Review: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (9781328778239)

Mara and her twin brother Owen have always been close. But when Owen gets drunk at a party and is accused of rape by his girlfriend Hannah, Mara is horrified. Though she doesn’t want to believe it, Mara sees signs that her brother isn’t telling the truth. Meanwhile Mara is dealing with Charlie, her ex-girlfriend, who seems to have quickly found a new girlfriend. Mara starts to find comfort with Owen’s best friend, Alex. At the same time, Mara is facing her own secrets about sexual assault and must decide who to trust with something she has never told anyone about for three years. As all of this collides in Mara’s life, she emerges as a fierce survivor but not before the book takes a deep look at perpetrators, lies and victim blaming.

Blake writes with a searing voice in this book. Some passages blaze on the page, ripping right through the reader with their honesty and their cry for justice. In other parts, the truth is just as present but is filled with grief and loss, a haunted realization that things will not be the same. Throughout though, there is the power of female friendships, of young women standing together and standing up for one another. It will never be enough to erase the trauma of rape, but it is enough to speak for hope and a future beyond the assault.

Blake beautifully portrays a bisexual protagonist who clearly is attracted to both men and women. Mara does not wear bisexuality as a label or as a token gesture, instead it is part of the heart of the book. Mara’s ex-girlfriend Charlie is genderqueer and exploring what that means in terms of pronouns and coming out to her parents. Charlie is a great genderqueer character, beautifully blending both genders at times, at others angry at her voice, and still others feeling like nothing fits. At the same time, she is Mara’s anchor and rock, the safe place that Mara returns to as chaos envelopes her.

Fierce and angry, this novel about sexual assault and the power of survivors. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and HMH Books for Young Readers.

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CHILDREN’S BOOKS

20 Picture Books About Empowerment, Friendship, & More | May 2018 Xpress Reviews

30 books for kids by Asian Pacific American authors and illustrators.

50 Must-Read Canadian Children’s and YA Books

Gina Gagliano to Head New Graphic Novel Imprint at Random House Children’s Books

How children’s literature became everybody’s literature via

Junot Díaz Accused Of Misconduct

Reading Memories: 12 Authors on the Books Their Mothers Read to Them |

“This book is about resistance and about not giving up.” Aisha Saeed on her new middle grade novel, ‘Amal Unbound’

TEEN LIT

14 Comforting Mental Health Quotes to Get You Through the Day

32 YA Titles for Every Day of Asian Pacific American History Month & Beyond

‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ Film Wows at Tribeca Film Festival |

3 New Picture Books about Nature

All the Animals Where I Live by Philip C. Stead

All the Animals Where I Live by Philip C. Stead (9781626726567)

Stead has created another picture book that invites you into his everyday world. Filled with stories of a bear chased off my an elderly woman and a teddy bear that Stead has had his entire life, stories of maple-syrup scented blankets, a dog named Wednesday, loud cranes, a falling turtle, and much more.

There is a beautiful simplicity to the book, one that slows the reader down to look out their own windows and think about the animals that live near them. The illustrations are simple too, washed with colors that suit the season and time of day, they move from yellows to blues to the oranges of autumn and to the ethereal greens of winter. A quiet and marvelous picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw_ms Gyetxw

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett David Huson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (9781553791395)

This picture book combines biology with a storytelling feel to create a very special tale. It is the story of sockeye salmon. From their time as a small fry just losing their yolk sac through to adult sockeye returning to their birthplace to spawn before they die. The picture book is also about the Gitxsan people of the Pacific Northwest and their connection to the river and the salmon. The book looks at the various stages of the live of the salmon and offers scientific information about them, the bears, environmental impact of humans, and much more.

