Tuesday, December 10, 2019
back with one hand and covered
his eyes with the other. I felt like the
air was stuck in my chest, half used.
Sometimes I wonder why Mr.
Patterson broke the news instead
of my dad, but when my mom
collapsed on the boat things stopped
happening in the usual way. She didn't
finish her research. She didn't come
home for a late dinner. She didn't
come home at all."
This debut novel is a beautiful thing. I devoured it in one sitting, and wanted to go right back and read it again. Lucy's biologist mother died when she was 7. Now, five years later in 1997, she finds herself thinking about her even more than she usually does. Her mother had a passion for sharks, and a great white has just been snagged by a local fisherman near Lucy's home in Rockport, Massachusetts. It is unusual to find them near Cape Cod.
Lucy's first person voice brings clarity to everything that is happening during a summer that holds incomprehensible grief and a lot of learning. She and her best friend Fred are doing a summer project for school - a field guide to the animals they find as they spend their summer outdoors. Fred does the writing, Lucy does the illustrations. The local fisherman is a family friend. Her father is a police diver. Their lives have much to do with the ocean that plays an integral part daily.
The discovery of the shark makes the news, and Lucy sees an old video of her mother who was a well-known expert. Lucy wants to know more. She and Fred find her mother's research materials, and keep working on their field guide. One night, a terrible accident at the quarry where friends are swimming results in a death. Lucy's father recovers the body; the entire community plunges into unbearable grief once again.
Lucy's need to do further research concerning the anatomy of the shark and her tenacity to get everything just right, plays out as a way to honor those she has lost and dearly misses. There is such a clear sense of setting, a very strong cast of characters, a good deal of humor in Lucy's narration, absorbing facts about marine life, and a promise that the heart will heal.
Auspicious, brilliantly written and so realistic, you don't want to miss Lucy's story.
“All life is interconnected. If one species moves away or becomes extinct, the order shifts.”
Monday, December 9, 2019
The Little Snowplow Wishes for Snow, written by Lora Koehler and illustrated by Jake Parker. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 3 and up
brought glittering stars,
not snow. The little snowplow
carried firewood to the
park for a bonfire to light
up the longest night of
the year. January brought
northern lights, but no snow.
The snowplow graded trails.
February brought flurries ... "
The Little Snowplow is not the only one waiting for snow around here. We had a big storm in early October, and not much of the white stuff since then. We have had freezing rain, slush, a great deal of ice; nothing much for a snowplow to clear.
For those little ones who long to see machines at work, they will have to wait. Little Snowplow knows exactly how they feel. He's very happy to help at every turn when it's warm and there's work to be done. What he loves most is SNOW! As the days grow colder and the trees lose their leaves, he knows it's time. He watches the sky, checks weather reports, is delighted when winter is due to arrive. Nothing! He waits through December, January, February and wonders if there will be snow before his March birthday. Poor little guy!
After making plans for a birthday celebration with the idea to pretend there is snow, imagine the refreshing surprise when the sky is filled with white flakes - and a purposeful job to do. The party is put on hold and the hard work begins. Will he get the chance to actually celebrate his special day? If he does, what do you think he will wish for when he blows out his candles?
Little ones whose love and appreciation for machinery will find much to admire in the colorful images and winning personalities of each machine.
Sunday, December 8, 2019
The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue, written by Karina Yan Glaser. HMHKids, Raincoast. 2019. $22.99 ages 8 and up
Whoop! The Vanderbeekers are back in this third book in the series about their marvelous, loving family and community. It starts with the news that Mama's home-based cookie business is going to be featured in an upcoming Perch magazine. Ecstatic and celebratory, that is the name of the game for this family. They enjoy every success with great gusto.
There are a few things that need to be done before the photo shoot. All too soon, it's spring break and the date for the shoot looms. Progress must be made quickly! Plans are made and launched, including a paint job in the living room that goes awry. When a food inspector from the city appears and finds a plethora of pets in the house - and in the kitchen - Mama's license becomes a thing of contention. The children do not tell their mother about the first inspection or the follow-up. Instead, they decide that they will set things straight without Mama having to worry.
If you have read the first two books about these amazing children, you will know that their best laid plans can lead to hiccups. A bungled paint job; the arrival of a box full of kittens, two guinea pigs New Dog and a flock of chickens, all left overnight by an unknown someone; a return inspection that surprises Mama and leads to her discovery that she has been operating for a week without a licence leads to further concern. Oh, my!
The unique personalities of each of the characters, the loving nature of the relationship the family has with each other and those they love, the chaos and joys of the days spent trying always to do the right thing, and the neighborhood scenes ensure reading pleasure for all who sit down to savor their adventures, and make them hope that the next instalment is not long in coming.
What a glorious way to spend some time at Christmas: a family read!
Saturday, December 7, 2019
I've never been anywhere except
the Jersey Shore and Florida to
My folks came all the way from
India to live here.
Wasn't it scary? To start over?
They say it was hard, but that it
was exciting to have an adventure.
I know there are many fans of the Sunny series. They will be very pleased to read this third book, following Sunny Side Up (2015) and Swing It, Sunny (2017).
The setting is the 1970s, and Sunny is starting middle school ... ready or not! As happens for so many adolescents, life with friends becomes ever more complicated and confusing. There are many changes to acknowledge and try to accept: hair rollers, the relationships between boys and girls, how you know if a boy likes you. The list goes on.
When she checks her score on the Groovy Meter, Sunny finds she is not! Groovy, that is. This score is a constant reminder to her that she does not meet the expectations of cool girls entering middle school. Her focus is not on popular music, new fashion trends, or constant talk about boys. Does she want to move up on that groovy meter, or would she rather just be her own self?
