Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth - a review

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth
Written by Cathy Camper
Illustrated by Raúl the Third

They're back!

The impala - Lupe Impala, master mechanic
The mosquito - Elirio Malaria, the finest detail artist around
The octopus - El Chavo Flapjack Octopus, washcloth-wielding polisher of the Lowriders in Space Garage

If you think lowriders are impractical, think again.  When the three amigos from the Lowriders in Space Garage go in search of their missing cat, their rocket-powered lowrider is just what they need.  In this second book in the series, the three friends journey to the center of the earth and face off against a trickster coyote, an Aztec God, and other legendary Mexican and Aztec foes.   As in the first book, they do it with humor, brains, and style—lowrider style—bajito and suavecito (low and slow).

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth is so visually cool, that it looks more like an older brother's indie comic book than a middle grade graphic novel. Raúl the Third uses red, black, and blue ink on sepia pages, and creates expressive faces, wild action, and hidden humor. The illustrations have a distinctly Mexican flair and invite the reader into the culture.  His art is a perfect complement to Cathy Camper's hilarious wordplay. It's difficult to imagine that kids can learn Spanish, geology, ancient Aztec culture,  Mexican culture, and the virtue of teamwork by reading a book that screams divertido (fun) but they can!  Camper's dialogue is sharp and witty, and even features bilingual puns, as in this exchange between Lupe and the trickster coyote.

"Have you seen our cat?"
"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Señor."
"Señor who?"
"Señor cat?  I don't think so."
¡Ja, ja, ja!

This book may be even better than the first!



My copy of the book was provided by the publisher at my request when my LibraryThing copy went missing in the mail.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I'm on the Horn Book Podcast!


If you haven't heard it yet, Horn Book has a new podcast.  I made a small contribution to this podcast from June 20, 2016 (Hbook Podcast 1.17).  You can hear me at the very end with my brief review of Have You Seen Elephant? Creating a 30-second audio review is not as easy as it sounds
I'm so glad they allowed me to participate.

You can hear the Hbook Podcast on Stitcher, Soundcloud, or iTunes

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Clatter of Jars - an audiobook review

A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff
Read by Ellen Archer
2016, Listening Library

Quirky magical realism.
Read my full review at AudioFile Magazine.

A Clatter of Jars is Lisa Graff's follow up to 2013's, A Tangle of KnotsI reviewed A Tangle of Knots in 2013, and declared, "If you read no other middle grade fiction book this year, you will have made a good choice." The magic doesn't wear off in A Clatter of Jars, a deftly woven, magical realism story set in the same world as the preceding book, where many people possess Talents - from the mundane (ability to understand frogs) to the powerful (telekinesis).  I particularly enjoyed this story because it features a boy who we may assume has some sort of spectrum disorder, and it has a subtle Lord of the Rings reference.

I often tell kids at the library that it's OK to start with a second book in a series if the first book is unavailable. (I don't like to see them go home empty-handed!)  Most authors do a fine job of catching the reader up on prior events.  However, because of the rich details of the world Lisa Graff has created, A Clatter of Jars is best read after A Tangle of Knots.


An audio excerpt from A Clatter of Jars and my review for AudioFile Magazine may be found here. [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/114587/a-clatter-of-jars-by-lisa-graff/]

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Save Me A Seat - an audiobook review

Save Me a Seat
by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Read by Josh Hurley and Vikas Adam

This is a perfect middle grade novel for highlighting how easily one can mischaracterize another's words or actions.  It's also an inside look at the immigrant and disability experience.  Teachers, you should read this one and share it with your students!

I reviewed Save Me a Seat for AudioFile Magazine.  The book spans only five days in fifth grade, the first week of school at Einstein Elementary School in Hamilton, NJ.  Its sections are titled with the school lunch of the day —Chicken Fingers, Hamburgers, etc., and chapters alternate between Joe, a boy with auditory processing disorder (APD) and Ravi, a recent immigrant from India.  Both boys are targets of the school bully—Joe, because of his disability, and Ravi because of his heavily accented English (which he himself cannot hear) and his family's style of food, dress, and manners.

Although Ravi was a favored, top-ranked student in his native Bangalore, India, his accent and lack of knowledge about his new country land him in the resource room at Einstein Elementary.  Joe also visits the resource room to learn coping skills for his APD. Initially, Ravi views Joe with disdain —mistaking the outward signs of his disability for stupidity.

In each chapter, the boys recount the same scene, allowing the reader or listener to fully understand how our perception of an event is shaped by our cultural, family, and personal background.  I'm sure that the printed book is wonderful as well, but the use of dual narrators in the audiobook really hammers home the differing perspectives.


Read my complete review of Save Me a Seat for AudioFile Magazine here. (An audio excerpt is also available at the same link, however, it only features the character Ravi, read by Vikas Adam.)

Read other reviews of Save Me a Seat and an interview with the authors at Sarah Weeks' website. 

I recently began working in a library with many new Indian-American families, and reading Save Me a Seat was enlightening. The challenges involved in adapting to a new country are many and cannot be overlooked. I'm so glad I listened to this one!


http://weneeddiversebooks.org/