The book is deep and lovely, the tone unique and lush. Seasons are captured in words but also in the senses. The scent of pine and cedar, the replacing of old snow with new snow, the run of water in the river, all fill this book with elements of the Pacific Northwest. The illustrations are large and mostly focused on the river and the salmon. Even the smoke from a fire flows across the dark sky like the river flows on other pages. A picture book written and illustrated to honor the Xsan river and the animals and humans who depend on it. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre

Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre (9780062697349)

Sayre provides a love letter to the Earth in this picture book. With a reverential tone and gentle rhymes, the book swoops the reader up on a photographic journey around Earth with all of its wonders. Thank yous go out for mountains, water, air and trees. Then the book moves to smaller things like patterns, sounds, seasons and plants. The book once again widens to look at the beauty of the sky and the amazement of lifetimes.

Embracing and filled with just the right tone of enthusiasm, this picture book is celebratory and filled with big thoughts that children will find mesmerizing. The photographic illustrations are varied and filled with color, mists, water, stone and more. A diverse look at life on earth and our privilege to be here. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (9781524767587)

When Lucy was struck by lightning as a child, she gained the ability to do genius-level math problems. She has other impacts from the lightning strike, including some OCD that has her tapping her feet three times and sitting three times before she can settle. Lucy has been homeschooled by her grandmother since the incident but now she is twelve and her grandmother wants her to go to middle school rather than college (like Lucy would prefer.) They make a deal that Lucy has to try middle school for one year, make one friend, join one activity and read one book that is not about math. Lucy decides not to tell anyone about her math skills and lowers all of her grades to make herself seem more normal. Lucy’s new class has to do a service project and she has to work with two other people. But how can she help if all she has to offer is a love of numbers that she is trying to hide?

For being such an extraordinary girl, Lucy is someone that everyone in middle school will be able to relate to. Issues starting a new school, making new friends, and finding a way to be yourself all make this middle school novel classic. Add in the math skills, lightning strike and Lucy’s need for cleanliness and her other quirks and you have a book that is something special. Throughout McAnulty makes sure that readers deeply understand Lucy at a variety of levels. Lucy is a protagonist who discovers a lot about herself in the course the book. As Lucy grows and changes, it feels entirely organic and natural.

At its heart, this book encourages us all to be our unique and quirky selves in middle school and beyond. The writing is accessible and the novel is a joy to read. The book is written with all numbers in numerical format, a clue that Lucy sees the world a bit differently. As she counts and calculates her way through her day, Lucy shows everyone that there are ways forward where you don’t want to pretend to be normal.

A stellar read, this middle school book is a book that is hard to sum up, but one you can count on. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

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

3 New Picture Books about Compassion

The Funeral by Matt James

The Funeral by Matt James (9781554989089)

Norma has to go to her great-uncle Frank’s funeral. She has to miss school, and she gets to see her favorite cousin, Ray. But she still practices her sad face in the mirror. Their car joins a line of cars headed to the church. The funeral is long and Norma has to be quiet. Ray has trouble staying still for that long. Finally, the funeral is done. There are sandwiches to eat and then Norma and Ray head outside to play. They play all afternoon until it is time to go home. Norma thinks that her Uncle Frank would have liked his funeral.

James captures going to a funeral as a small child with a poignancy and beauty. Anyone who attended a funeral as a child will see their own memories come to life. Small things like the flags on the cars, playing outside the church, and the graveyard add up to a full day of remembering someone. James’ illustrations are done in acrylic and ink on masonite. They have deep colors and incorporate collage pieces as well. The illustrations open up and soar when the children go outside, the green of the grass taking much of the space on the page. This is a book that celebrates life and honors the perspective of the child. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Old Man by Sarah V

The Old Man by Sarah V., illustrated by Claude K. Dubois, translated by Daniel Hahn (9781776571918)

A little girl wakes up and gets ready for school. Outside, an old man gets up too from where he is sleeping on the ground. He is wet and very cold. He walks to warm himself up. He’s hungry and eats out of a trash can. But he is too tired to continue, so he falls asleep on the ground in a park. The police wake him and ask him to move along. He heads to the shelter for something to eat, but can’t remember his name when he’s asked. He leaves and it begins to rain. He sleeps on the bus but has to leave there too. Then the little girl from the beginning of the book appears and offers the man her sandwich. That evening, he is able to go back to the shelter and this time he remembers his name and gets a hot meal.

