Posts tagged ‘Siblings’

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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Space Boy and His Dog

This week, in honor of World Space Week, we’ve got reviews featuring space, in all it’s many forms. Today, I’m reviewing a picture where a boy visits the moon in search of a lost pet.

Space Boy and His DogTitle: Space Boy and His Dog
Author: Dian Curtis Regan
Illustrator: Robert Neubecker
ISBN: 9781590789551
Pages: unpaged
Publication/Date: Boyds Mill Press, an Imprint of Highlights, c2015.

Niko and his copilot search for their next mission.

“I’ll bet that cat is lost on the moon,” Niko says.
“Start the engines, Radar. We will find it!”(unpaged)

Niko, his dog Tag, and his copilot Radar pilot their spaceship, which is usually and understandably parked in his parent’s backyard, to the moon to look for a lost cat. When they arrive, Niko realizes his sister Posh, who is “not in this story”, has stowed away. When Posh finds the cat and claims it as her own, Niko retaliates by leaving her behind. Will Posh have to find her own ride home, or will Niko realize the error in his ways and rescue his sister?

Neubecker’s illustrations ground the story as pure fantasy, starting and finishing things off on Planet Home (Earth). We see the reality of the space craft before they even enter orbit, but we are just as easily transported into space along with Nico and his crew, with visually contrasting effects such as the moon’s white surface against the starry black sky, and Posh’s red hair and spacesuit distinctly set apart from Nico’s blue hair and spacesuit. Regan also has playful asides alluding to the imaginary nature of this journey, especially when “Tag refuses to stay in the copilot seat with Radar” and we see the dog jumping out of the window mid-flight. They both invoke the fickle friendship that can be found when siblings play together, even when they don’t necessarily want to, and siblings will relate best to this story.

UPDATE: I just read this for a story time for older kids (4-8 years old) and while the parents got it, I’m not so sure about the younger kids. I prefaced the space journey with pointing out the pretend elements, because I thought it might go over some kids heads. I think I was right in that assumption and that this might be better suited for a one on one where the kids can really focus on the pictures and explore the imaginary aspects of the pictures and properly ponder how Posh “gets back” to Earth. That being said, it’s still a cute story.

The Nest

NestTitle: The Nest
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
ISBN: 9781481445474 (ARC), 9781481432320 (hardcover)
Pages: 244 pages
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, c2015.
Publication Date: October 6, 2015 (TODAY!)

This review and quotes for this review is based on an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) provided by the publisher.

With every rung I got angrier. My parents couldn’t even deal with the nest. I was allergic, but they were too busy. They were busy with the baby and would be for the rest of their lives, so I had to do it. I didn’t know if these wasps were really from my dreams, but I wanted them off my house. I wanted them out of my dreams. That nest was coming down. […]
First swing, and the bristles gently raked the bottom of the nest. The broom kept going. Grunting, I brought it back and tried again. It hit a little harder this time, and I saw some papery bits waft down.
The wasps came. In a rush they dropped from the bottom of the nest and swarmed around the bristles of the broom. I gripped the very tip of the handle and was preparing to give it a big upward shove, when I was suddenly aware of a single wasp on my left hand, then a second on the knuckles of my right. I froze. (90-92)

Steve’s parents are preoccupied by the health issues of their newborn baby, which doctors seem unable to diagnosis. Even Steve’s reaction to a wasp sting, which seem to be everywhere that summer, garners only minor attention. Steve dreams that the wasps can help the baby, so long as he agrees to help them. But are the wasps from his dream real, and if so, are their plans for his little brother really something he wants to happen?

This is a disturbing book, perfect for horror fans and those intrigued by Kafka’s metamorphosis. But really, how many middle school aged children are familiar with Kafka? It’s an unsettling story because readers, like Steve, are never quite sure what is real and what isn’t. Klassen’s black and white, blurry illustrations cast a further shadow over this dark story. Upon further review, instead of written numbers the chapters are designated by the number of wasps at the start of each chapter, with one of the final ones showcasing a swarm of undistinguishable quantity, a very subtle but ingenious design feature. I could possibly give this to kids who have outgrown Goosebumps, as it gave me goosebumps reading it. Not a story that you’ll easily forget, but also one that is not easy to recommend unless you are familiar with the reader. A definite departure from his previous title The Boundless, this one is sure to keep you up at night until you come to the somewhat predictable and thankfully happy conclusion.

