Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken (9780735230378)
Adrian Simcox is always talking at school about the horse that he owns. But Chloe knows he is lying, since he lives with his grandfather in a small house in town. There is no room there for a horse. She also knows that Adrian’s family isn’t wealthy and a horse costs a lot of money to keep. So Chloe complains to her friends, her mother and eventually to the entire class about Adrian lying. When Chloe’s mother takes her to Adrian’s house, Chloe knows she is going to be proven right. But she doesn’t bargain for what she is actually going to find there.
This beautifully told story will have readers siding with Chloe from the beginning, since her reasons for not believing Adrian are clear and logical. Still, as the story unfolds readers will start to understand what Adrian is doing long before Chloe does and will begin to feel for him and relate to Adrian. The book does this without becoming didactic at all, instead naturally leading children to an empathy before Chloe gets there. The prose is strong and the pacing is just right in this quiet book.
The illustrations by Luyken are done with lots of white space around Chloe and then riotous plants and gardens around Adrian. Even on the playground, there is a sense that Adrian can create his own world out of imagination, filling the white space in a way that the others can’t. It’s an ideal analogy for the story line itself.
A great book to discuss lying and imagination, friendship and support. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Dial Books.
Colette’s Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault (9781101917596, Amazon)
Colette has moved to a new neighborhood and her parents won’t let her have a pet. She angrily kicks a box over the fence and meets some new kids. Colette wants to be friends but doesn’t have any good answer for them when they ask what she is doing, so she invents a pet that she has lost, a parakeet. The children take her to meet other neighbors who can help her find her pet. One after another the children help and then Colette adds to her fib. Her pet soon has specific colors, a name, a sound it makes, and a poster to help find it. Then Colette’s fib grows into a full-blown story. How will the others react when they realize she’s made the entire thing up?
Done in graphic novel style, this picture book is a delightful mix of a story about moving to a new place, the impact of telling lies and making new friends. Colette’s small fib grows far beyond what she had ever intended as she tries to cover up that she was frustrated and angry. With each new person involved, the lie builds to the find crescendo where it turns into something else entirely, something shared and wonderful despite how it all began.
The illustrations have a unique feel to them. They are done in blues and grays with pops of yellow in Colette’s jacket, small touches in the neighborhood and the color of her imaginary pet. This limited palette is beautifully done, the blues and yellows vibrant against the subtler grays.
A great graphic novel pick for young readers, this book looks at large themes with kindness and grace. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Tundra Books.
Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe
When Sadie heads to a new school once again, she comes up with a grand plan. She orders a medical bracelet online and pretends to have a severe peanut allergy. Using this strategy, she does make some friends, including finding a boyfriend. However, the fake peanut allergy continues to be a problem, especially if she slips up and just eats a chip cooked in peanut oil. As it becomes more and more a focus of her life, she thinks about telling the truth to her friends. But it’s too late to come clean, because they would hate her for lying to them. This graphic novel steadily counts down to the disaster that readers will know is coming, creating tension laced with humor.
Halliday has created a character that we can all relate to. Sadie lies to make friends, her strange solution to being the new girl actually works. Sadie is insecure and as she grows in self-esteem the trap she finds herself in starts to tighten. She is a wonderful imperfect character, scolding her new boyfriend, lying to her mother, and of course lying to everyone at school. But through it all, she is likeable and universal.
Hoppe’s illustrations are done in black and white lines with Sadie’s sweater being a pop of red against the more subtle coloring. His drawings are fresh feeling and dynamic, often going for the laugh especially when the drama gets thick.
Perfect for those teens who enjoy Raina Telgemeier’s books, this graphic novel is filled with humor and tension. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.
Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It by Michael B. Kaplan, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
I’m a Betty Bunny fan, since I enjoy protagonists in children’s books who have a feel of being a real kid. Betty Bunny in this third book in the series breaks a lamp when her siblings refuse to play with her. When she is asked about it, she blames it on the Tooth Fairy. Betty Bunny thinks this works so very well that she’s surprised it hadn’t occurred to her to try it before. But things quickly unravel when her mother asks if she’s telling the truth. Betty admits to telling an “honest lie” and is sent to her room. Later, when a vase is broken, everyone in the family automatically blames Betty Bunny, but she really didn’t do it this time!
Betty Bunny is precocious for a four year old. I enjoy the way that Kaplan explains what Betty is thinking about her new ideas. Also, the family dynamics ring very honest with older siblings unwilling to play but all too willing to offer witty advice.
Jorisch’s illustrations have a great modern vibe to them. The bunny family is active and they dynamic lives appear clearly on the page. This has the trademark style of the earlier books with zingy writing and a naughty but quite charming little bunny at the center.
Fans of the earlier books in the series will find more to love here. This series is not for every reader or family as some will find the naughtiness less funny and more problematic. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan
This book will be released in August 2010.
It was a perfect plan, but then it all went wrong. When their college prep advisor tells them that it takes more than good grades and community service to get into the best schools, Finn and Chloe decide to make themselves and their college essays very special. They stage Chloe’s kidnapping, hiding her in the basement of Finn’s grandmother’s house because she is out of town. It was supposed to be simple, but their carefully staged deception starts to wear on Finn as she is forced to lie to everyone, carefully staging her emotions and reactions to not only keep the lie going but to make sure that they get enough attention from the media. When CNN shows up to cover the kidnapping, Finn and Chloe know that it cannot end the way they had planned and are forced to make dreadful choices. Don’t pick up this page turner without clearing your day first, it is impossible to put down!
With a great premise, the book opens with Finn in the midst of the situation already. There is little time to draw breath as readers are immediately plunged into a faked kidnapping staged by two very smart but very naive girls. The drive to have a bit of fame combined with the pressures of college applications make for a potent combination for a book.
The story is told from Finn’s point of view as she deals with attending school and lying to everyone in her life, including Chloe’s parents and her own. Finn is in denial about a lot of things throughout the book, facing complicated feelings about her best friend. This tension about their relationship and what is at the heart of it makes the book even more compelling as Finn tries to navigate a situation of her own making.
This riveting novel is tightly written. The book builds tension as Finn struggles with her emotions and with the fallout from the kidnapping. It is not breakneck paced, rather it is woven into an intense read.
Ideal for booktalking to teens, this book will have everyone right from the premise. It completely lives up to its promise as a thrilling look at lies and fame. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.