Tag: school

Ferocious Fluffity by Erica S. Perl

Ferocious Fluffity by Erica S Perl

Ferocious Fluffity by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Henry Cole

Released July 19, 2016.

The author and illustrator of Chicken Butt return with another uproariously funny picture book. Mr. Drake brings a new pet into his classroom. It’s a tiny hamster. They aren’t allowed to hold her, but one day when Mr. Drake is late, the children take her out of her cage. But Fluffity is not as sweet as she looks. She bites all of the children! Then she chases them down the hall and continues to bite them as they hide in the library. When Mr. Drake discovers them all, Fluffity bites him too and won’t let go. They finally get Fluffity back into her cage and figure out that she needs exercise and lots of things to chew on to be happiest. In fact, they do so well that Mr. Drake brings in a new pet for the classroom!

Now, I must admit that when I start a picture book and it is in rhyme I tend to worry and even shudder a bit. Here Perl handles her rhyme with panache, using it to up the frenzied action and to increase the humor as well. The rhyme adds a galloping pace to the book that is wonderful as well as making it a treat to read aloud. The humor is broad and never subtle, in other words perfect for small children to laugh right along with. It is also appreciated that in the end the students learn how to care for Fluffity rather than getting rid of the little nipper.

Cole’s illustrations add to the zany feel of the book. Just look into the eyes of Fluffity and you will know that something is about to go wrong. The ball of fur may be tiny, but her glare would have me hiding in a library too. Just like the writing, the illustrations are ideal for sharing out loud too with their bright colors, large format and action-filled images.

Sure to keep even the wiggliest preschooler listening, this picture book is a great finishing read for a story time welcoming children back to school. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.

 

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson (InfoSoup)

Topher, Brand and Steve know that they have one of the best teachers in Ms. Bixby. She is the sort of teacher that everyone hopes to have. But then she announces that she is sick and will have to leave without finishing the school year. She tells the class when her last day is, however her health worsens and she doesn’t make it to her planned final day. That’s when the three friends decide that they must follow through and give Ms. Bixby the final day she has dreamed of. Even if it means skipping school, taking the city bus, buying a very expensive dessert, finding a perfect book, and even illegally buying some wine. Ms. Bixby would do that and more for them, so they must do this for her. As the boys tell their stories of what Ms. Bixby did for each of them, readers too will see that this is the sort of teacher you break all the rules for.

Wow. This book is incredible. It is one that teachers will adore, showing how one teacher can impact so many of her students on a personal level. It is one children too will love, showing their own dedication, bravery and heart. It is a book that skirts along the line of heartbreak and hope, allowing readers to soar at times, fall down and smash like a backpack filled with cheesecake, and then soar once more. It’s a wonderful roller coaster of a book filled with so much emotion and connection.

The three lead characters are all wonderfully depicted. Their voices are unique from one another and stay separate and distinguished. Though they are friends, they have secrets from one another, ones that Ms. Bixby is part of and they all have connections to her that the others don’t know about. It’s a look at the harshness of childhood, the ways that adults can help and the importance of one teacher.

A powerful read that calls on all of us to be heroes in each other’s lives. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Walden Pond Press.

 

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts, illustrated by Hyewon Yum (InfoSoup)

Hee Jun loved living in Korea where he fit in with his classmates at school and his grandmother was a respected teacher. She was also able to have an extraordinary garden there. When his father moves them to West Virginia, everything changes. Hee Jun does not fit in with his classmates due to the way he looks and the way he talks. His grandmother too is different, her inner spark gone. His little sister has problems at school too, taking out her fear physically on her teacher. So their grandmother is asked to go to school with her. Slowly, the family begins to find their place in West Virginia, even discovering a beloved flower with a new name.

Watts tells the story of immigration with an eye towards giving people time to adjust and find their footing both with a new language and a new culture. The sense of loss for the characters is palpable on the page, eliciting a real understanding of the immense change they are undergoing. The little sister’s violent reaction to school is handled with sensitivity and understanding, offering the grandmother a chance to connect with her new surroundings. The entire book is filled with deep emotions combined with a gentle nurturing attitude.

Yum’s illustrations are done in watercolor. They show a loving family that manages to thrive despite the changes. The differences between their lives in Korea and West Virginia are shown on the page, particularly with regards to the grandmother and her vibrant life in Korea compared to her lonely existence in the first weeks in the United States.

A strong and thoughtful look at immigration that beautifully explains the huge changes children undergo as they move to a new country. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Sophie’s Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller

Sophie's Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller

Sophie’s Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (InfoSoup)

Released June 28, 2016.

This is a wonderful sequel to one of my favorite recent picture books, Sophie’s Squash. Sophie is heading to school for the first time, bringing her best friends, her squash Bonnie and Baxter, with her. She has no interest in making new friends, because after all she already has her squash. But one kid, Steven Green, just won’t leave her alone. He sits near her, plays near her and even breathes on her. Steven wants to be friends but Sophie just won’t let him. Then as Sophie realizes that her squash friends have a limited time they can be with her, Steven comes up with a great idea to create a new friend. After all, humans make great friends too.

