Tag: friendship

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmers Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah (InfoSoup)

Dara knows that she is a star. She can make all of the facial expressions in her favorite teen movies, has huge posters of her two favorite actors on her bedroom walls, and has lots of imaginary conversations with them as she dreams of her future in Hollywood. Her first step to stardom is landing the lead in the school production of The Sound of Music, and she just knows that her name is going to be called. But then it isn’t. Dara starts to wonder if it’s about the color of her skin, since she knows she’s an amazing actress. Dara was adopted from Cambodia. Then she notices that others with different skin colors are in the cast. The teacher offers her the role of stage manager, but Dara won’t agree to that. The teacher also invites her to join her acting classes, but Dara knows she doesn’t need them. As Dara slowly realizes that she may have a lot to learn after all, readers become convinced that Dara may just be the star she always thought she was.

Shevah has created in Dara a character who is both repulsive and compelling. Dara is unthinking, rather vain and unable to listen at the beginning of the book. Wisely, Shevah frames the book as looking into the past and Dara knowing that she wasn’t a very nice person back then. This gives readers permission to dislike Dara and yet also enjoy her humor, drive and sparkle. It also makes Dara’s deep changes all the more believable. Various characters also help Dara see herself anew, including her siblings, her parents and her best friend. This is done in many different ways from overt to subtle and is a skillful way to create change in a character.

The voice throughout the book is entirely Dara’s. The fonts change with Dara’s emphasis on various words, showing the passion and emotions behind them. The book design is fresh and friendly, having designs around the page edges and illustrations that break up the text a bit.

A strong and funny protagonist becomes much more self-aware in this gorgeous novel. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Flannery by Lisa Moore

Flannery by Lisa Moore

Flannery by Lisa Moore (InfoSoup)

At age 16, Flannery is dealing with huge issues. Her mother, an artist, is unable to pay for her biology book or heating bills. Her best friend, Amber, has a new boyfriend that Flannery does not trust because he is over-controlling and their friendship is falling apart. And now Flannery has been put into a Entrepreneurship class project with her long-term crush, a graffiti artist who seems to think he’s too cool for school. So she is left doing all of the work for their project herself. Flannery works to hold it all together, even managing to create a project that sells out: love potions. While Flannery may realize they are entirely pretend, everyone who drinks one seems to be finding love. As things start to shatter around her though, Flannery discovers who is there for her and who is not.

OK, everything I read about this book seems to focus on the love potion aspect. This book does have that, but oh my it is so much more. The writing here is strikingly unique. Moore does away with quotation marks, creating dialogue poetry on the page, the voices running together exquisitely and somehow becoming even more clear without the punctuation. That is great writing. She plays with the mysticism of love, the power of control, and the illusion of it as well.

Beyond the love potions, this is a book about a teenager finding her own strength, her own voice and her own way of living which is not about conforming at all. Flannery knows throughout the book that she is unique and in love and that everything is not what it should be. Still, there are revelations even as she lives her truth, ones that change her point of view and make her grow. That is done so naturally and organically. Beautiful.

A stunning teen read, pick this one up not for the love potions but for the deep story and strong unique heroine that you will want to meet. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson (InfoSoup)

Topher, Brand and Steve know that they have one of the best teachers in Ms. Bixby. She is the sort of teacher that everyone hopes to have. But then she announces that she is sick and will have to leave without finishing the school year. She tells the class when her last day is, however her health worsens and she doesn’t make it to her planned final day. That’s when the three friends decide that they must follow through and give Ms. Bixby the final day she has dreamed of. Even if it means skipping school, taking the city bus, buying a very expensive dessert, finding a perfect book, and even illegally buying some wine. Ms. Bixby would do that and more for them, so they must do this for her. As the boys tell their stories of what Ms. Bixby did for each of them, readers too will see that this is the sort of teacher you break all the rules for.

Wow. This book is incredible. It is one that teachers will adore, showing how one teacher can impact so many of her students on a personal level. It is one children too will love, showing their own dedication, bravery and heart. It is a book that skirts along the line of heartbreak and hope, allowing readers to soar at times, fall down and smash like a backpack filled with cheesecake, and then soar once more. It’s a wonderful roller coaster of a book filled with so much emotion and connection.

The three lead characters are all wonderfully depicted. Their voices are unique from one another and stay separate and distinguished. Though they are friends, they have secrets from one another, ones that Ms. Bixby is part of and they all have connections to her that the others don’t know about. It’s a look at the harshness of childhood, the ways that adults can help and the importance of one teacher.

A powerful read that calls on all of us to be heroes in each other’s lives. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Walden Pond Press.

 

Sophie’s Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller

Sophie's Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller

Sophie’s Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (InfoSoup)

Released June 28, 2016.

This is a wonderful sequel to one of my favorite recent picture books, Sophie’s Squash. Sophie is heading to school for the first time, bringing her best friends, her squash Bonnie and Baxter, with her. She has no interest in making new friends, because after all she already has her squash. But one kid, Steven Green, just won’t leave her alone. He sits near her, plays near her and even breathes on her. Steven wants to be friends but Sophie just won’t let him. Then as Sophie realizes that her squash friends have a limited time they can be with her, Steven comes up with a great idea to create a new friend. After all, humans make great friends too.

