Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February Recommendations


Full of suspense, GORILLA DAWN, by Gill Lewis, takes place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Imara is a child soldier enslaved by a gang of murderous rebels. Bobo stumbles into camp while searching for his father, a wildlife park ranger who disappeared while trying to protect a family of gorillas. When the leader of the gang sets up an illegal mine, his buyer wants a baby gorilla as part of the deal. Despite the danger, Imara and Bobo know they must return the newly captured baby gorilla to the wild. (MG)

A TANGLE OF GOLD, by Jaclyn Moriarty, is the third and final book of the Colors of Madeleine trilogy. In this completely original fantasy series, we see two worlds occurring side by side. In the Kingdom of Cello, where magic exists and colors manifest as storms, the royal family has gone missing. Access to the World occurs through small, seemingly random cracks, though travel between the two places is forbidden. It’s a good thing rules don’t stop Madeleine (in the World) and Elliot (in Cello) from getting to know each other. Charming and funny. (YA)

And in GOLDENHAND, Garth Nix continues his fabulous Abhorsen series (including the Abhorsen trilogy of Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, their prequel, Clariel, and the novella Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case). In Goldenhand, Lirael serves as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. When she finds Nicholas after he is attacked by a Free Magic creature, she takes him to the Clayr’s Glacier to heal. But when she gets a message from her dead mother, delivered by a strange girl from the North, she learns that a huge battle is looming. One that must be fought both in the Old Kingdom and in the river of Death. (YA)

Picture books:

OOPS, POUNCE, QUICK, RUN! AN ALPHABET CAPER, by Mike Twohy is great fun. It’s one word per page, beginning with a little mouse who is Asleep. A Ball bounces in, which he Catches, and then the Dog shows up! Cartoon illustrations enhance the playful text.

GRUMPY PANTS, by Claire Messer, is about a penguin who is in a really bad mood. He stomps and shakes and scowls until, little by little, he figures out how to make things better. Blocky illustrations with lots of primary colors make this an attractive package. (The penguin in Penguin Problems, by Jory John and Lane Smith, is grumpy, too!)

FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, was awarded a Caldecott Honor last month. The text is a poem about slaves in Louisiana counting down the days of the week until Sundays, when they are allowed half a day off to gather, dance, sing, and temporarily escape their cares and oppression. The powerful illustrations are full of color, pattern, and movement.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Gorilla Dawn--Shelf Awareness

MG Review: Gorilla Dawn

Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis, illus. by Susan Meyer (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum, $16.99 hardcover, 432p., ages 9-13, 9781481486576)

In the forested wilderness of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Imara is a child soldier, or kadogo, held captive by a gang of murderous rebels. In her role as Spirit Child, she "turns enemy bullets into rain," or so the rebels believe, keeping them safe as they raid villages and evade government troops. When Black Mamba, leader of the gang, sets up a mine for coltan, a mineral essential for "every computer and cell phone in the world," his buyer wants a baby gorilla as part of the deal. The gang locates a nearby gorilla family, kills the great silverback, and steals his baby for the sale.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Bobo is searching for his father, a wildlife park ranger who disappeared while trying to protect these same gorillas. When Bobo stumbles into the Mamba camp, he, too, is enslaved by the rebels. Bobo continues to seek clues about his father even as he teaches Imara how to care for the gorilla baby. Despite intense danger, both he and Imara know they must return the gorilla to the wild.

In Gorilla Dawn, author (and veterinarian) Gill Lewis (One White Dolphin) provides a microcosm of human interconnectedness with the planet, and an author's note explains how the forests drive global weather patterns and regulate air and water quality. On top of the eco-perspective, Lewis infuses her novel with excitement and suspense, as the kadogo grapple with death on a daily basis. Amidst the brutality, it is the tenderness growing in Imara as she opens her heart to the baby gorilla that distinguishes this powerful, multifaceted story. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Discover: In this suspenseful middle-grade novel, a girl enslaved by a Congolese gang learns to be as brutal as her captors--until a baby gorilla is brought into camp.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February's Book of the Month--All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK, by Leslie Connor, was one of my favorite middle-grade novels of 2016, a year filled with especially strong middle-grade titles.

Eleven-year-old Perry Cook, born and raised in the minimum security prison where his mom serves a term for manslaughter, knows all about family. In addition to his mom, Perry has grown up with plenty of loving, supportive people in the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility. This includes the warden, foreman, and many of the inmates (“rezzes”). Perry’s life isn’t conventional by any means. But Blue River is for nonviolent offenders, and the author shows us the people behind the mistakes they have made. When a DA with an agenda decides Perry needs a “real” family, he separates the boy from the only home he has ever known.

Perry is an extraordinary character, as is his entire supporting cast. From Warden Dougherty, who okays the unusual arrangement, to Big Ed and Mr. Halsey, to Perry’s mom Jessica, best friend Zoey, teacher Ms. Maya, new lunchroom cashier Miss Jenrik, and even the deplorable DA Thomas VanLeer, these are fully-realized characters that have a mighty story to tell. Connor has written a feel-good novel that stands up to repeated readings.