Tag: friendships

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis (InfoSoup)

Yelfred and Omek come from the planet Boborp where they have been best frints since they were little blobbies. They do everything together from eating yunch to playing eye ball. But sometimes even playing eye ball can lead to a long argument. For his birthday, Yelfred gets a space craft to ride around. He doesn’t want Omek to borrow it because he’s sure that Omek will crash it. When Omek takes it anyway and manages to shmackle it up, Yelfred uses his teef and not his words to express himself. Slowly, their friendship manages to repair itself just like they repair the space craft together.

The wordplay in this picture book is great fun. Portis takes English words and makes them just related enough and placed nicely into context so that the Boborp language can be understood. It makes the picture book a great pick for reading aloud. She also uses a lot of humor throughout the book, comparing the lovely behavior of Earthlings to the rather naughty behavior of those on planet Boborp, when actually the behavior is definitely seen here on Earth too. Children will love the language play and the laughter.

The illustrations are modern and bright with a vintage flair. The two aliens are delightfully friendly on the page, though their teef are quite sharp. The illustrations are critical in helping decode the language and in repairing the space craft and the friendship.

A laugh-out-loud picture book full of playfulness and fun. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana

Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana

Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana, illustrated by Francisco Javier Olea (InfoSoup)

Maia and Nico are best friends. They love playing together. But then one day, Nico’s family announce that they are moving across the world. When Nico leaves, Maia is left with an empty feeling inside. The emptiness gets bigger and bigger, not allowing her to play with other kids. But things get better as time passes. Maia finds a kitten, learns to play the piano, and makes a new friend at school. Soon it is time for Nico to return. At first, Maia is scared that things will be different, but soon she discovers that Nico once again fills the emptiness for her.

This story told from the point of view of the person left behind when someone moves away is a nice change of perspective from most picture books about moving. Originally published in Mexico, this picture book captures the progress of emotions that come from losing a close friend. The empty feeling is beautifully portrayed in the story and then the gentle change to meeting new people and finding new hobbies is shown with delicacy.

Olea’s illustrations are striking. I particularly appreciate the way he incorporates the empty feeling visually on the page, shadows cast by other objects but that also speak to the emotions that Maia is feeling right then. Characters in the book have skin of wildly different colors that show various but indistinct races. The result is a book of shadows, light and rich color.

A lovely book on moving and grief, this picture book is one worth sharing. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Kids Can Press and Edelweiss.

 

Gordon and Tapir by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Gordon and Tapir by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Gordon and Tapir by Sebastian Meschenmoser (InfoSoup)

Gordon is a very tidy penguin who lives with a very untidy tapir. The two of them simply can’t get along together. Tapir takes all of the toilet paper to make a hammock in his room and a hat to go with it. He doesn’t do the dishes and the living room has started to look like a jungle. Tapir has complaints about Gordon too. Gordon is too orderly and won’t let Tapir join his club of penguins. Finally Gordon has had enough, particularly when Tapir’s friend moves in and lives in the bathroom. So Gordon moves out. Tapir misses him dreadfully, but Gordon soon reaches out and the two discover that sometimes friendships work best when you don’t share the same space.

Shortlisted for the German Children’s Book of the Year, this picture book is entirely delightful. A large part of that comes from the skillful mix of anthropomorphic animals but also keeping them very realistic as well. These are real-feeling animals who just happen to have couches, dishes and bathrooms. The art is beautifully and detailed, allowing the text to fade into the background for much of the book. My favorite pages are actually free of text as the two of them struggle to make living together work.

The use of the odd-couple dynamics in the book doesn’t feel stale at all and is further freshened by the unique animals chosen as the protagonists. Young readers will want to discover more about Tapirs even if they are slovenly. The book has a lovely story arc that gives a satisfying ending to the book, one that young readers will appreciate as they navigate their own friendships whether they are the tidy or messy one.

A clever look at friendships that gives new life to an old trope. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (InfoSoup)

Quinn has always dreamed of being a Hollywood screenwriter and creating films with his sister Annabeth directing. Then Annabeth died. Now Quinn spends a lot of time in his room alone, not looking for the phone that has Annabeth’s final text to him on it sent right before she ran a red light. As summer starts, Quinn longs for air conditioning and his best friend Geoff shows up with a solution. It means that Quinn has to finally leave the house. It also means heading to his first college party where Quinn meets a very hot guy. As Quinn works to see his life playing out as a screenplay, life as other ideas.

Wow. Federle has a gift with voice. He has created in Quinn a gay teen boy who does not fit into any stereotype at all. Quinn is very smart, very sarcastic and amazingly self-centered. He could have been completely unlikable, but Federle has also made Quinn one of the most stunningly human protagonists of all time. Riddled with grief and unable to voice or even think about his loss, he hides from everyone but most particularly himself.

