Graphic Novel Review: Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Review: Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, color by Alec Longstreth
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: April 24, 2018 by First Second
Book Description:

All Vera wants to do is fit in – but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range – Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

There are a few sub-genres of children’s books that I have long loved reading about: one being about adventures at boarding school, and the other being about experiences at camp. Maybe because I’ve only ever been to outdoor school once- and never summer camp!- I have always been curious to read about other kids camp experiences. And Vera Brosgol’s graphic novel Be Prepared, an autobiographical story about the author’s childhood experience at Russian summer camp, is all-around fascinating, unsparing, and touching.

Be Prepared opens with a poignant vignette: we meet eight (almost nine) year old Vera attending her friend Sarah’s birthday party. Vera carefully notes all the American factors of the time that make her friend’s party perfect: Carvel ice cream cake, stuffed crust Pizza Hut pizza, cool party favours, and a sleepover. As a few girls point out Vera being from Russia, her lack of expensive doll-of-the-moment, and their own plans for various summer camps, Vera starts feeling more than left-out. Readers then see Vera attempt- as dauntlessly as anyone could- to recreate the same ‘cool’ American party for her own ninth birthday and watch as things falter. When Vera and her younger brother attend a service at their Russian Orthodox church, Vera learns about and begs her mother to let her go to Russian summer camp. Finally, Vera thinks, a place where she might actually belong, where her being Russian won’t be considered strange! She’s going to finally have that elusive summer camp experience!

Except, when Vera and her brother arrive at the ORRA- Organization of Russian Razvedchiki in America- camp, things are not exactly what Vera had been hoping for. As Vera meets her older, disparaging bunk mates, gets a glimpse at the terrifying- truly horrid- outhouse, less-than-friendly conditions and witnesses her brother seem to have a pretty awesome time of things, she despairs. We then follow Vera as she weathers through an big error in judgment as well as major upsets and frustrations with her fellow bunk mates, her brother, and her mother. Not all is horrible or lost though, as Vera inches her way to a friendship with a younger camper and makes a daring, utterly brave nighttime search and retrieval. With a touching opening and introduction to Vera and her family- and some of their Russian traditions- Brosgol settles readers in to the core of the camp story easily and smoothly. Vera’s time at the ORRA camp is absolutely compelling; raw, sometimes funny, and reveals Vera’s struggle of being and feeling Russian yet not Russian enough at camp. The selective colour palette of the graphic novel- black, white, various shades of greens- works so well here and highlights both the outdoor component and often bittersweet nature of the story. Be sure to read the entirety of the Author’s Note and Word of Thanks at the end, as it all adds even more resonance and insight to the graphic novel.

Overall, what a memorable story; a fantastic graphic novel that is beautifully illustrated and terrifically told. I read Be Prepared in one big gulp, I could not put this one down! Brosgol’s adventures in Russian camp are unlike anything I have yet read, and seeing her amalgamated experiences come alive on the page really make for an affecting, honest read. Any readers who have clamored for the work of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, or loved titles like Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Jimmy Gownley’s The Dumbest Idea Ever, or Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends might especially appreciate this title. Readers who have previously read and loved Brosgol’s storytelling and art in the Eisner Award-winning Anya’s Ghost or Caldecott Honor book Leave Me Alone! might want to check this one out! As Be Prepared ends on a wee bit of a cliff-hanger, I am wondering whether Vera Brosgol has plans for a companion novel? I for one would love to read more of her- and her family’s- story!

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Take a peak at the book trailer:

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Picture Book Review: Petra by Marianna Coppo

Review: Petra by Marianna Coppo
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Petra is a little rock who believes she is a mighty mountain . . . until a dog fetches her for its owner, and she is tossed into a bird’s nest. A mountain? No, Petra is now an egg! An egg of the world in a world of possibility. Until she’s flung into a pond, and becomes an amazing island . . . and, eventually, a little girl’s pet rock. What will she be tomorrow? Who knows? But she’s a rock, and this is how she rolls!

‘Nothing can move me.’

