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
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
That was fun! I'd much rather list books I enjoyed last year than dwell on how depressed I am by this year's books. Honestly, Maybe a Fox isn't a bad book. Raymie and Pax aren't bad books either. But they're all so depressing. (Though not one of them actually made me cry, and I'm a crier.)
So here we go. This is a book about grieving. There are not one, not two, not three, but four deaths in this story. ((view spoiler)[I'm counting Sylvie's and Senna's deaths separately. I can't believe that poor girl had to die twice. (hide spoiler)])
There's a unique kind of spiritualism running through this book. You can call it mythic. You can call is animism. You can call it fantasy. It's hard to pin down and I suppose that's what makes it interesting. Jules and Sylvie often like to guess at what happens when you die. Maybe you turn into a star. Maybe you disappear. Maybe you fly to another planet. I don't think they ever say, "Maybe you go to heaven," or "Maybe you turn into a ghost," like one would expect. The clue to what actually happens in this book is right there in the title.
This is undoubtedly beautifully written, especially if you're into Appelt's signature style of simple, poetic repetitive phrasing. It did leave some loose ends dangling ((view spoiler)[they never find Sylvie's body, and the Zeke/catamount story fades away without resolution (hide spoiler)]) but the main plot ties up in a mostly satisfying way. I think this will be appealing to fans of The Underneath but I doubt I'll be recommending it unless a kid comes into the library and says, "Do you have any good books for morbid animal lovers?"
I listened to the audiobook, which I thought was very well done as read by Allison McGhee. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Love, love, love this seafaring adventure with so much historical detail and a moving unlikely friendship. Definitely recommended for fans of CharlottLove, love, love this seafaring adventure with so much historical detail and a moving unlikely friendship. Definitely recommended for fans of Charlotte Doyle and Jacky Faber. ...more
Jeez, here I go again, not really digging another big release of 2016 by an author I love (see my review of Raymie Nightingale). What is up? I don't kJeez, here I go again, not really digging another big release of 2016 by an author I love (see my review of Raymie Nightingale). What is up? I don't know. Maybe I'm just not the right reader for such major bummer, sadsadsadness right now.
My biggest issue with this book is that the setting is completely ambiguous and I struggled with it throughout the book. When and where does it take place? In what world is there a little league game taking place a few miles from a war zone?
It's also become a really tired cliche for a sad kid to randomly meet a magical friend who fixes them (and, of course, the kid fixes the friend, too). I could go a good ten years without reading another story where that is a major plot line. Peter and Vola are both characters with a lot of backstory, but I still didn't feel like they had real depth. They both came off as flat portrayals of sadness and guilt personified.
I don't mean to vent about this book, because it did have some good parts (e.g. Pax's POV), but as I sit to write this review I'm just frustrated that both Pennypacker and DiCamillo have disappointed me so far this year. Ladies, I love you, but you're bringing me down. ...more
I know this is going to be a minority opinion, but I found this a little boring. My expectations were really high, so I was surprised it took me so loI know this is going to be a minority opinion, but I found this a little boring. My expectations were really high, so I was surprised it took me so long to read. I didn't feel a lot of motivation to go back to it when I put it down. Maybe because there wasn't much of a plot and the whole thing felt pretty bleak. I felt really bad for Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly. Each girl is deeply troubled by her family situation and each is dealing with it in her own way (Raymie trying to win the pageant to get her father's attention, Beverly wanting to sabotage the pageant to work through her anger, and Louisisana fixating on getting her cat Archie back).
I'll also say the whole thing felt a little weird to me, which is to say at the end of the book a lot of motifs still felt random. So much toe flexing. So much soul shrinking and growing. So much quirkiness from the Elefantes. And there were so many older ladies with some sort of significance - Ida Nee, Mrs. Sylvester, Mrs. Borkowski, Ruthie, Florence Nightingale, Isabelle, Alice Nebbley, Clara Wingtip. They all represent something to Raymie, but it was a bit of jumble. Especially in a book for young readers. My book club kids often express frustration when they can't keep all the characters straight and that's how I felt reading this book.
And, this is a finicky thing, but a student would not refer to her school librarian by their first name. Edward Option was confused in my head with Edgar the lifesaving dummy. It's not a big deal, but this is just another way the book felt like a jumble to me.
