Tag: families

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (InfoSoup)

Perry has lived in the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility for all eleven years of his life. His mother is incarcerated there and the warden has made it possible for them to be together. He sleeps in his own small room and makes the morning announcements out to the cell blocks. There are many people at the facility that he adores and who love his too, making up his family. He goes to school in the community nearby but obviously can’t invite his friends over to his house. As his mother’s parole date nears, a local DA discovers that Perry is living in the prison and has him removed. Perry is moved to live with the DA and his step daughter, who happens to be Perry’s best friend. There is also some question about whether Perry living at the prison will stop his mother’s parole. As the parole date is moved back, Perry works on a class project about how he came to live in the county and that means telling the stories of his prison family, particularly his mother’s.

Connor writes a piercingly honest book about the power of family and love, and the way that families don’t need to be nuclear to be functional and loving. Taking the unique perspective of a boy who grows up inside a facility, Connor demonstrates what a good prison looks like, how it can be a community and a home and how it can heal and allow for people to forgive themselves. The perspective of Perry’s mother is also shared in some chapters, giving the loving mother a voice as she tries to protect Perry from her own truth.

I must complain a bit about the title, which I continue to find confusing even after finishing the book. Add to that the cover which I also don’t relate closely to the book. It’s too bad, given the high quality of the writing and the story and I do hope that the paperback version does a better job of selling the real story inside.

A superb read that looks at prisons, families and the power of community. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Katherine Tegen Books.

 

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmers Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah (InfoSoup)

Dara knows that she is a star. She can make all of the facial expressions in her favorite teen movies, has huge posters of her two favorite actors on her bedroom walls, and has lots of imaginary conversations with them as she dreams of her future in Hollywood. Her first step to stardom is landing the lead in the school production of The Sound of Music, and she just knows that her name is going to be called. But then it isn’t. Dara starts to wonder if it’s about the color of her skin, since she knows she’s an amazing actress. Dara was adopted from Cambodia. Then she notices that others with different skin colors are in the cast. The teacher offers her the role of stage manager, but Dara won’t agree to that. The teacher also invites her to join her acting classes, but Dara knows she doesn’t need them. As Dara slowly realizes that she may have a lot to learn after all, readers become convinced that Dara may just be the star she always thought she was.

Shevah has created in Dara a character who is both repulsive and compelling. Dara is unthinking, rather vain and unable to listen at the beginning of the book. Wisely, Shevah frames the book as looking into the past and Dara knowing that she wasn’t a very nice person back then. This gives readers permission to dislike Dara and yet also enjoy her humor, drive and sparkle. It also makes Dara’s deep changes all the more believable. Various characters also help Dara see herself anew, including her siblings, her parents and her best friend. This is done in many different ways from overt to subtle and is a skillful way to create change in a character.

The voice throughout the book is entirely Dara’s. The fonts change with Dara’s emphasis on various words, showing the passion and emotions behind them. The book design is fresh and friendly, having designs around the page edges and illustrations that break up the text a bit.

A strong and funny protagonist becomes much more self-aware in this gorgeous novel. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin

The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin

The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin (InfoSoup)

Twelve-year-old Prince Lev Lvov moves in with his aunt at Falcon House. It is a house that he will inherit as he is heir to the Lvov estate. Lev wants to be just like his grandfather, a general in the Russian army, stern and strong. Things are strange though at Falcon House where he finds wonders like an elevator in the home but also rooms that have not been touched in years. As he enters the home, Lev sees another young boy there, playing on the banister. Lev is sent to sleep in his grandfather’s old study where he can’t sleep and finds himself drawing and drawing with much more skill than he ever had before. In fact, he finds it nearly impossible to put the pen down. Slowly Lev starts to learn the secrets of his family and realize that some of the family secrets are more terrifying than ghosts.

Yelchin won a Newbery Honor for Breaking Stalin’s Nose. Here he very successfully merges historical Russia with a dark ghost story. Based on the premise of having found old notes and drawings from Lvov, the book is immediately mysterious and filled with wonder. There is the amazing setting of the huge mansion, filled with things like death masks and a basement of mothballed clothes. There are the servants who manage to work for his aunt despite her disdain and harshness. There is the ghost, who tells his own story but ever so slowly. They all create a world of darkness and beguilement.

Then the book turns and changes, becoming something deeper and more filled with emotion. It looks beyond the cranky aunt and into why she acts the way she does. It examines the death of a boy and eventually becomes about who is responsible for it and why. It looks at servants and royals, at status and power. It figures out what it takes to become someone willing to wield that power too.

Entirely gorgeous, haunting and deep, this novel is chillingly dark and wonderfully dangerous. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Applesauce Weather by Helen Frost

Applesauce Weather by Helen Frost

Applesauce Weather by Helen Frost, illustrated by Amy June Bates

Faith and Peter know that it is applesauce time when the first apple falls from the tree outside their house. It’s also the time of year when their Uncle Arthur comes to tell his stories about how he lost his finger. But this year is different, since Aunt Lucy died and Uncle Arthur just isn’t as twinkly as he once was. Faith though is sure that her uncle will come and he does, unsure of his welcome without Aunt Lucy. He sits on the bench under the apple tree with the children, warming up to telling his tales. Maybe this year they will finally learn the truth of his missing finger!

