Review: Mallko and Dad by Gusti

Mallko and Dad by Gusti

Mallko and Dad by Gusti (9781592702596)

This autobiographical picture book takes a raw and impassioned look at fatherhood and unconditional love. It is the story of the author and his son who was born with Down Syndrome. Mallko was not what his father was expecting, and Gusti did not accept his son at first. Steadily though, he quickly realized that Mallko was complete and fine as he was. Mallko’s mother and older brother accepted him much faster, showing Gusti the way forward. The book explores Mallko, his humor and his life. His art is shown side-by-side with his father’s on the pages. This is a book that is a clarion call for parents to realize that their children don’t need to change to be loved, they are worthy of it always.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this book is Gusti’s willingness to be this open about his hesitation of having a child who is different than he was expecting. Gusti does not try to rationalize his response or make apologies for it. It is clear he is pained by how he first reacted and is making up for those days of doubt. The rest of the book simply celebrates Mallko and exactly who he is. He is captured in a rainbow of images, cartoons capturing his activities, playing with his family, and simply being a child. It is a breathtaking display of love and feels like Gusti put his heart on every page.

An incredible book that is a picture book, but as thick as a novel thanks to the quantity of images crammed inside waiting to inspire you to love. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion Books.

 

 

Review: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty (
9781338255843)

Bronte has been raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler since she was a tiny baby. Still, it’s a shock when she discovers at age 10 that her parents have been killed by pirates. Her parents send her on a journey with strict rules and a tight schedule where she will meet all ten of her aunts and then everyone will come together for a party in her parents’ honor. Bronte may even get to meet her maternal grandfather, who lives near where the party will be held. As Bronte sets off on her travels though, they become more and more unique and strange. There are fairies, magicians who can whisper directly into your brain, potions, and spells. Then there is the question of who Bronte herself actually is and whether she will ever discover the truth about herself. 

I am not one for travel stories where the protagonist takes all sorts of conveyances through a magical world, and yet this one is so very charming with pieces that click together so beautifully that I could not put it down. Nicely, Moriarty minimizes the travel pieces by often skipping them altogether, something that is downright applause-worthy on its own. Moriarty sets just the right tone here, allowing readers to gather that they are in a magical world slowly and then explore what that means alongside Bronte. Her world building is complex and yet also compact, keeping the story very tightly focused and enjoyable.

Bronte is a marvelous protagonist mostly because she is not the adventurous type and has spent much of her life alone with adults. Moriarty writes her like that throughout the book. She enjoys the company of other children, and yet has a wariness that makes sense given her upbringing and recent loss. As Bronte and the reader slowly piece together the full puzzle, this book really comes into its own, ending up being a grand and magical adventure where each element was necessary and important. 

A marvelous fantasy for young readers, this journey is one worth taking. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Arthur A. Levine Books.

Review: Lights! Camera! Alice! by Mara Rockliff

Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff

Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Thrilling Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Simona Ciraolo (9781452141343)

Alice Guy-Blache was the first woman film-maker in the world. When motion pictures were first invented, they were used to show dull things like people boarding a train. Alice saw an opportunity to use them to tell stories, like the stories she had loved since she was a child. Alice figured out how to run film backward to show people flying upwards among other clever tricks. She made colored films by hand and created the first movies with sound. Alice moved to America with her new husband and discovered that no one had ever heard of her there! So she set out to create more films and eventually opened her own studio in New York State. Unfortunately, everything changed when Hollywood became the place for movies and Alice had to return to France without even a movie camera. Still, she had one last story to tell, her own.

This eye-opening picture book biography will introduce readers to an amazing woman whose vision of what movies could be led the way to new developments and implementations. Most importantly, Alice realized that film could be used to tell stories and set out to do just that. Throughout her life and this book, Alice shows a fierce determination, artistic eye, and a desire to share her imagination with others.

The art by Ciraolo is bright and full of action. It shows vintage images of ads as well as the brightness of Alice’s ideas. Some of the images take an entire page while others are small vignettes of big moments in Alice’s life. The variety makes for a dynamic book visually.

An introduction to a woman that we should all know. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.

 

Review: Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri (9781626725355)

After dinner, Tiger takes an extra plate of food to share with her monster. Monster had been under Tiger’s bed, but they soon became friends. Now they spend time together playing games until bedtime when Monster scares Tiger’s nightmares away. All of Tiger’s family thinks she has an imaginary friend, but Monster is real. Monster fights all sorts of nightmares away until she encounters one that is too big and scary to chase off. As Tiger starts to have nightmares, she realizes that the two of them will need to work together to get rid of this huge nightmare.

