Tag: parents

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

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The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli (InfoSoup)

Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli tells the story of a girl who lost her mother as an infant and grew up as the daughter of a prison warden. Cammie isn’t a girl who is silly and lots of fun. In fact, she is fast moving and fast talking, exactly why she has the nickname Cannonball Cammie. Cammie is actually angry most of the time. Her best friend has developed faster and seems to be 17 instead of 13 sometimes. She wants to get on Bandstand and be famous. Cammie though is more interested in riding her bike around town and playing baseball. Cammie thinks that her life would be better with a motherly figure, so she begins to try to get the prisoner assigned as their housekeeper to be more like a mother to her. Then there’s Boo Boo, the prisoner who acts motherly towards Cammie but hides a dark secret. Her father too is a mystery, both present and not there, sometimes at the same time. It’s all a confusing mix of emotions for Cammie, who will need to deal with her own grief both past and present before she can do anything but be angry at the world.

Spinelli has written a completely captivating story in this middle grade novel. The setting is richly created with the prison, a full city and community, and one moment after another where Cammie sets it all ablaze with her anger and acting out. Throughout though, Cammie is far more than just as angry person, she is humanity personified, a girl in search of herself even as she spends her time looking for solutions in others. It’s a compelling story, one that is filled with moments of joy and despair.

Spinelli writes like a wizard, unveiling truths slowly and beautifully. As Cammie storms through her life, she also reveals the truths of others around her. And without revealing the entirely riveting and humbling ending, she creates opportunities where others become more than they have ever been before. It is a staggeringly rich novel that is written with such skill that it manages to read in an accessible way.

A masterful book about loss, childhood and recovery by a master of books for children, this is a must-read and a must-buy for libraries. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Alfred A. Knopf and Edelweiss.

 

Two Is Enough by Janna Matthies

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Two Is Enough by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning (InfoSoup)

This picture book shows how one-parent families thrive with lots of attention to the child. It speaks to two being a great number, just right for snowball fights and ice skating. Two is perfect in spring too when planting seeds or picking bouquets. In the summer, two is just right for ice cream cones, building sand castles, and riding tandem bikes. When fall arrives, two is right for playing in leaves, carving pumpkins and marshmallow roasts. Two is just right the whole year long.

Matthies has written a bouncy rhyme here that lends a lot of dash to this picture book. The rhyme bounds along, encouraging children in one-parent families to see themselves as having something entire special. The book can also offer encouragement for children who have a parent who is away often too. As Matthies runs through the seasons and the joy of doing things with one another, she makes sure to show how two people can have a great time doing all of the things you may see as group activities. In fact, they are all the more special when done one-on-one.

Mourning offers a multicultural look at these families as well. Parents of different races appear throughout the book with three families forming the heart of the story. There are mothers with a child and fathers with a child. Grandparents also make an appearance, taking care of grandchildren in much the same way.

This engaging picture book offers a cheery look at small families and the joy that they bring throughout the seasons. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

When I Am Happiest by Rose Lagercrantz

When I Am Happiest by Rose Lagercrantz

When I Am Happiest by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson (InfoSoup)

The third in the charming series about Dani, this book has school ending. Dani has now managed to finish the school year after her best friend moved away. She has a project to finish, a book about how happy she is. But then her father is hit by a car on his bicycle, and suddenly Dani is not happy at all. Dani is taken home by her grandparents where they wait for updates on her her father is doing. How can Dani ever finish her book now? And what will happen if her father never wakes up again?

Translated from the Swedish, this series is one of my favorites. Lagercrantz captures the emotions of having your best friend move away and then the long process of recovering from that. In this novel, she shows how a sudden accident can sweep the air out of your life as a child. Lagercrantz never lectures about being positive, but that’s exactly what her books embrace. Through Dani’s reactions to adversity, readers can see the power of positive thinking and how the good outweighs the bad even when you don’t realize it.

Eriksson’s art is done in line drawings that help break the text up, making this book just right for elementary readers who may still find large paragraphs overwhelming. The art is done with a sense of humor, such as the image of Dani getting her ears pierced with her father unable to look but bravely holding her hand anyway. When Dani is overwhelmed by the news of her father, you can see it in every bone of her body as it curves protectively inward.

Another winner in this great series, get these into the hands of fans of Clementine for another amazing young heroine. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Ask Me by Bernard Waber

Ask Me by Bernard Waber

Ask Me by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee (InfoSoup)

A little girl and her father take a walk through their neighborhood. Along the way, the girl asks her father to ask her questions like “Ask me what I like?” and he does, question after question. She finds a lot of nature along the walk to enjoy, from frogs to geese in the air and in the water, bugs, beetles, and flowers. She asks him to ask if she likes ice cream cones and they both happily walk away with cones after she announces how much she loves them. The two talk about trips they have taken together, favorite colors like the red balloon, stories, birds, and much more. Once back home, it’s time to think about her upcoming birthday and then time for bed.

Waber adeptly creates a realistic relationship between father and daughter here on the page. The use of her questions is particularly clever as it gives the book a repeating structure that feels natural and unforced. Parents will also recognize the way children want to be asked questions and have them answered. It is very effective to have this sort of relationship where the girl is saying what she wants out of their conversation and the father is happily agreeing. The entire day spent together is blissful and lovely and is entirely about their relationship with one another. Gorgeously structured and written.

