What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'Random House')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
<<August 2015>>
SuMoTuWeThFrSa
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Random House, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 883
1. Seuss on Saturday #31

Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just go. Go. GO! I don't care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!

Premise/plot: The narrator REALLY, REALLY, wants Marvin K. Mooney to GO. But will Marvin K. Mooney be so obliging?

My thoughts: I liked it. It is definitely one of the catchier Seuss books. (Though not as fun or as silly as say Fox in Socks or Green Eggs and Ham. Still. There's something pleasant about it.) It's just FUN to say phrases like "You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!" It just is.

Have you read Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is In A People House. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #31 as of 8/1/2015 5:11:00 PM
Add a Comment
2. Mom School (2015)

Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When I go to school, I learn how to cut and glue paper, count to 100, and sing silly songs. My mom says she went to school, too. I think she went to Mom School.

Premise/plot: A little girl is convinced that her Mom went to Mom School to learn how to be the BEST BEST mom in the whole world. She imagines all the things her Mom might have learned at Mom School. Things such as:
  • learning how to go grocery shopping without losing any kids
  • learning how to pitch a ball slowly so a kid can actually hit it
  • learning how to go on scary rides
  • learning how to talk on the phone and do hair at the same time
  • learning how to cook and listen to silly made-up songs at the same time
  • learning how to make forts out of couch cushions
And that's just a small sampling of one little girl's imagination.

My thoughts: This one was super-sweet and adorable. Predictably so, yes. But it's irresistibly charming in some ways. If you're looking for a sweet mom-and-daughter read that celebrates family life. I really love the little girl's pigtails. I do.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Mom School (2015) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
3. Fat Cat

Fat Cat. Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 330 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed rereading Robin Brande's Fat Cat. I did. In some ways, it was just as good as I remembered. For example, the romance between Cat and Matt. I remembered this one had romance in it, and, it was giddy-making. And I do still love Matt. So what do I like about Fat Cat?

Well, I liked that Cat is fully developed. She loves science. She loves cooking. She loves swimming. She always makes time for her friends. She's a good daughter, and a great big sister. She is a work in progress, she's constantly learning and growing and becoming. She felt like a real person.

I liked that this novel about weight--about losing weight--isn't a "problem" novel. I like that never once do we get numbers. Readers have no clue what Cat's start weight was. Readers have no idea how many pounds she's lost at any given time. We have no end weight either. Readers watch Cat step on the scales, now and then, but never once do we get her private information. I think, perhaps, this makes it easier for readers to relate to Cat. Yes, I was curious at times. Mainly because it's so tempting to want to compare. But I think it's best we don't know.

I liked that one of the messages of the book is stressing the importance of knowledge and awareness. For example, knowing where your food comes from, and, what it may contain. The book does come across as taking a stand against some foods--meat, for example--but it does this relatively fairly. (For the record, I can't remember the book questioning vegetables, how they're grown, if they've been treated with various chemicals, how they've been modified, etc. And it would have been nice to have some balance, perhaps. Not to mention wheat and grains. Part of me wishes Cat had gone gluten-free.) I do think knowledge/awareness is critical and essential when it comes to changing your life and making big and small decisions. This book obviously can't give readers ALL the information out there about what to eat and how to be healthy. That would be silly to think it could. But it might possibly inspire readers to ask their own questions and start seeking answers.

So overall, I liked it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Fat Cat as of 7/17/2015 11:06:00 AM
Add a Comment
4. Perfect Picture Book Friday SPECIAL EDITION! - There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight!

Hi Everyone!

I know.

I said Perfect Picture Book Friday was on hiatus until September.

And it is.

Mostly.

It's just that I had to interrupt the hiatus today to shout a fabulous new book from the rooftops and make sure you all knew about it in time to preorder!

It's not every day that someone you know - someone whose writing you've watched blossom and grow - releases a debut picture book, so when that happens it is truly cause for celebration!  In this case, that someone is a talented writer and poet, an entertaining blogger, always willing to jump in and help with any hair-brained schemes I happen to be cooking up :), and an all around fun person who I'm privileged to call a friend. . . the lovely and delightful Penny Klostermann!!!

Sit back and get ready to enjoy her splendiferous, tons-of-fun debut picture book: There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight!

