Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Threads - a review


by Ami Polonsky
Disney Hyperion, 2016

I have always appreciated an interdisciplinary approach to everything.   My favorite children's science books integrate the hard and fast facts of science with the ways in which science affects people's lives.  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Readers Edition) and The Day the World Exploded are two fine examples of this style of writing.  The same interdisciplinary approach can be taken with the social sciences. My children will attest to the fact that when they neglected to wash strawberries before eating them, I would point out that they may be riddled with toxic chemicals.  If they protested that I had purchased organic berries, I would counter that many migrant farm workers who pick strawberries have inadequate access to clean bathroom facilities.  In this way, they understand that there are choices to be made in the cultivation and harvesting of food. Produce does not arrive in the grocery store by some tidy and precise process. Hard human labor is behind every easy purchase.

Ami Polansky takes an interdisciplinary approach, and thereby broadens the reader's scope of the world while addressing a very personal and intimate problem.  Threads is a book about loss and grief and the difficulty in carrying on in the wake of a loved one's death.  However, she has placed it in within the broader story of Chinese adoption, forced child labor, and the complexities of Chinese culture.

In first person voice, 12-year-old Clara struggles with her adopted sister's death from cancer, while simultaneously attempting to assuage her grief by rescuing a similarly aged girl working in a sweatshop somewhere north of Beijing. 

A car horn honks and I snap my head up.  Dad is waving to me through the closed window, the air around his car glistening in the heat.  I stand up.  I don't know what to do with this letter and photograph, but Dad will.
He's scrolling through something on his phone--probably a text from Mom asking him how I'm doing, if I seem like myself.  I open the car door and look one more time at Yuming's photograph before getting in.

Yuming, the unfortunate captive girl, also relates her story in the first person; and chapters alternate between the two girls.

The door to our room creaks open.  My heart flutters, and I look back down at my sewing.  I know very well that by now someone in America could have found my note, and I curse myself yet again for signing my name and including the photograph.  I wasn't thinking; those risks were unnecessary.  Whoever finds the note could easily notify Mr. Zhang or the police.
Clara and her family journey to China, but with different goals in mind.  Clara hopes to find Yuming.  Her parents hope to find closure.  Yuming's goal is more immediate.  She needs to escape Mr. Zhang's purse factory.

This is a satisfying story on all fronts and I was thankful that I had a realistic conclusion.

From the publisher:
  • Age Range: 8-12
  • Grade Range: 3-7
  • Pages: 256

My copy of Threads is an Advance Reader Copy supplied by the publisher.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Paint me a Picture - a review

Paint Me a Picture
A Colorful Book of Inspiration
by Emily Bannister
Kane Miller, June, 2017

An edited version of my review appears in the February, 2017, edition of School Library Journal

Looking for a color mixing concept book? Go with Mouse Paint. Wishing for a fanciful romp through colors? Read Swatch: the Girl Who Loved Color. Seeking to inspire a child to pick up a paintbrush and give it a try? Paint me a Picture will suit you just fine.

My copy of Paint Me a Picture was provided by School Library Journal.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Stanley's Store - a review

I first met Stanley at the farm in 2015.  It was love at first sight. Peachtree Publishers calls him "the hardest working hamster in the book business." Today I'm pleased to participate in a blog tour for Stanley's latest gig as a storekeeper.

Stanley's Store
by William Bee
Peachtree, 2017

With simple text,
It's going to be another busy day at Stanley's Store,
and vivid colors outlined in black against a white background,

Stanley's Store is perfect for very young listeners—but there is much more to like.  There are myriad opportunities to explore shapes, colors, numbers, and food groups while sharing this and other Stanley books. There is also some light humor, as when silly Charlie spills Stanley's fruit display and ends up with a banana on his head.  Stanley's Store spans the course of a day, so the concept of time is included as well.  The day begins with the delivery of produce to the store, proceeds to shopping, and ends with supper, bath, and bed - a recurring theme in the series.  A sturdy cover and substantial pages complete the cheery story. 😊
View an excerpt from Stanley's Store here.

Previous Shelf-employed reviews of Stanley books:

Bee, William. 2015. Stanley the Farmer. New York: Peachtree.
Stanley is a hardworking hamster. Illustrations and text  are bright and simple, making Stanley a perfect choice for very young listeners. Along the lines of Maisy, but with a crisper, cleaner interface.  Nice size, sturdy construction.

When I next encountered him, he was offering a small and sturdy look at colors and shapes.

Stanley's Shapes by William Bee
Peachtree Publishers, 2016

William Bee's illustrations are crisp, bright and simple. In Shapes, he ensures that the featured shape on each double-spread page is easy for children to discern, outlined heavily in black.   There are 8 shapes in all, and each one is something that should be easily recognizable for a child.  A tent is a triangle, a window is a square, bike wheels are circles, a kite is a diamond, etc. Text is minimal for each shape,
Wheeeeeeee! Circles make the best wheels!
Preceding the simple, black text is a white outline of the featured shape.  The final spread is an illustration that contains all of the shapes,
What a lot of shapes! How many can you see?
Stanley's Shapes is exactly what a concept board book should be.

Stanley's Colors by William Bee
Peachtree Publishers, 2016

Like Stanley's Shapes, Stanley's Colors is a perfectly simple, child-sized, concept board book.  There are eight featured colors on double-spread pages.  The background is white, except for a colored banner on the bottom.  The colored banner contains the simple black text,
Choo Choo!  Here is Stanley driving his purple train.
and matches the color in the illustration.  Almost everything in the image is purple with the exception of Stanley, and a few small accents.  Black outlining ensures clarity.

If you're looking for a color concept book for very young kids, this is a great choice.

My copy of Stanley's Store was provided by the publisher at my request.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Astronaut Instruction Manual - an audiobook review

The Astronaut Instruction Manual: Practical Skills for Future Space Explorers
by Mike Mongo, read by Mike Mongo with foreword by Alyssa Carson
Listening Library, 2017
47 minutes

If you'd read my blog for any length of time, you will know that I'm an avid fan of several things - two of them are nonfiction and outer space.  I was happy for the opportunity to review the audiobook version of The Astronaut Instruction Manual.

Mike Mongo narrates his own book with an infectious enthusiasm for his topic guaranteed to draw you in to this practical and inspirational look at the future of space travel.

The Astronaut Instruction Manual began as a book on Inkshares, basically a "Kickstarter" for self-published books.  Largely do to its author's subject knowledge and enthusiasm, it became a popular seller, hence the recent release of the audiobook version.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, there is also a television series in the works.

My complete review of The Astronaut Instruction Manual may be found in AudioFile Magazine, in print and online at this link [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/121233/the-astronaut-instruction-manual-by-mike-mongo/].