Meditate With Me

Meditate with Me.jpgTitle: Meditate With Me: A Step-By-Step Mindfulness Journey
Author: Mariam Gates
Illustrator: Margarita Surnaite
ISBN: 9780399186615
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, c2017.

 

Imagine a jar full of water and glitter in any colors you choose. […]
Your mind is like that glass jar, with shiny thoughts and feelings zooming this way and that.
But you can use your breath and body to set that busy mind down flat.
Gently, just like that. Swish!

With little introduction, the book leads children through a short meditation. Five animals (a rabbit and elephant who are clothed as females, a cat and bear shown as male, and a pig of indeterminate gender) act out the instructions presented. The narrative is uneven, sometimes in labored rhymes (“Now notice your breath, / in and out through your nose / Is the air cool? Is it warm? / Can you feel in your body where it goes?”), other times in straight prose. The drawings are bright, colorful, engaging, and uncluttered, although reading it while the text encourages students to close their eyes might prove counterproductive. The jar of glitter imagery and the encouragement to be still and quiet in order to listen and identify how you feel and what you hear is well suited for the age, but hardly groundbreaking as they are common in the practice. A summarizing “Four Easy Steps to Meditate with Me” neglects any mention of emotional awareness, which the book spends several pages exploring “What does happy feel like in your body? Make a happy face.” Possibly read through, have a discussion, and then adults could use only the words to guide students through their own efforts. A well-meaning introduction to the idea of meditation, but children might need prompting to picking-up the picture book and the practice.

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Bubble Trouble

Bubble Trouble.jpgTitle: Bubble Trouble
Author: Margaret Mahy
Illustrator: Polly Dunbar
ISBN: 9780547074214
Page: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2008.

Little Mabel blew a bubble, and it cause a lot of trouble. . .
Such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble-bobble way.

With those lines, we’re off on a rollicking adventure of a baby bounding and bouncing all over town, with half the town’s residents taking up the chase. Be prepared for tongue twisters and oral acrobatics as the lines’ frenetic pace seems to gain steam like a runaway train (or a runaway bubble baby as the case may be). Utilizing alternate rhyme, alliteration, consonance, and assonance this would be a great introduction to a classroom unit on story telling through poetry. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t previously blogged this already, as I’ve been using it for years, primarily with the older audiences considering the length and vocabulary. It’s ideal for outreach visits to summer camps where the children are older, and they are amused and delighted by the absurdity and my efforts to read it at an ever increasing speed. The illustrations are a quirky combination of collage and watercolors, with the impacted family portrayed in matching red hair and patterns utilized for almost every article of clothing. While the audience may be aghast at the account’s antics, baby is for the most part blissful throughout the whole book. Delightful in every way.

SP4RX

SP4RX.jpgTitle: SP4RX
Author/Illustrator: Wren McDonald
ISBN: 9781910620120
Pages: 116 pages
Publisher/Date: Nobrow Ltd., c2016.

“Well the thing is, STEVE, they’re literally removing people’s brains and replacing them with manufactured ones —”
“That’s where you’re wrong, DANA, it’s the same brain, just altered for efficiency.”
“And what? That makes it ethically sound?? These impoverished low-level people are now being forced to work 36 hour shifts for God’s sake! And they are supposed to take ELPIS PROGRAM as a blessing?!”
“Dana, Look. Do you know how much these workers can make in a 36 hour shift? ELPIS gives them the means to provide for their fam-”
“PLEASE! Is that what you tell yourself[…]?!” (27)

In an unspecified dystopian future, SP4RX is a Bitnite, a hacker for hire. He doesn’t ask questions, only delivers the goods, until another hacker named Mega steals the program he heisted. It leads him to meet with a small resistance force with the self-assigned mission to stop a corporation implanting people with upgrades that allow them to be controlled remotely. Initially opposed to joining them, SP4RX realizes that their way might be the only way to maintain the slim direction over his own destiny.

Reminiscent of Fifth Element meets the Matrix, with maybe a little bit of Futurama and Dr. Who’s daleks thrown in for good measure, it’s not uncommon in this world for people to have cybernetic enhancements, communication takes place in person as often as in the virtual world, and the word “eliminate” has replaced “exterminate”. The art work is done in black, white, gray and purple, with the story segmented by full page graphics that feel like filler, or chapter or volume dividers, even though they aren’t labeled as such. A distracting feature is that characters are drawn sometimes with noses and sometimes without with little consistency as to which or why one way is chosen over the other. The story feels like a generic end of the world mashup, with little in the way of a back story explaining how they got to this point. By the end of the book, I was most interested in the minor character of the OBD droid, whose bodyless head steals every scene it’s in, as its implanted empathy drives the dogged search and loyalty it shows for SP4RX. Give that little guy its own series next time, and leave the rest to become more efficient.

