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

 

Are You Truly Good?

Have you ever pondered what’s good or innocent and what’s bad or corrupt and how do you tell who’s what? That’s what this anthology is about.

 

Evidently, there is a subset of people called “BookTubers,” who are a subset of people who publish regular information or reviews on YouTube. Before reading this anthology, I’d never even heard of such a group, but then I’m an old codger and proud that I am at least computer savvy enough to write a frequent blog.

 

Anyway, a group of booktubers and a group of YA story authors got together to write stories about good and evil, or about innocents and villains. They came up with 13 wonderful stories that make the reader ponder who is an innocent and who is a villain. The booktubers’ responses are just as provocative as the stories themselves. This is most decidedly worth the read.

 

 

Because You Love to Hate Me

Edited by Ameriie Mi Marie Nicholson

Are the protagonists in these thirteen tales villains, or not? What do the “booktubers” answer? This book is so complex and thought provoking, there’s no way to write a 300-word review and get in the names and details of each story. Do read the book to find out what issues are discussed, but also the sheer pleasure of reading them. All the stories are well written and the answering comments will mill around in your mind for quite a while afterward. The stories are told so subtlety, it’s hard to determine who is the villain. Dig deeper into your consciousness and look past the obvious to think about who the real villain is. Be sure to discuss this book with friends. Admire the artistry presented by the authors and enjoy the humor displayed by the commentators. It is deliciously irreverent. The stories range from retelling of such classics as The Beauty and Beast, werewolf myths, Jack and the Beanstalk, Irish Selkie myths to the exploration of what a psychopath is. As you’re reading, take your time to savor the stories for themselves and then what modern-day issues they raise. You’re guaranteed to want to read them again.

 

Renée Ahdieh’s “The Blood of Imuriv” is about sibling rivalry amongst a royal family and how much control we have over our emotions. Christine Riccio gives us the warning signs evil taking over your soul.

Ameriie writes a take on the old folk tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but not necessarily with Jack as the hero. Tina Burke asks us to compare giants and tyrants and poses the possibility of our misunderstanding what/or who is good.

Soman Chainani’s version of the King Arthur legend, is told in 21st Century teen communication of texting and answered by booktuber, Samantha Lane, who enters the Persephone fable into the mix.

Susan Dennard puts an interesting twist into the Sherlock Holmes story. Sherlock is now Shirley and Moriarty is Jim and Sasha Alsberg answers with Jim’s excuse for his behavior.

In “Blessings of Little Wants,” Sarah Enni’s protagonist searches for a way to save magic, but she has to choose whether it’s worse the price. Sophia Lee’s rebuttal will leave you pondering lots.

Marissa Meyer’s protagonist, Nerit, is a sea witch in the making and is forever trying spells to get her way. Her hope is to have handsome Prince Lorindel make her his queen. When she’s shamed for trying, she surfaces and suns herself on the beach. She meets Samuel who charms her into believing he loves her, so she changes into human form. Alas, Samuel is tricking her and leaves her destitute on the shore. Things do not go well for her. In her response, Zoë Herdt asks us to decide where we stand in the discussion of good and evil.

Cindy Pon’s intriguing story, “Beautiful Venom,” tells of a beautiful young virgin who’s been groomed to be the Emperor of China’s latest consort, and how an evil man beguiles her, ruining her chances of success. The Goddess of Purity changes her into a snake. Benjamin Alderson suggests the villain is actually society’s belief that women provoke rape.

Victoria Schwab’s “Death Knell,” a fascinating description of death’s persona, is compelling. Is it always the same figure? Jesse George asks questions of death in his rebuttal.

Samantha Shannon’s story “Marigold,” is told as a fairy tale, but the truth of the matter is that women in the 1800’s were doomed to a life of obedience to men’s wills. No wonder they didn’t want to return when abducted by Erl people of the woods. Regan Perusse presents a different take on it in her story, “Evil Revealed.”

