Tag: families

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

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Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley (InfoSoup)

Gertie doesn’t know her mother at all, since she left Gertie and her father behind. Gertie lives with her aunt and father, who is often gone working on an oil rig. But when a For Sale sign goes up on her mother’s home and she expects to leave town soon, Gertie discovers that she wants to prove to her mother that she should never have left. So Gertie goes on a mission to become the best fifth-grader in the universe. When school starts though, there is a new student in her class, Mary Sue Spivey, who seems to be a lot more likely to be the best. She gets perfect grades, their teacher loves her, and even Gertie’s best friend befriends Mary Sue. When tryouts for the play come though, Gertie is selected as the lead, but can she actually become the perfect fifth grader and get her mother to witness it?

Beasley has created a story filled with characters who are vastly human. Gertie herself struggles with success, has trouble keeping her strong personality under wraps, sets herself immense goals through her missions, and yet has a huge heart and a desire to do the right thing. That right thing though is often warped under her reasoning into something that many people might see as overtly wrong.

The book has plenty of twists and turns, all based on Gertie herself and what she is creating around her. Sometimes that is good things and other times it is pure trouble. She also discovers that young people can be “fickle” and uses that word to keep herself from being too overly concerned when they turn against her and also too caught up in when they like her again.

Ideal for children who enjoyed Clementine, this book has humor, pizzazz and one great heroine. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

 

Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught

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Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught (InfoSoup)

Dani’s grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s and is slowly reaching the end of her life cared for by Dani and her parents. So when her grandmother sends Dani on a mission to find a letter and key, Dani isn’t sure that it’s real. She discovers both the letter and key, then has to follow the trail of clues her grandmother left in her writing to discover the truth of a feud that her grandmother had with Avadelle Richardson, a novelist who wrote about a riot that happened at Ole Miss. It’s a riot that both Dani’s grandmother and Avadelle actually were caught up in. As Dani gets closer to the end of the trail, she finds more and more secrets and history and modern life begin to collide.

Vaught has written a taut novel that takes readers on a journey through Civil Rights history in Mississippi. Told through the eyes of Dani, the book is accessible to modern children and shows that racism is far from over. With our recent election, it is also a timely book that speaks to the deep-seated racism still at work in our country today. Vaught uses excerpts from Avadelle’s fictitious novel to show the historical context that the riot took place in. It does show how far we have come, but also speaks to how far we have to go.

The complex friendships of middle grade children are captured here, with Dani and her best-friend Indri sharing the adventure while her “not-friend” Mac, grandson of Avadelle continues to also be a part of it though at times the two are not speaking, just like their grandmothers. This modern division is a clever way to show how friendships change, shift and fall apart, something that mirrors what is seen in the novel and in the grandparents’ relationship.

A rich look at Civil Rights, racism and the decisions too big to be unmade, this novel is a timely look at today and our shared past. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

 

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman

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Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes (InfoSoup)

Days are busy, filled with activity. One child whose parent is heading off to pilot a plane in the early morning put her wishes into words in the form on an invocation. She asks for snow to come, to change the face of the city and the pace of their life. She wishes for a slowness and as the book continues readers will see the snow start to fall, the parent leave for the airport, then the airport start to fill with waiting passengers who are not going anywhere. Then the parent catches a snowplow ride back home where the family spends a day together in the snow sledding.

Sidman’s invocation is simple and heartfelt. She voices it with the clarity of a ringing bell and real honesty. She plays her quiet voice against the hustle and busyness of an urban setting, allowing the snow and the wonder of it to slow the entire book down to the pace of the invocation itself. It’s a beautiful effect, strengthened by the illustrations and the beauty of the words themselves.

I was thrilled to see another pairing of Sidman and Krommes. Krommes creates scratchboard illustrations that have the organic feel of block prints. They are rich with details and fill the pages with subtle colors and dancing snow. The art has an inherent warmth to it, inviting snuggling under covers together.

Another great achievement for this author and illustrator pair, this is a great winter story that focuses on family and time spent together. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu

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A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu, illustrated by Christina Forshay (InfoSoup)

Mei Mei’s grandfather, Gong Gong, is in the garden doing his tai chi forms. He sways his arms and explains that the form is called “White Crane Spreading Its Wings.” He also tells Mei Mei that tai chi is a martial art which makes Mei Mei start doing karate chops. Gong Gong continues to show Mei Mei about tai chi and its slow and smooth motions. Mei Mei does each motion with her own style. Then it is time for Mei Mei to teach Gong Gong about yoga. With stretching movements like Downward Dog and the Mermaid, Gong Gong is soon learning new poses of his own.

