Tag: friendships

The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan

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The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan (InfoSoup)

Maddie isn’t looking forward to middle school. Her grandfather died over the summer and they are clearing out his house to prep it for sale. Her best friend has changed schools too. Maddie enjoyed writing Standard Operating Procedures for her grandfather, helping him cope with his dementia as his Alzheimer’s progressed. So she continues to write SOPs in her lab notebook and carry it with her all the time. She brings it to middle school and starts to document ways to cope with middle school and with the kids she eats lunch with. Meanwhile, middle school becomes a mix of good and bad. Maddie is allowed to work in the college’s science lab with her father. But her blood clotting disorder starts to flare up more, though not as much as her older sister’s. Maddie gets into a serious fight with her best friend, and manages to anger the new kids she has just started to become friends with. It’s clear that middle school is going to take a lot more experimenting to get right.

Teagan writes with a solid and consistent tone in this middle grade novel. Her touch is light and filled with humor, offering a way to see past the disasters that Maddie is facing in middle school. She weaves Maddie’s interest in science throughout the story. It is more than a hobby for Maddie, it’s a way of life. From her swabs of bacteria to the way she looks at projects, Maddie faces it all as a scientist.

Maddie is a warm and wonderful protagonist, still she is also entirely human. She makes plenty of mistakes in this novel, managing to lose all of her friends at once through actions all her own. She can be angry, impulsive, and inflexible and still readers will enjoy the time they spend with her and her scientific mind. The topic of hemophilia and the way the disorder is used in the novel is intelligently done, creating yet another source of angst and separation for Maddie.

A strong STEM novel that deftly shows that girls and science mix very well. No experiments needed to prove that hypothesis. Appropriate for ages 10-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

Big Bob, Little Bob by James Howe

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Big Bob, Little Bob by James Howe, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson (InfoSoup)

When Big Bob moves in next door, Little Bob’s mother is happy that he will have a friend so close by. But the two boys are very different in more than just their size. Big Bob likes to roughhouse, play sports, and zoom trucks around. Little Bob likes to spend time quietly reading, play with dolls, and sometimes wears girl clothes. Big Bob teases him for a lot of these things until a new girl moves into the neighborhood and tells Little Bob that boys don’t play with dolls. Big Bob stands up to her and soon the three of them are playing in whatever way they like best, because both girls and boys can play with whatever they choose.

While the message here can get a little heavy handed at the end, this is an important book. It shows that gender norms are a spectrum, that boys who play with dolls don’t have to be given any additional labels unless they identify in a different way. It also embraces that girls too sometimes prefer playing games or choosing toys that are traditionally masculine. There is a broad acceptance here with children being given the space and time to realize that they were viewing the world through a limiting lens.

Anderson’s illustrations are playful and bright. The neighborhood is quirky and welcoming with plenty of place to play separately and together. The use of wild colors adds to the appeal with trees of tangerine and lemon/lime and garlands of flowers and hearts dangling from them.

A book about accepting differences, learning to get along and finding new friends, this picture book is strong pick for library collections. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards

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A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (InfoSoup)

Sophie first got a hat knit by Mrs. Goldman when she was a tiny baby. Now Sophie helps by making pom-poms for Mrs. Goldman’s hats. She learns about doing good deeds or “mitzvahs” for people. When Mrs. Goldman and Sophie head outside into the blustery weather to walk her dog Fifi, everyone has something knit to keep them warm except for Mrs. Goldman. So Sophie decides to knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman. It takes some time to knit and meanwhile there are more cold walks. When it’s done though, the hat isn’t perfect. It is lumpy and has holes where there shouldn’t be any. Sophie though has a plan that will make this a hat worthy of Mrs. Goldman.

This picture book is pure bliss. Edwards has created a vivid friendship between a grandmotherly neighbor and a young girl. There is kindness throughout, both in terms of the knitting but also the small kindnesses done for one another. Little details bring the world fully alive, like Sophie’s knitting that she started with Mrs. Goldman smelling of chicken soup, such a warm and homey smell.

The illustrations by Karas are lovely. They show the hard work that Sophie puts in, her frustrations and her successes. They show the cold walks and the fierce winds, the attempts at wearing scarves. They show the joy of completion and then the dismay at seeing that the hat is not perfect. And finally, they show the real hat that is glorious and unique.

