Tag: friendships

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis


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


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


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.



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.