Category: Uncategorized

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

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They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel (InfoSoup)

A cat walks through the house and the backyard and is seen by different people and animals in their own unique way. The child sees a very friendly cat, the mouse a terrifying creature with huge teeth, the fish sees a watery figure, the bat sees the space the cat takes up, and the worm sees the vibrations of the cat through the earth. Each creature perceives the cat in a different way. Even the cat itself, as it heads to the water, is about to see itself in a personal way.

This very simple book offers a fascinating look at perception and the ways that each of us sees and views the world around us. The repeating first line of “The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears and paws…” keeps the book clearly focused and adds an important stylistic component. The book also celebrates imagination as children can start to see the unique ways not only they view the world but can imagine the ways that other creatures see the world in such a different way. The idea of perspective is also introduced, particularly from the cat itself, a flea riding in the cat’s fur and the bird flying high above. There is plenty to discuss in this book and it invites investigation and learning.

The illustrations are a critical part of the concept, showing how an insect’s eyes see the world in a very different way. They also capture not only how an animals sees but their relationship with the cat. The dog sees a lean and almost whiplike creature. The fox sees a juicy round animal. This use of both physical perspective and personal perspective is very cleverly and clearly done.

A book to generate discussion, I can see this being used in conversations about differing points of view as well as art classes on perspective. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (InfoSoup)

Every year, the youngest child in the Protectorate must be left in the woods for the witch. The sacrifice of the child has ensured the survival of their small community for years. Unfortunately, the entire witch story was made up by those in power to keep the population sad and controllable. Still, there is a witch who lives in the woods, but Xan is gentle and kind. She rescues the children who are left in the clearing, taking them to other communities where they are loved and adored. Then one year, Xan accidentally feeds the baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the small child with magic. Xan decides to keep the child, whose magic will need to be controlled. As Luna grows, her magic starts to seep out everywhere, so Xan locks it away deep inside Luna who grows up knowing nothing of magic, despite living with a small dragon and a large swamp monster. As truth starts to appear, those in power struggle to maintain control even as Luna begins to discover what is hidden inside her.

Barnhill has created a brand new classic fairy tale with this book. Her writing is rich and filled with emotion. She allows magic to be incorporated throughout her book with a natural feel and flair. It becomes almost as normal as the trees in the woods, allowing readers to realize that Luna must discover her own magic or not be living at all in this world. The world building is brilliantly done with each piece clicking neatly in, forming a full pattern of the world.

The book does have Luna as a protagonist but it is so filled with rich characters that there are many heroes and heroines. There is Antain, the boy who refused to witness babies die. There is the amazing Xan, elderly and full of life, determined to do good even with her last breath. Glerk and Fyrian the monster and dragon are perfect for both humor and wisdom. Luna herself has to be even more special to stand out against these other characters, and she certainly is!

This book is magical, clever and luminous. Definitely one for young fans of fantasy or for anyone looking for a rich reading experience. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Not As We Know It by Tom Avery

Not as We Know It by Tom Avery

Not As We Know It by Tom Avery (InfoSoup)

Jamie and Ned are twins growing up together on a tiny island in the English Channel. They love to do things as a pair, from scouring the beaches for treasures that wash up from the sea to watching Star Trek on DVD. But Ned is not well. He is fighting cystic fibrosis and the most recent treatments don’t seem to be working. Then one day, the brothers find a strange creature on the beach. It is hurt and they carry it to their garage where they fill a tub with saltwater and care for it. It’s like nothing they have ever seen before with its scales and gills combined with arms and legs. As the boys care for the creature, their grandfather tells them tales of mermen and mermaids. Jamie starts to hope that the creature can work a miracle for Ned, though Ned sees it very differently.

This novel for middle grade readers is riddled with sorrow and the drain of watching a loved one slowly decline. Yet Ned is also a ray of light himself, refusing to let his disorder rule his life. Still, the book is clearly headed for Ned to go where Jamie can’t follow, a journey he has to take on his own. As the creature brings hope to Jamie, it also brings him distress as he recognizes that his hope may be futile and readers will see it as a natural way to keep from facing his brother’s approaching death.

