Sunday, June 12, 2016

June Recommendations

I’m on a roll, still reading great books!!! There is so much to love in kid lit these days!! Here are my recent favorites:


THE LIE TREE, by Francis Hardinge, has been winning awards, including the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Costa Book of the Year in the UK, and now the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award here. I have been a fan of Francis Hardinge for a long time, ever since I heard her editor speak about her first US-pubbed book at an SCBWI Summer Conference. She has many books out now, and I have read and enjoyed most of them. THE LIE TREE describes the frustration felt by Faith Sunderly, a budding young scientist growing up in a time when young ladies do not study science. They are modest and well-mannered and they get husbands. But Faith idolizes her father, the grim, formidable Reverend Sunderly, a renowned scientist himself, and the finder of a fossil of great importance. Now, however, the fossil has been found to be a fraud, and the Reverend turns up dead. Faith determines to make sense of it all, including the origins of a mysterious plant that her father cherished above all of his recent finds. A complex and satisfying read! (Upper MG/YA)

THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, by Janet Fox, is so good!!! Like the above, this is a complex novel tinged with darkness, featuring a sensible young woman (who reveres her father) trying to make sense of impossible circumstances. But that’s where the similarities end. Siblings Kat, Robbie, and Amelie escape the German bombing of London in 1940 by relocating to boarding school in a remote Scottish castle. Here they encounter the icy Lady Eleanor, 13 magical charms, wartime spies, and the strange, silent children who haunt Rookskill Castle. Beginning with a deliciously eerie, off-kilter poem to set the mood, this literary WWII steampunk-ghost story is one of the best reads ever. If you liked The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, be sure to give CHARMED CHILDREN a try! (Upper MG)

And now for something completely different: RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE, by Kate DiCamillo, is beautifully crafted fiction set in 1975. Raymie intends to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition so that her father can read about her in the newspaper, after which he will leave the dental hygienist he has run off with and return home to his now-famous daughter. Instead, during baton-twirling classes that never really materialize, Raymie bonds with the overly dramatic Louise Elefante (of the Flying Elefante family), and Beverly Tapinski (who intends to sabotage the contest). I love the way the author writes with terrific care on all levels, from plot arcs all the way down to her perfectly constructed sentences. (MG)

Picture Books:

Don’t miss A HUNGRY LION or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals, written and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Read it aloud and you will get the full benefit of the absurdity, alliteration, and surprises that abound in this wonderfully paced, wholly original, and very funny picture book.

A high profile picture book published recently, THUNDER BOY JR., by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is definitely worthy of all the attention it’s been getting. Narrated by Thunder Boy Smith Jr. (with help from his little sister), we learn how this little boy loves his father, but hates his name. When compared with his dad (who everyone calls Big Thunder), Little Thunder feels more like a burp or a fart. Quite reasonably, he wants his own name. Speech bubbles move the story along to a fitting conclusion, and the brightly colored, lively illustrations make reading it a pleasure.

And finally, LITTLE RED, by Bethan Woollvin, is a bold, graphic take on the Little Red Riding Hood story. This Little Red is tough and savvy and definitely not afraid. For fans of Jon Klaassen’s Hat books, who don’t mind a little carnage (in good taste, of course) along the way. And pay special attention to Little Red’s eyes—they’re simply rendered, but so expressive!


Sunday, June 5, 2016

June's Book of the Month--Mother Bruce

Hello! June’s Book of the Month is very funny MOTHER BRUCE, by Ryan T. HIggins.

Bruce is a bear who is a grump. Apparently, the only thing Bruce likes is eggs, cooked into fancy recipes (which he finds on the internet). One day, after gathering all the ingredients for a rather intricate recipe (boiled goose eggs drizzled with honey-salmon sauce), Bruce returns from restocking wood for his stove, only to find that the main part of his breakfast has hatched. And the cute little geese think he is their mama! Suffice it to say that while the goslings have immediately imprinted on Bruce, it takes more than a few pages for this particular bear to begin to embrace his new family.

I like how the author/illustrator jumps right in with his endpapers—we see Bruce’s forest home, even before the title page. So when the text actually begins, the scene has already been set. All we need now is that very grumpy bear. We can immediately learn about some of the things that Bruce does NOT like (sunny days, rain, and cute little animals). Also, the endpapers at the back of the story do nice job of playing us out, by depicting the Florida vacation spot this entire family has migrated to.

The text is clever and concise. The illustrations don’t merely portray what is stated, instead they add to the fun by telling a hefty share of the story. For example, when Bruce goes out to get ingredients for his ill-fated breakfast, he brings along a shopping cart—no matter that he’s going to pillage the neighborhood. And when his breakfast is ruined, the text never says that goslings have hatched. Instead they tell us he was met with an unwelcome surprise. And on and on. What the text leaves unsaid makes all the difference. It’s a terrific book to study how we can use words and pictures to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. And funnier, too.

Kids will no doubt laugh their way through MOTHER BRUCE. I keep laughing, no matter how many times I read it. In fact, it only seems to get better.