Tetri, a cartoonist, has written a captivating graphic novel that is just right for the picture-book set. The pacing is brisk with a concept that shines. There is plenty of humor on the pages that sets off the more dramatic parts of the story. The art is done in watercolors, adding a wonderful traditional feel to the book. One of the more delightful parts is when Monster battles one nightmare after another. The pace slows beautifully in this part and mimics epic battle montages in comic books.

A tale of friendship and teamwork, this is a great early graphic novel. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by First Second.

 

Review: Lovely Beasts by Kate Gardner

Lovely Beasts by Kate Gardner

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner, illustrated by Heidi Smith (9780062741615)

This nonfiction picture book takes a brief look at a series of different animals and shows an unexpected side to each of them. Fierce gorillas are actually wonderful parents caring deeply and well for their offspring. Fanged wolves when looked at more closely are all about being friends with one another and connecting through their howls. The feared shark is an important part of its ecosystem and food cycle. The porcupine is less about throwing quills and much more about being a shy herbivore. Each animal is labeled with a false impression and then with a turn of the page the more detailed truth of the animal is shared.

Gardner has carefully selected animals that are perceived as something they are not. She wisely shares a mix of features of the animal and corrective facts that offset the false perception. The text is brief enough to make this book a great read aloud to share when exploring animal life. The book ends with a group of female pack leaders of different types and then shows all of the animals in the book together.

The illustrations are particularly lovely. Done in subtle colors and fine lines, the fur of the animals is almost touchable. Each animal is shown both singly on a simple blank background and then again in their habitat.

A beautiful and fresh look at some of the most misunderstood animals in the world. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr (9781536200171)

Astrid loves living in her tiny village in the mountains. The only problem is that no other children live nearby. She does have a best friend, Gunnvald, a neighbor in his seventies who loves to play the fiddle and can be rather grumpy. Astrid spends her time playing outside, building prototype sleds with Gunnvald, and bothering the owner of the wellness retreat nearby. When some children do come to the retreat (where children are forbidden) Astrid becomes friends with them despite having a fight first. Astrid’s world is idyllic, but something is about to change. When Gunnvald has an accident and has to have surgery, the secret he has been keeping from Astrid is revealed. Could it be that nothing will ever go back to normal again?

This Norwegian book has been translated into languages and sold around the world. It’s wonderful to see it on American shelves. Parr writes with a delightful sense of merriment throughout her book. She speaks to the importance of children having freedom and an ability to make choices in their life (even if one of those choices can’t be missing school all the time). She also demonstrates what a life lived outdoors looks like and the importance of loving a place and identifying with it.

The book uses the story of Heidi as a central plot point, which is very interesting since I had been thinking of how much this tale was like Heidi from the start. It is partly the setting itself of a mountaintop with an older man who is grumpy yet warm. But another large component is the character at the heart of both stories. Astrid, like Heidi, is fiercely independent and loves with all her being.

Richly told, this book is a delightful wintry read that feels like a long-lost classic. Get it into the hands of fans of Heidi and Pippi Longstocking. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Candlewick Press.

Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books of 2018

Kirkus has released their list of the Best Middle-Grade Books of 2018. On their website, they list them in categories, but I will list them alphabetically here. Here are the titles:

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle Akissi: Tales of Mischief

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss, illustrated by Jonathan Bean

Akissi: Tales of Mischief by Marguerite Abouet, illustrated by Mathieu Sapin

All Summer Long Amal Unbound

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1)

Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle by Hilda Eunice Burgos

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge Baby Monkey, Private Eye

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin

37570583 The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor

Backyard Bears: Conservation, Habitat Changes, and the Rise of Urban Wildlife by Amy Cherrix

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor

The Book of Boy Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor

The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor by Temple Grandin

Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship

Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild by Catherine Thimmesh

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham, Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls, Selina Alko

Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster The Cardboard Kingdom

Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster by Patricia Sutton

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic, #1) The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America

A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez

Dragons in a Bag (Dragons in a Bag #1) Eat This!: How Fast Food Marketing Gets You to Buy Junk (and how to fight back)

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Geneva B

Eat This!: How Fast Food Marketing Gets You to Buy Junk (And How to Fight Back) by Andrea Curtis, illustrated by Peggy Collins

Everlasting Nora Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man

Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden

Fake Blood The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix

Finding Langston First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great by Sandra Neil Wallace, Rich Wallace, illustrated by Agata Nowicka

Front Desk The Ghost Road

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

The Ghost Road by Charis Cotter

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science Gone to Drift

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay

The Great Googlini Harbor Me

The Great Googlini by Sara Cassidy, illustrated by Charlene Chua

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

The House That Lou Built The House With Chicken Legs

The House that Lou Built by Mae Respicio

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Hurricane Child 35721253

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender

The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery, photographed by Nic Bishop