I keep saying the word jumble. I guess that's how I feel about this book. I suppose I will need to read it again before I really make my mind up about it. I always admire DiCamillo's craftsmanship as a writer. I just didn't hook into this story and these characters. ...more
This is on the longer, more challenging end of the beginning reader spectrum. It's a pretty standard story of two nice kids doing something creative.This is on the longer, more challenging end of the beginning reader spectrum. It's a pretty standard story of two nice kids doing something creative. The book is notable because the brother and sister protagonists don't look alike (one blond and white, one brunette and brown) but it's not addressed at all in the text of the book. So I'd say this goes towards normalizing families that aren't all the same race, and that's pretty cool. ...more
I really liked this, even though I'm not a big Sleater-Kinney fan. Carrie Brownstein's writing was surprisingly florid at times, in ways both good andI really liked this, even though I'm not a big Sleater-Kinney fan. Carrie Brownstein's writing was surprisingly florid at times, in ways both good and bad. Her descriptions of music were really excellent. Overall I loved the balance between topics - Brownstein's childhood, the indie music scene in Olympia in the 90s, her experience with sexism, her own experience as a music fan, the journey of her band, what it's like to be on tour, un-romanticizing indie rock stardom, and the comedown after the band broke up. There's a lot of intellectual musing about identity and fandom. It's even funny here and there. The only thing I really wanted and didn't get was Brownstein's story of her relationship with Fred Armisen. He told Alec Baldwin on Here's the Thing she's his soul mate but their relationship isn't romantic. Fascinating, right? ...more
I thought this was going to be a book about how silly weddings are. But it's actually a book about love without labels. Worm and Worm are each both brI thought this was going to be a book about how silly weddings are. But it's actually a book about love without labels. Worm and Worm are each both bride and groom. The final illustration is just amazing and beautiful. Dest loves Worm Loves Worm book. ...more
Manami loses almost everything when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and her family is sent to an internment camp in the dessert, far from their lush BainbridManami loses almost everything when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and her family is sent to an internment camp in the dessert, far from their lush Bainbridge Island home. The hardest thing to lose is her little dog - the loss hits Manami so hard she stops speaking.
Told in very spare language, this is a bittersweet tale about despair and regaining strength. Manami is bolstered by drawing, gardening, a loyal friend, her tight family, and a sweet teacher. An author's note addresses the historical facts of Japanese internment. ...more
This book is surprisingly difficult to read - meandering, full of jargon, and often swinging back and forth and back and forth on an issue ("This is aThis book is surprisingly difficult to read - meandering, full of jargon, and often swinging back and forth and back and forth on an issue ("This is a serious problem. But is it really a problem? Yes, and this is why it's a problem. But here's how it's not really a problem. Actually, I'll address why this is both problematic and not problematic in Chapter 4" - not an actual quote, just me exaggerating her style).
Still, there are some great points here and I'll quote them so you don't have to go hunting for them:
"If all this sounds confusing, it's because it is confusing. We have neither a coherent system nor a standard language to describe the early learning experiences of children..." (xxii)
"...in a high-quality [preschool] program, adults are building relationships with children and paying a lot of attention to children's thinking processes and, by extension, their communication. They attend carefully to children's language and find ways to make them think out loud." (13)
"The average daycare worker lives on the edge of poverty... In some parts of the country...the care of dead people in funeral homes is more tightly regulated than the oversight of living children in early education and care settings." (15)
"Any educator will tell you that a parent is a child's first and best teacher. And it's really true." (19)
The first half of this book was a slog for me. A lot of setup as our main character, Fitz, recounts his childhood from age 6 to 12 in painstaking (andThe first half of this book was a slog for me. A lot of setup as our main character, Fitz, recounts his childhood from age 6 to 12 in painstaking (and laughably unrealistic) detail. I was ready to abandon this until the plot finally started going somewhere and then I was hooked. I wouldn't say all the setup in the first half is necessary, but you are rewarded for making it through with thrilling twists in the plot. A few revelations I totally saw coming, others were just plain shocking to me ((view spoiler)[I was flabbergasted when the wine Fitz and Rurisk drank was poisoned and Rurisk died. I had to read it again to make sure I read it right. (hide spoiler)]). There really aren't a lot of lovable characters (hence the GoT comparisons) but most are sufficiently three-dimensional. What really stood out to me in this book was the (eventual) plot, the world building, and the political machinations.
Sometimes books start great and then lose steam. This is the opposite and it left me wanting to give it four stars, even though on balance I think it should be three.
My other criticism is that it seemed like the author was trying to create a world with some gender equality (e.g. the firstborn inherits whether male or female) but I think overall she failed. Molly, Patience, Jonqui, Kettricken, and various queens of the past have interesting parts to play in the story, but I think this fails the Bechdel Test. And I was annoyed that every duchy was ruled by a duke. Out of six, you'd think at least one would have a duchess worth a mention.
Oh and, Esperanza, if you're reading this review, take note: YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ THIS BOOK. DOGS ARE HARMED. REPEAT: DOGS ARE HARMED. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Loved it. Reminded me of Last Stop on Market Street in the best ways. It blows my mind how different his illustration style is to his wife Erin Stead'Loved it. Reminded me of Last Stop on Market Street in the best ways. It blows my mind how different his illustration style is to his wife Erin Stead's, but at the same time so similar. Especially the dog and the turtle.
I really loved the page turn to all the polaroids of blue skies. And I wonder if the blue horse is a tribute to Eric Carle.
I'm excited to share this with 6- to 10-year-olds. They're often asked to write stories in school and will, I think, be able to relate to the author's dilemma. It's all about how you look at the world. ...more