Driftwood Days by William Miniver, illustrated by Charles Vess

Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Image result for driftwood days charles vess"

Image result for driftwood days charles vess"

Summary:  As a boy watches a beaver build a lodge, a stick breaks away and floats down the river.  It gets stuck against a boulder for the winter, but when spring comes, it continues along the river to the ocean.  After getting tangled in fishing nets, the stick washes up on shore, where it is discovered by the same boy, now on vacation at the beach.  He takes the stick–now a piece of driftwood–back with him to his home by the river. The last page shows him sitting in a tree with his driftwood, watching the beaver once again. Includes a two-page author’s note with additional information on driftwood.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This gorgeous science book tells the stick’s journey in the context of the changing seasons, showing the cyclical nature by ending the story where it began.  The colored pencil illustrations realistically and beautifully portray the different landscapes.

Cons:  Humans do it again: as per usual, the author’s note mentions how humans have messed up the production of driftwood, which plays an important part in beach ecosystems.

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White Bird by R. J. Palacio

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Image result for white bird palacio

Image result for white bird palacio

Summary:  Julian (from Wonder) wants to interview his grandmother about her childhood in France during World War II.  She tells the story of growing up Jewish in occupied France. One day, Nazi soldiers came to round up all the Jewish children at her school.  She managed to hide, and was rescued by a boy named Julien. Julien was crippled from polio, and Sara and her classmates had always shunned him.  But he takes her to his family’s barn, where she hides for the next year, helped by his whole family. The two become close friends, and just as it looks like a romance is beginning, everything falls apart.  Julien is arrested by the Nazis, and Sara is discovered by the neighbors, whom Julien’s parents believe are German informants. Sara concludes by remembering Julien’s kindness, which she memorialized when naming her son, whose name has been passed to her grandson.  224 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Another engaging Wonder story, this one in graphic novel format, that celebrates kindness.  There are enough deaths and disturbing details about World War II to make this more of a middle school book, but those who loved Wonder will not be disappointed by this latest entry.

Cons:  This book has an odd binding that does not look it will hold up well in a library.  Apparently the “Wonder Story” sticker on the cover is reason enough to charge $24.99 for this title, but as a librarian, I don’t appreciate this combination of high price and fragile binding.

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Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

Published by Aladdin

Image result for maybe he just likes you dee

Summary:  Seventh grader Mila is disturbed when a group of boys starts giving her unwanted attention in the form of hugs and touches.  She eventually learn they’re playing a game where they score points for different kinds of touching or responses from her. Her friends react differently: a couple are supportive, but one thinks she’s overreacting and is jealous that her crush is paying attention to Mila.  Another friend is upset when Mila won’t take his advice to tell the vice principal, but Mila is embarrassed. Her single mom is dealing with work-related stress, so Mila is hesitant to bother her. Everything comes to a head at the middle school band concert, and Mila’s disruption causes the truth to finally come out and get things resolved.  Mila moves on from the incident feeling stronger and more self-confident, with a greater knowledge of who her true friends really are. 304 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Barbara Dee addresses the issue of sexual harassment in a way that is believable and understandable for middle school students.  Readers will recognize many of the kids, adults, and situations in Mila’s life; teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators would find this a helpful read as well.

Cons:  The ending felt a little too easy to me: the boys all expressed remorse and none of their parents rushed to their sons’ defense.

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Give and Take by Elly Swartz

Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Image result for give and take swartz

Summary:  Maggie is dealing with a lot of sadness and anxiety after losing her grandmother to dementia not long ago.  When her parents provide temporary foster care to an infant, Maggie gets very attached and is distressed to let the baby go to her adoptive family.  To deal with her feelings, she starts saving momentos of many events in her life–threads from the baby’s blanket, sticks from a hike, empty milk cartons from a fun school lunch with her friend.  When her mom discovers the overflowing boxes (and ants) under Maggie’s bed, she sees that Maggie needs help. With the assistance of a therapist, Maggie learns the root causes of her behavior and some new ways to deal with them.  320 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Maggie’s issues are addressed with sensitively, and in a way that might help other kids who are dealing with similar ones.  There are interesting subplots, including Maggie’s success on her trap shooting team, a lost-and-found tale about her pet turtle, and a new boy on the team who is dealing with some difficult family issues of his own.

Cons:  Maggie’s relationships with her brothers seemed a little too rosy to be true.

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Amazon Affiliate

I was talking to a blog user recently who wasn’t aware of the Amazon Affiliate program I participate in, so I thought I’d post a reminder for others who enjoy this blog.

At the bottom of each of my reviews I post a link: “If you’d like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.”  If you click on that and buy the book–or anything else on Amazon–I get a (very small) percentage of that sale.

This blog is a labor of love, and I would never try to make money from it any other way.  You’ll never see ads here.  But I do spend many hours working on it, so it’s nice to get that little kickback from Amazon if you’re going there anyway.  Seems like it’s a win-win.  Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about this.

Just In Case You Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Published by Neal Porter Books

Image result for just in case you want to fly

Image result for just in case you want to fly

Summary:  “Just in case you want to fly/here’s some wind/and here’s the sky/here’s a feather/here’s up high/and here’s a wing from a butterfly.”  This book invites readers who may be on the cusp of new experiences to spread their wings and fly. It may not always be easy (“and just in case you want to cry/here is a tissue and here’s a sigh”), but there is also plenty to celebrate.  And plenty of support, as the book concludes, “and here is a map with an x on the spot to find your way home to me.” 40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson prove once again (as they did with When’s My Birthday? that they make an excellent team, with Fogliano’s pitch-perfect rhymes and Robinson’s colorful and endearing collage illustrations.  This would make an excellent gift for a graduate or anyone else embarking on a new endeavor.

Cons:  I’m not a huge fan of these inspirational picture books…give me a good story any day.

Image result for just in case you want to fly christian robinson

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The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Published by Candlewick

Image result for shortest day carson ellis"

Image result for shortest day carson ellis"

Summary:  Susan Cooper’s poem, originally created in 1974 for Christmas Revels, celebrates the winter solstice.  “So the shortest day came,/and the year died,/And everywhere down the centuries/of the snow-white world/Came people singing, dancing,/To drive the dark away.”  People are shown celebrating, bundled up against the cold, with torches and fire to light the long, dark night. As the sun finally rises, they celebrate and give thanks.  Illustrations include a Christmas tree, wreath, holly, and a menorah. An author’s note gives the history of her poem, with the full text printed on the last page. 32 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  A beautiful book to share in December; it’s a celebration without connections to any particular religious holiday (unless you count the solstice).  The poem is lovely, and the gorgeous illustrations perfectly capture the darkness, light, and spirit of celebration.

Cons:  This may be a little over the heads of younger kids, who will undoubtedly still choose The Polar Express as their preferred holiday fare.

Image result for shortest day carson ellis"

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