How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi, illustrated by Yao Xiao (9781524773274)
Ashima is one of the best rock climbers in the world. Here, she shows how climbers take on the problems (or obstacles in the rock) in front of them. In this book, the problem she shares is the Golden Shadow in Rocklands, South Africa, which she climbed successfully at age 13. Ashima visualized her approach, clapped her hands full of chalk, mapped out each step in her head, and started her climb. Some parts of the rock, she named after different things in her life: her mother’s fabrics and her father’s dancing elbow. But then, the world slipped out from under her, and she fell. She dusted herself off, had a snack, and faced the problem again, learning from her fall. She tried again, stretching muscles to bridge the rock, and conquered it!
The writing here is a great mix of pragmatic approach and also lovely visualizations about the rock itself and the problem it presents. Ashima tells her story in the first person, from examining the huge problem in front of her through the approach, her fall and then success. But each step is executed in front of the reader where they can feel the muscle strain, see the skill that Ashima uses, and also use the approach of falling and learning from those falls, to dust off and try again.
The art by Xiao is marvelous with a substantial comic-book or superhero feel to it. This works really well with the subject matter, which has Ashima climbing what looks like impossible rock walls. The art shows clearly the different steps of the climb and how Ashima approaches each one with determination and focus.
A thrilling read and will inspire you to climb the rocks in your life too. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Make Me a World.
We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly (9780062747303)
Welcome to 1986, the year of the Challenger disaster and a year when all three of the Thomas children find themselves in seventh grade together. Fitch and Bird are twins and used to be very close. Bird loves science and exploring how things are made. As the Challenger nears its launch, she finds herself spellbound by the potential it represents for women in space and for her own future. Fitch meanwhile is struggling to deal with the anger that rises inside of him constantly, filling his days playing Major Havoc in the local arcade. Cash has been held back a grade and no longer plays basketball, which he misses desperately. He finds himself wondering if he is actually good at anything at all in life. The three siblings grow up in a family that is filled with anger, regular arguments and verbal abuse. As the three grow apart, circumstances including the Challenger disaster pull them back together, just in time to allow them all to find a potential way forward.
Kelly is a Newbery Medalist and this book shows her skill and superb understanding of the minds of youth. Using the setting of the mid-1980’s, she invites readers to see that while some things are different, much of the emotions, family tensions and life was the same as today. The Challenger disaster provides the ideal unifying factor in each of the sibling’s stories which are told from their own points of view. Yet Kelly does not overplay that element, never drawing the lines starkly but allowing readers to connect elements themselves.
The three siblings are quite different from one another and yet their shared upbringing and lack of safety at home create a unified experience that they all emerge from in different ways. Bird, the smart one, who takes things apart and does well at school, wonders if she is disappearing. Fitch burns with an anger he can’t explain, lashing out at others. Cash too is frustrated but he takes it out on himself and struggles internally.
A deep and magnificent middle-grade novel. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books.