Finding Someplace

Finding Someplace.jpgTitle: Finding Someplace
Author: Denise Lewis Patrick
ISBN: 9780805047165
Pages: 214 pages
Publisher/Date: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, c2015.

”We’re trapped up here!” she shouted. […]
Reesie held her breath as first his feet disappeared, then his knees. Just as his face vanished, they heard loud splashing. His head popped up again. When he crawled off the ladder, he was wet from the waist down. Reesie saw his eyes and knew how scared he was. Her heart thumped.
“We gotta get on the roof,” he said, reaching for the crowbar. “Miss M, I’m sorry but we have to bust it up.”
”What?” both girls yelled at once.
“Calm it down, a’ight? Yeah, the roof. How else are we gonna get out of here?” (88-89)

Reesie (short for Theresa) Boone is looking forward to her thirteenth birthday party. Everyone else is looking at the upcoming storm, which the news forecasts is going to be the big one. Some neighbors and extended family members are evacuating, but Reesie’s father is on the police force and intent on staying at his post. When her mother gets stuck working at the hospital when the storm hits, Reesie must fend for herself during the storm. But after the storm hits and the water recedes, life does not return to normal, and Reesie wonders if it ever will.

Ressie is a realistic character who grows and changes as a result of the events and decisions she is forced to face. In the beginning she focuses on her birthday and party, and by the end she is thinking more about her family and world as a whole. She is bright, intelligent, and has a good head on her shoulders even while her actions are in line with what a teenager would do in those situations. Her family is equally realistically portrayed, with a variety of opinions expressed regarding responsibility to their community and their family, and what action should be taken. It was such a juxtaposition when her brother, who is away at college, calls before the storm to encourage her to evacuate, and then mentions in passing he has a date that evening. It reinforces the idea that life continues elsewhere in the world when a disaster hits, even as people impacted by the storm are hard-pressed to think of anything else and have priorities that are incomparable to anyone who didn’t experience them first hand.

It’s refreshing to see not just the time before and during the storm, but the story follows the family for months as they deal with the fallout and aftermath. Arguments arise, relationships change, and Ressie is faced with an unclear future, tensions at home and school, and nightmares. Readers are privy to all the uncertainties, rather than the glamorized survival instincts that a few other books focus on during their narrative. As we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the storm just months ago, it’s important to remember that even though the storm has passed, the work is just beginning and even 10 years later continues.

The Great Good Summer

Great Good Summer.jpgTitle: The Great Good Summer
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
ISBN: 9781481411479
Pages: 218 pages
Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2015.

God is alive and well in Loomer, Texas, so I don’t know why Mama had to go all the way to The Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida to find him, or to find herself, either.
Daddy says she went to get some of the sadness out of her system. He says it like it should be as easy as getting a soda stain out of a skirt. A little scrub, a little soak, one quick run through the machine—good as new and no big deal.
Every day since Mama left, Daddy’s been trying to convince me that things aren’t all that bad, even though Mama’s become a Holy Roller and has disappeared with a preacher who calls himself Hallelujah Dave. Meanwhile I’ve been trying to convince Daddy that things are truly and indeed all that bad. Hallelujah Dave, for goodness’ sake. (1)

Ivy Green’s mother has followed a charismatic preacher named Hallelujah Dave from Loomer, Texas to The Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle, Florida. Her father seems to think that eventually she will “get it out of her system,” whatever it is, and return to them in her own time. But that isn’t soon enough for Ivy, and with the encouragement of her friend Paul, whose dreams of becoming an astronaut have also been dashed with the closure of the space program. Getting to Florida sounds easy, but the trip is filled with trials and troubles, and it’s not so easy to get to Florida or to get back to Texas.

Every year seems to have its own trend in publishing that no one is able to guess until it’s almost passed. This year, it appears to be ultra-religious sects and communes. I don’t think any of the titles have become blockbuster best sellers, but here are some titles that have come to my attention recently. Liz Garton Scanlon’s first attempt at a novel is an exception to this list because it’s geared for a younger audience. It’s been said that children need these books because they need a variety of experiences to be able to empathize and sympathize with the rest of humanity. Some kids struggle to see themselves portrayed in publishing because they are a minority in some way compared to the majority of children. Ivy’s specific family situation is definitely one that only a small minority of children experience, but her insistence that her mother will return is probably typical of children who suffer from the absence, abandonment, or loss of a parent, regardless of how it happens. In this way, I may be able to convince children to read it, by book talking it as “Ivy’s mother has left, and Ivy is determined to find her and bring her back.”

