This year, Luis J. Rodríguez is Los Angeles' poet laureate. He has been visiting many of our local LAPL branches to speak and teach, and this week heThis year, Luis J. Rodríguez is Los Angeles' poet laureate. He has been visiting many of our local LAPL branches to speak and teach, and this week he will be visiting the library that I am spending the summer at! So of course, I had to read his most famous work, Always Running, so as not to be ill-informed.. what if nobody at his talk had actually read the book (unlikely as it is taught in many schools)? Year ago, when I was in grad school, I took a YA lit class and read My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King. This is a similar book in that they are both first person tell-alls about life in a Latino gang. There's a lot of sex and violence in both. But aside from the differences in locale (My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King takes place in Chicago, while Always Running takes place in Los Angeles), there are quite a lot of other differences. Always Running has more of a literary style, while My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King obviously isn't written by a professional writer and just tells you the facts. The style doesn't overwhelm you with poetic language or anything in Always Running, though. There is definitely some sexually explicit content, so I can see (plus the violence) why it's been challenged/banned in many schools, but I guess it's all just part of "la vida loca" (see book subtitle).
I've heard of Always Running for so many years and am only getting around to reading it now, so I was really surprised that Rodriguez actually went to my high school! There really wasn't any gang warfare going on when I went there, and in Always Running most of the tension was between whites and Latinos, and I could probably could on two hands the number of white students at Keppel, so obviously it's pretty different these days. But it was really interesting to read about his experience because lots of the places mentioned in the book were places I've visited, my friends lived at, etc. When I hear "East Los Angeles" I usually think of Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, etc. not South San Gabriel. What was especially interesting was reading about Rodriguez's simultaneous (along with gang involvement) community organizing and work to uplift the Latino community and seek justice at his high school. It really demonstrated the two sides that could be taken and outlets for the poverty, injustice and violence he experienced. I also appreciated his foreword about his son, Ramiro. Always Running was dedicated to him, but Ramiro ended up falling into gang life and being sentenced to 43 years in prison for attempted murder (a sentence Rodriguez received earlier in his life as well). It was good to read his reflections about the cycle, what he felt he could have done differently, etc....more
As many other reviews have stated, this year in children's literature seems to be the Year of the Sad. But on a micro-trend level, maybe also the yearAs many other reviews have stated, this year in children's literature seems to be the Year of the Sad. But on a micro-trend level, maybe also the year of the fox (see: Pax, which I still haven't finished reading). Anyway, so far from Kathi Appelt I've read Keeper and The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, and liked both of them. I liked Maybe a Fox, but I think it wasn't quite what I was looking for at the time.
Sylvie and Jules are sisters, close in age, who have their spats and sibling rivalries, but nothing really major. One day, when the two are on their way to school, Sylvie goes missing. It's just Jules and her dad (their mother died a while earlier). And around the same time as Sylvie's disappearance, a little fox named Senna is born, along with two brothers. Maybe a Fox is an exploration of grief. Their best friend Sam and his older brother Elk are grieving the loss of Elk's friend in the war also. As with Keeper, the writing was mystical, deep, and poetic. It was also short (finished it easily in a day just during breaks at work), but didn't quite hit all the right notes for me. There are sooo many super positive reviews of this book, though, so don't take my word for it. I just thought that it would've been stronger without the fox story/element (although the title certainly wouldn't make any sense) and I would've liked to see a stronger role for Sam.
I randomly saw this book on a shelf at work and realized that I forgot to review it in my goodreads! It's been a while since I read it but here are myI randomly saw this book on a shelf at work and realized that I forgot to review it in my goodreads! It's been a while since I read it but here are my thoughts.