This is a profound look at grief, but it is also a book about being a gay teenager. It’s a book that thinks deeply about coming out to friends and family, finding out other people’s secrets, exploring new love. It’s a book where there is sex, gay teenage boy sex, and it is wonderfully awkward and normal.

Thank you to Federle for creating a gay protagonist where the book is not driven by the angst of being gay, but where sexual orientation is also not ever ignored as the important piece of life that it is. Beautifully done. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach (InfoSoup)

Parker spends his time in hotels, watching people and stealing from them. He hasn’t spoken in five years. That’s when he meets Zelda, a girl with silver hair and a wad of hundred dollar bills who just leaves her purse behind at the table. Parker takes her money but then realizes he has left his notebook behind, a place where he records his stories and also that he uses to communicate with others. When he goes back, Zelda is holding it. Soon the two of them are talking about life and death, a conversation where Zelda claims to be much older than Parker, and not by just a few years. Parker wants to save Zelda at the same time that Zelda wants Parker to not waste his life. The two together set off on a series of adventures that may just prove that life, no matter how long it is, is worth living well.

Told in the first person, the framework of this novel is that Parker is writing an essay to get into college. That structure alone speaks volumes throughout the novel even as readers are just getting to know Parker and Zelda, since Parker agrees to apply to colleges. The writing throughout is just as rich and thoughtfully done as that framework, allowing these two incredibly unique characters to come fully alive. The book asks deep questions and dances along dark lines, yet it is entirely a delight to read and keeps lightness even as it asks the most difficult of questions.

The two main characters are phenomenally written. Parker’s lack of speech becomes much more than a device, informing readers about his deep pain and the way in which he has truly shut himself off from life. Zelda too is complicated, she is playful and light and then by turns also filled with a resolve that life is not worth continuing. Parker’s short stories are also a source of amazement in this novel and Wallach has quite a way with them, offering even more insight into relationships in the novel. It is all so gorgeously done.

A rich, complicated and exceptional novel for teens, this book handles grief, suicide and questions of how to live your life in a wondrous way. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Samira and the Skeletons by Camilla Kuhn

Samira and the Skeletons by Camilla Kuhn

Samira and the Skeletons by Camilla Kuhn (InfoSoup)

Samira is having a good day, enjoying school and spending time with her best friend, Frida. But then her teacher says something perfectly horrible. She explains that inside everybody is a skeleton with a skull, ribs, spine and more. Samira is horrified and soon can’t see anyone without seeing their skeleton without skin. She starts to avoid her classmates, particularly Frida. Luckily her mother has a great plan. She offers to remove Samira’s skeleton entirely right there in the kitchen. But Samira’s skeleton doesn’t want to lay still for the operation and runs outside and off to the park where Samira’s skeleton and Frida’s skeleton run around together and soon Samira can see Frida as herself once again. Of course, there is still tomorrow’s lesson to get through…

Samira is a child with a huge imagination, one that just won’t shut off easily either when it gets an idea. The story is a refreshing one with a parent who deals with the issue in a calm and playful way, saving the day. Samira herself is complex and interesting, a girl who visualizes ideas intensely, reacts to her own imagination with zing and has no problem being entirely herself.

The illustrations are fantastic with plenty of personality and good humor. Samira is an African-American child and her best friend is Caucasian. Another very clever aspect of this story is to show that we are all the same underneath our skin. So when Samira is seeing everyone as a skeleton, suddenly there is no race in the class, just bones. It’s a subtle message that the book introduces and never belabors.

A dynamic and funny look at the intersection of science and imagination. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Review: A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova

A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova

A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova (InfoSoup)

Dasha is twelve when her mother leaves Moscow to go to school in America. Dasha is left in the care of her grandparents. It is the early 1990s and things are changing in Russia. Dasha though is more interested in her first crush on a boy, her friendships, and her trip to Germany for Christmas. She misses her mother terribly and has to figure out how to have a life without her there. Dasha’s life reaches a crisis when she fails an important test because she is having problems with the boy she likes and her friends. When spring comes, Dasha’s life changes again with her mother returning and deciding to take Dasha back to America with her.

This autobiographical graphic novel is something unique and very special. Tolstikova tells a story that is both universal and also very personal. She speaks of liking boys, struggling with friends who are changing, lives changing due to parents leaving, and the strength of family. She also tells her specific story of living with her grandparents, growing up in Moscow, and the self-imposed pressure of getting into a better school.

The graphic novel is illustrated with outstanding and quirky illustrations that are effortlessly modern. Done in primarily black and white line, subtle colors are also on the pages to lift it from any dreariness. Pages are dynamically different from one to the next both in size of the illustrations to using only words in large fonts when someone is yelling.

Beautiful and haunting, this graphic novel captures a time in the author’s life that is fleeting and special. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.