Everyone, please meet Petra! The star of author-illustrator Marianna Coppo’s debut, Petra is the tale of a delightfully expressive, wry, and adaptable rock who not only experiences some mighty changes to her world, but also faces down some challenges to her self-confidence about being an immovable being.

Petra greets readers with the big statement that she cannot be moved, not by wind, not by time; that she is, in fact, ‘a mighty, magnificent mountain’! Petra certainly looks the part; but is she really be a mountain, and not what seems to be a rock? Coppo then follows with a wordless pictorial spread of what could be a log or stick being thrown over Petra’s head. Hmm…just how big or small is Petra, actually? Coppo plays so well with dimension/size in Petra and the eventual disclosure of Petra’s size is done very cleverly: the reveal of the thrown wooden object- and who or what is chasing the object!- gives readers a fuller sense of Petra’s physical stature. The status of Petra’s self-possession and ability to accept change though, is another matter altogether! Through some funny turns of events, shown via beautiful spreads and perfectly succinct text, we learn just how amenable and coolly versatile the incredible Petra really is.

Overall, what a delicious, clever, innovative treat of a picture book! Marianne Coppo might have created for rocks what Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault have done with sporks: i.e. imbuing such expression and spectrum of emotion and story possibility with an inanimate object that rarely features in picture books! Readers who enjoy the work of authors and illustrators like Maclear and Arsenault, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Oliver Jeffers, or stories like Esmé Shapiro’s Ooko, and Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans’ Sparky! might especially adore the story and art in Petra.

 

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I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Recently Read: A Murder for the Books (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #1) by Victoria Gilbert

Review: A Murder for the Books (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #1) by Victoria Gilbert
Source: ARC courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: December 12, 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.

Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families… including her own.

When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A Murder for the Books, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.

I have to admit: when I saw that the protagonist in A Murder for the Books is a librarian, I was very curious! Representations of librarians in literature (from children’s book to adult fiction, comic strips, etc.) are…varied. Putting it mildly, sometimes librarians are not so accurately (or kindly!) represented. Author Victoria Gilbert, as I learned, is herself a librarian, so I felt like my reading experience would be in better hands…and it was! A Murder for the Books– featuring intelligent, accomplished yet self-effacing librarian Amy Webber- is a well-written, absorbing, intriguingly plotted mystery.

Gilbert has done a terrific job with this debut in laying out a strong foundation of characters (both primary and secondary), and in establishing the town of Blue Ridge. Through the first-person narrative of Amy, readers are taken into the small community of Blue Ridge, Virginia and its inhabitants. Amy, now living with her aunt Lydia in her beautiful stately home, hopes to live a more quiet life (free of relationship messes) as the new manager of the town public library. As we know from the book description, however, Amy’s life does not stay quiet for long. When elderly community member Doris is found dead- from a bullet wound- in the library archives, the supposed tranquility of Blue Ridge upends. Along with their new neighbor Richard- a talented dancer/choreographer who is exploring his own complicated family history in Blue Ridge- Amy takes research into her hands to investigate who could’ve murdered Doris- and why. As Amy unearths one piece of the town’s shadier history after another- some shocking and sad, some that surprisingly involve her own family as well as Richard’s- things slowly fall into place to make for some weighty and fascinating reveals. Gilbert balances the mix of murder mystery, detailed backstory, as well as the fairly crackling spark between Amy and Richard very well, giving attention to each facet as needed to propel the story (which is, at times, quite involved) along at a good pace.

Overall, A Murder for the Books is a very solid series start; a well-done mystery that will likely appeal to readers who are interested in more intricate amateur sleuth mysteries. In the last few months, I have had the opportunity to read some delightful cozy mysteries– if you’ve had a chance to enjoy any of those titles, or enjoy the work of authors such as Margaret Mizushima, Jenn McKinlay, Joanne Fluke, or Janet Evanovich, you might especially like A Murder for the Books. There is a second book in the series, Shelved Under Murder, coming out this summer, so readers can look forward to more of Amy and Richard!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (81): Supriya Kelkar, Natasha Farrant, Ashley Herring Blake & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!
 


