The First Book Review Wednesday

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It has been one of those days. One of those unproductive Wednesdays when I just can’t seem to get over the hump. Lucky for me, today is also suppose to be my first day of book review. In the future, I will try to get these written in advance so I can post them in the early morning on Wednesdays, but that is another goal. The first is just to write and post one Middle Grade and one Picture Book review.

 

Many reviewers focus on books that are new and shiny, some might even have release days in the near future. Those are the books that everyone crowds around, bringing casseroles for the new author, asking if they can booksit to give the new author some time for a nap. I will certainly try to get my hands on some of those books. (Look for my upcoming Circus Ship review.) Then there are other books that have sat on bookshelves, growing past their crawling and walking stages until they are no longer cute and dimpled from shipping. I’ll be looking at these books too, hopefully adding some personal insight or observation. I tend to skip over longer blog posts so you can bet that I’ll keep these short and sweet. Any suggestions? Leave a comment. (Click on the book cover to link to Indiebound. Support your independent book stores!)


 

Law, Ingrid. Savvy. New York  ;Boston  Mass.: Dial Books for Young Readers;Walden Media, 2008.

 

            Mibs is turning thirteen, and in the Beaumont family, that means that her savvy is about to be revealed. Mibs’ family tree is filled with characters who create storms, sparkle with electricity, or jump back in time when they sneeze. When Mibs’ father is injured in a car accident, her mother and older brother travel to the hospital leaving Mibs and her two other brothers at home. Mibs will not sit around and wait. She embarks on a journey to the hospital, sure that her savvy will save her father.

 

            Mibs’ voice is so genuine in this middle grade novel that, at times, I felt she was telling the story right into my head. Descriptions such as “a small-fry hobbledehoy boy,” or “harum-scarum hurly-burly of a rising storm,” or “My insides went wishy-washy” makes Mibs an endearing and three-dimensional character even though her adventures border on the unbelievable.

 

            Readers will be eager to ride along with her on the pink bible bus to see if she gets what she wants. Most interesting to writers will be how her desires evolve and change throughout the story. Law leaves us with an ending that might not fulfill the original promise in the way the reader expects, but provides hope all the same. My son was especially drawn to the adventures that stem from the family’s super hero-like abilities. The more nuanced story is about finding what you do well, that special something that makes you uniquely you, whether you are a member of the Beaumont family or not. Newberry Honor Book, 2009

 

 

Hutchins, H and Herbert,G. Mattland. Toronto: Annick Press, 2008.

 

            In this interesting picture book, from Canada, the text is sparse. The illustrations by Dusan Petricic, are wonderful, and in my opinion, carry the book. The subject is the timeless story of moving to a new neighborhood and finding friends. Interestingly, the reader only sees the main character through shadow and reflection. This technique lets the reader identify with the main character who feels overlooked and invisible.

            The illustrations change from dull and muddy, to green, to lush and rainbow bright as children build an imaginary city from “scattered building scraps” and recycled materials. As the story continues, the illustrator uses white space to create room for text just as the children in the neighborhood make room for their new friend. The children build and rebuild the imaginary city while they build real friendships. Best for children 3-6, Mattland is an excellent read aloud choice for pre-school and kindergarten educators who want to address acceptance and welcoming attitudes in their new classroom communities. Just give plenty of time for the illustrations to sit before you turn the page.

 

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