Category Archives: book review

When fluorescent yellow-orange is exactly what you need

the-honeybee-9781481469975_lgI am all for any book about bees.  Bees are awesome.  Looking out across the wildflowers in my back yard a few weeks ago, I counted more than ten busy bees working away.  It made me so happy I had to go in and tell everyone in my house.

This book, like the bees, is awesome.  There is a nice, lilting, flowy kind of text – a poem! – and cheery illustrations that follow a bee’s life and work.  Super!  And there is a masterful use of fluorescent yellow-orange in these drawings, perfectly highlighting all the important stuff you want to follow.

The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall and Isabelle Arsenault

 

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Wild love

heartbeat-9781481435208_lgHeartbeat is not your stereotypical cute, rhyming, animal-charactered children’s book.  There is an animal – a whale.  There is a cute kid later on.  There is love and even a little rhyming.

But there you are, floating along, trying to figure out what’s happening with the swirls and the whales and all, and then you’re talking about lights and wars and stuff.  This one has a very definite flow, and it’s beautiful, but it’s not light-hearted or silly.  Not even a bit.

Be sure to read the author’s note at the end.  It’ll explain any of the references you missed along the way, and it’ll remind you of how important all of our heartbeats are to making this world a better place.

Heartbeat by Evan Turk

 

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Social justice, radicals, the pope

francis-f_feature-d9dc2e27e0b832cd21f0b4459639237d.pngJust when you think you’ve left your Catholic past in the past, someone at work who knows you like graphic novels plops this one on your desk.  Ah, Vatican II.  Yes, radical nuns stirring up justice.  Sigh, hierarchies working with dictatorships and hiding child abuse.

For those raised in the Catholic church in the transitional time after Vatican II, it’s a reminder of guitar masses and minor changes that pretended to be major, visionaries and conservatives, and rules about behavior that no one felt particularly inclined to follow.  It’s not what you’d usually call a fun read, but it’s informative and interesting.  (And I don’t mean that in the way that interesting can mean hmmm, not too sure about that here in the Midwest.)

Not every book gives you an excuse to talk about liberation theology with your kid, after all.  Or reminds you of waiting in line for the confessional and trying to come up with sins that were not too big or not too small to admit to the dude behind the screen.  You and your friends suspected he’d still tell your parents even if it was supposed to be confidential, and he wouldn’t be fooled by a whole CCD class of kids using the same three sins.  We’d tried that.  Eight year olds trying to come up with sins for a priest who would probably have rather been watching a ball game and drinking a glass of wine…  Simpler times, people.  Simpler times.

Francis, the people’s pope by Ted Rall

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The mean girls of Deepdean

Jolly_us-200x300Wells and Wong are back again, uncovering secrets and solving mysteries.  This time, an especially horrible and mean Head Girl and her minions are terrorizing the girls at Deepdean Academy, until the meanest of them dies in an “accident” or something set up to look like an accident.

Amid the bunbreaks and late night escapades, dangerous and upsetting secrets are revealed, girls go missing, friendships are tested, and probably no one is getting their French homework done. But do we mind?  We do not.

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

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Ooh! A book! With lots of Os!

lookI wonder if Fiona Woodcock was just looking at her name one day and thought, “Hey.  I love my last name.  That’s a book right there!”

The illustrations are fantastic – bright, full of interesting details.  But the story – what there is of one – is all about double-Os.  That’s it.  That’s the WHOLE thing.  Food, boots, zoo, boogie, snooze.

Will the kindergartners love it?  I think they will.  Sometimes you just need to love your letters, appreciate their beautiful simplicity.  Wordy joy – I’m always there for a OO party.  Ooh.  Cool!

Look by Fiona Woodcock

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Where is MY unicorn chair?

ginny goblinGinny Goblin, as you might guess from the title, is not allowed to open a box.  Also, she can’t build a catapult or do any strategic goat-training or lumber work.  Sigh.  There’s just so much you aren’t allowed to do when you are small.

However, she does have a unicorn chair.  I know.  Really?  Who has a unicorn chair?  Not me!

It will come as no surprise to anyone that a book with catapults and unicorn chairs wins the day at my house.  Delightful.

Ginny Goblin is not allowed to open this box by David Goodner and Louis Thomas

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No one is illegal

illegalThis graphic novel might be about Ebo and his brother trying to get to Europe from Ghana, but change the setting and it could be about any of the millions of refugees or displaced persons out there fleeing war, famine, drought, violence, crime.

Read this.

Illegal  by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano

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Good thing, bad thing

loneliestgirlintheuniverse_01Romy Silvers is either the luckiest or unluckiest person in space.  She’s managed to survive for years on her own on a ship that was supposed to be full of space settlers going off to what NASA thinks will be a habitable planet.  She thinks she’ll be in her forties by the time she gets there until NASA launches another ship – a newer, faster one, full of updated tech – which just might change her whole future.

What starts off your basic sci-fi thing morphs into maybe something else – a romance?  A mystery?  A thriller?  However you want to look at it, it’s a whole lot of fun.  Just when you think you’ve figured one thing out, some new twist appears.  Romy is super smart and oh-so-clever when she needs to be, and she was just the character I needed to jolt me out of my reading slump.  Woo hoo!

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

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Cross your fingers and hope for the best, bunnies

thatbearcantbabysitSo many obvious reasons why a bear should not be babysitting seven bunnies – they already know where all the gummie bunnies are and have no self-control, the bear’s lack of crowd control training, and, oh, that whole the-bear-might-eat-them thing.  But this is a picture book not a nature documentary, so Bear has a ghost of a chance of turning things around.

The pictures are sweet, there are fun details, and there’s a win for Bear, but you have to wonder about those rabbit parents.  Leaving your kids with a bear who shows up, seemingly from nowhere, and doesn’t even have a nice suit?  Really?

That Bear Can’t Babysit by Ruth Quayle and Alison Friend

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Katherine Johnson, smartypants to the stars

counting on katherineKatherine Johnson didn’t only save Apollo 13, although that would be plenty for most of us.  She used math to help men land on the moon, broke barriers for African-Americans and women, and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  All the while, she saw herself as part of a team, not the star.

There’s a great “more about Katherine” note in the back of the book, but even without that, the book is full of wonderful art and a great story about a super smart girl who loved math and found a way to use it to move us all forward.

Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker and Dow Phumiruk

 

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