Tag: families

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue (9780545925815)

Released March 28, 2017.

Sumac lives in a very unusual family in a very large house called the Camelottery. Her family is large, very large, with four parents, a baby, several teenagers, even more children and lots of pets. The four parents are really two couples who are all best friends with one another. All of the children are home schooled and there is always something happening around the busy house. Then something changes, and one of Sumac’s grandfathers moves in with them. He’s not used to the wildness of children, the busyness of the large household and his struggle with dementia isn’t helping. Sumac is appointed as the one to help him better understand their family, but after he makes several comments about the color of their skins and the way they live, Sumac decides that it is up to her to find a different place for her grandfather to live where he will be happier and they will be rid of him. It’s really the perfect solution, isn’t it?

Oh how I adored this novel. The creation of a household where the parents won the lottery and no longer have to work but just care for their ever-growing household and volunteer for causes they believe in is lovely. Make it a family with parents who are gay and lesbian and the book becomes something very special. Add in the character of Brian who at age five is just starting to voice his preferred gender. Then mix in even more diversity with adopted children and biological ones all loving and living together.

Donoghue doesn’t just get the mix of characters right, she then gives them all voices that are so honest and true that they live on the page. The fast-paced conversations of the large family around the dinner table are immensely joyful even as they are sometimes strained. The patter of the conversations all have a natural rhythm and flow, something that is very difficult to get this right. And my goodness, it is exactly right.

A grand new LGBT-friendly book that families will love sharing together no matter how many mothers, fathers or children they have. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9781419723742)

A variety of animals travel on their way home. Birds fly to warmer places, escaping the chill of winter. Mice build nests in the grass that offer safety and warmth. Wolves hunt for food to fill their hunger. Rabbits hide in the brambles, chased clear by the wolves on their heels. They reach their burrow and safety. The next day, the wolves and rabbits are outside again along with the birds and the mice. All sharing a larger home with one another.

Cotton’s poem is delicious. From the initial rhyming stanzas on the first page, she builds a full story of the importance of home and the strength of parent/child pairs in survival. Throughout the poem there is a sense of arrival or approaching home, defined in different ways for the different species. There is also a focus on security and warmth, on being together despite the odds and filling small burrows and nests with love.

Jacoby’s illustrations embrace the natural setting. They keep readers from realizing that all of the animals are in the same area by using a different feel for their habitats. The mice are in golden nests of straw, the birds soar in the sky, the wolves hunt through a forest and the rabbits are close by. Then the final reveal of them together is like the sun returning, a beautiful reveal.

Gorgeous poetry combines with strong illustrations to create a celebration of home no matter what species you may be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

A Cat Named Swan by Holly Hobbie

a-cat-named-swan-by-holly-hobbie

A Cat Named Swan by Holly Hobbie (9780553537444)

This is the story of a small kitten, who was suddenly alone on the city streets. He learned a lot about the dangers, scavenged for food, and survived. Until one day, he was taken off of the streets and put into a cage. There was plenty of food there though and no one was mean to him. Soon afterwards, he was adopted. And that is where his life changed. It became a series of perfect days. Days that started with breakfast, were filled with exploring the garden, had visits and naps, and ended with everyone returning home in the evening. Each day became night with him curled on a pillow fast asleep.

This picture book shows the harrowing life of a small kitten alone outside. Then it becomes a rescue and adoption story, one that is pure joy after the rescue takes place. The kitten learns about his new family, the dog, and the garden and house that are his too. There are small adventures, plenty of pleasures like just being with one another and bumblebees. It’s a picture book about small joys and the wonder of having a pet.

Hobbie’s illustrations are filled with energy and carry emotions clearly. The image of the kitten being lifted by his family for the first time is pure sunshine and blue sky. Readers know right then and there not to worry any longer. When they see the gardens and land, they realize that Swan has landed in kitten nirvana.

A testament to the power of animal adoption and the joy of a life well lived. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

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

 

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

wolf-in-the-snow-by-matthew-cordell

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

A little girl heads home from school as snow starts to fall. She is warmly dressed for the weather in a bright-red coat and a scarf over her face. She has a dog at home waiting eagerly for her return. There is also a pack of wolves nearby with one small wolf cub. The snow falls faster and both girl and cub become lost, finding one another in a small grove of trees. They can hear the howls of the wolves, so the girl picks up the cub and heads that direction. Along the way, they have to cross a river and face other animals. When they reach the wolves, the little girl returns the cub to the pack and heads home herself. She can hear her dog barking and see the lights of home, but becomes too cold and weak to continue. Luckily, she has made friends of the wolves.

This is a beautiful story told in an almost wordless way with the only words in the form of howls of the wolves and barks of the dog. It is a book about selflessness and courage in the face of adversity. It is also about kindness and taking the time to save someone else even if it puts you into danger. The book is paced beautifully, taking time to create moments that underline the new connections and friendships being made as the girl displays her humanity.

