What’s not to Believe?

Children are fanciful creatures who love delving into what boring adults think is make believe.  But make believe isn’t always fol-de-rol or foolishness. And even if it is, it stretches the reader’s imagination. I, personally, think there might really be fairies and animals can understand more than we think they can. Anyway, this week we’re looking at whimsical stories. Keep believing.

 

If you get your hands on a copy of this first book, be sure to study it carefully.

 

Can You Find My Robot’s Arm?

Chihiro Takeuchi

Illustrated by Chihiro Takeuchi

How’s a robot to get his work done without both of his arms? And where is his arm? It’s not in the house, though there is a fork.  Robot’s friend suggests a broom. Maybe a pencil will do? Nope. A pair of scissors? Nope. And definitely not a broom. Outside they go. But Robot doesn’t think a tree branch is quite the thing. And most decidedly not a leaf. Nothing in the neighboring amusement park is right for the job of an arm. Especially not a lollipop. And in no way, is a fish bone up to the task of being an arm. Eew. Even in the parts factory, the two friends can’t find Robot’s arm or anything to use as a substitute. The arm is not on top of a tower, nor is it in the library. Candy from the candy store is not a good solution to Robot’s problem. Giving up on their search, they head back home and decide that a fork is an okay substitute. The story is very simple, but the drawings, actually made with black paper cutouts, make for crisp visuals. Children will have fine time searching for Robot’s missing arm.

BIBLIO: 2016, Tundra Books/Random House of Canada/Penguin Random House Company, Ages 5 to 8, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-101-91903-3

ISBN: 978-1-101-91904-0

 

 

Every town should have a magical child-teaching, problem-solving person in it,

don’t you think? Especially someone who can solve sticky, almost unsolvable problems. Enter Missy Piggle-Wiggle.

 

 

Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Won’t-Walk-the-Dog Cure

Ann M. Martin and Annie Parnell

Illustrated by Ben Hatke

This is part of a series designed to carry on the magic of the “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” stories written by Betty MacDonald and Anne MacDonald Canham. The star of this latest series is Missy, great-niece of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who is off on a search for her missing husband. Missy is living in her aunt’s upside-down house which is at the edge of Little Spring Valley. The house is indeed upside-down and has a bit of an attitude. As did her aunt, Missy helps children and, especially their parents, get rid of the bad habits we all pick up. The boy who begs for a pet, which he promises to take care of all by himself, of course soon forgets his promise and lets his new dog go hungry, doesn’t take her for walks or groom her. And most importantly, he forgets about her frequently. Missy puts the dog in charge of the boy until he understands the consequences of bad behavior. Missy deals with whining children similarly. But in the meantime, she is having to deal with physical problems in the upside-down house, which is eating up the money her aunt had left her. Her aunt regularly writes to say she’ll not be home soon and to remind Missy to look for the silver key if she needs more money. The book is delightfully written and will enchant the reader with characters that abound. Who wouldn’t want a pig who acts as butler and cook to the household? And who wouldn’t want a person to teach children not to shout or whine or ignore their pets? The illustrations do a grand job of keeping the humor of the story.

BIBLIO: 2017, A Feiwel and Friends Book/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-250-07170-5

ISBN: 978-1-250-13519-3

 

I think the male sex believes in unicorns as well as we clever females, they’re  just afraid of being called sissies if they admit to such a thing.

 

 

Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Brigette Barrager

The Land of Unicorns is deluged with so much rain all the unicorns are sad and feeling very unmagical, except Uni. You see the unicorns gave up believing that little girls are real. Plus, with all the gloomy weather they haven’t seen the golden sun in forever nor have they seen any glorious rainbows. Without sunshine and rainbows and believing, the unicorns can’t make magic. Somewhat far away, a little girl stares at the rain falling outside her window, and, being the clever child she is, she knows the unicorns need her. Then Uni and the little girl hear thunder and see lightning at the same time. They close their eyes, wish the same wish as hard as they can and turn everything white and quiet. Then they rejoice in finding each other. Though they could play together forever, they both know they have to save the other unicorns. Along the way, they feed the forest animals and lift their spirits. They show the other unicorns that Uni was right all along. Little girls are real. The whole herd of unicorns regain their joy and their magic. This story is sweet, but the illustrations are a bit too cloyingly sweet. Still, the children who read this won’t mind.

