Tag: families

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.

Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay

Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay

Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Tony Ross (9781481491020, Amazon)

Binny’s family has been concerned with money since her father died. They live in a house that is far too small for all of them, her sister has sold all of her possessions to pay for flute lessons, and her mother works extra shifts all of the time. So when Binny sees a large amount of money left behind in an ATM, she grabs it and takes it. Does that make her a thief or just lucky? Binny soon discovers though that she can’t spend the money without others asking lots of questions. So she hides it, then hides it again and again until she can’t remember where she hid it! Meanwhile, Binny’s neighbor seems to be putting curses on all of them, like Clem’s flute breaking and James losing his best friend over buried treasure. As Binny realizes she has to be honest about the money, she has to find it first and figure out just who may have taken it.

This is the third Binny book and it’s just as charming and fantastic as the first two. McKay has a gorgeous way of writing, showing her characters and families complete with messy homes, money problems, and everyday woes. She always gives her characters lots of heart and big imaginations so that even normal days turn into adventures and bad decisions turn into mysteries.

As always, McKay’s families are ones that you want to spend even more time with. Readers will want to climb behind the couch with James, explore Clem’s bare but lovely room, share the birthday cake, and explore the beaches. The love in this family overflows the pages, even when they are distracted with their own problems. In fact, a hallmark of McKay’s books are that the children do the figuring out and realizations, not the adults. It’s a refreshing look at the power of children when they are given plenty of freedom.

Another winner from McKay! If you haven’t met Binny yet, make sure to start with the first since they are all such a treat. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

 

Littles and How They Grow by Kelly DiPucchio

Littles and How They Grow by Kelly DiPucchio

Littles and How They Grow by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by AG Ford (9780399555268, Amazon)

This picture book celebrates the first year of a little one’s life. Told in rhyme, the book doesn’t start with the birth but instead has babies wriggling on their tummies, swaddled and warm, and being cuddled close. Baths, food and tantrums appear on the page, filled with bubbles, messes and tears. Reading books and taking walks are also part of the fun as the book then shows how quickly the littles grow big.

This simple picture book is great for new siblings to see the fun that is to come once their new babies get bigger. The book is full of the busyness of having a baby and the joy that comes with it too. DiPucchio’s rhymes are confidence and easy, never feeling forced. The rhythm is lovely as well, rollicking and joyous.

Ford’s illustrations are bright and celebratory. He shows little ones of all races and cultures with mothers and fathers all involved. There is a lovely playfulness to the illustrations that works well with the subject matter.

A bright and warm look at new babies, this one is a great gift for expectant parents or the older sibling. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

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.