Is Was by Deborah Freedman

Cover image for Is Was.

Is Was by Deborah Freedman (9781534475106)

Throughout a day in a meadow, readers will explore what is happening now and then what also was. The sky is blue until the rain comes. The rain was falling and now is puddles for animals to sip from. The fox is stalking the yellow bird who was drinking from the puddle. The buzz from the bees is in the sunshine. The shadow of a hawk is where the chipmunk was. Quiet comes to the meadow as the light changes to evening with its pinks and purples where blue once was. A child swinging in the evening joins their mother on the porch to watch the sky change and enjoy the quiet that is nightfall and the day that was.

Freedman excels at using only the words needed to keep the story flowing. The movement of now to past swirls past the reader again and again as time moves forward and circumstances change slowly and quickly. The wildlife in the meadow is a marvelous look at change as is the weather and the sky itself. It creates a vibrant look at the creatures themselves, their interaction and the sweep of the day as it passes with rain and sun.

The illustrations are full of color and light. From the golden sun of buzzing bees to the blue of rain to the pinks of the sunset arriving. Freedman allows some of the pages to stand with few or no words, showing the meadow grasses, stone wall and flowering trees, allowing the quiet to be still for the reader too.

A lovely look at our world as moments pass. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

Cover image for The Mirror Season.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore (9781250624123)

Ciela rescued a boy who had been drugged and assaulted at a party. At the same time the boy was assaulted, so was Ciela. After dropping him at the ER, Ciela thought she’d never see him again, until he turned up at her school that fall. As the people responsible for their assaults begin to bully Lock, Ciela starts a friendship with him without telling him what she knows. After the assault, Ciela’s world started to change. She could no longer look at a person and know what pan dulce will help them. She also saw mirrored glass everywhere, filling in puddles, replacing leaves and branches, draining the color from the world. As Ciela becomes better friends with Lock, her pan dulce powers start to return, something she thought she had lost forever. But there is still that secret between them, that Ciela knows what happened to him because she was there too. With silence all that is protecting her and Lock, how can she start to speak about what happened?

This harrowing and hauntingly gorgeous novel is so powerful. Its depiction of assault and its aftermath is filled with metaphor but also firmly grounded in what trauma does to someone. The writing is fierce and funny, insistent that the reader not look away. It’s a novel that gets into your heart, rather like a piece of mirrored glass, that burrows there and tears at you. Readers will not be surprised to read in the author’s note that McLemore has personally experience sexual assault, since the experience here is so raw and honest.

The two characters at the center of this novel are amazing. Written with truth and grit, they are both remarkable. Ciela is a brown girl who has lived unapologetically. She is queer and pansexual, making her even more of a target. Her experience is spoken about frankly in the book, the experience of a queer Latinx woman and how it is to live in America. Lock would seem to be her opposite in so many ways. A heterosexual white boy, he is just as interesting as she is somehow, even with her pan dulce magic. Lock is a tree-stealing, finger-biting boy who has been torn apart by trauma and is piecing his life back together, one crocheted mushroom at a time.

Unique characters face a shared assault in this book of trauma, friendship and a dash of magic. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.