Looking for Alaska – The TV Show

On October 18th, Hulu will be launching a miniseries version of Looking for Alaska, John Green’s award-winning first novel. Here is the trailer:

Review: Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (9781549304002)

This memoir is done in a comic or graphic format. It’s the autobiography of Maia, who uses the pronouns e/em/eir. It tells the story of eir childhood growing up being assigned as a female gender at birth. From loving snakes to peeing outside to taking off eir shirt to go swimming along with the boys, Maia never conformed to gender stereotypes. Eir parents didn’t either, but Maia’s need to not be identified as female ran far deeper. Growing older, Maia had crushes on both boys and girls, and wondered if e was bisexual. Still, Maia had to continue to explore what dating, crushes, love, and sex meant to em until e realized what it meant to be nonbinary and asexual.

Kobabe shares so deeply in eir memoir. It is such a personal journey, filled with moments of deep connection and joy, the agony of pap smears, the constant questioning of identity, and then ending with incredible hope. This memoir was at first written to help eir family understand em, and it will work that way for those wanting to understand being gender nonbinary. It also aids in understanding asexuality and how that impacts relationships. Sex is handled with a refreshing frankness on the pages.

Kobabe’s art is very effective. E does full-page pieces that feature family members and other parts that read as fluid story telling in a more traditional way. These different approaches blend together into a dynamic format that invites readers into Kobabe’s life.

Vital and important, this memoir is tender and impactful. Appropriate for ages 16-adult.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Small World by Ishta Mercurio

Small World by Ishta Mercurio

Small World by Ishta Mercurio, illustrated by Jen Corace (9781419734076)

Nanda was born into the circle of her mother’s loving arms. As she grew, her world grew too. It grew to include more circles, branches in trees, blocks, steel, and cogs. Her world got bigger as she traveled to college where she built her own helicopter and then became a pilot. Her world continued to grow as she roared into the atmosphere aboard a space shuttle. She was bigger than she had ever been before when she stood on the moon’s surface and looked at the stars above her and Earth glowing in the sky.

Mercurio’s prose plays with perspective right from the first pages. She also includes shapes and components of engineering into Nanda’s childhood. A girl fascinated with science and engineering becomes an astronaut in this book that offers an inspiring look at a girl who grows up as her world grows around her.

The illustrations play with shapes on every page, from the patterns of trees and their branches to the quilt below plane wings made up of farmland. Even the stars above form circles at the end of the book along with Earth, guiding readers right back to the circle that the book started with.

An inspiring look at a young girl of Indian descent who reaches the stars. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

 

Review: Mommy Sayang by Rosana Sullivan

Mommy Sayang by Rosana Sullivan

Mommy Sayang by Rosana Sullivan (9781368015905)

Aleeya lives with her mother in their Malaysian village. She loves spending time with her Mommy, and the two of them do everything together. Mommy also features heavily in Aleeya’s dreams which are filled with flowers and dancing. The two of them plan to always be together like this. But then Mommy gets sick and has to stay in bed. Aleeya is lost without her, but steadily starts to realize that she can be at her mother’s side, just in a different way.

This picture book brings diversity in multiple ways. There is the Malaysian setting that is richly depicted with animals and activity. The family is Muslim and prayers and head-wear are depicted. Then you have the mother get ill. While she does recover by the end of the book, it is rare that you see a mother get bedridden in a picture book and the impact of that loss explored. Here it is fully shown and Aleeya’s response is brave and loving.

The illustrations are rich and filled with color and touching moments between mother and child. Their relationship is at the center of the text and the illustrations. It is not a surprise that the illustrations are captivating, since this is a book in the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase. The talent here really shines.

A lovely look at the impact of a mother, whether she can get out of bed or not. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Look! I Wrote a Book! (And You Can Too!) by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Look! I Wrote a Book! (And You Can Too!) by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Look! I Wrote a Book! (And You Can Too!) by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Neal Layton (9780399558184)

A little girl explains to readers what it takes to write a book. First, you need a “Good Idea” that you can get from all sorts of places, including your own brain or staring out of the window. You have to know what you are talking about in your book and also know who you are writing it for. Grandmothers are a very different audience than kids who like dump trucks. Books for babies should not be incredibly scary. Then you must concentrate and create a plan for your book. A good title is necessary too. Start strong and then fill in the middle. The ending comes last. Share the book with friends, revise as necessary. Create a cover and an “About the Author” page. Then start selling your book, perhaps with cookies as an incentive and if that doesn’t work tying a person to a chair. Maybe it’s time for a sequel?

The best part about this book is that it is a combination of complete silliness and also good information about the steps in writing a book. Lloyd-Jones uses zany humor to really get her point across about writing taking time, creativity and a willingness to revise. Still, the book is also about frightening babies, boring grandparents, tying people up, and being interesting along the way.

The illustrations help tell the story with their clever depictions of the little girl’s imaginative stories. Using a mixture of textures and patterns, they also incorporate collage elements as well. The result is a modern and silly mix that suits the book nicely.