BIBLIO: 2017, Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 3 to 6, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-101-93659-7

ISBN: 978-1-101-93660-3

ISBN: 978-1-101-93661-0

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

I’ve been working on publishing my second novel and am finally ready. Yay! I had such good luck using Sable Books as the publisher of Terror’s Identity, I was planning to use them again. But, they’re doing so well, the start time was more than I wanted to wait. I know. I know. After waiting all this time, what’s my rush? People who see me at the New Farmers’ Market ask when my next novel is due out. And I’ve been saying “soon,” but that’s wearing thin.

 

So, with the help of my critique partners, I think I’ve got Emily’s Ride to Courage as close to perfection as possible, though I’m sure there will still be errors in it. Which is why I’m having a copy edit added as part of the cost.

 

I have chosen CreateSpace to do this book. I’ve seen good results as far as the quality of the work they’ve produced and, so far, they seem to be easy to deal with. Like sending your first child off for his first solo walk around the block, it’s hard to let go. But the only way to have your child, or your book, grow is to cautiously release it to a wider circle of love. You may shed a few tears and your hand may feel empty, but soon its acceptance in the world will make your heart sing.

 

CreateSpace is yet another Amazon company, of course. Isn’t the whole world an Amazon company? But it seems to be set up as a stand-alone Amazon entity. The corporate ties make it easier to keep the prices lower than independent companies such as Sable Books. This bothers me a bit, because “big box” stores drive out small company competitors. Just look at the collapse of “Main Street America,” which was done in by shopping malls, which were done in by online shopping. For future books I intend to give myself more lead time and go back to Sable Books. Or a combination of Sable Books and CreateSpace, because CreateSpace has more marketing outlets available.

 

Whatever avenue you choose to publish your book, please make sure you take every effort to produce a book that is a joy to read and won’t have the reader constantly stumbling over poor writing and poor editing. But do pat yourself on the back for having reached your goal.

 

The main horse in the story is a “blood bay” with four white legs and four white hooves. My husband always wanted a bay horse and this story came to me because we had to put down a young horse with four white hooves. The day after that I was cleaning our house as part of my grief therapy and Grandpa’s voice came into my head: “Won’t have me no white hooved horse. One white hoof, maybe, but never no four while hooves. They’s weak.” Well what was I going to do with that? Since I write for children, I had to come up with a child as the protagonist—enter Emily. And then of course, I had to add all kinds of wrinkles to the story. Enter Emily being away from her family, and her sister being obnoxious and a bully. Next came Mom being deployed to Afghanistan and disappearing and Dad being on the road too much for the girls to stay with him. Then we have Grandpa’s insisting Emily study math over the summer, and Emily being afraid to make new friends. Emily is worried about riding a horse she doesn’t know. Every possibly perfect horse she and Grandpa go to see as a prospective match shows one of Gemini’s potential problems—a problem Gemini doesn’t show. In the end, Emily solves all her woes, including proving Gemini to be the perfect horse for her.

 

A friend found the perfect picture of a bay horse with four white hooves to use on the cover of my book, but I cannot find out where to get permission to use it.

 

So, make sure you have all your legal issues squared away, like copyrighting your book. I paid $800 to get the official government copyright for Terror’s Identity, but more and more authors are betting on the come that they won’t need to sue anybody over infringements, so I decided not to jump through that hurdle this time.

 

If you’re young and just starting out on this journey, try the trade publishing route, but if you don’t want to go through the heart-aches of rejections, try the self-publishing route. Just remember to not take any shortcuts. Have your manuscript glistening not only in your eye, but those of critique members and professional editors.

 

No matter how you go about publishing you book, good luck with your endeavor and let me know when it’s in print.

 

The Dreams of Young Artists

Our Story Begins

Edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

Have you ever wondered when your favorite authors and/or illustrators started writing or doodling? Well, here’s your chance to find out about a number of them, because “they share fun, inspiring, and occasionally ridiculous things they wrote and drew as kids.” Twenty-six artists and writers submitted early works of writing and drawing, some from the age of five. A number of the people in this book were inspired by a teacher or an author or a well-known illustrator. Many of the earliest works were stories or pictures about mythical creatures and events, but others wrote things happening to them. The group included in this book is an eclectic mix of authors and illustrators known for their more polished stories, but the reader will see the nuggets of talent shining through at early ages. The common thread is the prodigious imaginations and drive these artists possess. This is an interesting read and should be very useful for inspiring children to follow their dreams.

