Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi - OPTIONAL

Abawi, Atia A Land of Permanent Goodbyes, 272 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin Random House LLC), 2018. $18. Language: PG-13 (8, no Fs); Mature Content: PG-13 (war related deaths, peril, subject matter); Violence: R (scenes of beatings, beheadings, shootings.)

Tareq’s apartment is bombed at the beginning of the book and only he, his father and youngest sister survive. As a result, they make the difficult decision to flee Syria for Europe to escape war and have a future. The rest of the story follows Tareq and his family on their journey through ISIS-held territory into Turkey, where they stop to earn money, and finally to Greece. Tareq’s journey is made more difficult because of the pain of leaving his homeland and the memories of family members left behind. Tareq is forced to grow up quickly through these experiences, but never completely loses hope that what the future holds will make the struggle worthwhile.

I really wanted this book to be good because I think the story needs to be told. Tareq is a sympathetic character and I was rooting for him to make it to Germany and overcome all the difficult experiences he had. However, I don’t feel like this book does what it sets out to do very well. It feels a little cliched. Everything bad that can possibly happen does, and it feels as though the author is combining every sad refugee story into one. It sometimes feels emotionally exploitative and I feel callous to say that because I know these types of experiences are a reality.  Also, every now and then Destiny pops in to wax philosophical which just didn’t fit. It messed with the pacing and tone of the rest of the story. The author is herself the child of refugees and clearly has an emotional investment in telling this story. This book might work for younger students who don’t understand much about what’s happening in the world, but for an adult who watches the news, the writing felt overly expository in places, sort of like “Why ISIS is Bad, For Dummies.” In summary, so much potential, but poor execution.

MS, HS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Andrea R

Im Not Taking a Bath by Laura Gehl - ADVISABLE

Gehl, Laura Peep and Egg: I'm Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joyce Wan. PICTURE BOOK. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. $17. 9780374303273

Egg has been playing in the mud with the pigs and now Peep thinks he needs to take a bath. Egg is having none of it. Peep offers a myriad of encouraging ideas to get Egg to take a bath--with fun soap, in the pond, with a hose--to no avail. Finally she announces that she is going to go play in the pond with all sorts of fun toys. Egg doesn't want to miss out, so he joins in on the pond fun and gets his bath!

This is the first of the Peep and Egg series that I have read and I enjoyed it. The story is really simple with quick bursts of text, but it gets the job done. The illustrations are boldly colored and fun, and my children enjoyed this as a read aloud. I imagine this will be a hit for parents who are trying to deal with kids who say 'No' to absolutely everything!

Pre-K - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: TC

The Road to Ever After by Moira Young - OPTIONAL

Young, Moira The Road to Ever After, 213 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2016. $17. Content: Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG. 

Davy David is an orphan who lives in the depressing town of Brownvale.  He likes to draw pictures of angels in the dirt and leaves his drawings around town, but the town parson isn’t keen on Davy and wants him gone.  In an attempt to escape the cruelty and hardship of Brownvale, Davy accepts a job to chauffeur Miss Flint, the town spook, to her childhood home where she plans on dying.  The trip turns into an adventure Davy and Miss Flint will never forget.  

Davy David is a lovable and good-hearted kid that is easy to cheer for.  Miss Flint is fun in her eccentric ways and together they make an odd but endearing team.  This book has a mystical feel to it with a lot of references to angels and addresses the in-between of life and death.  The parson is dark and sinister and there is reference to a man’s head missing after a farming accident.  

EL, MS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

There's a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins - ESSENTIAL

Collins, Ross There’s a Bear on My Chair. BOARD BOOK Nosy Crow, 2018. $8. 9781536200140  

A mouse is discouraged to find a big white polar bear sitting in his chair.  Regardless of how creative the little mouse tries to be, the bear doesn’t seem to want to move.  The mouse finally gives up and decides he will leave.  Once the bear realizes that the mouse no longer cares he goes home.  But when the bear gets home, he sees the mouse sleeping in his bed.  

This book has great characters.  The illustrations are funny with the different facial expressions and body language of the animals.  It’s a fun read aloud because the end of every sentence rhymes with the word bear throughout the entire book.  With that rhyming pattern,  it accentuates the line when the bear goes home and sees a mouse in his house. 

PRE-K – ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Island Born by Junot Diaz –OPTIONAL

Diaz, Junot Island Born. PICTURE BOOK. Dial (penguin), 2018. $18. 9780735229860
Lola is given the assignment of drawing a picture of the country she was born in. The other students in her class all remember the country they were born in before coming the US. But Lola was just a baby when her family came from the Dominican Republic so she must discover the memories of people in her community. She learns such amazing things that she wonders why anyone would ever leave. Will she find out why? Filled with large bright and wonderful illustrations.
This is a great story for children who want to explore where their family came from, both the good and the bad memories. The ‘bad’ thing that led many people to move is only explained as a monster –and that the brave people fought against it and won. I could see student listeners being further confused about that –if they won, why did they still leave? Also I wish there had been some true facts in the back of the book to help the teacher who is doing the read-a-loud. This book is a bit long and wordy to make for a good book for a student to read on their own (unless they are too old to be that interested). The illustrations are just incredible.