Miller has kept that same tone she used in the first picture book about Sophie and her squash. A large part of that is Sophie herself, who is beautifully headstrong and determined to decide what is going to happen. She rejects a lot of school from the chairs to the milk to the children around her. Readers will see children approach and try to befriend Sophie and her utter disdain for them. Then there is Steven, who won’t take even Sophie’s blunt rejections to heart. The interplay between Sophie and the other children will be familiar to readers and may help with first day jitters too.

Wilsdorf’s illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. They are bright and cheery, showing the school room in particular in all of its colorful bounty. Then there are other pages, where the circle of life and produce makes things barren and dreary, late fall gardens that reflect Sophie’s mood.

A rich and noteworthy sequel to a beloved first book, this is one to reach for as school approaches. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Schwartz & Wade.

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn (InfoSoup)

Adrian works hard to stay invisible in the high school hallways, because otherwise he seems to always get the attention of the school bullies. Adrian uses a lot of his free time drawing his superhero, Graphite and posting new stories and art anonymously to his website. He also has his two best friends who offer him some safety at school, since he is an art geek, sci-fi fan and gay. When Adrian manages to give himself a shocking haircut, he stops being invisible. Then a hate crime happens right in front of him and Adrian has to step forward and speak the truth about what really happened even if the police and others don’t believe him. It’s what any superhero would do.

This book is a dynamic mix of graphic novel, science fiction and LGBT reality. It looks at high school right now, showing that even if people know better there are still gay teens being beaten up just for being themselves. It asks the question of whether being closeted is safer or not, whether putting yourself out there is worth the risk, and whether it is ever suitable to try to be invisible. It also shows readers what a real hero looks like. The type that can’t fly or live in space, but one that walks high school halls and steps up for others.

Linn combines his writing and drawing skills in this book, giving Graphite his own look and feel. I appreciate that the art is well done, but also something that could be done by a talented high school student. It displays a sensitivity that is right in line with Adrian’s perspective as well as a certain theatrical nature too.

An amazing and unique teen novel, this book offers several heroes in and out of costume. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan (InfoSoup)

Joe and Ravi could not be more different. In fact, the only things they seem to have in common is they are in the same class and they could each use a new friend. Ravi has just moved to the United States from India and is discovering how very different school in a new country is. Joe’s two best friends have moved away and now he is left at the mercy of the class bully who also has Ravi in his sights. Joe has to attend special classes to deal with the way that he gets overloaded by sights and sounds. Ravi’s teacher has trouble understanding his English with his Indian accent and may be sent to special classes as well. Ravi is eager to befriend the class bully, who is also from an Indian background. How can these two very different boys figure out that there is a friend right there who needs them just as badly.

The book is divided into the perspectives of Ravi and Joe, each boy written by one of the authors. Beautifully, the two voices meld together into a cohesive whole. The two boys have distinct personalities and points of view that go far beyond their different cultures. The book speaks directly to stereotypes, particularly first impressions of people before you get to know them as a person. It illustrates this without a lecturing tone, instead demonstrating it in the ways the two protagonists interact with one another throughout the novel.

This is a very approachable book, one that invites readers to explore and see what is happening. It has a light tone, yet reaches deeper meanings and explores real issues that children today face no matter what their background or culture. Adding to the depth of the book are glimpses of the boys at home, showing how they spend their free time and the way their parents and families interact. It’s a way to further show both their differences and their similarities and works particularly well.

A perfect lunchtime read, this one is worth saving a special spot for on your shelf. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

 

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (InfoSoup)

Montgomery has two best friends who are the reason that she can make it through high school at all. They have a Mystery Club at school where they are the only members and they explore the mysteries of the universe. Thomas loves to talk about superheroes and Naoki focuses on crystals. With Monty’s two moms and Thomas being bullied for being gay, Monty knows there is hate in the world, something made even clearer when a preacher arrives in town putting up signs against people who are gay. When Monty buys The Eye of Know online, she doesn’t expect it to work any better than their other experiments, but soon the Eye seems to be channeling Monty’s personal anger and exacting revenge.

Tamaki captures the anger of a teenager with precision here. It all feels deeply organic, often not being logical at all, lashing out at those she loves, and withdrawing into her room. The issues that Monty is furious about are so tangible both in her life and in her friendships, yet she goes much farther than those who love her would want her to. There is a sense of her reaching a cliff of anger and having to make a choice of how she is going to be in the world. It’s a powerful place to set a YA novel and works well.

The magical realism in the book is done well too. It strikes a balance between being entirely believable but also allowing readers to see it as something that could be unrelated too. Readers will get to see what their own opinions of mysteries of the universe are in this well-written novel.

A novel about anger and its positive and negative sides, this book will speak to young teens navigating their own issues. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.