What’s in a Word?

What a great group of books I’ve reviewed in the past few days. I asked for an eclectic mix, with some picture books, some novels, MG and YA, and some non-fiction. 

Here are three that especially grabbed my heart. Two may end up staying in my library, but at the very least will be given to children I’m extra fond of.

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The first is not just well written and engaging, but it also has lots of Bengali mythology in it. I’m always a sucker for myths.  And, on the top of that, I found very few grammatical errors! Be still my heart. I plan to read the first book in the series, and look forward to reading the third book when it comes out.

Game of Stars

Sayantani DasGupta

This delightful story is the second in a series entitled “Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond.” Full of Bengali, India, mythology, blended with fantasy about a different universe, the half snake and half human main character, Kiranmala, must prevent her bio dad from killing her friend and taking over the multiverse. Her bio dad, she discovers in the first book, is the monster snake king in the Kingdom Beyond and he plans to kill Kiran along with lots of other people. The descriptions of the various characters are wonderfully evocative, and the characters themselves are complex. For instance, one grandmotherly figure is a monster with a soft side. Kiran has to do all kinds of superhero actions to save the day and gets help from friends in the most unlikely places. The story is good saga tale with true depictions of diversity being good and the message that being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Add in flying horses, and this book gets even better. Teacher will find a lot to use in this series to open lines of discussion on diversity, the messages in mythology, understanding different cultures, even exploring different foods. Enjoy the read and go back to read the first of the series, The Serpent’s Secret, and be sure to read the third book in the series when it’s available.

BIBLIO: 2019, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-338-18573-7

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Everybody has periods of sadness, I think. It’s part of the human experience and also part of the animal experience. I’ve witnessed many an animal grieve for a lost companion—human or animal. Anyway, sometimes we need help getting over our grief. This book sweetly shows a way to help.

Maybe Tomorrow?

Charlotte Agell

Illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzlez

This is a sweet story about how friendship can help lighten the load that sorrow or longing can bring to a person. Elba is dragging around a big block of sorrow because she misses a departed friend. She doesn’t want to play or doing anything but mope. But her friend Norris helps her miss her friend, even though he never knew the friend. Elba asks him why and he replies because Elba is his friend. Norris encourages Elba to do things out of her comfort zone and slowly they realize that her sorrow block is shrinking. At first, the two of them could easily sit on the block but soon nobody can sit on it. And, finally, Elba says yes all on her own when Norris asks her if she wants to go on a picnic. This book will help many a person deal with whatever is causing sorrow or depression, and it’s a good lesson on learn about compassion. The illustrations are sweet and give the story even more of a caring feeling. It could also lead to good discussion on the subject of sorrow.

BIBLIO: 2019, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 4 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-338-21488-8

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I love words and learning new ones, don’t you? It makes me sad that our language is deteriorating in to sound bites or tweets. Takes away the richness of communicating, IMHO. Anyway, here’s a new dictionary just to cheer me up. Hope it cheers you up as well.

The Dictionary of Difficult Words

Jane Solomon

Illustrated by Louise Lockhart

This is a book that any language lover should cherish. Who wouldn’t want a book that gives the definition of ultracrepidarian? This is a person who spout opinions about things without any knowledge of the subject. Know anybody like that? And, yes, there is a word for studying UFOs: ufology. The book is also filled with wonderfully whimsical illustrations. In addition to more extraordinary words, there another of words many people will know, but they are words we don’t use all the time. Since our vocabularies seem to be shrinking or being shortened to fit on tweets and other social media outlets, it’s nice to see there are still places to find more fulfilling words. The thing that would make this book even better is if the compiler/author had not so frequently used a single subject and a plural object in her sentences. For instance, saying something like Mary set her books on their desk, is incorrect grammar, unless she’s sharing the desk with someone else.  How about reword the sentence to not use pronouns? That aside, this book is definitely a keeper. Teachers should have a lot of fun using this with their students.

BIBLIO: 2019, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/Quarto, Ages 8 +, $27.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-786-03811-1

I’d love the hear or read about what you’ve read recently. Please keep in touch. Sarah

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