 
This week: middle grade titles! A mix of debuts, series entries, and new titles from read and loved authors. All of the following titles are ones that I have either read tremendous reviews for, happily discovered through social media or through browsing! This week’s list of can’t miss titles includes: Sunny, the third entry into to critically acclaimed Track series by Jason Reynolds; The Orphan Band of Springdale, a new historical fiction title from Anne Nesbet; Ashley Herring Blake’s contemporary middle grade novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World; the acclaimed historical fiction title Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar; Natasha Farrant’s boarding school story The Children of Castle Rock; and Tiffany Park’s mystery-centered debut, Midnight in the Piazza. Let’s take a closer look!

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar
Publication: October 1, 2017 by Lee & Low/Tu Books
Book Description:

In 1942, when Mahatma Gandhi asks Indians to give one family member to the freedom movement, ten-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life for the freedom struggle.

But it turns out he isn’t the one joining. Anjali’s mother is. And with this change comes many more adjustments designed to improve their country and use “ahimsa”—non-violent resistance—to stand up to the British government. First the family must trade in their fine foreign-made clothes for homespun cotton, so Anjali has to give up her prettiest belongings. Then her mother decides to reach out to the Dalit community, the “untouchables” of society. Anjali is forced to get over her past prejudices as her family becomes increasingly involved in the movement. When Anjali’s mother is jailed, Anjali must step out of her comfort zone to take over her mother’s work, ensuring that her little part of the independence movement is completed.

 

The Children of Castle Rock by Natasha Farrant
Publication: March 1, 2018 by Faber Faber
Book Description:

Like many girls, Alice Mistlethwaite idolises her father, Byron. He is a hero: brave, kind and impossibly funny. It’s just a shame that he’s always in and out of prison… After a particularly naughty outing, Alice’s Aunt Patience decides to take action. Alice is to be sent to St Cuthbert’s School for Winners – where competition runs deep, and being ‘outdoorsy’ is not optional.

Much to her own surprise, Alice fits in far better than she ever has before, swiftly making friends and enjoying running wild in the Scottish countryside. But then Byron disappears – or rather his letters stop – and Alice becomes convinced something has happened to him. Aunt Patience is much less sure (and worse, seems to think he has something to do with a robbery that’s making the news), but Alice is undeterred. Armed with her new friends, and a handy opportunity to escape from school, she sets off on an epic quest to find her father, prove everyone wrong about him – and perhaps discover some home truths about herself and her family along the way.

 

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
Publication: March 6, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

 

Midnight in the Piazza by Tiffany Parks
Publication: March 6, 2018 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

Beatrice Archer may love history, and Rome may be chock-full of it, but that doesn’t mean she wants to move there!Too bad Beatrice’s father got a job as the head of the history department at the American Academy in Rome—now, Beatrice has no choice but to get used to the idea.

When she arrives in Rome she explores her new city as much as she can, but it isn’t until she hears talk of a strange neighborhood legend that Beatrice perks up. A centuries-old unsolved mystery about the beautiful turtle fountain outside her window? Sounds like fun! Before Beatrice has a chance to explore, though, she sees a dark figure emerge from the shadows of the square in the middle of the night—and steal the famous turtle sculptures that give the fountain its name.

When no one believes her story, Beatrice knows that it’s up to her to solve the crime and restore the turtles to their rightful place. With the help of her new friend Marco, she navigates a world of unscrupulous ambassadors, tricky tutors, and international art thieves to unravel one of Roman history’s greatest dramas—before another priceless work of art is stolen.

 

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet
Publication: April 10, 2018 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

With the United States on the verge of World War II, eleven-year-old Gusta is sent from New York City to Maine, where she discovers small-town prejudices — and a huge family secret.