Both boys are strongly written characters. Jamie is pure heart, trying to be there for his brother and leaving school to be homeschooled alongside his brother. Jamie is a source of adventure and normalcy for Ned, something that keeps them close and also buoys up Ned’s moods and health. Ned is unwilling to do anything but face the truth of his situation and yet that doesn’t limit his activities. Instead it seems to fuel his desire to be more than just a dying boy. The pair of them together are pure radiance.

A powerful, tragic and hopeful book about brotherhood and death with more than a touch of magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.

 

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo (InfoSoup)

Yoshio heads out of his house and into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. He hears all sorts of things, like splashing puddles and rain on his umbrella. Then he hears the sound of a woman playing a koto and visits with her. He asks her what her favorite sound is and she replies that it is the sound of silence. Yoshio spent the rest of the day looking for silence. But there was always some kind of sound, others talking, the breeze in the bamboo, traffic and trains. He couldn’t find silence anywhere, not in the bath where water dripped or in bed where he could hear a radio playing far away. He went to school early the next day, still seeking silence and then for one moment, he heard it. Even inside he was still. He discovered it was in between all of the other sounds, just waiting for him there.

Goldsaito has written a beautiful contemplative picture book where seeking the sound of silence is a search for finding your own inner place of peace. Even as the book looks towards silence, it celebrates the other sounds of a bustling city, a busy school and a family at home. As the sounds grow quieter, the book slows too allowing readers to see the way towards silence as they move through the book.

Kuo’s illustrations are gorgeous with their fine lines and details. They capture a city with many inhabitants walking together, traffic moving, and plenty of action. They also show the beauty of the bamboo garden, the loving family eating together and then Yoshio eager to find the solution to hearing silence. Readers will hear silence on many of the pages thanks to the beauty of the illustrations and the moment it takes to really look at them.

A very special picture book that will speak to many readers in our busy modern world who are themselves looking for a peaceful break in their day. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

End of Summer Vacation

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One last week of vacation this summer that starts with a big meeting out of town. It also has my oldest returning to college and a week of bonding with my youngest, preparing for the school year, reading and recovering from the oldest being gone again.

May you survive all of the transitions the end of summer brings!

2016 New Zealand Book Awards

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The winners of the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards have been announced. The winner of the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and winner of the Elsie Locke Non-Fiction Award is

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Anzac Heroes by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic

Other winners include:

PICTURE BOOK AWARD

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The Little Kiwi’s Matariki by Nikki Slade Robinson

ESTHER GLEN JUNIOR FICTION AWARD

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From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

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Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner

RUSSELL CLARK ILLUSTRATION AWARD

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Much Ado About Shakespeare by Donovan Bixley

Visit the site for more award winners including the ones voted on by children in New Zealand.

Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John

Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John

Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John, illustrated by Bob Shea (InfoSoup)

The main character in this book does not want people to just call him a monster. Sure, he may look like a monster. He may sound like a monster. He may live in your closet or under your bed. But how would you feel if everywhere you went people screamed and called you “monster.” After all, he doesn’t go around calling humans names like “little meat snack” does he? He’s a very well behaved and polite monster. Wait, OK, so he IS a monster, but he’d much rather you call him Floyd Peterson instead. Can you do that?

Two picture book masters come together for their best collaboration yet in this very funny picture book that speaks directly to how stereotyping and labels make someone feel. The text is gorgeously written and works beautifully when shared aloud, particularly by someone willing to go full out on the voicing of Floyd. The twist at the end is wonderful as well.

Shea’s art is incredibly playful with Floyd blending into darkness and also disappearing against furry backgrounds. Shea has created a rather friendly and polite monster but also one that has a scary side too, the perfect mix.

Funny and smart, this picture book looks at how names hurt even if you are a monster. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.