**spoiler alert** I worried that my book club kids wouldn't like this one, but they surprised me. Not only did they like it, but I think they really g**spoiler alert** I worried that my book club kids wouldn't like this one, but they surprised me. Not only did they like it, but I think they really got it. We talked about the boy's anger and loneliness, the similarities between Sounder and the father, and what it's like to love and lose a pet. I tried to explain what sharecropping was, but the kids were far more interested in the emotional aspects of the book than the historical context. The only negative comments were about the ending (dismay over Sounder's ultimate demise) and about the characters not having names (they would've preferred names).
Personally, this book was tough for me. So gut wrenching. The part where the boy is getting all scraped up crawling under his house looking for a dog he thinks is dead just killed me. The part where the jailer destroys the carefully prepared cake killed me. The part where the father comes home terribly wounded killed me. Nearly everything the mother said, with its undertone of numbness, killed me. ...more
Each chapter of this delightful little book is a sort of parable wherein Bunjitsu Bunny (AKA Isabel) learns a lesson or someone learns a lesson from hEach chapter of this delightful little book is a sort of parable wherein Bunjitsu Bunny (AKA Isabel) learns a lesson or someone learns a lesson from her. The messages here are very zen, but not entirely pacifist in nature. Bunjitsu students must never start fights, and they must do all they can to avoid fights, but when Isabel faces a bunch of bullying pirates she kicks their butts. Fun two-tone illustrations, a big font size, and wide margins make this a perfect choice for burgeoning chapter book readers, particularly those who study martial arts. The only way this could've been improved for me was if the stories came together in the end, but each chapter stands alone. ...more
First of all, the illustrations are SUPER John Klassen-y. The color palette is so similar to Sam and Dave Dig a Hole that these books could be siblingFirst of all, the illustrations are SUPER John Klassen-y. The color palette is so similar to Sam and Dave Dig a Hole that these books could be siblings.
This book has lots and lots of onomatopoeia birdsong, which I think would make it fun read-aloud if you're up for that kind of thing. It's relatively rare to find a good non-fiction picture book for story time, but this would work for preschoolers....more
We've probably all read heartwarming stories of adoption. This is not one of those stories. In fact, this story may make you think twice about your roWe've probably all read heartwarming stories of adoption. This is not one of those stories. In fact, this story may make you think twice about your romantic notions of adoption. Jaden is a 12-year-old boy adopted from Romania at age 8 by an American couple. Seeing life from his point of view may break your heart. He feels unable to love. He thinks constantly of the birth mother who abandoned him. He compulsively hurts himself, sets fires, steals, and lies. He is all too aware that he makes life very difficult for his parents.
Going into a story like this, I completely expected Jaden to have a big change of heart by the end of the story. We're supposed to believe that adoption is for the best, right? That it always has a happy ending? Well, spoiler alert, there's not a lot of consolation at the end of this story. Not that there's none, but it definitely left me with a sense of dread, even as I choked up over Jaden's final revelation.
It was hard for me to read this story objectively because I hope to adopt myself one day. It felt like a cautionary tale. I applaud Cynthia Kadohata for telling a hard story, and telling it so beautifully, as she always does. I'd recommend this for ages 11 and up, particularly if the reader is interested in stories of kids facing adversity and not necessarily triumphing, but surviving. It's bleak, but it's powerful and not without hope. ...more
One time a patron at the library asked me if we had any racist books in the children's section of the library (it was for a school assignment). SkippyOne time a patron at the library asked me if we had any racist books in the children's section of the library (it was for a school assignment). Skippyjon Jones was the first thing that popped into my head because he fantasizes about being a Mexican Chihuahua stereotype (see: http://www.tuvez.com/five-stereotypic...). So, right off the bat, you know I'm not a big fan of these books. But I took a few minutes and listened to the author read this newest installment on the accompanying CD and I have to say I was very nearly charmed by her narration. It made me think, "Is this really any worse than Fancy Nancy fantasizing about being a stereotypical fancy French lady?" But, yes, it is worse because the French are not a marginalized community often subjected to harmful generalizations in this country. I continue to reject Skippyjon Jones, while also admitting that I see the appeal. Before you dismiss these books as harmless, I think you have to ask yourself how you'd feel reading one aloud to children of Hispanic descent. Maybe you'd be fine with it. Maybe, like me, you'd feel pretty uncomfortable.
