Tag: school

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick (InfoSoup)

Claire isn’t having a good year. She is being teased at school by not only a mean girl but by a boy who has been picking on her for years. She loves her dance classes, but her friends are moved into high school classes while she is left behind with the little kids. Her brother is perfect in every way, so Claire has to disappoint all of the teachers that had him once they see her work. Then Claire’s life really turns upside down and sideways when her father collapses at home. Claire is the only one there and has to call 911 and get him help, riding along in the ambulance. Suddenly the father who was always dancing, singing and joking can’t do any of those things anymore. As Claire’s life really starts to fall apart, Claire has to figure out how to see the humor in it all again for both herself and her family.

Sonnenblick has returned with another of his amazing teen novels. As always, it is written with incredible skill. He manages to take tragic scenes and make them very funny, even those in emergency rooms. He also takes great moments of humor and gives them incredible heart as well. Throughout, there are tears and laughter that mix in the best possible way. The writing is intelligent and screamingly funny, giving readers the chance to see the humor in it all long before Claire realizes that it is still OK to laugh.

Claire is a very human protagonist with her own sense of humor and ability to laugh at herself. She is also flawed, sometimes self involved and other times seeming to be selfish just because she is protecting herself from hurt. Her relationships with family and friends are richly drawn in the novel, including those with people she is figuring out how to deal with. While things aren’t magically fixed (thank goodness) Claire herself manages to solve many of the problems herself.

A pure joy of a novel filled with pathos, tears and lots of laughter. Appropriate for ages 11-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.


The Best Man by Richard Peck

The Best Man by Richard Peck

The Best Man by Richard Peck (InfoSoup)

Released September 20, 2016.

Archer recounts the two weddings that he has been in, one really bad and the other really good and all of the time in between. The first was a wedding where he was in first grade and the ring bearer. He tried hiding in the bushes and only managed to get his outfit full of mud and to rip a hole in the too-tight cloth. The best that can be said is that it made a popular YouTube clip. Archer also managed to make a new friend that day, a friendship that would carry through his grade school years. As grade school progresses, Archer tries to figure out what type of person he wants to be. He knows that he wants to be like his grandfather, his father and his uncle. He also wants to be like his fifth-grade student teacher too, a handsome veteran who turns school into a media frenzy. It is the wedding of his uncle to his teacher that is the best wedding ever. As Archer matures, he shows the men around him what means to be the best kind of man too.

Peck is a Newbery Medalist and this one of his best ever. Peck takes the hot topic of gay marriage and makes it immensely approachable and personal. Archer is a wonderfully naive narrator, someone who isn’t the first in the room to figure things out. That gives readers space to see things first and to come to their own opinions on things. Then the book offers insight into being human whether gay or straight. There is no pretense here, just a family living their lives together and inspiring one another to be better than they are.

Peck’s lightness throughout the book is to be applauded. This is not a “problem” novel that grapples with the idea of gay marriage and debates it at length. Instead it is a book filled with laugh-out-loud humor and lots of delight. Alongside that is a great deal of poignancy with aging grandparents, the ins and outs of love, and the growth of characters throughout.

Entirely engaging and immensely readable, this is one of the best of the year. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.


Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmers Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah (InfoSoup)

Dara knows that she is a star. She can make all of the facial expressions in her favorite teen movies, has huge posters of her two favorite actors on her bedroom walls, and has lots of imaginary conversations with them as she dreams of her future in Hollywood. Her first step to stardom is landing the lead in the school production of The Sound of Music, and she just knows that her name is going to be called. But then it isn’t. Dara starts to wonder if it’s about the color of her skin, since she knows she’s an amazing actress. Dara was adopted from Cambodia. Then she notices that others with different skin colors are in the cast. The teacher offers her the role of stage manager, but Dara won’t agree to that. The teacher also invites her to join her acting classes, but Dara knows she doesn’t need them. As Dara slowly realizes that she may have a lot to learn after all, readers become convinced that Dara may just be the star she always thought she was.

Shevah has created in Dara a character who is both repulsive and compelling. Dara is unthinking, rather vain and unable to listen at the beginning of the book. Wisely, Shevah frames the book as looking into the past and Dara knowing that she wasn’t a very nice person back then. This gives readers permission to dislike Dara and yet also enjoy her humor, drive and sparkle. It also makes Dara’s deep changes all the more believable. Various characters also help Dara see herself anew, including her siblings, her parents and her best friend. This is done in many different ways from overt to subtle and is a skillful way to create change in a character.

The voice throughout the book is entirely Dara’s. The fonts change with Dara’s emphasis on various words, showing the passion and emotions behind them. The book design is fresh and friendly, having designs around the page edges and illustrations that break up the text a bit.

