This went over very well with small groups of K-3rd graders. I held the endpapers up over my forehead to give myself the girl's bright red, curly hairThis went over very well with small groups of K-3rd graders. I held the endpapers up over my forehead to give myself the girl's bright red, curly hair and the bear's ears! It was a good way to start and finish the read aloud.
The message of this book is basically that you should forgive someone if they didn't mean to upset you. There's a difference between doing something on purpose and by accident. The fun of this story, though, is really digging into the girl's the bear's anger at each other. I had the kids yell "HORRIBLE BEAR!" along with the girl and some of them got really (maybe too much) into it. You might pair this with When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really, Really Angry to talk about ways to calm down and self-regulate.
Ame Dyckman always does a good job of using minimal text and letting the pictures tell a good chunk of the story. I love her book Boy + Bot! ...more
I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's hard for me to even write a review of this book I loved it so much. So I guess I will just list things I loved about it.
-I lovI LOVE THIS BOOK. It's hard for me to even write a review of this book I loved it so much. So I guess I will just list things I loved about it.
-I loved Archer's voice.
-I loved the plot structure, bookended by weddings, and told as if Archer is talking to the reader, guiding the reader through his 1st grade year to his 6th grade year.
-I loved Archer's family: his cook/mechanic dad, his psychologist mom, his architect grandpa, his Uncle Paul. Even his irritating sister Holly and his witchy grandma.
-I loved that the book is realistic and not. Events are believable, but things like Lynette's overly mature outlook and the character of Little Lord Hilary are larger than life. See also: how often Archer's school makes headlines and Ms. Roebuck's computer incompetence. Stylistically, this enhances the feeling that Archer is trying to tell the reader a good story and perhaps fudging a bit to make it better, which accounts for things not being entirely believable.
-I love, love, loved Mr. McLeod (I had to Google how to pronounce that name - it's "McCloud"). I've complained in the past about too many children's books relying on the magic teacher trope - you know, like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. But Mr. McLeod, in my opinion, isn't a magic teacher stereotype. Sure, he's young and exciting, but there's way more to him than just being a great teacher.
-I love how funny and joyful this book is. Especially in 2016, which I dubbed the Year of Sad after reading offerings by some of kidlit's most prominent authors (see my review of Maybe a Fox).
I sincerely hope this will be one of our Mock Newbery books this year. Last year we got a little bit of resistance with The Thing About Jellyfish because there was a relatively minor gay character. Being that most of our Mock Newbery participants are in 5th grade and this book is pretty squarely about 5th/6th graders, I feel confident we can put it on the ballot if the rest of the committee agrees that it's really high quality literature for kids.
And, you know, if it won the real Newbery, I wouldn't be upset. ...more
Really crazy stunts in this one. I often thought of Jack Gantos' The Trouble in Me while I was reading it because that one's full of unbelievably dangReally crazy stunts in this one. I often thought of Jack Gantos' The Trouble in Me while I was reading it because that one's full of unbelievably dangerous shenanigans, too.
We read this for my children's book club and the kids loved just rehashing all the insanity. We talked about why people do crazy stuff. ...more
I've had lots of success booktalking this one at schools. The kids are super interested to find out why Perry lives in a prison, and even more why heI've had lots of success booktalking this one at schools. The kids are super interested to find out why Perry lives in a prison, and even more why he LIKES it and is upset when he moves into a normal house.
My favorite part of this book was the description of the mindset one develops in prison. Big Ed's rules and tips for serving time are also applicable to life on the outside and I think a big part of what makes Perry such a good person.
Speaking of Perry being a good person, my big criticism of this book is that Perry and Jessica are a little too perfect to feel real. On top of that, the whole setup is idealized in a way that might make kids who have incarcerated loved ones in real life roll their eyes. The warden is a humanitarian with a heart of gold. There are no mean guards. There are some prisoners that Perry keeps his distance from, but there's no drama around that. A little too good to feel true. But this is a children's book and I certainly don't think the author meant to convey the experience of an average child with an incarcerated parent. I mean, come on. Perry lives in the prison until he's 12 and he's basically a perfect human child. This might as well be named Pollyanna Prison.
