Thursday, April 14, 2016

April Recommendations


Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy) does it again, with SALT TO THE SEA, a beautifully realized portrait of WWII as seen through the eyes of Joanna, Florian, and Emilia, all with secrets, all trying to stay clear of two armies while not starving or freezing to death, and of Alfred, a rather despicable German soldier. All paths converge on the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff. Riveting. (YA)

JUST MY LUCK, by Cammie McGovern, is well told, well plotted middle grade fiction, with fun characters you can root for, and an overall sense of humanity-doing-its-best that is very uplifting. Fourth grader Benny is having a tough year, what with his dad's brain injury (not his fault), and having a challenging time in school. McGovern does an excellent job with Benny’s brother, George, who is autistic but not high-achieving. It’s good stuff. (MG)

ANNA AND THE SWALLOW MAN, by Gavriel Savit, is another WWII story. I loved the fairytale feel to this one, and the mythic, evocative writing. It started slowly for me but, as often happens, I’m so very glad that I stuck with it. Anna is just seven when the Germans kill her father, a Polish professor. Alone, Anna turns to the strange protector she dubs the Swallow Man, and they travel through war-torn Polish winters. (YA)

Picture Books:

THE NIGHT GARDENER, by Terry Fan and Eric Fan, is a visual treat. Overnight, a large owl topiary appears in a tree on the otherwise hum-drum Grimloch Lane. As more and more leafy creations appear, the town is transformed by the magic. Wonderful—wouldn’t be surprised if the Caldecott committee looks long and hard at this one.

THE PLAN, words by Alison Paul with pictures by Barbara Lehman, is an interesting conceit that's well-executed. By changing one letter each time, we get a complete story about a girl with a pal, a plan, and a plane. The spare story leaves plenty of room for pondering.

THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT, by Patrick McDonnell, is a charming bedtime story. With some winks and nods to Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, we follow three animal friends at a pajama party, helped along by human Maggie. The text is sweet but the illustrations really make this affecting, done in watercolor, pencil, and ink on homemade paper with a simple but perfectly wonderful palette.


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