This and That

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 mixed 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 threads are 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. Dan Santat, R. J. Palacio, Maria Frazee, Jarret J. Krosochzka, Thanhha Lại, Eric Rohmann, Linda Sue Park, Phyllis Reynold Naylor, Gordon Korman, Elissa Brent Weissman, Kathi Appelt, Gail Carson Levine, Chris Gall, Rita Williams-Garcia, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Peter Lerangis, Candace Fleming, Brian Selznick, Tom Angleberger, Alex Gino, Tim Federle, Kwame Alexander, Grace Lin, Chris Grabenstein, Yuyi Morales, and Ashely Bryan are the contributors.

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

And for those of you who’ve not already read Sheri S. Levy’s latest book, here’s my take on it.

Starting Over: A Trina Ryan Novel

Sheri S. Levy

Trina Ryan still misses Sydney, her service dog in training, but she soon finds herself bonding with new puppy, Colton. The black lab is younger than Sydney was when he came, so Trina is having to house break him. Fortunately, Colton is a smart dog and a eager to learn. Trina also misses her boyfriend, Chase, whom she’d met at the beach. But it’s hard to keep a long distance relationship going.

In the meantime, Trina does have her best friend Sarah to talk to and do things with. And Trina also has her time at the neighborhood stables where she helps look after the horses and take lessons on her favorite horse, Chancy.

A new girl, Morgan, moves her horse, Knight, to the stable, but she is rude and surly, and mean to her horse. Trina tries to get through Morgan’s bitter shell, but it’s a hard row to hoe.

Trina is gentle and caring soul, who cares about people and animals. She has loving,  caring parents and makes friends easily. The reader roots for her and is glad when she solves a problem. This is a nice story, and since it has dogs and horses in it, I, of course, find it special.

I look forward to Sheri’s next book.

BIBLIO: 2017, Barking Rain Press, Ages 12 +, $??.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 1-935460-77-3

ISBN: 1-9411295-80-0

ISBN: 1-935460-78-1

For the Love of Animals

Happy New Year, everyone. Hope this year turns out to be the best one yet.

I love animals and enjoy reading about them. Though I must admit I like some animals better than others. For instance, I don’t think it’s nice to keep reptiles as pets. It’s just a personal thing, but I keep thinking if I were a snake, I wouldn’t want to live in someone’s aquarium.

The animals in the three books I’ve reviewed here are interesting and exciting to read about.

 

Who wouldn’t want to get to know a dolphin. They are very whimsical animals and fun to watch play.

 

My Best Friend is a Dolphin and More Dolphin Stories

Moira Rose Donohue

How cool to be friends with a dolphin! The three friendships between a human and a dolphin described in this book give proof that humans aren’t the only intelligent creatures on this planet. The first story is about Kelly and her human friend, Tim, a marine mammal trainer, who uses whistles and fish snacks to train dolphins at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. Kelly, a particularly smart girl, used her intelligence to keep her group safe when they were swept out to the Gulf during Hurricane Katrina. The next story is about JoJo and his human, Dean. Dean first met a dolphin when he was only five and was rescued after being knocked over by rough waves. The dolphin nudged him back to safety. Dean’s been a fan ever since. When he was grown, a dolphin he named JoJo befriended him. Even if Dean doesn’t see JoJo for months, the next time he gets to the dolphin’s neck of the ocean they become instant friends. When JoJo was badly injured by a water biker, he trusted Dean enough to allow his friend to hold him upright so he could breathe until the dolphin was stabilized. JoJo also has a canine friend named Toffee. JoJo likes to show Dean his world and even talks to him. The final story is about Flip Nicklin who decided underwater photography was the career for him after seeing a photo of his father sitting on an injured whale’s back. Early on in his career, he discovered dolphins are pranksters and love to clown around. He enjoys playing with them. The book is full of interesting facts and wonderful photos, including some by Flip.

BIBLIO: 2017, National Geographic Partners, LLC, Ages 6 to 9, $5.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2902-9

 

Squirrels are amusing animals to watch as they wander around our yards. They are adventuresome and comical. But flying squirrels are amazing to watch, I would think.

 

The Flying Squirrel Stowaways: from Nova Scotia to Boston

Marijke Simons

Illustrated by Marijke Simons

Since 1917, Nova Scotia has sent a large spruce tree to Boston as a thank you for Boston’s help when it was needed. This particular year, they pick a tree that turns out to be the home of two flying squirrels. The squirrels are asleep when the tree is cut down and hauled to Boston. But first the tree is prayed over by a Native American tribe and other people came to watch the ceremony. The squirrels slept through the whole thing until the flatbed truck that was carrying tree and squirrels to Boston started to move. They looked around and went back to sleep. They woke up during the celebration in Halifax, but were still very tired so they went back to sleep. While riding on the ferry to Saint John Harbour, the squirrels glided all over the boat, but nobody saw them. And nobody saw them when they crossed the border into the United States, even though the guards looked. When the truck and its cargo reached Boston, the squirrels flew out of their tree and escaped a green-eyed cat. But they had to find somewhere to make a new nest. Finally, they found a tree with the perfect hole and below it was their Nova Scotia spruce tree, all lit up for Christmas. Lovely illustrations and a sweet story make this book a winner.