Adam Silveria’s protagonist in “You, You, It’s all about You,” is a drug dealer, not of heroin or other potent drugs. Rather she’s the provider of memory-erasing drugs, mesmerizing drugs, drugs that seriously screw up your psyche. She wears a mask made up of the rotting flesh of her dead father’s hand. Catriona Feeney takes the mask for her discussion of how we all wear masks of some sort.

Andrew Smith’s hero in “Julian Breaks Every Rule,” is either the luckiest guy on the face of the earth or a bona fide psychopath. You decide. Raeleen Lemay gives you some possibilities.

April Genevieve Thucholke ponders whether werewolves are to be killed or pitied or accepted in “Indigo and Shade.” This is actually a charming love story on one level.  Whitney Atkinson discusses what the reality of a particular situation is and whether one’s reaction is a good one.

Nicola Yoon reminded me of the main character in The Bad Seed, a little girl who is born evil, only to ripen into a real demon. “Sera” ripens into murderous, loathsome child. But nobody but her mother can see how evil she is. Steph Sinclair and Kat Kennedy illuminate the concept of being a villain in “The Bad Girl’s Guide to Villainy.”

BIBLIO: 2017, Bloomsbury Children’s Books/Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., Ages 14+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-68119-364-9

ISBN: 978-1-68119-365-6

 

 

 

 

 

A Horse is a Horse…

As you’ve probably guessed, I love reading about animals, especially dogs and horses, but other animals are good to read about as well. I like fiction better than non-fiction, though I’ve read a number of good non-fiction animal books.

My husband loves to sing the first verse of the opening song for the old TV sitcom starring the “Mr. Ed,” hence the title of this post.

My favorites are:

Free and Easy, about young Stella O’Dare who pines for a horse of her own, but can’t afford one. She ends up helping at a neighboring farm and is allowed to train a filly. She begins to think of the mare as her own and gets jealous if other people take an interest in the horse. Things get more complicated when a young man takes an interest in the mare and then in Stella. I learned a lot about horse training, and about horse breeds. The filly is a purebred Narragansett Pacer. The breed no longer exists, but does show up in the bloodlines of Tennessee Walking Horses, Rocky Mountain gaited horses, and Saddlebreds. All these breeds have gaits other than just the usual walk, trot, canter, gallop. Not all Walking Horses trot and not all Walking Horses pace, but they all do the long, easy gait that is as fast as most horses’ trot, but with no bumping up and down.

Yeah, but what does that mean, to pace or to trot?

A horse’s walk, no matter how slow or fast, is a four-beat gait. Let’s say you’re looking at the horse from the left side, first the left hind foot moves forward, and as it lands, the right front foot moves forward, then the right hind and then left front.  A Walking Horse’s extended walk should be so smooth and straight, you could pass along rows of cornstalks and not touch the corn with your body. And you should be able to ride for hours. These horses were bred to carry the landowner as comfortably as possible while they checked on their plantations. Some horse shows used to have classes where the rider had to ride a certain distance holding a full glass of water without spilling a drop.

Next comes the trot, which is a two-beat gait. Again, watching from the left side, that hind foot and the alternate front foot leave the ground together, and, when they land, the other diagonal pair move. Once you learn to move with the push of the horse’s hind legs, it’s lots easier to stay with the horse instead of bouncing around. Now, this is where the gait called a pace comes in. Not all horses have it, but those that do can be quite comfortable. The difference is which legs move together. In the trot, it’s a diagonal pairing; in a pace, it’s a lateral pairing—left hind and left front. Your body must adjust to roll with the gait, instead rising to the gait. A slow trot is called a jog and, with the right horse, you can sit to it for miles. Our orange and white Pinto, had an outstanding jog trot, but he also had a glorious extended trot. I could feel his hind legs land under my seat and see his forelegs stretch past his muzzle.