The Memory Bank

Title: The Memory Bank
Author: Carolyn Coman and Rob Shepperson
Illustrator: Rob Shepperson
ISBN: 9780545210669
Pages: 379 pages
Publisher/Date: Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2010.

“Forget her.”
Hope’s father wasn’t kidding. He never kidded.
Moments before, he had ordered Honey–Hope’s little sister, a skim coat of bubble gum covering most of her small face — out of the car.
“I’ve told you a thousand times,” he said. “No laughing.”
Now, as he stepped on the gas and the car lurched back onto the highway, the first words out of his mouth were, “Forget her.”
A cyclone of dust rose up in their wake.
Dumbfounded, Hope stared out the rearview window at her sister. For a few seconds she couldn’t even make out Honey’s little body in the swirl of debris their car wheels had kicked up. By the time she could, Honey had already receded. […]
Hope begged her parents to turn around, to go back.
Onward they sped. (13-15, 24)

Hope’s life is turned upside down when her uncaring parents leave her little sister on the side of the road and get rid of all her things. Told never to mention Honey again, Hope spends her days crying and sleeping in the garage, dreaming of Honey. She receives a summons to the World Wide Memory Bank, where her memory deposits have shrunk to almost nothing but her vivid dreams have caught the attention of Violette, whose in charge of the Dream Vault. Reluctantly allowed to stay until her accounts balance out, Hope begins to suspect that the sabotage taking place at the Bank might have some connection to her sister’s whereabouts. Will the sisters reunite, or will the war and the mischief spread and split them apart?

I was intrigued by the concept and enthralled by the story until the very end. The open ending migh encourage discussion, but readers like myself might also be a little disappointed by the ending which doesn’t explain very well the source of the problem and glazes over the almost sappy happy ending. That being said, I think for librarians looking for a summer reading themed read (dreams? really?), it might make a really cool choice for book discussions around the Summer Reading Theme this Year of “Dream Big–Read”.

The Memory Bank is a place where memories are sorted and catalogued, awaiting the time to be returned to the people they originated from. The Dream Vault is the same for dreams, and there’s an innate tension between the woman in charge of the Dream Vault and the man in charge of the Memory Bank, since memories can’t be made while someone is asleep and dreaming, and vice versa. That’s nothing compared to the tension caused by the Clean Slate Gang, who is sabotaging the Bank.

Fans of Brian Selznick’s books will almost certainly enjoy the alternating narrations, as Honey’s is told almost entirely in pictures while Hope’s story is told in words with accompanying illustrations. That’s probably why illustrator Rob Shepperson shares the author credit on the cover as his impressive artwork really conveys emotions and moves the story along. I hesitate to say that he does a better job than Coman, whose tasks it is to explain everything. When Coman finally takes over Honey’s story things become just slightly clearer, but I loved the pictures of the Clean Slate Gang and their dump truck of lollipops.

The Red Pyramid

Title: The Red Pyramid
Author: Rick Riordan
ISBN: 9781423113386
Pages: 516 pages
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2010.

“Hold on,” Carter said. “My father’s disappeared, and you want me to leave the country?”
“Your father is either dead or a fugitive, son,” the inspector said. “Deportation is the kindest option. It’s already been arranged.”
“With whom?” Gramps demanded. “Who authorized this?”
“With…” The inspector got that funny blank look again. “With the proper authorities. Believe me, it’s better than prison.”
Carter looked too devastated to speak, but before I could feel sorry for him, Inspector Williams turned to me. “You, too, miss.”
He might as well have hit me with a sledgehammer.
“You’re deporting me?” I asked. “I live here!” (42-43)

Carter and Sadie are brother and sister, but they barely see each other and they look nothing alike. While Carter spends his time traveling the world with his archeologist father, Sadie spends her days living in London with their maternal grandparents. The siblings never really knew the specifics of their mother’s death or the fight between their grandparents and their father. All that’s about to change though, when an explosion blows apart the Rosetta Stone and their father is charged as a terrorist. Fleeing the clueless police, Sadie and Carter discover that the Egyptian gods and goddess might not be as ancient history as they thought. Along the way, the realize that they might have some ancient powers of their own, which they’ll have to learn quickly in order to stop the evil from spreading.

Maybe I read this book too fast. Maybe I was expecting too much because of the hype. While I enjoyed the book while reading it, I have a hard time remembering all the details that I had read two weeks later. And for a book this intriquite, the details are important!

