Marcie’s Daffodil, written by Autumn Stanley and illustrated by Ji Young Lee, tells the story of Marcie who brings home a daffodil bulb from the garde...moreMarcie’s Daffodil, written by Autumn Stanley and illustrated by Ji Young Lee, tells the story of Marcie who brings home a daffodil bulb from the garden store one winter and eagerly follows its growth and awaits its Spring blossoming. There is a theme here somewhere (is it the cycle of life? Patience? That hope springs eternal despite disappointments along the way?), but it gets buried in narrative that’s somewhat unfocused and convoluted, and as a reader, I can visualize the path, but never quite find my way. Overall, it’s a sweet and gentle story, and there are moments when the cadence lulls like a lullaby. The language is most definitely kid-friendly and imagery such as the raindrops being the tears of the flower fairy is lovely. Lee’s softly muted sketches complement the story well, and lend it a serene and harmonious feel. However, the book seems to be more of a vignette or series of scenes of Marcie going through her daily life waiting for her daffodil to bloom rather than an actual story with a beginning, middle, and end. Characters are introduced such as her siblings and the babysitter, Mrs. McBride, that don’t seem to have much to do with the story. No interactions happen with them. Some segments, “Marcie felt like crying, and she also felt like stepping on one of Parker’s turtles” seem disjointed. It’s not clear how one thing has to do with the other. At times the narrative is slowed by more “telling” than “showing” as in “Mama suggested to Daddy that he might build a small fence around the daffodil...and since the next day was Saturday, he did just that.” Why not just show him actively building the fence? Better yet, have him build it with Marcie? But I think my biggest contention with the book is the bombshell that gets dropped at the end. Marcie’s mom who is expecting a baby had to be taken to the hospital. “We’re not going to have baby after all,” Daddy explains, suggesting either a miscarriage or a stillborn child, but there is no resolution to this thread. What did daddy mean? Where did baby go? It’s a heavy theme to lay on kids without further discussion. Even daddy doesn’t explain it to Marcie in the book. The story ends sweetly with Marcie wanting her last surviving daffodil to go to her mother when she comes home from the hospital. But here too, there seems to be a disconnect as Marcie doesn’t even question or ponder the fact that the baby she’s been expecting isn’t coming home. There’s a certain amicability to Marcie’s tale and Ji Young Lee’s illustrations are tender and alluring. But like most self-published books, it could have benefitted from more extensive editorial oversight.(less)
L.A. Meyer is back in true form in The Wake of the Lorelei Lee. Jacky Faber is imprisoned for crimes against the Crown for allegedly spiriting away so...moreL.A. Meyer is back in true form in The Wake of the Lorelei Lee. Jacky Faber is imprisoned for crimes against the Crown for allegedly spiriting away some of the pirate treasure she was sent to recover in Rapture of the Deep. Instead of facing execution for treason, she is exiled to the penal colony of Australia on her very own frigate, the Lorelei Lee, which the Crown confiscated. Fortunately for Jacky, the new captain of the Lorelei is a jolly, good-natured sort, and Jacky sings, dances, and cavorts shamelessly, much to the delight of the sailors on board. On this adventure, Jacky gets to ride an elephant in India, meet the infamous Chinese pirate Ching Shih, and through sheer wit and willpower arrives in Botany Bay on her own terms.
With conflict, tension, and bad guys galore, not to mention Jacky's endless ability to embroil herself in scrapes of one sort or another, The Wake of the Lorelei Lee is an entertaining read. Jacky's distinct voice is as refreshing and humorous as ever, but her rapidly increasing sexual maturity is catapulting this series from Young Adult to the Adult realm.(less)
Toby and his Hospital Friends is a picture book by Charmaine Hammond, a follow up to On Toby’s Terms, Ms. Hammond’s first book about Toby, the five-y...more Toby and his Hospital Friends is a picture book by Charmaine Hammond, a follow up to On Toby’s Terms, Ms. Hammond’s first book about Toby, the five-year old Chesapeake Bay retriever she and her husband adopted. Toby is a pet therapy dog who visits sick children in the hospital. Through his patience, and unconditional love, Toby makes the children’s hospital stay a little brighter. This simple chronicle of Toby’s day at the hospital gives children (and parents) an insight into what therapy dogs do, and the emotional and spiritual benefits their presence can have. From playing with the kids, dozing to stories told by the nurse at story time, and keeping an older patient company in the garden, Toby’s happy visits are much anticipated not only by the young and old at the hospital, but by Toby himself. Being in the hospital can be a frightening experience for a child, and a lonely one, if the stay is long. Pet therapy animals like Toby can have a significant impact on reducing that stress. Toby and his Hospital Friends demonstrates what an important job Toby has. The language and the pictures are simple and easy to understand, and kids will enjoy following Toby on his rounds visiting with different patients. A list of questions at the end of the book help engage children in thinking about the story and can promote meaningful discussions between adult and child. Books can assist kids in addressing their fears, be it of dogs, doctors, or hospitals, and give voice to anxiety they may have a difficult time expressing. To this end, the gentle story of Toby and his Hospital Friends will definitely appeal to its target audience.
