Friday, August 28, 2015

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

What is it with these juvenile authors? Every time I go to the library, I come home with more amazing books that read so crazy great. Every time!!

Another Kind of Hurricane combines the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina with a tragedy of death of a friend over a thousand miles away. Zavion battles his inner demons while trying to recover from all that he lost in the hurricane (his home, his dead mother's paintings....everything except his father and two roof tiles he grabbed as they floated away from his flooded house. Henry battles HIS own demons after his best friend dies while they are out hiking. Loss frames this book, and it is through those losses that each boy opens himself up to the desperation and celebration that erupts from tragedy and change.

This is a first novel for Smith, and I would not hesitate to pick up another by her. I loved this book! I loved the entrance and the exit of the book. I loved the mental images my brain created. I loved the voices I heard as I read (yes, Zavion and Henry have voices to me!). I love how respectfully she created each character and the adults around them, and I loved how she wove their stories together. With BLUE JEANS! And just a little more....A great read!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper

Sharon Draper, author of Out of My Mind among other great reads, writes another brilliant novel in Stella by Starlight. With a burning cross and two young darker-skinned children pictured on the cover, Draper gives us a teeny window into what this book is about. Yep, right away you think KKK (or the secret name of "triple K"). It also is about racism, finding one's way, surviving, and discovering who your friends are no matter their skin color.

I am not sure what I loved most about this book. The chapters are just-right short, and the transitions from chapter to chapter seem just like exactly-right placed stepping stones. The character development is rich too, and the tensions between characters made such sense. The storyline gripped me hard, making me read every word. If I am reading the dedication page accurately, Draper combined stories from the lives of her grandmother and father-- seek out more details on her website. As I read, I wondered which parts could connect with history and her relatives' lives. Mostly though I found Draper's work once again enlightened and beautiful. And yes, painful--I would be lying if it weren't that too. But Draper writes with such grace about such awfulness....A brilliant book and a rich read. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tacky and the Haunted Igloo by Helen Lester

Tacky must be getting older; this book almost borders on a tad scary. But not quite! I honestly have never ever thought of being able to fancy up an igloo like a haunted house but obviously that shows the limits of my creative thoughts! Helen Lester and Illustrator Lynn Munsinger team up again to blow the top off of what might be possible up (down?) in Penguin-land. Come on: be honest. Have you ever thought of a haunted igloo?

Tacky is in usual form, not getting ready for a haunted house while Goodly, Neatly, Perfect, Angel, and Lovely are doing all of the traditional things penguins do for a haunted house. Then the six penguins decide to dress up as what they are most afraid of. The problem lies in Tacky: he doesn’t have anything he is afraid of! By evening time, trick or treaters arrive at the haunted igloo. All is going as planned until some ghosts who aren’t really what they say they are show up and toss all plans into the snow. But never fear, Tacky is here to save the day! If you are a Tacky fan or know of someone who is, you just might want to hunt down this new one from Lester. It is a unique winner!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Like A River: A Civil War Novel by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

I love how many new authors are entering my reading world left and right! The author of Like A River proved that true again—gold star!! If you are even remotely interested in the Civil War or looking for a companion novel for Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, look no further!

After older brother Nate eliminates his ability to join the army, younger teen Leander fakes his age and joins up. With Nate’s friend Given at his side, Leander negotiates the trials associated with being small and young and trying to keep up with full-grown men. After a tragic accident, Leander’s world leads him to meet Paul, a kind and loyal friend in the midst of infrequent connection.  But there is more to the story for both of them, offering a realistic twist that I could see even my self involved with.

In her debut novel, author Wiechman steers her readers well. With well-researched facts backing her story, she weaves us through the prisoner life, and living through the death and awfulness of war. She artfully tells her story in short chapters, keeping the transitions lively and focus keen. Her careful generosity of space within her story simply drew me in more. All of the good things I had read about this book are true---search this gem out!!