Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy

Title: A Boy Named Queen
Author: Sara Cassidy
Format: Novel (middle grade)
Length: 77 pages
Publication Date: August 2016

The Story

In this very short novel, a grade 5 girl named Evelyn learns a lot from a boy named Queen, the new kid in her school. Queen is different from everyone else, and so becomes the target of school bullies, but he never lets the bullies get to him, always remaining positive and enthusiastically himself.

My Thoughts

I love this book's message of acceptance, both of oneself and of others. Queen is a great character; he's clearly different from his peers, and that makes it hard for him to make friends, but he knows who he is and isn't afraid to show it. Evelyn struggles with that at times, but ultimately learns a lot about friendship and being yourself from Queen.

The story is very short, perhaps disappointing very plot-focused readers, but personally I very much enjoyed this brief glimpse into Evelyn's life. The shortness of the book also means this could be a good choice for struggling readers; for more advanced readers it could be a one-day read.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Bear Who Wasn't There and the Fabulous Forest by Oren Lavie

Title: The Bear Who Wasn't There and the Fabulous Forest
Author: Oren Lavie
Illustrator: Wolf Erlbruch
Format: Picture Book
Length: 37 pages

The Story

The Bear Who Wasn't There isn't sure if he is himself. In his pocket he finds a list of clues about himself to help him figure that out. So he sets off through the forest to find out if he is himself.

My Thoughts

This is a very strange book. It's nonsensical nature reminded me a bit of Alice in Wonderland, but in this case the confusing nonsense (or, one might argue, philosophy) is basically the whole story. So if you're like me and don't easily understand abstract philosophical concepts, you might be confused the whole time you're reading this book. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I don't really get it. And I don't know what age group to recommend it to. I feel like this is an adult book in picture book format. Maybe if you know a really philosophical child?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket

Title: The Lump of Coal
Author: Lemony Snicket
Format: Picture Book
Length: 34 pages

The Story

This is the story of a lump of coal who rolls out of a bag of coals and goes off in search of something interesting. He finds a snobby art gallery manager, a disappointingly inauthentic Korean restaurant, and a fake Santa before his fortune finally takes a turn for the better.

My Thoughts

If you're a fan of Lemony Snicket's other books you will probably like this one too. The premise is odd, and it just gets odder as you go. I particularly enjoy the part where the lump of coal goes into a Korean restaurant and can tell by the smell of oregano that the restaurant does not cook real Korean food.

Snicket does tend to use a lot of big words, which can be good for a kid's vocabulary but which also means young readers will probably struggle with this one. It's probably better suited to parents reading to their young children, or for older readers to read on their own.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Title: Anything but Typical
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Format: Novel (middle grade)
Length: 195 pages

The Story

Jason Blake is a 12 year old autistic boy. He struggles to fit in with his neurotypical classmates, but has more success interacting on a website called Storyboard, where he writes short stories and talks to other young writers. There, he meets a girl named PhoenixBird, who he thinks of as his girlfriend, but when the chance to meet her in person comes along, he panics.

My Thoughts

I picked this book up because it is written from an autistic perspective and seemed to make use of the concept of neurodiversity (the idea that autistic people just have a different sort of brain rather than having something wrong with them). Different perspectives are present in the book: Jason's dad is an accepting, understanding parent, who sometimes struggles but ultimately accepts Jason as he is. His mom is another story, having a lot of difficulty understanding her son and interacting with him in a way that works for him. Jason himself is sort of in between, uncertain at times whether or not he would choose to be neurotypical if he could.

I would have liked to see more of a transformation in how the characters came to view autism by the end of the story. I found it to be pretty subtle. But there is a positive message in there and overall I still enjoyed the story and was rooting for Jason all the way.

This book is good for middle grade readers. I think autistic kids and teens may enjoy the relatable character, and neurotypicals who have autistic friends or family members could gain some insight from Jason's narrative.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice

Title: A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice
Authors: Jane Austen (original) and Alex Goodwin (adaptation)
Format: Picture Book (text-heavy)
Length: 51 pages

The Story

This is a condensation of Pride and Prejudice, seemingly using text right from the original book, accompanied by pictures of guinea pigs playing the various roles. The photos are complete with beautifully designed sets and adorable tiny guinea pig outfits.

My Thoughts

I'm not entirely sure what age range this book is good for. It is quite wordy for a picture book, and the words are not easy for a modern-day child to understand, being taken from the original novel. There are lots of sentences like "To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained." Very flowery.

On the other hand, the pictures are adorable! So while I can't really say whether this will encourage a child's interest in "the classics", they might like it just for the guinea pigs. :)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf

Title: The Insomniacs
Author: Karina Wolf
Illustrators: The Brothers Hilts
Format: Picture Book
Length: 29 pages

The Story

The Insomniacs used to live during the day like most people, but then Mrs. Insomniac gets a new job 12 time zones over. Suddenly the whole family is up all night and always nodding off during the day. They try to find some way of getting back to their old schedule, but finally end up learning from the nocturnal creatures around them.

My Thoughts

The illustrations are what really made this book for me. The art is in a dark, kind of weird/creepy style that reminds me of Tim Burton. The story is unique, while having a common message of accepting yourself for who you are. I feel like this would make a good bedtime story.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

That Is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

Title: That Is NOT a Good Idea!
Author: Mo Willems
Format: Picture Book
Length: 42 pages

The Story

A fox invites a goose to dinner. She goes along, with every page leading closer and closer to danger. All along, a chorus of baby geese warn that that is NOT a good idea!!

My Thoughts

This is book is the perfect storytime book! I read it during my brief time in an elementary school library, and the grade 1-2 classes loved it. The tension builds throughout the story, towards the conclusion everyone can see coming,  but as in every good story not everything is as it seems.

If you've read any of Mo Willems' books you already know that he's amazing. This book is no exception!