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 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
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
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
I love baseball and this book is a testament to the limitless metaphorical value of baseball. So, of course, I loved it. The thing about this book isI love baseball and this book is a testament to the limitless metaphorical value of baseball. So, of course, I loved it. The thing about this book is that the themes and plot points are all well-tread territory (sibling death, love of sports, characters who aren't what they seem to be) but this book never feels trite. I shed genuine tears at the end and then started to get really excited for spring. ...more
As the oldest of three sisters, can I just say that Williams-Garcia gets it? Sisters love and loathe each other with such ferocity, especially duringAs the oldest of three sisters, can I just say that Williams-Garcia gets it? Sisters love and loathe each other with such ferocity, especially during adolescence. Surely do. ...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