Illegal The Island at the End of Everything

Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

It's Up to You, Abe Lincoln Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

It’s Up to You, Abe Lincoln by Leila Hirschfeld, Tom Hirschfeld, illustrated by Lisa Weber, Neal Swaab

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

The Journey of Little Charlie Knights vs. Dinosaurs

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan

The Language of Spells Look at the Weather

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett

Look at the Weather by Britta Teckentrup

Love Like Sky Martin Rising: Requiem For a King

Love Like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Meet Yasmin! Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl The Night Diary

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

North to Benjamin Otherwood

North to Benjamin by Alan Cumyn

Otherwood by Pete Hautman

Out of Left Field The Parker Inheritance

Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

Sanity & Tallulah The Science of Breakable Things

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis

The Season of Styx Malone The Sky at Our Feet

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

The Sky at Our Feet by Nadia Hashimi

Small Spaces 35804743

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Snowy Owl Invasion!: Tracking an Unusual Migration by Sandra Markle

So Done Stanley Will Probably Be Fine

So Done by Paula Chase

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla, illustrated by Steve Wolfhard

Struttin' with Some Barbecue: Lil Harden Armstrong Becomes the First Lady of Jazz Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy

Struttin’ with Some Barbecue: Lil Harden Armstrong Becomes the First Lady of Jazz by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Rachel Himes

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina

Tortot, The Cold Fish Who Lost His World and Found His Heart The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle

Tortot, the Cold Fish Who Lost His World and Found His Heart by Benny Lindelauf, illustrated by Ludwig Volbeda

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

The Turnaway Girls We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

The Turnaway Girls by Hayley Chewins

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson

You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P! You Go First

You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P. by Alex Gino

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

Zenobia

Zenobia by Morten Dürr, illustrated by Lars Horneman

Review: Snow Lane by Josie Angelini

Snow Lane by Josie Angelini

Snow Lane by Josie Angelini (9781250150929)

Annie doesn’t live in the type of family that lets them take tropical vacations during school breaks like some of the kids she goes to school with. She is the youngest of nine children in her family and money is tight. Her father works so much that she barely sees him at all unless it is while she is helping out at their family farm picking berries. Her mother doesn’t pay much attention to any of the children except the two talented ones. As Annie returns to school for a new year, she realizes that she is very different than the other kids and it goes a lot deeper than her having to wear hand-me-downs from her older brother and wait to get new shoes that don’t have a huge hole in them. Annie is consistently resilient and cheerful in the face of everything she has to deal with, something that is all the more impressive as her family secrets are revealed.

Angelini has drawn from her own family history to create one of the most heart-wrenching books of the year. Readers will immediately know that there is something wrong in Annie’s life as they witness her older siblings being cruel to Annie and her closest sister. Annie struggles with dyslexia and one older sister who is physically violent and also emotionally abusive, telling Annie that she is stupid all the time. As the book steadily reveals the truth about the family, things fall into place and leave Annie to find a way forward using her optimism and intelligence.

Angelini writes beautifully here. She allows the story to play out in front of the reader with Annie herself living in denial about what is actually happening in her family. That denial is even explained clearly towards the end of the book, which gives readers hope that Annie will not just survive but start to thrive. Angelini gives Annie two critical friendships at school that allow her to be successful. Both friends clearly have some ideas of what might be happening to Annie, but neither push that too hard, offering instead friendship, food, and safety.

Heartfelt and painfully honest, this book will speak to so many children living in similar circumstances and allow them to know they are not alone. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks (9781368008440)

Living on Wilnick, an outdated and aging space station at the end of the galaxy could be dull, but not for best friends Sanity and Tallulah. Sanity, who has always wanted a pet despite rules against having one, decides to create one herself. It turns out to be a very cute three-headed kitten with a taste for meat. The kitten manages to escape soon after Tallulah’s mother finds out that she exists. The girls set out to find out whether the problems that are happening across the space station are the fault of one cute kitten or maybe it’s something else. Meanwhile, there seems to be a very large monster on the loose and the coolant tank appears to have been drunk dry. As disaster looms aboard the space station, it’s up to Sanity to save the day thanks to the technology she explored when creating her illegal pet.

Brooks sets exactly the right tone in this graphic novel. The girls best friends who tend to talk one another into getting into even more trouble while trying to fix what they have already done. Add in a three-headed kitten and mayhem follows. The two girls could not be more different, which makes for an odd-couple chemistry between them. The story is fast paced and a delightful mix of STEM and girl power.

The art in the book is done in a limited color palette with pinks and deep blues. The art brings to life the space station and its size, conveying the hazards of keeping it functional while giving the girls a lot of space to run into trouble. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse and that extends to all of the people who live aboard the space station.

A strong graphic novel with plenty of appeal. Appropriate for ages 9-12

Reviewed from library copy.