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

 

 

 

Social or Anti-social?

What is social or antisocial behavior? Can you be social, but not spend all your time with other people? Are you antisocial if you like to spend time by yourself? Or are we all a little bit of both? I thought I’d give reviews of three books that address some aspect of the question. Hope you enjoy what I’ve chosen.

 

Antisocial

Jillian Blake

Anna, who suffers from social anxiety disorder, is having to deal with her return to Alexandria Preparatory Academy in Virginia, after the Christmas break. To make the return even more stressful, word of her break up with her one and only boyfriend, baseball star Palmer, has swept through the school. Since she’d abandoned her friends while trying to fit in with Palmer’s crowd, she is now alone. As she heads toward a vacant lunchroom table, she’s hailed by Jethro, who is in Anna’s old group—the group she ditched. He gets her to join their table, where she is treated with icy indifference by most of the group. But things get much worse for the whole school, when someone hacks the school’s social network site and then burrows into everyone’s phone, finding all kinds of personal information. The hacker then shares everyone’s secrets about bad things they’ve done. Anna is terrified the hacker will spread the awful things she wrote to Palmer about the kids in her group. Brought even closer together by the breaking scandals, Anna and Jethro spend more time together and eventually have sex. Jethro is suspected by the police of being the hacker and disappears, losing his opportunity to go to MIT. She and her friends do finally get back on an even keel in their relationships, and Anna learns good things about her ability to deal with social stress. The book is a little bland in its approach to the subject of hacking, but the damage the spreading of other people’s business is made abundantly clear.

BIBLIO: 2017, Old Curiosity Shop/Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/ Penguin Random House, Ages 14+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-101-93896-6

ISBN: 978-1-101-93897-3

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6470-8

 

Human relationships are complicated and people do things to one another that might be unintentional, but do have consequences.

 

Hear the Wolves

Victoria Scott

Sloan is an excellent shot and used to be brave, but when her mother ran off a couple of years earlier, Sloan turned into a clingy, fearful soul, who won’t let her father and sister out of her sight. Dad decides Sloan needs to get over her fear and leaves her alone in the family’s cabin as he and Sloan’s sister, Maren, head to Vernon, the closest large town, for the monthly trek for supplies and to vote. Sloan realizes she needs more kerosene to keep the cabin generator going and the cabin livable. She forces herself to dress for the already starting blizzard and head out to the town’s church where the kerosene reserves are stored. The minister is not there, but the town’s only school teacher, Mr. Foster, comes in looking for fuel. Then a kid, Elton, leads a badly wounded, elderly woman, Ms. Wade, in. Sloan decides their best option is to trek to the river and float down to Vernon. After Pilot and Farts, his basset hound, join the group and finally Pilot alcoholic father insists on coming, they head off into the woods. But the wolves keep getting closer, Ms. Wade gets sicker, Pilot’s father is wounded and Mr. Foster is in danger. The story ends with all the adults dying and becoming wolf food, but the three kids and Farts end up at the river. They take the boat moored there and head down river to Vernon. Sloan is much braver and looking forward to new adventures. The author researched wolf behavior to make sure she told her story correctly. This book is a good read, with lots of interesting information in it.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-228-04358-7

ISBN: 978-1-228-04747-9

 

 

How important is it to have friends? How important is it to do things for others? How important is it do things for one’s self?

 

How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea

Kate Hosford

Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

The queen is tired of the same old tea, day in and day out, so she decides to travel the world by hot-air balloon in search of the perfect cup of tea. Her first stop is in Japan, most likely, since she meets a young girl named Noriko who says it’s time for the queen to snuggle with a kitten. The queen helps by finding the water faucet and watching Noriko make the tea. She enjoys her tea and says goodbye. Next, she flies to India, perhaps, since the boy she meets is named Sunil. He says it’s time for the queen to learn how to dribble a soccer ball. This time she helps her new friend make the tea by not only finding and turning on the water faucet, but then filling up the kettle, before watching Sunil do the rest. The two sit down to drink their tea and have a chat.  Two cups of tea they drink, before the queen flies away. She lands possibly in Thailand, otherwise known as Siam, because the girl she meets is dressed in Thai clothes. Here she learns to dance, because young Rana says it’s time she tried dancing. This time the queen adds boiling the water to her growing list of tea-making skills. Rana and the queen talk until they’ve drunk three cups of tea. Once aloft in their balloon, the queen and her butler head home because the queen now knows right where to find the perfect cup of tea. The queen awakes early the following Saturday to get ready for her tea party. She dresses herself and makes the tea herself, because she has learned the best cup of tea is made by the drinker and shared with friends. What a grand book, with perfect illustrations.