Our wonderful Thoroughbred had a nice, steady trot, but his best gaits were his canter and his gallop—like riding on a fast-moving cloud. This is a three-beat gait—left hind, front legs mostly together and right hind. You should be able to sit to this gait.

The next gait is the gallop, which is what Thoroughbreds do when they’re racing. Similar to a canter, it is, of course, much faster and all four feet are off the ground in one stage of the stride. It’s so exciting it can take your breath away.

My husband and I had Tennessee Walking Horses on our farm. Two of them were good jumpers and very willing to go where ever we wanted them to go.  I loved that we had a breed which carried the bloodlines of the horse in my favorite horse story.

Other of my favorite books:

King of the Wind: the story of the Godolphin Arabian, and other books about horses, all of them illustrated by Wesley Dennis, taught me a great deal about horses. Her books about the Chincoteague ponies still resonate with horse lovers. The first of that series is Misty of Chincoteague.

Smoky, the Cowhorse written and illustrated by Will James, who was a cowboy and taught himself to draw.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, who was another favorite of mine for horse books. And though this information says the book was copyrighted in 1969, I think it was first published much earlier than that.


My Friend Flicka
and the rest of the series by Mary O’Hara will always have a place inmy heart. Flicka is about a young boy’s struggle to please his domineering father and the solace he finds in gaining the trust of a filly.Any of the C W Anderson books will do, but see if you can find his Favorite Horse Stories. I believe his last story was of a pony named Blaze. I loved the pen and ink

drawings scattered throughout the pages. He was also quite well known for his

drawings of horses, perhaps even better known for them than his books.

Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet is another much loved and much filmed story about a

young English girl, who trains and rides a black and white pinto to win the grand prix

of steeple chase races in England at the time when girls weren’t supposed to do things

that. Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney played in the original film version.

Of course, just about everyone knows about Black Beauty, whose story was put to paper by Anna Sewell and was intended to inform the public about cruelty to horses, in particular harness horses. The book itself plays a part in my middle-reader novel, which I hope to have out by the end of this year. My book is titled Emily’s Ride to Courage.

Obviously, there are many more stories involving horses, but this is enough for now. Thanks for reading. Sarah Maury Swan, author of Terror’s Identity.

Whimsically Sweet

My last collection of books was a wonderful mix of amusing picture books and novels for older children. I told you about the YA anthology in my last post, so this time we’ve got two picture books and a middle-reader, all of them a bit on the whimsical side.

 

The first one has winsome illustrations of a bus with a bunny face.

 

Bunny Bus

Ammi-Joan Paquette

Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow

This is a cute little book about learning to share the load, rather than letting someone else take all the burden. The drawings of the various animals in the story are whimsical, especially the bunny bus, which looks like a small bus with rabbit ears and a big smile, which exposes her rodenty front teeth. More and more animals call for her to stop and take them along.  She’s happy to do it, even though she knows she has more than enough to fill her bus.  Finally, the bus goes BOOM and strews carrots, candy and Easter Eggs all over the place.  The passengers realize they have caused Bunny Bus to break down, so they give her a bath and share the load.  Some of the rhymes are a bit forced leaving the reader wondering what the author meant, but children probably won’t notice, and the message is well told.

BIBLIO: 2017, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillan Publishing Group,

LLC, Ages 4 to 6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-374-30225-2

 

 

The second has a message of what fun reading is and how being gentle and unselfish are so rewarding.

