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.

 

 

 

 

Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

If you’ve never gone through a period of life feeling ashamed, consider yourself blessed. Most people lack self confidence at some point in their lives. Teens and younger children frequently feel that. It’s part of growing up. When I was in high school I didn’t think anybody could possibly like me, especially any boy. Boys did like me, but even when they showed or told me that, I didn’t believe them. I probably had a reputation of being an ice queen.

At 5’6” tall, 120 pounds, and with flame-red hair, I probably wasn’t all that bad to look at. But, still I didn’t think I measured up. So I can relate to all who feel unlovable and unworthy.

Fortunately, I did find at least some of my good qualities and did discover I wasn’t really stupid. Most people do find their paths in life, but most also don’t have an easy path.

Anyway, here are three books that deal with our struggles toward self respect. Hope you enjoy them.

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The first book is about being picked on or bullied because of some physical difference. Add to that an emotional sadness and you’ve got one insecure individual.

Camo Girl
Kekla Magoon
Ella is picked upon by the other kids because her skin is mottled—dark brown in some spots on her face and light brown in others. She’s ashamed of her looks, thinking she’s ugly. She had two friends up until this year—sixth grade. But Millie has been avoiding her except when they ride to and from school, so Ella is down to one friend who calls himself Zachariah, knight of his own realm. Everyone else makes fun of Z, but Ella—known to Z as The Lady Ellie-nor—is loyal to her friend. He helped her grieve when her father died by making up their fantasy world, which was good at the time. The problem is Zachariah slides ever further into the alternate world so he won’t have to deal with the reality of his father having deserted him, leaving his mom and him to camp out at the Wal-Mart where she works. He becomes even more the object of torture for the school bullies; the Lady Ellie-nor coming to his rescue. Z’s distress deepens when Bailey James starts at their school and seeks out Ella’s company. She thinks it’s because she’s the only other black kid in the school. But he invites her to join him as he hangs out with the popular crowd and protects her from the bullies. She finds herself pulled toward other people and begins to reconnect with her friend Millie. Z goes on a mission to find his estranged father and Bailey helps Ella find him. Bailey has secrets of his own, including having his own father in a psychiatric hospital to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. Z finally gets the help he desperately needs and Ella begins to move on from her father’s death. This is a very well written novel and an enjoyable read.
BIBLIO: 2011, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster Publishing, Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $15.99
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Middle Reader
ISBN: 978-1-4169-7804-6
ISBN: 978-1-4424-1722-9

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This second book is about having to move from one culture to another and acknowledging uncomfortable truths.

Flowers in the Sky
Lynn Joseph
Nina Perez is perfectly happy living in Samana, Dominican Republic, but her mother is always harping on her to move to New York City and live with her brother, Darrio. Mamí is sure Nina will have better schools to go to and many chances to marry a rich man, who will take care of Nina and Mamí. Mamí whines at Darrio to send them money, which he dutifully does. But when Nina goes to New York, she discovers how her brother is making his money. He sells stolen goods in exchange for a free apartment and a salary. Nina makes friends at her new high school, but she falls for an older boy, Luis Santana, with a street reputation of being a bad sort. Nina misses being able to have a flower garden, so Darrio buys her an orchid to grow on the fire escape and soon she is growing lots of orchids to sell in the neighborhood. She starts up a friendship with Luis, even though Darrio and Mamí disapprove and would prefer she date her smart school friend, Carlos. Eventually Darrio gets caught for selling stolen goods, but Luis protects Nina and tells her the story of how he got his reputation. He tells her he’s thinking of going to college. Nina also realizes how much pressure she and Mamí have put on Darrio to support them over the years and how hard it’s been on him. This is a nice story, well told. It could lead to classroom discussions on cultural differences and learning to listen to people to see who they really are.
BIBLIO: 2013, HarperTeen/Epic Reads/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 13 +, $17.99
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-0-06-029794-7
ISBN: 978-0-06-223642-5

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The third book is  about moving, but also dealing with new philosophies.

White Crow
Marcus Sedgwick
Against her desire, Rebecca moves to Winterfold from London, because her Detective Inspector dad has to lie low until the hullabaloo about his involvement in the death of a teenage girl simmers down. Winterfold is hot and boring and falling into the sea little by little. But Rebecca does meet a strange and fascinating girl named Ferelith and they become friends. Together they explore the town as Ferelith lures Rebecca into discussions of life and death and whether Heaven and Hell actually exist. Juxtaposed in this story are excerpts from the diary of an eighteenth century priest who is wondering about the same issues with a strange French doctor. The girls start daring each other to do increasingly bizarre and dangerous things and end up with Rebecca being locked in a special room where Ferelith tries to coerce her friend into admitting the reality of good and evil or God and the Devil or an afterlife. The two finally explore a hidden room/cave at the bottom of the French doctor’s house and find bones of the seven people the doctor and priest had murdered. As the girls are in room, the back of the house falls into the sea. Ferelith jumps into the sea and drowns, leaving a terrified Rebecca alone in the cave. Strange story with dark twists and turns which will keep the reader enthralled, even if it is a bit convoluted.
BIBLIO: 2011 (orig. 2010,) Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrink Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, Ages 14 +, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-1-59643-594-0

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Enjoy the reviews and remember to be happy in your own skin.  At almost 75, I’ve pretty much achieved that.