Review: Small Things by Mel Tregonning

Review: Small Things by Mel Tregonning
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Pajama Press. Thank you!
Publication: March 1, 2018 (as per publisher site; first published 2016 by Allen & Unwin)
Book Description:

A stunning graphic picture book about childhood anxiety from an extraordinarily talented illustrator. On the cusp of having everything slip from his grasp, a young boy has to find a way to rebuild his sense of self.

In this short, wordless graphic picture book, a young boy feels alone with his anxiety. He isn’t fitting in well at school. His grades are slipping. He’s even lashing out at those who love him.

Talented Australian artist Mel Tregonning created Small Things in the final year of her life. In her emotionally rich illustrations, the boy’s worries manifest as tiny beings that crowd around him constantly, overwhelming him and even gnawing away at his very self. The striking imagery is all the more powerful when, overcoming his isolation at last, the boy discovers that the tiny demons of worry surround everyone, even those who seem to have it all together.

This short but hard-hitting wordless graphic picture book gets to the heart of childhood anxiety and opens the way for dialogue about acceptance, vulnerability, and the universal experience of worry.

Small Things is one of those tremendous reads that is an experience…the same potent feelings reading and poring over the work of incredible artists/creators like Julie Morstad and Shaun Tan is what I experienced during my reading of Tregonning’s work. Mel Tregonning‘s Small Things, a wordless graphic picture book, is all at once superbly illustrated, unforgettable, extremely emotionally resonant, beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once. Far too often I have had conversations with a parent or caregiver at the library who does not see merit in wordless books; an adult who tries to dissuade their child from reading a wordless picture book as ‘there are no words in it, why would you read it’. I find this crushing and a total disservice to the potent, consequential nature of wordless graphic books like Small Things.

In Small Things, readers follow the story of a young boy who we learn is dealing with snowballing stress and anxiety. He tries to fit in with a group at school that rejects him; he gets chosen last for teams in gym class; and his marks for exams are not at the A level we understand he wants them to be. We see anxiety building in the young boy, illustrated by otherworldly creatures (floating objects in abstract, graphic shapes and patterns) hovering around the young boy, swelling in size and numbers as his anxiety grows. As anxiety bleeds with anger and lashing out at his sister and those that are kind to him at school, cracks appear on the boy’s body…metaphorically and literally, the boy’s body is fracturing and falling apart. Tregonning does, however, allow for flashes of hope and the possibility of healing towards the end of the story as the young boy opens up to his family…the last few panels also offer an auspicious and weighty ending to the story when the boy goes to school the next day and sees that anxiety, stress and isolation is all around him, even with his compassionate friend.

Overall, I highly, highly recommend this title for readers young and old. The initial thoughts I had when I added Small Things to my must-read list (not knowing anything about the creator or her body of work) was how stunning it looked and how much it reminded me of Shaun Tan’s exceptional work. If you are interested in reading further, there is an article in The Guardian that discusses how Shaun Tan actually helped bring Small Things to completion and posthumous publication after the death of Tregonning. An exceptional, stand-out piece that opens the way for discourse on mental health, I hope Small Things is a title that gets shared, talked about and appreciated.

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

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Picture Book Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan & Tom Knight

9780374301231Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illus. Tom Knight
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Book Description:

From the creator of the Honest Toddler blog, The Big Bed is a humorous picture book about a girl who doesn’t want to sleep in her little bed, so she presents her dad with his own bed – a camping cot! – in order to move herself into her parents’ big bed in his place. A twist on the classic parental struggle of not letting kids sleep in their bed.

Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight’s The Big Bed is a witty and funny story about a savvy young girl who attempts to- not so subtly!- move her dad out of the ‘big bed’ so she can sleep with her mom. As a mom with a three year old who would often like nothing more than to sleep in our ‘big bed’, I could absolutely relate and happily giggled my way through the picture book.

