Review: The Line Tender by Kate Allen

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

The Line Tender by Kate Allen (9780735231603)

Released April 16, 2019.

An incredible debut novel, this is the story of Lucy, a thirteen-year-old girl who lives in Rockport, Massachusetts. Her mother, a shark biologist, died when she was seven of a brain aneurysm while out in a boat studying sharks. Lucy lives with her father, a diver who puts in lots of extra hours as he works to rescue or recover people. Lucy also lives next door to her best friend, Fred. Fred is a scientist while Lucy prefers art. Together during the summer, they are working on a field guide about wildlife in Rockport. So when Sookie’s nets bring in a great white shark, Lucy and Fred immediately head to the pier to see it. Fred begins to study Lucy’s mother’s proposals to study sharks in a new way. When tragedy strikes, Lucy must figure out how to navigate a new loss even as white sharks begin to appear along the coast, seeming to be a sign to follow a specific path to learn more about her mother.

The writing here is simply incredible. Allen invites you into Lucy’s world, showing how a community came together to help raise her when her mother died. The setting in Rockport is drawn with attention and love. From the wildlife and beaches the two friends explore to the community with its open doors, lifelong connections to one another, and always room for Lucy. The sheltering nature of the community make the deep loss all the more shocking and affecting.

It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel given its attention to detail, meticulous building of a story, and the immediate trust one has in the author. Lucy is an incredible character. She has overcome one loss already, so the next one could maybe break her. Instead, she copes in inventive ways, asks for help and pulls her friends and family closer to her side. The information and connection to sharks is an effective way to allow the story to move forward even as everyone is trapped in their grief.

A brilliant debut that is rich, layered and shows that connection to nature can allow one to weather new storms. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Dutton.

3 Picture Books about Our World

Marwan_s Journey by Patricia de Arias

Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arias, illustrated by Laura Borras (9789888341559)

Marwan is a little boy on a long journey filled with walking and heading to a place he’s never been. When his home was attacked by soldiers in tanks in the middle of the night, Marwan had to start walking. He thinks often of his mother and father, their little house where they lived happily together filled with sunlight. Now he must walk through the desert to a new homeland carrying a pack of hope on his back.

This picture book is imported from Spain and has the feel of a European children’s book. The language used is poetic and beautiful, showing the emotions rather than telling about them. Here is one example from early in the book: “I walk, and my footsteps leave a trace of ancient stories, the songs of my homeland, and the smell of tea and bread, jasmine and earth.” You can feel it right in your bones. The illustrations have a gorgeous depth to them, filled with deep blacks and rounded out by earthen colors. Throughout the book there is a sense of peace and a hope of a better place at the end of the long walk.

An important book that beautifully captures the dangers and loss of a refugee child. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from copy provided by Edelweiss and Minedition.)

Sea Creatures from the Sky by Ricardo Cortes

Sea Creatures from the Sky by Ricardo Cortes (9781617756160)

The illustrator of the incredibly popular Go the F*ck to Sleep has created a picture book that truly shows his skill. Told from the point of view of a shark, this picture book tells the unbelievable story of things in the air, above the sea, who are not birds. They are creatures with beards, with two ears, with hair. Creatures who hook sharks, take them out of the ocean and into the air, poke and prod them. Just to return them back to the sea, where no other creatures believe their tale of being taken.

In rhyming lines that have a humor and rhythm, the shark tells his story. The tale is accompanied with luminous paintings that show the beauty of the ocean, the many creatures who live there, and the drama of being taken out by researchers. Gorgeous illustrations accompany this shark’s tale and make for one dynamic picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Black Sheep.)

What a Wonderful Word by Nicola Edwards

What a Wonderful Word by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (9781610677226)

This book offers examples of untranslatable words from around the world. These are words that some cultures can use just one word to capture but in other languages it takes entire sentences to explain them. The words come from all over the globe, and while some may be familiar others are entirely surprising and fascinating. Perhaps the most interesting part is how these unique words offer a glimpse into the culture they come from. The illustrations of the book are show places and people around the world acting out each word. They are bright and friendly. The text offers the word, a definition and then additional information on where it comes from. Enjoy exploring words like nakama, tartle and gluggavedur! Appropriate for ages 8-11. (Reviewed from copy provided by Kane Miller.)

 

Shark Lady by Jess Keating

Shark Lady by Jess Keating

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns (9781492642046, Amazon)

Eugenie was a young girl when she first visited an aquarium and fell deeply in love with the creatures there, particularly with the sharks. But it was the 1920’s and girls were expected to become housewives or secretaries not scientists. Still, Eugenie never gave up on her dream and continued to study sharks at the library and join the local aquarium as a member. At the time, people thought that sharks were heartless and frightening killers, but Eugenie set out to prove them all wrong. Eugenie got her degree and earned a place on a scientific vessel to study marine life. That was just the beginning of a career that spanned many decades, led to several books and articles, and proved that women have a place in science.

Keating shows the growth of Eugenie’s scientific aspirations in this nonfiction picture book, moving from her childhood fantasies of swimming with sharks to the lack of support at school and finally to the discoveries that she made as her dreams became reality. The book has a tone of pure curiosity and joy where readers will cheer Eugenie as she overcomes the many obstacles standing in her way.

The illustrations are lighthearted and playful. Aquarium hallways are filled with floating sharks and fish as Eugenie dreams about them. They celebrate the beauty of the ocean and its lifeforms, showing sharks as graceful and amazing rather than dangerous.

A vibrant and celebratory nonfiction picture book that embraces women in STEM wholeheartedly. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

the-bad-guys-by-aaron-blabey

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

This Australian import is the first in a fresh new illustrated chapter book series. Wolf has decided that he’s tired of being a bad guy so he recruits three fellow baddies to his new gang where they do good deeds. But it’s not so easy for Shark, Piranha and Snake to give up their own ways, like eating meat and people. Their first mission for good is to rescue a kitten stuck in a tree, but what kitten wants to climb down if they see those big teeth smiling at them? Their next job is to rescue 200 dogs from the dog pound. It involves Shark dressing up as a little girl, Wolf making a great shot, and Piranha and Snake showing the dogs the way out. But the plan doesn’t quite work out they way they want it too either.

This book has the pep and feel of a comic book, filled with large fonts that add attitude to the pages and lots of illustrations. In fact, because of its many illustrations it will be a welcome early book for new chapter book readers who will love the humor as well as the pictures that nicely break up the text. There is a great zany energy to the entire book with one joke leading nicely to the next. The pacing is cleverly done with just enough time to catch your breath from laughing before the action starts again.

Blabey’s illustrations are a large part of that manic charm. They are hugely funny. Emotions are shown broadly and wildly on characters’ faces. The shark barely fits into the car and not without a bump out for the dome of his head. There are incidents of eating one another and being bashed against walls. Each one is hilarious and children will love the slapstick comedy of it all.

A funny delight, this illustrated chapter book will have young readers begging for the next in the series. I know I can’t wait! Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Review: Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds

carnivores

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat

It’s hard to be a carnivore when all of the prey whispers behind your back, nobody understands the way you eat, and you are accused of sneaking around.  So a lion, a great white shark and a wolf get together to form a support group.  Their first plan is to become vegetarians, but that doesn’t go well at all.  In fact, the wolf can’t seem to find a berry bush that doesn’t have a bunny in it.  The next plan is using disguises to blend in, but one smell of the lion’s zebra breath turns the antelope against him.  Finally, the lion asked the great horned owl to speak with them.  The owl talked about accepting themselves as carnivores.  The others realize that he is right and follow his advice perfectly.

Reynolds has written a book that is screamingly funny.  Each page has laughter on it with the perfect timing of his jokes.  It begs to be shared aloud with punch lines that just have to be delivered.  Happily, the humor is edgy and truly funny, not just for small children.  With clever twists throughout the story and situations that make for very funny results, children will be delighted with this look at self-acceptance and meat eating.

Santat’s illustrations are perfection here.  Bright colored and bold, just like the humor, they add just the right touch to the book.  He manages to capture the comedy perfectly, but not allow his art to blow the punch lines prematurely.  The large format will work well with a group, but there are also details that will have to be shared too.

Clever, funny and wonderfully inappropriate, this book asks us all to accept our inner or outer carnivores.  Appropriate for ages 4-6, this would also work well as a read-aloud for older elementary kids who will love the humor and the naughtiness of the jokes.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson

shark king

The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson

Toon Books has mastered the art of graphic novels for early readers and this book adds to the depth of their offerings.  This story comes from Hawaii and this the tale of Nanaue.  He is the child of a normal mother and The Shark King.  His parents fell in love after his father rescued his mother from drowning.  When Nanaue was about to be born, his father left.  Nanaue was an unusual child, not only because he walked at such an early age, but because of a unique mark on his back that could open into a mouth and snap.  After meeting a boy and his father, a fisherman, Nanaue started to catch fish to eat.  He followed the fishermen to find food, eating so much that he drove them further away.  Nanaue was eventually discovered by the villagers and his mark was revealed.  They chased him all the way back home and even then he had to dive to safety in the sea.  The place that his father created just for him before he was born.

Johnson keeps this rather complicated story simple thanks to the use of the images to tell much of the story.  The snapping mouth on Nanaue’s back is shown rather than described, making it completely and immediately understandable.  The book moves quickly through the story, giving extra time to the beauty of the undersea world and the freedom that Nanaue finds there.

Done in panels that are ever changing in their design, the book has a sense of motion and speed.  Johnson manages to insert welcome humor into the dramatic tale without ever undermining the amazing tale he is telling.

A rich graphic novel for young readers, this book celebrates a little-known Hawaiian story.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Toon Books.

Book Review: I’m a Shark by Bob Shea

imashark

I’m a Shark by Bob Shea

Shark knows that he is completely awesome.  He’s very brave!  He never cries when he gets a shark (sort of).  He can watch scary movies without closing his eyes, mostly.  He’s not scared of dinosaurs at all, in fact they should be afraid of him.  But even brave shark is scared of something.  Not bears.  Not a giant squid.  Not the dark.  You might be surprised what has Shark so scared!

Shea seems to write effortlessly for toddlers and preschoolers.  His books have a simplicity that is evident in both their illustrations and their words.  Here the book is written in the form of a conversation between Shark and his fish and crab friends.  Shea has used fonts, colors and placement to make the book work beautifully.  Shark is written with such a big personality that his voice is strong and sure.

The illustrations are thick-lined and bold.  They will work very well with a group of children because they will project so well from afar.  Great humorous touches are included in the book, like the scary movie the fish are watching.

Highly recommended, this book about even the most brave having fears will be a welcome treat.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Check out the book trailer:

Shark vs. Train

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Two young boys dash to the toy box and dig around.  One emerges with a shark toy while the other brandishes a toy train.  So now the sides are clear, but which toy would win a battle?  Well, that all depends!  Would it be underwater or on train tracks?  Would they be eating pies or having a burping contest?  The ideas of the sorts of competitions will have readers giggling in delight as the shark wins one and then the train wins the next.  Each competition is illustrated for humor and the reasons for winning are often surprising and funny.  Get this book into the hands of children as quickly as you can!

Barton’s text is kept simple and easy.  He frames the competition and then steps back to witness who wins.  Towards the end, the competitions get wilder and neither shark nor train are comfortable.  The book ends with the two boys being called to lunch.  The illustrations are a large part of the pleasure and success of this book.  The emotions on the faces of both shark and train will have readers quickly understanding the situation.  There are small touches and asides in the illustrations that bring the story depth and added humor. 

This book is sure to be popular in any library.  Place it face out and it will disappear.  The only question is whether it is the shark or train that gets the book more attention.  Competition anyone?  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

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