, the family members. Scarlett and Lucas are strong characters as well, searching for any clues they can find to unravel what happened to them. The other teens who were returned are less well drawn, with one of them almost disappearing from the novel until much later in the story.

Told through specific points of view, this novel keeps its edge right up to the end. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.


Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan

Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan

Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Maja Lofdahl (InfoSoup)

It is Ming’s first day of preschool. She says hello to new classmates and goodbye to her father. She does show-and-tell and builds sand castles. But she isn’t quite ready for the big red slide. In winter, she makes snow angels. Rests inside in the warmth and has tea parties. In spring she finds worms in puddles and makes flowers for the windows. Finally, it is the end of school. And just then, Ming realizes that she is ready for the big slide after all.

There is a lovely sense of time passing in this book, of seasonality without that being the main focus of the story. Ming herself doesn’t struggle to fit in with her classmates at all. Instead the focus is on what happens in a preschool classroom as the seasons pass and meanwhile the red slide waits, showing up occasionally throughout the book and just being there until Ming herself is ready. There is no sense of pressure for Ming to use the slide and no feeling of anxiety about it either. It is just there and ready to be conquered whenever Ming herself feels up to it.

The illustrations make this book exceptional. Painted with a softness and filled with light, the illustrations are simply gorgeous. They portray the warmth and friendliness of a preschool class, somehow exuding the feel of safety and kindness as well. They are bright yet subdued too and calming.

A lovely book for a child heading to preschool for the first time, this picture book will show there are slides that can wait to be climbed until the time is right. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.