Friday, February 28, 2014

Please Bring Balloons by Lindsay Ward

Looking for a whimsical, lighthearted read with a carousel polar bear and a carousel-riding girl? This is a sweet text, dreamy and believable with fantastic illustrations.

Emma discovers a note on the polar bear one day as she got on to ride. Taking the note seriously, she brings the request: one balloon. More notes emerge, more mystery ensues, and more excitement erupts. Included in the exploration are falling snowflakes, a long trek on a polar bear, and cold weather. This book was sheer fun to read, and I can imagine a group of young people getting quite enthralled with writing their own discover-what-happens-story drafting off the wise storyline of this one. Ward writes and illustrates a sweet text here in Please Bring Balloons, one worth seeking out.  I look forward to reading her other book, When Blue Met Egg. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Knock, Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty

I will never forget the first time I read Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson to my kindergarten class. When one girl asked the class who leaving was it harder for, the girl or the dad, one student named Tevin raised his hand quietly. He answered the question for all of us, "The dad. I know: my dad tells me."

I had worked with Tevin for 8 months and I had never known his father was in jail. In all of my invitations and time with him, I had never known. He rarely spoke in class, and here he was, setting us all straight and true about what it is like to walk away after a visit and leave your father in prison. I was stunned; this was just one more example of how children teach me. I can imagine this book by Daniel Beaty as doing something important for people like Tevin. I know it does something special for me.

Knock, Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me starts with a young boy whose father is around regularly. Then, all of a sudden, he is not. The boy can't figure out where his father has gone, and he leaves him a note. Seemingly months later, his father's voice lies within a single letter addressed to the boy. He finds his way through life without his father, but with his father's voice guiding his every move. It seems it might not be enough at the start of the book; while one can never replace a loved one, this letter and the message within maybe does about as well as is possible.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Did you just make a face when you read the title? You are not the only one: you ought to see how my family reacted. Boy, have they given me a hard time....and they don't know what they are missing.

Mesrobian hits a difficult home run with this novel. Evan starts out a sex-driven, rude, selfish teen male who gets close to girls just to sleep with them and then move on. But Evan gets the crap beaten out of him (as does someone else he is surprisingly caring about) and Evan has to find his own way to pick up the pieces and move on. The assault breaks Evan in many ways, and it is by finding his way through the breaks that he matures, finds and tells his own truth, and settles into his own life. No spoiler alerts here but I loved how Evan and another character banter therapist phrases back and forth, how the deserted island serves as a placeholder for much of life, and how Evan turns from being an absolute jerk to me to being a true human with a little kindness under the hood.

While the title remains a challenge for me, the book is super solid, and for that, I will keep on picking it up and talking about it. Yep, Sex and Violence. Me. Really. Wanna have a go? I think you will agree. Then we can smile at each other when we say we really enjoyed it. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster by Matt Phelan

Graphic novels, like any other writing, read like an art form to me. Phelan brings a remarkable clarity in message and picture in this new novel. Here he uses his wit and expertise to capture the story of small-town boy Henry who finds himself engaged by a vaudeville group who spend the summer entertaining and amazing the townspeople and Henry. Can he learn to fly and flop like Buster (who actually is Buster Keaton)? Or will he learn more about what is going on in Buster's life that proves a little different truth than Henry originally believed?

Phelan names it again here in Bluffton. I loved this book for its deep simplicity, its colorful starkness, and a storyline believable and alive. All from more than 100 years ago. Beautiful.