There is a beautiful delicacy in this book, spun together by the masterful poetry of Frost. She holds the hearts of her characters with such tenderness, showing the love of the children for their uncle and also the love of Arthur for his beloved Lucy. The stories all twine together, the family sitting under the tree, long-lasting love, Peter discovering his own first love, and then the remarkable stories that Arthur tells. The entire work is dazzling, moments of life held up and made amazing just for taking the time. This is real world writing at its very best and one of the best verse novels of the year so far.

The illustrations by Bates are filled with emotions. There is the hesitation of Arthur as he arrives. The bend of the back of Faith as she waits under the apple tree. The flow of breeze into her hair. They are filled with whimsy, the stoop of an old back, the twinkle of a storyteller starting to tell, the joy of apples in fall.

Beautiful and amazing, this very short verse novel is a celebration of autumn and families. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter, illustrated by Qin Leng

Released August 16, 2016.

Piper sets off on her third adventure living on her small island home. When she visits the Fairy Tree, she discovers a strange whistle inside. Unfortunately though, Piper doesn’t want a whistle. She wants a pony! And the first pony  just arrived on the island that day. Piper was also hoping to spend time with her big brother who is home from school, but he isn’t feeling well so Piper decides to try to make him the treat that her mother makes her when she is sick. They don’t turn out quite the same way. When Piper’s dad needs help on his fishing boat, Piper leaps to help and discovers two things along the way, one that has her dreaming of riding something other than a pony and the other that will help her family even more than her loud whistle does.

Potter has just the right feel in the books in this series. Piper is wonderfully engaging as a protagonist. She is imaginative, funny and entirely herself. Even as Piper is making silly mistakes, the book does not make fun of her, rather it laughs along with her and looks at the errors we all make in our lives. It’s a book of empathy, humor and the importance of family and community.

Leng’s illustrations offer young readers a refreshing break from the text, giving them just the right amount of space. They are done in a framed style in either half-page or full-page format. The chapter breaks too are done with style, offering stripes to invite readers to turn more pages and follow the story further.

Another winner in this charmer of a series that is just right for children who enjoy Clementine. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from ARC received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban, illustrated by Katie Kath (InfoSoup)

Max’s father has an apartment of his own now where Max spends weekends. On his first visit to the apartment, Max is amazed at how white and clean everything is. Everything except his bedroom which is filled with football things, even though Max doesn’t particularly care about football any more. He is much more into being a spy. So Max and his father spend their weekend getting to know his new neighborhood by dressing as spies, taking covert photographs, eating pancakes, and following a mysterious man. Following visits to his father’s apartment involve meeting the neighbors, walking dogs, doing some homework, having a friend over and buying a couch. As Max settles into his new weekend routines with his dad, he learns a lot about what makes a place a home.

Urban writes with a gentleness about this new circumstance in Max’s life. Max is refreshingly unburdened by guilt in his parent’s divorce. The focus instead is on the new place to live, figuring out the different relationship, and realizing that a person can happily have two homes. Throughout the book, real love and devotion is shown by both Max and his father. There is a beautiful flexibility from both of them in each story and also a willingness to listen and learn from one another. Each also takes care of the other emotionally, not wanting to hurt one another. Which is also a very nice change from children lashing out in books about divorce.

The illustrations by Kath make this book very approachable for young readers. They nicely break up the text, plus add to the humor. Readers can see Max’s father in his full spy disguise as well as enjoying the finished school project and the furry fun of two basset hounds. The pictures add to the warmth and love that exude from this book.

A loving book about father and son relationships after a divorce, this novel for young readers demonstrates that life and love continues. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane (InfoSoup)

Maggie is starting middle school and is getting more and more worried. She has rules to live by that keep the people she loves safe, but there is much more to worry about than that. There is the murderer who was loose in their neighborhood after shooting someone at a local mini mart. There is the boy at school who is going to get a gun for his birthday. There are the rabbits next door owned by a man who doesn’t seem to really love them. Plus there are issues in her own family with a teen sister who is pulling away from Maggie and her little sister and a father growing more and more distant too. Maggie starts to plan new ways to protect her family from danger as her fears mount, but it’s all too much for one person to try to control.

Lane has written an incredible novel for middle grades, particularly as a debut author. She captures the intoxication of danger, the thrill of fear, and then what happens when it becomes more than that, toxic and dark. She shows the problems with fear and worries, the way they mount and the intricate ways that children have of coping in a world where nothing seems firm and solid for them, not even their families. As Maggie copes with OCD tendencies, she is also courageous and caring, striving to control the uncontrollable around her.

Lane captures the real world with honesty here. Rabbits are sold for meat. Children are sometimes not cared for. Marriages have problems. Sisters withdraw. It is all there in this book, but there is more too. There are loving parents, helpful neighbors, friends, apple trees and baby rabbits. So not all is dark and dreary, there is light too and hope here. If only one can see it for the worries.

A bright new voice in children’s literature, this debut novel is delicious and rich. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.