Monday, July 16, 2018

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Cover image for Secret sisters of the salty seaAlix and her older sister Jools are off with their parents for a week's vacation at the sea shore.  They soon make a friend with a girl whose grandma lives upstairs and have fun making sandcastles, playing in the waves and exploring nearby.  And that is basically it.  I kept expecting them to have some crisis or tragedy.  At the end I was amazed that this book even got published without a huge social issue.  No divorce, no physical or mental handicap, no racial tension, no death in the family.  Wow.  I guess it helps to be a previous Newbery winner. There wasn't even any reference to gender identity, and yet, it was a thoroughly enjoyable book. Imagine that!  This is a great choice for families about to go on vacation, or for those that hanker for the old, more innocent, days in children's literature. (2018, 232 p.)


Saturday, July 14, 2018

One Mixed-up Night by Catherine Newman

Cover image for One mixed-up nightFrankie and Walter have always loved IKEA.  They love to play the "picking game" with the IKEA catalog.  They love to imagine living in one of the mini demo houses.  Then one day when both of their families are planning to visit IKEA together, they hatch a plan to stay back and spend the night in IKEA just like the kids in the book, "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler." Their ploy of telling their parents that they are each staying at the other's for a sleepover works, and they find themselves alone in their favorite place for the night.  While there they have adventures, and finally talk about the hidden grief that has been plaguing them both.

This is a fun and tender book about friendship and grief.  It is also a bit of a wish-fulfillment book, because what kid hasn't dreamed of spending the night in a department store? Parents will cringe at the amount of destruction the kids cause with their antics, but Newman glosses over consequences. It will be easy to recommend this book to kids.  (2017, 191 p.)

P.S.
You know how it seems that every children's book now has to have a GBLT reference to get published.  Well, Newman was very creative with her little reference.  Frankie and Walter both have cats as pets.  At the beginning of the book they imagine their cats getting married, both dressed in tuxedos, because they are both boy cats.  Total eye role!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Playbook by Kwame Alexander

Cover image for The playbook : 52 rules to aim, shoot, and score in this game called lifeThis is a nonfiction companion to Alexander's Newbery winning book, The Crossover.  It is a collection of advice about basketball and life, supported by examples and quotes from famous people, mostly black athletes but including some whites, and some non-athletes, like Michelle Obama and Sonia Sotomayor. The advise is solid, and is couched in sports terminology to appeal to a young athlete.  Alexander also includes some autobiographical stories of how he came to embrace and succeed in tennis and what he learned from that. Alexander's examples from the lives of famous people are well chosen and inspirational. They are illustrated with photographs of the people who are quoted/highlighted. This would be a great book to give to a reluctant reader athlete as a gift or as part of a recognition.  (2017, 169 p.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

Cover image for The Parker inheritanceHere is a book that is going to be on a lot of potential Newbery lists this fall.  It already has 4 starred reviews.  Candice has moved in to what used to be her grandmother's home for the summer. There she meets the neighbor boy, Brandon, and together they start to investigate the circumstances surrounding an event many years ago that had brought disgrace on her grandmother.  Candice finds a letter among her grandmother's things that tells of a hidden treasure and contains clues to how it could be recovered. As Brandon and Candice follow the clues, they learn about the town's past which is steeped in prejudice and injustice.

In this book Johnson unfolds two stories from two different generations. One deals with the people in the town during the 1950's and their struggles with racial prejudice and segregation. Candice and Brandon have to deal with other kinds of prejudice and bullying while they search for clues in the present. There was a tacit comparison of the racial prejudice of the 50's with the GBLT prejudice today and I haven't quite decided if I think it was a little too heavy handed. The beauty of the writing is not quite par with some other Newbery winners, but the plotting is pretty amazing and is equal to Holes or When Your Reach Me. This is a book that grown-ups will like but it would take a pretty mature child reader to really enjoy it. Still, the Newbery committee is made of adults, and this book does deal with current hot topics.  If it won the Newbery, I wouldn't be too disappointed. (331 p. 2018)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley by April Stevens

Cover image for The heart and mind of Frances PauleyFrances is eleven years old and loves to hang out on the rock ledges behind her house.  He is a naturalist at heart and loves to watch the birds that frequent her "rock world."  She also admires the anthropologist Margaret Mead, and fancies herself an observer of people.  Her best friend is the kindly old bus driver, Alvin, and her worst enemy is her own big sister, who is absolutely embarrassed by her little sister's odd behavior. When tragedy strike's Frances' life, she is so bowled over by grief, that she begins to reach outside of the cloistered world in search of comfort and relief from her sadness. 

This is a tender book about grief and growing up with a gentler touch than many current children's realistic fiction.  There is no abuse, crime, dismemberment or addiction involved (though the author did manage to work in a BGLT relationship).  Frances is just a fairly normal girl learning the fairly normally painful lessons of life.  The writing is good, and the characters are well rounded.  This one has potential as a future Mother/Daughter book club book.  (2018, 208 p)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Cover image for The miscalculations of Lightning GirlWhen Lucy was a young child she was hit by lightning that caused her to be both a mathematical savant, and to be obsessive compulsive.  Lucy lives with her grandmother and has been home-schooled until her grandmother decides that Lucy needs to improve her people skills with children her own age. Even though Lucy has technically already graduated from high school, she enrolls Lucy in middle school and challenges her to make at least one friend.

This is a book similar in feeling to Fish in a Tree or Wonder.  Lucy is a likable character, and the reader really hopes she will figure out the whole, "how to be a friend" thing.  It is also a good book about the importance and power of Math. I am not sure why the author had her gain her savant characteristics by being struck by lightning instead of being born that way.  Maybe she was trying to help the reader think, "this could be me," and hence relate with the character a little more. (2018 293 p.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

DK Findout! World War II

I can't get the text to wrap around this image.
DK Findout! is a new series by DK that is very much like their old Eyewitness series.  It it has the same kind of format with lots of pictures and small text boxes. This volume contains all the standard topics and information on WWII.  I discovered a few facts that I didn't know before like that Russia had a group of women bomber pilots that went out at night.  The Germans called them Naghthexen, or night witches (which is pretty cool).  DK is a British publisher, so this book has a European perspective on the war.  I read the book on my Kindle, and when I was done I was disappointed to find out that it seems to only be available in paperback (and ebook), and that our library doesn't have a physical copy.  These kind of fast fact books are great to check out and put on the coffee table.  I used to do that when my kids were at home.  During the course of the week each of them would pick up the book and spend at least some time looking through it. These are also great for the reluctant reader kids who can't be bothered with fiction stories. (64 p., 2017)