Owly: A Time to be Brave, is a visually simplistic, yet whimsical, graphic novel about a cute owl and his friends overcoming their visceral reaction t...moreOwly: A Time to be Brave, is a visually simplistic, yet whimsical, graphic novel about a cute owl and his friends overcoming their visceral reaction to a new creature living in their forest. The author's approach to conveying heavy themes, such as acceptance, through only visual media is a nice change from heavily text-based didactic tales. Young readers will delight in the expressive drawings that convey the thoughts of the characters so effectively. This novel is a great way of starting conversations with children about acceptance and understanding of people ( or cultures) that are different. Older readers will be able to think more critically about how the topic is presented in only visually, and how that makes it a more approachable topic. All school libraries should have at least one copy of an Owly novel. This thought-provoking, yet entirely adorable, artwork appeals to readers of all ages. Highly Recommended for ages 4-10.(less)
Spork is the story of one little utensil trying to understand his place in the kitchen. He is not a full fork, or a full spoon, so he is rather alie...more Spork is the story of one little utensil trying to understand his place in the kitchen. He is not a full fork, or a full spoon, so he is rather alienated. This is Kyo Maclear's first children's book, and it is a delight to read. The author has crafted an original extended metaphor about the daunting topic of children with mixed heritage. Readers are drawn in to the story by award-winning illustrator Isabelle Aresenault's quirky greyscale illustrations and muted tones. When there is a splash of color, the reader's eye is riveted to the image. The illustrations complement the straight-forward sentences that are peppered with bold words or phrases.Young readers can easily pick out important scenes and phrases in the story, which will help them to transpose the issue in the book to real-life examples with help from their teachers or parents. This book eloquently enables children to empathize with their friends of mixed heritage, or with anyone that is questioning their place in the world. This book is highly recommended for ages 4 to 10.(less)
Fancy Nancy is quite a precocious(that's a fancy word for acting like a grown-up) little girl. Nancy's family is ordinary while she strives for a glam...moreFancy Nancy is quite a precocious(that's a fancy word for acting like a grown-up) little girl. Nancy's family is ordinary while she strives for a glamorous life. They are going to adopt a dog, and only a fancy one will satisfy her. In order to determine if her dream dog will fit into her family, they pet sit for her neighbor. Through the use of vibrant illustrations and the characterization of Nancy, most female readers will enjoy the brief chance to be immersed in Nancy's whimsical world. Nancy uses a rich vocabulary, but is kind enough to explain to her readers that are not as fancy as her the definitions of the difficult words (see above example). Although it is pleasant to read, it will not appeal to every reader. It is, ultimately, a girly-girl's book. I do question exactly why Nancy wants to be fancy all the time, as well. She does tend to be a little materialistic. While this is a pleasant read, I would not say it is a must-read. It is recommended for girls, ages 4-7.(less)
The playful verses in this beautifully illustrated collection of poems will entrance all of its readers. Marilyn Singer has created a new form of poet...moreThe playful verses in this beautifully illustrated collection of poems will entrance all of its readers. Marilyn Singer has created a new form of poetry. She writes one poem so that it will be able to tell two sides of the same story, depending on which direction you read the poem (top to bottom, or bottom to top). She has cleverly rewritten classic fairy tales, such as Snow White, from two differing points of perspective. One of the things that is helpful is that she has placed the two perspectives side by side so that the reader does not get confused trying to read it top to bottom and bottom to top using the same verse, otherwise it would look like a regular verse. Younger reads might miss the subtle differences if she had not laid them out like this. The verses are simple so that beginning readers of poetry will be able to enjoy them, and also delightfully cheeky so that more experienced readers will be able to appreciate the subtle nuances and the skill of the poet. The vibrant artwork of Josee Masse complements the poets work by depicting the two main speakers for each poem. Highly recommended for K-8.(less)
After reading numerous picture books about animals and princesses, it was refreshing to find this gem on the shelf. One summer, Danny and his friends...more After reading numerous picture books about animals and princesses, it was refreshing to find this gem on the shelf. One summer, Danny and his friends found a meteorite in their neighbor's yards. Conclusive tests run by Neal confirmed that they truly had a piece of Martian meteorite in their grasp. The group then kept a look out for the Martians to come take back the piece, because it was confirmed that this was also the source of energy for their planet. The child-like artwork added to my sense of nostalgia, as did mentions of crystal radios and secret codes. I am not sure if children now even know what crystal radios are, but the author thoughtfully included a picture and an explanation of it. However, I felt that the story had too many characters for a picture book. The ratio of text to page is also off-putting. However, I am sure that readers will enjoy the chance to go on-line and have a chance to explore more sides of the story, such as the secret code. Recommended for boys ages 7-10.(less)
This is a fun, interactive board book to read with your young child. The community of animals is excited because there is a new baby. The different an...moreThis is a fun, interactive board book to read with your young child. The community of animals is excited because there is a new baby. The different animals discuss ways in which they have interacted with this new baby, like by tickling it, or kissing it. You can interact with your own baby or toddler by mimicking those actions. The simplistic drawings are easily identifiable by babies. The pictures are mostly in black and white, but there is bright stripe of color on every page. Sometimes that color seems to have no purpose, even though it is eye-catching. It distracts from the animals. It is a cute, simple story that you will enjoy sharing with your baby. Overall, this book is recommended for babies to two year olds. (less)
Having read Hopkins' previous novels, I knew she tended to write about extreme situations in her characters' lives. However, Identical was disappoin...moreHaving read Hopkins' previous novels, I knew she tended to write about extreme situations in her characters' lives. However, Identical was disappointing. The plot involves identical female twins Kayleigh and Raeanne. Kayleigh is sexually abused by her father, a well-known courtroom judge, and tries to cope with the situation by binging on food in hopes of becoming unattractive to him. Raeanne is jealous of her father's affections towards her sister, and acts out by being promiscuous,experimenting with drugs, and being bulimic as a cry for attention. There is a plot twist at the end, which will have the reader re-interpret the beginning of the novel.
