Abner and Ian Get Right-Side Up by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Laura Park (9780316485869)
Open the book and you will discover that friends Abner and Ian are stuck on the sides of the page rather than being appropriately at the bottom of the page like any other book. What will get them into the right position? All they know is that the story really can’t start until they are in the right spot. Perhaps the child reading the book can help? But first Abner and Ian have to decide who will ask the child for help and when. The first shake doesn’t help at all, but makes it worse for both of the characters. More shaking continues and the results get more funny with each shake. Can it ever be fixed and the story begun?
I had not expected to be delighted by another book that asks children to shake the book, but this one is simply superb. A large part of the appeal are the characters themselves and their unique voices. I love their complaining and the different personalities that come forward, sharing weird little factoids and just having a conversation together that sounds natural and is entirely engaging.
Add to those interesting characters some odd visual results from the shaking that are very unexpected, and you have a winner of a picture book. The simple illustrations add to the appeal here, making the various positions on the page all the more humorous.
Funny and fascinating, this is one book that will shake you up! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker (9780451479532)
This superb middle-grade novel introduces readers to a young artist who finds herself at the center of a mystery. Ollie’s parents are both artists. Her father and his partner Apollo restore art work and her mother creates sculptures. But then one night, her father leaves for France with his new French girlfriend and her mother won’t get out of bed. Ollie fends for herself, eating apples and peanuts, meeting Apollo for meals out, and protecting the secret of her mother’s depression. She spends time with her two best friends, Richard and Alex, throughout their Soho neighborhood. Ollie discovers that there is more to her father’s disappearance than she thought and is determined to find out what is truly going on.
Filled with compelling characters and a mystery worth sleuthing, this novel is a delight of a read. Tucker uses the setting of New York City as a vivid backdrop to the tale. Soho itself serves as almost another character in the book with its lofts for artists, empty buildings, and occasional illegal poster hanging. When Ollie and Alex head to an island getaway, that setting too is beautifully depicted as a foil to the city and is equally celebrated too. Her writing is deft and nicely keeps the pace brisk and the questions about Ollie’s parents fresh.
All of the young characters in the book are fully realized and each have a distinct personality that makes sense and carries through the title. Apollo, a giant of a man who serves as a rock for Ollie in this tumultuous time, is also a well depicted character. Ollie’s mother is an important character whose depression keeps the reader from knowing her better. The subject of parental mental illness is handled with frankness and the book concludes with a sense of hope.
A fresh mix of mystery, art and secrets, this book is full of vibrant colors and not just Greys. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Viking.