Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley

Cover image for Ashes to AshevilleFella and Zany are two girls that were raised as sisters.  Their mothers are a Lesbian couple who had wanted to be married, but didn't live where and when such marriages were legal.  When Mama Lacy dies, Mama Shannon is unable to get custody of Fella, since she is not a blood relation, so the family is broken up. The story begins when Zany, who is 16, comes to get Mama Lacy's ashes so that she can scatter them in their old home town as per their mother's dying wish.  Fella (age 12) comes along for the wild road trip.

Of course the whole purpose of this book is to show that families with same gender parents are still families.  It was written before the 2015 ruling that made all same gender marriages legal. It was an enjoyable read, with alternating funny and tender moments. Although some of their adventures are a little over the top, the personalities of the sisters are very believable and sympathetic. 

I think it is good that LGBT themes are no longer taboo in children's literature.  It helps children and parents learn about and come to grips with a new reality in our society.  The thing is, it is all out of proportion. Less than 5% of Americans identify as part of the LGBT community. Right now way more that 5% of characters in children's realistic literature are LGBT or have LGBT parents.  I guess they are trying to make up for lost time. (2017, 243 p.)


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Cover image for Orphan IslandJinny has grown up on a secluded island populated by nine orphans.  Every year a boat comes bringing a new child, and taking the oldest of the orphans away.  The new "oldest" orphan takes charge of the new child and teaches him/her the ways of the island.  When it is Jinny's turn to be the oldest, she is uncomfortable with her new responsibility, and begins to question the status quo of their life on the island, with disastrous results.

This is one of the books on our Newbery list, but I did not enjoy it at all.  The first half was fine, but as the story went on the main character got more and more whiny.  I found myself dreading listening to it, so I turned the playback speed up just so I could get through the end. The ending was artsy, and infuriatingly ambiguous. It reminded me of "The Giver" by Lois Lowry.  Actually, it is kind of like an anti-Giver. Both are Utopian societies, but one is civilized while one is more primitive.  In one the adults are in control and in the other there are only the kids.   Jonas is an unselfish, likable guy, while Jinny is a selfish, annoying girl. Anyway, I am finished and can go on to something I might actually enjoy.(2017, 269p)

I'm Just Not Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris

Cover image for I'm just no good at rhyming and other nonsense for mischievous kids and immature grown-upsOk, I just finished my new favorite book of the year.  Yes, this one has made it to top spot on Newbery hopefuls. This is a collection of poems that are amazingly clever and funny, reminiscent of Shel Silverstein for a modern audience.  Some of concrete poems but most (despite the title) are rhyming and actually have good meter.  One or two are rather touching, but most are silly or down right irreverent.  All are smart, and clever (oh so, so, so, clever).  Lane's Smith's illustrations perfectly compliment the tone of the poems, and there are several places where the author and illustrator exchange playful patter.  I totally want to do this for a Girls Read book club next year. (see previous post.) (2017, 221 pages)

(Carol, I if you still read my blog, Ghetty would love this book.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Gustav Gloom and the People Taker by Adam Troy Castro

Cover image for Gustav Gloom and the People TakerGuess what? I get to do parent/child book club at the library again!  This time I am doing the girl's group.  The person who was doing it before had scheduled to do Coraline next month.  I really disliked Coraline, thinking that it was way too scary.  So I asked if I could do another book.  My boss wanted me to do a book from the Horror genre so I looked through our pre-existing book club sets and chose this one.

Fernie's father is a safety inspector and is paranoid about everything.  In contrast, Fernie, her sister, Pearlie, and their mother are born adventurers.  When they move into a new house, Fernie's father is concerned about the dark spooky house across the street.  Its only (living) resident is a boy named Gustav who always looks sad.  One night Fernie's cat runs across the street and into the yard of the spooky house.  Fernie runs after it, and begins a creepy and sometimes terrifying adventure where she meets the People Taker,  his Beast, and makes a new friend, Gustav.

This was cute, with a sprinkling of scary and exciting.  It is a good mix of the three at an appropriate level for the age group I am working with (9-12 and their parent).  I plan to talk about elements of horror writing and illustrating, and I think we will do either shadow pictures or puppets for a craft. (226 p. 2012)

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Sands of Shark Island by Alexander Smith

Cover image for The sands of Shark IslandIn this second book in the School Ship Tobermory series, the happy crew head off for an adventure in the Caribbean.  There they swim, kite surf, and become involved with another exciting and dangerous rescue mission.

This is not on my Mock Newbery list, but it was a delightful break from the more "acclaimed" books.  Completely free from angst and full of wish fulfillment, this is just as delightful and frothy as the first in the series.  If I had three children, ages 7, 5, and 3 this is a book I would love to read aloud to them.  The kids in the book aren't perfect but they are respectful of their elders, and actually go to them for help.  Do you know how rare that is in children's lit? (2017, 243 p.)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fault Lines in the Constitution by Cynthia and Sanford Levinson

Cover image for Fault lines in the Constitution : the framers, their fights, and the flaws that affect us todayThis is an informational book that is getting a lot of attention this fall.  In it the authors talk about some of the provisions of the Constitution that have made it difficult for the government to run smoothly.  There are chapters on the Electoral College, the uneven representation in Congress, the difficulty in making amendments and others.  In each chapter they discuss how the provision started and specific troubles is has caused in modern times. They end each chapter, and the whole book, with ideas of how the Constitution could be improved.

In all honesty, I can't really see kids picking this off the shelf. What kid wants to read a 235 page book about the Constitution? I could also see a lot of conservative parents getting upset about this.  When I was young no teacher or textbook would have pointed out how badly the Constitution works. This book is practically calling for a its repeal.  Still, I feel like I understand the different provisions of the document much better than before I read this book.  The authors are really straight forward and clear in how they explained things.  If I were a parent of a 7th grader, I might bribe them over the summer to read this just because it would help them in all the rest of their social studies classes. (2017, 235 p.)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander et alii.

Cover image for Out of wonder : poems celebrating poetsIn this book Kwame Alexander and two other authors write poems honoring other famous poets.  Some of the poems are "after the style" of the poets they honor, and some just say nice things about them.  The poetry is mostly free verse, and is quite good.  This one is also on our Newbery list, but we are wondering if it is ineligible because one of the three authors is Canadian.

Actually I am thinking it is a contender for Caldecott as well as for Newbery.  The illustrations bold and colorful and do a good job of suggesting the time period and personality of the featured authors, while still maintaining a common thread the holds the book together. (40 p. 2017)