First thought: Like others have said, it's very cool and groundbreaking that there is a Muslim teenage girl superhero. But as much as I do love that concept and think it's very needed in the mostly white (though changing!) superhero world, I also wasn't in love with the execution. However, take this with a grain of salt because I almost never read superhero graphic novels. Most of my comic reading consists of memoirs. Anyway, I am not familiar with Ms. Marvel, so I can't comment on whether or not it was true/consistent to the character. But it was a bit confusing as to how the main character, Kamala Khan, acquired her superpowers. Also, I'm all for having a Muslim Pakistani-American teen superhero, so why is it that when she becomes Ms. Marvel she becomes white and blonde? Also, the villain was suitably creepy but really not memorable in any way. I'm glad that Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal is here, I'm glad that people are loving it, but it was good, but not great for me personally....more
I have heard some great things about Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune, including some Newbery buzz on Fuse #8, so I decided to cheI have heard some great things about Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune, including some Newbery buzz on Fuse #8, so I decided to check it out. It's touted as a "real-life A Game of Thrones," but for middle-grade plus. Well, I have neither read nor watched A Game of Thrones or anything in the Song of Ice and Fire series because it's just way too violent and rape-y for me, so I really can't compare it at all. But it's very interesting that this has a ton of violence in it (according to Fuse #8, the title page says "WARNING: Very few people in this story die of natural causes." I searched all over the book, and in Google Books, and couldn't find it, so must've just been specific to the review copy she received), but isn't really all that graphic. Anyway, there is a ton of murder and a little bit of seppuku the legendary samurai tradition (made famous by Yoshitsune, the titular samurai) of honor suicide, but it's nothing that a 5th grader couldn't handle.
I don't know much about samurai history/culture, so the story of Yoshitsune, Japan's most famous samurai, was new to me. I have recently been having some discussions about what makes a good nonfiction juvenile title. There are a lot of really great ones out there, and there are more and more that appeal beyond reference titles for school projects. I started thinking about author's notes, references, and the like. Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune has the perfect amount of back (and front) matter-not so much that it's overwhelming, but some really helpful and useful information in understanding the story. At the beginning is a list of characters and how to pronounce their names. At the end are all sorts of things, but I especially appreciated the note on women. Pamela Turner explains that women were rarely named back then, so it was very difficult to find information about the samurai's wives, mothers, and daughters. And the timeline was really interesting and fun. It talked about some other world events that were happening around the same time period, like Genghis Khan's rise to power or the construction of Angkor Wat.
A drought in California is something that we are all too familiar with today. It sure would be nice if we could just hire someone to make some rain toA drought in California is something that we are all too familiar with today. It sure would be nice if we could just hire someone to make some rain to keep our plants alive. Well, the city of San Diego hired Charles Hatfield, a well-known "rain maker" to address the droughts in the early 1900s. He agreed to accept $10,000 if he produced 50 inches of rain, and nothing if less than 40. He claimed not to be a sorcerer, as some thought, but a scientist, and he spent all day mixing chemicals to try to coax the rains to come. Well, come they did, and San Diego suffered a flood in 1916 that destroyed the property and lives (some reports of up to 50 people). People were angry, and didn't want to pay him the money. But did his rain coaxing techniques actually work in the first place?
I like that author Larry Dane Brimner really lets the reader think about Hatfield's methods in an unbiased way. After all, Hatfield was extremely secretive about the chemicals he used, etc. and took his recipe to the grave. So a lot is left up to interpretation about whether it worked or was just a lucky coincidence or whether he was just exceptionally good at reading weather patterns. Brimner also discusses other rainmakers and their influence on Hatfield. Most of them were not nearly as successful as Hatfield, and were discredited.
I've noticed that there are lots of really great children's biographies of fascinating people from history, but usually they don't get checked out. Kids really seem to only read biographies for school, and they're almost always of very well known people (Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, MLK Jr. etc.) It's a shame, because these books are pretty fascinating and offer a lot of insight.
I read this book for a selection committee I'm currently on that is all about children's books with CA content. This definitely fits the bill. In addition to San Diego, Hatfield's residences in Eagle Rock, Cahuenga, etc. and hours studying at the Los Angeles Public Library (heyyy!) are mentioned, and like I said, the drought story is something we here in CA can relate to. I didn't love the layout: two page photo spreads would interrupt the chapters in the middle of the sentence, and it was kind of annoying to turn the page (sometimes twice) to get through the sentence.
Sally Ride was a very private person who had a very difficult time with the demands of the celebrity she was thrust into when she became the first womSally Ride was a very private person who had a very difficult time with the demands of the celebrity she was thrust into when she became the first woman in space. Her obituary was when the American public found out that she had had pancreatic cancer, and that she was gay, and had a life/business partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy (also the author of this book). Therefore, this book lends insight that so many don't, because it has private stories and photos of Ride's life, told by the person who knew her best. At just over 100 pages, and filled with pictures on every page, it's very readable and succinct, but I do feel that O'Shaughnessy included some extraneous stories that someone with just a general interest in Ride's life may not want to hear. For example, there's a story of a time that a bird got trapped inside Ride and O'Shaughnessy's house that wasn't particularly interesting or key to a Ride biography.