I think this is a Newbery contender because of the interesting plot, the exploration of themes around being incarcerated, and the depiction of the villain Mr. Thomas Van Leer. I'm always cheering authors who give us villains with real character besides being evil. Van Leer is a great example of someone who's a bad guy *because* he's well meaning and can't see past the end of his own nose. Very realistic. ...more
I love a lot of things about this book. The big thing is how real and true it is -- the photographs and the simple text give it such wide appeal. I doI love a lot of things about this book. The big thing is how real and true it is -- the photographs and the simple text give it such wide appeal. I don't know what percentage of people are descendants of immigrants who moved to another country for a better life, but I'd guess it's high, especially in the United States. So for most people, something in this book will ring true. It's powerful and important to share with young people.
I also like that this book is positive without being too RAH RAH U.S.A. WE'RE #1! The United States is not a perfect land of opportunity and plenty (the photographs do a good job of telling that part of the story) but it's a relatively prosperous and peaceful place to grow up. This book is much more about being grateful to your parents and grandparents than being grateful to America. And that's how it should be. ...more
I really loved this book. It's gorgeously written, full of wisdom, and hard to put down. The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced it's a children's boI really loved this book. It's gorgeously written, full of wisdom, and hard to put down. The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced it's a children's book. Someone told me the author originally imagined it being marketed to adults but she was persuaded to turn it into a middle grade novel. Even if that's not true, it seems true. Like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, this book is complex enough for any adult, but happens to follow the experiences of a young person. Does that in itself make it a YA or middle grade book? As I was reading I noted many places where the meaning was so subtle, I had to re-read it and then put the book down for a minute to ponder. It was also so heart-wrenching at times, so real, that tears sprang to my eyes. I'm not saying this book is "inappropriate" for children. I'm saying most children are probably not mature enough to really sink their teeth into it. The voice of the narration, is that of an older Annabelle looking back on the year before she turned 12. It's not fully an 11-year-old's voice, though the narration accounts for what she perceived at the time, versus what she understands in retrospect.
Literature is literature, no matter who it's marketed to, but I feel like this will present a challenge to award committees. This is, without a doubt, one of the finest books I've ever read. But I can't imagine recommending it to many children. Teens, yes. Adults, definitely. It is my sincere hope that it finds a wide readership despite being sold as middle grade fiction. It explores prejudice against people who are perceived as "odd" and the difficult balance between doing what is right and what is expected. Annabelle's mother has some wonderfully powerful lines - the one about numbness and hurt comes to mind. Toby is a character that reminds me (and a lot of readers) of Boo Radley, but he also made me thing of The Things They Carried, especially because he carries those heavy guns on his back. Annabelle as a narrator reminded me a little of Briony in Atonement because of her perspicacity and also her unusual position of power as a child in an adult world. Betty, though a villain, still inspires traces of sympathy. But, I have to admit, I thought mostly of Macaulay Culkin's character in the movie The Good Son (which I just googled and learned was written by Ian McEwan! Who knew?)
If you've made it this far and haven't read the book, I hope you do. ...more
One thing I love about not being on the Newbery committee anymore is that I can just quit a book if I'm not feeling it. Such is the case with this oneOne thing I love about not being on the Newbery committee anymore is that I can just quit a book if I'm not feeling it. Such is the case with this one. There is a version of me who might love this book. It has lots of stuff going on that I generally love. Magical realism. Grandparents. Summer. Diversity. A great cover.
But I can't get over how Carol doesn't sound at all like a 12-year-old. Voice in first-person narration is very important to me. If a writer wants to craft their prose in a sophisticated way, it's just not going to work for me as first-person narration by a child. It sounds too much like the adult writer. For example:
"The desert seems alive and breathing, a huge, sandy monster that sucks moisture from bones and blows the dry, dry air up, where it rolls and churns and boils. Another bee buzzes around my shoulder and lands on my earlobe. 'Go away!' I wiggle my body and swat at the bee. The dog lifts her head and sniffs in my direction. Finally the bee carries itself away, until its lace-thin wings are camouflaged against the beginnings of a sunset." (page 11)
That is beautiful writing. But does it sounds like the voice of a 12-year-old? No.
Federle kills it again with the audiobook. So likable and funny and emotional. Lots of swearing and teenage boy stuff in this, but I wasn't put off byFederle kills it again with the audiobook. So likable and funny and emotional. Lots of swearing and teenage boy stuff in this, but I wasn't put off by it. It all came across as realistic, if a little too witty to be true. Fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and David Levithan look no further. This is for you. And if you liked Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda YOU MUST READ [OR LISTEN TO] THIS.