Ivy’s voice is filled with old world, southern twang that sounds much older than her age. In a way, she is naïve and sheltered and frustrated with her failing faith in her father’s ability to set things right. In other ways, she and Paul are self-sufficient and street smart, having enough knowledge to research the trip, pay for a ticket, avoid detection from almost everyone, and maintain hope that things will work out. But they are also extremely lucky in their journey, and the ending is so pie in the sky happy that younger readers might think that all stories will end happily if you have enough hope and heart.

Cosmoe’s Wiener Getaway

Cosmoe's Wiener GetawayTitle: Galactic Hot Dogs: Cosmoe’s Wiener Getaway
Author: Max Brallier
Illustrator: Rachel Maguire and Nichole Kelley
ISBN: 9781481424943
Pages: 300 pages
Publisher/Date: Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2015.

It’s Evil Princess Dagger.
And she’s aboard our ship!
“What the butt?! What are you doing here?!”
“Stealing your ship, silly. I’m an evil princess. Y’know?”
I start stuttering, “NO-NO. NO-NO. NO. You can’t be here! Your evil mom is gonna think we kidnapped you. She’ll KILL us!”
Princess Dagger is about to respond, when—BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP “Brace for impact,” our pet robot, F.R.E.D., says.
“SMUDGE!” I exclaim. “They’re trying to shoot us out of space!”
The princess has a sly smile on her face. “Duh! They think you kidnapped me.” (18-19)

Cosmoe is in TROUBLE! All he did was enter a giant hot dog into the Intragalactic Food Truck Cook-Off, which then got stolen by the Evil Princess Dagger, who then stows away on their ship. The ship is being chased by the Evil Queen Dagger and all her minions, initially just to reclaim her run-away daughter. But when the whole galaxy is informed that Cosmoe found a stranded zombie pirate ship yielding a piece of a Map-O-Sphere that reveals the location of an extreme evil when fully assembled, Cosmoe, his buddy Humphree, and the princess have more than the Evil Queen to worry about.

Yes, the book is just as wildly frenetic as that summary. Zombie pirates, references to movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones (even though Cosmoe is the only Earthling in the cast and therefore the only one who understands them) and ongoing laser blasts battles are found within the pages. If Cosmoe is comparable to Han Solo, and Humphree is the equivalent to Chewie, then I guess that means the Evil Princess assumes the role of Leia and the Evil Queen a version of Darth Vader, but that would be doing an injustice to both the original and this not quite parody. Made up slang makes it very younger kid friendly, including “What the Butt!” and “Smudge!” and silly stupidity fills the pages alongside the graphic novel style illustrations. Longer then Captain Underpants or Geronimo Stilton, it’s still accessible to that audience while appealing to older readers. There is very little character development, with no explanation as to why Princess Dagger feels this compulsion to be evil only in the presence of her mother, why Humphree retired from piracy (supposedly it’s “long and complicated” and involves Cosmoe), or even why Cosmoe is riding around on a flying food truck. But in all honesty, it doesn’t matter, because just like a themed roller coaster, it is the ride you are there to enjoy, and readers will enjoy this fast paced, space odyssey which I predict will continue in future installments.

Pirate’s Lullaby

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Pirate's LullabyTitle: Pirate’s Lullaby
Author: Marcie Wessels
Illustrator: Tim Bowers
ISBN: 9780375973529
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, c2015.

”Yo, ho, ho! Me lad, heave ho! It’s time to go to bed,”
Papa Pirate told his first mate, not-so-sleepy Ned.
“But me mates are weighin’ anchor, sailin’ for the Seven Seas!
Can’t I play a little longer? Ten more minutes, please?”

Author Marcie Wessels weaves a surprising amount of pirate lingo into this story of a boy named Ned and his father getting ready for bedtime. With lines ranging from thirteen to fifteen syllables, a sing-song cadence quickly develops and only gets stronger as the story progresses. The rosy-cheeked rascal pulls all the stops with a search for teddy, a drink, and a story are all implored upon by the fast fading Papa pirate, until at last one of them is asleep (hint, it’s not little Ned). Enjoy the equally delightful aquatic themed details in the drawings, like the octopus sippy cup, the peg-legged and eye-patched stuffed animal, and the titles of the books on the bookshelf. You might have your own mutiny on your hands as pint-sized pirates request a second retelling.

My Leaf Book

My Leaf BookTitle: My Leaf Book
Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
ISBN: 9780803741416
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers, published by the Penguin Group, LLC., c2015

So many trees, so many leaves.
When the trees change colors, autumn is here,
and I go to the park to see
how many different leaves I can find.