At the same time, there were personal stories that I found interesting. I liked reading about the chauvinist questions that Ride was asked (and her responses!) during her press tour before heading into space. It was also interesting reading about the year in Europe she and her family took during her fourth grade year.
In Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, the concept that gets the most attention is the 10,000 hours, but Gladwell also discusses how being successful is often owed to being in the right place at the right time. I was struck by how much that factored into Ride's success. Of course, she was a fantastic candidate to be the first woman in space (she was a great scientist and athlete, photogenic, calm and collected, and many other traits perfect for an astronaut), but she also graduated at around the time that NASA had started accepting female astronauts. If she had just been born a little bit earlier she might not have been in the right place or time.
Overall, this book has plenty of information for a report (and there is a timeline in the back of mostly her professional accomplishments), but also would be a good read for anyone interested in learning more about the first woman in space.
Flexible Wings is the story of a girl named Summer who has moved around countless times with her parents and sister. She is a "military brat:" her motFlexible Wings is the story of a girl named Summer who has moved around countless times with her parents and sister. She is a "military brat:" her mother is in the Navy while her father has just left the service. Her mother only has a little while left in service, and the family has settled in Valencia, California (aka "Awesometown") so that her parents can become engineers in Southern California. Summer is upset to be moving yet again, but things look up when her parents finally allow her to sign up for the local swim team, something she's always wanted to do. But when she joins, she realizes that she's the worst swimmer there! And making friends is harder than ever. The girls in her neighborhood seem unfriendly and some kids even make fun of her braids (Summer is biracial: African-American and 1/4 Japanese).
Part of what I was evaluating this book on was California content (reading it for an award committee), and it's definitely strong in that area (in case that's something you're looking for). I couldn't find that information anywhere online, but I think Ms. Stamps must live in the Santa Clarita area, because she included a lot of details that would indicate that. For example, they go to a shave ice place called "Shave It," that I looked up on Yelp, that has since closed. Also, she gets a lot of details right (or at least fakes it well) about Japanese-American history, what it's like being a military brat, and other aspects of the story. I also really like her note in the back about the process of researching and writing this story.
John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall is about the famous explorer, environmentalist, and founder of the Sierra Club John Muir, and one night of his life, whJohn Muir Wrestles a Waterfall is about the famous explorer, environmentalist, and founder of the Sierra Club John Muir, and one night of his life, where he climbed Yosemite Falls to get close enough to touch it. It's a little bit wordy, but interesting (helped a great deal by the illustrations) enough for an elementary readaloud.
I didn't get it at first, but John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall has a basic storyline and what amounts to footnotes at the bottom in a much smaller font, which can flow well enough with the main story. The illustrations are pastel and have that textured, grainy look of crayons/pastel. They really contribute to the rustic and natural theme of the book.
I had started listening to Stella by Starlight months ago, but had the e-audiobook expire with only 8 minutes left to go. Recently I decided to just rI had started listening to Stella by Starlight months ago, but had the e-audiobook expire with only 8 minutes left to go. Recently I decided to just re-download the book and finish it (plus an extra 20 minutes or so to catch myself up on what I may have forgotten). Stella by Starlight, narrated by Heather Alicia Simms, is a top-notch audiobook. I picked it up because it was a finalist for the Odyssey award (for children's and YA audiobook production). The award went to Echo, which was a fantastic audiobook. Anyway, Simms did a great job with the narration. Stella by Starlight is told from the perspective of a young girl, and I thought she did a good job keeping it cute without being cloying. She does particularly outstanding work when it comes to Stella's writing (she writes for school and also to enter an essay contest). You can actually hear and picture Stella's cross-outs and errors. Well done.
Stella by Starlight is about a young girl living in Depression-era Bumblebee, North Carolina. She lives a pretty happy life with her friends and family, but the town is very segregated, and there's a lot of economic injustice. One night she's out after dark when she sees something very frightening--the Ku Klux Klan. As racial tensions start to flare up, Stella's eyes are opened more and more to how unfair things really are--and how life-threatening racial injustice can be. I really like to read middle-grade historical fiction centering around racial injustice, and it was interesting to read something from an earlier time period than most (Depression era vs. the 60s). It reminded me of Crow in that sense, and was similarly sobering (appropriate for kids but didn't sugarcoat anything). Definitely a timely read that can be used as a historical lens to frame current events.