BIBLIO: 2017, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Ages 5 to 8, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-4677-3904-7

 

Nah, Is That Really True?

Sometimes fiction seems real and sometimes it’s fun, but most decidedly not real. Still either piece of fiction, if well written, lets the reader “suspend his disbelief.”

 

*******************************************************

The first book fits the not-real category, but still is worth reading, and may even encourage you to have a food fight.

 

Fakespeare: Star-Crossed in Romeo and Juliet

M. E. Castle

Illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Becca is caught up in a mysterious and magical tale based on William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet.” Becca has a great imagination and loves to write stories, but she does not like her new stepbrother, Sam, whom she considers obnoxious. She goes to her friend Kyle’s house to retrieve a library book she’d left there. Kyle is not there, though he’s supposed to be, but a book is, not that it’s supposed to be. Obnoxious Sam starts to read it, and before the kids can react, the book swallows them up. They wake up in a pile of straw, well, actually a pile of hay, in the town’s market. And they seem to be involved in the story of Romeo and Juliet and are about to be skewered by a swordsman or two. The Narrator from the magical book gives them advice, which they follow and hide behind a cart full of ripe tomatoes. Soon the stepsiblings become involved in sword and tomato fight between the Capulets and Montagues, who are fighting over who makes the best pizza. Along the way, Sam and Becca show Romeo how to captivate Juliet’s heart and how to end the war between their two families. Plus, Becca discovers that Sam actually isn’t so bad to have as a brother. The story is silly and fun, with enough of Shakespeare’s play in it to be a good introduction to the storyline and nobody dies.

BIBLIO: 2017, Paper Lantern/Get Lost Book Club/Imprint/Macmillan Children’s Publishing/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 9 to 12, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-1-250-10162-4

ISBN: 978-1-250-10161-7

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have you ever told a lie, even a teeny, tiny fib? I expect all of us have told at least one untruth in our lifetimes. As honest and truthful as we all try to be, sometimes it’s just easier on everyone to not tell the whole story. See if you can find the culprit in this murder mystery.

 

One of Us Is Lying

Karen M. McManus

Yale-bound Bronwyn, a rule follower to the core, Homecoming Princess Addy, drug dealing Nate, and all-star pitcher Cooper are all sent to detention for having cell phones on them during school hours.  Also in detention is Simon, the creator of a gossip app which tells all of the students’ darkest secrets. It’s been rumored that Simon is going to spill the beans on all four of his detention mates the next day. When only the five students are in the closed-door classroom, Simon drinks water from a paper cup that’s been laced with peanut oil and dies of anaphylactic shock. The police investigate all four students and discover their secrets. During the investigation, the kids learn about each other and that their outward personas are not all there is to them. Each kid knows he’s not responsible, but wonders about the others. Each kid admits to and accepts her imperfections. They all grow emotionally during the story. The reader will enjoy figuring out who the murderer is and will learn more about accepting himself. Teachers will find much to use for classroom discussion. The book is a winner, even if a bit formulaic.

BIBLIO: 2017, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1468-0

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1469-7

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1470-3

Happy 4th of July! Have fun and say thanks for the good in our country.

 

 

Adventures of all Kinds

I still am gathering books to talk about books about animals, so I’m going to give you reviews about books I just read. Two of them do have animals as main characters, but they’re not part of the collection in my heart.

 

The first one is about Henry who sees the museum he visits with his classmates in an entirely different way. The illustrations are funny and remind me of Peter Arnold’s drawings in the New Yorker, ages ago when I was young.

 

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum

Davide Cali

Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

Henry’s trip to the museum isn’t quite the same as what his classmates experience. Instead, he and his stalwart dog encounter a charging triceratops. But Henry and his dog take refuge with a Neanderthal family.  As thanks, our intrepid friend shows them how to design creatures using balloons, until he is chased away by a herd of buffalo. Saved from that, Henry and dog trigger a volcano to explode and, in running away to keep from being plastered with lava, the two heroes run smack into an exhibit of dinosaur bones, set up to represent the various types of animals. Their reconstruction is not quite as precise as it might have been. Even in the hall of sculptures, Henry has a different experience than the other students. But, in the end, he has made the museum an even more intriguing place for future visitors. The drawings are delightful and the story will have children wishing to go to a museum. But do be careful not to get caught in Henry’s kind of adventures. Teachers will happily gather discussion points from this book.

