Monday, February 19, 2018

Forever or a Long Time by Caela Carter

Cover image for Forever, or a long, long timeFlora and Julian have been adopted now, but they still suffer trauma from a long history in foster care.  Flora has a hard time expressing herself and sometimes her words won't come out at all.  Julian hides food in his bedroom because of times in the past when he didn't get enough food.  Their adopted mom, Emily, continually reassures them that their family is forever now, but Flora and Julian finally have to explore their past before they can begin to hope for a happy future in a permanent home.

This is a heart wrenching look at foster care and the scars it can leave on the children caught in the system.  Some of Flora and Julian's foster parents were loving, but others were overworked and detached.  Carter doesn't sugar coat the fact that it may take years, or even a life time, to deal fully with the trauma of the past, but she leaves the reader with hope that things will get better.  (2017, 309 p)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Recess Warrior: Hero is a Four Letter Word by Marcus Emerson

Cover image for Hero is a four-letter wordScrap, AKA Bryce, is the playground superhero.  His best friend, Yoshi, is the toughest girl in school.  Together they face down cootie ridden zombies and crazed female pirates.  This is an amazingly clever comic book about the imaginary life on a school playground.  Of course, in the story it isn't imaginary and it is all dead serious, which, of course, makes it all the more funny.  Emerson has the classic stereotypes, the girl that is always trying to kiss everyone, the boy who acts like a cowboy, the kid who talks like a TV narrator, the science nerd kid. There is a lot of talk about bases, and territories, and getting cooties. I am always impressed when adult authors and tap into their younger selves and capture what it is like to be a 4th grader again.  I honestly chuckled all the way through this one. It reminded me of those old "Recess" cartoons my kids used to watch 20 years ago.  (2017, 133 p.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Amina's Voice by Hena Kahn

Cover image for Amina's voiceAmina is a Pakistani American girl whose best friend is a Korean immigrant girl named Soojin.  When Soojin reaches out to Emily, who used to tease Amina when she was younger, Amina feels betrayed and wonders if she is losing her best friend to the "popular" crowd.  She gets more concerned when Soojin decides to change her name to Susan when she goes through her upcoming ceremony to become a US citizen. Amina wonders if she should just hang out with her own kind, the other kids at the Muslim community center, but is only sticking with her own kind the real way to happiness?

This was a sweet and timely realistic fiction that gave me new incite into the daily life of Muslim Americans.  It is a very positive book that shows Amina relying on her faith, and diverse religious communities coming together to help each other.  I love books about good kids trying to do what is right.This one might be a good choice for a future Mother/Daughter book club. (2017, 197 p.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Magical Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

Cover image for The magic misfitsWhen Carter is orphaned, he is sent to live with his uncle who is a trickster and con man.  Carter learns some basic slight of hand tricks from his uncle, but refuses to become a thief.  He runs away and comes to a small town.  There he discovers a carnival, as crooked as his uncle, and a magic shop that is home to a bunch of misfit kids just like him.  He is surprised when the kids want to be his friends, and together they decide to save the town from the cheating carnival master.

This is a lighthearted and simple middle grade novel that was a bit refreshing after all the heavy "critically acclaimed" novels I have been reading.  This one didn't get any starred reviews, but I can think of a bunch of kids who would enjoy it.  Between chapters the author teaches the read a few basic magic tricks.  The book ends with the promise of more adventures to come for our clever little band. (253 p. 2017)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Over the Garden Wall by Pat MacHale

Cover image for Over the garden wall. Volume twoThis is an odd little graphic novel that says it is based on a Cartoon Network mini-series.  Since I haven't seen the mini-series, it actually made very little sense to me.  That said, the illustrations were interesting and I think if I had known what was going on, I might have enjoyed it.  It will be interesting to see how well it circulates. 

Oh, I just realized something.  The one I read, (though marked with a #1 on the spine) is actually the second in the series.  So not only had I not seen the TV series, I haven't read the first book.  No wonder it didn't make sense. 

Ha ha, the joke's on me.  I thought I put it on hold because it was on my starred review list, but actually I just needed to change the call number on the spine.  Classic librarian fail.

Posted by John David Anderson

Cover image for PostedFrost, Wolf, Bench, and DeeDee (nicknames) have been a foursome since the beginning of middle school.  They are not part of the "in" crowd, but at least they have each other to sit with at lunch and play dungeons and dragons every Friday night. Then a new girl moves in to school.  She is big and dresses like an army commando but Wolf seems to instantly have a connection with her.  At the same time the school bans cell phones, and the kids start to communicate with each other by leaving sticky notes on lockers and desks.  Some of the messages on the notes are positive or playful, but some are hurtful. All this shakes the foursome and starts to cause cracks in their friendship.  Frost, (the point of view character) just wants things to go back to how they were, but begins to realize that things may never be the same again.

I started this book not expecting to like it, but in the end I did enjoy it pretty much.  I was afraid that it would deal with some really cruel bullying (which is always hard for me to read) but Anderson keeps it toned down. The thing that is engaging about the book is that the author has amazing incite into the workings of a adolescent boy's mind. I don't know if any boy would really be as self aware at 13 as Frost is, but his observations about why the four (and later five) teens did the crazy things they did, were brilliant. I laughed out loud several times.  I kept thinking, "oh my gosh, I totally know kids that would have done that." I don't think this one will win the Newbery, but I will be recommending it to kids that are ready to move one from Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

Cover image for WhichwoodHere is the second in the series that began with Furthermore.  In this one Alice has undergone her second Surrender and has received her assignment to help a young magical undertaker in a land called Whichwood.  Oliver volunteers to accompany Alice, but when they finally meet the girl, Laylee, they find her prickly and not at all eager to become their friend.  Alice is discouraged, and feels like she has failed, but when she tries again, she finds that she really can make a difference in Laylee's life, and save the whole town in the process. 

Like the first one, this book is wildly imaginative.  There is a little of the "undead" and "zombie" theme going on here as well, which may appeal to some audiences.  This is on my starred review list, but I must admit that this style of fantasy is not really my cup of tea.  It is so far out there. The characters are sympathetic, the story is Ok, but it is just a bit too bizarre for me. (2017, 360 p.)