Posts by challengingthebookworm

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.

 

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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.

The Ring Bearer

Ring Bearer.jpgTitle: The Ring Bearer
Author/Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
ISBN: 9780399167409
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, c2017.

Jackson has an important job at the wedding, and he’s not sure he can do it. (unpaged)

In a mixed media style that has always reminded me of the pointillist art movement, Floyd Cooper conveys the fears that young Jackson feels in serving as ring bearer at his mother’s wedding. Straightforward text relays the tense moments before the ceremony begins, where un-aged Jackson and soon-to-be-sister Sophie are coached on how to walk down the aisle. Body language shows that this is a loving family and captures lifelike snapshots, such as Jackson riding astride the groom’s shoulders, with Jackson’s hands grasping his head and just missing his eyes. The facial expressions are also striking in their realism, from sheepishness to pride and confidence. Recommended for blended families looking for representation.

Gemina

Gemina.jpgTitle: Gemina
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Narrators: Carla Corvo, MacLeod Andrews, and Steve West, with a full cast
ISBN: 9781101916667 (audiobook), 9780553499155 (hardcover)
CDs/Discs: 11 sound discs (12 hr., 30 min.)
Pages: 659 pages
Publisher/Date: Listening Library, Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, c2016 by LaRoux Industries Pty Ltd. and Neverafter Pty Ltd.

Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is Acting Captain Syra Boll of the WUC science vessel Hypatia calling Jump Station Heimdall, please respond.
Please respond. Heimdall over. […]
On the off chance we are not receiving your transmissions, or you are unable to reply, Hypatia is still en route to the Heimdall waypoint with Alexander survivors and refugees from the original Kerenza assault aboard. We’re hoping like hell it’s not just a smoking pile of debris when we get there. Estimate our arrival in fifteen days.
If you guys can roll out any kind of cavalry, now’s the goddam time.
Hypatia out.

Little does the crew and passengers of the Hypatia know that Jump Station Heimdall is having their own problems at the moment, and could use some cavalry assistance of their own. The same people who blew up the illegal mining colony of Kerenza and is pursuing the Hypatia is intent on cleaning up this botched effort, through any means necessary. And those means just might include making sure no one from Hypatia or Heimdall can report back on the mass murder that has taken place. A celebratory event turns into a hostage situation, with the captain’s daughter Hanna pairing up with the Nik, the reluctant member of the crime family secretly transporting illegal materials on-board the ship. But those materials may prove more trouble than the hostage takers.

With an almost entirely new cast of characters, the audiobook for this second in the series is almost as good as the first. Although some time has passed since I listened to the story, I remember there were two snags in the production of the early discs where the sound quality didn’t quite stay consistent. However, they were easily forgettable by the time you got to the final scenes. A notoriously impartial and unapologetic Surveillance Footage Analyst from the first book makes a welcome reappearance. Towards the end, overlapping narratives portrayed side by side in double-page spreads in the book are read consecutively, so as to maintain the intended connections.

This second outing in the saga gets slightly more fantastical than the purely scientific first book, especially involving the climatic solution to a problem that seems unsolvable. The death scenes are also more graphically rendered, partially as a result of the cargo being stowed on ship. That’s really all I can say about either event without giving too much away. While I enjoyed the continued use of transcripts, typed analysis, and other written communications to convey the story, the commentary provided during some of the more intense scenes stretched credibility. When trying to deter a hacker, would Nik’s cousin Ella, a skilled hacker in her own right, really take the time to type exclamations like “I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU NOT TO DISTRACT MEEEEEE AAAAAAAHDB#OWALEKVNLAKENLQWENVLQKENV”KQENV”LQENV”LAV ” while trying to save her cousin’s life? In my experience, it might have been more of a vocalization as opposed to an actual typed response, especially when your fingers are otherwise occupied. Ella’s disability is touched upon in a matter-of-fact manner, but never belabored.