EL(K-3) – OPTIONAL.  Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

Windows by Julia Denos, illustrated by E. B. Goodale - ADVISABLE

Denos, Julia Windows, illustrated by E. B. Goodale.  PICTURE BOOK.  Candlewick Press, 2017.  $16.  9780763690359

A young man goes on a walk as it’s getting dark and sees what people are doing through their windows.  Some are dancing, some are watching tv, or eating dinner.  But the best window is his own home, where is mom is waiting and watching for him to return. 

The story has a nostalgic feel as if the reader is also going on a familiar walk.  The illustrations are an intriguing combination of light and dark, and the beautiful colors of a sunset. 

Pre-K, EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

You’re All Kinds of Wonderful by Nancy Tillman–OPTIONAL

Tillman, Nancy You’re All Kinds of Wonderful. PICTURE BOOK. Feiwel (Macmillan), 2017. $18. 9781250113764

This is a book about being different and finding your own innate abilities, persistence, and being yourself. Large pages show the fantasy artwork of the author.

While I think most of Tillman’s books are meant for a parent to read to their child, this one could work for a school. Children want to find out what they are good at, and this book is very encouraging. Of course the illustrations are just incredible - I particularly love the cover.

EL(K-3)– OPTIONAL.  Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

Tough Chicks by Cece Meng - ADVISABLE

Meng, Cece Tough Chicks Illustrated by Melissa Suber BOARD BOOK Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. $13. Content: G. 

Penny, Polly and Molly are three little chicks who rule the roost.  They are independent and smart and they aren’t afraid to get things done, but not all the farm animals appreciate their pluck.  When Farmer Fred’s tractor veers out of control, Penny, Polly and Molly are able to save the day and the animals learn to appreciate their tough chicks.  

This is a girl power book using chicks as the characters.  I loved that their mother always believed in them and made them feel like it was okay to be independent and smart.  There are between 3-4 sentences per page spread and it’s a bigger sized board book.  

PRE-K – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Weaver by Qian Shi - ADVISABLE

Shi, Qian The Weaver PICTURE BOOK Anderson Press (Lerner), 2018. $18. Content: G. 978-1-541-51454-6

Stanley is a spider who has found the perfect spot to call home.  As he goes about making his web, he starts to add leaves, flowers and buttons to his collection on his web.  When a storm comes through and blows Stanley’s collection away, it makes him sad at first, but then he decides to re-do his web and he designs his web with the look of his flowers and treasures.  

The illustrations in this book are adorable.  Cute Stanley and his spidery legs give him a lot of character and the colors used make the pictures appealing.  There is one simple line of text per page spread, making it a fast and easy read.  The message that sometimes we lose the physical things we love, but we can always remember them in our hearts is subtle but well done.  

EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Bus 57 by Dashka Slater - OPTIONAL

Slater, Dashka The 57 Bus, 302 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. $18. Content: Language: R (18 swears; 12 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.  

On November 4, 2013, two people’s lives intersect on Bus 57 in Oakland, California.  Richard is a teen hanging out with his friends and goofing around on the bus after school, when he horrifically lights the skirt of a passenger on fire with his lighter.  Sasha is coming home from school on the bus as well.  Sasha falls asleep only to be awoken because Sasha is on fire.  Following this tragic event, the author back tracks to Sasha’s life as a gender fluid teen and their (the pronoun preferred by Sasha) upbringing.  Richard’s life before his time on the bus is also presented, a life in which he tries to overcome the challenges of growing up in a hard neighborhood.  After the event, the author then goes on to explain Sasha’s recovery and Richard’s public trial and sentencing.  

This true story was well done.  Not just a story about the crime, but a look at the criminal and the victim and their lives.  There is a comprehensive explanation of the different terms for gender and sex, criminal statistics based on age and race as well as an explanation for the criminal proceedings for hate crimes and teens being tried as adults.  But it’s more than a book of statistics and terms, it gave me a look at the people and families who are involved-their hopes, weaknesses and strengths.  

HS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal –ESSENTIAL

Neal, Kate Jane Words and Your Heart. PICTURE BOOK. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2017. $18. 9781250168726

This book is about your heart and how words can affect your heart. Words have the power to injure and words have the power to lift up –so use your words to bring joy to someone’s heart. It features simple black and white and red illustrations.

This is a powerful and simple message for young readers. We already had this book in my school library and it went out to multiple classrooms with a series of lessons about how to be kind. I think so often we tell students to be kind (honest, share, good friends, etc) but not teach them outright how to go about accomplishing that. This book is part of the answer. The illustrations are just perfect and it’s one of my favorite books this year.

EL(K-3) – ESSENTIAL.  Stephanie, Elementary School Librarian & Author

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith - OPTIONAL

Smith, Amber  The Lastto Let Go, 369 pages. Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster), 2018. $18. Content: Language: R (73 swears; 18 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Brooke is an intelligent friendless junior in high school, but she plans on getting into a better school and remaking herself.  When she arrives home from school one day, she is surprised to see the police and ambulance there, and immediately assumes that her father has finally taken his abuse too far and killed her mother.  What she finds however, is that her mother has killed her father.  Brooke’s life is about to be remade, but not in the way she was planning.  

This book dives into the aftermath of domestic abuse.  Brooke tries to hold her siblings together and wants to fight for her mother’s case in court, but she has to deal with her own insecurities and issues instead.  As far as content, this book has domestic abuse, she’s sees her father’s dead body, homosexual make-out sessions and underage drinking.  

HS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.