Children Trying to Save the World, Or at Least Their Particular Worlds

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

Jo Watson Hackl

It’s amazing the number of children who are put in situations where they feel they need to solve their families’ problems. Or, at the very least, not make the problems worse. Children who have a parent off to war feel the tension and either silently try to be perfect or take over parenting their younger siblings or some show some other behavior that leaves the children with stunted emotional growth.

Ms. Hackl’s wonderful book deals with the troubles of twelve-year-old Cricket whose father is dead and whose mother is probably bi-polar. From the opening sentence the book pulls the reader right in: Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store. Well, wouldn’t you keep reading?

Cricket’s mama has gone off on another of her quests to find a room she remembers seeing as a child. The room is full of birds. Well, actually they’re paintings of birds, but the paintings are so alive the viewer is sure the birds will fly right off the wall and out the window. Mama has been obsessed with finding that room ever since. Other people say the room is not real. That was just her imagination. And the reader can just hear the people sniggering and whispering “See? She really is crazy.”

Cricket is sure if she can just find that room Mama will come back for good and never feel the need to roam again. Any child who has had a parent go missing for what ever reason will relate to, firmly, to believe that the child can find the parent and make things right. So Cricket runs away from home to find the room and her mother. She takes with her the cricket she rescued from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry to help her find what she needs. Along the way the pair have many adventures and lots of emotional growth. No, I’m not telling you the ending, you’ll have to read the book. But you’ll indeed enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way.

I personally can relate to feeling the need to make things better and to find my missing father. Actually, he really was killed in WWII and I never knew him, but I always fantasized that he would show up at Walter Reed Army Hospital with amnesia and I would reunite him with our family. That is until I had grown up myself and knew that I had no real connection to him.

Do read this book, it will show you how children stay strong.

BIBLIO: 2018, A Yearling Book/Penguin Random House, Ages 8 to 12, $7.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Grade

ISBN: 978-0-399-55741-5

The Holidays Are Upon Us

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope you find much to be thankful for.  I know I do.  Our family is coming to visit, including the new granddog, Titan, a Standard Poodle.  But some of you may be traveling elsewhere, so I thought I’d include three books having to do with travel.  Two of them are not actually stories, but rather activity books. Books to keep children occupied.

 

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This book is bound to keep anybody occupied for a very long time.  And it’s lots of fun if you like to solve puzzles of any sort.

 

Can You See What I See? Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun

Walter Wick

Illustrated by Walter Wick

This book should come with a warning: Do Not Open Unless You Have Time to Fritter Away.  You’ll find it hard not to try just one more puzzle.  Plus, it’s a sneaky way to encourage early readers to increase their vocabularies.  The lists are ten words each and have themes such as magic castles, fairy tales, ordinary objects such as an assortment of buttons and jewelry.  The objects to be found vary from hard to see to right in front of the reader’s eyes.  And the types of objects vary from animals to needles to plants.  There is a robot-type creature that crops up in various puzzles which are marked with a picture of a wooden block carved with the letter s.  This book is a keeper for home and classroom, but, be careful, it is addictive. Plus, it’s a compilation of pages from early versions of this book.

BIBLIO: 2016, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic Children’s Books/Scholastic, Ages 5 +, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Early Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-83863-4

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Perhaps young cousins are gathering together and they don’t know each other well.  This book will put at least the girls at ease in a hurry.  They will be fast friends by the end of the visit.

For Me & U! Fun for BFFs

Scholastic

Illustrated by Kyla Mae Pty Ltd

This book is fun for a group of seven girls at their first slumber party.  There are spaces for the girls to fill in their preferences and paste their special stickers in each of the thirty sections.  The stickers are at the end of the book.  The book starts with small rectangles where each girl may put down her name, age, grade and school, along with a circle for her personal sticker.  The second section has areas for “Selfies” and section three is a list of personality traits for the girls to circle.  Then the girls get to design their cell phone cases, what toppings they’d put on their favorite flavor ice cream, pick where they’d like travel, what fun things to do with friends, and what kinds of clothes they wear.  There are also sections on decorating cupcakes and giving preferences of activities such either going to the movies or a concert.  The girls get to pick what they’d like to be when they grow up—lawyer, actress, scientist or writer, among other choices. There are sections for coloring and noting favorite books, plus drawing a favorite celebrity.  The girls may check off their favorite school subjects in addition to designing the perfect pizza and ordering the best dinner.  What animal is each girl’s favorite and where to go on vacation make up two more sections. The final section is to draw a family portrait, including pets.

BIBLIO: 2014, Scholastic, Inc. Ages 7 to 9, $8.99.

REVIWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-0-545-73297-0

 

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First time flyers  are frequently frightened by all the confusion at an airport, what with lots of noise and people making them go through scary machines.  This book will help calm fears.

 

The Airport Book

Lisa Brown

Illustrated by Lisa Brown

Preparing your youngsters for what to expect when they’re traveling by airplane is probably a good thing to do.  This story starts at home while the family is packing.  Mom reminds her daughter and her husband to make sure the toy monkey is packed.  Then they take a cab to the airport and go through all the lines one needs to go through.  The reader follows the luggage because the monkey’s tail is sticking out of the bag.  Little sister cries when she goes through the scanner because she doesn’t know what’s happening, but she is comforted by her mommy and when they’re done, big brother holds his sister’s hand so she won’t get lost.  Finally everyone is on board and happily buckled into a seat.  Monkey has an adventure of his own in the cargo hold when a dog gets out of his crate, pulls Monkey out of his suitcase and snuggles with him during the flight. But Monkey is back with his suitcase when the plane lands and everybody’s happy.  Cute book that will give grown-ups a chortle as it comforts little ones.

BIBLIO: 2016, Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, Ages 2 to 6, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-62672-091-6

 

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This post is probably a bit late for those of you traveling for Thanksgiving, but December holidays are right around the corner.  Now you have time to prepare.  Safe travels and happy family get togethers.