Tag: families

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton (9781911171256, Amazon)

Released June 13, 2017.

Erin grew up near a large fishing town but she wasn’t allowed to head out into the sea herself, because of the danger. The huge rock outside of the town was the subject of many frightening stories that spoke about how it moved from place to place and was huge and sharp. Erin tried to hide on her mother’s fishing boat, but Archie, her dog, always found her. When Erin finally managed to sneak aboard, thick fog settled in and the boat almost ran into the black rock! As the boat veered away, Erin fell into the sea. As Erin sank farther and farther, she discovered the secret of Black Rock and realized that it was up to her to protect the rock.

This picture book celebrates the wildness of the sea and its incredible lifeforms. The secret of Black Rock takes this book from one of reality to fantasy in one revelation. The reveal is done beautifully, the page dark except for Erin and the fish. The writing is simple and allows the story to play out swiftly on the page.

The illustrations are exceptional. Black Rock’s emergence as a full character in the book is done particularly well as are the bright and varied fish that live around it. The pages with half of the scene underwater are particularly effective and truly show the magic of the story. The color palette between the sea and the rock and then the harbor and the humans are strikingly different and used very effectively during the stand off as well.

A lush and lovely picture book that invites children to find their own magic in the world. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Flying Eye Books.

It’s Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el

It's Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el

It’s Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Gina Perry (9781770496057, Amazon)

One by one, mythical creatures appear and tell the reader how great a life they have. The unicorn loves prancing and their gorgeous horn, but the horn does make it very difficult to eat, particularly if you get a table stuck on it. Bigfoot has a great time being strong and helping his friends, but his big feet can be a problem. The robot loves his flashing lights and memory, but rain is an issue. Then there is the Loch Ness Monster and the “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who help the others. But there are always problems like the sneaky flying alligator pirate. Who can help all of these mythical beasts? Dad, that’s who.

This book embraces the idea of creative and imaginative play completely as the children first introduce themselves as the characters they are pretending to be. Steadily though, the illusion breaks a bit as each new character is introduced and their personas get more complicated. Bar-el does a lovely job of allowing the fantasy to fracture steadily and then break altogether as Dad enters the picture.

Perry has created first a lovely fantasy world with rainbow colors, deep forests, lochs and castles. She then goes on to morph that into a multicultural family filled with children of all ages who are trying to play near one another if not together. The connection between fantasy and reality is strong in the illustrations and children will love seeing the ties.

A warm look at imaginative play and great parenting, this picture book is a celebration of dads. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson (9780062393548, Amazon)

Released June 13, 2017.

This is a novel told in three different time periods, each featuring a woman finding love and yearning for change. There is Adri from the year 2065, who has been selected to live on Mars. She is aloof and prickly and spends her last weeks on Earth with her sole surviving relative, an older woman she has never met. Adri discovers the letters of the other women and is soon drawn into their lives and the mysteries of what happened to them. Catherine lives in 1934 in the midst of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. In the midst of dust storms, she manages to fall in love and then has to decide whether to stay with her mother on their deteriorating farm or leave and take chances in a large city. Lenore lives in England in 1919, recovering from the loss of her brother in World War I. She meets a scarred young man who is living in an abandoned house on her family’s estate and isn’t sure what parts of his story are true.

The stories of these three characters are vivid and remarkable. Adri’s story is told in prose while the others are done in letters. The book folds out into a series of letters, origami-like and wondrous. Anderson cleverly creates a point in the book where one isn’t sure if the ending of the women’s stories will be fully revealed or not. It creates a breathtaking moment of mystery and inconclusiveness that adds to the already appealing story. Throughout, Anderson demonstrates her skilled writing and gorgeous prose that is full of emotion and possibilities.

The three female characters whose stories are told in the novel are vastly different from one another and yet the stories nest together into one complete whole. While they are distinct and unique women, the stories all speak to their tenacity, deep caring and independence. Even as they make critical decisions in the midst of impossible situations, there is a sense of community and connection that weaves throughout the novel, showing that we are all stronger together.

Engrossing, intelligent and incredibly rich, this novel for teens is truly exceptional. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and HarperCollins.

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis, illustrated by Jo-Shin Lee (9780807577073, Amazon)

This important picture book shows how a family who is experiencing homelessness continues to foster connections that demonstrate their love for one another. The little girl who narrates the book must stay in one shelter with her mother while her father stays at a different one. They sleep on cots among other people and the little girl must share her doll with the other children there. Sometimes they meet her father in the park to spend time together, though most of the time her parents are out looking for work and taking turns watching her. They have to stand in line to get food and celebrate holidays even though they are apart. It’s hard but they are still a family.