As much as reading Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity felt like an immense challenge (it's almost a thousand pages longAs much as reading Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity felt like an immense challenge (it's almost a thousand pages long, 300 pages of which are notes), it's an easy observation that writing it must have been an exponentially greater accomplishment. Seven hundred pages are filled with hundreds of interviews (perhaps thousands, if you consider the ones that didn't make it into the book) that seem to have spanned a decade or more. As I was reading this book, people kept commenting, "Are you still reading that book?" It wasn't one of those huge tomes that you just zip through, like one of the latter Harry Potter novels. It took a lot of concentration and consideration for me to really read it the way I felt that the research demanded it be read.
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity is Andrew Solomon's look at children and parents who are different from each other. That seems like such a vague and hollow way to describe it, though. He observes that we are proud of all the ways that we are not like our parents, but saddened by the ways that our children are not like us. I liked his description, in the introduction, of vertical vs. horizontal identities. For example, race/ethnicity is usually a vertical identity, passed down, as are religion, socioeconomic status, education level, etc. But the groups he writes about have horizontal identities, in which they look outside their families to find peers. The people groups he writes about are: the deaf, dwarves, prodigies, children born of rape, criminals, transgenders, and individuals with autism, down syndrome, schizophrenia, multiple severe disability (MSD). Obviously, the title comes from the saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," except in these cases, it has.
The idea of horizontal vs. vertical identities sounded like a fascinating premise from the book, but Solomon falls away from that and (in my opinion) has trouble maintaining consistency throughout. After having finished the book, I really struggled to express what it was about, because there wasn't really an overarching thesis or conclusion here. Normally when I read nonfiction, I like to come away from the book with some sort of knowledge, but I didn't feel that way. I did feel that I had read a lot of really interesting stories (some of which I'll list below), but I don't know that I came away with a particular "lesson" here. Not that that was Solomon's intent, just an observation here. Anyway, I noticed that it wasn't quite as black and white as "horizontal vs. vertical identities" especially in the "crime" chapter. Most of the juveniles he interviews may not have parents who are criminals currently, but many of them had criminal pasts or at the very least extremely troubled homes. The only example that really exemplifies the horizontal identity that he first posits is that of the Klebolds, parents to Dylan (of the Columbine massacre). Not coincidentally, that is the most compelling story. Also, I found that Solomon tried to draw links to the different people groups, which was sometimes successful and sometimes not.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to reading this book because so much depends on whether you find the stories interesting or not. There were some chapters that were very easy for me to read, and others that I struggled through. I know that I could've just skimmed some of the stories, but the stubbornness in me won out. I was most interested in the dwarf, transgender, and (children of) rape chapters, and less interested in the schizophrenia, deaf, and autism chapters. Solomon also bookends with personal experiences. The first chapter is "Son," in which he discusses how his parents (primarily his father) dealt with him being gay (his personal experience of horizontal identity). The last chapter is "Father," and ended up being my favorite. It's about his experience with becoming a biological father and a discussion about the right to reproduce. Is it ok to reproduce, knowing that you will pass on some undesirable traits (like most of the characteristics that the chapters of this book cover)? Not allowing people to would be fascism, but is choosing to have a child who will likely be a dwarf, deaf, disabled, etc. be irresponsible? Is life still valuable? This was a great, though-provoking wrap-up, and brought the book up from 3 stars to 4.
As I said, I didn't feel that there was an overarching lesson here, but I did learn a lot about interesting people, experiments, etc. For example, I learned about The Ashley Treatment, a very controversial experiment done on a girl with multiple severe disability to stop her development into puberty so she would remain a small (and easy to move) girl all her life. I considered parents who sacrificed everything to take care of their children who may not even know or care that they existed, and those who gave them up to the system. I considered the parents who allowed their transgender children to transition at preschool age. If you're interested in sociology and psychology, this is definitely an excellent book to read. Perhaps it's a strength that it's so hard to draw conclusions from these stories: after all, people deal with things in different ways. Some try to suppress their child's talent/condition/disorder/disease, while others celebrate it. I'm impressed by Solomon's ability to remain mostly objective in all of these interviews. A challenging (if only in length) but worthwhile read, if you're in it for the long haul....more
After listening to the Hamilton musical nonstop for weeks, I've come to realize that history can be really, really interesting, given the right presenAfter listening to the Hamilton musical nonstop for weeks, I've come to realize that history can be really, really interesting, given the right presentation. I blame it on going to a public school where the history teacher was the football coach, but history always seemed like a bunch of memorization of facts and dates, things that were in the PAST. It seemed neither relevant nor interesting. But I found myself wishing they could make a compelling musical out of everything I forgot from history class. Surely I'd have learned a lot more!
