Mommy Sayang by Rosana Sullivan (9781368015905)
Aleeya lives with her mother in their Malaysian village. She loves spending time with her Mommy, and the two of them do everything together. Mommy also features heavily in Aleeya’s dreams which are filled with flowers and dancing. The two of them plan to always be together like this. But then Mommy gets sick and has to stay in bed. Aleeya is lost without her, but steadily starts to realize that she can be at her mother’s side, just in a different way.
This picture book brings diversity in multiple ways. There is the Malaysian setting that is richly depicted with animals and activity. The family is Muslim and prayers and head-wear are depicted. Then you have the mother get ill. While she does recover by the end of the book, it is rare that you see a mother get bedridden in a picture book and the impact of that loss explored. Here it is fully shown and Aleeya’s response is brave and loving.
The illustrations are rich and filled with color and touching moments between mother and child. Their relationship is at the center of the text and the illustrations. It is not a surprise that the illustrations are captivating, since this is a book in the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase. The talent here really shines.
A lovely look at the impact of a mother, whether she can get out of bed or not. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Shannon Wright (9781250140913)
When a little girl wakes up sick, she knows that her mother is going to take great care of her with a special brand of Mommy Medicine. There are kisses and hugs, massages and tickles. Then there are special treats like ice cream, tea, hot chocolate or soup. A bubbly bath is another form of medicine and then there are board games to play too. A quiet nap is a moment of quiet and then on to singing songs, silly dances, and playing pretend. Movies watched together and seeing stars before bed end the day spent together.
Danticat uses her own family as inspiration for this picture book using the phrase that her family used, “Mommy Medicine.” The book goes through each type of maternal love that can be shown on a sick day. Each one not only cares for the sick child but also builds the mother-child relationship stronger. Danticat also shares lots of details that bring the book fully to realization with lovely moments captured on each page.
Wright’s illustrations show a mother and daughter who shine with love for one another. They delight in their time together, coming up with ideas to share. Their home and time together is filled with warmth and visible joy, even on a day of illness.
A deep and comforting look at motherly love and how it can heal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.
A Story about Cancer (With a Happy Ending) by India Desjardins, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer, translated by Solange Ouellet (9781786039774)
As a teen heads to her doctor appointment to find out how much time she has left to live, she thinks about her path to this moment. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 10, she didn’t know anyone who had cancer. She thinks about the awful hospital decor done in colors meant to calm and soothe. She thinks about the hospital smell that seeps into her clothes and skin after a time there and how she begs for lavender to be sprayed all over when she gets back home. She thinks of her parents and their support for her, but also the difficult conversations she has had to have with them about losing her battle with cancer. As the book promises, it does have a happy ending, one that will be greatly appreciated by teens with cancer and those who love them.
Originally published in French in Canada, this graphic novel for teens has a unique feel. Not done in panels, but in more of a free-flowing form, this novel is a quick read that speaks about the process of fighting cancer, the deep emotions that come with your life being at risk, and the importance of family and hope to keep you afloat in the dark times. The voice telling the story is written with a ringing clarity that cuts through any sentimentality and speaks honestly to the reader.
The art in the book is touching and emotional. It captures what the narrator is feeling and their view at the time, often making the words all the more powerful as it gives an image to the emotion. There is a beautiful translucent nature to the illustrations, an ethereal feeling made all the more effective given the subject.
A vital book filled with hope and a happy ending. Appropriate for ages 12-16.
Reviewed from library copy.
Bob, Not Bob! by Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Released February 14, 2017.
An awful cold can cause chaos, especially if you have a dog named Bob. Little Louie is big enough that he doesn’t need his mother all the time, but when he gets sick he needs her quite a bit more. As his cold grows, his congestion makes him talk differently. So when he calls for his Mom, it comes out as “Bob.” Unfortunately though, when he calls “Bob” his dog comes running. As his cold gets worse, he only wants his mom near him, confusing his sister with confusing sentences and continuing to call his dog accidentally. Luckily though, his mom knows just what he needs.
This book is seriously fun to read aloud. The cover instructs you to read it “as though you have the worst cold ever.” And it’s a delight. The phrases that seem confusing on the page pop into sense when read aloud. The book also delights by having a child who wants his mom around him when he’s not feeling well and who also manages to confuse everyone about what he actually wants and needs. The result of the confusion though is lovely motherly warmth and attention, so actually everyone gets exactly what they need.
Cordell’s illustrations add to the zingy energy of the book. He takes the confusing language that Louie uses and creates large words with them that show those reading aloud exactly what to say in that wonderful congested voice. The family shown are people of color, giving a nice touch of diversity to the book. Add in the huge dog that bounds on the page and you have pure joy on the page.
Perfect for anyone home sick in bed, this picture book will please any kid who has a terrible cold or a great sense of humor. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Disney Hyperion.