I will say that I've griped all year (so far) about the books I'm reading being too depressing. This one is sad as one of the main plot points is the tragic death of a young person. But somehow it was still enjoyable. Not saccharine, not maudlin. The story takes place six months after the tragedy, so it's not completely raw. The main characters have gone through the first stages and grief offscreen and are beginning to come to terms with life again.
Movie buffs will appreciate all the classic film references and the main character's habit of seeing life through the lens of a screenplay. I'm in my 30s, but I remember well being a teenager and wishing my life could be more like a movie (or a book or a TV show or a play - I wasn't limited by format). It really rang true.
At the end of the audiobook, Federle offers some behind-the-scenes stuff: his inspiration for writing the book, how he's similar to his main character Quinn, and the authors who've influenced him. He mentions the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success as helping him to become a writer after being a dancer on Broadway. Thank you to the author of that book because Federle's work is so amazing for young readers! I hope he's working on a new one right now. ...more
I think I'm with Leonard on this one. His review is definitely worth a read.
I didn't finish this because it felt awfully breezy for the violent subjeI think I'm with Leonard on this one. His review is definitely worth a read.
I didn't finish this because it felt awfully breezy for the violent subject matter. Do I sound like I'm against nonfiction being fun? I'm really not. I like fun! But a light tone when talking about atrocity is more appropriate for adults who, presumably, get how serious it truly is, even when the violence took place hundreds of years ago. Booklist called this book "pure excitement" and I'm just SMH that senseless violence is so thrilling to so many.
Ever since I had a baby I can't stomach violence like I used to. I can't watch Game of Thrones anymore. I even have trouble watching the NFL because I feel bad for the mothers of the players getting their brains smashed for entertainment. I'm not the right reader for this book right now. ...more
Set during WWII when many children were transplanted from London to the countryside to escape the Blitz (this seems to be a popular setting, no?). TheSet during WWII when many children were transplanted from London to the countryside to escape the Blitz (this seems to be a popular setting, no?). There are some very familiar elements here (e.g. the villain is a creepy witch who preys on children) but it's got some unexpected twists. It's a good page-turner, but thematically it felt a bit shallow to me. Katherine isn't a super interesting hero and indeed most of the characters felt a bit flat. Except, I will say, I always appreciate a villain with a good backstory, and that was definitely happening.
Another sad one, folks. There has to be a novel published in 2016 that isn't about death and/or other bummers, right? I did really (I mean really, reaAnother sad one, folks. There has to be a novel published in 2016 that isn't about death and/or other bummers, right? I did really (I mean really, really) like this one. But I'm still and ever weary of this theme.
Set in the late 19th century, this is historical fiction at its most exciting. Our 12-year-old hero Joseph is tragically orphaned and alone in rural Washington State. He goes on a quest with one goal: to get his horse, Sarah, back. She's all he has left in the world. Along the way, Joseph faces danger and forges a bond with another lost boy. In some ways this is very different from Gemeinhart's first book (The Honest Truth) but both books have a strong emotional core and riveting (and, if I'm putting on my critic hat, kinda over-the-top) plots.
I grew very attached to Ah-Kee, the Chinese boy who, like Joseph, is all alone in the world. It says something about an author's abilities when they can create a fully realized character with no dialogue. Ah-Kee doesn't speak English and the story is told from Joseph's POV, so the reader doesn't know exactly what Ah-Kee is saying. (Just now, though, I'm realizing that Gemeinhart also does this with his animal characters. No dialogue, but lovable and well-drawn through action and description.) This book explores communication without a common language in a way that's both funny and meaningful. ...more
A gripping, horrifying depiction of war. It's hard to talk about what makes this book special without spoiling it. Suffice it to say, if you can handlA gripping, horrifying depiction of war. It's hard to talk about what makes this book special without spoiling it. Suffice it to say, if you can handle gruesome details of battlefields, injuries, deprivation, and atrocity, this book is a rewarding read. So much historical detail to take in.
The plot structure is interesting - the story abruptly changes partway through. I like it when a book surprises me and this one definitely did.
I'd probably suggest this for ages 11 and up. It really depends on how sensitive the reader is. ...more