Tag: families

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (InfoSoup)

Finley’s parents are having trouble, so they decide that it is best that she spend the summer with her grandparents even though Finley has never met them before. Something happened that made her father leave the family and not speak to his mother again. Finley struggles with “blue days” where she can barely get out of bed and doesn’t have any energy at all. Other days, she spends writing about Everwood, an imaginary land that has parallels to the real world. When she arrives at her grandparents’ home, she realizes that Everwood is a real place and it is right behind their house, complete with a half-destroyed house, villainous pirates, and a trustworthy knight to share her adventures. As Finley and her cousins go deeper into the fantasy world, the truth begins to surface about what happened years ago to their parents and grandparents.

Legrand has created an intensely gorgeous book here that is complex and multi-layered. Finley’s writing about Everwood is interspersed throughout the book so readers can see the detailed and wondrous world she has created. Readers will also clearly see the ties between Finley’s life and what is happening in Everwood. The whole book is a testament to writing that balances strength of vision with a delicacy of execution that allows those ideas to grow and come alive. The relationships of the adults in the book also supports this with various personalities stepping out at different times. There is a humanity to the adults here, a fragility that lets young readers glimpse the truth in pieces before it is revealed.

Finley’s depression and anxiety in particular are captured with sensitivity and grace. It is shown as a part of her personality, not the only characteristic and not one that overwhelms her constantly. Rather it is a factor in her life, one that doesn’t stop her from bonding with her cousins or being creative and imaginative. This is a book that shows that mental illness may impact your life but not destroy it and that there is power in honesty and getting help.

A deep book filled with the magic of imagination, new-found family and one large woods. Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

 

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds (InfoSoup)

Genie and Ernie are heading to Virginia to stay with their paternal grandparents for the very first time. Though they have met their grandmother before, this is the first time that Genie has met him. The difference between their lives in Brooklyn and their grandparents’ home in rural Virginia are huge. But that’s not the only thing that surprises Genie. He is shocked to find out that his grandfather is blind. Genie is a kid who is full of questions to ask all of the time and so he immediately asks his grandfather questions about his blindness. Genie knows that his older brother Ernie is braver than he is, always taking up fights for Genie and protecting him. He also knows that his grandfather is immensely brave too. When something goes wrong though, Genie will have to rethink what it means to be brave.

Reynolds is so amazingly gifted as a writer. He astounded me with this departure from his more urban writing. He captures the rural world with a beautiful clarity, using the natural world around as symbols for what is happening to the humans who live there. It is done both subtly and overtly, creating a book that is multi-layered and gorgeous to read. Throughout Reynolds speaks to real issues such as guns and disabilities. They are dealt in their complexity with no clear point of view stated, giving young readers a chance to think things through on their own.

Reynolds has created a fabulous protagonist in Genie, a boy filled with so many questions to ask that he has to write them down to keep track of them. He is smart, verbose and caring. Yet at the same time, he agonizes over mistakes, trying to fix them on his own and thus creating a lot of the tension of the book. The depiction of the grandparents is also beautifully done, allowing them to be far more than elderly figures. They are often raw, sometimes wise, and also dealing with life.

A brilliant read for the middle grades, this book is filled with magnificent writing and great diverse characters. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.

 

 

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (InfoSoup)

Montgomery has two best friends who are the reason that she can make it through high school at all. They have a Mystery Club at school where they are the only members and they explore the mysteries of the universe. Thomas loves to talk about superheroes and Naoki focuses on crystals. With Monty’s two moms and Thomas being bullied for being gay, Monty knows there is hate in the world, something made even clearer when a preacher arrives in town putting up signs against people who are gay. When Monty buys The Eye of Know online, she doesn’t expect it to work any better than their other experiments, but soon the Eye seems to be channeling Monty’s personal anger and exacting revenge.

Tamaki captures the anger of a teenager with precision here. It all feels deeply organic, often not being logical at all, lashing out at those she loves, and withdrawing into her room. The issues that Monty is furious about are so tangible both in her life and in her friendships, yet she goes much farther than those who love her would want her to. There is a sense of her reaching a cliff of anger and having to make a choice of how she is going to be in the world. It’s a powerful place to set a YA novel and works well.

The magical realism in the book is done well too. It strikes a balance between being entirely believable but also allowing readers to see it as something that could be unrelated too. Readers will get to see what their own opinions of mysteries of the universe are in this well-written novel.

A novel about anger and its positive and negative sides, this book will speak to young teens navigating their own issues. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

 

 

 

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo (InfoSoup)

When a puppy comes to live with his new cat mother, he is scared. But his mother reassures him. He tries to give himself stripes so he looks more like her, but she says there is no need to change at all. She likes that they are different and the puppy does too. His new mom takes care of him and plays with him. Not all days are perfect, but his mother tells him that they can do better next time and that it is OK. This is a portrait of a newly formed family finding their way together.