In The Big Bed, we meet our young protagonist who has a major issue she needs to discuss with her father: who gets to have Mommy during the night? The young girl presents her father with all the ways he’s great during the daytime, but nighttime is another matter. The little girl wants to sleep in her parents bed- well, in the big bed with her mommy- and cannot fathom why this might be a problem. Why, the girl wonders, can’t her grandma tuck her father in at night? Why does her father mind when she accidentally pees a little in bed? A little pee-pee never hurt anyone- and in fact, readers learn, pee-pee will keep scary bears away! Why can’t her daddy just- maybe, possibly- let her sleep in the big bed along with mom while he sleeps on….a cot? A COT! Yes, the perfect solution for EVERYONE, the girl thinks! We’ll even buy new nice sheets for the cot for daddy to enjoy! As her mom laughs hysterically at the idea and dad smiles (and probably marvels) his way through his daughter’s detailed presentations, readers get to go along for a very entertaining story.

Overall, what a fun read; cleverly written and perfectly matched with bright, wonderfully expressive and lively illustrations! Parents with young kids who are facing sleeping issues might especially relate and find great humour in Laditan and Knight’s story, but The Big Bed stands on its own as a genuinely witty picture book.

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

Review: No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2) by Lucy Kerr

No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2)Review: No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2) by Lucy Kerr
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 13, 2018 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

When a pregnant car crash victim arrives at Stillwater General, ER nurse Frankie Stapleton and the team must work swiftly to deliver the baby safely. After hours of grueling effort, they finally save the baby, but the mother dies. The staff is already rattled, but then they learn that the accidental car crash was actually deliberate.

Just when they thought the hard work was over, suspects begin rearing their heads one by one and no one is safe. There’s no shortage of motives. The victim was a social worker, and someone may have been seeking revenge. Or perhaps someone was trying to intimidate her up-and-coming politician husband. Then the baby goes missing.

Now Frankie must race to uncover the truth in time to catch a killer and save a child in Lucy Kerr’s riveting second Stillwater General Mystery, No One Can Know.

No One Can Know is the second entry in Lucy Kerr’s thoroughly entertaining and thrilling Stillwater General Mystery series. The debut, Time of Death, introduced readers to our protagonist: emergency room nurse Frankie Stapleton and her rather complicated return to her small hometown of Stillwater. In my review of Time of Death, I noted that I was captivated early on with Frankie’s voice and the series’ intriguing premise of combining suspense and murder investigation with medical emergencies and family drama. In No One Can Know, Kerr continues to excel with a tightly written mystery that manages to entertain, engage and keep the reader guessing all at once.

Still experiencing the aftereffects of her involvement in investigating the death of Stillwater community member Clem Jensen, Frankie finds herself at the centre of another highly suspicious, horrendous tragedy. When Frankie and her ER colleagues try and save the life of a highly pregnant women involved in a car wreck, the case ends up being larger than anything Frankie or her colleagues could have imagined. As Frankie learns more about the mother who lost her life and the deceased’s husband- who has high political aspirations- she finds herself deeply involved in the case and unable to let go- much to the frustration of the Stillwater police officer heading the case (who happens to be her former fiance Noah). Frankie continues her own sleuthing into the increasingly tangled murder investigation and as the media frenzy surrounding the politician’s wife’s death grows, she discovers that Noah might need her help and support more than ever. As with Time of Death, Kerr does a great job here in combining relationship drama (both family and romantic) with elements of suspense and genuine twists. The ending of No One Can Know is one of quiet surprise and reveal, leaving a lot of room open for darker and bigger directions the series could take!

Overall, a strong, more than worthy second entry in a solid mystery series that looks to have many more exciting and riveting stories in it. Though not absolutely essential to have read book one, I do recommend starting with Time of Death as it offers a lot of background and character introduction to Frankie, her family, and more details into her long history with Noah. Readers who enjoy amateur sleuth mysteries, medical dramas, or slightly darker cozy mysteries with a strong protagonist might do very well to check Lucy Kerr’s series out.

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 (78): YA titles from Emily X.R. Pan, Nic Stone, Melissa Albert & more!