A strong and funny protagonist becomes much more self-aware in this gorgeous novel. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Class by Boni Ashburn

The Class by Boni Ashburn

The Class by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kimberly Gee (InfoSoup)

A group of twenty children prepare for their first day of Kindergarten in this witty and charming picture book. The book starts with the different ways the children wake up from those who are up early to the grumpy ones to those who want to sleep and sleep. Next comes putting on clothes, then brushing and combing hair, and putting on shoes. Breakfast is next with pancakes or cereal or juice. Backpacks are put on, children catch the bus, are driven to school or walk. Emotions run high. And then finally, all twenty are at school and ready to begin!

Ashburn beautifully combines the normal day routines of children filled with teeth brushing, bathroom and breakfast with the unique things about the first day of Kindergarten like backpacks and having to be ready at a certain time. She also intertwines the emotions of the day with some children unable to sleep, others grumpy throughout, and some tearing up on the way to school. This is a way to show all of the different reactions to school but to also assure children that they are more alike than they may think.

The illustrations by Gee are gentle and cheerful. They capture each child and fill the page with diversity. She is also great at showing the mixed emotions of the day and the variety of reactions that children have. The use of lots of white space allows children to see themselves on the page, talk about what they will have for breakfast, about their nerves and more.

A perfect book to share with children heading to their first day of preschool or Kindergarten whether you are a parent or a teacher. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.


School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson (InfoSoup)

Over the summer, a school was built. The school liked its name, Frederick Douglass Elementary. It liked the quiet summer days with just the janitor who warned the new school that soon it would be full of children. But the school wasn’t sure that it liked the idea of children! And when they did arrive, there were so many of them. They went everywhere. Some children didn’t like being at school, and one little freckled girl in particular caught the school’s attention. As the day went on though, the school started to see what he was built for and the children who didn’t want to be there also started to understand why they were there too.

What a clever clever premise for a book! It takes the school building itself and gives it the angst of the first day of school, the wonder about all of the different kinds of things that go on from the play structures to the classrooms and the cafeteria. Steadily with apparently no effort at all, children will be introduced to all of the parts of an elementary school. They will also find that their fears mirror that of the school and that all they need to do is give it the first day and see how that goes. Like the school, they might just be looking forward to the second one!

The illustrations by Robinson are merry and bright. They too add to the calming feeling of the book, creating a look that is friendly and soothing at the same time. The children are from all different backgrounds, creating a dynamic and diverse atmosphere. The school itself somehow exudes personality, even managing to look at little embarrassed about the fire alarm.

A marvelous book for first-day jitters, this picture book will be loved by everyone headed to their own school. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Ron Husband (InfoSoup)

A young boy is sent to Candle School by his mother, though the truth was the he was not very excited to go. His older sister Tassie almost has to drag him there, because he wanted to stop and see everything along the way. They headed down into the dark basement of a church where there were no windows. The school was run by Reverend John who shared his own story of being born a slave and then working to earn the freedom of himself and those he loved. Then one day men came to the Candle School and declared it closed since the State of Missouri had changed the law and no children of color could be taught to read or write. The school closed, but Reverend John did not give up and soon had his school floating in the middle of the Mississippi on a steamboat where the Missouri law could not impact them.

This picture book is based on the true story of Reverend John Berry Meachum whose story is given in more detail in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. The picture book is told through the eyes of a young boy who attends Meachum’s school and then works to reestablish it on the steamboat and pass the quiet word of the school reopening. Throughout the book there is a strong sense of purpose, of the importance of learning to read but also the importance of standing up for what is right.

The illustrations by Husband are exceptional. Using muted colors and fine lines, they capture the darkness of the school and the light on the children’s faces. They show the sorry of losing the right to learn and then the joy of growing up educated and looking to the future.

A luminous look at the harrowing life of African Americans even if they were free in the 1800s, this picture book is beautiful and filled with strength. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.


Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan

Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan

Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Maja Lofdahl (InfoSoup)

It is Ming’s first day of preschool. She says hello to new classmates and goodbye to her father. She does show-and-tell and builds sand castles. But she isn’t quite ready for the big red slide. In winter, she makes snow angels. Rests inside in the warmth and has tea parties. In spring she finds worms in puddles and makes flowers for the windows. Finally, it is the end of school. And just then, Ming realizes that she is ready for the big slide after all.

There is a lovely sense of time passing in this book, of seasonality without that being the main focus of the story. Ming herself doesn’t struggle to fit in with her classmates at all. Instead the focus is on what happens in a preschool classroom as the seasons pass and meanwhile the red slide waits, showing up occasionally throughout the book and just being there until Ming herself is ready. There is no sense of pressure for Ming to use the slide and no feeling of anxiety about it either. It is just there and ready to be conquered whenever Ming herself feels up to it.

The illustrations make this book exceptional. Painted with a softness and filled with light, the illustrations are simply gorgeous. They portray the warmth and friendliness of a preschool class, somehow exuding the feel of safety and kindness as well. They are bright yet subdued too and calming.

A lovely book for a child heading to preschool for the first time, this picture book will show there are slides that can wait to be climbed until the time is right. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.