Silly and serious all at once, this really is a book about writing a book where you will giggle along the way. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade. 

Review: For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington

For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington

For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington (9780374308049)

Keda sometimes feels like an outsider in her own family. She is adopted and the only member of her family who is African American. Moving to a new city across the country and to a new school, Keda has to leave behind her best friend who completely understands her. Keda’s parents are both classical musicians, though her mother hasn’t been even practicing her violin lately. She tends to have spells where she can’t get out of bed mixed with other times filled with lots of energy and projects. Keda feels a lot of pressure to take care of her mother, often not sharing the microaggressions she suffers at school or the racist names that others are calling her. When Keda’s mother finds out about the name calling, she pulls Keda and her older sister out of school entirely to be homeschooled. But her mother doesn’t consistently teach them, placing Keda into a girl scout troop for the summer where more racial incidents happen. As her mother’s condition worsens, Keda finds herself often alone with her mother at home trying to figure out how to help and not make things worse.

Lockington vividly tells the story of a tween who struggles to make her personal needs known to a family who doesn’t experience the world in the same way due primarily to race. The book is told from Keda’s perspective which gives it a strong voice and makes the aggression she receives feel very personal to the reader. Just telling the story of an adoptive child who is pre-teen, African-American, and in a loving but struggling home is important. The subjects of microaggressions and racism are told in a straight-forward and unflinching way that will allow readers of all races to understand the impact and pain they cause.

Keda’s character is resilient and smart. She is often struggling with huge issues from racism to mental illness. Yet she doesn’t ever give up. She stands up to bullies and racists, tries to protect her fragile mother from knowing about the hardships happening to her, and then works to care for her mother and protect her father. She is immensely alone in the book and yet always looking for a way forward.

An important and very personal story of adoption, race and strength. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Review: Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan

Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan

Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan (9780525645214)

Jasper and Ollie are best friends. At breakfast, Jasper wants to go to the pool and Ollie agrees. Jasper, the fox, wants to race to get there and runs out of the house. Along the way, he pull on his swimsuit, blows past the mailman who dumps his letters, jumps over a turtle painting a fence, and hustles past the ice cream truck. Now Jasper has to wait for Ollie though. And Ollie, the sloth, has a very different approach. He watches butterflies, smells the flowers, picks up the spilled mail, gets a drink, helps paint the fence, and gets an ice cream cone. Meanwhile Jasper is rushing around trying to see if Ollie is somewhere at the pool and manages to get himself thrown out. Luckily, that is just when Ollie arrives with ice cream cones for both of them.

Willan tells this story solely in speech bubbles. He uses framing techniques from comic books to great effect here. On the larger upper frame, he shows Jasper in his speedy desperation to find Ollie. Below, Ollie moves along quietly enjoying his walk to the pool. Jasper is often accompanied by a dashed line showing his movement over and under and around people and obstacles and usually accompanied by chaos in his wake.

The illustrations are brilliantly done with plenty of humor too. It has a wonderful aesthetic to it where the pattern of Ollie’s swimsuit is repeated on various things at the pool that Jasper searches. The illustrations are worth looking closely at to catch all of the funny moments and small touches along the way.

A combination of speed and sloth that makes for a great friendship and plenty of laughs. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

This Week’s Tweets

Here are the items I shared this week:

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CHILDREN’S BOOKS

How to talk with kids about migration? Try picking up a book. – Christian Science Monitor – buff.ly/2JIUqQx #kidlit

Some new picture books that go vroom, zoom, beep — and bark. kirkusreviews.com/features/vroom…

YA LIT

15 Books You’ll Devour After After Finishing ‘With the Fire on High’ buff.ly/2LvRVTQ #yalit

50 Beautiful Sentences from Young Adult Books – https://t.co/bDj8Id22pK

Review: Albert’s Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault

Albert's Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault

Albert’s Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault (9781101917626)

In this second book in the Mile End Kids series, Albert is looking for a quiet place to read. His house is way too noisy, so he heads to the alley behind his house. There he notices a painting of the sea at sunset and imagines he is reading on a quiet beach. But the alley starts to get busier as he sits there. Some children are working on potting a plant. Others begin a badminton game. Another girl asks Albert to watch her doll while she gets her cat. Someone else plays music and kids start to dance. It gets too be way too much for Albert, who slams his book shut and yells at the kids to be quiet. The others sneak away and quietly bring out their own books, finally shushing Albert when he tries to apologize for his outburst.

Told only in speech bubbles in the illustrations, this story is about wanting to find a bit of solitude and quiet. The building of the noise around Albert is done well, layering on top of one another. The ending though is a pleasure and a surprise as the other children get books and read too, with the picture book ending with laughter together.

Arsenault’s illustrations are wonderfully ethereal and unique. Done in a limited color palette, they have a quiet nature to them. She plays nicely with Albert’s imagination taking up double-page spreads and showing all of the children on the beach together. The cacophony takes over the pages, a brilliant show of noise and activity on the page.

Just right for quiet and loud kids alike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Books for Young Readers.