It’s 1941, and tensions are rising in the United States as the Second World War rages in Europe. Eleven-year-old Gusta’s life, like the world around her, is about to change. Her father, a foreign-born labor organizer, has had to flee the country, and Gusta has been sent to live in an orphanage run by her grandmother. Nearsighted, snaggletoothed Gusta arrives in Springdale, Maine, lugging her one precious possession: a beloved old French horn, her sole memento of her father. But in a family that’s long on troubles and short on money, how can a girl hang on to something so valuable and yet so useless when Gusta’s mill-worker uncle needs surgery to fix his mangled hand, with no union to help him pay? Inspired by her mother’s fanciful stories, Gusta secretly hopes to find the coin-like “Wish” that her sea-captain grandfather supposedly left hidden somewhere. Meanwhile, even as Gusta gets to know the rambunctious orphans at the home, she feels like an outsider at her new school — and finds herself facing patriotism turned to prejudice, alien registration drives, and a family secret likely to turn the small town upside down.

 

Sunny (Track #3) by Jason Reynolds
Publication: April 10th 2018 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Book Description:

Sunny is just that—sunny. Always ready with a goofy smile and something nice to say, Sunny is the chillest dude on the Defenders team. But Sunny’s life hasn’t always been sun beamy-bright. You see, Sunny is a murderer. Or at least he thinks of himself that way. His mother died giving birth to him, and based on how Sunny’s dad treats him—ignoring him, making Sunny call him Darryl, never “Dad”—it’s no wonder Sunny thinks he’s to blame. It seems the only thing Sunny can do right in his dad’s eyes is win first place ribbons running the mile, just like his mom did. But Sunny doesn’t like running, never has. So he stops. Right in the middle of a race.

With his relationship with his dad now worse than ever, the last thing Sunny wants to do is leave the other newbies—his only friends—behind. But you can’t be on a track team and not run. So Coach asks Sunny what he wants to do. Sunny’s answer? Dance. Yes, dance. But you also can’t be on a track team and dance. Then, in a stroke of genius only Jason Reynolds can conceive, Sunny discovers a track event that encompasses the hard hits of hip-hop, the precision of ballet, and the showmanship of dance as a whole: the discus throw. As Sunny practices the discus, learning when to let go at just the right time, he’ll let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside, perhaps just in time.

 

Review: Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll

Review: Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Book Description:

The critically acclaimed, award-winning, modern classic Speak is now a stunning graphic novel.

“Speak up for yourself-we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless-an outcast-because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. With powerful illustrations by Emily Carroll Speak: The Graphic Novel comes alive for new audiences and fans of the classic novel.

Since its publication in 1999, Speak, the first novel of critically acclaimed and award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson, has been much talked about, challenged, dissected, and shared. Almost twenty years since it was first published and was a National Book Award Finalist, it has been adapted into graphic novel format, with illustrations by Canadian artist Emily Carroll (Through the Woods).

Through Anderson’s adapted text and Carroll’s artwork, readers not only see protagonist Melinda’s present day-to-day life, but also see the depiction of Melinda’s horror- the memories of a rape that was committed by an older student named Andy. Speak is a powerful novel and one that is very much about atmosphere and voice; it is also an uncomfortable, disturbing and essential read about a young woman’s sexual assault and aftermath (self-blame, victim shaming, repercussions (or lack thereof) for perpetrators of sexual assault, and more). This graphic novel adaptation brings all of that dialogue, emotion, conflict and utter terror forth. With Carroll’s striking illustrations, the contrast of Melinda’s quiet yet violent mental torment with that of her reality (her drudgery of school, parents, artificial friends) makes the reading experience even more raw and felt. For those who have read Anderson’s novel, you might experience even more discomfort and intense rage at seeing everything Melinda goes through- especially at the culminating scene that sees her rapist attack again. The graphic novel does absolute justice to its primary source; Anderson’s tone and style, and the significant weight of core subject matter(s) is never lost or lessened. Carroll is an impeccable fit here as illustrator; once you see her illustrations and how she has presented/captured Melinda’s story and the essence of Speak you will likely not be able to imagine a different pictorial representation.

There is not much more I can say in conclusion other than to highly recommend this title. This is a do-not-miss; as significant and moving as its original source, with Carroll’s vivid, sometimes unsettling illustrations providing additional impact to Melinda’s story. As noted above, Anderson’s novel is coming up to its twentieth anniversary next year; since I first read it in the early 2000’s for a university class on children’s literature, I feel as though it has stayed forefront in readers’/YA attention (even more so since I have been a librarian). As other reviews have suggested, Speak: The Graphic Novel does indeed bring Anderson’s classic to a new and/or different audience; there is also much to discover and revisit in this adaptation even if you are already familiar with the novel. Readers acquainted with Anderson’s novels, fans of Emily Carroll’s unique, horror-veined work, or those who are interested in consequential graphic novels might especially appreciate this excellent- important- read.