At age 5, Dan Santat saw an illustration by Norman Rockwell in Time magazine and was compelled to gather up his paper and crayons to see if he could duplicate the painting. He dreamed of being hailed as an artistic genius until he discovered his painting wasn’t anywhere near as good as the original. When he started to cry, his father informed him that had taken years before he got to the stage of painting that made him famous. When Dan saw that Rockwell was very old, at least a thousand years old, the boy decided there was still time to catch up. And that he did.

  1. J. Palacio started drawing at an early age, but she also wrote stories to go along with her artwork. I’d find her a kindred spirit since she loves horses.

Maria Frazee started on a chapter book series called “June and John.” She got three chapters written, but now she looks back to see how much of the story gives a nod to her favorite authors. Anybody heard of Beverly Cleary and her “Klickitat Street?”

Jarret J. Krosochzka also was in third grade when he wrote and illustrated his first book. He still writes and illustrates books, which now put money in his pocket. He can’t imagine doing anything else.

Thanhha Lại, who left Vietnam when she was ten, as the war was ending. She had to leave all her childhood stories behind. But the poetry of her native language has stayed with her. Poetry, not just in words, but in the rhythm of the language. It still stays with her even in English.

Eric Rohmann made a get well card for his aunt Helen when he was nine. It featured her long dead, but still favorite dog, Butchy. Drawing is part of who he’s always been. He doesn’t remember his aunt response to the card, but he does remember that she kept carefully folded away in her memory box and he found after she died.

Linda Sue Park has always written poems. It’s part of who she is, and she shared two in her remembrance of a younger Linda. Nice poems.

Phyllis Reynold Naylor who credits her love of writing to her parents and her kindergarten teacher. Her parents read to her, and her teacher sat on the floor with her students every afternoon so they could make up stories.

Gordon Korman had to dig deep to remember stories he had written before he was published since his first novel was published during his seventh-grade year. He published four novels before finishing high school.

 Elissa Brent Weissman joins the students who found their niche in third grade. She was inspired by Gordon Korman but didn’t have as easy a start as he. The beginnings of a novel she submitted to publishers when she was in sixth grade did not gain immediate success, but she didn’t stop writing.

Kathi Appelt frequently wrote about horses, which filled up a bit of the empty space in her horse-loving soul. Fortunately, her writer’s soul brings us all good stuff.

 Gail Carson Levine and three friends started the “Scribble Scrabble Club, newsletter when they were ten, and she published her story, “Adventurous Girls.” The newsletter didn’t last long, at least not with Gail as president. Her friends got tired of her pushy ways.

Chris Gall got in trouble for doodling on his desk in second grade. His teacher claimed he might be an artist one day before making him scrub all the desks in the room. All that scrubbing didn’t stop him from drawing.

Rita Williams-Garcia’s friends in elementary school were horrified when one girl signed her scrapbook, “To Rita, an off-beat but nice young lady.” Didn’t bother Rita. She relished her off-beat self.

Cynthia Leitich Smith dreamed of entering her school’s sixth-grade competition fair in language arts. She got a “thanks for participating” white ribbon. She did turn one poem into a Christmas card for her parents. Her mother still has it.

Peter Lerangis says he learned quickly that humor was his way to survive elementary school because he was the object of bullies. Though most of his teachers tried to settle him down, Mr. Shebar encouraged his humor, allowing Peter to use his talents.

Candace Fleming was a “journal girl,” which she started doing in fifth grade. She learned her writing skills by imitating her favorite writers. She discovered in the end that she was developing her writer’s ear.

Brian Selznick was encouraged from an early age to be an artist, which brought him great joy. He took lots of art classes during school and also after school. His portrait of a woman’s face is quite good, especially at age ten. He loved drawing the characters in movies such as Star Wars.

Tom Angleberger tells us about his first story about the world of Yodium. Boring, he says. Starting with not a sword fight, but a detailed description of the world’s government, our author thinks it’s because he “basically never shut up.”

Alex Gino, even as a kid, was set on writing a book, even going so far as finding out about vanity presses, but she discovered she’d have to pay them to publish her book, including having them design a cover for her masterpiece.