Sheinkin starts Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War with the break-in at Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, the first act of the White House Plumbers that spiraled into the infamous Watergate scandal. Then he takes it back to Ellsberg's first day of work at the Pentagon and his relationship with the Vietnam War. There's also, thinly woven throughout, the story of Everett Alvarez, a POW in the Hanoi Hilton (John McCain and John Kerry are also mentioned in the book). If you think that history isn't relevant to today, Sheinkin will definitely convince you otherwise. We learn from Ellsberg's story that a) the government lies to us, b) presidential campaigns will say one thing while actively doing another, c) patriotism is more than just following the rules but can be about the spirit of our country's values. And we learn that sometimes people will go to great lengths and cost hundreds of thousands of lives, just to avoid looking like a "loser." Great relevance, great storytelling, suspenseful writing and appropriate for the audience.
I started and stopped Pax so many times in the past few months. I was almost going to give it up, because I couldn't get into it, but then I kept pushI started and stopped Pax so many times in the past few months. I was almost going to give it up, because I couldn't get into it, but then I kept pushing myself to pick it back up because I was determined to finish it. I think all of the good press and starred reviews it had was making me have FOMO or something. Anyway, I'm glad I stuck with it, because it went from a 2.5 star book to a 4.5 star book in the last third of it.
Pax is the story of the titular fox and his boy, Peter. They have spent most of Pax's life together, but are separated when Peter's father goes to war and makes Peter abandon Pax by the side of the road en route to Peter's grandfather's house. As soon as he gets to his destination, Peter regrets leaving Pax behind, and sets out to find him. On the way, he breaks his leg, and gets taken in by a misanthropic veteran named Vola. At the same time, Pax encounters wild foxes for the first time, and begins to consider all that he's lost from being raised by humans, and the damage that humans can do to the world.
I first listened to this on audiobook, and I couldn't get through it with the narrator. As with a lot of animal books, it was already pretty dramatic and a bit didactic, and I thought that listening to it with that particular narrator kind of heightened those qualities and made them overbearing. It's not a subtle book at all. I'm not saying that kids shouldn't hear about and consider about these issues of war, in particular, but it felt like a little too much. Anyway, as I said, the ending was perfect (and really, the only way it could've ended without being too on-the-nose or too sad for a kid's book) with enough loose ends tied up (and enough still hanging).
There is a certain type of kid who just loves animal books (like that darn Warriors series, or Redwall). If you want to hand them something a bit more realistic, or literary, Pax would be a splendid pick.
After last year's Echo touched on the Japanese American internment during WWII, I'm seeing what appears to be a surge in writing on the topic in middlAfter last year's Echo touched on the Japanese American internment during WWII, I'm seeing what appears to be a surge in writing on the topic in middle grade historical fiction. Personally, I'm very pleased, because I don't think it's a topic that is widely known, and I certainly don't recall learning about it in high school (though that was quite a while ago at this point). Anyway, Paper Wishes was a nice entry to the genre, about a girl and her family from Bainbridge Island interned at Manzanar. (Btw, I always say that they should have an American Girl series about a Japanese American girl in WWII.)
The writing style actually reminds me quite a bit of Katherine Applegate's in The One and Only Ivan: terse, but with a depth of emotion, lots of story packed into little text. I wouldn't call myself an expert on Japanese American internment, but I recognized lots of little historical details that Lois Sepahban included, such as the baseball league (see the middle grade title A Diamond in the Desert). And I had no idea about the riot and violence at Manzanar. A lot of themes were touched on here, like interracial dating and refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
One of the main themes of the book was Manami's selective mutism. Almost throughout the whole book, she refuses to speak, pretty much for the duration of her internment, symbolizing the silencing/lack of agency of the Japanese-Americans during that time. Another theme was her dog, Yujiin, who is taken from the family when they are interned. Aside from the change in lifestyle, people don't really think about the lack of humanity afforded the Japanese Americans sent to Manzanar and other camps. Taking away pets and other important parts of daily life hit that home.
