Tag Archives: children’s

Mini Review: Play with Me! by Michelle Lee

playwithmeEver on the lookout for new and unique books for my young niece, I stumbled upon this at a bookstore and thought it would be perfect. While I absolutely loved the darling illustrations and how the dialogue seemed to dance across the page, I wish the ending was a bit heavier hitting. This is ultimately a story about compromise: learning that what you want to do might not be what others want to do and that sometimes you have to come up with a new idea that either satisfies both of you or pick a solo activity. However, the book concludes with one of the characters suggesting a new activity at the very end of the book, without hinting that it was a compromise at all. Unless an adult works in that lesson, I think it might hard for a very young reader to take away the main message.

Publication Date: 24 January 2017 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young ReadersFormat: Hardcover.

Author/Illustrator: Michelle Lee web

Advertisements

Mini Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

theskyiseverywhereAfter being obsessed with Jandy Nelson’s most recent novel, I’ll Give You the Sun, one of my favorite reads of 2016, I was so excited to receive Nelson’s debut, The Sky is Everywhere. Unfortunately, I think my expectations were set a little too high for this. Nelson continues her magical way of slipping in different media formats into her books (this time around it’s poems and conversations written on slips of paper, crushed up paper cups, sides of buildings, etc.), but the actual story didn’t grip my heart in the same way as I’ll Give You the Sun. All that considered, this was a nice, innovative read about a young teenager who is struggling with understanding her own identity after experiencing the sudden death of her sister. I enjoyed reading The Sky is Everywhere, but I didn’t find myself fully consumed by the story like I was with Nelson’s other work.

Publication Date: 9 March 2010 by Dial BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jandy Nelson web/facebook

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

turtlesallthewaydownAcquiring Turtles All the Way Down by John Green was a bit of magical experience. While I don’t think we’ll ever have a book as demand as the Harry Potter series, encouraging midnight release parties and the like, the demand for Green’s latest novel was pretty high and the text was highly protected, no Advance Reader’s Copies or anything. Despite the publisher enacting a veil of secrecy around the book, I somehow found it accidentally on the shelf of a big box retailer a weekend before its release date. Of course I snatched it up, especially because I knew I shouldn’t have been able to procure it. Both my boyfriend and I had been eagerly anticipating this book and because I brought into both of our lives before the rest of the world got to enjoy it, we decided to take turns reading the novel aloud to each other. If you have never done this with someone you cherish, you should. It was one of the most oddly intimate things I’ve ever done and it felt special to do it with this novel specifically, considering the main character has certain mental health struggles that we had both experienced in different ways. I found it easier to talk about some of my experiences in context of the character and that was fantastic. If you have had experiences similar to what the main character Aza regularly lives with, I think you could give this to loved ones to help convey what may motivate certain thoughts, actions, and behaviors in your life in a simpler way than trying to articulate it yourself. In a weird way, this novel helped me think about some of my behaviors in a way I hadn’t contextualized them for myself before, which is pretty powerful. 

I’ve been a fan of Green’s works for more than 10 years, so it would take a lot for me not to enjoy one of his novels now. My positive bias accounted for, Turtles All the Way Down was great and fantastic and I loved it. The characters were witty and the storyline was completely engrossing. I loved dissecting it aloud as I moved forward with reading the book.

I put off writing this review for a long time, as if delaying the review would retain some of the magic of how I acquired and read this text, and that has unfortunately negatively affected the actual substance of my review because I remember the feeling of reading this book more than I remember all the odds and ends. I remember feeling comforted and understood and loved and all of that was special. I wish I could have read this book as a teen because I think it would have added some clarity to parts of my life that were all too confusing to me then, and I hope it is able to do that for teens who read it now. 

Publication Date: 10 October 2017 by Dutton Books for Young ReadersFormat: Hardcover.