 

Prince Ribbit

Jonathan Emmett

Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

This is a wonderfully silly take on the story of the frog who turns into a handsome prince.  Lucinda and Arabella love reading fairy tales, especially ones where the princess ends up winning the handsome prince.  One day a frog from the nearby pond hears the girls read the story of the princess and the frog prince.  What a sweet deal that would, he thinks, and he hops out of the pond and close to the sisters. Unfortunately, the two girls scream and carry on.  But their younger sister, Martha is enchanted. What a cool thing to have a talking frog as a friend. Arabella and Lucinda change their tune when Prince Ribbit explains he is, indeed, an enchanted prince.  They pamper him with soft beds, delicious food and lots of other treats, but he doesn’t turn into a prince. In the meantime, Martha has been reading books of fairy tales, lots of them. Turns out the books are fun to read, but she also learns how to set the frog and her sisters straight.  With some nudging from Martha, Arabella and Lucinda decide the thing to is smother him kisses, which doesn’t do a thing for Prince Ribbit.  Sadly, he takes off his golden crown and fancy clothes and hops back to his pond, but Martha is sorry to see him go. She begs him not to go, then picks the frog up and gently kisses him. In a cloud of pink smoke, the frog turns into a handsome prince and sweeps Martha off her feet. Of course, not everything you read in a book is true.  Children and their grownups will want to read this book over and over again.

BIBLIO: 2017 (orig. 2016,) Peachtree Publishers/Macmillan Children’s Books/Pan Macmillan/Macmillan Publishers International Limited, Ages 4 to 7, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-56145-761-8

 

The middle-reader is a charming story of being a good friend and believing in possibilities.

 

The Infinity Year of Avalon James

Dana Middleton

Avalon James and her best friend, Atticus Brightwell, turn ten. Atticus’s grandfather told them just before his grandson’s birthday that age ten is their Infinity Year in which they would have a magical power.  So, they keep waiting for the magic to appear. Avalon hopes her magic will help her ward off any mischief her nemesis, Elena, has planned for her, but nothing seems to change and Elena keeps taunting her. Not that Avalon hasn’t done her share of taunting back. Avalon also hopes her magic might be that her dad writes to her again. In the meantime, Avalon is working on an ancestry project with another classmate and practicing for the school-wide spelling bee.  But, as the year progresses, Avalon’s magic makes no appearance, and she’s getting worried. But after Halloween, Avalon is convinced she can “mind-talk” to animals.  And it turns out she’s right.  Her power helps her save Atticus from a charging bull by calling him to chase her instead of the already hurt Atticus.  The friends’ Infinity Year comes to an end when they turn eleven, but they are stronger for all that has happened to them during their tenth year.  This is another good book for discussions about bullying children and trying your best to not seek vengeance.

BIBLIO: 2016, Feiwel and Friends/ Macmillan, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 9781250085696

ISBN: 9781250085689

 

Next week, I’ll tell you about the fifth book in this batch.

 

 

 

 

I’m Back!

Have you ever had to move to a new neighborhood, or change schools, or be set in any kind of new environment?  I don’t know about you, but I find it scary and stressful. How do you deal with changes? I get a bit on the manic side and hide in bluster.  So, I picked three stories that put at least one of the characters in a situation of intense change.

 

The first book is a bit fanciful, but the protagonist is believable and the story is amusing.

 

Clayton Stone, Facing Off

Ena Jones

Clayton Stone is a thirteen-year-old orphan living with his grandmother, Gran, who recruits him into the Special Services in Clayton Stone, At Your Service, where he solves a kidnapping. This time he must change his identity and transfer to an elite private school to protect the president’s son.  To make matters worse, his new school is playing against his old school in a playoff game to see which team goes to the Lacrosse Championship game. Things don’t go swimmingly for Clayton, who has to remember he is now Max Carrington.  He keeps over reacting to circumstances in his new school, but he does finally make friends with First Son, Kyle Hampton.  Together, with the help of two other kids, they figure out who is threatening Kyle, though, in the end, it turns out the bad guys are after another student.  The story is well-written and has plenty of surprises, in addition to humor, especially all the disguises Gran uses. Resourceful teachers will find several topics of discussions in their classrooms.  Loyalty, sportsmanship, patience and thinking through dilemmas are all good discussion topics.

BIBLIO: 2016, Holiday House, Ages 8 to 13, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9780823436484

 

The second book is set on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu, but not in Honolulu. The reader gets a sense of the island without the glitz.