The author of this picture book focuses on the power of compassion for those around us. Societal issues are not tackled here, just the pieces of the day of a person experiencing homelessness. They are small but vital, each moment leading to the next and each impacting how the man feels and how well he is able to do. The text is very simple though the book is thicker than most picture books. That allows room for the sepia-toned illustrations that take us on a journey through the man’s day. They are shadowy, chilly and seep under the skin like a shiver. An important book about small acts of kindness. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (9780735229358)

One day Taylor made a wonderful creation out of blocks. But then everything came crashing down. One animal after another tried to help Taylor feel better. Chicken wanted to talk about it, but Taylor didn’t want to. Bear wanted to shout, but Taylor didn’t feel like it. Elephant wanted to rebuild it exactly the way it was, but Taylor didn’t feel like remembering. Others came one after another, but nothing worked. Taylor was alone until Rabbit came in, moved closer and just sat there right next to Taylor. The rabbit just listened and Taylor talked, shouted, remembered and much more. Then Taylor was ready to create something even better.

Doerrfeld has skillfully created a picture book that looks at anger and disappointment, at the process of working through big emotions and the importance of taking things at your own pace and speed. I appreciate that Taylor eventually is ready to talk, be angry and much more. This is not about bottling up emotions but about listening, supporting and moving forward in your own way. Using animals as the emotional reactions was a smart move, with the frowning bear and chattering chicken. The rabbit immediately changes the tone and feel of the book, mirroring what he is doing for Taylor as well.

An intelligent look at big emotions and how best to deal with them and support one another, this picture book is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (9780399544682)

Amal loves going to school in her small Pakistani village. She plans on becoming a teacher herself one day. But after her mother gives birth to a fifth daughter, her mother slumps into postpartum depression. Amal, as the eldest daughter, has to stop attending school to take care of the household. Thanks to her younger sister, Amal manages to keep on learning. But then Amal talks back to the son of the corrupt politician and landlord who runs their village. Amal is taken from her family and forced to work in his household as a servant to work off the debt. As Amal comes to terms with this abrupt change in her life, she has to figure out how to navigate being a servant in a grand house filled with secrets. Now Amal has to discover how connections with others could be the key to unlocking her future once again.

Saeed brings the setting of a small Pakistani village to vivid life in this novel for young people. From the paths to get to her home to the crowded schoolroom to the bustling village market, all demonstrate a warmth and strong community. That is beautifully contrasted with the setting of the grand home where Amal works in indentured servitude. It is a house that is chilly with deceit and secrecy.

Amal is a great heroine, dedicated to reading and learning as much as she can. She is also inventive and formulates solutions to the problems she encounters. At the same time, she also needs to learn to trust others, even those who may have betrayed her before.

A very readable book that invites readers into rural Pakistan and the dangers of corruption and debt. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.

 

This Week’s Tweets, Pins & Tumbls

Here are some cool links I shared on my TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr accounts in the last week:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

2018 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Announced

2018 Edgar Awards Announced

An adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is coming…from Guillermo del Toro!

Anna, Llama and Me: The beginning, middle and end of a picture book friendship, by Tracy Gates |

Board Books 2018: What We’ve Got Here Is an Oddly Strong Year — A Fuse #8 Production

Colin Firth, Julie Walters Discover ‘The Secret Garden’ For Studiocanal, Heyday Films

Helen Mirren, Danny DeVito Join Angelina Jolie in Disney’s ‘The One and Only Ivan’

He’s Baaaack: HarperCollins Reintroduces Skulduggery Pleasant

Obituary: Alice Provensen

South Asian Kidlit 2018 – Part 2: Picture Books via

Spotlight on Middle Grade: We take a look at the latest developments in this ever-expanding category, in fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels and more

LIBRARIES

Aurora Library Director on Controversial Poem: “This Was a Mistake That Does Not Represent Us.”

