All Along the River by Magnus Weightman (9781605375182)
The journey following the river and waterway begins with Bunny losing her rubber ducky into the flow of the stream from the glacier near their home. She and her brothers hop into their boat to catch up to the toy. Soon they are floating past a pine forest, filled with other animals on picnics, racing motorcycles, kayaking, cycling, hiking, and much more. The river moves past farmland full of cows and horses, then spills into a huge lake where it is still hard to glimpse the toy floating. Look closely! After a glorious waterfall, the scene moves to a medieval town and European castles. Then a factory appears, pumping steam and water. Rain starts and the river slows to explore small islands. Windmills and tulips appear until a harbor is reached with a broad sea. Finally the toy is caught again. But what other stories did you see along the way?
This thoroughly Dutch picture book is a very entertaining seek-and-find book that is complicated and funny. Readers will need to lean in closely and read the book multiple times to follow all of the clever story arcs contained in the book. Nicely, Weightman outlines some of the ones to watch for in introductory pages.
The book does have words, but they are nearly unnecessary as the real star of the book are the incredibly detailed landscapes filled with foxes, rabbits, bears, pigs, and lots of other animals. Throughout the action, there are lovely moments of blissful floating, meeting new people, and a strong sense of a large community together.
An exceptional seek-and-find book with a European flair. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Clavis.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Allyson has always been the good girl, following her mother’s expectations of her completely. That’s why she’s on a whirlwind tour of Europe. Allyson is the girl who follows the rules, rarely goes out in the evenings with the others, and fades into the background next to her flashier best friend. So when Allyson suggests that they go see an underground performance of Shakespeare and cut out of the tour, it’s very out of character. When she discovers one of the actors, Willem, on their train the next day to London, the two of them just click. Quickly, she and Willem decide to head to Paris together for just one day before they both have to return home. As they travel together, the spark they had on the train becomes something even stronger. So when Willem is gone the next morning, Allyson struggles to figure out what happened even as she returns home and starts college. But the memory of Willem won’t leave her, coloring everything she experiences.
Forman is the author of If I Stay and Where She Went. Here she explores the world of a sheltered teen girl who decides to take a huge risk and break free of her confines if only for just one day. Forman captures the fatigue of travel where one day blurs into the others and the way that tours can dull the wonder of even the most amazing places. She then shows the difference between that way of travel and the travel of discovery and serendipity where your entire being is caught up in experiencing things. Forman writes of Paris and then also the Netherlands with a true affection, creating moments that are splendid and transformational.
Forman’s writing is assured and skilled. Upon opening the novel, the reader knows that the book will be solid. They will be delighted to also find that her writing is romantic and beautiful, truly recreating the experience of falling in love as a teen. She has also created a very compelling teen heroine in Allyson, who struggles mightily with the expectations set upon her. One roots for her to find her way free and also to find her way back to what she lost.
This exceptional teen novel is a whirlwind romantic trip to Europe that will have you wrapped up in its arms much faster than just one day. Appropriate for ages 16-18.
Reviewed from copy received from Dutton.
Perry’s Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber
This second book in the Perry & Gobi series continues Perry’s story. After surviving a wild night with Gobi, an assassin who disguised herself as a foreign exchange student, Perry’s band is doing very well and is now touring Europe. He is dating a new girl, an older girl, who is sophisticated and completely out of his league. But when the band travels to Venice, Perry can’t help but visit Harry’s Bar, the place the Gobi said she would meet him someday. Gobi does show up, but once again she brings trouble with her. Perry is once again drawn into her world of narrow escapes, bullets, guns, murder, trust and betrayal.
Schreiber excels at creating books that are superbly readable. This sequel is only a couple of hundred pages long and reads so quickly, the pages blur. The pace is breakneck and wild, it’s a book that sweeps you up and you just have to know what happens next to these two characters. The setting of Europe lends a new vitality to the book as well. It’s a pleasure to romp through Europe with these two.
The focus is on the action in this book and less on the characters, but I was pleased to see that we got to know Perry and particularly Gobi better in this book. While she continues to be a mysterious figure, we are also shown tantalizing glimpses of what her life must have been like. Perry serves as her perfect foil, reacting humanly to all of their escapades while Gobi remains cool and calm. It probably helps that she is the one with the gun most of the time.
For fans of the first book, they will not be disappointed with the continued mayhem and action of this sequel. This is a great series to hand to reluctant readers who will appreciate the fast pace and short length. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Reviewed from ARC received from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.