Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I Crawl Through It -- Shelf Awareness Pro

I had a new book review in Shelf Awareness Pro today!

YA Review: I Crawl Through It

I Crawl Through It by A.S. King (Little, Brown , $18 hardcover, 336p., ages 15-up, 9780316334099, September 22, 2015)

Readers looking for a break from the ordinary will welcome A. S. King's (Glory O'Brien's History of the Future; Everybody Sees the Ants) newest novel. Deftly juggling a number of surrealistic elements, the author crafts a wholly original work of fiction that is as bizarre as it is satisfying.

Stanzi won't take off her lab coat and dissects frogs with a clinical passion. She's in love with Gustav, who is building a helicopter that's not technically invisible, but Stanzi can see it only on Tuesdays. China, Stanzi's best friend, repeatedly turns herself inside out due to a nasty encounter with a weatherman ("She just turns herself over and over, esophagus to rectum, like a human Lava Lamp"). Everyone is aware of this. The dangerous bush man sells letters for a kiss. And Lansdale Cruise "is like Pinocchio except her hair grows, not her nose." Add in daily bomb scares and the pervasive pressure of standardized testing at their high school and you have the basic tenets of I Crawl Through It.

The brilliance of this novel is how everything makes sense in King's carefully crafted plot. The story weaves together alternating points of view of characters who are all dealing with some kind of trauma, yet they are all looking for love and redemption. Stanzi's parents are mysteriously absent from her life, and the family has clearly survived some kind of violent encounter. Stanzi and Gustav intend to use his helicopter to escape a life of standardized tests, mediocrity and TV. Since the helicopter is invisible to Stanzi six days out of seven, she will "just have to trust." Meanwhile, after China was deeply hurt by her affair with the weatherman, she's trying hard to stay out of trouble. But she's still looking for love, so when she meets a boy on the Internet, she takes the bus to New York City to see him. Lansdale Cruise, whose father has worked his way through four wives, furiously looks for her own answers to love and perfect test scores. Even the mysterious man in the bush is looking for love.

Readers who follow the story threads will be rewarded in a big way, as these smart teens cope with stress, violence, turmoil and the dysfunctional adults in their lives by taking extraordinary measures. Ultimately, it is only when they are ready to face their demons head-on that true healing finally begins. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, the monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Shelf Talker: Master of contemporary surrealistic fiction A.S. King offers a smart and wholly original new YA novel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July Recommendations

GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA, by Rita Williams-Garcia, is the third installment of the trilogy which began with Newbery Honor book, One Crazy Summer. It features the irrepressible sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, now off to visit Big Mama in Alabama. A strong finish to the series. (MG)

IREMONGER BOOK ONE: HEAP HOUSE, by Edward Carey, is terrific and bizarre. It feels pretty Dickensian, but the magic of the Birth Objects takes it well into the realm of fantasy. Wholly original, and well and creepily told, I can't wait to read volume 2! (Upper MG/YA)

And at last--a new Penderwicks story!! THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING, by Jeanne Birdsall, is another delightful romp with the Penderwick family, whose original book was a National Book Award winner. This time we are mostly following Batty, who is now in fifth grade. Rosalind is off in college, and Skye and Jane busy with high school friends, which leaves Ben (third grade) and new sister Lydia to help with the adventures of a new dog walking business and secret-keeping. Delightful stuff, as always. (MG)

SIDEWALK FLOWERS is a wordless story written by poet JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith. A young child, accompanying her distracted father around town, picks and distributes flowers, which helps to bring her world alive. The art uses comic book-style panels and full page spreads to tell this story, as well as the deliberate addition of color to show the effect that a little bit of care and attention can bring.

MAPLE is a debut, written and illustrated by Lori Nichols. It's the story of young Maple, so named after her parents plant a tree in her honor. The text is lovely, the illustrations are lovely, but what stood out to me is how the two entwine. This book is just the right amount of sweet.

WHEN THE WIND BLOWS, by Linda Booth Sweeney, wonderfully illustrated by Jana Christy, is a lyrical journey thorough a windy afternoon. The rhyming verse seems effortlessly done. If you want to write in rhyme, give this one a look!

Friday, July 10, 2015

July's Book of the Month--The Adventures of Beekle

July's Book of the Month is this year's Caldecott winner, THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND, by Dan Santat.

I think this is a beautiful piece of bookmaking. From the charming dustcover with raised type for the title, to the different yet coordinated cover underneath (apparently called the "case cover") on the book itself, to the thick paper the story was printed on, readers will likely feel, before they even begin reading. that this experience is going to be special.

And it is. The endpapers let us know right away that poor Beekle is alone. The other imaginary friends are each happily paired off with his or her own person. Contrast that with the closing endpaper, where Beekle proudly stands with his new name and very own child. Kids will love looking for that on repeated reads. And once the story starts, the gorgeous full color art tells a wonderful tale that enriches the text. Neither is as good alone, just like Alice and Beekle.

I love the pages with the whales, and also the spread of the harbor, as Beekle's ocean journey winds down.

Though I haven't shared this with any (younger) kids myself, I have to think they are loving this timeless and uplifting tale of adventure and friendship.

Did you enjoy THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND? Have you read it with any children? What are your favorite details in the story?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Welcome to the Lynn Becker Books Blog!

Welcome to my blog!

After eleven years of hosting an online children’s book talk for the SCBWI Central/Coastal region, two and a half years of contributing guest posts to a friend’s blog, and four years of posting recommendations and reviews on my own website, I’ve decided to try a blog format.

This be it!

I hope I will have many visitors who are interested in discussing children’s books of all genres.