Tag: families

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes (9781452131535, Amazon)

Based on Snyder’s own two sons, this early chapter book is a real delight. It perfectly captures the relationship of siblings who enjoy spending time together. The four stories in the book are alluringly short and yet immensely satisfying. The book begins with Charlie waking up to a lump next to him, a lump that isn’t ready to get up yet. The second story has the two boys deciding that it’s the day of a neighborhood party and gathering their parents and friends. In the third story, the brothers try to sell rocks for money and find that people would rather pay them to take rocks away. The final story brings the book full circle with the brothers getting ready for bed and the sleepy lump reappearing.

Snyder writes with a refreshing frankness about the children, depicting them playing without fighting and enjoying their time together. Still, these are real children who have silly ideas, strong personalities and a zany sense of humor. The two boys are wonderfully distinct from one another despite the shortness of the chapters.

Hughes is one of my favorite illustrators of children, showing them in all of their playful wildness. These two brothers are the same, their messy hair, interesting wardrobe choices, and outdoor play adding to the feel that these are real children. The illustrations also give a feeling of the neighborhood and community that the children are growing up in, a friendly feel with small town aspects.

We don’t see nearly enough stories about children who love spending time with their siblings. This book celebrates that as well as the silliness of childhood. Children will look forward to the next adventures of these brothers. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long (9780763689957, Amazon)

Sophie can vaguely remember leaving England on a train with her mother when she was a small child. Now Sophie is fourteen and her family has been in Belgium since they left England. She attends school, has a best friend and knows how to speak several languages. Her father owns a car service station, she has a new little brother born in Belgium and things seem normal. But her mother won’t leave the apartment and a strange man comes to her father’s shop and calls him by a different name. As Sophie starts to piece things together, she will have to travel back to England to figure the entire puzzle out and find out who she truly is.

Long has written this novel for teens in code as Sophie tries to stop anyone from publishing her story if they find it. The coding is a fascinating layer to the story, creating a puzzle for the readers even as Sophie is unravelling her own. Readers will grow better and better at figuring out the code, allowing the story to shine through the puzzle. The writing beyond this layer is deft and the mystery is incredibly rich. Readers will be able to figure it out before Sophie does, but questions linger that continue the riveting nature of the novel.

Sophie herself is a strong and smart heroine. As she pieces the mystery together, she uses her intelligence but also has a strong streak of optimism and hope as she faces the truth about her family. Her ability to not only face the unknown but seek it out and discover things is noteworthy. Even as she discovers that she is not the person she thought she was, Sophie does not fall apart. She faces the future with a new clarity and understanding.

An unusual and fascinating novel, it grips you right from the beginning and won’t let you loose until the final pages. Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

 

Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L’Arronge

Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L'Arronge

Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L’Arronge (9781771471947, Amazon)

In the simplest of sentences, this picture book shares the special moments of a parent and child as they live their lives together. The two weasels spend time grocery shopping, bathing, eating, playing and sleeping. Throughout, the pair shows a warm love for one another, a playful spirit and a delight in one another’s company. Through these small vignettes, a fuller story is shown, one of parental care and a familial love.

Translated from the original German, this picture book has a distinct European flair that is very appealing. The simplicity of the structure of the book is also a delight, just two pairs of matching phrases such as “Me pause, You pounce” and “You shout, Me shush” and the story is being told. The words are sometimes opposites and sometimes similar. It’s an engaging way to share concepts with children who will immediately recognize their own parents or caregivers in the book.

The illustrations are simple and friendly. Each image shows the two weasels together. Even without mouths to show expressions, the emotions are clear. There is a lovely playfulness about the entire book with the tone firmly set by the illustrations themselves. Who can resist a little weasel with undies on his head?

A warm and lovely testament to family love, this picture book will work well with the smallest of children. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber (9780545902144, Amazon)

Rachel is looking forward to a great year. She has two best friends and it’s looking like she may not just make the soccer team but may be playing forward. She even has a crush on a boy, Tate, in her class. Just as her plans start to take off though, she is hit with news about her scoliosis which has been being monitored for years. Rachel must wear a brace to correct the curve of her spine. She has to wear it 23 hours a day, every day. The brace changes how she can kick the soccer ball, how she breathes, how she runs and how she eats. Worse though, it changes how everyone sees her, including her best friends and Tate. What had been going to be the best year ever has become the worst year ever.

Gerber, who wore a brace herself for scoliosis, has created a piercingly clear look at life-changing events like wearing a brace. She takes the time to really look at the brace itself, the impact that it has on an athlete, and the changes it makes in self-perception. I haven’t read a book since Deenie by Judy Blume that tackles this subject and it was high time for a new take on it.