 

Juniors

Kaui Hart Hemmings

 

In the middle of her junior year of high school, Lea Lane moves from San Francisco

back to Hawaii where her actress mother is in a new TV show. Having spent her early childhood in Kailua, on Oahu Island near Honolulu, she knows the area and has kept in touch with Danny, a neighbor boy.  She is enrolled in a posh private school, thanks to her long-absent father, or so she’s been told.  The house her mother has rented for them is shoddy and in a not-so-nice neighborhood, but now they’ve been invited to use the guest cottage of an estate owned by long-standing friends of Lea’s mother. In fact, Mr. West was Lea’s mom’s boyfriend for a brief time, before he introduced her to the fellow who got her pregnant.  Lea feels awkward about the arrangement until she gets to know the West kids who are about her age.  As with all lives, things get complicated and Lea has to sort out what her true desires are.  The story is well told and intricate and has a good ending.  Lea grows a lot during the story.  The down side of the book is the easy acceptance the author has with letting the juvenile characters be promiscuous and happily get drunk and/or high.  A little more regret and the parents being a bit less lax in showing their children how to behave would have been nice. Lea, at least, shows some remorse for having succumbed to the booze and drugs.

BIBLIO: 2015, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Group, Ages 14 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-399-17360-8

 

You must read the third book with the spirit of letting your imagination run wild. There are lots of magical, mythical creatures parading across the pages. If you can’t allow yourself to believe in Unicorns and other such creatures, don’t bother with this book. I loved it, because, at all most 76 years of age, I still believe in Unicorns and Griffins.

 

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

Illustrated by Maggie Stiefvater

Pip Bartlett is spending the summer with her Aunt Emma at the Cloverton Clinic for Magical Creatures. She loves talking with the animals, though no-one else realizes she understands what the animals are saying.  Aunt Emma and her daughter, Callie, and Pip are going to the Triple Trident magical animal show and their neighbor, Tomas, is going with them.  Tomas is allergic to just about everything, but that doesn’t stop him from going places.  Callie, being a prissy teenager, is less than thrilled with going.  But the fun really ramps up when their friend Mr. Henshaw’s Show Unicorn gets a case of jangling nerves and won’t settle down for anyone.  That is until Pip takes the Unicorn, Regent Maximus, into a paddock filled with baby unicorns.  He begins to calm down as he tells the young ones all the trials and terrors that await them. They become his adoring entourage.  It’s a cute story and will certainly get the reader giggling.  Frequently, a page in the book is taken up by a description of some magical creature, with an amusing drawing.  The glimmerbeast subspecies called a rockshine, which turns invisible when frightened, is the first illustration.  It looks rather like a deranged sheep.  The story progresses with lots of mishaps to Regent Maximus and other creatures, but in the end, Regent Maximus wins the Triple Trident championship.  Even though the creatures are all mythical, the story can be used as a way discuss animal anatomy and ways to calm scared creatures.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc. Ages 8 to 12, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-70929-3

Enjoy the post and let me know what’s going on with you.  Thanks, Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the Second Time Is Just as Nice

Sometimes I need to mention a book twice, in part because it is so well done, but also because it has some connection to a more recent book.  The connection this time is that Nicola Yoon on her second start out the gate, has produced another winner of a book.  The second book is very intriguing, though a bit difficult to get into.  I got confused about who belonged to which family, but soon understood their relationships.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

The first book, Everything Everything, came out in 2015 to deserved rave reviews and I’m sure this second book will also jump to the head of the list.