Tim Federle at age twelve wanted to be on Broadway. A passion he discovered at summer camp where he played in “Annie.” His mom sent him to camp with a diary which he discovered a wonderful way to write down his thoughts.

Kwame Alexander made his mother cry when he gave her his first poem—framed, no less. He figured he’d better keep at this writing thing if it could get that kind of reaction.

Grace Lin used the basis of her childhood story of a winning poem for her first novel The Year of the Dog, though the winning story in her novel is not the one she wrote back then. The story is the Dandelion Story for which she won fourth place.

 Chris Grabenstein discovered the fun in writing when he started publishing his own comic books in the fifth grade. He was a big fan of newspaper columnist Art Buchwald, a seriously funny guy.

Yuyi Morales shows her artistic talent with a copy of her quite good self-portrait as an eleven-year-old about to enter middle school. No wonder she’s done so well.

The last entry is by Ashely Bryan, another impressive artist, who shares photos of some of his early works. Like most of the talented people in this book, he started young and just kept on drawing

BIBLIO: 2017, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Ages 8+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9781481472081

ISBN: 9781481472104

 

 

While I was reviewing this book, I remembered what both my brother Richard Maury and my son Stephen Swan have said about their artistic talent. They don’t know what else they could do. You can check out their work by Googling Richard Bunker Maury and Steve Swan. Have a good week and keep on doing your thing. Sarah

 

 

 

What Good Writing Looks Like

I read a great many books during a year, largely because I review children’s books for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database, but also because I love to read.

I don’t just read books published by the “trade” and “indie” publishers, but also self-published books that I find at conferences and book-signing events.

Generally speaking, the trade and indie books have some merit, though they may be in need of a more thorough edit.

Sad to say, a large percentage of the self-published books should never have seen the light of day. That may be an arrogant thing to say, since I self-published my first novel, Terror’s Identity, but I did have two professional editors critique and edit the book to a fare-the-well. And I used much of their editing input to improve the story.

Anyway, the two books I’m commenting on this week fall into the trade publisher category and are well worth the money or trip to your library.

It is amazing the number of gifted writers floating around in our universe.

Cherry Money Baby

John M. Cusick, whom I had the pleasure to meet the past August at the SCBWI-Carolinas’ annual conference, has written an interesting book about a teen-aged girl who loves her small town and her family. She has no ambition other than to graduate high school, marry her boyfriend, and live happily ever after. That is until she meets a movie star not much older than she, who is filming an historical-fiction movie in Cherry’s hometown.

The movie star befriends Cherry and turns her upside down by introducing her to drugs and wealth and the playgirl life. All of this causes Cherry to pause and reevaluate who she is and what she should do with her life. The story is well told and intriguing, reminding us that things frequently are not what they seem to be. In the end, Cherry solve the puzzle of who she is and where she wants to end up.

BIBLIO: 2013, Candlewick Press, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-7636-557-0

Orbiting Jupiter

Gary D. Schmidt is not only an astounding teacher, but an exceptional author. This book will stay in your mind and heart for a very long time, filling you with heartbreak and joy. The story is told by Jack, who is the son of a local farmer in a small northern town. His parents take in foster children to give them a loving home, at least for a while.

Their latest foster child is 13-year-old Joseph, who has already fathered a child with the love of his young life. But he’s never seen his daughter and mourns the death of his girlfriend. He is sullen–or so it would seem–angry, but turns out to have a way with cows. He goes to school with Jack, who becomes fond and protective of him.

Joseph hasn’t had a happy life since his mother abandoned him and his father abuses him.

The story blossoms into the bond between the two boys and then Jack’s endeavor to help Joseph find his young daughter, Jupiter, named for Joseph and his girlfriend’s favorite planet. The end of the story is bittersweet, with Joseph dying and Jack’s family adopting Jupiter. Definitely worth reading, if you haven’t already.

BIBLIO: 2015, Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 13 +, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-544-46222-9

ISBN: 978-0-544-93839-7

 

 

 

 

To Be or not to Be

Should we always follow the path seemingly meant for us? I’m not sure I ever had a path meant for me, but I doubt that I followed it. In any event, the characters in these stories took different paths. Hope you enjoy them.

