Saturday, August 12, 2017

Harry Miller's Run by Salvatore Rubbino

Cover image for Harry Miller's runLiam wants to go to the park with his friend, Jacksie, and practice for a upcoming foot race.  Instead, his mother urges Liam to come with her to help an elderly neighbor, Harry Miller, who is moving from his house to a care facility. When Harry hears that Liam is preparing for a race, he remembers a time when he was a boy, when he and his friends ran 13 miles from Newcastle to South Shields, just for fun, one perfect sunny day.

This book got several starred reviews.  It is quite short, but full or nostalgia and heart. The way that Harry tells his story would make any adult long for earlier, simpler days when kids could spend the whole day running around on their own.  I originally put this in intermediate fiction because of its length and because it is illustrated throughout.  I think I will move it into regular children's fiction because Harry speaks with an accent and uses a lot of slang from northern British Isles.  A early reader would only get frustrated trying to read this story.  So the problem remains, who will read this story?  It is best suited for an adult to read to a child and then discuss it with them.  Unless librarians actively promote this one it will sit on the shelf, an undiscovered gem. (64 p)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Flunked by Jen Calonita

Cover image for FlunkedGilly is a thief and a pickpocket, but she only steals to help feed her family.  One day she gets caught taking a hair clip from a royal and is sentenced to go to Fairytale Reform School, who's head mistress is the Cinderella's wicked step-mother.  In fact all of the teachers are "reformed" fairy tale villains; Red Riding Hood's wolf, the sea witch, the wicked queen in Snow White, etc.  Gilly, and her new friends, Jax and Kayla, want to figure out if their teachers really are reformed or if there is a sinister plot brewing within the walls of the school.

This is a light middle grade fantasy that will appeal to kids who liked Colfer's The Land of Stories series.  Gilly is the typical spunky girl character who is likable, brave and impetuous. The book has a pretty predictable plot, but I must admit I didn't know if Flora, the head mistress, was a good guy or a bad guy until the end.  This was released back in 2015 and there are sequels that I may read if I get the chance. (244 p.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Making Scents by Arthur Yorinks

Cover image for Making scentsHere is another graphic novel that got starred reviews. Mickey's parents have a business as blood hound handlers, and Mickey is raised to treat the dogs as his brothers.  He struggles at first to keep up, and because his sense of smell isn't as good as his dog brothers, but eventually he learns to track smells pretty well. When his parents die suddenly he is sent to live with an aunt and uncle who do not like dogs.  His uncle especially does not like or trust children, and Mickey's oddities make it even harder for them to get along.

This looks like a silly graphic novel from the outside, but actually deals with serious issues of loss and mourning, and questions of learning to accept people as they are.  Mickey's relationship with his parents, aunt and uncle are complicated and, in a way, authentic.  It is Mickey's willingness to keep on trying when relationships are hard that makes him an endearing character and this a worthwhile graphic novel. (99 p.)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Little Mermaid (graphic novel by Metaphrog)

Cover image for The little mermaidI am trying to catch up my list of graphic novels that received starred reviews. This one is a beautifully illustrated version of the traditional Little Mermaid story done in a graphic novel format. Although the text is fairly minimal, the illustrations do a great job of portraying the complicated emotions of the Mermaid as she watches the love she had hoped and sacrificed for go to another.  This is not the Disney form of the story.  In the end she loses everything, though the author suggests that her fate as sea foam does have a positive spiritual potential. Still, with all of the "follow your dreams" stories for children, it is good to have one that reminds readers that sacrificing everything for "true love" doesn't always have the "happily ever after" ending one imagines. This a pretty good introduction to the old precautionary tale for a new generation. (Added plus, all the mermaids wear a shirts instead of a shell bikini tops throughout.) (66 p.)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pretty by Justin Sayre

Cover image for PrettySome of the girls at school think that Sophie has everything.  She is pretty, popular, and has a innate sense of style.  What they don't know is that she spends every evening wondering, in fear, what her drunken mother might do next.  After an especially bad episode, Sophie's mother goes on a business trip and Sophie's aunt comes to look after her.  For the first time in years she is not worrying about her mother.  She thinks her life will be perfect but it isn't.  She is trying to juggle having her first boyfriend, a wavering relationship with her best friend (who is also a boy) and dealing with another friend's jealousy.  Most of all she is dreading what will happen when her mother returns.

I read this book because one of the other librarians read it and wondered if it belonged in the YA section instead of the children's section.  It is a bit gritty.  Sayre's description of Sophie's difficult relationship with her alcoholic mother is painfully realistic. Also, Sophie, although only 13, gets caught up in some kissing sessions with her first boyfriend, whom she isn't really sure that she even "like" likes that much.  Still, I think I will leave it in the children's section.  I have personally known kids as young as Sophie who become the "responsible" ones who take care of troubled parents.  One of them might be glad to read a story like this one, that is full of hope that there are people out there who might be willing and able to help them.  This is a companion novel to Sayre's novel "Husky" which I haven't read yet.  This one was good enough that I want to go back and read that. (222 p.)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Joplin Wishing by Diane Stanley

Cover image for Joplin, wishingJoplin's grandfather, a famous author, has died, and her mother isn't taking it very well.  When they visit her grandfather's home, Joplin is allowed to choose one item as a keepsake. Joplin finds a tin with the pieces of an old Dutch china platter in it.  It is so beautifully painted that a friend of the family agrees to arrange to have it restored.  One day as Joplin is gazing at the picture of the girl on the platter, she wishes for a friend.  That starts a series of events that lead Joplin to friendship, family, time travel and magic.

I am a fan of Diane Stanley.  She started out as a writer of informational books about historical figures.  Then she branched out and wrote some nice historical fantasies.  I think this is the first time she has written a contemporary fantasy, but of course it does have some historical elements. The book got starred reviews and I enjoyed it.  One or two of the characters seemed a bit too perfect to me--too good to be true-- but it made for a nice, light, fast read with an interesting plot.  It was just what I needed after "The Boy on the Wooden Box" and "Pretty."  (oops, I think I haven't blogged Pretty yet.  I will do that one next.)  The book reminded me of  "When Your Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead but with not quite as realistically drawn characters. (255 p.)