Miller has kept that same tone she used in the first picture book about Sophie and her squash. A large part of that is Sophie herself, who is beautifully headstrong and determined to decide what is going to happen. She rejects a lot of school from the chairs to the milk to the children around her. Readers will see children approach and try to befriend Sophie and her utter disdain for them. Then there is Steven, who won’t take even Sophie’s blunt rejections to heart. The interplay between Sophie and the other children will be familiar to readers and may help with first day jitters too.

Wilsdorf’s illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. They are bright and cheery, showing the school room in particular in all of its colorful bounty. Then there are other pages, where the circle of life and produce makes things barren and dreary, late fall gardens that reflect Sophie’s mood.

A rich and noteworthy sequel to a beloved first book, this is one to reach for as school approaches. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Schwartz & Wade.

The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi

The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi

The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober (InfoSoup)

In a dim sum restaurant, one dumpling is sad because he is considered ugly. He tried to make up for it with outfits or wrinkling his brow, but he was always the one left behind and ignored.Then a cockroach came along and offered to show the Ugly Dumpling the beauty in the world. They explored the kitchen together with all of its wonders. Then the Ugly Dumpling noticed something. There were more ugly dumplings who looked just like him! He was in fact a steamed bun and fit in perfectly. The same could not be said for the cockroach though when he was revealed to all in the dining room. But by that point, the Ugly Dumpling knew just what to do.

This is a clever riff on the Ugly Duckling story that manages to tweak the story just enough to keep it fresh and new but also so that the traditional tale is still able to be seen as well. It is the character of the cockroach that makes this book really work. The addition of a friend to model self-esteem even if you are unique is crucial here and then for the tables to turn at the end of the story. The text is simple and straight-forward, making it a great book to share aloud with a strong story arc.

Kober’s illustrations are jaunty and lively.  Showing the kitchen as a kind of wonderland is magical with the towers of plates that look like skyscrapers, the woks that are almost volcanic, and the landscapes of flour. The emotions of the dumpling and other characters are done clearly and the illustrations are large enough to work with a group nicely.

A strong pick for a book to share aloud, this dynamic picture book is sure to suit everyone’s tastes. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Hilo: Saving the Whole Wide World by Judd Winick

Hilo Saving the Whole Wide World by Judd Winick

Hilo: Saving the Whole Wide World by Judd Winick (InfoSoup)

This second book in the Hilo series is just as fresh and exciting as the first. In this book, Hilo and his friends DJ and Gina have to figure out how to save the earth from creatures who are appearing from other planets through strange portals. Luckily, Hilo quickly figures out how to zap the creatures back to their worlds, but soon even he can’t keep up with number of portals opening. Then there is also the question of Razorwark, the villain from the first book and whether he will be arriving through one of the portals himself bringing with him a potential answer about Hilo’s origins. I don’t want to spoil a single thing in this smart and funny series, so pick it up!

Winick sets just the right tone in this second book, managing to handily escape the sophomore slump and keep the series action-filled and funny. Though this book does serve as a bridge to the rest of the story, it also fills in many gaps for readers about Hilo and his friends. We are also introduced to a marvelous new character in Polly, a sorceress martial-arts cat. She is entirely kick-butt and ferocious, leaning into every battle that comes her way.

Winick does a great job with the art as well. His action sequences are dynamic and colorful. The portals themselves add a wonderful tension to the page, where one isn’t sure what is going to arrive next. Each character is unique and delightful to spend time with and once again I applaud Winick’s decision to have strong girls and diverse characters center stage.

A second book that continues to build on a great graphic novel series for children. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan (InfoSoup)

Joe and Ravi could not be more different. In fact, the only things they seem to have in common is they are in the same class and they could each use a new friend. Ravi has just moved to the United States from India and is discovering how very different school in a new country is. Joe’s two best friends have moved away and now he is left at the mercy of the class bully who also has Ravi in his sights. Joe has to attend special classes to deal with the way that he gets overloaded by sights and sounds. Ravi’s teacher has trouble understanding his English with his Indian accent and may be sent to special classes as well. Ravi is eager to befriend the class bully, who is also from an Indian background. How can these two very different boys figure out that there is a friend right there who needs them just as badly.

The book is divided into the perspectives of Ravi and Joe, each boy written by one of the authors. Beautifully, the two voices meld together into a cohesive whole. The two boys have distinct personalities and points of view that go far beyond their different cultures. The book speaks directly to stereotypes, particularly first impressions of people before you get to know them as a person. It illustrates this without a lecturing tone, instead demonstrating it in the ways the two protagonists interact with one another throughout the novel.

This is a very approachable book, one that invites readers to explore and see what is happening. It has a light tone, yet reaches deeper meanings and explores real issues that children today face no matter what their background or culture. Adding to the depth of the book are glimpses of the boys at home, showing how they spend their free time and the way their parents and families interact. It’s a way to further show both their differences and their similarities and works particularly well.

A perfect lunchtime read, this one is worth saving a special spot for on your shelf. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.