 

Ice Boy

David Ezra Stein

Illustrated by David Ezra Stein

What happens when you don’t want what others expect you to want? How far can you go toward your goals? Ice Boy loves his family, and loves to play with them, though he’s not fond of the tough ice cubes at the back of the freezer. But he doesn’t think his ultimate goal should be providing coolness to somebody’s drink. Nor does he want to be in a cold compress for some injury. Instead he wants to explore the world. He wants to stand in the sun, even though his doctor told not to. He goes to the beach and rolls into the ocean, where, slowly but surely, he becomes water boy. He is part of a wave and then another wave, until finally he washes up onto somebody’s beach towel. The sun slowly turns him into vapor boy and carries him up to the clouds. He goes so high, he becomes a drop of water, but then he is high enough to freeze into an ice cube. A storm drops him out of the sky and into someone’s drink at his very own house.  His parents are in the drink with him, but when the person takes a sip, he tastes Ice Boy first and decides the cube doesn’t taste good. Out on to lawn, Ice Boy and his parents are launched. His parents worry what will become of them, but their son says, “Let’s find out.” This is a clever way to teach children about what can happen to water. The illustrations are playful and appealing.

BIBLIO: 2017, Candlewick Press, Ages 5 to 8, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8203-3

 

The second story was wonderfully done, even though it took me a bit of time to figure we weren’t in modern times. I could easily picture the old comedian with his old poodle.

 

Mort Ziff Is Not Dead

Cary Fagan

In the fall of 1965, Norman Fishbein wins $1000 for guessing the correct number Doozy Dots in a jar. Even his two older brothers are nice to him for a change while he decides what to do with his prize money. In the end, he doesn’t give the money to his folks to repair the roof. Instead, he pays for the whole family to go to Miami Beach, Florida, during the Christmas holiday. At first, the family is stunned, but then they all get into the mood. Mr. and Mrs. Fishbein say they’ll pay for the extras like food and other stuff not included in air travel and hotel rooms expenses. Norman’s brothers are actually a little kinder to him. They are thrilled to be out of wintery Canada for a week. The first day in Miami, the family is enjoying the pool when they spot an elderly gentleman dressed in a black suit, wandering around the deck area carrying a miniature poodle. Turns out he’s a comedian named Mort Ziff.  He was quite the character in his younger days. Norman’s father is thrilled to see him, having thought Mort died years ago. The boys are threatened by three sisters about the same ages as Norman and his brothers swim in the hotel pool. The older two girls and Norman’s brothers challenge each other to duels. But Norman and Amy, the youngest sister, don’t really want to fight. They’d rather just hang out in the ratty old coffee shop drinking milk shakes. They end up saving their new friend, Mort Ziff, from being fired and kicked out of his room at the hotel. The book is amusing, though it wasn’t readily apparent what decade this took place in.

BIBLIO: 2017, Puffin/Penguin Canada Books Inc/Penguin Random House, Ages 8 to 12, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-14-319847-5

ISBN: 978-0-14-319849-9

 

When I was a child, comic books had bodybuilder ads in them. “Don’t be the 90 pound weakling who loses his girlfriend.” Instead become a bodybuilder. There was usually a picture of a skinny guy getting sand kicked into his face by a boorish bully. Then the next picture was of Mr. Skinny looking like Mr. Hulk and all the girls swooning over him. See what you missed out on by being born later than I?

Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth

Don Tate

Illustrated by Don Tate

Eugene Sandow was a scrawny, sickly child named Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, but he soon learned what he wanted was to be a body builder. Though his father was not pleased, Friedrich followed his dream. He worked and worked on developing more muscle and finally decided he wanted to become the strongest man on Earth. It wasn’t easy, but he kept at it until he was, indeed, the strongest man on Earth. He decided that he also needed to improve his showmanship and changed his name to Eugene Sandow. He traveled the world showing off his physique. He wrote books and magazine articles on how to be a strong man. He opened a gym and designed his own muscle-building equipment and techniques. After a much-needed rest, Eugene started a competition for bodybuilders. An interesting twist to this story is about the author, Don Tate, who was a bodybuilder in his own right. At the end of the book are illustrations of simple exercises to keep your body strong and flexible, even if you don’t want to be the Strongest Person in the World. This is a very inspiring book and has many opportunities for starting classroom discussions. It’s thought-provoking to note that the illustrations were digitally created using Manga Studio.

