Tag: friendship

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.

Claymates by Dev Petty

Claymates by Dev Petty

Claymates by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge (9780316303118, Amazon)

Two balls of clay meet one another and then are formed by an artist into an owl and a wolf. The two are left alone and quickly discover that they are able to change their own shapes as they like. They rapidly change from one form to another, elephants and peanuts, things big, small, flat and sharp. As the artist returns, the two balls of clay try to remember what they had originally been shaped as but don’t quite get it right. So back they go into a wolf and an owl and then eventually into balls of clay. But they aren’t done playing yet!

The text of the book is entirely done in a dialogue between the two characters, so it is simple and easy. The result is a book done in photographs that reads much more like a comic with speech bubbles. There is a delight in the photos and the clay shapes, evoking claymation movies and the joy of childhood play with clay.

Throughout the book, there is lots of humor both in the dialogue and the shapes that the clay takes. The illustrations also incorporate the tools the artist uses to shape the clay, and the early pages of the book show an image of the set and photography equipment. The clay shapes are clever and funny, inviting readers to explore clay themselves and start to make friends through play.

A joyful look at friendship and creativity. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

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.

 

Hey Boy by Benjamin Strouse

Hey Boy by Benjamin Strouse

Hey Boy by Benjamin Strouse, illustrated by Jennifer Phelan (9781481471015, Amazon)

A boy finds a dog and takes him home. The two of them love playing together, but then the boy gets hurt. The dog is taken to an animal shelter and someone else adopts him. The boy is told that he simply isn’t old enough yet to care for a dog. Happily, the boy still gets to visit the dog and tries to grow up fast enough to take him back. As time passes, the boy grows up and the dog ages. When the dog is finally too much for his adoptive family, the boy is given the chance to take him. This book is an allegory for the love of pets and the unbreakable bonds they forge.

Strouse writes in prose that is simple and straight forward. Yet the story is much more of a fable, one that doesn’t follow logic but emotion instead. The story is about the bond between human and animal, one that defies time and distance to keep connections fresh and strong. Strouse embraces this even as he tells it in his simple prose, hinting at the true depths of emotion that lie beneath.

Phelan’s illustrations make this book sing. From the dogs in the shelter that are striped with bars to the way the black dog is such a strong graphic on the page, her images are iconic and beautiful. They match the simple prose with their own profound simplicity, allowing the white space on the page to speak too.

Strong illustrations make this allegory all the better to share with children and adults who love their pets. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence (9781626722804, Amazon)

Avani’s father has signed her up for Flower Scouts so that she can make friends in her new town. But all of the other girls are interested only in talking about makeup and boys. Then Avani is accidentally teleported into space by an alien named Mabel, who is working on her own badges for her scout troop. Being a Star Scout like Mabel is a whole lot more interesting than being a Flower Scout, so Avani starts joining them instead of her earth-bound scouts. As Avani learns to build robots, teleport things, drive space ships, and race jetpacks, she finds a place where she fits in. Now she just needs to get her father to sign off on a permission slip for her to go to Camp Andromeda for a week!

This friendly science fiction graphic novel is filled with humor and lots of action. Avani is a main character of color with her Indian heritage that plays a role throughout the graphic novel in things like language and food. She is game for the entire adventure, allowing herself to try new things, push herself to learn and even form a real rivalry with another troop of scouts.

The art is playful and fun with the dialogue working well to move the book forward at a fast pace that will please young readers. There is lots of action, plenty of space exploration and even camp pranks and jokes. The pleasure is in seeing camping tropes used on an asteroid by alien creatures.

Funny and warm, this graphic novel has strong STEM overtones and even a few poop jokes. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

 

Escargot by Dashka Slater

Escargot by Dashka Slater

Escargot by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Sydney Hanson (9780374302818, Amazon)

Escargot is a small snail who has one big plan. He has to get to the salad at the end of the book. Along the way, Escargot tries to convince the young reader that snails should be their favorite animal. They will have to ignore the trails of slime on the page and focus on how very brave snails are and maybe how fast? The reader helps Escargot along the way, testing out ferocious faces, given him a little push, and offering kisses too. By the time Escargot reaches the salad, he will have won their hearts, just in time to try a new vegetable together.

Slater cleverly combines several themes in this picture book and melds them in such a way that they work seamlessly with one another. There is the interactive piece of the book that ask the child to participate and impact the story. There is the favorite animal part that is engaging and funny, filled with enough action and interaction to keep even restless children busy. The final aspect is the bravery piece, trying something new and being a friend.

Hanson’s illustrations add to the appeal of the book. Escargot wears a jaunty striped shirt, red scarf tied at his neck and a beret. He oozes French appeal and confidence even as he is willing to ask for help. He is expressive with his wide eyes and tilting antennae that he uses to gesture.

A stellar if slimy little hero that will wend his way onto your favorite animal list in no time, this picture book will work best with a small group or one-on-one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.

The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder

The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder.jpg

The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Samantha Cotterill (9780553512731, Amazon)

Laurel lives next door to Honey. Honey has a large garden and she is always out working it it, rain or shine. Honey weeds the garden, shares carrots and tomatoes in the morning, offers up eggs to neighbors from her chickens, and on nice evenings has cookies after dinner that she shares with Laurel as the fireflies come out. But one day, a for sale sign is up at Honey’s house and she is moving away. Laurel is very sad and wonders at Honey continuing to plant things that she won’t be around to enjoy. The two plant an apple tree together and Laurel puts up a sign. Soon another family moves into Honey’s house and Laurel shows the children how to take care of Honey’s garden using all the skills that Honey showed her day after day.

Snyder has created a very rich picture book here that will work for even very young children. She explores the wonder of both gardening and friendships in this picture book with muddy knees bringing people together. Snyder never loses sight of her young audience here, keeping the language simple and the story tightly written. It’s a picture book that has a full, robust story that will lead to discussions and perhaps some singing to kale.

Cotterill’s illustrations are wonderful, fully embracing the joy of gardening in all weather and the wonder of the outdoors. Done in pen and ink, they were colored digitally in a style that evokes watercolors. They are filled with small details that show the garden and the care and time Honey puts into it.

A warm book about neighborhoods, caring adults and the connections forged over gardens, this picture book is a great addition to springtime stories. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.