Lee’s art is done in pencil. It dances along with gentle colors until suddenly fall bursts on the page. The deep rich colors don’t seem like pencil until you see the drawing lines on the page. The illustrations celebrate the closeness of this father and his daughter, playing with perspectives and celebrating their day outside in nature together.

Gorgeous illustrations and writing combine into one special picture book that is a dazzling book to share aloud. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka

Dads First Day by Mike Wohnoutka

Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka (InfoSoup)

Oliver and his dad have had a great summer together, playing and doing so much. Now it’s time for Oliver to start school for the first time. Oliver is all ready and excited to go. But that first morning, Dad’s stomach starts to hurt. He’s nervous and when it’s time to leave the house he even hides from Oliver. But Oliver manages to get his dad to the car, though he drives to school very slowly. Once there, Oliver happily joins the class but his father starts to cry when it’s time for him to leave Oliver in school. Back home, Dad thinks a lot about Oliver and heads off to school to check on him. Through the door, he sees Oliver happily participating in class and realizes that they are both ready for school after all.

Wohnoutka takes the first day of school jitters and turns them on their head with this cheery picture book. The father in the book acts just like a child at times, adding to the broad humor in the book. Most of the time though parents will recognize their own feelings about a child entering school for the first time. It’s a great title to have conversations about how you and your child are feeling about school and the fact that you will both miss one another even when you are both ready to start school.

The illustrations are approachable and have a cartoony appeal. Dad in particular is a wonderful rendition of a middle-aged father. There is cause for celebration when you have a back-to-school book focused on a father who takes care of his child and then also cares so emotionally as well. The illustrations amp up the emotions and then take a humorous approach to keep the book sunny and silly.

A back-to-school book for the entire family, parents too, this picture book will have families laughing even as the first day of school approaches. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.

Review: Little Red Henry by Linda Urban

Little Red Henry by Linda Urban

Little Red Henry by Linda Urban, illustrated by Madeline Valentine (InfoSoup)

Henry’s family does way too much for him. They dress him. They feed him. They bring him anything he needs. But they haven’t noticed that Henry is getting much more independent and wants to start doing things himself. So Henry starts to insist on doing things entirely on his own. Henry feeds himself. Henry brushes his own teeth. He gets himself dressed, refusing all of their suggestions for things to wear. Then he headed next door to his friend’s house to play. His worried family peers at him from behind trees and other objects, but Henry does just fine on his own. At first Henry’s family doesn’t know what to do with themselves with no Henry to take care of. Slowly though, they start to find their own way again. When bedtime comes, Henry gets himself ready for bed, but he just might still need some help going to sleep.

A perfect story for children in the age of helicopter parenting and a reminder for parents to give their children the space and opportunities they need, this picture book has a snappy tone that is great fun to read aloud. It plays homage of course to The Little Red Hen who asks for help and gets none. Nicely, this book is the reverse and echoes the flip at the end of the traditional story with one of their own as well. It’s a great riff on a beloved tale, modernizing it and changing it so that young readers may not even realize the connection.

Valentine’s illustrations add to the pizzazz of the book. The worried and overbearing family is filled with doting love. Henry is vividly independent, standing on chairs and being entirely himself. There are great moments of activity where Henry tries on different outfits and where the family tries out new activities. This echoing of each other adds to the pleasure of the read.

A modern riff on a classic tale, this picture book is sure to support independent kids and send helicopter parents spinning. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Everlasting Embrace by Gabrielle Emanuel

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The Everlasting Embrace by Gabrielle Emanuel, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

A toddler spends her day in Mali strapped to her mother’s back.  Told from her point of view, this picture book celebrates the strong bond that occurs between mother and child as they spend their entire day together.  The little one is bound to her back and they move as one.  She is there as her mother beats millet with a pestle.  There when her mother carries it back home in a basket balanced on her head.  During the day, her mother tickles her, reaching behind to touch her little girl.  They dance together, the rhythms of their day lulling the baby to sleep at times.  They shelter together in the shade the big basket of mangoes makes when her mother carries it.  When they return home, the little girl carries her teddy bear bound to her back.  These days together are precious as the little girl will soon be too big to carry all day.  But the bond they have formed together will never go away.

Emanuel lived in Mali for a year after graduating from college.  While she was there, she shared stories aloud with a little girl, but found that there were no picture books that she could read her about her own country and lifestyle.  So Emanuel created this one.  It is a very strong debut picture book with writing that is confident and a point of view that is unique.  Told from the view of the little girl on her mother’s back, one never worries that she is being neglected or ignored as the mother goes through her day.  Rather one quickly realizes that she is content, cared for and completely part of her mother’s daily life.

Lewis is an extraordinary illustrator.  He captures life in Mali clearly on the page, showing the mother and daughter together at home, walking through the markets, doing chores and spending time together even when the mother is busy doing other things.  There is a joy in his images, a dedication to truly capture this country and its way of life on the page.

Strong, beautiful and unique, this picture book takes children on a journey to Mali where they will see life lived differently and warmly.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.