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Mini Mentors

14 Jun

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Either way, these two picture books are sure to touch your heart.

In Elisha Cooper’s Big Cat, Little Cat an older cat mentors another.

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Goodreads Summary:There was a cat
who lived alone.
Until the day
a new cat came . . .

And so a story of friendship begins, following two cats through their days, months, and years until one day, the older cat has to go. And he doesn’t come back.

This is a poignant story, told in measured text and bold black-and-white illustrations about life and the act of moving on.

I really like the simple black and white illustrations. These , plus the simple text, give lots of room for bed time discussions.

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The second book, I Got a New Friend,  is by local author/illustrator Karl Newsom Edwards

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Goodreads Summary: When a little girl gets a new puppy, they have a lot to learn about each other. The new friends can be shy, messy, and sometimes get into trouble. They get lost, but they always get found. Their friendship may be a lot of work–but at the end of the day, they love each other!

Young readers will probably assume the little girl is the narrator, but they are in for a surprise at the end.

This is a great book for anyone who is shy or afraid of tackling new experiences or situations.

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And the expressions on the faces of this lovely pair touched my heart.

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I was that kid. I was very shy around strangers and in new situations. I think that is why I love this book so much. Like me, they learn confidence as their trust for each other blossoms. And it is a beautiful thing.

 

A place for everyone

11 May

I was never the coolest kid. Maybe that’s why I like the quirky kids in class. Maybe they are just really interesting. Like the kids in Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe.

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Publisher’s Summary: In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Sometimes four can do what one cannot. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. The acclaimed author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls writes with an authentic, humorous, and irresistible tween voice that will appeal to fans of Thanhha Lai and Rita Williams-Garcia.

I like the voices of these kids – they ring true. You can tell when an author really gets how kids think, and Erin Entrada Kelly really gets it. This is a lovely story of friendship that celebrates the differences in all of us.

Second Looks

20 Feb

Two times in my life I have abandoned books, only to return to them on the advice of my twin  sister, and been thrilled to have done so.

The first time was in 1994 and the book was Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

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The opening chapter about the bean in the ear threw me off the scent of a great book.

The second happened just this week. I had started, then abandoned David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite because it opens in a police station with talk of a gruesome murder.

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That’s not my usual cup of tea, so I set it aside. Then, my sister asked if I had read it. I told her why I had abandoned it and she told me I should give it another try. So I did. You should give it a try, too.

Publisher’s Summary: Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.

Can I just say, too, that this is one of the best publisher’s summaries I’ve seen in a ling time.

I think, because I work with youth, I have heard enough stories of crappy lives kids have, that little shocks me. The crappy lives of the kids in David Arnold’s book aren’t especially crappy, but the story he has created is funny, heart-wrenching and sweet all at the same time. It doesn’t solve all their problems, but it gets them to a better place. We had a rainy weekend and I started and finished this book on Saturday,that is how engrossed I was in the stories of the lives of the Kids of Appetite.

AS goes MG

10 Feb

I have made no secret of the fact that I love A. S. King. I will read (and probably buy) anything she writes. Unfortunately, I cannot put her books in my 6th grade classroom library. Until now.

Yes, Amy Sarig King has written a novel for middle grade readers!!!!

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Like her books for older readers, there is a fantasy element. yes,let’s call it that. The eponymous Marvin Gardens is a plastic eating creature that resembles a cross between a dog and a pig…with amphibian-like skin.

I book talked it yesterday, reading aloud the part about Marvin’s first poop – sixth graders still love that sort of thing – and I had them hooked. I told them about Obe’s problems with his friends, with Marvin, and with his neighborhood; problems they can all relate to. I’m hoping this one won’t spend much time on my shelves.

Publisher’s Summary: Obe Devlin has problems. His family’s farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn’t like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks.

One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags… No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there’s never been a creature like this before. The animal — Marvin Gardens — soon becomes Obe’s best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.

In her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world.

The difficult second book

17 Oct

So often, the second book in a series disappoints. It fails to live up to the expectations of the first. Or, maybe it fails to cover new ground, while maintaining the energy and character of the first. Kevin Sands has managed to do all three in The Mark of the Plague,  sequel to The Blackthorn Key.