This book offers a gentle way to explain homelessness to children. It shows what life is like living in the shelter, how family members are separated from one another, and how difficult it is to live in this way. This is one of those important books that serves as a window for some children but also as a mirror for those living with homelessness. Throughout the young narrator shares her positive outlook despite the challenges.

The illustrations by Lee are childlike and explore seeing the subject from the point of view of the little girl. They have a rough quality to them and have the feel of being drawn by colored pencils and crayons.

An important book for urban libraries, this picture book fills a need in many of our communities. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

American Street by Ibi Zoboi (9780062473042, Amazon)

This debut novel combines magical realism with the hard streets of modern Detroit. Fabiola and her mother are journeying to live with family in Detroit, leaving their native Haiti behind. But while Fabiola is allowed to continue on to Detroit, her mother is held in a detention center due to issues with her papers. Now Fabiola must get used to living with her American relatives, including three cousins who are loud, fierce and not to be messed with. Fabiola struggles with the food, the culture, and getting used to a new life and school while worrying about her mother. Just as it seems that she is finding a way forward with a new boyfriend and new friends, the dangerous life that supports her family comes crashing down threatening to sweep Fabiola along with it.

Zoboi’s writing is exceptional. She has drawn on her own experience as an immigrant from Haiti in this novel, infusing it with vodou religion and spirits that both guide and haunt. As Fabiola follows the spirits to the truth about what is really happening, she risks everything that she has found to hold onto and love. This is a book that doesn’t turn away from the violence of Detroit, the guns, drugs and power struggles happening even as children die.

There are many moments in this book that a situation is so fraught with danger that it sears into the reader’s brain. Against those moments, Fabiola and her three cousins stand strong and tall. They are four amazing characters who shine on the page each so different from one another and ferociously both independent and interdependent at the same time. This is family on the page, pushing against the dangers that surround them and include them.

Beautifully written with strong characters and danger, this book is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith (9781554988716, Amazon)

In a coal town in Cape Breton, Canada, a boy wakes up to a summer day. He wakes to the sound of the sea, spends some time with his friends. Still, his mind continues to think of his father mining for coat deep under the sea in the darkness. He runs errands for his mother and visits his grandfather’s grave which looks out over the sea. His grandfather too was a coal miner and the boy knows that it is his future as well.

Schwartz has created a book set in the 1950s in a coal town where families worked in the mines for generations. Even as the book shows a richness of a well-spent childhood, it is overshadowed by the presence of the coal mine in the boy’s life and how it impacted his family and his father in particular. She wisely works to contrast life above the ground with that below, showing a childhood of fresh breezes and sunlight that will turn into a life spent primarily in darkness.

Smith’s illustrations clearly depict the claustrophobia of the mines, filling the page with smothering darkness and only a couple of men in a tunnel. This contrasts with his illustrations of days spent near the sea, sometimes the sun nearly blinding as it shines off the water. There is a sense of the inevitable in the book, of life paths already formed.

A glimpse of Canadian history, this picture book will appeal to older readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Up! by Susan Hughes

Up! by Susan Hughes

Up!: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Barron (9781771471763, Amazon)

All around the world, families use different ways of carrying their children. This book travels the globe, showing widely diverse families and how they hold their babies close. There are babies being carried in arms, others in shawls, still others in parka hoods. Baby carriers can be used in different ways, whether you are father or brother and if you are differently abled. Baskets and shoulder rides are also shown. Up we go!

Hughes has chosen a wide range of baby carriers in her prose. She keeps it deliberately simple, making it a book that can be happily shared with little ones. The small format of the book also helps make it approachable. Only a little prose is given on each page, the brisk pace and changing scenes keeping the book very lively. It has a lovely bounce to the text, a sway like holding a baby on your hip or bouncing them merrily along.

Barron’s illustrations embrace the diversity and add to it. She has people of a wide range of races and religions on the page. The images are done in cut-paper collage and have a simplicity but also fully depict that part of the world. The crisp lines and bright colors add to the appeal for little ones.

A grand picture book that I hope gets made into a board book as well, this is a jolly journey through babies and how they are carried. Appropriate for ages 1-4.

Reviewed from library copy.