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!


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