Title: There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight
Written By: Penny Klostermann
Illustrated By: Ben Mantle
Random House, August 2015, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: retelling of classic tale, humor, greed

Opening: "There was an old dragon who swallowed a knight.  I don't know why he swallowed the knight.  It's not polite!"

Brief Synopsis: For some unknown reason (maybe he was hungry?! :)) a dragon swallows a knight... but apparently that doesn't quite do the trick, because after the knight he proceeds to swallow half the kingdom!  Eventually, though, the dragon has had ENOUGH!


Links To Resourcesactivity guides on Penny's website; make up your own "There Was An Old ____ Who Swallowed A _____" story!


Why I Like This Book:  Is there anything NOT to like??? :)  This is a wacky, fun, rollicking story that takes advantage of the familiar format of There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly while making the whole concept completely new and fresh.  The dragon is delightfully grumpy when he hollers, "I've had enough of this swallowing stuff!", and I dare any kid not to laugh when the dragon burps everything back out.  Well... almost everything :)  (You'll have to read the story to find out how it ends :))  The art is absolutely perfect!  Bright, engaging, and full of humorous details that are just right for the story - an author/illustrator match made in heaven.  There is so much to like in this book that it's hard to pick favorite things, but I am especially partial to the steed who, once he enters the story, goes clippity clippity clippity clop! on every page - so much fun to read :)  Race out and pre-order your copy today, and/or make sure your local library plans to carry it!!!





Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. She loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. She has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too. Penny lives in Abilene, TX. Find out more about Penny on her website-https://www.pennyklostermann.com.




For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!!! :)

0 Comments on Perfect Picture Book Friday SPECIAL EDITION! - There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight! as of 7/17/2015 3:44:00 AM
Add a Comment
5. The Truth According To Us (2015)

The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm tempted to say that The Truth According To Us would have made a better book than a movie. Or perhaps just that I would have been more likely to appreciate the story as a movie than I did as a book. I found the book to be long, a little too long. And the characters? Well, while they all started out with the potential for me to actually care about them, ended up falling short. Of course, you may feel differently.

Here is what the story is about:

1) Willa Romeyn is a child who has decided to become observant of the adults in her world. She's determined to be a people-watcher and find out secrets big and small.

2) Jottie Romeyn is Willa's aunt and probably primary caretaker. She lives with her brother, Willa, and Bird (her other niece). She runs the town's boardinghouse. She has a tragic back-story that perhaps is supposed to be the big mystery of the entire novel? Regardless, there are so very many flashbacks from her point of view, specific recollections of conversations and events.

3) Layla Beck is the new boarder at Jottie's boardinghouse. She thinks she's all grown up and independent. And in a way, she is. But she has SO MUCH to learn. The book is perhaps weighed down--in my opinion--by all of Layla's correspondence. Letters from Layla to her family and friends, even her ex-boyfriend. Letters to Layla from the same. Her job, her first-ever job, is to write the town's history. (The town is Macedonia, West Virginia.) The history will be for the Federal Writers' Project. She spends most of her time falling in lust, I mean "love" with Willa's father. But also, of course, interviewing residents of the town.

4) There are other characters, of course, like Sol and Emmett that readers get to know. Sol was a childhood friend of Felix (Willa's Dad) and Jottie. (Also there is Vause.) These characters mainly connect with Jottie and Layla.

There were so many characters competing to be the narrator in this one. I didn't properly connect with Jottie, Layla, or Willa. If the story had been from one perspective, perhaps I could have made a good, strong connection. Willa's story could have been about the threat of her father remarrying and life changing and general coming-of-age angst. Or Jottie's story could have been about her troubles, her struggles, to raise her brother's children while living under his control and dominance. Her love/hate relationship with him. Or Layla's could have been about her new independence, her struggle to be as grown up as she wants to be perceived, her not knowing what she wants, her love life, etc. But because the book was just a taste of all of the above, I didn't really care.

I do think it would make a better movie however. I think seeing flashbacks is almost always better. I think SEEING Vause and Jottie in their youth would have made a big difference in my impression. Movies tend to be more concise as well. A great soundtrack would also help!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Truth According To Us (2015) as of 7/15/2015 11:54:00 AM
Add a Comment
6. Seuss on Saturday #27

The Foot Book. Dr. Seuss. 1968. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Left foot
Left foot
Right foot
Right
Feet in the morning
Feet at night
Left foot
Left foot
Left foot
Right
Premise/plot: Does The Foot Book have an actual plot? Probably not. It's a rhyming celebration of all sorts of feet, I suppose.

