Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer (cover image)

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz (9780525552857)

Jamila is living in a new neighborhood where she doesn’t have any friends. She wants to spend her summer playing basketball in a park nearby, but her mother doesn’t want her out alone. So when Jamila meets Shirley, they come up with a new plan for their summer. Shirley will come with Jamila to the basketball courts and then Shirley will do her thing too. But Shirley is more than a little strange and a lot secretive. Jamila figures out that Shirley helps children in the neighborhood solve small mysteries that arise. Soon the two of them are on a case together, helping Oliver figure out where his gecko went. It’s a case with many possible suspects. Jamila discovers she has detective skills herself and becomes a full partner. But does Shirley really see her that way? When their friendship and detective service falls apart, can they sleuth out how to get it back on track?

Goerz has created an engaging graphic novel that centers on solving a mystery. Readers will love the characters in particular, Shirley and Jamila are very different from one another, but find ways to connect. After all, Shirley’s work is fascinating and the way her mind works is impressively different and more like a young Sherlock Holmes. Goerz creates a mystery where all of the elements snap into place by the end and it also becomes about more than punishing a culprit, ending with new friendships and greater understanding.

The art is engaging and the story is full of diverse characters. The pages are filled with people from different races and cultures. Readers will love the look at a vibrant urban neighborhood where mysteries abound.

Ideal reading for fans of Raina Telgemeier who are looking for a diverse and mysterious read done right. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai

Cover image of Fly on the Wall

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai (9781250314116)

The author of Pie in the Sky returns with the story of a twelve-year-old who wants to prove his maturity to his helicopter family. Henry’s family monitors what he is doing all the time, packing his backpack for him, making sure he has eaten, and hovering all the time. But Henry knows he can do a lot more than they think. That’s how he came up with a very exact plan to prove his independence: he will fly from where he lives in Australia to Singapore where his father lives. He’s also running from being exposed as the author of a nasty gossip comic at his school, something he is both proud of and terrified by. He just needs his ex-best friend to follow through on the plan, or he will definitely get caught!

The entire adventure that Henry experiences is a delight to experience by his side. His sense of humor both in his gossip comics and on the page is broad and very funny. Throughout the book, he is a disciple hoping to find a shifu to teach him what to do next in his quest. When he meets a girl on the plane, he soon discovers that she might just be the shifu he is looking for, if he can keep from making her so mad that she stops talking to him.

With the text broken up with illustrations done in neon green washes and black ink, this book will appeal to readers of Wimpy Kid. The illustrations range from single illustrations to panels in series to examples from Henry’s own blog done in a completely different style.

Funny, insightful and proof that everyone worth knowing is a little strange. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt and Co.

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner (9781534457003)

Lou loves to sing, but she hates to perform. Truly hates it, complete with panic attacks. A large part of it is that she doesn’t deal well with loud noises, so applause causes her real distress. But Lou’s mother insists that Lou is their way out of the financial problems they are in. Currently living in their truck, Lou and her mother look for her big break when Lou performs at a local coffee shop. Just as things seem to be going their way though, an accident leads to social services discovering how Lou and her mother have been living. Soon Lou is being sent across the country to stay with an aunt and uncle she hasn’t seen since she was a young child. Enrolled in a fancy school, Lou misses her mother horribly even though she now has her own room, plenty to eat and adults who love her. With a new friend who insists she joins theater, Lou starts to see a new future for herself, though she’s not sure where her mother fits in.

The author of Roll with It returns with another story about a child with special needs. Lou’s sensory processing disorder plays a large role in the story and in the way that she feels about herself, too. From riding on planes to appearing on stage to letting her voice be heard, it is all more difficult for Lou. Lou’s special need is portrayed with empathy as is the homelessness that Lou and her mother experience and the other struggles that her mother faces.