Welcome to the second 2018 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: all about young adult titles! I’ve mentioned this before, but YA is one genre that kind of fell off my reading radar over the last year or two. Not for lack of wonderful, unique, game-changing and critically acclaimed titles! More a factor of time (hello, life!) and how focused my study and reading in middle grade, early fiction and picture books has been lately! So in a rambling way, what I’m trying to say is: I am BEHIND on YA titles and hope to carve out more time to get back into exploring all these wonderful teen lit titles I’ve been reading and hearing about! I’m featuring a slew of novels this week; look forward to more YA titles to be featured in coming Must Read Mondays. Also- any recommendations for YA you’ve loved lately, please leave a suggestion in the comments!

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Publication: May 30, 2017 by Greenwillow Books
Book Description:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

 

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Publication: October 17, 2017 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

 

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1) by Melissa Albert
Publication: January 30, 2018 by Flatiron Books
Book Description:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

 

American Panda by Gloria Chao
Expected publication: February 6, 2018 by Simon Pulse
Book Description:

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

 

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
Expected publication: March 20, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

 

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
Expected publication: March 27, 2018 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

 

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter
Expected publication: March 27, 2018 by Scholastic Press
Book Description:

Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president’s son, sometimes life has other plans. Before she knows it, Maddie’s dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

No phone.
No Internet.
And not a single word from Logan.

Maddie tells herself it’s okay. After all, she’s the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction. (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.) She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle. Her life is full. Until Logan shows up six years later . . .And Maddie wants to kill him.

But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help. But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly.

Maddie still really wants to kill Logan.
But she has to save him first.

 

A Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway!

Something heartwarming and lovely for Valentine’s Day: a chance to win one of four adorable picture books! Courtesy of the generous folks at Raincoast Books, I have four reads to share with you; one lucky Canadian reader will have the chance to win their top picture book or board book pick. The details for the Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway are at the bottom of the post, so please read on!

Let’s take a closer look at the beautiful books:

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends

This book is about your heart. (the little bit inside of you that makes you, you!)
The words we listen to can affect how we feel.
Some words can do amazing things and make us happy.
And some words can really hurt us (we all know what sort of words those are).
Our words have power, and we can choose to use them to make the world a better place.

Simple, direct, and emotive, Words and Your Heart ‘s message is that words have extraordinary power-to harm and to heal; to create and to destroy; and to spread love.

“How about we use our words to look after each other’s hearts?”

Kate Jane Neal, the writer and illustrator of Words and Your Heart, has crafted something potent and poignant here. Message books for children can be tricky to pull off- I find anything too preachy or didactic tends not to land- but Words and Your Heart is a treasure. Straightforward and open, elevated by a sophisticated black, white and red colour palette, a simple but seriously important message lies in this picture book: “your words are amazing and powerful”. As readers learn, words can build someone up, tear them down, make them feel brave, make them feel scared or sad…Neal’s book asks readers to (please!) carefully consider your words and how they effect the heart of another. Fitting for Valentine’s sure, but also terrific for a storytime or read aloud on the subject of feelings and friendship!

 

This Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins, illus. Lucy Ruth Cummins
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Chronicle Books

This book is not a valentine. It doesn’t have lacey edges or sugary hearts. But it is full of lucky rocks, secret hiding spots, and gumball machine treasures. This is a book about waiting in line and wishing for cinnamon buns. About recognizing that if you care so much about someone not thinking you care, maybe you really do. But wait-isn’t that exactly what love is about? Maybe this book is sort of a valentine after all. A testament to handmade, wacky, bashful, honest love-sure to win over the hearts of all readers-this offering from debut picture book author Carter Higgins and children’s book veteran Lucy Ruth Cummins is the perfect gift to celebrate every relationship, from parent to child, sibling to sibling, partner to partner, crush to crush.

Even though it will likely protest this statement, This Is Not a Valentine might just be the most perfect Valentine! Readers, through the eyes of an adamant young protagonist, get to learn about all the ways that certain things (kinds of flowers, kinds of hand drawn pictures, grocery store rings in plastic cases that match your favourite shoelaces, hand-folded paper airplanes, etc.) are definitely, absolutely NOT Valentine’s… As our young protagonist explains his way through how his (actually extremely heartwarming, thoughtful and considerate) gifts to a classmate in his school are NOT Valentine’s, readers will likely feel their hearts start to soften, and their mouths turn up in a goofy, happy grin. (One of my favourite parts of This Is Not a Valentine is when we’re told that this is not a Valentine because “I like you all the days”, not only for today). So wonderfully written and matched with perfect illustrations, Carter Higgins and Lucy Ruth Cummins have knocked it out of the park with This Is Not a Valentine!