My thoughts: Probably not my favorite Seuss title. Not that I actively dislike it, mind you. It's just not going to make my top thirty.

Have you read The Foot Book? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

 If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today and Other Stories.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #27 as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
7. Seuss on Saturday #13

The Cat In the Hat. Dr. Seuss. 1957. Random House. 61 pages.  [Source: Library]

First sentence:
The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.
Premise/Plot: Sally and her brother can't find ANYTHING fun to do on a rainy day until a strange cat comes to their house, invites himself in, and turns everything topsy-turvy. This rhyming book also stars a fish, who knows that the Cat in the Hat's fun only leads to trouble, and Thing One and Thing Two.  (One of the games they play is up-up-up with a fish. Another is fun-in-a-box.)

My thoughts: I've read this one dozens of times. It's so familiar, so fun. It's hard for me to imagine what it would be like to read it for the first time. I've also heard the audio book read by Kelsey Grammer. Is this my FAVORITE Seuss book? I'm not sure that it is. But it's so fun and silly.

Have you read The Cat in the Hat? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or reading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #13 as of 3/28/2015 11:55:00 AM
Add a Comment
8. Perfect Picture Book Friday - Flap Your Wings

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Since it's technically Spring, and since Sunday is Easter, I chose a book about an egg :)  It is another older book - almost 20 years older than last week's older book! - but it is one of my All Time Favorites!


Flap Your Wings
Written & Illustrated By: P.D. Eastman
Random House, 1969, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 3-8
Themes/Topics: assumptions, non-traditional family, unconditional love, responsibility
Opening: (this is actually the first three pages.)
"An egg lay in the path.
A boy came down the path.  He saw the egg.  "Someone might step on that egg and break it," he said.
He looked around.
He saw flamingos and frogs, and turtles and alligators.  "Whose egg is this?" he called.  But no one answered."

Brief Synopsis:  A little boy finds an egg.  He doesn't want it to get damaged, so he looks around until he finds the nest and carefully puts it back.  When Mr. and Mrs. Bird come home, they are surprised to find an egg in their nest... it wasn't there when they left!  But Mr. Bird says that if an egg is in their nest it must be their egg, so they must take care of it.  So they do... with very surprising results!

Links To Resources:  Ideas And Activities For Guided ReadingIncubation & Embryology Activities, use with An Egg Is Quiet (from PPBF link list), talk about what kind of animals, insects and reptiles lay eggs and how the eggs are the same and different.

Why I Like This Book:  This book is fun to read as a picture book, but is also an I Can Read type book that is very accessible to new readers.  The pictures are delightful - Mr. and Mrs. Bird's expressions are very entertaining.  But I really love the story because it doesn't go where you would expect.  It's funny.  And it's a great example of what agents, editors and reviewers mean when they talk about re-readability.  This book delighted me as a child, and delighted my children in their turn.  I've read it so many times that even now, years since I last read it to my kids, I can recite almost the whole book.  It's fun every time :)

If you get a chance to read it, I hope you like it as much as I do!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Before we head off to our weekends, I just want to share a little housekeeping note for those of you who are new to Perfect Picture Book Fridays:

Perfect Picture Books are more than just reviews.

The thing that sets Perfect Picture Books apart is the resources.

It is our goal to make it easy for parents, teachers, and homeschoolers to expand on the use of picture books.

Essentially, we're handing them a great picture book and one or more activities they can use with it ready-made.

The resources you provide may be online links, but they don't have to be.  Many PPBF bloggers think up GREAT activities and discussion questions and recipes and games etc...

The crucial thing is that the book you post must have at least one good resource to expand on its use at home and/or in the classroom in order to be added to the comprehensive list.  And the resource must be ready to use - by which I mean, saying a book can be used for finger rhymes or a math activity doesn't help a parent or teacher who doesn't know any finger rhymes or math activities, so please tell us which finger rhyme and how to do it, or provide a specific math activity, etc.  Thank you so much!

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you and see what terrific books you've chosen this week!