BIBLIO: 2017, Charlesbridge, Ages 6 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9781580896283

ISBN: 9781607348863

ISBN: 9781607348870

 

Ah, Love

Love is a complicated problem. However, it is a wonderful experience and can last a lifetime, if you work at it. Young love is especially difficult because the lovers aren’t even sure of their own feelings and they’re generally not used to dealing with tragedy or rejection, so they take all bumps in the road as catastrophes. These two books deal with young loves ins and outs quite nicely.

 

The first one has many twists and much amusement in it. And Ms. Rider really makes the reader relate to the trials and tribulations of being stranded in a large city during a blizzard. But she also makes the reader understand the beauty of such a storm.

 

Kiss Me in New York

Catherine Rider

Charlotte is on her way home to England after spending a semester in New York. Two weeks before the story opens with her checking in for her flight, her American boyfriend breaks up with her, rather cruelly. She arrives five hours ahead of her flight and is killing time looking for something to read in an airport bookstore, where she meets a hipster hottie who buys her the book she was looking at, “Get Over Your Ex in Ten Easy Steps!” He shows her the cheesy T-shirt he bought his girlfriend and asks her opinion. As they walk out of the bookstore, they witness a very embarrassing breakup of two kids about their ages. Leaving the shunned boy standing with a dozen red roses, hipster hottie embraces the girl and does a very passionate lip-lock with her. To make things even more frustrating, Charlotte’s flight is canceled because of a blizzard shutting the airport down. She doesn’t want to spend her last New York night in a boring, probably beige, hotel room. She ends up sitting next to the kicked-to-the-curb boy, Anthony, and they start talking. She persuades him to accompany her around Manhattan and follow the ten-easy steps outlined in the book hipster hottie bought her. They have a lot of adventures, including co-adopting a dog, and not only get over their exes, but discover a bond between them. Though Anthony lives in city, he does not want to spend Christmas with his family. He doesn’t think they’re trying to deal with of his mother’s death the previous spring. At Charlotte’s insistence, the two go to his house where he discovers that his whole family is dealing the tragedy. This is sweet and funny story, with lots of good advice from the self-help book.

BIBLIO: 2017, KCP Loft/Kids Can Press/Corus Entertainment Inc./Working Partners, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-77138-848-1

 

This second book focuses on learning how to love even in times of difficulty, when the pair aren’t reading each other’s body and emotional clues. It’s a good reminder to not shut down your conversation with your partner.

 

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash, nee Dashiell, fell in love with Lily in the first book of this series, about a year before this story opens. Things go swimmingly until Lily’s precious grandfather has a heart attack. But when Lily is consumed with taking care of him, Dash blames her cool behavior on having too much to worry about. He tries all kinds of things to get her to open up, but nothing seems to work and Christmas, Lily’s favorite holiday, is getting closer. Lily’s older brother, Langston, who is not at all fond of Dash, is so worried about his sister, he even takes Dash to lunch so they can plan something special to bring Lily back to her usually sweet self. Everything Dash tries fails miserably and everything Lily tries to make things better fails miserably. Of course, in the end, Dash and Lily work their problems out and are even more in love. The story is told alternately in Dash and Lily’s voices, and is quite humorous in many places. All the characters are genuinely caring, smart and believable. Dash’s friend Boomer is a hoot. The book is a good read and a useful opening for discussion of personal relationship dos and don’ts.

BIBLIO: 2016, Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-399-55380-6

ISBN: 978-0-399-55381-3

ISBN: 978-0-399-55382-0

ISBN: 978-1-5247-0110-9

 

Hope you enjoy the books. I think I’ll do books about Autumn next week. Stay well, Sarah.

 

Are Stories Old Hat or Not?

How many ways can the same concept be told? How many picture books can be different? Presumably, there are only so many concepts in the world and only so many ways of telling the same story. But, I wonder if that is true. Two of the picture books I’m reviewing here are about common childhood problems. Not being able to fall asleep is fairly common problem.

I remember at the age of four being sent to bed for my afternoon nap. Well, my older brothers and sister didn’t have to take afternoon naps, so, why should I? I remember being tucked into bed by our maid/nanny with shades drawn and the lights out. Richard, Anne and Bill were in the garden having a fine time playing. Hardly seemed fair. I got out of bed, walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. I looked up at Ruth, a very large and stern woman.

“I don’t need to take a nap,” I said with my hands on my hips.