 

I Love Kisses by Sheryl McFarlane, illus. Brenna Vaughan
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Sourcebooks

I love kisses.
I’ll bet that you do too!

Wake up sleepyhead kisses
Raspberry jam and bread kisses…

There are lots of kinds of kisses in the world, and they all say something different. Award-winning author Sheryl McFarlane’s new book celebrates the best part about kisses; while each one is unique, they all say I love you!”

I Love Kisses is a very sweet and simple picture book all about…you guessed it- kisses! From “sloppy licking pup kisses”, to “baby brother drool kisses”, McFarlane and Vaughan’s totally adorable read is a perfect ode to love, families and friends, and perfect for Valentine’s Day! Easy to read text, repetition, and full colour cuddly illustrations make this one just right for toddlers, or for curling up and reading aloud with wee ones.

 

Kiss It Better by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illus. Sarah Massini (board book)
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA

Every day has its ups and downs
Sometimes you giggle, sometimes you frown.
But the thing to remember, the secret, is this . . .
Everything feels better with the help of a KISS.

There are go-to-sleep kisses, I’m-sorry kisses, I-love-you kisses, and more. For every time of day there’s a kiss to go with it, and whether you’re big or small, young or old, it always makes you feel better. So the next time you see someone you love, just remember . . . a kiss is the very best gift of all!

A tender expression of love, Kiss It Better is the perfect gift for every parent and child who love Nancy Tillman and Marianne Richmond.

Similarly to I Love Kisses mentioned above, Kiss It Better is another lovingly sweet, encouraging (but not cloying!) read just right for Valentine’s Day. Kiss It Better, illustrated with darling bears of all kinds by Sarah Massini, takes readers through all kinds of kisses. Everything from “get-well-soon” kisses, to “I’m-sorry” kisses lets readers know that kisses can say so many different things, and help us when we’re in need. Prasadam-Halls text is light and lyrical, genuinely sweet, and any readers who enjoy their Valentine’s reads cuddly and heartening might especially appreciate this lovely board book.

 

 

Giveaway Info:

The Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up. The giveaway will run from January 31, 2018 to February 12, 2018. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via Twitter or by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their one book prize pick. If the first drawn winner does not contact me within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Thank you to all who participated!

The winning draw is: SUNSHINE H. If no response from the winner in 48 hours, another winning entry will be drawn.

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

I received copies of the four titles from Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided courtesy of Raincoast Books.

Calvin Shares His Learning…

Oof. It’s been a while since last post! Still waiting on the arrival of baby, and life is nuts! Look forward to a special Valentine’s Day giveaway post coming up and more reviews of beautiful titles… In the meantime, though, please enjoy this Calvin & Hobbes comic. I just love it. The power of learning (and just the right level of learning PLUS grossness) to be had from library books, as demonstrated by the one and only Calvin:

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Children’s Non-Fiction: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert & Lauren Castillo

Review: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert, illus. Lauren Castillo
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

A lyrical biography of E. B. White, beloved author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, written by Barbara Herkert and illustrated by Caldecott honoree Lauren Castillo.

When young Elwyn White lay in bed as a sickly child, a bold house mouse befriended him. When the time came for kindergarten, an anxious Elwyn longed for the farm, where animal friends awaited him at the end of each day. Propelled by his fascination with the outside world, he began to jot down his reflections in a journal. Writing filled him with joy, and words became his world.

Today, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web are beloved classics of children’s literature, and E. B. White is recognized as one of the finest American writers of all time.

How many of us growing up read and formed an intense, lifelong connection with the work of E.B. White? Whether we’re talking about Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan, or Charlotte’s Web (one of my all-time favourite books), E.B. White is arguably one of the most loved and recognized children’s writers in North America- in addition to having numerous other novels and works to his name. When I heard and read that author Barbara Herkert and Caldecott honoree Lauren Castillo were collaborating on a children’s biographical title about E.B. White, I was very excited and curious to see the end result!