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I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Blog Tour Stop: Amy Spalding’s The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)!

Welcome to one of the stops on the Thomas Allen & Son’s blog tour for Amy Spalding latest contemporary young adult title, The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)!

Read on for my thoughts on the book, my thoughts about burgers (yes!), more about Amy, and …the link to The Jordi Perez Prize Pack giveaway! The giveaway closes in about two days, so Canadian residents, enter away!

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
Publication date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Available in Canada through Thomas Allen & Son
Goodreads link

Description:

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She also unwittingly becomes friends with Jax, a lacrosse playing bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in Los Angeles, and she’s struggling to prove to her mother—the city’s celebrity health nut—that she’s perfectly content with who she is. Just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight. Instead of feeling like she’s landed a starring role, Abby feels betrayed. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image others have of her?

 

Sometimes (or perhaps a lot of the time!), you need a true confectionary, romantic, delight of a book. Happily, Amy Spalding’s recent YA release, more than met my need for that kind of read. In The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles), we follow the first person narrative of seventeen year old Abby Ives as she steers her way through a summer of a busy internship at clothing boutique, balancing new and old friends, issues with her health-obsessed mom and oh yes, a romance (and first relationship!) with fellow intern, Jordi Perez.

There are numerous focal points in The Summer of Jordi Perez as we can read from the book description, and Spalding navigates them all well. At the core of the story, however, we have the focus on Abby’s internship at fashion boutique Lemonberry and how her relationship with co-intern Jordi (who also goes to Abby’s high school) grows into a significant relationship. As readers get to know Abby, we hear about her history of romance, or lack thereof. While her friends have been dating or attracting attention and in relationships, Abby confesses to feeling like that sidekick in a rom-com- the best friend who proffers dating advice, quippy comments, is cute but definitely not the star. While her best friend Maliah, her sister Rachel, and new friend Jax claim Abby to be delusional about that fact- Abby is supremely stylish, fashionable, runs a talented and popular plus size fashion blog +style, and beautiful- Abby is pretty adamant about her sidekick status being permanent. If she’s a star, then where is her love interest? We learn that the one girl that Abby had really ever been interested in (but just quietly), is actually in a relationship with a boy; that leads to Abby basically writing off the idea of crushing on or dating any girl in real life. But then, along comes fellow intern Jordi Perez, talented photographer, casually stylish, adorable, and very much interested in Abby. I pretty much fell immediately in love with Abby and her narrative voice, her candor, as well as reading about her growing friendship with Jax. And perhaps most importantly of all, the relationship and romance between Abby and Jordi? It is is so beautifully and warmly written, one cannot help but feel a heartfelt connection with how Spalding writes about both glorious and devastating moments in getting to know and love someone- and being able to come to terms with their unintentional mistakes.

Overall, The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) is a genuine treat of a novel. Featuring an array of bright and funny characters, including a fantastic lead narrator, and a bustling yet focused story that flows from beginning to end, there is so much to appreciate about this YA title. Readers who enjoy the work of authors such as Becky Albertalli, Julie Murphy, Jenny Han, Nina LaCour, or more unique contemporary YA might especially love this wonderful, lovely read.

Burger Talk
One of the plot lines in the book involves Abby and Jax trying to decide on the best burger in LA for a new app…and as part of the tour, us lucky participants get to share a little bit about our love of burgers and what our favourite burger is! Now, I have to admit, I love a GOOD tasty burger that hits the spot- though I don’t consider myself too picky or any kind of burger connaisseur! I was torn between the Five Guys bacon cheeseburger with everything (minus mushrooms) and the California Burger at Milestones which has been a fave for years. In the end, I went with the California Burger! Mmmm…I think it might be the toasted bun and the avocado on the burger which makes it all WORK…so good. Also, many moons ago, when Mr. Fab and I were in the earlier stages of dating, I introduced him to Milestones and we had many an awesome brunch and lunch dates happily munching away on California burgers and fries. Happy memories there as well! Some pics below of the burger taken on a recent lunch outing with Mr. Fab!