“Oh, yes you do,” said Ruth.

Without another word, I turned on my heel, marched myself back upstairs, climbed into bed and promptly went to sleep. Sound familiar?

Being the youngest sibling, I was frequently not allowed to have my way. Since these are my memories, I don’t remember being the bossy one ever, but I probably was upon occasion.

 

 

The first story addresses the problem of a child learning not to be bossy or selfish.

 

Me, Me, Me

Annika Dunklee

Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith

Annie, Lillemor and Lilianne are best friends. That is, until they decide to enter the school talent show as an all-girl trio. When the girls meet to plan what they’ll wear and sing and who will be lead singer, Annie hogs the show. She picks the song, what they’ll wear and what they’ll call their trio. Lillemor and Lilianne are angry because their protests are answered by Annie saying it was her idea. The two are happy when Annie decides to go as a solo act. But when Annie practices singing her song, she discovers something is missing, so she asks Penny and Ella to sing with her. Unfortunately, Ella and Penny don’t let Annie be in charge. In the meantime, Lilianne and Lillemor realize they can’t sing the high notes the way Annie does. Annie decides to ask her two friends if they’ll forgive her and sing with her at the talent show. Rather than call themselves the Mi, Mi, Mi trio, they agree on All One. The characters are different looking and come from different parts of the world. Teachers can use this story to discuss sharing and ethnicity.

BIBLIO: 2017, Kids Can Press Ltd/Corus Entertainment Inc., Ages 5 to7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-77138-660-9

 

The second story I review here has the theme of a child not being ready for bed.

Getting a child to settle down for sleeping time can frequently be a problem. After all, there’s a lot out there to explore and do. Why waste it sleeping?

 

 

Monkey not Ready for Bedtime

Marc Brown

Illustrated by Marc Brown

It’s Monkey’s bedtime, so he pulls on his jammies, brushes his teeth and puts his favorite toy bunny in bed with him. Only problem is he can’t fall asleep. What’s a young monkey to do, if he’s thirsty and not tired and it’s too dark in his room? Mommy gives him warm milk and Daddy rubs his back, but Monkey is not ready for bed. The problem is that Monkey is too tired the next day to pay attention in school or play with his friends. Finally, his big brother suggests Monkey count his favorite things, because that might help him fall asleep. But counting bugs or red crayons or toys or even raspberry ice cream cones doesn’t do the trick. Ah ha! he remembers. Dinosaurs are his favorite animal. He starts counting them and then imagines playing with them. Soon, animals and Monkey are sound asleep. Most children love having stories read to them at bedtime and this one has enough charm to it, that reader and child will enjoy reading it again. In the future, though, the author and his editors might be a bit more careful about verb tense, though the listener probably won’t notice the mistake and the drawings are cute.

BIBLIO: 2017, Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, LLC, Ages 2 to 6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-101-93761-7

ISBN: 978-1-101-93762-4

ISBN: 978-1-101-93763-1

 

Everybody I know enjoys looking at and reading silly stories. The pictures make us laugh and words keep us engaged.

 

Roger Is Going Fishing

Koen Van Biesen

Illustrated by Koen Van Biesen

Translated by Laura Watkinson

Next in the series of stories about Roger and his adventures, this book shows Roger pedaling his bike along a busy street. A child named Emily is riding with him holding a big fishing rod that stretches behind her waving its line and hook. In the front of the bicycle is Bob the dog standing in the carrying basket holding a book while his very large ears flap in the wind. The trio is riding along a busy city street where they pass a young postman carrying lots of boxes. Oops, the hook snags the top box. Emily hollers to Roger that she has a bite, but he tells her she can’t fish yet. Not until they get to the lake. Next, they bumble-de-bump past an elegant woman and snag her umbrella and again Emily is told she can’t fish yet. Eventually, Roger, Emily and Bob reach the lake followed by the postman, the woman, a saxophone player, a daddy pushing his baby in a carriage, a guy playing a drum, three sheep and a cow. Roger can’t stop before he runs off the dock and sends Emily catapulting into the lake. He grabs his fishing rod and calls out to Emily that he’s caught a great big…fish? No. He’s caught Emily. The drawings are quite comical and will make readers of all ages giggle.

BIBLIO: 2017 (orig. 2015,) Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers/Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Ages 3 to 8,  ??.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5491-9