There Might Be Lobsters

There Might Be Lobsters.jpgTitle: There Might Be Lobsters
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Laurel Molk
ISBN: 9780763675424
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, c2017.

Lots of things at the beach scared Sukie. Lots.

Eleanor brings her dog Sukie to the beach, along with Sukie’s loyal toy chimp Chunka Munka. Sukie is not as enthusiastic to be at the beach, and is essentially an Eeyore-esque worrier, about everything from getting hurt to lobsters. Ever patient Eleanor eventually abandons all efforts to get Sukie in the water with her, but everything changes when Chunka Munka gets swept up by a wave and Sukie must save her friend. A triumphant smile graces her muzzle for the rest of the story. Laurel Molk’s watercolors and Carolyn Crimi’s text refrains from making the beach trip scary, keeping the illustrations light and airy and Sukie’s fears are never discounted or criticized, with only minor frustration conveyed by Eleanor at her dog’s uncertainty. Although Sukie seems afraid of the beach ball and water, she doesn’t seem especially distressed at being there, which I interpret as a lesson that you can still have a good time and appreciate the company and event even if you don’t partake in the same activities as everyone else.

Where is Bear?

Where is Bear.jpgTitle: Where is Bear?
Author/Illustrator: Jonathan Bentley
ISBN: 9780399555930
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Doubleday, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, c3026. (Originally published in Australia by Little Hare Books, an imprint of Hardie Grant, in 2016)

Pencil and watercolor illustrations (don’t miss the wallpaper designs in the background) show a little boy searching for Bear, asking the reader over and over if they have seen him. In the background, peeking out behind doors and page margins are furry paws and feet and body parts. The surprise ending (announced on the cover, so is it really a surprise?) proves that maybe our narrator wasn’t as clueless as we all thought. The story seems intentionally vague in the characters’ relationship with each other, with the titles of anxious searcher and soothing caregiver possible for either child or over-sized animal. Blue wash blankets the final scene of a cozy cuddle proving all’s well.

 

Jabari Jumps

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.

Jabari Jumps.jpgTitle: Jabari Jumps
Author/Illustrator: Gaia Cornwall
ISBN: 9780763678388
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, c2017.

The diving board was high and maybe a little scary, but Jabari had finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and now he was ready to jump. (unpaged)

Debut author and illustrator Gaia Cornwall writes a rite of passage tale about African-American boy Jabari also doing something for the first time: jumping off the diving board at the public pool. After several false starts, his dad counsels him and Jabari completes his jump. Several aerial perspectives relay the height and anticipation that Jabari must feel as he looks down on the pool, where his father and sister wait in the shallow end. Details stay consistent throughout the story, and close examination of the illustrations allow you can track the movements of the other pool attendees.

Bad Guy

Bad Guy.jpgTitle: Bad Guy
Author: Hannah Barnaby
Illustrator: Mike Yamada
ISBN: 9781481460101
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2017.

If the Incredibles or Despicable Me family were the bad guys instead of the heroes, they might be something like this family. Digital illustrations also lead to this comparison, which seems obvious upon learning  that illustrator Mike Yamada is a professional animator. The boy narrator is intent on wrecking havoc on his sister Alice, including chasing her, tying her up, and dumping spaghetti on her to better facilitate eating her brains. Besides the last scenario, it’s difficult to determine exactly what he does to her, since the other situations are portrayed in an imagined manner with flexible size distortions reminiscent of Alice’s Wonderland namesake. Alice’s brother gets his comeuppance though in blatant trap that Alice sets up and speaks more to his carelessness than Alice’s evil abilities. Alice’s pronouncement that “Not every bad guy is a guy.” and their mother’s movements in the background make clear the feminist agenda that girls can do and be anything they want. With the narrator’s release from the trap at the end and the amicable closing scene, it seems that Alice might be more malleable in her evil intentions than her brother’s unsympathetic and entirely remorseless. Most seem to enjoy the cute story of comeuppance, but it’s a spin on superheroes and imaginative play that doesn’t quite make it off the ground for me. I’m lucky a Goodreaders reviewer mentioned taking off the book jacket on the hardcover, as it has a hit of the ending to come underneath.

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