Not As We Know It by Tom Avery (InfoSoup)
Jamie and Ned are twins growing up together on a tiny island in the English Channel. They love to do things as a pair, from scouring the beaches for treasures that wash up from the sea to watching Star Trek on DVD. But Ned is not well. He is fighting cystic fibrosis and the most recent treatments don’t seem to be working. Then one day, the brothers find a strange creature on the beach. It is hurt and they carry it to their garage where they fill a tub with saltwater and care for it. It’s like nothing they have ever seen before with its scales and gills combined with arms and legs. As the boys care for the creature, their grandfather tells them tales of mermen and mermaids. Jamie starts to hope that the creature can work a miracle for Ned, though Ned sees it very differently.
This novel for middle grade readers is riddled with sorrow and the drain of watching a loved one slowly decline. Yet Ned is also a ray of light himself, refusing to let his disorder rule his life. Still, the book is clearly headed for Ned to go where Jamie can’t follow, a journey he has to take on his own. As the creature brings hope to Jamie, it also brings him distress as he recognizes that his hope may be futile and readers will see it as a natural way to keep from facing his brother’s approaching death.
Both boys are strongly written characters. Jamie is pure heart, trying to be there for his brother and leaving school to be homeschooled alongside his brother. Jamie is a source of adventure and normalcy for Ned, something that keeps them close and also buoys up Ned’s moods and health. Ned is unwilling to do anything but face the truth of his situation and yet that doesn’t limit his activities. Instead it seems to fuel his desire to be more than just a dying boy. The pair of them together are pure radiance.
A powerful, tragic and hopeful book about brotherhood and death with more than a touch of magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.
The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell (InfoSoup)
Sora has ALS, a disease that will slowly ravage his muscles and eventually kill him. There is no cure and no slowing the disease’s progression. Sora’s mother takes care of him and he spends his days at home, unwilling to leave and expose himself and his mother to the pitying gazes of strangers as she pushes him in his wheelchair. Then Sora joins an online chat room for Kyoto teens and after lurking for awhile, accidentally posts a very big scream to one of the rooms. Some people reach out to him and he becomes online friends with two of them, Mai and Kaito. His mother thinks they are friends from school, and she insists that she meet them too. But Sora hasn’t revealed his diagnosis to them at all, pretending instead to be a regular school-attending teen online. What will happen when they discover his illness? Will be begin to treat him differently just like everyone else?
Benwell has written a stunning read in this teen novel set in Kyoto, Japan. The setting is beautiful and a sense of Japan runs through the entire novel, making sure that western readers will never lose the sense of the setting. Benwell grapples with many issues here and yet the book is intently focused on Sora and his journey. Sora wants answers to questions that have none, like why people treat those with disabilities differently and what happens to you after you die. With those issues weaving throughout the book, Benwell also offers up a look at a devastating disease and its effect but also still reminds us all the it is each day that matters and the small things that delight.
The three teen characters are very well drawn. There is Sora, the central character and a boy who is serious and studious. He searches for deep answers and has lots of time alone to think. Yet he is still approachable, friendly and caring, never becoming a stereotype of any kind. Mai is a girl who loves art but is unable to explain to her mother that she’d rather be an artist than a lawyer. Through her reaction to meeting Sora for the first time, Benwell offers one view of courage and the willingness to try again. Kaito is a boy who loves coding and computers, but struggles to do it as well as he would like. He is impatient and clever. The two teens learn much from Sora, but not right away allowing them the time and space to be truly motivated by Sora.
This is a powerful novel that speaks to the beauty of life and calls teens to make the most of their dreams. Have your tissues ready! Appropriate for ages 12-16.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead.
I was utterly charmed by this book. It has a gentle humor, a sweetness and an inherent loveliness that really makes it special.
Amos McGee got up early every morning, changed into his uniform, and headed to work at the City Zoo. Even though he had a busy work schedule, he always had time to visit his friends. He played chess with the elephant, ran races with the tortoise, sat quietly with the shy penguin, wiped the rhino’s runny nose, and read books to the owl who was afraid of the dark. But one morning, Amos woke up and didn’t feel well enough to go to the zoo. His friends waited for him, but when Amos didn’t come they set out to visit him instead. The elephant played chess with him. The turtle played hide and seek instead of running races. The penguin kept Amos’ feet warm. The rhino always had a handkerchief ready when Amos sneezed. And at bedtime, the owl read them all a book.
The husband and wife team who created this book really worked well together. Philip’s tone of writing has a gentle feel that matches his wife’s art perfectly. Philip’s writing is very readable and works well aloud. The small touches of detail make the world more convincing, including the elephant taking a lot of time to make his move in chess and the spoonfuls of sugar Amos uses at breakfast. It is these little facts that really invite one to linger longer in the book.
Erin’s art is delightfully realistic for such a fantastical story. The animals are very true to life except for their hobbies. Her art uses delicate lines and subtle colors. I especially enjoyed Erin’s two-page wordless spreads as the animals head to Amos’ home. Again with her art, the small touches add so much: the elephant lining up his chess pieces while waiting for Amos and the socks on the feet of the penguin. Small details but very important to the tone and feel of the book.
Highly recommended, this book will be embraced by all who read it. Share it for units on zoos, colds or save it for a great bedtime read. Now all I need to find is a shy penguin to keep my feet warm…
Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Also reviewed by The Reading Tub.