BIBLIO: 2017, Chronicle Books LLC, Ages 7 to 10, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5593-7

 

This charming story talks about making friends and understanding where one belongs in the scheme of things.

 

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten

Candice Ransom

Illustrated by Christine Grove

Amanda wants to be a school bus driver when she grows up, but, first, she wants to go to kindergarten. And she wants to do all things her brother, Lewis, did. She plans to write her name in big letters on the chalk board, so everyone will know who she is. She’ll build the tallest block tower and then she’ll run faster than everyone else, provided they’re only running downhill. The first day of school, Amanda gets to the bus stop only to discover a girl her age dressed in brilliantly-bright pink. Amanda tries to ignore her, but the pink girl follows her onto the bus and sits down next to her. Bitsy is her name, she announces, but Amanda doesn’t feel like being polite, so she doesn’t answer. Bitsy writes her name on the board, taking up most of the room, leaving Amanda only a very small area for her name. No matter what Amanda tries to be best at, Bitsy gets in her way. After recess, Amanda sneaks into the line for Lewis’ grade and sits next to him in his class. Amanda’s feet don’t reach the floor and she can’t read the words on the board. Just when she’s feeling very low, Bitsy shows up at the classroom door, looking quite lost and sad. Turns out she had gone looking for Amanda and got lost. Amanda realizes her mistake in quitting kindergarten, so she takes Bitsy’s hand and back they go to their classroom. Amanda discovers it doesn’t hurt to be kind. This is a sweet story with adorable illustrations combining panda traits with human traits. Teachers have many discussion points to use in class.

BIBLIO: 2017, Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 4 to 7, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-399-55455-1

ISBN: 978-0-399-55456-8

ISBN: 978-0-399-55457-5

 

 

This story is a winner, with a charming message and wonderful drawings.

 

No More Noisy Nights

Holly L. Niner

Illustrated by Guy Wolek

Poor Jackson Mole works hard all day, moving boxes of stuff and furniture into his new house, which makes him very ready for bed and a good night’s rest. Promptly at nine p.m., he settles himself in, expecting to sleep soundly, but the “oooEEEeee” wail coming from the attic keeps him awake all night. Jackson has a hard time staying awake the next day and does such silly things as putting ketchup on his toast. At bedtime, Jackson goes up to the attic and asks the ghost to be quiet.  The ghost, says he’ll try to be quieter, but what’s he supposed to do? Jackson says he’ll think about. The next evening he sets a box on the attic floor. But does he get to sleep that night? Noo. The basement Boogey Monster, boogety woogety wooos all night long. Jackson asks the monster to make less noise at night, but the monster doesn’t know how. Jackson leaves a box at the foot of the basement stairs. Now he is sure he’ll have good night’s sleep.  Nope. The Piano Pixie starts plinking out her music. Is he ever going to have a peaceful night’s sleep? Of course, the next morning, Jackson asks the pixie to not make all that noise at night. She says she’ll try, but what’s she supposed to do. He puts out sheet music for the pixie and goes to sleep with the soft sounds of a puzzle being assembled above him, a toy train chugging along below him, and a pixie lullaby coming from the piano. What can be better than a not-so-noisy house and new friends?  This book is adorable, with cute illustrations and a good message of cooperation.

BIBLIO: 2017, Flashlight Press, Ages 5 to 8, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-936261-93-2

 

 

Animals in Books

I have to do more research before I present my next post. But here’s something for you to think about until next time. Most of us have at least one pet, or have had one in our lifetimes, and there always come a time when the pet needs to pass from this realm to the next. I have had lots of pets, some shared with other family members and some that were just mine.

I also have read many books about humans and their animals. So, I thought I’d write about some of those books. But, first I’ll have to go back and re-read at least some of them.

What books do you remember from your life of reading? Did you ever read the books about collies that were written by Alfred(?) Payson Terhune? Or Free and Easy, by Fairfax Downey? Or William Faulkner’s story The Bear? Along with Where the Red Fern Grows, or any of the other well-known books about humans and animals, these books have always stuck with me. Please tell me about your favorite animal stories. And next week, I’ll go into more detail about some of the books I’ve mentioned.

Of the more modern books I’ve read, there is Sheri Shepard Levy’s Seven Days to Goodbye and, of course, the Shiloh series.

