Tag: families

Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley

Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley

Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley (9780525428442, Amazon)

Released August 29, 2017.

This second book from the author of Circus Mirandus takes readers deep into the Okefenokee Swamp. Blue has known his entire life that he is cursed. He can’t win at anything, no matter how hard he tries. His most recent loss was when his arm was broken standing up to a bully at school. Now his father, who always wins, has dropped him off for the summer at his grandmother’s house. The mystical red moon is rising this summer and Blue will have the chance to break his curse if he can reach the golden alligator before anyone else. But it’s complicated as his grandmother may need her curse broken more badly than anyone else and the entire family is there to compete for the right to head into the swamp. Meanwhile, Blue meets Tumble, a girl desperate to be a hero and who wants to save Blue from his delusion of always losing. But is it a delusion or is it ancient magic at work?

Beasley has written a wonderful second novel that tells a fascinating story of greed and sacrifice even as it speaks to the importance of losing sometimes in life. The book reads easily even as it deals with deeper issues of family, betrayal, love and heroism. It is far more complex than readers may expect as different themes weave beautifully together to form the whole tale. The ribbon of clear magic that swirls throughout the book takes it directly into fantasy even as it is firmly rooted in the real world too. It’s a winning mix.

The two main characters are fascinating. Blue struggles with his constant losing and yet never quite gives up to it. He continues to try to run faster, is willing to attempt to break the curse in different ways. He is a hero who is easily related to, taken in by extended family and looking for home. Tumble is a girl who has lived in an RV for most of her life. Her problems becoming a hero are indications that she too may have a curse she has never realized is there. Even though she fails regularly at being a hero, she too perseveres and is resilient in the face of her challenges.

A vibrant and strong story of failure and heroism. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.

Welcome to My House by Gaia Stella

Welcome to My House by Gaia Stella

Welcome to My House by Gaia Stella (9781452157924, Amazon)

Olga, a friendly black cat, leads readers through her home. She shows all of the objects in the house in a variety of categories. There is everything for sitting that includes a stool, chairs, and even a stack of books. Everything that brightens has candles, lamps, and a window. The lists continue with images of each item and a name. Everything that passes the time includes games but also brother and sister. While this is a look at the objects in a home, it also speaks to the various roles that the people in a home can have.

Originally published in France, this picture book has a distinct European feel. Stella presents a simple premise of a book that becomes more complex as readers look more closely at the items included in each category. There are some lists that are unusual like everything that shows time passing and everything for warming up that include unlikely items. This picture book shows categorizing items and also teaches words so it has many uses for young readers.

The illustrations are done in a simple and bold style that offers just enough detail to identify objects clearly but avoids being fussy or too crowded on the page. Readers will enjoy discovering that Olga is a cat, something that explains the sorts of things that make her list and are distinctly from a cat’s point of view.

A book that will have readers exploring the pages closely and inventing their own categories in their homes. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle.

 

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham (9780763692698, Amazon)

Francie and her mother are headed home from Grandma’s house. It rains and rains. It rains enough that a big truck washes their car into a picnic area. Nearby, the rain hits rabbits, mice and a hawk. It rains on fishermen and ducks. Francie and her mother wait in the car, the windows steaming up. Francie writes their names on the windows. She asks her mother what her new baby sister’s name will be when she arrives, but her mother doesn’t know yet. They eat a picnic in the car together and then they pull back onto the road and continue home. When they stop to get gas, Francie’s mother decides on her little sister’s name and the sun returns to light their way home.

Graham has written a lovely picture book that is more complicated than it seems. It is the story of a little red car heading home. It’s the story of a family about to get one person bigger. It is the story of names and inspiration. It’s the story of rain and water and weather. Graham ties all of these elements together into one precious rain-soaked bundle that really works. It is bursting with the love of family on every page.

Graham’s illustrations are done in his signature style. The characters are people of color and their car becomes a haven and a busy room filled with small details. The book then pulls away to the countryside and their small car seen from above. The rain sweeps the pages and the animals appear. The play of close comfort in the car with wide scenery captures the wildness of the storm and strengthens the intimacy of the family.

A special book that looks at those delicate moments before the birth of a new baby, this picture book celebrates family and storms. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits by SK Ali

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (9781481499248, Amazon)

At 15, Janna is a Muslim teen who is still trying to figure out who she is and how to deal with things happening in her life. She wears a hijab, like her mother, though her father doesn’t approve. Her brother has moved back in with Janna and her mother since his father pulled his funding for her brother’s college education when he switched majors. Janna is attracted to a white boy at her school and finds herself being cyber-bullied by some of his friends. Worst of all though is that another boy who is considered to be an upstanding young man tried to rape Janna. She can’t find a way to tell people about what happened to her and the boy continues to stalk her. This modern look at the life of a teen Muslim girl is an important read that shows the strength of young women as they grapple with today’s issues.