Have a lovely weekend, everyone, and Happy Easter and Happy Passover to those who celebrate!



0 Comments on Perfect Picture Book Friday - Flap Your Wings as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
9. Seraphina (2012)

Seraphina. Rachel Hartman. 2012. Random House. 499 pages. [Source: Library]

 From the prologue:
I remember being born. In fact, I remember a time before that. There was no light, but there was music: joints creaking, blood rushing, the heart's staccato lullaby, a rich symphony of indigestion. Sound enfolded me, and I was safe. Then my world split open, and I was thrust into a cold and silent brightness. I tried to fill the emptiness with my screams, but the space was too vast. I raged, but there was no going back. I remember nothing more; I was a baby, however peculiar. Blood and panic meant little to me. I do not recall the horrified midwife, my father weeping, or the priest's benediction for my mother's soul. My mother left me a complicated and burdensome inheritance.
I loved, loved, LOVED Rachel Hartman's Seraphina. Part of me regrets not having read it before now. The other part is just HAPPY that I don't have to wait for the sequel. Though to be honest, I wouldn't have minded at all rereading this one in 'celebration' of the sequel's release. (If I had read it in 2012, how many times would I have reread it by now?!)

Is Seraphina my favorite dragon fantasy? Perhaps. At least I feel that way now, so soon after reading it.

Can peace be kept in the kingdom between dragons and humans? That is what Seraphina is about, in a way. For forty years, peace has been maintained. That doesn't mean that dragons "like" humans, or, that humans "like" dragons. There's certainly tension--lack of trust--between the two. And it will get worse before it gets better...if it gets better. (I haven't read the sequel yet after all!) Seraphina begins with a funeral--Prince Rufus never returned from the hunt, his decapitated body was found.

But it's also "about" Seraphina coming to terms with WHO she is, the "burdensome inheritance" of her mother.

I love so many things about it. I love the characterization. I love, love, love Seraphina, the heroine. I love the other characters too. Especially Orma and Lucian Kiggs. I love the world-building and the relationship-building. (And I don't just mean romantic relationships). I love the level of suspense and the amount of detail.  


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seraphina (2012) as of 4/7/2015 11:22:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. Seuss on Saturday #15

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1958/2008. Random House. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence of Yertle the Turtle:
 On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond, Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond. A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat. The water was warm. There was plenty to eat. The turtles had everything turtles might need. And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.
First sentence of Gertrude McFuzz:
There once was a girl-bird named Gertrude McFuzz and she had the smallest plain tail ever was. One droopy-droop feather. That's all she had. And, oh! That one feather made Gertrude so sad. 
First sentence of The Big Brag:
The rabbit felt mighty important that day on top of the hill in the sun where he lay. He felt SO important up there on that hill that he started in bragging, as animals will and he boasted out loud, as he threw out his chest, 'Of all the beasts in the world, I'm the best! On land, and on sea...even up in the sky no animal lives who is better than I!'
Premise/plot of Yertle the Turtle: Yertle the Turtle is king, but, he doesn't want to rule supreme over a small pond, so, he starts turtle-stacking to expand his kingdom. After all he "rules" over everything he can see, so the higher the better, right?! But what happens when the turtles below him start to grumble and complain?!

Premise/plot of Gertrude McFuzz: Gertrude McFuzz is jealous and foolish. She wants MORE feathers, beautiful feathers so she can be the most beautiful bird. Her uncle doctor gives her some advice--reluctantly perhaps knowing that she will go too far with her vanity. She starts eating a berry to make her grow tail feathers, and, well, she should have been wiser. Will all end well?

Premise/plot of The Big Brag: A rabbit and bear get into a bragging contest until a worm intervenes.

My thoughts on Yertle the Turtle: I liked Yertle the Turtle. I did. I wouldn't say it's my favorite or best. But it is a good story on selfishness and tyranny. I'm glad the turtles started speaking up and gained their independence!

My thoughts on Gertrude McFuzz: I liked Gertrude McFuzz too. I thought the story was a great lesson in being careful what you wish for and being content with what you have!

My thoughts on The Big Brag: Of the three stories in this collection, this is probably my least favorite. The bear and the rabbit are quite annoying. Of course, that is the point. Bragging won't win you friends and will just make you look foolish.