The images have to carry this wordless book and do so with an appealing use of panels that create a sense of brisk pace and adventure throughout. The illustrations are filled with just enough drama to make it clear that there is real danger in being out on a winter night. Still, the danger never seems to be the wolves themselves but the cold and the snow.

A beautiful look at nature and wolves and the way that kindness can build bridges without words. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

me-and-marvin-gardens-by-amy-sarig-king

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King (InfoSoup)

Everything has changed for Obe over the last few years. His family’s farmland has turned into a housing development. His best friend is now friends with the kids living in the new development. He has constant nose bleeds caused by something he doesn’t like to talk about, but it has a lot to do with his ex-friend and the new development. Obe spends a lot of time at the creek on his family’s remaining property, cleaning up the trash left by others. Then he meets an unusual animal. It is an odd mix of pig and dog and it eats plastic. Obe names the animal “Marvin Gardens” and knows that he has to keep it a secret from everyone. But when his ex-friend discovers the animal too, Obe has to decide who to trust and who can help Marvin Gardens survive.

A.S. King is best known as a writer for teens. She has made a lovely transition to middle-grade writing here in a novel of environmentalism and self-acceptance. King wrestles with the problems of middle-grade friendships, the loss of green space, and the question of how one kid can make an impact on climate change or even on his local environment. Throughout, her writing is a call for action, for personal responsibility and for staying true to what is important to you as a person.

Obe is a fascinating protagonist. At first, he seems young and naive, but as the book progresses, one realizes that he is simply interested in the environment, understands deeply changing friendships, stands up for others, and speaks out for the rights of animals and nature. King manages this without giving Obe a major shift or change, rather it is the reader who grows and changes and understands the character in a different way. It’s all thanks to King’s skill as an author, her way of showing adults as fools at times, and her willingness to allow Obe to simply be himself.

A strong book about the environment and a rousing call to be responsible for your own patch of earth, this will be a joy to share aloud in a classroom or with children who love nature and don’t mind a bit of muck on their shoes. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

 

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

life-in-a-fishbowl-by-len-vlahos

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos (InfoSoup)

When Jared Stone discovers that he has terminal brain cancer, he decides to sell his life to the highest bidder on eBay. He gains the attention of a nun, a psychologically-disturbed man of leisure and wealth, a video-game playing teen, and a TV producer. When his posting is pulled down on eBay, only one person is left, the TV producer. So Jared and his family become the focus of a reality TV show and lose their privacy entirely. Jackie, Jared’s 15-year-old daughter, will not willingly participate in the show, figuring out how to avoid the crew and the cameras. But perhaps there is even more that she can do as she starts her own behind-the-scenes YouTube show that tells the truth about the editing and manipulation of her family by the reality show.

Vlahos tells a story of our time, about the dangers of believing in what we see on TV, of the siren call of money and the problems and advantages that come with using the internet for connections. Told from a variety of points of view, including Jared’s tumor, the book has a dark sense of humor throughout. Despite that humor, there is a sense of claustrophobia that pervades the novel as well, one that is built on the invasion of privacy from the TV cameras and then exacerbated by the manipulation and deviousness that surrounds the family.

Still, there is not despair here, even with a terminal illness as a central theme. It is instead a book about fighting back, being true to yourself and finding a way forward against the odds. A large part of that is Jackie, a girl who doesn’t fit in at school and appreciates her privacy. This is her nightmare scenario as the TV cameras roll and it forces her to reach out for help to people who are like her and can aid in fighting back. Through Jackie, we see how the Internet is more than darkness, it is also a source of hope and connection. It is both things at the same time.

A book of complex issues, the fakery of reality TV, and the dual sides of the Internet, this is a riveting read. Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

 

 

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

flying-lessons-and-other-stories-by-ellen-oh

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh (InfoSoup)

This is a simply incredible collection of stories that feature middle-school children from a variety of diverse backgrounds. The authors of the stories are the best in the children’s book business, including Kwame Alexander, Tim Federle, Matt de la Pena, Tim Tingle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, and Jacqueline Woodson. The stories feed into one another, creating a quilt where the patches are of different colors and textures but the quilt is one unified structure. The stories feature children of color, children who are LGBT, and those who are differently-abled. It is a book about our differences and our similarities, a book about what makes each of us fly.

There are several stories that will stick with me. The one by Matt de la Pena has a gorgeous tone to it, almost oration where the reader is being spoken directly to about opportunities, hard work and taking risks. It’s all about basketball, the art of the game and the willingness to put yourself out there and play. Grace Lin’s is an wonderful mix of humor and drama, showing reading as a way forward into a life of adventure and individuality. Woodson’s story is spare and lovely, looking directly at racism and staring it down with friendship. The others are marvelous too, I could write about each of them in turn, each just as special and jeweled as the last.

This is a book that should be in all libraries, it speaks to the power of diverse books in our communities, their ability to transform all of us no matter what our background or color. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Crown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley.