Friday, November 29, 2013

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Emma loves being Japanese even though she doesn't look it. She is white on the outside but that is where most of her identity stops: she claims a Japanese identity every chance she gets. When her mom gets sick with cancer, the family must return to the states for her to begin treatment. Emma resists but knows she must go. There in the U.S., she starts high school again, battling to find new friends who truly understand her identity. She also volunteers at a local elder care home, leading her into knowing how to be with people who already know themselves, young and old.

Holly Thompson writes so clearly in prose. I loved how she wrote Orchards, and she nails another one here with The Language Inside.  I think what I love most is the voice: I can hear both Emma as well as the other characters cheering her on, welcoming her into their lives. This is a sweet story, one where our global world could actually identify with the varying cultures so many of us carry within us. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ben Rides On by Matt Davies

It was only a matter of time before us wild mountain bikers showed up on the pages of a picture book. Thank goodness for Matt Davies and the notion of hope.

Ben rides the bike of his dreams to school. Except he doesn't quite make it, having come into contact with a big, hairy dude who absconds with his bike. All school day long, Ben plots and as soon as the bell rings, he is off, searching for his lost bike. He finds it hanging from a tree, smashed up. But he also discovers the thief of the bike in a bad spot. Saving him takes great physical energy and the assistance of one crow, but it also takes great hope.

This book reminds me in distant ways of Blueberries for Sal. We all have our small ways of being born into us from our first days in life. Ben finds his as did Sal. And as did Arian Underbite.

Happy reading....Ben Rides On.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill

This is the most interesting adaption of Little House on the Prairie that I have ever read. Imagine Laura and Pa, way up North in Alaska sometime around the same time period. Totally doable. Imagine a girl, Bo, adopted by two men. Caught you? Seriously two men, one Swedish and one black (ha, caught you again) are Bo's father figures and also are cooks and tailors for the mine camp and kind friends to all in the community. And adoption? A whole 'nother story....all captured within this story twice. HA! Now you want to read this, don'cha?

Hill is an accomplished author with a few books under her belt, and she lives up there in The Last Frontier, splitting her time between Fairbanks in the winter and out on the Yukon River during the summer. This would be a solid read aloud for young readers, and the design of the chapters and storyline make me think readers younger than five who are also lovers of nature would love reading this! I would love to hear what others have to say about this sweet read, particularly if you find a young audience who just loves this gem. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

September Roses by Jeanette Winter

You know those books you stumble across as you aimlessly peruse the rows at the library? This is one of those. I had no idea that Jeanette Winter, author of most amazing The Librarian of Basra among a dozen other brilliant titles, wrote a book about 9/11. You didn't, either? Huh.

September Roses is the author's tribute to that terrifying, grief-filled time in the U.S. A New Yorker, she saw the billows of smoke over the Empire State building as she looked out her window. Days later, during her trek to Union Square to join the community in their anguish, she discovered a replica of the towers in roses. This is their story: how the roses arrived, who brought them, and how they impacted Jeanette.

This is a beautiful story, simple and so very complex, heartbreaking and so filled with hope. I can imagine this joining a collection of picture books that center on both the destruction of the World Trade Center towers as well possibly of other world losses that also speak in ways only picture books can about the humanity alive within each of us. But as a stand- alone, this book brings a reader peace during a time of great turmoil.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Brother, Brother by Clay Carmichael

Clay Carmichael, author of Wild Things, has written another sweet and convoluted tale. Almost- 18-years-old Brother discovers Mem, his grandmother and parent figure, dead. His life of working at the care facility and caring for Mem slides quickly into mystery. After her body is cremated, he is left with 3 urns of ashes (Mem's, Brother's mother, and another important figure that you will have to read the book to find out about) and an artifact: beside Mem's body, the mortician discovered a picture of Brother's twin brother, the brother Brother never knew he had.

Told you: convoluted. And a worthy read!! Thus starts the adventure and soul searching for Brother who discovers more of who he is, how Mem lives on within him, and who his allies really are. In the story, he finds a solid girl to hold close to his heart and he discovers a sweet grandmother figure who despises her brother--the power-crazed father Brother never knew he had. Trooper, his trusty dog, is intuitive, present and the perfect companion for a story like this and the stories of our lives. I appreciated the solidness his girlfriend offers, and I really could see my own grandmother within the friendship Mamie extends to Brother as she pieces together the story from her angle. Make no mistake: Brother discovers a number of skeletons in his closet right along the adults who discover their own skeletons throughout this story.

I appreciated the author's practice of holding how we all make mistakes--that sounds simple but she seems to incorporate this idea of "yep, I screwed up" with a "you did, and we will go on together" mentality. I guess the story is more about what one could call the true sense of family than I had originally thought. My words sound awkward as I write, and I wonder what more I might piece together in a reread of this new text. I really like the congruent simplicity and depth of Carmichael's writing, and I found myself drawn into this storyline. Seek Brother, Brother out--it's a keeper.