Have you read Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories? What did you think of it? Of the three stories, which is your favorite?

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Happy Birthday to You.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #15 as of 4/11/2015 2:42:00 PM
Add a Comment
11. Shadow Scale (2015)

Shadow Scale. Rachel Hartman. 2015. Random House. 608 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'll be honest. I loved, loved, loved Seraphina, and I didn't really like Shadow Scale. I found the sequel to be disappointing. Every reader who read and loved (or read and liked) Seraphina, I imagine, has expectations for the sequel. Other readers may love it and find it to be a wonderfully satisfying read. I wasn't one of them.

Shadow Scale and Seraphina are very different books. Yes, they're both narrated by Seraphina and focus on the conflict between dragons and humans and half-dragons. But all the things I loved about the first book seemed to be missing completely from the second book. Seraphina herself seems quite different. Yes, she's under pressure and great stress. Yes, her life has been turned upside down since the ending of the first book. So some change, of course, is welcome. But I missed the old Serpahina. I missed the world she used to live in. I missed the people she used to spend time with.

The book also feels longer than it actually is--and it's a long book. The first book was just a joy to read. I read it in two days. I mean it was an absorbing WOW book. Shadow Scale was not a joy to read. I kept reading it for several reasons. I kept hoping it would get better. Since I had loved the first book so much, I felt I should keep giving it chance after chance to improve. I didn't stop caring about the main characters just because the story was dragging. A part of me still cared about what happened in the end.

The book never improved for me. (I think other readers liked the ending better than I did.)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Shadow Scale (2015) as of 5/19/2015 5:57:00 PM
Add a Comment
12. Seuss on Saturday #22

Dr. Seuss's ABC. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Big A
Little a
What begins with A?
Aunt Annie's alligator...A...a...A
Premise/plot: An alphabet book. What more can I say? There are silly sentences for each letter of the alphabet. For example, "Four fluffy feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff."

My thoughts: I like this one fine. I don't love it. I don't not-love it. Some sentences are funner or funnier to read aloud. Not all letters are equally delightful.

Have you read Dr. Seuss's ABC book? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Hop on Pop.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #22 as of 5/30/2015 11:05:00 AM
Add a Comment
13. Review of the Day: Hilo by Judd Winick

HiloHilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
By Judd Winick
Random House Children’s Books
$13.99
ISBN: 978-0-385-38617-3
Ages 9-12
On shelves September 1st

Relentless cheer. You can use it for good. You can use it for evil. You can use it in the name of humor too, but that’s a trickier game to play. I’m not saying it can’t be done. It just takes a certain level of finesse. Now I read a lot of graphic novels for kids in a given year that sell themselves as “funny”. And while I know that humor is subjective, I tell you plain that most of them aren’t of the laugh-out-loud variety. So when someone tries to sell me on the “funny” line with a comic I don’t actually expect that it’s gonna make me guffaw on the subway and embarrass me in front of the other riders. I guess I should be pretty peeved at you, Hilo for doing just exactly that, but how can I be mad at you? Your crazy positive outlook on life combined with your funny funny lines just makes you the most enjoyable hero to hit the library shelves in years. We get a lot of heroes around here but hardly any of them make us laugh. This guy, I like. This guy, your kids will like. This guy’s a keeper.

What if the one thing you were good at up and moved away and left you all alone? D.J. hasn’t the talents of the other people in his family and the way he figures it the only thing he was ever good at was being friends with his next door neighbor Gina. So when Gina moved away, so did the one thing that made him feel important. Three years pass, D.J.’s alone, and that’s when he spots something falling out of the sky. It’s small. It’s blond. And it’s wearing sparkly silver underpants. By all appearances the visitor is a small boy who calls himself Hilo. He doesn’t remember who he is or why he’s there or even what he is, but what he DOES love is discovering everything, and I mean everything, about the world. It looks like Hilo may be from another dimension, which is great. Except it looks like he’s not the only one. And it looks like he’d better remember who he is and fast because someone, or some THING, is after him.

