Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Brightwood - a review

by Tania Unsworth
Algonquin, 2018 (paperback)

I missed this book when it came out in hardcover in 2016, but am I glad that I finally caught up with it.

About to depart for a trip with her family, Caroline noticed that her doll's shoe had fallen off on the dock below. Not realizing that she had gone back to retrieve it, the skipper of the Everlasting pulled away from the dock.

"The photographer's picture had been made large and filled almost the whole of the front page.  There were words above it, written in thick black letters almost as big as Caroline's hand:

The massive explosion yesterday on board the Fitzjohn family yacht is believed to have been caused by engine failure.  There are no survivors."
But, of course, Caroline had survived. Her grandmother had picked her up from the dock and taken her home to Brightwood, the family mansion. Now many years have passed and Caroline lives alone with her daughter, Daisy.  Daisy has never passed through the gates of Brightwood. Why should she? She and her mother have everything they need at Brightwood. 

"Daisy listened as the sound of the car grew fainter and fainter and then disappeared.  She curled back under the covers and closed her eyes.  Wherever she was going, her mum would be back by eleven o'clock. She was never late."
But this time, her mum didn't come back.

Brightwood is a middle-grade thriller with a strong female protagonist and a focus on mental illness. Adventurous readers will love it!

 Read an excerpt from Brightwood here.

My copy of this book was provided by Workman Publishing

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Alpha: Abidjan to Paris - a review

As you if you read my blog often, you know that I occasionally post adult books in addition to children's literature.  This is a powerful graphic novel that is also suitable for young adults, and I think it deserves attention. 

Alpha: Abidjan to Paris
By Bessora
Illustrated by Barroux
Translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Bellevue Literary Press, 2018

Alpha: Abidjan to Paris is a tragic, graphic novel account of one man's attempt to flee a life of misery in Côte d'Ivoire and follow his wife and child to Paris. After numerous attempts to depart legally, Alpha discovers that the process to obtain a visa is corrupt and impossible for an impoverished man. He researches his options carefully and strikes out with a group of other would-be emigrants. Although he knows the trip will be dangerous, he is nevertheless hopeful that he will be reunited with his family and his relatives in France. He fancies himself an "adventurer." His first-person account of his "adventures" devolves into a living nightmare as the journey drags on with a constantly changing group of companions. The prose is simple, and the story is told without embellishment—there is no need for embellishment; the facts are gruesome enough,

"Very quickly, I learn to avoid the barricades. We stop a lot. Abebi is vomiting froth. She has no bile left. She's spitting bubbles of saliva. We've been on the road for nine hours, and we still haven't covered a hundred miles. Darkness falls. Perhaps Abebi will feel better tomorrow. Augustine sucks his fingers in silence. It's a cold night. We sleep huddled together, forming a sort of human radiator. We can't even make a fire—the smoke would betray us."

The illustrations—one or two panels per page, are also spare—mostly shades of black and greys with an occasional splash of color—Alpha's red shirt, the striped soccer jersey of an emigrant hoping to land in Spain and play for Barcelona, a flowered dress. The illustrations set a mood of haste and simplicity, appearing to be marker sketches - almost as if they could have been made on the journey.

An epilogue provides the outcome of the trip from Abidjan to Paris. It will be difficult to look upon the plight of any refugees without reflecting on Alpha's journey. This is a short and powerful, award-winning graphic novel.

Alpha: Abidjan to Paris resources:

 My copy of Alpha was provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Book of Boy - an audiobook review

The Book of Boy
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Recorded Books, 2018

Suspend your modern beliefs and enter medieval France in the Jubilee year of 1350.

I recently reviewed The Book of Boy for AudioFile Magazine. (my review is linked here)  I can't reprint my review in its entirety, but I highly recommend this unusual mystical, medieval fantasy which harbors more than one surprise.  With one minor exception (that I address in my review), the narration is stellar.  I assume that the print version is also excellent.  It's received great reviews and has the bonus of being an illustrated novel.

Whether audio or print, I highly recommend that you read this one!

An excerpt from The Book of Boy
A video interview for The Book of Boy with author, Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Other reviews for The Book of Boy

Sunday, April 8, 2018

National Library Week

 From the American Library Association website:

The National Library Week 2018 celebration will mark the 60th anniversary of the first event, sponsored in 1958.

Celebrations during National Library Week

  • Monday, April 9: State of America's Libraries Report released, including Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2017.
  • Tuesday, April 10: National Library Workers Day, a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers. #nlwd18
  • Wednesday, April 11: National Bookmobile Day, a day to recognize the contributions of our nation's bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities. #bookmobileday2018
  • Thursday, April 12: Take Action for Libraries Day, a national library advocacy effort observed for the first time in 2017 in response to proposed cuts to federal funds for libraries.#fundlibraries

Friday, April 6, 2018

Kalinka and Grakkle - three questions with Julie Paschkis

Kalinka and Grakkle
by Julie Paschkis
Peachtree, 2018

Welcome to the final stop on the Kalinka and Grakkle blog tour.  I don't do many blog tours, but I love the artistic style of Julie Paschkis and so am pleased to participate. Her combination of ink and watercolors combines humor with a delicate and detailed art form reminiscent of Ukrainian psysanky

Julie Paschkis was kind enough to answer three questions for me. 
Q: In the author bio for Kalinka and Grakkle, it notes that, "One day, Kalinka flew into Julie's studio when she was rewriting the story "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."  Always helpful, Kalinka turned it into a story about herself (and Grakkle)."  Was that a metaphorical bird that flew into your studio, or an actual one? If it was a real one, I'd love to know what species. (I love birds!)

 A: The bird that flew into my studio was a metaphorical bird. I called her Goldibird at first; the seed of her character was Goldilocks. I always wondered why Goldilocks felt entitled to make herself so at home in someone else’s house. Goldibird was bossy - she just took over everything. I realized that she felt entitled because she thought she was helpful. She was self deluded as well as bossy, but she always meant well. Once the bears were kicked out of the story I renamed her Kalinka. I have had a real bird fly into my house (years ago). I caught it with a big soft towel and then released it back outside. Maybe it left the seed of an idea.

 Q:Just curious, although he's not a bird, is Grakkle's name a reference to the (messy) common grackle?

A: When I imagined what the beast would sound like,  “Grakkk” came to mind. It’s an outraged sound, and a funny sound - not a scary sound. So I called him Grakkle. The name of the bird- grackle -comes from the Latin graculus and means crow or jackdaw.  I guess that the word also originally came from the sound.
Q:  Like many librarians, I review picture books even though I am not an artist.  I try to learn as much as possible about picture book art via informational books, webinars, reviewer chats, and title page information.  As an author/artist, please tell me (and other reviewers) what aspects of a book do you wish we'd give more attention; or what do reviewers often miss?  (to which the polite and diplomatic Julie Paschkis replied ...)

A.  I don’t feel that there is any specific or general thing that reviewers miss. People brings their own stories to the experience of reading a book. I put in as much as I can of my story, but the experience of reading and looking at it will be different for each person. That’s a good thing!

Read and excerpt from Kalinka and Grakkle here.  Kids will surely enjoy this odd-couple friendship story.

Previous stops on the Kalinka and Grakkle blog tour:

Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...