 

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Get Your Copy Today!
Indigo
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Photo by Robyn Von Swank, from author’s site

About Amy Spalding:
Amy Spalding has a B.A. in advertising and marketing communications from Webster University, and an M.A. in media studies from the New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. By day, she manages the digital media team for an indie film advertising agency. By later day and night, Amy writes, performs, and pets as many cats as she can. She grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles.

Follow Amy:
Website: https://www.theamyspalding.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theames
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmySpaldingWrites/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thatames/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5768552.Amy_Spalding

 

Tourwide Giveaway!

The winner will receive:
1. 1 hardcover copy of The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
2. 1 pack of FujiFilm Instax Mini Film
3. 1 $5 gift card for Five Guys (Canada)

Details:
– Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter)
– Giveaway ends Wed. Apr. 11th @ 12AM EST
– Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email and will have 24 hours to claim their prize

Link to the giveaway on Rafflecopter!

 

I received a digital copy of this title courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own. Thomas Allen & Son is providing the prize pack for the winner. Publicity information has been provided by the publisher.

Recently Read: Great Picture Books (14)!

A look at some wonderful picture books that I have had the pleasure of reading lately! All are titles I have read and would recommend (and I have noticed that three titles appeared on a recent Must Read Monday!!):

 
 

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O’Hara and Lauren O’Hara
The illustrations in this one are truly splendid; Hortense and the Shadow really should be pored over in person, the illustrations are that beautiful and intricate! A fairy tale of a story, with a long ago feel, about a young girl who, after ridding herself of her shadow, finds that her shadow’s constant companionship might not actually be such a bad thing.

 
Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake
This one had me cackling, folks! So simple, so perfectly executed and so perfectly illustrated…This is a story about a child who gets utterly stuck in their shirt and wonders (and worries) about what’s going to happen if they stay forever stuck in said shirt. This a gem with a solid (and also very funny) curve at the end!

 
Buster and the Baby by Amy Hester, illus. Polly Dunbar
‘He waits. And watches. And waits some more. THUMP, goes his heart. THUMP, THUMP, THUMP! Then…CHAAA!’
I do enjoy a picture with good repetition and solid read aloud potential, and Buster and the Baby fits the bill on both those points. An absolutely adorably illustrated tale about a playful doggy and an excited baby that play a bustling game of chase until nighttime comes. A sweet turn comes at the end, bringing everything nicely together.

 
The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder, illus. Samantha Cotterill
Laurel Snyder (Penny Dreadful, Swan) teams up with artist Samantha Cotterill (Charlotte and the Rock) for a heartfelt and genuine story about the breadth of knowledge a woman named Honey passes along to her keen young neighbor. As the young girl, Laurel, copes with the sudden news of Honey’s moving, we see the beautiful effects of their relationship live out in various ways. An Author’s Note from Snyder indicates that The Forever Garden is loosely based on a Talmudic story of passing “from generation to generation”, of planting multiple kinds of seeds.

 
Florette by Anna Walker
Author and illustrator of the beautiful and clever picture book Peggy, Walker returns with another lovely story, so lush and richly illustrated. Perhaps a storyline done before, but worth it for Walker’s take and presentation: Florette is the tale of a young girl named Mae who moves with her family to a grey city and goes on a quest to find some flora to brighten her surroundings.

 
Sleep Tight, Charlie by Michaël Escoffier, illus. Kris Di Giacomo
The duo behind the very funny Brief Thief and Me First! is back with a tale of going to sleep gone awry. Charlie is a very tired rabbit who just wants a good sleep; unfortunately, noisy and annoying interruptions keep happening! There is great wordplay in this one, so lest you think the repetitions of Charlie’s bedtime rituals are unnecessary- they are definitely not! Readers who enjoyed Greg Pizzoli’s Good Night Owl might especially like this one.