The end result is a wonderful, heartfelt pictorial biography that gives younger readers (and frankly, readers of all ages!) an incisive look into the life of E.B. White and into the motivations behind his children’s classics. Readers of all ages will be taken in with Castillo’s glowing, magical, warm and perfect-for-the-story illustrations (her illustrative style is just so fitting here!), and Herkert impressively takes on the daunting task on pairing down White’s storied and celebrated accomplishments into gently poetic, readable text. From White’s childhood- where he met and befriended a bold mouse!- to his college-era adventures in writing, his vivid dreams, to his adult years on his family farm in Maine, readers are offered insight into what personally inspired White’s well-known writings and themes and his most cherished, beloved characters- unforgettable characters like Wilbur, Charlotte, Fern, Stuart Little.  A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White is as appealing as it is informative and one I definitely recommend; be sure to take a read of the Author’s Note in the back as well as the Bibliography if you are so inclined for further reading on White’s life.

Overall, a beautifully told and beautifully illustrated children’s biographical title. From Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad’s Swan to Renée Watson and Christian Robinson’s Harlem’s Little Blackbird and a parade of others, children’s biographies are an absolute treasure trove. A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider is another excellent children’s non-fiction title that can be added to that list; readers who have enjoyed the titles mentioned above, as well as offerings such as Finding Winnie, Enormous Smallness, or The Iridescence of Birds might especially adore this title.

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: Flower Moon by Gina Linko

Welcome to one of the blog tour stops for Gina Linko‘s Flower Moon, a children’s novel full of charm and magic!

Review: Flower Moon by Gina Linko
Source: ARC courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son. Thank you!
Publication: January 2, 2018 by Sky Pony Press
Book Description:

Tempest and Tally Jo Trimble are mirror twins—so alike they were almost born the same person—and they’ve been inseparable since birth. But it’s the summer they turn thirteen, and it seems like everyone can tell something is changing between them.

Pa Charlie, whose traveling carnival is the best part of every summer, is watching them closer than ever. Digger, who sneaks poor kids onto the carnival rides for free and smiles faster than anyone, seems to be fixing for a fight. Even Mama is acting different, refusing to travel with the carnival this year even though her own twin, who she hasn’t seen since childhood, will be there.

And Tally and Tempest are the most different of all. There’s a strangeness between them, a thickness to the air, an unseen push and pull, and it’s getting stronger. It starts as a feeling, but soon it’s sputtering and sparking, hurling them backwards, threatening to explode.

When Tally learns that she and Tempest may not be the first twins in their family to be separated by whatever this force is, she realizes she’ll have to find a way to stop it—or she might lose not only her sister, but everyone she loves.

Gina Linko’s Flower Moon is a contemporary children’s fiction title that hums and sings with elements of magic, intense familial bonds and friendship.

In Flower Moon, readers follow the emotive first-person narrative of twelve year old Tally Jo Trimble. The story begins when we’re taken into a classroom where we witness the friction and complicated love between Tally and her twin sister- her mirror, her other half- Tempest. As Tally makes a decision to deflect one of Tempest’s many scientific experiments that may lead students to ridicule Tempest, Tally finds herself at the beginning of a strange cycle of growing distance and strangely potent energy that seems to be physically pulling her apart and keeping her away from Tempest. But why? Why is the world- or magic in the world- trying to keep Tally and Tempest apart?

As Tally and Tempest begin their usual summer journey with their grandpa’s traveling carnival, more and more peculiar events- dangerous, electric moments that physically hurt- spark and flicker between the twins, leading Tally to believe that there really is some bizarre, inexplicable force in the universe growing to keep Tally and Tempest apart. With the help of her wonderful and kind carnival friend Digger, Tally starts investigating her family’s history- specifically into her mother’s unexplained broken relationship with her own twin sister. The closer Tally comes to discovering just how incredibly strong the magic of her twin bond is, the closer Tally and Tempest get to discovering a way that might allow them to stay together. Linko writes an affecting story here; you can feel the intense, inextricable bond and love between Tally and Tempest almost vibrate off the page. The elements of magic (as well as exploration into the earth’s rhythm and moon cycles) that tie the mystery of the twins’ bond is an intriguing one; one that is written well, though I found myself wishing for even more explication into the reveals of ‘why’, as well as the big denouement and resolution.