The fault with this novel compared to Crank is that it just does not seem as realistic. It feels that Hopkins is trying to shock her audience by throwing as many terrible and dramatic events as she can in the span of this novel. The mechanics of her verse is also lacking. Some of the poems are terrific examples of poetry, and she has great transitions between the viewpoints of the twins by having each of their poems in a spread with linear lines. There are too many poems that read like prose instead of verse, though. However, with its shocking content, teens will be hooked. They will want to know what happens next. Due to its explicit content and language, this book is recommended for mature readers of ages 17 and up only. (less)
A thousand years ago, the pegasi and humans formed an alliance in order to save both races from a myriad of fearful beasts. The alliance between the t...moreA thousand years ago, the pegasi and humans formed an alliance in order to save both races from a myriad of fearful beasts. The alliance between the two races was written in the middle of a battlefield by magicians, even though the races could barely communicate. The terms of the alliance deemed that humans of importance would be bound to a pegasi of equal importance. Sadly, this did not overcome the language barrier as both parties had hoped. The pattern continued like that until Princess Sylvi's 12th birthday, when the ritual binding takes place. The moment she sees her pegasus, beautiful Ebon, she is able to understand him, through mindspeak, which shatters the status quo, and gains the pair powerful enemies in the hall of magicians. Robin McKinley has once again woven a mesmerizing tale. Her descriptions of the habits of the pegasi, and their home, make the reader wish they could be bound to their own pegasus. It is easy to imagine this world, partly because McKinley spends so much time building it. The main fault of this novel is that it does move a little slow due to the all of the descriptions. In the beginning, there was instant drama and enemies formed, but the enemies disappear until the last chapter, which makes clear that there is a sequel. However, the way that Sylvi and Ebon's friendships grows and deepens throughout the novel has the readers rooting for the pair. This novel is recommended for grades 9-12, and for readers who value world-building over fast-paced action.(less)
This is the tale of a closeted Hasidic Jewish community, and how "those things" don't happen there. But Gittel knows they do. She saw him "pushing" he...moreThis is the tale of a closeted Hasidic Jewish community, and how "those things" don't happen there. But Gittel knows they do. She saw him "pushing" her best friend, and his own little sister, Devory, underneath the covers when everyone in the house was asleep. Gittel found Devory hanging from a purple jump rope in Gittel's bathroom. Gittel was told to forget about Devory, her best friend all throughout their childhood, because Devory was "sick." So Gittel does forget. Until Devory begins to haunt her dreams right before Gittel is supposed to be married at the age of 19, a huge deal in their Jewish sect. Gittel's prospects for a good husband depend on her to ignore Devory, and to stay silent about that terrible time in her childhood. But, Gittel can't do it. When she tries to speak out about that night, her whole community, her family, try to keep her silent.