 
Rot, the Cutest in the World! by Ben Clanton
I think we might need more picture books about potatoes, right?! Rot, our spudly protagonist, loves contests, so he enters the “Cutest Contest in the World” to the befuddlement of some rather snooty (and more traditionally “cute”) contestants. Poor Rot starts to feel more than a little down as he sees his “cute” competition but do not fear! The entire story is a treat, as is how the contest and results unfold.
 

Coming Up: Blog Tour for Amy Spalding’s The Summer of Jordi Perez!

I am excited to be participating in Thomas Allen & Son‘s upcoming blog tour supporting author Amy Spalding‘s latest buzzed about YA release, The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)!

Take a look below for the blog tour information- you’ll see that there’s not only the promise of reviews and burger pics (yup!), but there is also a very cool prize pack Canadian residents can enter to win! The Jordi Perez Prize Pack includes: one hardcover copy of The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles); one pack of FujiFilm Instax Mini Film; and one $5 gift card for Five Guys Canada.

How can you participate and enter the giveaway? Follow the tour! Be sure to check out the tour stops for info on how to enter- the tour starts Tuesday, April 3rd! The blog tour stops here at Fab Book Reviews on April 9th- the second to last stop. You can also follow the blog tour on Twitter with the hashtags #TheSummerofJordiPerez and #JordiPerezBlogTour. Enjoy and good luck!

Review: P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

Review: P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 6, 3018 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister, Cilla, away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. Forbidden from speaking to Cilla, Evie secretly sends her letters.

Evie writes about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

Evie could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back, and it’s time for Evie to take matters into her own hands.

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy is a heartfelt middle grade novel dealing with faith, identity, and finding your way in difficult times.

Jen Petro-Roy‘s middle grade title P.S. I Miss You is a stunner of a debut. It is a read that immediately takes you in to the world of an unforgettable, uniquely voiced young narrator and beautifully- achingly- proceeds to put you through a storm of emotions.

P.S. I Miss You is narrated by twelve-year old Evie and told entirely through letters that Evie is writing to her older sister Cilla. Evie begins writing letters shortly after her sixteen-year old pregnant sister leaves the family to stay out the rest of her pregnancy with an isolated great-aunt. Readers soon learn more from Evie about her life and upbringing, which seems to have been most influenced by her parents’ substantial involvement in their Catholic church and in their mostly Catholic community. Readers also learn that Evie’s parents’ reactions to their eldest daughter’s unplanned pregnancy not only culminated in Cilla’s decision to leave home, but also altered plans for what would happen to the baby, and what Cilla’s plans would be after giving birth.

While this mountainous emotional turmoil is happening, Evie- who is increasingly frustrated with her closed-off, unyielding parents and not hearing from Cilla- begins a new school year. Evie gets to know June, a girl new to their town and to her grade seven class, and is soon exposed to some entirely surprising (at least for their community) ways of thinking about and approaching religion. Evie continues to dig and scrutinize her religion, her parents’ own hypocrisies, prejudices, perceptions about guilt, sin, and heteronormative biases when things come to a head. As Evie continues to write to Cilla, pleading for some guidance about her identity and growing, intense feelings for June, Evie decides that she can’t bear it anymore- she needs to see her older sister. For fear of spoiling too much, I won’t say more- just know that Petro-Roy navigates searing turns, sorrow and grief, and the resulting aftermath in the most skillful and beautiful of fashions.

Overall, an excellently written, emotional and riveting middle grade title and one I highly recommend. Children’s author Erin Dionne, in a blurb for P.S. I Miss You , writes that Petro-Roy “has created a character [in Evie] with the potential to be as iconic as Judy Blume’s Margaret” [from Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret], and what an apt sentiment. Evie is that standout, lionhearted kind of protagonist, whose heartfelt story and deeply personal narration will stay with you for a long time after finishing the novel. Readers who enjoy epistolary novels, or the work of authors such as Susin Nielsen, Kat Yeh, Firoozeh Dumas, Lisa Graff, Barbara Dee or Rebecca Stead, might especially appreciate P.S. I Miss You.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Reviews: Forever or a Day & The Boy and the Blue Moon

Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: March 27, 2018 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

What does time mean to you? Sometimes it feels like it could last Forever or a Day .

