Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy (InfoSoup)

NASA has called on Yuri, a 17-year-old physics prodigy from Russia, to help save the earth, literally. An asteroid is heading on a path that will directly impact earth in the next few weeks. Yuri joins the team of adults who don’t really listen to him. Yuri’s own research into antimatter has not yet been published, though he expects it to win him the Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, Yuri meets Dovie, a teenage girl who has the life that Yuri never lived. Her hippie family is warm and wonderful, despite many horrible culinary experiments. Despite his focus on the asteroid, Yuri finds himself drawn to Dovie and her American teenage experiences. As Yuri works, he also discovers that the Americans intend to force him to stay, rather than allowing him to return to Russia. Now Yuri has to deal with the asteroid, escaping NASA and teenage love.

Immediately upon starting the book, I was in love with the author’s voice. She writes with a wry tone that broadens at times into full-on farce and humor. The interplay between Yuri and his counterparts at NASA is fascinatingly displayed, often using a mix of both cultural differences and Yuri’s social awkwardness to best effect. The novel is fast paced and yet not breakneck until the very end where it is entirely warranted and great fun. Yuri in an American high school and then at prom are wonderful moments that show the horrors of American schools but also Yuri as a unique character.

The book works because of Yuri himself and Dovie as well as her family. Yuri is a great character, someone who could initially be seen as Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory and then zigs in a different direction, becoming someone who is kind, friendly and horny too. Dovie and her family are the opposite of “typical” Americans, instead living a hippie lifestyle that is lovingly captured on the page. The addition of Dovie’s brother and his wheelchair is far more than a token gesture and he becomes important in Yuri’s growth and choices.

A richly funny and deeply fascinating book that asks big questions about life and death while making you laugh along the way. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

 

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson (InfoSoup)

Over the summer, a school was built. The school liked its name, Frederick Douglass Elementary. It liked the quiet summer days with just the janitor who warned the new school that soon it would be full of children. But the school wasn’t sure that it liked the idea of children! And when they did arrive, there were so many of them. They went everywhere. Some children didn’t like being at school, and one little freckled girl in particular caught the school’s attention. As the day went on though, the school started to see what he was built for and the children who didn’t want to be there also started to understand why they were there too.

What a clever clever premise for a book! It takes the school building itself and gives it the angst of the first day of school, the wonder about all of the different kinds of things that go on from the play structures to the classrooms and the cafeteria. Steadily with apparently no effort at all, children will be introduced to all of the parts of an elementary school. They will also find that their fears mirror that of the school and that all they need to do is give it the first day and see how that goes. Like the school, they might just be looking forward to the second one!

The illustrations by Robinson are merry and bright. They too add to the calming feeling of the book, creating a look that is friendly and soothing at the same time. The children are from all different backgrounds, creating a dynamic and diverse atmosphere. The school itself somehow exudes personality, even managing to look at little embarrassed about the fire alarm.

A marvelous book for first-day jitters, this picture book will be loved by everyone headed to their own school. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.