Throughout the book there is a sense of hope, a feeling that there are adults around to help. Whether it is social workers, school counselors, teachers or relatives, Lou is surrounded by adults willing and able to help her move forward and make big decisions about her life. Still, while they lend a supportive hand, it is Lou who makes her own decisions, challenges herself, and finds her own unique path.

A deep look at a child with a disability, poverty and community. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen (9781643750057)

Badger loves living alone in the big house where Aunt Lula lets him stay. He has turned the living room into a rock room for his Important Rock Work. There he spends many hours quietly absorbed in his work, identifying rocks and minerals. Then one day, Skunk arrives. Skunk refuses to stay more than one night in the guest closet and instead takes over Badger’s box room, making it into his bedroom. He too has been invited to stay by Aunt Lula. Skunk makes large breakfasts that make Badger full and happy until Badger is asked to do the washing up. But then things really go wrong when Skunk invites the chickens over. Soon a stoat is after the chickens, Badger is accidentally sprayed with skunk spray, and Badger says some horrible things to Skunk that cause him to leave. Now Badger is alone again, but not quite so happily as before.

Cracking this book open and reading the first page will have even the most jaded readers of children’s books realizing that they are reading a new classic. The book reads aloud beautifully, the pacing just right for sharing. The humor throughout is just the right mix of broad comedy and quieter silly moments. Add in the touching realizations that Badger has throughout the book as he becomes a much better roommate and friend, and you have a book with merriment, silliness and heart.

Klassen’s illustrations are marvelous, conveying differences between the two characters clearly. From the glowering Badger to the beaming Skunk, you could not have two small furry animals more different than these two. Add in a rocket potato, lots of chickens and exploring a new/old neighborhood, and there is plenty of humor and charm in these illustrations.

Funny, friendly and furry. Exactly what you want in a new classic to share aloud. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Algonquin Young Readers.

All Together Now by Hope Larson

All Together Now by Hope Larson

All Together Now by Hope Larson (9780374311629)

This sequel to All Summer Long continues the story of Bina and her band. This new graphic novel shows the drama of middle school friendships and how that can be made even worse by adding in band dynamics. At first, Bina loves being in a band with her best friend, Darcy. But when Enzo joins them, she starts to feel like she’s being pushed out of her own band! It gets even worse when Darcy and Enzo become romantically involved. As they try to change Darcy’s music, Darcy decides to leave the band. Meanwhile, she is realizing that her next-door neighbor and friend, Austin, has a crush on her. Bina though doesn’t feel the same way. It’s a lot to navigate as a middle schooler and it leads to one epic punk reaction that results in Bina starting to speak out for herself.

So often sequels are not as good as the first. Here, the story gets even stronger as we get to see Bina grow into her own voice and her own musical stance. The addition of band drama into the huge changes already happening in middle school makes for true drama that is not overplayed here, but creates moments for growth and self-reflection with some rock and roll thrown in.

Larson’s art is as great and approachable as ever. Done in a limited color palette of black, white and a dusky purple. The art invites readers right into Darcy’s private world, her music and the band.

A rocking sequel that will have fans of the first happily dancing along. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from copy provided by Farrar Straus Giroux.

 

 

 

Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest

Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest

Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest (9780763660079)

Bruno and Julie aren’t really friends anymore, but in the small town of Belle Beach, Long Island, they still see one another. That’s how Bruno sees Julie discover the baby that was left on the steps of the new children’s library. Julie carries the baby off, leaving Bruno to discover the note that Julie never found. Bruno though is on a mission for his brother who is overseas fighting in World War II, and he must decide if he will miss the train to New York or not. Told through flashbacks that show the story of Bruno, Julie and Julie’s little sister, Martha, this book explores the impact of the war on families and also how one complicated situation can somehow tie their entire summer together.

Hest creates a marvelous story told in brief chapters by each of the three characters. Their perspectives are beautifully individual, filled with misunderstandings about one another, views that are entirely their own, and opinions that they form along the way. The book is almost a puzzle, where one must figure out what is actually happening through these independent lenses that show a fractured image of the truth.