BIBLIO: 2017, Nimbus Publishing Limited, Ages 4 to 7, $22.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-77108-550-2

 

Books that add a surprising element to a classic story always tickle my imagination bone. This one gives the reader a surprising twist to Goldilocks, but also a giggle with the bear’s antics.

 

The New LiBEARNian

Alison Donald

Illustrated by Alex Willmore

The children could hardly wait for story time at the library, but where was the librarian? Mrs. Merryweather wasn’t at her desk. The children looked for her, but instead of footprints, they saw paw prints. Big paw prints, that took them to the solar system, the ocean, a pirate ship, and finally to her desk which was covered in honey. Mrs. Merryweather wasn’t there, but a bear was there as the new librarian. He read the children a scary story in which he roared. And growled. And stomped. And to top it off, he roared some more. The children loved and asked him to read it again, but Mrs. Merryweather showed up just then, explaining that an exploding volcano made a mess in the Ancient History section. Then she announced that she would read Goldilocks and the Three Bears to the children. The children all exclaimed that they loved bear stories. But when she opened the book, baby bear wasn’t in the story! He was wandering around library until the librarian ordered him back into his story. This is a sweet story about the magic of libraries.

BIBLIO: 2016, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 4 to 6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9780544973657

 

 

Here’s to a year full of new adventures, both real and imaginary.

 

Are You Looking for Books to Buy?

Okay, here are some books that would NOT make my list for Christmas gifts. There are way too many gifted writers floating around who can encourage readers to aspire to not being just like everybody else. I like the books I read to not fit into formulas and I like the drawings to have some spark of originality.

These don’t, but then, I am a snob and on the arrogant side.

 

Dork Diaries: Tales from the Not-So-Secret Crush Catastrophe

Rachel Rene Russell

Talk about encouraging kids to be vapid, these books do just that. This is twelfth book in the series. Why should eighth-grade girls be portrayed as dorks because they are interested in things other than clothes and makeup? And do young girls really wear high-heeled shoes to school? This book is not to my taste, but then I’m old. Still, the storyline is the old, but useful, lesson for teens and preteens to read. The energy level is high and the story does have a few surprises. This time, Nikki is Student Ambassador for an exchange student from the snobby school in their district. Of course, the exchange student turns out to be a good-looking boy from France who shares a lot of Nikki’s interests. Things get complicated when Nikki spends more time with Andr than she does with her friends and potential boyfriend, who is also a friend, all of whom are expecting her help on special projects. Of course, the mean girls, who seem to hate Nikki, mess things up for her, but she learns some lessons on priorities and saying the hard things first.

BIBLIO: 2017, ALADDIN/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0560-8

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0561-5

 

Why do people seem to think that girls must be in relationships? Why are they always urged to be part of someone else’s persona?

 

My New Crush Gave to Me

Shani Petroff

Charlie is not looking forward to Christmas and especially Noelle’s annual Christmas bash, which has always been a favorite thing about the holiday. But Noelle has decided this year’s theme is about love and dating. Charlie’s boyfriend is no longer in the picture, so she is dateless and doesn’t have a clue how to correct that. But she soon discovers Theo, the hottest guy in school and a football star at that. Plus, he’s very smart and punctual, which are very important traits in her book. So, she sets about to nab him for the party, with the help of her best friend, Morgan, and Theo’s cousin, J.D., Morgan’s neighbor. After much finagling, Charlie gets to know Theo, but she also gets to know J.D., who is sensitive and creative and kind, but always late, which drives Charlie nuts. As we all do, Charlie puts people into niches and decides that J.D. must be messy at home since he’s always late. She also decides that Theo must be neat because he likes to be on time. Of course, Charlie discovers that J.D. really is the guy for her. There’s a bit of Cyrano de Bergerac in the story, because the fellow who is really appealing to Charlie is J.D. by actually being her creative “Secret Santa,” rather than Theo, who has not a creative bone in his body. Charlie is a bit too formulaic, in my opinion, however there are possibilities for classroom discussions about outward appearances not being as important as inner qualities.

BIBLIO: 2017, A Swoon Reads Book/Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 14+, $10.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-250-13032-7

ISBN: 978-1-250-13051-8

 

 

I do tire of formulaic stories designed to follow cartoons or movies. This one fits the bill to perfection, in my view.

 

Spy Toys

Mark Powers

Illustrated by Tim Wesson

At Snaztacular Ultrafun toy manufacturing all the toys are checked for electronic or other malfunctions before being sent to stores. Those with defects are sent to the reject pile, which is what happens to Dan, a Snugaliffic Cuddlestar teddy bear. His hug is entirely too strong. So, he’s rejected. And that’s when his life begins. He meets Arabella, an antisocial Raggedy Ann doll who hates children, and they escape, only to be snared by a rather unpleasant rabbit named Flax. Eventually they’re recruited into a spy program where they are to protect Sam, a U.S. Senator’s son, by pretending to be his especially favorite toys.  They have to learn to overcome their defects, but they do save the day. Silly as the story is, there’s a great deal of humor and a good message in the tale. Dan learns how to control his strength. Arabella learns children aren’t all that bad and Flax comes through in a pinch to help keep Sam safe. The illustrations are very simplistic, but still amusing and the story ridiculous enough to keep the reader enticed.