The seconds that count in catching the bus;
The idyllic hours that slip by so quickly during a perfect day on the lake;
The summer days that disappear into blissful happiness . . .

Sarah Jacoby’s debut picture book as an author and illustrator is as elegant as a poem and as perfectly paced as a mystery. This beautiful picture books follows an unassuming narrator through a meditation on time through the course of a single day. Inviting comparisons to Virginia Lee Burton and Margaret Wise Brown, this book’s musings on time are at once simple, peaceful, and profound-the work of a truly genius picture book maker.

“The more you try to hold it…the better it hides.”

This is an enchanting picture book, readers! The debut picture book from award-winning artist Sarah Jacoby, Forever or a Day is a wonderfully illustrated and told story about meditations and thoughts about time. A big subject to be sure, but Jacoby writes- much like Sara O’Leary, see below- in a lyrical, hushed sort of fashion that creates this simultaneously poetic and lucid air for the reader/audience. Jacoby takes us through various contemplations about time- how we might perceive it, absorb it, experience it, appreciate it and more. The text is refined, sophisticated and ultimately perfect for a read aloud for a great span of ages (think preschool, kindergarten and elementary grades). Moreover, Jacoby’s artwork is gorgeous and varied. Varied in the sense that for every musing about time the narrator goes through over the course of their day, there is an illustration to reflect it. For example, with the thought ‘Some people pay a lot of attention to it’, we’re taken into a terminal where we see people dressed in charcoal, muted shades standing in lines, watching the information display, or racing around. For the thought ‘It is a drumbeat, ba dum, ba dum, ba dum.’, we’re taken inside a train compartment with the narrator, watching multiple occupants all doing different things as the scenery tick ticks by. Forever or a Day offers much to imagine and think about, and ends rather fittingly with a warmhearted, genuine sentiment. Overall, a terrifically written debut with standout illustrations. A slight side note here- if you have a chance, do take a look through Jacoby’s amazing, out-of-the-ordinary art! I hope we get to read and see much more from this artist in future projects.

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The Boy and the Blue Moon by Sara O’Leary, illus. Ashley Crowley
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 13, 2018 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

On the night of a blue moon, a boy and his cat set out for a walk and find themselves on a magical adventure. Together they travel through fields of flowers, forests of towering trees, and lakes of deep dark blue. Flying through starry blue skies, they reach the blue moon. But the blue planet, Earth, calls the explorers home. Safely back in bed, the boy wonders-was it only a dream?

“The cat and his boy walked through the bluebells toward the forest. A hundred thousand tiny bells were ringing out a song that no one had ever heard before.”

Picture book enthusiasts might recognize Sara O’Leary‘s name immediately- she is the Canadian author behind the brilliant children’s titles This Is Sadie, When I Was Small (illustrated by Julie Morstad), and A Family Is a Family Is a Family (illustrated by Qin Leng). O’Leary has teamed up with English artist Ashley Crowley for a lovely, lulling story about a young boy’s (and his cat’s!) nighttime adventures during a rare blue moon. As ever, O’Leary’s writing is so beautiful: softly, gorgeously poetic and something to be savoured by both children and adults. Readers who have dreamed or wondered about the moon might enjoy following along the journey the boy and his cat take as they somehow find themselves on an incredible yet desolate new place far, far away from the coziness of home. O’Leary has often teamed up with artist (and fellow Canadian) Julie Morstad for her picture books, so having another illustrator collaborate with O’Leary is interesting to experience. Crowley’s illustrations match the tone and subject matter of the story well- the cat, boy and earth-set scenes are so saturated and rich- though I do wonder if an audience might find the colour palette itself a tad unvarying or the space-set scenes towards the end lacking some kind of necessary warmth to fully gel with O’Leary’s writing. Overall, I do recommend taking a read of this title; it is indeed a beautiful story, and one likely to be much appreciated at bedtime!

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I received copies of Forever or a Day and The Boy and the Blue Moon courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.