A young girl visits an arboretum with her dog over the course of several days collects leaves and creates an informational book. Wellington specifies in an author’s note that the pictures were made with collages and did not use a computer, which makes the detailed, boldly colored and textured pictures all the more interesting. It’s almost unbelievable how much time that must have taken her to accomplish, which proves how involved artists are with their work. She reveals her methods at the end, so kids can try making leaf prints and rubbings for their own book. Each leaf is identified and has an accompanying fact or two, with the leaf shape accompanying the name so when multiples appear on a page there is no confusion which is which. A little long for toddler story time, but share with preschoolers or older children. When used in a story time, I cut up this leaf bingo sheet from the blog Relentlessly Fun Deceptively Educational (LOTS of great stuff to be found there!) and distributed so parents had a quick and convenient reference guide and could go home and identify their own trees. Keep this on your list of fall books and recommend to patrons.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

Penguin and Pumpkin

Penguin and PumpkinTitle: Penguin and Pumpkin
Author/Illustrator: Salina Yoon
ISBN: 9780802737335
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., c2014.

It was fall, and very white on the ice, as always—which made Penguin curious.
“I wonder what fall looks like off the ice.”
“Let’s go to the farm and find out!”

Penguin, Bootsy, and a posse of penguins set off on an ice flow to the farm to see what fall looks like. They pick pumpkins and Penguin gathers leaves to take home and share with his younger brother, who was too young to make the journey with them. A heartwarming story that is filled with sweet details in the bright and uncluttered digital illustrations. The penguins’ ice ship melts as they approach warmer weather, so they hollow out a pumpkin and use that as a boat on the way back! Each penguin, who can be told apart by their different accessories like glasses, hats and scarves, has a uniquely shaped pumpkin subtly proving there really isn’t one perfect pumpkin. Going slightly astray when showing Pumpkin’s imaginings when left behind, the pictures are still thematic, and don’t detract from the overall journey or goal of bringing fall to the ice. My first exposure to Yoon’s penguin series, I’ll be taking a peak at the rest of the series for future story time use.

Act 1

Act One Jack and LouisaTitle: Jack & Louisa Act One
Author: Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead
ISBN: 9780448478395
Pages: 229 pages
Publisher/Date: Grosset & Dunlap, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, c2015.

”Listen,” I whispered. “As far as you are concerned, I’m not a Musical Theater anything. You saw how Tanner and those boys acted when they found out I was from New York. What do you think they’d do if they found out I took ballet every week?”
“My friend Jenny takes ballet!” Louisa chimed in.
“Good for her,” I replied. “I don’t do that anymore. For now I just need to keep quiet, go to class, remember where my locker is, and try not to get stuffed in one, okay?” (85)

Twelve-year-old Jack has just moved from New York to Shaker Heights, Ohio, and is attempting to blend in with the rest of the student population. But his neighbor Louisa knows his secret, that’s he’s acted in Broadway and got kicked off a debut show because his voice decided to change. Louisa disagrees with Jack’s decision to leave the theater completely, never to return. She’s going to make every effort to get him back on stage, starting with the community theater’s production of “Into the Woods”. If Jack is more interested in playing the role of a normal kid, Louisa might need some real stage magic to get him to cooperate. Or will her actions push him away for good?

I’m curious to see if this becomes a series, based on the Act One written on the cover. Especially since there is enough material to mine for future books, like if Jack brought Louisa to New York for a visit, or if a classmate competed against one of them and earned the part. Jack and Louisa are both much more grounded character as compared to Tim Federle’s Nate in Better Nate Than Ever, and readers will be sympathetic to his plight as a new kid searching for a new identity. Louisa is a hyper, peppy kid who has a few friends her age but isn’t afraid to be different and follow her passion, even if it’s not the popular thing. She isn’t a manic pixie though, and knows how to keep a secret and doesn’t make herself or Jack stand out unnecessarily. An initial reluctance in becoming friends and teasing from Louisa’s friend that Louisa likes Jack thankfully doesn’t turn into a romance, although I could see it happening if there are future installments. They are supportive of each other’s decisions, and having that friend to turn to at all times is important. There’s enough tension in the “will he or won’t he” dilemmas that Jack faces to keep readers engaged without the romantic angle. The pros and cons of small town Ohio and community theatre receive just as much attention as those involving New York and professional shows, and the knowledge and first-hand experience of the authors shows in the easy inclusion of facts about both. Into the Woods, the play of choice by the community theatre, was incorporated into the plot both on and off stage, and was a smart choice considering the recent movie and audiences probable familiarity with the story, but prior knowledge isn’t necessary to understand the book. Bravo.

Act Two Jack and LouisaEdit: Just before I posted this, I attended a publisher’s book preview and discovered that I was right, there is a sequel! Coming to a book store near you February 16, 2016. Does anyone have an advanced copy they want to lend me?


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