Sunday, June 25, 2017

El Deafo

El Deafo
by Cece Bell


Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Graphic Novel, Memoir

Synopsis:  Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece's class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends. 

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school--in the hallway...in the teacher's lounge...in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it's just another way of feeling different... and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.
from GoodReads

Review:  I'm still not a huge fan of graphic novels but I can see how this book, both story and format, would highly appeal to kids.  This is a semi-autobiographic novel of Cece's life growing up with hearing loss.  Cece, who is portrayed as a bunny, gets sick as a young child and loses most of her hearing but hearing aids and learning to lip read help her continue to be successful in a hearing environment.  Cece is so self conscious about sticking out and being different that sometimes she doesn't realize that people are overlooking the hearing aids.  This book is funny but also sends a powerful message about accepting differences.  While it is an easy book to read, I think it would be most meaningful to slightly older kids--perhaps around 4th grade. 

Rating: 4 stars

Kira-Kira

Kira-Kira
by Cynthia Kadohata

Genre: Juvenile fiction

Synopsis:  kira-kira (kee ra kee ra): glittering; shining Glittering. That's how Katie Takeshima's sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason and so are people's eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it's Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare, and it's Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow, but when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering -- kira-kira -- in the future.
from GoodReads

Review:  I appreciated the look into how a different culture, the Japanese culture, faced racism and prejudice in the United States as that is not often written about especially not in children's fiction.  I think this book would open up kids' eyes to how other people live and what they faced.  The story wasn't just about that, though, it was about Katie's and Lynn's relationship and bond as sisters.  Katie is heartbroken when her sister, Lynn, becomes sick but struggles with her feelings about it.  There were a few sections of the book that I wish would not have been included in the book as I felt like it made the book for an older audience instead of the middle grade audience that I think the book was intended for.  These sections did not add anything to be book and could have easily been left out (there were comments about adults having sex but not said so in so many words).  Overall this book was a good read but sometimes a little slow.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
by Roz Chast


Genre: Memoir, Graphic Novel

Synopsis:  In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the "crazy closet"—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents' seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.

An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast's talent as cartoonist and storyteller.
from GoodReads

Review:  I went into this book being a little dubious about graphic novels as they are not my normal cup of tea.  My library was challenging patrons to read books in a format that they don't normally read for the summer reading program.  This book was recommended to me by one of the librarians saying that it is appealing to everyone and bittersweet.  I'm a big fan of memoirs and I think that helped me like this book even though it is in a format that is quite different for me.  I did have trouble connecting with the main character as she did not seem to have a close relationship with her parents and that she had a hard time taking charge of the situation.  I also wonder if I'm not the right target audience for this book as, knock on wood, I'm a ways away from dealing with this situation.  Chast is pretty brutally honest in this memoir but she does so with humor but also we feel her sadness for having to acknowledge that her parents have become elderly.  I think this is a well written graphic novel memoir and that readers in the right phase of their life would really appreciate this book.

Rating: 3 stars

Star in the Forest

Star in the Forest
by Laura Resau

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis: Zitlally feels so along.  Papa isn't here anymore to whisper to her in star language.  Mama is always on the phone, worried.  And Zitlally's sisters are just as scared as she is.  Everyone is thinking about that day.

The day that Papa was pulled over for speeding.

The day the police found out that Papa was an immigrant without papers.

The day her family discovered that Papa would be deported.

Zitlally seeks comfort in the forest of rusty car parts behind her family's trailer.  There she finds a dirty, skinny dog with a star-shaped mark on his neck.  Soon she realizes that Star is no ordinary dog.  He's like the magical animals in the stories Papa has told her.  His fate is connected to a human's fate.

To Papa's fate.

If Zitlally can keep Star safe, Papa will stay safe, too.

When Star disappears, it's up to Zitlally and her new friend, Crystal, to find him...and save him.  Only then can Zitlally be sure that Papa, too, and make his way back home-and her family will be whole once again.
from the book jacket

Review:  Zitlally's father was just deported back to Mexico and Zitlally struggles with missing her father.  We feel her emotions as she tries to deal with not having her father around, the dynamic of the rest of her family, and the worry about how or when he is going to come back.  Zitlally finds an abandoned dog and takes care of it.  She believes that the dog is her father's spirit animal.  This book has a magical realism feel to it when the dog comes into play.  This book deals with hard issues such as deportation, abuse, neglect and more but in an accessible way and one that is realistic to how some people live in our country. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner
by Deborah Ellis

Genre: Juvenile fiction

Synopsis:  Afghanistan, a country that lies south of Russia between Iran and Pakistan, has been fought over for centuries.  Today the country is in the hands of the Taliban, whose extreme religious views include forbidding women to appear in public without being covered from head to toe.  Women cannot go to school, work outside the home or leave their homes without a man to escort them.

A powerful and realistic novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship, The Breadwinner brings the terrible situation home to North American young people with humanity and power.  Eleven year old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city.  Parvana's father-a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed-works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write.  One day he is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

As conditions for the family grown desperate, only one solution emerges.  Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana most transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.
from the book jacket

Review:  I am intrigued about different cultures and how people live in other countries.  This book was a good introduction to life in Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban.  For students and children with no background knowledge, this book would be a good place to start.  Parvana is a young girl who is allowed out of the home to help her father who is crippled.  When her father is arrested, Parvana turns into a boy so she can make money for her family.   Parvana's eyes are opened, as well as the reader's eyes, to the treatment of Taliban leaders and how dangerous it is for her to keep her identity a secret.  There is conflict between Parvana and members of her family but the family bond surpasses the difficulty.  One of my complaints with this book is the ending.  This book doesn't really end--there is no resolution.  There are 2 other books in this series and it seems like you have to read all three of them to really come to the end of the story.

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Counting by 7s

Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Genre: Young adult fiction

Synopsis:  Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life...until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
from GoodReads

Review:  This book is all about characters and their developments and relationships.  Willow is a quirky girl who is brilliant but has no friends.  Dell is her school therapist who is quirky in his own way too and one that doesn't seem to care much about anything.  Willow finds unlikely friends in Mai, Quang-ha, Patti, Jairo, and Dell who help her move past the grief of her parents dying and discover the meaning of family, friendship and love.  Readers are drawn into this story and feel such pain for Willow but also can see how she helps bring other people to together in unexpected ways.

Rating:  4 stars

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty
by Joshilyn Jackson

Genre: Women's fiction

Synopsis:  A Grown-Up Kind Of Pretty is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. 

Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past--and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.
from GoodReads

Review:  I very much enjoyed listening to this book because of how engaging the narrator was.  Later I found out that the narrator is the author which was probably why the story was so engaging!  This book is so different from other books that I have as the story is very southern.  Each character had such interesting and quirky personalities and their own way of talking.  You could really tell that Mosey was a teenage by the way that she talked probably made more pronounced by the author reading her voice.  The book didn't seem to take itself too seriously and I appreciated the light humor that it offered, at least I took some things as humorous even if it was not the intention of the story.  Characters seemed a little over the top which also made the story seem a little lighter.  The details in the story, however, are not light from drugs to solving the mystery of the bones to recovering from a stroke.  This is a good read for when you are looking for something not too heavy.  I'll be picking up more books from this author in the future.

Rating: 4 stars