Monday, May 16, 2016

May Recommendations

Read any great books lately? Here are a few of my recent finds:


Continuing in my recent lucky trend of finding wonderfully written stories that go in unexpected directions is THE WALLS AROUND US, by Nova Ren Suma. This time, a superb literary text brings with it an eerie ghost story. Amber tells the moving story of life inside Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, and what happens when Orianna appears. Violet is a dancer on the outside, about to leave for her dream school (Juilliard) yet she’s got a rotten secret involving Ori. A rich, rewarding YA.

ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK, by Leslie Connor is, coincidentally, also set in a prison, but this time we’ve got Perry, whose mom has been serving time at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility for nonviolent offenders in Surprise, Nebraska, since before he was born. Though Perry goes to a regular school in town, the warden has always allowed him to make his home at Blue River. Along with his caring mom, many of the inmates are his friends and family, and things go well for all concerned until an ambitious DA decides that he knows what’s best for Perry. This is a warm, loving story with plenty of heart and kid-appeal. (MG)

REBEL OF THE SANDS, by Alwyn Hamilton, is an engaging fantasy, set in a fictional desert where magic still lives, though it’s mostly in hiding. Amani lives in Dustwalk, a town every bit as forlorn as it sounds. Her only hope is to pass for a boy and somehow escape to the city, where life must surely be better. When she meets Jin, they form an uneasy alliance, and her plans take a detour into forbidden magic and full-scale rebellion. (YA)

Picture Books:

WHEN SPRING COMES, by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek, is a lyrical homage to Spring. This is a text worth reading over and over, pitch-perfect in rhythm and repetition, with brightly-colored paintings that will make it truly accessible to kids. Pair it with the also-awesome And Then It’s Spring, by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead, for two different approaches to a similar theme.

IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA, by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu, is a poetic, circular tale inspired by the author’s ancestral home in Vietnam. A warm tale, with a bit of humor, a touch of magic, and gorgeous paintings make this book really special.

ASK ME, by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee, takes readers through a day of questions and answers, as father and daughter spend some comfortable time together. Told all in dialog, the story and illustrations are tender and inspiring.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May's Book of the Month--Bone Gap

May’s Book of the Month is this year’s Printz Award winner, BONE GAP, by Laura Ruby.

When I first talked about this story, I called it both lyrical love story and chilling mystery. I’m going to add mythic retelling to the description. My second time through, the Persephone themes shone through much more strongly for me. This is a richly textured story with some really gorgeous prose.

To the people of Bone Gap, Finn always seems to have his head in the clouds. When beautiful Roza disappears, Finn has trouble identifying her kidnapper, even though he was with her when it happened. Without any clues, people stop believing him, including the police and his brother Sean, who has lost more than any brother deserves to lose. Just as Finn feels Sean slipping away, he begins to find himself with Petey. The town of Bone Gap is full of secrets and magic, including talking corn, a huge black horse that appears out of nowhere, and the terrifying man lurking at the fringes of Finn’s vision.

This highly original story is about love and beauty and seeing what no one else can. I think the author did a terrific job of weaving her ideas throughout the entire narrative, so that themes come and go and slowly build right up to the powerful conclusion.

Have you read BONE GAP? What did you think?