A lovely book sure to warm up your own chilly fall and winter days. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

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The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (InfoSoup)

Alex has never been the same since her older sister was murdered three years earlier. She finally started to feel something when her sister’s killer went free. Alex’s response to that was vengeance and murder and now Alex knows that she can’t ever leave the small town she has grown up in since it would not be safe for those around her. She just wants to go through the rest of her life with her head down and not be noticed. Inadvertently though, she starts to make a friend. Peekay, short for Preacher’s Kid, volunteers at the animal shelter with Alex and slowly they become friends. Peekay enjoys drinking and fooling around and brings Alex into a social group where she had never belonged before. Meanwhile, Jack is finding it impossible to keep Alex out of his head despite the attentions of another girl who uses him on the side of her own relationship. Still, Alex may have been better off isolated as her violence starts to emerge again.

Wowza. This book blew me away from the aspects of both content and writing. McGinnis writes with a beauty that is surprising and enticing. Her words capture emotions with an intensity that has the reader feeling them at a visceral level. Here is Alex in Chapter 11 describing losing her sister:

It swings from twine embedded so deeply that my aorta has grown around it. Blood pulses past rope in the chambers of my heart, dragging away tiny fibers until my whole body is suffused and pain is all I am and ever can be.

McGinnis keeps her writing filled with tension, desire, understanding and amazement. She recognizes the incredible need for connection that we have even as we destroy as well. This is humanity on the page in all of its complexity.

It is also feminism, a feminism that burns and blazes, one that looks beyond makeup and clothing to the women and girls underneath. It is a feminism that speaks to the anger inside that wants to fight and battle the darkness in society, the brutality against women and the dangers that surround girls. And because it speaks clearly to that anger, it is breathtaking in its audaciousness, in the actions that Alex takes, and the bravery and violence she embodies.

Violent and beautiful, this novel is about the complexities of being female and alive. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from e-galley received from HarperCollins and Edelweiss.

 

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog by Sue deGennaro

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The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog by Sue deGennaro (InfoSoup)

Told from the point of view of a boy who loves to dress as animals, this lovely picture book embraces differences between people. The boy first tried to dress as a cat, but was chased by a dog. Then he tried a variety of other animals before Camille gave him the idea to try being a frog. He loved it, but frogs are not solitary so he asked Camille to join him. Now Camille is very different from him. She speaks in numbers and science. She agreed to try and was very helpful with measuring for a costume. But soon, she was unable to stand still and the boy yelled at her to stop moving. Camille left. Now it is up to the boy to figure out how to make amends with a girl who is very different from himself.

There is something enchantingly quirky about this Australian import. Just having a boy who dresses as animals and a girl who thinks and speaks in numbers is unique. Then add in the way that the girl uses specific numbers to show her distress, other numbers to say yes and no. This book has lots of levels to it with plenty of room for discussion about friendships, accepting one another’s differences and the importance of communicating even if it’s not easy.

The illustrations add to the appeal. There are the interesting costumes the boy creates for himself. Then there is the language of Camille, which appears as numbers that balance on her hand, fall to the floor, tip and overwhelm, prickle and hurt. The graphic strength of the numbers plays against the softness of the other illustrations, the fine lines swirling into deep colors.

An intriguing picture book that will suit some readers perfectly, rather like a frog suit isn’t for everyone. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Lucy by Randy Cecil

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Lucy by Randy Cecil (InfoSoup)

Lucy is a dog living on the streets. She has a routine each day where she dashes through the neighborhood and straight to an apartment building with a red door where she waits. Inside Eleanor lives with her father who dreams of being a juggler. Meanwhile Eleanor lowers breakfast on a string to Lucy waiting below her window. Around noon, Lucy settles in for a nap and dreams of the days when she lived in a grand house with her favorite stuffed toy. As the days go on, Lucy’s father tries to perform his juggling before a crowd but gets disastrous stage fright, Lucy continues to gather things to feed her new friend, and Lucy dreams more and more of her past life. As their lives converge together, one thing is certain that one small white dog can change your life!

Cecil’s book comes in four acts, each one building upon the next. The book has a lovely rhythm to it, ordinary days stack upon ordinary days, routines support other routines. It is a gentle way to build a story, a natural progression. And yet this book has a theatrical quality to it as well with each act building on the next, the juggling and subsequent disasters, and the drama of dangling breakfasts. It is a story that is uniquely told in its own time.

The illustrations are a large part of this book with the gangly humans and the compact little white dog that glows on the page. The illustrations have rounded edges, almost as if the reader was looking through a telescope to watch the action. This creates a sense of intimacy in the black and white illustrations.

A very special book about one little dog who seems to have lost everything but still has plenty to offer. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick.

 

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.