Today seems like a good day to review The Sound of Life and Everything, since February 19 is the Day of Remembrance (and I'm also listening to Echo, wToday seems like a good day to review The Sound of Life and Everything, since February 19 is the Day of Remembrance (and I'm also listening to Echo, which more directly addresses the Japanese-American internment). The treatment of Japanese Americans during and subsequent to World War II needs to be taught about in schools and given much more exposure. Not to mention, it's something that we can learn from today with the way Muslims are treated in America. Anyway, The Sound of Life and Everything was notable because it's one of the first historical science fiction books I can recall reading. It's was... interesting, to be sure.
Ella Mae Higbee's aunt has this harebrained idea of cloning her son, who died several years prior in Iwo Jima. She has "cousin Robby's" old dog tag, which is smeared with blood. But when Ella Mae, her mother, and aunt go to Caltech to pick up "cousin Robby," it isn't Robby who emerges from the horse pill, but a Japanese man (guess it was the wrong blood on the dog tag). Ella Mae's aunt refuses to take responsibility for him, but Ella Mae's mother feels that it isn't right to leave Takuma (the Japanese man) in the hand of scientists and breaks him free with Ella Mae. Together, they try to socialize him and teach him English, but they encounter a host of problems, predominantly racism from the townspeople and people refusing to associate with a boy grown in a lab.
I have no problem with it being fantastical and weird, but it was unrealistic in the way that the characters behaved, particularly at the end. And this was evidently written by a white person about these issues. Takuma was the only person of color, and he pretty much embodied perfection. He was Ella Mae's best friend (hmm, a little off-putting) and more or less a Christ-figure, facing racism and opposition with just one word that suddenly brought peace to the surroundings. I liked the cover art and Ella Mae's mom, but most of the characters fell a little flat.
In The Bay Area Through Time, Laura Cunningham shows how the San Francisco Bay Area would have looked 300 years ago, 40,000 years ago, 30 million yearIn The Bay Area Through Time, Laura Cunningham shows how the San Francisco Bay Area would have looked 300 years ago, 40,000 years ago, 30 million years ago, 80 million years ago, and 450 million years ago, with a focus on creatures (dinosaurs, saber-toothed cats, etc.), but also covers changes in climate and topography. It's very readable and interesting, with some nice colorful illustrations done by the author. But it seems very niche, and I'm not sure too many children will be interested beyond those in the Bay Area.
I use Christie Matheson's Tap the Magic Tree frequently in class visits to the library, and only recently decided to switch it up and try out Touch thI use Christie Matheson's Tap the Magic Tree frequently in class visits to the library, and only recently decided to switch it up and try out Touch the Brightest Star. It's the same format, that asks the children listening to do things to create "magic" when you turn the page. The actions the children take are a little different in this one, like blinking your eyes, swiping the page to create a comet (I thought for sure that today's children would know how to swipe, but it was a little difficult for them), and breathing deeply. I was surprised by what a soothing effect the book has on a group of children. This would be a perfect calm-down book for the end of a program or a bedtime storytime!
The Rest of Us Just Live Here has such a fascinating premise. It's about what happens when you live in the town with vampires, or demigods, or werewolThe Rest of Us Just Live Here has such a fascinating premise. It's about what happens when you live in the town with vampires, or demigods, or werewolves, or aliens, but you aren't a vampire hunter or demigod. What if you're the one who just gets hit by the shrapnel? Mikey isn't "the Chosen one." He and his friends are just regular people (though that doesn't stay true) who live in a town where there are also "indie kids." The indie kids get themselves involved in all kinds of things like the above mentioned activities. They also tend to die a lot. Mikey and his friends have no idea what's going on and really don't care. They just hope they'll have a high school, and the indie kids won't blow it up, like last time.
Interesting, right? And I do love Patrick Ness' work. But there were a few problems with the story:
1) It was kind of boring. It's supposed to be realistic fiction within a greater fantasy context, but I just wasn't really all that interested in Mikey. He had some issues that seemed a little bit like YA lit cliches: OCD, wondering if he was gay, secretly crushing on his friend, type-A politician mom, sister with eating disorder, but he was so bland that I didn't really care too much.