Talk with you next week, if not sooner. Sarah

Good Books to Read

There are a lot of good books being written nowadays, though there are plenty of clunkers. I thought I’d include a good one from each reading range: Picture Book; Middle-Reader; and young adult. Hope you find these interesting.

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Dance Fever

Julie Bowe

The latest in the “Victoria Torres: Unfortunately Average” series has our heroine, called Vicka, working on the school fund raiser committee as a sixth-grade representative.  Her older sister, Sofia, is chairperson of the committee and is trying to keep peace in the committee.  Unfortunately, fellow sixth grader, Annelise, is also on the committee and has what she thinks is the perfect dance theme—a formal ball, with girls in fancy gowns and boys wearing suits and ties.  Guess how many boys are thrilled with this idea. Vicka must get Annelise to change her mind.  Not an easy task, but Vicka succeeds, with one proviso. Annelise insists on having a Sadie Hawkins dance. Everybody’s happy. The boys because they can wear jeans and boots. The girls because they get to ask the boys to the dance. Vicka is not all that happy, however, because she’s afraid to ask her crush, Drew. She’s sure he won’t be interested because he’s popular and older. In the end, she and Drew go singly, but end up dancing together. The fund raiser is a huge success, especially when the school principal gives a calf three kisses on the nose. This is a cute story about a girl who feels she doesn’t have anything special to offer the world, but is indeed a good friend and a natural-born fence-mender. There are lots of issues presented for classroom discussion.

BIBLIO: 2017, Stone Arch Books/Capstone Books, Ages 11 to 14, $25.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9781496538192

ISBN: 9781496538215

ISBN: 9781496538277

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We all have times when we wish we were in a better place. It just takes someone to show us we’re in the perfect place right now.

Princessland

Emily Jenkins

Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

Young Romy is sad. She’d rather be in Princessland, where everything is perfect. Her cat, Lady Cat, takes her on a walk through their town to show Romy she already lives in such a land. Romy says in Princessland a person can get whatever she wants to eat whenever she wants it. Lady Cat stops at the bakery, where the baker gives Romy a day-old muffin and Lady Cat a dish of milk. Next the cat takes Romy up a tree, so high they can see the whole town. Romy tells Lady Cat about the tall towers in the Princessland castles where the Princesses sleep on rose petals. The cat takes her to open-air market, where lady cat steals a fish from the fish monger and Romy dances to a guitar-player’s music dreaming of being at a fancy ball. Next the two stretch out on a patch of lush green grass, while Lady Cat chases a butterfly and Romy tells of the princesses all having their own horses or whatever creature they want. After a nap, Lady Cat announces she wants her dinner and Romy complains that she hadn’t been to Princessland as the cat had promised. Lady Cat says she had taken Romy there. Romy thinks about it and realized the cat was right.  Sweet story with a wry sense of humor, which might give the reader an understanding of appreciating what she has.

BIBLIO: 2017, Farrar Straus Giroux Books/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 5 to 8, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9780374361150

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What do you do when the person you count on to keep things on an even keel is floundering?

Stealing Our Way Home

Cecilia Galante

Pippa and Jack Kendall are dealing with the death of their mother as best they can. Pippa doesn’t talk anymore and Jack thinks it’s his fault. Then they discover their dad has lost his car dealership and is broke.  He’s afraid of losing their house and he can’t find a job. The house is of great importance for many reasons, but especially because it belonged to his wife through inheritance. Pippa is now looked upon as weird and is afraid of being taunted by her classmates. Then their father takes Jack with him when he goes to rob a bank and Jack is horrified, but also glad that the family now can pay the mortgage and get the utilities functioning, plus buy Pippa and Jack new school clothes. Pippa has to write a paper about someone she thinks is a hero. Originally, she picks her mother, because she was so brave during her losing battle with cancer. Jack is concerned about his father and Pippa and how he can keep them safe.  While the two are trying to sort out what’s going on, Pippa learns what her father is doing to support the family. The next time he goes to rob a bank, Pippa goes with him and Jack.  She knows Jack doesn’t approve of the robbery. Just as her dad heads into the bank, she regains her voice and yells at him to not go. Dad stops, goes back to the car and heads home. He turns himself in to the police and has to spend a year in jail. Pippa writes her paper on Jack and reads it aloud to the whole school. This book is nicely written, telling a powerful story.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN:978-1-338-04296-2

ISBN:978-1-338-04298-6

 

Please let me know what you’re reading and what you think of it. Thanks, Sarah