Each of the three characters has their own personality, deftly created and shown by Hest. Her writing is brief and clear, allowing each character’s words to stand strong as their own. It is the quality of her writing and the profound respect she shows her young characters that really let this delight of a novel work, revealing the moments and experiences of a single sun-drenched summer on the beach.

Ideal for summer reading, this work of historical fiction is masterful. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick.

 

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (9780358131434)

Brace yourself for this teen novel that brings you along with fourteen teens who are taken into the Japanese detention camps in the United States during World War II. The teenagers have all grown up together in Japantown in San Francisco. But when Pearl Harbor is bombed, their lives are destroyed when their families are relocated to the detention camps. Told in each of their voices, the story revolves around their daily lives in the camp, the intolerable racism and injustice that they face, and how they navigate still being Americans.

Chee moves from her successful fantasy trilogy to this incredibly impactful story of a group of friends who are taken from their lives. Her writing is exceptional, moving from straightforward storytelling to passages that sing with poetic touches to direct verse. All of it screams of the injustice, demanding that people see what actually happened in the camps and the impossible decisions faced by the Japanese Americans who were held there. She also very successfully moves to the battlefields of World War II, breaking lives and hearts.

Fourteen voices are a lot to manage as an author, but Chee does it with such a deep understanding of each character that readers can simply allow the characters to flow around them at first. By the end of the book, readers will have connected with each of the characters both from their own perspectives and from the adjoining stories of the other characters that include them as well. It is deftly done, capturing readers into this powerful story and making it impossible to look away or deny.

Incredibly eloquent and compelling, this historical fiction for teens is one that can’t be missed. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers.

Little Bear’s Treasures by Stella Dreis

Little Bear's Treasures by Stella Dreis

Little Bear’s Treasures by Stella Dreis (9781771646536)

Little Bear collects all sorts of treasures: a shiny button, a clothespin, a shy piece of fluff, a magic stick, and much more. He was a great treasure finder. But the other animals don’t understand and consider all of what he gathers to be just junk. The Little Bear meets Little Bird, who immediately understands that Bear’s stick is magical. Soon the two set out to discover treasures together. And they find all sorts of wonderful things! They discover thinking hats, glittering fish, a swinging tree, mysterious fog, a furry rock, and much more. When night fell, the two looked up to the sky to find an amazing treasure they could share along with the dreams of future adventures together.

Imported from Germany, this picture book is a celebration of creativity and imaginative play. Particularly touching is the fact that Little Bear continued being himself despite the mocking of other animals. Finding a true friend though allows him to discover ever so much more than he did on his own. The ending is lovely as stardust cover them and sleep overtakes them. Perfect for dreaming of your own treasures.

Dries has won many awards for her illustrations. They are marvelously unique and dreamy, filled with dust and fog, blueberries and trees. The illustrations glow on the page, lit from within as if sun shines from just off the page.

A gem of a book perfect for your own treasure hunter. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.

13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz

13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz

13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz (9780823442492)

Harris is a little boy who lives with his parents in his urban neighborhood. In the thirteen (quite short) stories in this book, he is very busy. He draws a huge dragon on the sidewalk, helps in the kitchen, goes on a windy walk, attends his first birthday party, and heads to preschool for the first time. On Thanksgiving, Harris was a truck all day. On other days, he goes to the beach or takes care of a friend’s hamster. There is a lot to do!

Schwartz once again captures the activities and essence of being a preschooler. Harris is wonderfully open to all of his small adventures, experiencing a lot of them for the first time. The book exudes warmth and a family that allows their small child the space to explore and make mistakes but are also always attentive and around to help. The charm of these thirteen stories is remarkable, showing children that they are right where they need to be and that many of these experiences are universal to all small children.

The illustrations show a dynamic and diverse urban neighborhood where Harris is living. The illustrations have plenty of white space, the city streets sometimes taking over with their brick buildings and sidewalks.

Gorgeous preschool vignettes that show the delights of this age. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Holiday House.