Could genre-based classification limit intellectual freedom? – Intellectual Freedom Blog

3 Silly New Picture Books

If the S in Moose Comes Loose by Peter Hermann

If the S in Moose Comes Loose by Peter Hermann, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (9780062295101)

This picture book takes wordplay and makes it the focus of the story. When Cow’s friend Moose loses her S and E, cow decides to get some glue. But in order to do that, she has to make some and spell the word “GLUE”. Cow asks to take Goat’s G, and exchange it for a B that she steals from Bear. So Goat becomes Boat and Bear becomes Ear. As Cow continues to take letters, things get stranger and stranger. A chair becomes hair, a lake becomes cake, a house becomes a hose, and so on. Finally Cow has the letters she needs to make glue and bring back her friend, but there’s still some mess to clean up too.

This rambunctious story takes a wild look at words, letter sounds and spelling. Hermann’s fast and zany pace creates a picture book that flies right by. Throughout, different characters add to the chaos, including the Bull who refuses to share his U and the very confused Boat who used to be a Goat. The illustrations by Cordell add to the fun with their loose lines and dashing action scenes. They also make it nicely clear what letters are forming each creature’s name, so that children will be able to play along as the words shift. A fast and funny look at words. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Sheep 101 by Richard T. Morris

Sheep 101 by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by Leuyen Pham (9780316213592)

A boy is counting sheep to fall asleep, but then sheep number 101 crashes into the fence and gets stuck. The boy tells them not to stop and talk to each other, but soon even more is going wrong. A cow enters instead of a sheep, posing as number 103 and jumping the fence and the sheep easily. The pig who comes next can’t make it over Sheep 101 who is still stuck. When the blind mouse and Humpty Dumpty add to the chaos, someone has to help. Who could it be?

Filled with lots of humor and surprises, young listeners will love this book. It is a treat to read aloud with the characters talking directly to the reader and causing all sorts of problems along the way. The final twist will surprise everyone and places the book firmly into the world of today’s children. The illustrations are a treat, featuring lots of speech balloons, a weeping pig, a cow who does backflips, and a rather cross sheep. Share this one with a group of preschoolers for plenty of cheers! Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

People Don_t Bite People by Lisa Wheeler

People Don’t Bite People by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Molly Idle (9781481490825)

This picture book is all about not biting people but being able to bite other things like gum. Animals may bite too, but they are not people. Even if you mood is bad, you don’t bite other people. No biting mothers or fathers, you choose who you chomp. This book must be read aloud with its galloping rhyme that even has a chorus that repeats and invites listeners to join in too. The entire book is a look at biting and has a light hearted tone throughout that will have children giggling. The illustrations by award-winning Idle have the same feel as her popular Flora books but this time with a vintage flair. Ideal for sharing with a group of kids! Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.)

 

 

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (9780062499684)

Released May 15, 2018.

Newbery-Medal winner Perkins returns with a charming story of a summer vacation on the beach. Alix and Jools are heading out with their parents for their first beach vacation ever. It means leaving Alix’s best friend behind as well as their dog for a whole week. Both Alix and Jools are nervous about the trip, but they soon discover the many pleasures of being on a beach: sandcastles, long walks on the shore, bike rides, a local bakery, and maybe even a new friend. There are also surprises for them like eating periwinkles they gather themselves, seeing horseshoe crabs, and making a connection with a wounded falcon. It’s a week they will never forget and one that they hope to repeat again.

Perkins writes with a light hand for young readers. There is a sense of adventure on the pages and yet the discoveries and experiences are wonderfully mundane and things that children might experience themselves. The two sisters are quite different with Alix being a person who jumps in and tries things and Jools being more mature about things and less likely to take risks. As their vacation week progresses, they both learn that the other sister wishes they had some of the same qualities.

The art in the book breaks the text up nicely for young readers and also invites the reader to better understand what is happening the story. From horseshoe crabs to the landlady to releasing a falcon, the images are sand-filled and merry.

A great summer read for younger readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss.