Review: At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorrell

At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorrell

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorrell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre (9780735230606)

In a cozy cabin under a hickory tree, a grandma sits and weaves. She also worries. Her family gathers around her, singing. Their song tells of a woman in a battle, flying in a plane, protecting and defending. Their song sings of a dream of peace too. The family gathers together, wishing for her return. Told in the beautiful simplicity of a single poem, the words and the weaving work together to create something very special.

By the author of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, this book focuses on a fictional Cherokee family and is inspired by Native women who served in past wars and continue to serve in the military today. The Author’s Note tells of one Native woman who helped train male student pilots, risking her own life as she did so. She served as a cargo pilot during World War II and also as an air traffic controller during the Korean War.

The illustrations of this picture book truly weave the story together. Thread and yarn appear as borders to the images, linking and looping them together. The Native family  and the pilot are shown as strong women full of love for one another.

An important tale of female Native soldiers and the families who wait for their return. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kokila. 

Don’t Cross the Line by Isabel Minhós Martins

dont-cross-the-line-by-isabel-martins

Don’t Cross the Line by Isabel Minhós Martins, illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho (InfoSoup)

This very original picture book comes from an award-winning author and illustrator team from the publisher Planeta Tangerina and was first published in Portuguese. The book opens with an armed soldier standing towards the middle of the book surrounded by white space. A small dog enters and starts sniffing around and then a man comes on the page, but when he tries to head across to the right-hand page, the soldier stops him and tells him no one is allowed to go there by order of the general so he can join the story whenever he feels like and have plenty of room. More and more people arrive and the left-hand page gets crowded. Then some boys accidentally bounce their ball across the page and head over to retrieve it with others following along. The general then arrives and threatens to arrest the soldier who allowed them onto the other page. But the people stand up to him, rejoicing together in their new-found freedom to fill both pages.

This book is all about standing up to those in power and peacefully creating change. There is a wonderfully subversive tone to the entire book, winking and laughing at the threat of not being able to cross what is not usually a boundary in a book. Still, there is a real general and a real threat that is disarmed by numbers and action. It is a wonderful book to share when talking about the importance of demonstrating and standing for causes.

Carvalho’s illustrations are a delight. Filled with bright colors that add a wild and festive note to the story, they jump on the page. The end papers are filled with the characters of the book and their names. Looking into the crowd, one can follow each character through the story, from the astronaut who has trouble breathing to the escaping prisoners to the ghost and several animals. It’s a bright and vibrant group of people with large noses and lots of personality.

A great read perfect for our current political climate, this picture book is about peaceful demonstrations and the power of the people. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.

Review: Tuesday Tucks Me In by Luis Carlos Montalván

tuesday tucks me in

Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Solider and His Service Dog by Luis Carlos Montalván

A child-friendly version of this author’s adult book about his service dog, this picture book version is told from the dog’s point of view.  Focusing on a single day together, the book shows how Tuesday takes care of Luis and helps him cope with his PTSD symptoms as they arise.  Tuesday also helps Luis remember to take his medication.  The two visit a veterans hospital together and then relax a bit at the dog park where Tuesday gets to play just like any other dog.  Throughout their day together in the city, Tuesday is there to reassure Luis when walking, when it gets too crowded, and when he gets overwhelmed.  But this is a special day and Luis has a surprise for Tuesday! 

This book tells such an important story, not only about a service dog but about the recovery of a veteran surviving PTSD.  The text is simple and straight forward, following the pair throughout their day.  What shines from the page are the pictures, the obvious love the two have for one another, the joy they find together, and the support that goes both directions.  Tuesday is wonderful in images, just the kind of gentle dog that everyone wants to love. 

Children who need service dog help will see themselves on the page.  The book expands the idea of what service dogs are for, offering a broader look at the power of these dogs to aid and calm. 

A very strong nonfiction picture book, this would make a good addition to dog story times and units on soldiers.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

impossible knife of memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Released January 7, 2014.

The amazing Laurie Halse Anderson returns with a book that is powerful, thought-provoking and personal.  Hayley and her father just have each other.  For the past five years after her mother’s death, they have been hauling freight in his truck.  But now they have returned to her father’s home town so that Hayley can finish high school and live in a normal home.  However, their home is anything but normal.  Her father can’t hold down a job because of the images and flashbacks that come over him from his time in Iraq.  He drinks to keep the visions at bay, but then blacks out and forgets what he has done.  He has never hurt Hayley, but he is getting worse rather than better and Hayley is all alone in dealing with him.  At the same time, Hayley is slowly making friends at school, particularly Finn, a boy who has his own family issues to contend with.  As things at home get darker and more dangerous, Hayley has to figure out who she can trust to help, if anyone.

Anderson has written a book about PTSD and the traumas of being a soldier that speak to vets from any war.  She herself was the child of a vet from World War II and has a father who struggled himself with these issues.  Thanks to this personal connection, her book goes deep below the skin into the world of Hayley, her love for her father, and truly connects with the horrors of heroes who return home just to be haunted by what they have done and seen. 

Hayley is a strong character but also deeply flawed.  She is hidden behind so many protective layers that readers discover her as she gets to know Finn.  She slowly reveals a bright intelligence and witty humor.  Her relationship with her father is one based on adoration but also on pure coping with his disabilities.  She herself has faulty memories and blank places that she refuses to focus on and think about.  She too is hiding from her memories, but in her case they are the happy ones.

This book is deep, dark and haunting.  Anderson writes with consummate skill here and looks beyond the headlines into what PTSD in a family member truly means.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Viking.