Having read the first book, readers will be not be surprised by the blooming romance between two of the characters, but like the first one it is relatively tame and PG compared to the violence and death of the numerous assaults on the characters. In that respect their attention is appropriately focused on staying alive rather than developing a relationship, although there are some tender moments between the two. Nik and Ella’s back and forth rapport also brings some lighter moments to the gripping suspense of when they are going to die.  There is some drug use that might not be appropriate for younger readers, but all of the frequently used swear words have been censored out of both the written and audio versions. Overall, an excellent addition to the sci-fi series, and I’m eagerly anticipating the third and final book in the trilogy.

Wolf in the Snow

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.

Wolf in the Snow.jpgTitle: Wolf in the Snow
Author/Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
ISBN: 9781250076366
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: A Feiwel and Friends Book, an Imprint of Macmillan, c2017.

Containing only sound effects like the howl of wolves and the crunch of snow, a girl walking home from school becomes lost. Finding an equally lost wolf cub, the two help each other reunite with their families. The technique used to create the wolves renders them beautifully sleek creatures, with feathered fur and a penetrating, solid gaze. In contrast, the humans are depicted less realistically, with large round eyes and dots of color on pale cheeks the only thing visible behind an over-sized, nondescript red coat. Comparisons to another little red hooded girl are inevitable. A fine book, although nothing groundbreaking. Save for a wintry day read or a fractured fairy tale story time.

The Pants Project

Pants Project.jpg

Title: The Pants Project
Author: Cat Clarke
ISBN: 9781492638094
Pages: 267 pages
Publisher/Date: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. c2017.

Bankridge Middle School had a strict uniform policy, unlike nearly every other school I could have attended. […]
Sexist. Dumb. Unfair. Even the moms agreed with me. […]
“Girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.”
I bet I read those words a hundred times during summer vacation. I stared at the computer screen, willing them to morph into something sensible.
The problem wasn’t the last word in that sentence. Skirt wasn’t really the issue, not for me. The issue was the first word. Girls.
Here’s the thing:
I may seem like a girl, but on the inside, I’m a boy. (6-7)

A point of clarification seems necessary, because the only time that Liv is identified with the “he” pronoun is on the book jacket summary, since throughout the book most people are uninformed of Liv’s transgender status and it’s told in a first person perspective. I’m going to try to honor what is obviously the author’s choice to have Liv use “he” pronouns.

Olivia “Liv” Spark is starting middle school with best friend Maisie, but Liv already feels out of place. The dress code requires girls to wear a skirt and boys to wear pants, but while Liv might have been born a girl and looks like a girl, Liv definitely feels like a boy. Nobody knows though, and it’s hard enough to be the new girl in school, much less the outcast that the class bullies Jade and Chelsea are routinely ridiculing about everything, including the too short haircut, lesbian parents, and attempts at making the skirt more bearable. Liv knows that this rule needs to change, and isn’t afraid to start that fight, even if it costs friendships.

This impressed me as a very well written novel. It allowed for some thought-provoking reflection and relayed Liv’s plight with sensitivity but without becoming didactic and was age appropriate in it’s portrayal of a transgender person. Refreshingly unromantic in nature, Liv makes friends with both guys and girls by the end of the book and his struggle to find himself runs parallel with efforts to change the dress code. He’s a nuanced character, with one action at his previous school hanging over his head, making him fearful that he’s been pegged for life with labels (that have nothing to do with his gender) that don’t match how he sees himself. The bullies actions are accurately portrayed both for their spite and pettiness, and the adults are clueless about the behavior, with Liv being reluctant to reveal the specifics because he knows their ability to stop the bullying is limited. The solution to this problem is idealistic at best, but nevertheless resolves the issue.

Liv shows several different ways of activism, including petitions and protests that could serve as a primer for young activists, but his efforts are not always successful. The principal’s initial refusal to hear Liv out seems intended only to drag out the plot, but his exasperation at Liv’s insistence is realistic to an overtaxed and ambitious adult who doesn’t see the priority in Liv’s problem. Liv’s overworked mothers are much more sympathetic to Liv’s feelings, but they are also willing to step back and let Liv work out his own problems and follow his lead. Engaged parents who listen to their children? What a novel idea that isn’t showcased often enough in books! Liv’s confusion about how he feels about them also provides a side of the family that most books don’t show, where children love their family but also want to protect them and themselves from scrutiny.

Highly recommended for collections and children and families seeking this sort of representation.

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