Give yourself a little bit of time for the tone and pace of the story to settle and allow for the magic and unknown to makes its home; once the essence of story seeps in, you’ll be rather taken in with Tally and Tempest’s story. Overall, Flower Moon is a charming, warm story that will likely appeal to readers who like a little bit (or a lot!) of supernatural elements blended in with contemporary, family-oriented coming-of-age stories.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (77): Children’s Non-Fiction & Biographical Picture Books from Jason Chin, Jeanette Winter & more!

Welcome to the first 2018 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!

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This week: all about non-fiction children’s titles and biographical picture books! Incredible looking and sounding and wonderfully reviewed and buzzed about titles here. While I did make my way through a number of non-fiction/biographical children’s titles, I still feel terribly behind in my reading in those areas. Taking a look through other blogger, librarian and author best of 2017 lists, and looking ahead to early 2018, I can see there is SO MUCH that I need and want catch up on and get to! Let’s get into the titles right away, in publication date order:

 

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Publication: February 21, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Rivers wind through earth, cutting down and eroding the soil for millions of years, creating a cavity in the ground 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep known as the Grand Canyon.

Home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived and evolved within its walls for millennia, the Grand Canyon is much more than just a hole in the ground. Follow a father and daughter as they make their way through the cavernous wonder, discovering life both present and past.

Weave in and out of time as perfectly placed die cuts show you that a fossil today was a creature much long ago, perhaps in a completely different environment. Complete with a spectacular double gatefold, an intricate map and extensive back matter.

 

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illus. Nancy Carpenter
Publication: April 4, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children’s books—John Newbery himself. While most children’s books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and games. He believed that every book should be made for the reader’s enjoyment. Newbery—for whom the prestigious Newbery Medal is named—became a celebrated author and publisher, changing the world of children’s books forever. This book about his life and legacy is as full of energy and delight as any young reader could wish.

 

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illus. Dow Phumiruk
Publication: May 2, 2017 by Christy Ottaviano Books
Book Description:

As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is the story of an inspiring American artist: the visionary artist-architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

 

What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures (The World of Weird Animals) by Jess Keating, illus. David DeGrand
Publication: August 8, 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Some people think monsters are the stuff of nightmares–the stuff of scary movies and Halloween. But monsters can also be found right in your backyard. Animals like aye-ayes, goblin sharks and vampire bats may look scary, but they pose no threat to humans. Others, such as the prairie dog, seem innocent–cute, even–yet their behavior could give you goose bumps.

What makes a monster? Read this book to find out, if you dare. . . .Jess Keating and David DeGrand, the author illustrator team behind Pink Is for Blobfish will have readers shrieking with laughter at this latest installment to the World of Weird Animals series.

 

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter
Publication: August 22, 2017 by Beach Lane Books
Book Description:

Get to know Zaha Hadid in this nonfiction picture book about the famed architect’s life and her triumph over adversity from celebrated author-illustrator Jeanette Winter.

Zaha Hadid grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, and dreamed of designing her own cities. After studying architecture in London, she opened her own studio and started designing buildings. But as a Muslim woman, Hadid faced many obstacles. Determined to succeed, she worked hard for many years, and achieved her goals—and now you can see the buildings Hadid has designed all over the world.

 

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. Eric Velásquez
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked. Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro-Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.

 

How to Be an Elephant by Katherine Roy
Publication: September 19, 2017 by David Macaulay Studio
Book Description:

The savanna is not an easy place to live, even for African elephants, the largest land animals on earth. If it’s a challenge for these 7,000-pound giants, what’s it like for their newborn babies?