We hear a lot of talk about “likability” and whether or not you relate to a story’s hero. In terms of D.J., I think that even the most accomplished children out there can relate to a kid who feels like he isn’t good at anything at all. Hilo’s a little different. He has more than a smidgen of The Greatest American Hero in his make-up, alongside a bit of Mork from Mork and Mindy and Avatar (the Nickelodeon cartoon). First, you get someone with powers they don’t completely understand. Next, you get a otherworldly funny being with superpowers figuring out day-to-day life. And finally, he’s a kid who ran from his frightening responsibilities and is now trying to undo a great wrong. I really love that last trope a lot because it’s something we all suspect we’d do ourselves when under serious pressure. Plus, like Avatar, Hilo delivers its message with a diverse cast and more than a smidgen of the funny.

In his bio at the back of the book Winick mentions that amongst his various influences he grew up reading the comic strip Bloom County. He’s not the first children’s book author/cartoonist to cite Berkeley Breathed as an inspiration (by the way, I love that Winick’s characters live in “Berke County”), but unlike the Bloom County imitators I’ve seen out there, Winick has managed to take the flavor and humor of the original strips and give them his own distinctive twist. Granted, the tighty whities and method of drawing toes look awfully similar to the feet and underwear of Milo Bloom, but there the direct correlations quit.

Actually, Winick’s artistic style is kind of fascinating. Particularly when it comes to characters’ eyes. A lot of the time he uses the old L’il Orphan Annie technique of keeping the pupils white and blank. But periodically, and for emphasis, small black pupils will appear. Then, in particularly emotional moments, full-color irises as well. Watching when precisely Winick chooses to use one kind of eye or another is a kind of mini lesson in comic drawing techniques in and of itself. Now Hilo is rendered in full-color glory, a fact that Winick uses to his advantage whenever he wants to create something like a portal to the Earth. But what I really liked watching, and the opening sequence is a brilliant example of this, is how he uses panels. The beginning of the book, which is a kind of flash forward into the future events to come, is a mix of action and visual humor. Even though you don’t know who these characters are, you are instantly on their side. Running from gigantic killer robots sort of cuts the “empathy” timeline in half, after all.

Now if I’ve learned anything from my time on this hallowed globe it’s that kids aren’t fans of true cliffhangers. The books where the hero is literally at the end of some screaming precipice or staring down certain death? It bugs them. They won’t stand for it. This isn’t to say that don’t like it when there’s the promise of another volume of their favorite series. But you’ve gotta ease into that, right? Leave them wanting more but solve the problem at hand. I won’t lie to you. Hilo ends on a cliffhanger. Fortunately, it’s the kind that isn’t going to make you mad when you get to it. Unless you can’t get the next book in the series. Then you’ll be furious.

I was trying to find equivalent kid comics to Hilo that know how to ratchet up the funny alongside the fast-paced. There’s a Jeff Smith blurb on this book so obviously Bone comes to mind. But I’d also be sure to mention Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado’s Giants Beware in the same breath. Any maybe Jeffrey Brown’s Star Wars: Jedi Academy just to be safe. All these books understand that while kids will follow an exciting, well-drawn comic to the ends of the earth, throw in a little humor there and they’ll go from merely enjoying it to loving it with some deep, buried part of their little comic-loving souls. That’s the fandom Hilo is poised to create. Good clean laser-beams-coming-outta-your-hands fun for the whole family. Now hand me #2, please. I have some more reading to do.

On shelves September 1st.

Like This? Then Try:

Share

2 Comments on Review of the Day: Hilo by Judd Winick, last added: 6/5/2015
Display Comments Add a Comment
14. Hilo - The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, by Judd Winick

There are never enough graphic novels for kids.  This is a simple truth. When I look to our circulation at school, out of the top 50 circulating titles during the school year 44 were graphic novels.  88%!  So I was pretty delighted when my colleague Karyn told me there was a graphic novel for kids I needed to check out.  I finally got my hands on the arc and sat down to give it a go.

DJ is just an average kid in the middle of an above average family.  The one thing he was really good at was being a good friend to Gina, but Gina moved away 3 years ago.

DJ is sitting on the roof of his club house when he sees something crash out of the sky.  Imagine his surprise when a blond boy in silver undies climbs out of the newly formed crater in the earth.  This kid has a lot of energy and even more questions since his "memory is a busted book" and he's not quite sure where he's from or what he's doing on earth.  DJ takes Hilo in without much of a plan, and quickly finds himself with his hands full.