BIBLIO: 2018, Bloomsbury Publishing, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-1-68119-665-7

 

Sarah, the grinch, has spoken, but most decidedly does not have the final word. Happy gift giving to you all.

 

 

 

 

Eek, the Gift-Giving Holidays Are Here!

Much as I hate to admit it, this year’s almost done. It’s almost time for the gift-giving holidays. So, I thought picture and chapter books would fit the bill. I’ll mention older kids books next week.

 

BUT, I also have to mention that my 2nd novel, Emily’s Ride to Courage is, as of today, live on Kindle! “Over the Moon, Alice,” as Ralph used to say in the Honeymooners TV show. I know, I know, he was threatening her bodily harm, but I’m just going to jump that high. It will be out in paper back next Friday through Amazon.

 

It’s always a pleasure to read one of Mr. Smith’s books. His illustrations are quite charming and intriguing.

 

A Perfect Day

Lane Smith

Illustrated by Lane Smith

Mr. Smith’s beautifully carries along this story about a perfect day. But is the day the same for all the creatures enjoying it? Cat thinks it’s pretty because the sun is shining and the daffodils are blooming. Dog likes the day because it’s warm and he cools off the wading pool that’s been filled for him by Bert. Chickadee is happy because the bird feeder is full, thanks to Bert. Squirrel, on the other hand, is not as happy because his way to the seed is blocked. Never mind, he finds the corn on the cob that’s been dropped for him by Bert. Uh oh! Here comes the bear, who turns everybody’s perfect day into a not so perfect day. He eats the corn left for squirrel, and bends the birdfeeder pole to get to Chickadee’s seed, and dumps Dog’s wading pool water all over his big brown body. Then he rolls through the flower bed and squishes Cat’s daffodils. Which makes it a perfect day for Bear. Inspired by the loss of a friend, and a bear that visits Lane’s back yard, the book is bound to get lots of readings by children and their readers.

BIBLIO: 2017 (orig.,) Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings, Ages 3 to 6, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978162625362

 

 

I found the information about Ragdoll cats interesting. An ex-sister-in-law has two of them and she had tried to explain them to me, but this is a much better description.

 

Adventures at Tabby Towers: Disappearing Darcy

Shelley Swanson Sateren

Illustrated by Deborah Melmon

Part of series about a cat hotel, for cats whose families are going on a trip without them, this story features a Ragdoll cat named Darcy. Ragdolls are large, passive cats that will flop like a ragdoll when held. They are very affectionate and loyal to their humans. Darcy is very unhappy staying at Tabby Towers, because his special friend, Joy, is in the hospital for heart surgery and he’s not allowed to be with her. Joy is unhappy because she’s frightened and doesn’t have Darcy to comfort her. Tabitha Catarina Felinus a.k.a. Tabby Cat is granddaughter to the Tabby Towers owners and loves staying there when she can. She’s worried about Darcy because he won’t stop crying, even though she’s giving him extra attention. Darcy escapes and runs back to his owners’ house in the rain, where Tabby Cat and her grandmother find him. They sneak him in to see Joy and of course the nurses find that Joy’s much calmer holding her beloved Darcy, so they let him stay for a while. There are several lessons about cats and their behaviors gently taught in this book and human behaviors are also hinted at. Nice, sweet read beginning readers will enjoy.

BIBLIO: 2018, Picture Window Books/A Capstone Imprint, Ages 6 to 8, $25.32.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-5158-1546-4

ISBN: 978-1-5158-1550-1

ISBN: 978-1-5158-1554-9

 

This a part of series that always starts with “Come Home Already.” The characters are well depicted.

 

Come Home Already!

Jory John

Illustrated by Benji Davies

Duck wakes up to another glorious morning which he plans to enjoy with his friend Bear. But Bear has gone fishing and he didn’t invite Duck! Can’t be! Bear, however, is quite happy to be off by himself for a change. Duck, on the other hand, is not thrilled with the idea. What’s he to do by himself? He doesn’t want read or paint or cook or play his drums or watch a movie. He misses his friend. Bear, on the other hand, is not doing as well as he planned. He can’t set his tent up, and it starts to rain, and he doesn’t catch any fish. In the meantime, Duck decides to look for bear. Bear is now scared how that it’s dark and he hears noises. The noise is, of course, Duck who helps set up his tent and set things right in his camp. Bear is glad to see him and admits he missed him. After a restful night, the two friends head home. But Bear sighs when Duck says he’ll always be by his friend’s side. Sweet story about friends and when to be quiet.

BIBLIO: 2017, Harper Collins Children’s Books/Harper Collins Publishers, Ages 4 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-06-237097-6

 

 

 

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