Everything Everything

Nicola Yoon

Illustrated by Daniel Yoon

Madeline Whittier is sure she’s read more books than anybody else on the planet.  What else can she do in her white room in her sterile house? She can’t leave her house since she’s allergic to the outside world.  Her only physical visitors are her nurse, Carla, her mother and just one of her tutors. At seventeen, she has accepted her life. But things change in Maddie’s soul when Oliver—Olly—moves in next door, with his rebellious younger sister, enabling mother, and abusive, alcoholic father.  Olly sees Maddie at her window watching him and starts communication through sign language, pantomime, notes and eventually their electronic devices.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s drop-dead gorgeous and compassionate.  As their relationship deepens, Maddie wishes to meet Olly in the flesh, though she knows they may never have physical contact.  Carla arranges everything while Maddie’s mom, a doctor, is at work. The reader matures along with Maddie and begins to wonder where her quality of life is?  Secretly she arranges a trip to Hawaii with Olly.  Olly is resistant at first, but Maddie, now eighteen, feels she can make her own choices.  She does get sick on their trip and ends up in the hospital with an infection in her heart.  But she doesn’t die and comes home stronger than she ever thought possible.  The Hawaiian pathologist sends her a letter informing Maddie that there is no sign of disease.  So Maddie goes to a specialist who confirms that Maddie is not sick.  Turns out her mother, after losing Maddie’s father and brother in a car accident, can’t deal with the thought of losing her daughter.  She made Maddie’s illness up.  Now the girl has to deal with the aftermath of this revelation.  This is a fantastic read.

BIBLIO: 2015, Delacorte Books/Random House Teens/ Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, Ages 14 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-553-40664-2

ISBN: 978-0-553-40665-9

ISBN: 978-0-553-40666-6

 

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In the second book by Ms. Yoon, juxtaposes teens from two different cultures trying make their ways in the Big Apple.  They meet by chance and end up spending the day together trying to get to various meetings they have to attend to put their lives on the tracks they want to follow.

 

New York city teenagers, one, a Korean/American and one, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, fall in love, but to no avail.  And though their lives move forward, in their souls they still have a connection to each other.  The boy’s parents want him to follow the path that all bright Korean/American kids are supposed trek, go to Harvard or Yale and become successful lawyers or doctors.  The boy and his older brother have no interest in following the planned road.  The boy has the soul of a poet.

 

The girl’s parents smuggled her into the U.S. when she was very young.  She barely remembers Jamaica and her brother was born in the U.S. She wants to be an astrophysicist or at least something to do with space.  She feels that’s not likely to happen in Jamaica.

The Sun is also a Star

Nicola Yoon

Natasha Kingsley and her family are about to be deported from New York City to Jamaica, but she has lived most of her life in the U.S. and doesn’t want to go back.  Daniel Jae Ho Bae was born in the U.S., as was his older brother, Charles Jae Won Bae.  Their parents are here legally, Natasha’s are not.  The only legal person in her family is her younger brother, Peter.  The chance of Daniel and Natasha ever meeting seems very unlikely, but meet they do as Natasha makes one last ditch effort to turn the tide on her family’s deportation that night.  Daniel is in Manhattan to be interviewed for admittance into Yale, not that he wants to go to Yale or become a doctor.  He’d rather learn more about writing poetry.  But they do meet and end up spending most of the day together.  Daniel is open to falling in love with Natasha, but she keeps resisting.  What’s the use she thinks, but she can’t help herself.  In the end, Daniel takes her to the plane and watches her fly away.  For a while they keep in touch, but time and distance finally take their toll on the relationship.  Except for what happens ten years later. The story is complex and, at first, difficult to follow who belongs in which family, but soon the reader figures out who belongs where and starts rooting for the star-crossed lovers.  Like Ms. Yoon’s first book, Everything, Everything, this story will pull you in.  She’s bound to be read eagerly and readers will anxiously await her next book. This book discusses some tough issues, such as the U.S. immigration laws, ethnic/culture differences, and are there such things as coincidences.

BIBLIO: 2016, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 14 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-553-49668-0

ISBN: 978-0-553-49669-7

ISBN: 978-0-553-49670-3

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1630-1

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Both of these books show what a good writer can come up with when writing a good story.  It doesn’t matter which of these you read first, but I would highly recommend reading both.