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Publisher’s Summary: Christopher Rowe is back and there are more puzzles, riddles, and secrets to uncover in this follow-up to the Indie Next pick The Blackthorn Key, which was called a “spectacular debut” by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review.

The Black Death has returned to London, spreading disease and fear through town. A mysterious prophet predicts the city’s ultimate doom—until an unknown apothecary arrives with a cure that actually works. Christopher’s Blackthorn shop is chosen to prepare the remedy. But when an assassin threatens the apothecary’s life, Christopher and his faithful friend Tom are back to hunting down the truth, risking their lives to untangle the heart of a dark conspiracy.

And as the sickness strikes close to home, the stakes are higher than ever before…

I really liked this first book and, though prepared to be disappointed, I was entranced by the second. There are several reasons why I liked them both.

First, they are set in Restoration London. That’s the period marked by the return of Charles II as king (1660–85) following the period of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth.This is a setting rarely explored in children’s & YA lit, so more power to Sands for choosing an interesting time and place.

Second, they both have mysteries involving codes and ciphers. I had a period growing up when I was obsessed with codes and ciphers and checked out the few books our small library had multiple times. I know that there are many middle grade readers out there who feel the same, decades after my youth.

Third, Christopher is an apothecary’s apprentice. The whole apothecary thing is interesting. In fact, several other book series for this age group are about apothecaries:

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Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park and the Apothecary  series by Maile Meloy.

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Finally, I love the fact that Christopher is an apprentice. Although we have lots of stories of cruel masters, Christopher found an excellent one in Benedict Blackthorn.

Like The Blackthorn Key,  the problem is wrapped up in  The Mark of the Plague. Both books could be read as stand alones. I don’t know if there is a third book in the works, but, based on these two, I would read whatever Kevin Sands publishes next.

Riding out the storm with a good book

16 Oct

Oregon was under a severe weather watch for most of the weekend. What’s a reader & knitter to do but curl up with a good book and work on her knitting.

The good book I curled up with was Richard Peck’s The Best Man.

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Publisher’s Summary: Newbery Medalist Richard Peck tells a story of small-town life, gay marriage, and everyday heroes in this novel for fans of Gary Schmidt and Jack Gantos

As I was reading I got thinking about the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.

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The Best Man  would more appropriately be subtitled Two Weddings and a Funeral. The movie has an all English cast, with one American. The Best Man has all American characters and one Englishman.

It was a delightful read. I frequently have to suspend my disbelief when it comes to portrayals of school, teachers and principals in kid lit, and this book was no exception. But I liked the book enough to get past the parts I knew to be unrealistic.

 

 

Perilous Portals

9 Oct

The idea of time travel has spawned all sorts of books for children and adults. One of the latest of  is Once Was a Time by Leila Sales.

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Author’s Summary:In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley and her best friend Kitty McLaughlin are inseparable. They read their favorite books, they play imaginary games, and they promise to stick together, no matter what the future may bring.

But that future is more uncertain than they could imagine, as Charlotte’s scientist father has unearthed a staggering truth: time travel is real. And when this discovery attracts the attention of cruel forces, throwing the two girls into peril, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety, between remaining with her friend or following a portal to another time and place. In a split second, Charlotte’s life changes forever. Alone in an unfamiliar place, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, she must find her way back to her friend.

Beautifully rendered and utterly absorbing, Once Was a Time is an imaginative and timeless tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship, perfect for readers ages 9 and up.

When Charlotte, Lottie, goes trough the portal, she awakes in a small ten in Wisconsin. It is 2013. Confused at first, she quickly adapts, but always, in her heart, she is looking for a way back. Slowly but surely she gathers information about the people she left behind, even as she creates a new life for herself. The sudden discovery of a clue sends her on a temporal journey where she can finally make sense of what hap end so many years ago.

This short book is a quick read and excellent book for someone who is curious about the emotional impact of time travel, but not that interested in the science of it.

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