An infant elephant has precious little time to learn the incredible array of skills that are necessary to keep up, from projecting her voice across a 10-octave range to using the 100,000 muscles in her trunk to stay hydrated. But this giant-to-be has the perfect classroom–a family herd made up of her mother, sisters, cousins, and aunts. With their help and protection, she’ll learn how to survive, how to thrive, and how to be an elephant.

Award-winning author-illustrator Katherine Roy’s How to Be an Elephant delves into the intricate family dynamics at play in a typical African herd. Drawing upon the latest scientific research and Roy’s own expedition to Kenya, and brimming with lush watercolor illustrations and detailed diagrams, this book vividly portrays the life and development of an elephant from an uncertain newborn into a majestic adult. As informative as it is beautiful, Roy’s unique portrait of an elephant’s life will captivate young explorers and animal lovers alike.

 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illus. Gordon C. James
Publication: October 10, 2017 by Agate Bolden
Book Description:

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut makes boys fly.

This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair–a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.

 

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illus. Bryan Collier
Publication: November 14, 2017 by Little, Brown
Book Description:

Six-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Bryan Collier brings this classic, inspirational poem to life, written by poet Useni Eugene Perkins.

Hey black child,
Do you know who you are?
Who really are?
Do you know you can be
What you want to be
If you try to be
What you can be?

This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals.

 

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson, illus. Qin Leng
Expected publication: January 23, 2018 by Balzer + Bray
Book Description:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of our greatest writers. But before that, she was just an ordinary girl.In fact, young Jane was a bit quiet and shy; if you had met her back then, you might not have noticed her at all. But she would have noticed you. Jane watched and listened to all the things people around her did and said and locked those observations away for safekeeping.

Jane also loved to read. She devoured everything in her father’s massive library, and before long she began creating her own stories. In her time, the most popular books were grand adventures and romances, but Jane wanted to go her own way . . . and went on to invent an entirely new kind of novel.

Deborah Hopkinson and Qin Leng have collaborated on a gorgeous tribute to an independent thinker who turned ordinary life into extraordinary stories and created a body of work that has delighted and inspired readers for generations.

 

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear, illus. Julie Morstad
Expected publication: February 6, 2018 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

By the 1930s Elsa Schiaparelli had captivated the fashion world in Paris, but before that, she was a little girl in Rome who didn’t feel pretty at all. Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli is the enchanting story for young readers of how a young girl used her imagination and emerged from plain to extraordinary.

As a young girl in Rome, Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) felt “brutta” (ugly) and searched all around her for beauty. Seeing the colors of Rome’s flower market one day, young Elsa tried to plant seeds in her ears and nose, hoping to blossom like a flower. All she got was sick, but from that moment, she discovered her own wild imagination.

In the 1920 and ’30s, influenced by her friends in the surrealist art movement, Schiaparelli created a vast collection of unique fashion designs—hats shaped like shoes, a dress adorned with lobsters, gloves with fingernails, a dress with drawers and so many more. She mixed her own bold colors and invented her own signature shades, including shocking pink.

 

Hello, 2018…

Whew! Made it to 2018!

I managed to get my Best of 2017 posts under the wire- hope all of you lovely readers have been enjoying my vast array of picks! Looking back at the reading year, 2017 really was picture book and children’s lit (middle grade) intensive, with a small but very, very strong assortment of young adult titles.

So, what’s in store for 2018? On the personal side of things, Mr. Fab and I are awaiting the arrival of our second child!…Towards the end of the month!! So, as I noted in the updated About page, things might get a little bit wonky in terms of posting, depending on when baby decides to make an appearance! So, if I suddenly disappear for a bit (which, to be fair, I have done before without reasons of New Baby…), you will know it’s due to giving birth and having a newborn baby in the house!

On the non-baby, crazy household side of things, I do sincerely hope 2018 is as wonderful as 2017 was in terms of reading and reviewing. I hope to keep expanding what I read- not necessarily genres, but in terms of variety and challenge. The focus of reviews will likely stay more on the side of picture books, non-fiction children’s, middle grade, with a good mixture of YA and some adult fiction and mysteries.

Here’s to a good and awesomely bookish 2018! Thanks to all of your support, likes, comments, and giveaway participation the last year- it really means so much!