This book won Lee & Lows New Voices Award. It is a lovely look at the relationship of grandparent and grandchild through shared experiences and trying new things together. The incorporation of Tai Chi and Yoga is also done very well and there is a section in the back of the book that offers more information on the poses and forms demonstrated in the story. The way that Mei Mei is able to both learn from her grandfather and then teach him what she knows is a noteworthy element to the story, demonstrating that children can both be students and teachers.

The art by Forshay is bright and refreshing. She captures the various forms and poses with ease, showing the balance required for both Tai Chi and Yoga. She also demonstrates the energy of Mei Mei and the deep affection that the two of them have for one another. It is a book filled with movement and motion.

A joyful look at grandparents and grandchildren and the dynamic of learning from one another, this picture book is superb. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

King Baby by Kate Beaton

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King Baby by Kate Beaton (InfoSoup)

From the author of Hark! A Vagrant comes a second picture book. King Baby is born to loving and devoted subjects, his parents. People bring gifts and in return King Baby bestows blessings upon them. He smiles and coos, but a King can also be demanding. When he doesn’t get his toy fast enough, he can be cranky. And his subjects don’t understand his demands, so King Baby has to do something new and bold. He crawls! Then he starts to grow and grow into a Big Boy. But as he grows up, who will rule his subjects?

Beaton has created a picture book that fully embraces the experience of new parenthood and will also work to show children about to be siblings just how very demanding a tiny baby can be for attention and time. Still, there is also the fact that they grow up so fast, quickly leaving babyhood behind. The use of imperious and lordly demands makes the book very funny and may allow overwhelmed families a little laugh about their small bundles of joy.

Beaton’s signature art work is a delight. The baby as little more than an egg with a crown captures those first few weeks perfectly. The crown remains perched on his little head all the way through tantrums and royal demands. The chaos of a home with a baby is also fully depicted with exhausted parents in hoodies and sweatpants and the floor littered with bottles, toys and clothes.

If you have a new little king or queen of your own or are expecting one to move in soon, this is a book that will have you and your other children giggling and agreeing. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary

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A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng (InfoSoup)

A teacher in a classroom asks her class what they think make their families special. One little girl hesitates to answer, knowing that her family is not like everyone else’s. The children begin to share about their families. There are children being raised by two fathers and two mothers, another who is parented by a grandmother. Some have huge families with lots of siblings and others are only children. Some have a new baby and others have stepbrothers and sisters. Each family is different and special in its own way. By the end, the little girl knows that whatever structure her family has, all that matters is that there is lots of love.

O’Leary does not lecture about families here. Rather she shows the wide variety that there are in families and how each of those is based on love. There is no need to be didactic, as every child will see themselves in the pages of this book. It is a wise way to look at families, since each is just as special and marvelous as the one before. The emphasis here is on love itself, the care that is given to children in each of those families no matter their structure.

Leng’s illustrations add so much warmth to this picture book. The illustrations are full of details and invite readers to look closely. Each page zings with energy from the mothers singing under the night sky to the child who lives with both her father and mother, just at different times. There is a playfulness on the pages too, which makes each family come to life.

A strong picture book about diversity and families, this book is filled with warmth and love and not lectures. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

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Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King (InfoSoup)

Sarah has stopped going to high school after an event that she doesn’t want to talk about or even think about. Sarah is a master at not thinking about certain things, like what she witnessed on vacation in Mexico with her family. Instead Sarah thinks about things like doing something original and what art is. She spends her days on the streets of Philadelphia, visiting a derelict school building, speaking with past and future versions of herself, and wondering about art and how to start creating again. She isn’t able to continue keeping the secrets deep inside hidden even from herself. So she begins to work through her thoughts, ideas and what she has seen. She contacts the brother that she hasn’t seen since the Mexico trip six years before and begins to wake up to the problems that have always been there in her family.

My goodness, this book is impossible to explain in a single paragraph. It is multilayered book that shifts and grows and builds underneath the reader as Sarah’s memories are revealed. It is wild and powerful, the tornado in the title an apt image for the rawness of this book. King depicts the dangers of living lies, whether they are built by those who say they love you or yourself. The force of those lies, the determination it takes to keep them hidden, and the emptiness of the world shaped by those lies make for a landscape that filled with traps and danger. King is a master at allowing a character to tell her own story at her own pace while making sure that the book continues to move forward, building tension upward and showing the deep humanity inside.

Sarah is an exquisite character. She is an enigma for the first part of the book, since she is determined to keep the lies spinning and not allow the truth to escape into the world. She is the epitome of an unreliable narrator, one that becomes more reliable as the book continues. Yet even as she is unreliable, she is completely relatable. Her pain is tangible on the page, her loneliness is palpable. It is in hiding her real truth and living the lie that she becomes most human.

A powerful novel filled with pain, lies, guilt and searing truth. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dutton Books for Young Readers.