Ali’s writing is fresh and fabulous. She invites readers into the day-to-day life of a Muslim family. The question of hijabs and niqabs are discussed and in many ways demystified for the non-Muslim reader. While the sexual assault is central to the book and vital to the story, there are also other moments that are critical in Janna’s growth. Some of these are small details of caring for an elderly neighbor or figuring out that saint-like girls may have other aspects to them as well. All of these smaller details add up to the strength that Janna needs to face her larger monster.

Janna is a great heroine. She is clearly written as a younger teen, something that we often don’t see in teen novels. Since she is younger, her growth is dynamic and entirely believable. Her relationship with her mother and brother are complicated and filled with teen reality. The same is true of her tumultuous relationship with the boy she likes and her friends. Just having friends who are non-Muslim is complicated, particularly when it exposes Janna far more than she is comfortable with.

A vitally important book that serves as a window and a mirror for people in every community, this book belongs in every public and high school library. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Salaam Reads.

 

Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros

Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros

Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros, illustrated by Brianne Farley (9780544785830, Amazon)

Charlotte is a serious scientist with science instruments and protective goggles. She had one big problem, her family left her squished for room all the time. There was no space for her experiments where her siblings weren’t messing around with her equipment. So Charlotte started an experiment by asking a question, stating her hypothesis and then testing the hypothesis. Her hypothesis was that if her siblings disappeared, she’d have room to be a real scientist. Charlotte tried several ways to make her brothers and sisters disappear until she finally decided that she had to leave instead. She crafted a rocket and flew to the moon. She loved space, but as she drew her conclusions she realized that she was getting lonely. How would she find the perfect balance of space and family?

Andros has combined the scientific process with a picture book very successfully. It functions as a very strong structure for the story, using the book to both demonstrate the process but also to tell a good story about a girl scientist. The busy and crowded household will resonate with children reading the book and they will recognize their own wish for space at times, and maybe even outer space!

Farley’s illustrations are dynamic and busy. The crowded family and their interruptions to Charlotte’s experiments are clearly depicted. Charlotte’s carrot-shaped rocket is also lovely both on the moon and on earth. The images of Charlotte’s loneliness are suddenly filled with wide space despite the robot bunnies wrapped in toilet paper nearby.

An intelligent picture book with a strong scientific heroine just right for STEM units. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello (9781580897150, Amazon)

In this second Little Pig book, Little Pig isn’t big enough to join his older siblings at sailing camp. One of his brother’s gives him a rope to practice knot tying. That gets dull after a day. Happily, his grandparents come over and Poppy has been making a model ship. Little Pig helps him finish it and they sail it over and over again. Then on Saturday, the ship gets away from them and sails over a waterfall. Poppy and Little Pig try to catch it, but the current carries the ship away. Luckily, Little Pig has been practicing his knots and has the rope along in his pocket!

Costello demonstrates how little ones can be too small for some experiences but just the right size to save the day. Throughout the book there is a jolliness to the days spent with a grandfather who is happy to dabble in the water again and again. As the water runs faster after the rain, the adventure begins. Costello beautifully has Little Pig do the rescuing even as Poppy supports him in his endeavors. This is a story where the little one is the true hero.

The illustrations are immensely friendly. Costello combines sharp dark lines against flowing watercolors, making Little Pig and the other characters pop. Readers will notice that Little Pig has two grandfathers who visit, making this book a subtle LGBT-friendly read. As the days pass, Poppy’s shirts change color, marking the time in a floral way.

A second win for Little Pig! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

Stealing Our Way Home by Cecilia Galante

Stealing Our Way Home by Cecilia Galante

Stealing Our Way Home by Cecilia Galante (9781338042962, Amazon)

When Pippa and Jack’s mother died six months ago, everything changed. Their father who had been holding everything together during the last months of her illness, suddenly disappeared into his work. Pippa hasn’t spoken since her mother died. Jack has taken on the responsibility that his father has dropped. Meanwhile, their electricity is being cut off and the children discover that their father has lost his car sales business. Their lives become more complicated as Jack is drawn into his father’s desperation for money and a dangerous scheme. Pippa suspects what is happening and is also struggling at school with her silence. It’s going to take fresh strength as a family for them to come out of this dark time.

Galante has created a multilayered novel that is complex and yet not overly long. She wisely layers in other characters who struggled with loss in their lives too, showing the various ways that people can react to grief. This allows readers to see the response of the father in the book as strange and confusing, much as it seems to Pippa and Jack. The book celebrates the power of family even as it is about one that is entirely falling apart. It is also about the love that makes people do stupid things to keep a family together just as those same decisions tear it further.

Galante tells the story from the points of view of both Pippa and Jack in alternating chapters. This is also a clever choice, showing the internal struggles of both children and allowing readers to see the pain that both of them are experiencing and yet displaying it outwardly in different ways. Throughout the book, the setting is vital and important, the lake itself becoming a reflection of emotions and a way to connect to life.

Beautifully written and intelligently crafted, this novel is a remarkable look at grief and families. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.