Galindo captures the emotions of a newly adopted child in this picture book. She tells the story with a frank simplicity that really works, not trying to explain away the emotions but allowing them to show in their messiness as a reassurance that such emotions will not undo a new adoption. Galindo also shows the connection building and love that an adoptive family feels. Her decision to use a single parent is one that is not always seen in picture books about adoption.

The art is very effective. Large on the page, it is done in a limited palette of oranges, yellows and grays. The differences between cat mother and dog child are beautifully clear and the part where the puppy paints stripes on himself is a visual reminder of the desire to be a solid family unit. Just the use of a dog and cat as the characters was a brilliant choice. It is clear to children that they are very different and could even have points of view that are opposites.

A simple and strong new picture book about adoption from the child’s point of view. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Bell in the Bridge by Ted Kooser

The Bell in the Bridge by Ted Kooser

The Bell in the Bridge by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Barry Root (InfoSoup)

Stuck at his dull grandparents’ house in the summer, Charlie is left alone most of the time. He spends time down by the stream collecting tadpoles, using his weed-whacking stick, and dropping stones from the iron bridge that crosses the stream. One day, he discovers that when he hits the bridge with a stone, it rings like a bell and echoes down the valley. He does this again and again and sometimes there seems to be a faint third “bong” that sounds. His grandmother explains that that is just how echoes work, but Charlie is sure that there is another person on a similar iron bridge ringing it too in response. Before he is able to solve the mystery, Charlie returns home, but not before readers discover the answer.

Poet Ted Kooser has turned his poetic writing to another book for children with another grand result. Kooser invites readers into Charlie’s world, weaving slow days of summer carefully with his words. He shows the beauty of these slow days, the potential for discovery of things that would otherwise be unnoticed in the fast pace of video games and TV. These are old-fashioned summer days but ones that modern children can discover too if they are willing to head outside, collect their own jars of creatures and sticks, and hit things with stones.

Root’s illustrations are filled with golden summer sun. Even the cool shade near the stream is dappled with it. The bridge across the stream is structural and one can clearly understand how it rings like a bell. The countryside is filled with greens and yellow oranges, showing open fields bordered with stream and trees. It’s a world to explore.

A gorgeous picture book that shows the luminous nature of summer days spent outside with a good mystery to keep you occupied. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

Thunder Boy Jr by Sherman Alexie

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (InfoSoup)

Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his father who is known as Big Thunder. But Thunder Boy wants a more normal name, like Sam which is what his mother wanted to name him. People call him Little Thunder, which sounds “like a burp or a fart.” Thunder Boy hates his name and wants one that is all his own. He thinks of other names that would be more cool and would speak to what he has done in life. He doesn’t know how to tell his father that he wants a different name, but his father may understand a lot more than Thunder Boy thinks.

Amazing, amazing, amazing. Alexie proves here that he can write for children with a voice that is clear and resonant. He writes almost like a poem, one that dances and moves. There is not a classic structure to the book, which makes it a treat to read. One isn’t quite sure where it is going to head next. There is the whimsical part there Thunder Boy is thinking of new names that shows again and again the actual power of his real name. Then his father steps in, showing his son that he understands him and builds upon the name he has been given. It is a book that takes you on a journey and by the end ties it all together.

Morales’ illustrations are luminous. She captures the emotions clearly with characters who pop against calm patterned backgrounds. The characters shine with an internal light that is very compelling. On every page, parenting with warmth and love is shown, just like it is in the story itself.

A powerful and beautiful picture book that respects modern American Indian culture and families. This book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (InfoSoup)

Faith appears to be a very somber and dutiful daughter to her father who is a clergyman and a natural history scholar. When their family is forced to leave Kent for a small island, Faith discovers that her father’s entire body of work has been discovered to be based on lies and that their family is disgraced. Faith desperately wants to be seen as more than a burden to her father, so she helps him move a valuable specimen to a secret sea cave reached by boat. Soon afterwards, her father dies and people suspect it was suicide. Only Faith thinks that it could have been murder and may have something to do with the tree they moved to the cave. It’s a tree that only bears fruit when a lie is whispered to it and grows in strength as the lie grows too. Now Faith is the only one who knows where the tree is and that may be enough to have her become a target too.

Hardinge’s writing is breathtaking. She uses unique and unusual metaphors that are compelling and vivid, further building her world of lies, distrust and isolation. At times the writing is so beautiful that it stops the reader so that it can be reread again. At other times, the pace rockets forward, the reader clinging on and whooping along. Hardinge has created in the tree itself a beautiful metaphor for lies, the fruit they create and the power they can bring.

Throughout the strictness of Victorian society is at play, creating a world of rules that must not be altered or broken. In that world is Faith who must figure out how to solve a murder that only she believes has happened in a society where she is to be quiet and docile lest her reputation be forever ruined. As the book continues, readers will be carefully shown their own sexism about female characters to great effect. This is feminist writing at its finest.

Stunning writing, a compelling young heroine and a world filled with rules and lies, this is one amazing read that mixes fantasy, historical fiction and a big dash of horror. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from library copy.