Sunny finds that she likes being with her friends who play Dungeons and Dragons. Mostly boys, they are willing to teach her how to play, and don't mind that she's a girl. There is a place for everyone in their games. But, the game is not acceptable to her best friend Deb. Giving it up, and choosing to attend the spring dance makes Sunny miserable. She finds the perfect way to brighten her evening. Is having fun worth it? You bet it is!
The visual storytelling is compelling; it offers humor, clarity, empathy. Sunny continues to work toward being the best version of herself.
Friday, December 6, 2019
Even More Lesser Spotted Animals: More Brilliant Beasts You Never Knew You Needed to Know About, by Martin Brown. David Fickling Books, Schollastic. 2019. $25.99 ages 9 and up
the fox-on-stilts. But it's not a fox.
It's not even a wolf. Nor is it that
closely related to either foxes of
wolves. Just look at it. It's taller
than the biggest true wolf yet less
half its weight. And it doesn't hunt
in big moose-chasing packs like
wolves either. It hunts alone. Those
lanky legs are for stalking silently
through the long grass ... "
Following up on Lesser Spotted Animals (2017), Martin Brown lets his audience know that there are many additional animals who need our attention. They are rarely seen and even more rarely discussed in books for children. He is going to help to remedy that with this book about 26 new 'lesser spotted' animals. He voices a complaint in his introduction:
"Take those big-name, bigwig, big cats for example. Lions fill our picture books. Tigers are always on TV. Jaguars have become cars and Pumas are shoes. They're all over the place! Just like their famous big-name animal friends. So much so that when we think of animals we thing of the BIG names - and only the big names."
His mission is to ensure that we begin to pay attention to many other animals needing our attention. It's pretty tough to save them if we know nothing about them. His new expertly designed book is meant to give readers all they need to know about each animal on a double-page spread that provides pertinent information, as well as a charming image of the animal itself on the facing page. Information includes a few paragraphs of witty description accompanied by useful thumbnail sketches, and an information box with five descriptors: size, what they eat, where they live, status, and ...
The text is humorous and conversational, giving middle grade readers a chance to learn about animals they have likely never encountered. Animal commentary through the use of dialogue balloons ups the appeal. I like that size comparisons are provided to give perspective. A table of contents and glossary are provided. Although its tone is upbeat, it reminds readers that many animals of the world are in great danger of extinction. Fascinating, coherent and worthy of classroom discussion.
Are you ready to learn something new? You would do well to begin with this fine book.
"Slender lorises generally hunt alone, but, when the sun rises, they retreat to their favourite thicket of branches, high in a tree, to cuddle up with as many as seven others in a tangle of arms and legs called a “sleeping ball”. All safe and sound."
Thursday, December 5, 2019
I Love My Glam-MA, written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Sujean Rim. Orchard Books, Scholastic. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up
don't just celebrate
they celebrate everything!
Glam-MAS don't just
carry a purse ...
they carry a treasure chest!"
My granddaughters will NEVER call me a Glam-MA! I do not have the style of many of the grandmothers introduced in this delightful homage. We are called many names ... mine does not make the list, but I an pretty sure the two of them will be happy to share this book with me just the same.
"Everyone knows grandmothers go by many names: Grandma, Granny, Gigi, Mom-Mom, Yaya, Meemaw, Nana, Gram, Abuela, Bubbe, Oma, and Big Mama G. But MAYBE they should really be called "Glam-MA." Because Grandmas are some of the most glamorous people you're ever gonna meet."
I am Nona, and no spoken word sounds better to me than that one. I try to do some of the things that the grandmas here do. Celebrating the wonders of grandchildren is the best job in the world. The watercolor and collage portraits created by Sujean Rim spectacularly match the fun of Samantha Berger's amusing text. The many joys of time spent together include gifts, dress-up, long walks, even siestas and fiestas. Mindset is everything and it shows on every page.
That author offers up suggestions that will remind children of the things they do with their own beloved grandmothers. The age, style, and hair color may vary from one grandma to the next; the love and great happiness children feel for them is evident, no matter the activity they experience together.
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast, written and illustrated by Sophie Gilmore. Owlkids, 2019. $19.95 ages 4 and up
for bruises, scrapes, or broken bones,
keeping a wary eyes on those jaws.
The crocodile's eyes followed her every
move, making Little Doctor feel as though she were the one being examined. Big Mean seemed fine. Perhaps it was a fever? Little Doctor approached the beast with a thermometer to pop under her tongue. But Big Mean did not like
that. Not one bit."
A very young girl with a dangerous job is the premise for this entertaining tale. She is called Little Doctor: she pays attention to and provides treatment for the jungle's many crocodiles. The care she affords covers a variety of maladies; some are physical. Others have more to do with feelings, and self-confidence. The crocs pay for her services by amusing her with adventurous stories.
"Each legend teemed with terrible danger, dizzying escapes, and acts of great mischief."
She loves each and every one of her patients. Then comes the day that Big Mean shows up at her door. A full examination reveals nothing about the huge crocodile's medical condition. Big Mean is not prepared to cooperate in any attempt to determine a course of action. Disgruntled, Little Doctor moves back to treating willing patients. Her gentle care captures Big Mean's attention, and finally a state of relaxation.
Little Doctor has an idea ... which fails miserably. It becomes a stroke of luck for all. Little Doctor is finally able to calm the fear that brought Big Mean to her. Big Mean's tale of determination to protect those she loves is lovingly shared, and leaves readers with a sense of satisfaction and wonder. Bravo, Little Doctor!
Sophie Gilmore's brilliantly detailed illustrations add a sense of danger while also showing a love of all things crocdilian. The doctor's house is filled with images that are sure to capture attention and invite discussion. Do take the time to look carefully with little ones.
What an auspicious picture book debut!