Author: John Green @twitter/facebook/instagram/YouTube

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

thehateugiveY’all, I really need to quit reading audiobooks because even when I LOVE them (like I LOVED The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas and fantastically narrated by the amazing Banhi Turpin in the audiobook version), it takes me forever to finish audiobooks now! Alas, I’ve got a few more Downpour credits left on my account (and if you want an audiobook monthly subscription, this is vastly superior to the one produced by an online retail giant *cough*shmAudible*cough*), which is how I wound up consuming this amazing YA-debut via audio.

If you’ve spent any amount of time following popular books in the past year, you’ve heard the hype about this book and you need to believe the hype!! The novel follows Starr, a black American teenager, who is the sole witness to her friend being wrongfully and fatally shot by a police officer. The rest of the novel traces Starr and her family’s navigation of questioning police brutality (whilst having a family member who is a police officer), questioning blackness/whiteness and black identity (Starr goes to a school that is majority white and largely unaware of the shooting because it happened on the “wrong” side of town), and undergoing all of this while still being in one’s teenage years. About halfway through the book, the story jumps five weeks ahead and then fast forwards another five weeks ahead toward the end of the book around Chapter 21 so the reader ends up seeing how this story plays out and effects everyone at different points.

This book is GREAT on EVERY LEVEL!! How? Angie Thomas is a genius. Each pitch ends up being a home run and presents a nuanced view that will hopefully allow readers to thoughtfully expand their horizons. For readers who don’t need their horizons expanded, this read will hopefully be comforting and offer a slice of solidarity. 

While listening to the audiobook, my heart skipped a beat several times in fear of what would come next, illustrating the incredibly compelling writing of the author that elicits anxiety during certain scenes. The audiobook experience was further heightened by the talents of the narrator who performed so many distinct voices so well, which is often lacking in the YA audiobooks I’ve previously listened to.

I won’t go too much further into the details of the actual plot because many other book reviewers have done a better job at that than I ever could, but I did want to highlight some of my favorite bits. During the novel, Starr has a conversation with her father about “The Hate U Give,” something originally said by Tupac that inspired the title of the novel, where Starr’s father outlines oppression, the drug society, and the prison industry in such an accessible, informative way that I want to place this little gem of the book in every person’s hands!

The situations that the characters are thrown into throughout the book also model difficult conversations kids might experience in today’s world, like having a friend display that they have an all/police lives matter mindset and use police apologist actions and language. While a t(w)een might feel strange about confronting a situation like this with a real life friend, seeing it written about here will likely be helpful.

And my last love note to this great book is that it features one of the best burns I’ve ever heard when one character says to another that they are “Harry (Potter) and the Order of the Phoenix angry lately.”

Every piece of this book was delectable and extremely moving. Read it and then recommend it to everyone you know. 

Publication Date: 28 February 2017 by HarperCollinsFormat: Audiobook.

Author: Angie Thomas web/@twitter/@instagram/facebook

Audiobook Narrator: Bahni Turpin @twitter/IMDB

Mini Review: The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

widewindowThe Wide Window falters in comparison to its predecessors. While I laughed out loud a few times with The Reptile Room, I never even chuckled with The Wide Window. While I obviously still love the series, this is one of the weaker showings because of a few bits: 1) as an adult, I find the grammar quirks of Aunt Josephine are awfully annoying, but I’m sure the youthful grammar snob that I was loved it as a kid, 2) the big plot twist with Aunt Josephine happens much earlier in the book than I would’ve thought which makes the narrative flow strange, and 3) the ending was resolved a bit too quickly and smoothly as if it were hastily strewn together.

All that said, there were some quotes that really stuck with me even if this story won’t. Most of my favorite quotes were coincidentally from Chapter 5.

“Tears are curious things, for like earthquakes or puppet shows they can occur at any time, without any warning and without any good reason.” (p. 79)

“Oftentimes, when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too. But it never helps.” (p. 74)

“To have each other in the midst of their unfortunate lives felt like having a sailboat in the middle of a hurricane, and to the Baudelaire orphans this felt very fortunate indeed.” (p. 214)

“Aunt Josephine had been so careful to avoid anything that she thought might harm her, but harm had still come her way.” (p. 79)

“She was so afraid of everything that she made it impossible to really enjoy anything at all.” (p. 193)