As the adults in Rachel’s life push her to quickly accept the brace, Rachel pushes back and insists on continuing to play soccer. Rachel appears to be coping well, but she is bottling so much up inside her. She is a great character, demonstrating with honesty and strength the importance of voicing aloud to those you love what you are experiencing and feeling. Once Rachel begins to do that, others can support her and help her through. It’s a lesson in vulnerability leading to better understanding that is gracefully presented.

Strong, human and timely, scoliosis impacts ten percent of teens. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio

Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio

Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson (9781481457835, Amazon)

This is the second book about Gaston and his friends. The focus in this picture book is on Antoinette, the little poodle growing up in a family of bulldogs. Each of her brothers has a special talent: one is fast, another is strong, and the third is fast. Antoinette’s mother tells her that she also has a special talent, but no one knows what it could be. Then one day in the park, Gaston’s sister goes missing.  Can Antoinette be the one who finds her? It depends on whether she can trust her nose and her heart.

DiPucchio has a wonderful voice for picture books. She creates a natural rhythm with her writing, using repetition skillfully and not overplaying it. She understands the importance of little pauses, creating special moments in the prose that really pull a reader’s or listener’s attention to important parts. DiPucchio also manages to create real tension in a picture book that is appropriate for a preschool audience.

Robinson’s illustrations are bright, bold and large. They work well for sharing with a group. Against the bright backgrounds, the white and brown dogs pop visually. The acrylic paint offers deep colors that have some texture to them, adding to the visual appeal.

Another winning picture book from a master author, make sure to check in with Gaston’s story too! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca (9780763648220, Amazon)

A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Medalist join forces in this wonderful mashup of princess tale and crocodile naughtiness. Cora is a princess who tries her best to do what her father the king and her mother the queen want. She takes three baths a day, studies dull books about finance, and exercises by jumping rope. Over and over again, day after day, until she simply can’t take it anymore. So she writes to her fairy godmother and asks for a pet. But when she opens the box, it’s an enormous crocodile rather than a dog. The princess and crocodile switch places for a day and chaos ensues. The princess has a lovely messy day outdoors exploring and playing. The crocodile meanwhile forces the nanny into the bathtub, locks the queen in the library with only the dull books, and chews on the king in a most sensitive spot! Still, a crocodile may be exactly what this royal family needs.

Schlitz is a chameleon of an author, moving with grace and skill from one sort of format to another. Here she seemingly effortlessly creates a chapter book for newer readers that reveals from the very cover that there is great fun inside. The brilliant and highly unusual combination of princess story with dresses and crowns with a crocodile who isn’t afraid to bite royal ankles and bottoms is pure brilliance. This is a princess book that I would merrily give to any child whether they enjoy princesses or not, after all, there’s a funny crocodile who makes it all wild and wonderful.

Floca’s art is an impressive pairing here. He runs with the mashup of princess and crocodile, the art having a serious tone at first as the royal family is depicted in all of their earnest childraising. The Victorian feel of the book is perfection, until the crocodile appears. Then a green wildness comes into the story, filling it with sharp teeth and plenty of attitude. Floca’s art though is broad enough to fit Victorian rules with crocodile play on the same page with hilarious results. It’s the play of the rules and formality against the silliness that makes the art such a joy.

A great chapter book pick, share this one aloud in a classroom because it will appeal to all readers! Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue (9780545925815)

Released March 28, 2017.

Sumac lives in a very unusual family in a very large house called the Camelottery. Her family is large, very large, with four parents, a baby, several teenagers, even more children and lots of pets. The four parents are really two couples who are all best friends with one another. All of the children are home schooled and there is always something happening around the busy house. Then something changes, and one of Sumac’s grandfathers moves in with them. He’s not used to the wildness of children, the busyness of the large household and his struggle with dementia isn’t helping. Sumac is appointed as the one to help him better understand their family, but after he makes several comments about the color of their skins and the way they live, Sumac decides that it is up to her to find a different place for her grandfather to live where he will be happier and they will be rid of him. It’s really the perfect solution, isn’t it?

Oh how I adored this novel. The creation of a household where the parents won the lottery and no longer have to work but just care for their ever-growing household and volunteer for causes they believe in is lovely. Make it a family with parents who are gay and lesbian and the book becomes something very special. Add in the character of Brian who at age five is just starting to voice his preferred gender. Then mix in even more diversity with adopted children and biological ones all loving and living together.

Donoghue doesn’t just get the mix of characters right, she then gives them all voices that are so honest and true that they live on the page. The fast-paced conversations of the large family around the dinner table are immensely joyful even as they are sometimes strained. The patter of the conversations all have a natural rhythm and flow, something that is very difficult to get this right. And my goodness, it is exactly right.

A grand new LGBT-friendly book that families will love sharing together no matter how many mothers, fathers or children they have. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.