Here’s what I liked:
I liked the shifting narration. Alternating back and forth from Sadie’s and Carter’s perspectives added depth to the story, especially when so much of what happens is internalized, due to their struggle to control and learn their powers or their spirit’s transportation to godly realms while they’re asleep.
I liked the explanation of the powers. Amos tells Sadie “If you and Carter were raised together, you could become very powerful. Perhaps you have already sensed changes over the past day. […] it was clear even then that you two would be difficult to raise in the same household.” (79-80) Rather than just have the powers appear with the onset of adolescence, it seems that they need to be close to each other for their powers to be active. (It’s been a while, but doesn’t that sort of sound like the Twitches movie by Disney?)
I liked the biracial aspect of Carter and Sadie. It doesn’t really come up alot, but it comes up enough to get it through to readers that the children’s mother was white and their father is African American. Physically, Carter takes after his father while Sadie takes after her mother, making for some awkward and interesting interactions. While the presentation can seem heavy-handed occassionally, I’m thrilled from a librarian stand-point that an insanely popular book contains a person of color. (Story Siren is doing a whole week of POC young adult books at her blog right now, so it really brought it to my attention).
On that same train of thought, I liked the social issues explored because of their biracial heritage. Like in this scene, where Carter is explaining to readers why he dresses “his best” all the time.

My dad put his hand on my shoulder. “Carter, you’re getting older. You’re an African American man. People will judge you more harshly, and so you must always look impeccable.
“That isn’t fair!” I insisted.
“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same,” Dad said. “Fairness means everyone gets what they need. And the only way to get what you need is to make it happen yourself.”(67)

Anyone else think that’s a great quote? Another instance of this inequality is when Carter and Sadie’s father introduces them to the curator of the museum as a family, and “Dr. Martin’s stare went temporarily blank. Doesn’t matter how open-minded or polite people think they are, there’s always that moment of confusion that falshes across their faces when they realize Sadie is part of our family.” (18) It made me wonder if I have the same expression when faced with that scenario.
Anyway, another thing I liked is the presentation of the Egyptian gods. I was not aware that Egypt had so MANY gods and goddesses. The story informs readers about the vast levels of mythology, although just like with Percy Jackson, I would have appreciated a family tree somewhere. Just like the more well-known and popular Greek gods and goddesses, they are all inter-related. In fact, Riordan does a great job of addressing the issue that some stories have conflicting details.

“… when Osiris and Isis frist walked the earth, their hosts were brother and sister. But mortal hosts are not permanent. They die, they wear out. Later in history, Osiris and Isis took new forms–humans who were husband and wife. Horus, who in one lifetime was their brother, was born into a new life as their son. […]
This is why the ancient stories seem so mixed up. Sometimes the gods are described as married, or siblings, or parent and child, depending on their hosts.” (179-180)

Things that prevented me from loving the book:
The initial set-up of this being a recording. That just seemed unnecessary to me. There were a few asides that reminded readers (somewhat jarringly at times) that we’re supposed to be listening to this. But they were so few and far between that it was hard to accept. I think if he’d just written the story like he had the Percy Jackson series, and not bothered framing it as a recording that had “fallen into his hands”, I would have been able to imerse myself into the story more.
The distribution and training of magical qualities seemed willy nilly. The same qualm I had with Witch and Wizard I have with this book. You have two strong characters, supposedly related, supposedly just as strong, and yet one seems to receive more magical ability than the other. In this case, most of Carter’s powers manifest themselves in avatar fighting skills, while Sadie has her own avatar along with the ability to blow stuff up, open portholes, and read heiroglyphics. Their training is best described as haphazard, with some basic instruction and one lackluster duel leading to magnificant abilities in the ultimate fight against evil. The fight is not the end-all be-all that it’s made out to be, with the conclusion similar to Percy Jackson meets 39 Clues. It sets-up the over arching conflict that must be solved by jet-setting around with a chaperone who is more than she appears to be.

Overall, I think it’s a fast-paced read and an enlightening introduction to the little examined Egyptian mythology. My qualms will not stop me from eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.

Oh, and I’m sure most people know this already, but there’s apparently an online website as well as an online game. Warning, it looks like you’re going to need the book to complete some of the puzzles for the online game, so I would wait until you either own a copy or can keep the library copy for more than three weeks. I don’t know how involved or challenging the puzzles are.

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