This touching and poignant true tale of the author, Eishes Chayil (a pseudonym meaning woman of valor ) unveils a glimpse into part of a strict Jewish sect. While the content matter is heavy, the author is able to present it in a while that can reach a young adult audience. Young readers are able to empathize with Gittel, who seems like just another young girl who is dealing with upcoming adulthood. Young adult readers today can also understand how Gittel feels about keeping such a dark secret. There are many secrets teens try to forget about it because it would hurt their family, even if those secrets hurt the family too, like alcoholism or drug addiction. This novel seems like it was cathartic exercise for the author, who is able to exquisitely displays her love for her community and its values, but also her hate for how the community hides the dark truths. This novel is highly recommended, but for mature readers, ages to 16 and up, due to the content, and the frequent use of Yiddish jargon that might frustrate some readers.(less)
It is difficult to understand how such a sweet, heart-warming story could cause so much controversy. This is a true story about two male penguins, Roy...moreIt is difficult to understand how such a sweet, heart-warming story could cause so much controversy. This is a true story about two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who live in the Central Park Zoo. They act and look just like all of the other penguins, as the illustrations in the book show. Roy and Silo want to live the same life as the other penguins, which includes having their own baby. This story simplifies the topic of homosexuality in a very subtle and delicate manner, which is part of its charm. The author makes clear that there are all types of different families that live in the zoo, and shows the animal families in the beautiful, brightly-colored illustrations. The author never directly states that Roy and Silo are homosexual, which is a scary term due to its size, and the connotation behind it. Instead, the zookeeper simply states, "They must love each other," in order to define the relationship between the penguins. Children are able to understand love, and the different types of them. This story offers a chance for parents to have an honest, and educational, talk with their children about other children that might have two parents of the same gender. Highly recommended for readers of all ages, but especially for younger readers of ages 4 to 7 and parents to read together.(less)
This book tells the story of Amos McGee, and his daily routines. He goes to the zoo everyday not only to work, but to see his friends. One day, he is...moreThis book tells the story of Amos McGee, and his daily routines. He goes to the zoo everyday not only to work, but to see his friends. One day, he is sick, and must stay home. His friends are worried about him, so they decide to visit him at home, which makes him very happy. This award-winning picture book is a gentle reminder about what good friends do for each other. The illustrations have a quaint and quirky appeal to them. There is a subtle pop of color because it is used rarely, which is a nice change from all of the bright colors normally seen in picture books. The drawings themselves are also appealing due to the fact that they are done in pencil, and are not perfectly straight and seamless. It is also nice that there are about three spreads of pages without words on them, in order to offer a chance for readers to ask questions, perhaps make predictions about where the animals are going. This charming book will be a wonderful addition to any library. Highly recommended for readers ages 4 to 7.(less)
Zen Ghosts is a masterfully illustrated, slightly spooky ghost story. It is Halloween, and the panda Stillwater has a special visitor for Addie, Kar...more Zen Ghosts is a masterfully illustrated, slightly spooky ghost story. It is Halloween, and the panda Stillwater has a special visitor for Addie, Karl, and Michael. A masterful storyteller has a ghost story (which is actually a Zen koan) for them after they are finished trick or treating. The illustrations have wonderful pops of colors that accentuate the fall setting. The reds and golds seem to find their way on every page. The lines in the drawings are exquisite, and subtly direct the eyes of the viewer to pay attention to certain details on the pages. The brush and ink during the Zen koan, in contrast, are muted grey-scale with a burst of blue color from time to time, in order to add mysteriousness to the tale. While the drawings are captivating, the narrative could be stronger. There were some spots where I could barely see the text due the darkness of the background. As for the story, the transitions were a bit jerky. Younger children may not understand the point of the Zen koan without some explanation from a story-teller. Older children could use it as a model text in order to perhaps create their own Zen koans. The author does include a note explaining the koan, and where he learned about it. This beautiful illustrations take over and kind of leave the plot of the story behind. This book is recommended as an additional purchase for libraries, unless you need some international texts, and is recommended for readers ages 5-8, or if used as a model text, for readers ages 9-12.(less)
This story is an excellent tale about accepting one's self and others for what they are, which is perhaps an especially relevant topic to discuss with...moreThis story is an excellent tale about accepting one's self and others for what they are, which is perhaps an especially relevant topic to discuss with children due to the recent increase in bullying. Elmer is not like the other boy ducks. He likes to bake, paint, cook, and be creative. He does not like sports, and one day skips away from a baseball game. The other ducks call him a sissy, which infuriates his father who says some hateful things that cause Elmer to run away. However, when his father is shot by hunters, Elmer is able to save his life thanks to his own unique interests. The illustrations highlight Elmer, and help show how he is different. He is a spunky, cheerful guy, while the rest of the ducks are somber and look angry. The illustrations help to lighten the mood of the sometimes extremely serious subject matter. This book story will allow parents and children to discuss bullying, and why it is so hurtful. This book is recommended for children ages 5 to 8.(less)
This was quite a fabumouse story! The Thea Sisters, five teen-aged mice from all over the world that are best friends, are all going to Collete's home...moreThis was quite a fabumouse story! The Thea Sisters, five teen-aged mice from all over the world that are best friends, are all going to Collete's home city, Paris, for vacation. While there, Collete's cousin, Julie, is preparing for her fashion show. However, someone steals her entire collection! It is up to the Thea Sisters to find the culprit and help Julie. While the actual plot is very predictable, the format of the book is very welcoming to beginning chapter book readers. There are bright pictures, bigger font, and different colors and styles of font that pepper the text and make it rather jazzy. Younger readers that might be scared of reading boring black and white text chapter books will welcome the bright words. Another cool feature is that there are informational sidebars about some of the aspects of French culture, which will help the young readers learn about French culture while they enjoy this cheerful mystery. The only fault to me is that at times all of the features, like the colors and sidebars, can be distracting. Overall, this book is highly recommended for readers ages 7-11.(less)