A Lesson my Cat Taught Me is a chapter book for early readers by Saul Weber. This is the author’s brief summary of the book: Jennifer and her mother...more A Lesson my Cat Taught Me is a chapter book for early readers by Saul Weber. This is the author’s brief summary of the book: Jennifer and her mother find a friendly, abandoned cat. They soon discover it only has one eye. Jennifer calls the cat Uno, and learns that despite its disability, Uno is capable of doing more things than her other cat, Mr. Tickles. When Hillary, who is in a wheelchair, joins her class, Jennifer sees her as a friend rather than a girl with a disability because of what Uno has taught her. The black and white sketches by Nancy Lepri lends the book a sweet, simple feel that harkens back to books we grew up with 30 years ago. The message the author is trying to convey—that kids with disabilities are no different than other kids, and Jennifer learns this lesson through observing her “disabled” cat—has great appeal, and it is a lesson of tolerance and friendship we hope that kids of all ages will take to heart. This is a self-published book, and while there may be many talented self-published authors in the book world, the lack of editorial oversight is often a problem. In A Lesson My Cat Taught Me, punctuation errors, typos, missing words only serve to pull the reader out of the story and provide distractions I’m sure Mr. Weber did not intend. While the story is a sweet one and the characters are likeable, the pacing is somewhat slow because of lengthy passages of dialogue where much of the exchange is between Jennifer and her mother about feeding the cat or changing its litter. Uno’s disability is that it only has one eye, hence the name. I had expected that Uno would somehow overcome the challenge of seeing with one eye, and that the “lesson” she teaches Jennifer is about how she adapted to the disability of her impaired vision. However, the tricks Uno performs with Jennifer’s patient coaxing has to do with selecting which hand Jennifer is hiding the treats or begging for a treat. For me, this diluted the “lesson” of Uno dealing with its handicap. The relationship between Jennifer and Hilary, the new girl in school with a wheelchair, has the potential for encouraging kindness, tolerance, and acceptance of others different from ourselves. It’s a little too quickly glossed over, and I would have liked to see the author spend more time on developing this friendship and on how Hilary either triumphs over her disability or not let it impede her, and less time on Uno’s tricks and eating habits. A Lesson My Cat Taught Me could have benefitted from some tight editing, but overall, the book’s message is well-needed, and it truly is a sweet story.
Not my favorite Jackie Faber book to date. Although, it sill has moments of exciting adventure and page-turning suspense (is Jacky really going to th...more Not my favorite Jackie Faber book to date. Although, it sill has moments of exciting adventure and page-turning suspense (is Jacky really going to the guillotine?), the pacing plods a little. Do we really need all the lengthy descriptions of the Havana cock fights, and the countless trips down to the bottom of the ocean in the diving bell? Having a multi-book series can also be a problem in that your character is getting older so her awareness naturally is different than in the first book. Yes, Jacky Faber is growing up, however, I find the increasing sexual innuendos and her obsession with kissing various members of the opposite sex a little over-the-top and detracts from the adventure. I'm not a prude, but I have to question whether I want my pre-teen or teenage daughter to be reading some of this.(less)
Jacky Faber's adventures continue. This time, it takes her to France where she is almost the victim of Madame Guillotine, becomes a British spy under...moreJacky Faber's adventures continue. This time, it takes her to France where she is almost the victim of Madame Guillotine, becomes a British spy under duress, and is caught up in Napolean's war against the Prussian army where she meets L'Empereur himself. L.A. Meyer's plotting is fast-paced, intriguing, and his creativity in getting his heroine in and out of trouble is what makes this series very, very entertaining. A must-read for readers who enjoy adventure and romance, and writers who ever wondered what "a strong Voice" means.(less)
L.A. Meyer has done it once again—keeping us on the edge of our seats with Jacky Faber's adventures. I love this series! Jacky's voice is one of the m...moreL.A. Meyer has done it once again—keeping us on the edge of our seats with Jacky Faber's adventures. I love this series! Jacky's voice is one of the most distinct in Young Adult literature, and Meyer is a master at pacing and plot. (less)
This book has a great premise—a young boy who can hear and talk to the dead. Murray is a bit of a loner with an unstable and lonely home life. His mot...moreThis book has a great premise—a young boy who can hear and talk to the dead. Murray is a bit of a loner with an unstable and lonely home life. His mother's an alcoholic prostitute parading a string of men/clients in and out of the home, so Murray retreats to the cemetery where he finds solace amongst the dead. He hears and talks to them and keeps them "company". Until one day, he hears another voice...a new voice...that no one seems to know. And, along with his friend, Pearl, embarks on a mission to discover the identity and whereabouts of this mysterious voice.
The story is well-written, and the quick pacing easily pulls the reader from chapter to chapter. However, I found the multiple points of view and the number of characters to be a little confusing. The story switches from the main character to the detective investigating the case of a missing girl to an alcoholic police officer who may or may not be a suspect to a possible witness. I found myself going back to the beginning on several occasions to remind myself who the characters and what their names are.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the book and the unusual and suspenseful plot line.(less)