This is the kind of book I would've loved as a kid. Heck, it's the kind of book I love now. There are so many details to examine and it's such an intrThis is the kind of book I would've loved as a kid. Heck, it's the kind of book I love now. There are so many details to examine and it's such an intriguingly spare telling of a man's life and work. It makes me want to know more about Roget. It makes me want to go read the thesaurus! Once again, brilliantly done by the dynamic duo Bryant and Sweet. I was also a big fan of last year's A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin and here they've done and equally remarkable job. Bravo! Hooray! Encore! ...more
This is awfully dated (I didn't finish it), but some essays hold up. I particularly liked "Children's Reading and Adults' Values" by Rosenehim becauseThis is awfully dated (I didn't finish it), but some essays hold up. I particularly liked "Children's Reading and Adults' Values" by Rosenehim because the author emphatically asks adults to treat young readers with respect ("...'great' children's literature...is simply great literature").
"Thoughts Concerning Children's Books" by Penelope Mortimer is good, too. It's pretty funny and she's arguing that "a good book cannot possibly be written for a particular age." I don't 100% agree with that statement (I think she wasn't considering books for babies), but I agree with the underlying principle that quality is quality....more
The text is just about perfect, but much credit goes to illustrator LeUyen Pham, whose style here is full of energy and cute to boot. The illustrations play such a key role (belying the text, providing clues for young readers, explaining concepts visually), that I'm tempted to put this on my "graphic" shelf, even though this would rightly be called "heavily illustrated" and not a "graphic novel." But who cares about labels? Certainly not The Princess in Black! ...more
This book has an amazing opening chapter. So gripping and intense. But ultimately I felt the book was too long and I got really tired of Barnhill italThis book has an amazing opening chapter. So gripping and intense. But ultimately I felt the book was too long and I got really tired of Barnhill italicizing individual words to show emphasis. If something matters, we should be able to tell it matters without you having to say it matters. If a writer does this sparingly, it's fine, but I think Barnhill overdid it, like it was a little bit of a crutch.
I think this will be a popular book among middle-grade readers who love dog stories and heart-wrenchers. Rose is a memorable narrator who is easy to rI think this will be a popular book among middle-grade readers who love dog stories and heart-wrenchers. Rose is a memorable narrator who is easy to root for, even while her obsession with homonyms is potentially tiresome for readers (as it is for the people around her in the world of the book). I've criticized similar books for being too bummer-y and this one comes pretty close to my personal limit for how many bummers I can take in one story. However, I think Rose's self-referential narrative style (she'll say stuff like, "I'll talk about that more in the next chapter") adds a distinct flavor that makes this more readable. It's like Rose is trying to help you get through her story--like she knows she's a little annoying and her situation is depressing but she wants to encourage you to keep reading. The ending was somewhat abrupt and convenient (view spoiler)[Rose's borderline abusive father up and decides in the middle of the night to leave Rose in the care of her kind and understanding uncle. It makes sense and it doesn't--a really interesting point for young readers to mull over (hide spoiler)], but also pretty satisfying. And, I have to say, I felt a strong urge to hug my own dog tight after reading this book. ...more
Having a dad with MS is serious but Maggie's story is full of humor. Her silly and self-assured voice will entertain and impress kid readers. Things IHaving a dad with MS is serious but Maggie's story is full of humor. Her silly and self-assured voice will entertain and impress kid readers. Things I loved about this book:
1. Footnotes! From Bartimaeus to David Foster Wallace, I'm a big fan of the quippy footnote.
2. There are no bad guys. Everyone in this story is a decent person, which is rare. There are no villains, except MS and kind of Maggie's sister Tiffany (who's really not so bad). No one needs to be redeemed or saved. Everyone just grows and changes a little over the course of a year, which is realistic and, in this case, not at all boring. Also, here's a book for children that stars a child with two loving, living parents. A rare breed nowadays.
3. Speaking of parents, Maggie's mom is a wonderful character. Though everyone will be talking about Maggie's dad as the parent facing a debilitating disease with grace and dignity, Maggie's mom was the one who made me tear up. She reminded me of my own mom and all moms who do more for their families than seems humanly possible. I love how hard she worked and how appreciated she was by her family.
4. Maggie's voice! Overly confident, super naive, always positive or striving to be positive without being tiresome. Here's a kid I'd like to know. She loves food, school, rules and her parents. She almost never doubts herself, except when it comes to gym class.
This loving portrait of a strong working class family in the 80s was a great read. Though it tackles a sad and difficult issue, it never veers into melodrama. It's a little light on plot, but its characters and style shine. Recommended for boys and girls 9-12. ...more