2) Like I said, it starts out as realistic fiction, but starts to get more and more UNrealistic. At the halfway point, it all just gets blown up to where it's just really missing the point. And THEN (view spoiler)[ his best friend turns out to be a god... or demi-god, I guess... so it being about them NOT being indie kids turns out to be false too. (hide spoiler)]
3) So the indie kids were supposed to be in the background, and I do like how each chapter starts with a mini chapter that's about what all the indie kids are getting up to. But they don't really ever explain what's going on with them. I suppose that's the whole point, that the regular kids are in the dark about all these things. But it doesn't make for a great read.
Jory doesn't live your average middle schooler's life. He goes to school, but he doesn't have any friends. He's taught by his stepfather Caleb to TRUSJory doesn't live your average middle schooler's life. He goes to school, but he doesn't have any friends. He's taught by his stepfather Caleb to TRUST NO ONE. Caleb is always looking for signs. Torn pages from a book, dead birds, and pretty much anything at all all point to something coming. Something that Caleb doesn't tell his family anything about. Jory's family is his mom, Caleb, little brother Ansel, and his sister Kit. Kit just showed up one day in their pumpkin field, never saying a word other than her name. Despite her lack of speech, Jory and his mother love her very much. Jory thinks that she's 98% made of starlight. But Caleb doesn't trust "the Officials" and orders the family to keep Kit a secret. Jory and Kit are home-schooled, up until very recently. Now that he's in school, Jory sees just how unusual his life is. All of the other kids wear comfortable clothes, not cargo pants and combat boots. And he's the only one who doesn't have a computer. And who eats tons of pickles, not fresh food. And who is preparing for something, even though he doesn't know what that something is.
But the something gets closer and closer. Until Caleb starts to put his family on a rigorous digging schedule. They start digging 5 hours a day, in the middle of the night, and stockpiling their preserved foods. But still the family doesn't know what they're trying to escape from. There's a lot of mental illness/instability in the book, from Caleb's PTSD and doomsday attitude to Jory's agoraphobic and timid mother, and that helps create this confusing mood. But I felt that Caleb and Mom's characters were not super well developed, and the ending was really really abrupt and didn't feel realistic.
This picture book is written by and about Troy Andrews "Trombone Shorty," who grew up in the Treme (like the HBO show) neighborhood of New Orleans, anThis picture book is written by and about Troy Andrews "Trombone Shorty," who grew up in the Treme (like the HBO show) neighborhood of New Orleans, and taught himself to play trombone, eventually playing with Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, Green Day, U2, etc. It's a story of following your passion to success, and Bryan Collier's illustrations are some of his best yet. It felt loud and bright and real. Great pick for the illustrator awards this year.
2016 Caldecott Honor 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award ...more
The illustrations, which won the Caldecott this year, are also lovely. Personally, I like the way that Sophie Blackall illustrates animals more than people. The people always look a bit... pinkish. But the bear in the story is just adorable without being sickly sweet or twee.
12-year-old Sophie Brown has just moved to her deceased Great-Uncle's farm with her parents while they try to get their lives sorted out. Her father lost his job a while ago, and her mother is trying to make ends meet by freelance writing magazine articles. She doesn't know anyone out in the country, and she's the only brown (her father is white, and her mother is Mexican-American) person around, other than the African-American mailman, Gregory. Her Great-Uncle Jim's farm isn't much, either. The vineyard isn't bearing grapes quite yet and there aren't any animals. Then one day she finds a white hen who she names Henrietta, and she discovers that Henrietta is no ordinary chicken. And that there are people in her town who want Henrietta (and her other chickens, who begin showing up) for themself.
This was so lovely and easy to read because each chapter is quite short (since each chapter is actually a letter), and there are illustrations, lists, beginning poultry care lessons, etc. It dealt with so many real-world issues, like when your parents lose their job, making new friends when you move, being lonely, and when people assume things about you because of the color of your skin. It had just the right tone for the age range, I think. It didn't gloss things over but things were mostly sorted out at the end. The only thing I didn't like was that the "villain" of the story's intentions were really murky. Why did she want to steal the chickens in the first place? It's kind of unclear, and too easily resolved. This is just a teeny tiny issue though, and really, I'd recommend this to any kid.