DJ is surprised when Gina ends up back in town, and notices that she's changed quite a bit in the 3 years she's been out of Berke County which makes DJ notice that he hasn't really changed. At all.

As Hilo's past is revealed to him in his dreams bit by bit, it soon becomes apparent that danger is on the way.  And now maybe DJ will realize he's not so ordinary after all.

This outstanding graphic novel needs to be purchased in multiples.  Winick has created lovable, funny and real characters that readers will laugh with and cheer for.  The movement in the art is reminiscent of both Watterson and Gownley and I defy anyone to read Hilo without feeling moments of joy.  While reviewers have pegged this as a 9-12 title, I'm saying all ages.  I know we will have kids from 6 to 14 eager to check this one out.

I heart Hilo.

0 Comments on Hilo - The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, by Judd Winick as of 6/7/2015 5:12:00 PM
Add a Comment
15. Jack (2015)

Jack. Liesl Shurtliff. 2015. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really enjoyed Liesl Shurtliff's Rump. I enjoyed this one as well, but, perhaps a tiny bit less. Still, it's easy to recommend both books to fans of fairy tale adaptations.

Jack is the hero. He's grown up hearing stories of his ancestor Jack who fought giants. But he's not truly expecting an adventure of his own. After all, giants aren't stomping around making threats as far as he can tell. At least until they are. When it rains dirt, watch out! For Jack's life has just become more dangerous and exciting. Giants have suddenly become a BIG, BIG problem. They are coming down from the sky, stealing crops, stealing buildings, stealing people. Jack's Dad is one of the taken. Jack is determined to go off and find his father, to perhaps 'save the day' as well. He plants magic beans, and his adventure begins...

I liked meeting Jack, and his younger sister, Annabella. I liked his adventures in the land of the giants. He meets other "elves" (humans). He meets a few giants. Some giants are nice, such as Martha, the cook. But not all giants are nice. One is HORRIBLE. He is the king, of course, King Barf (or King Bartholomew). And then there are the pixies!

As for the plot, it was really well done: lots of action and adventure. He's always doing something or going somewhere. There's never a slow moment. I also think there's a good bit of world development. It's just a fun read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Jack (2015) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
16. The Cottage in the Woods (2015)


The Cottage in the Woods. Katherine Coville. 2015. Random House. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

The Cottage in the Woods, they called it. Later on that became the gatekeeper's lodge, yet they had been so happy there that they kept the name for their grand new manor house. Mr. Vaughn couldn't have been any prouder if he had built that place with his own two paws. It was his vision, his will behind it all, as if he'd wrestled it from rock and timber himself. It was no cottage either. The very thought is laughable. 

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Katherine Coville's The Cottage in the Woods. It was giddy-making.

So, you may think you know the story of the Three Bears. But do you know the true story of The Three Bears? How would you like to learn the true story from someone who witnessed it all: the governess of Master Teddy (baby bear). Her name is Ursula. and The Cottage in the Woods is her story.

Ursula is a recent graduate from Miss Pinchkin's Academy for Young Ladies. Her first job is as a governess for the upper-class Vaughn family. For the most part, she finds the family welcoming--or welcoming enough as is proper their station and hers. Her first impression of Master Teddy is pleasant enough. But her first impression of Master Teddy's Nurse?! Well, she feels disturbed and threatened from the start. But first impressions can sometimes be deceiving, for example, her first impressions of MR. BENTLEY.

If you enjoy drama, mystery, and romance, then The Cottage in the Woods may be just right for you. It is a retelling of The Three Bears that reads like a classic Victorian novel. 

I loved the premise. I loved the writing--the storytelling. I loved the characterization and the dialogue. I loved everything about it!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Cottage in the Woods (2015) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
17. Seuss on Saturday #25

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet. Dr. Seuss (Writing as Theo LeSieg) Illustrated by B. Tobey. 1965. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I wish 
that I had duck feet.
And I can tell you why.
You can splash around in duck feet.
You don't have to keep them dry.

Premise/plot: A young boy imagines what it would be like to have duck feet, antlers, a whale spout, a tiger tail, and an elephant trunk. He imagines first WHY it would be GREAT. But the more he thinks it out, the more he comes to see the potential problems. Yes, duck feet and a whale spout would be great, but, would his mother like either one on her son?! NO! By the end, the boy concludes that it's great to be himself.

My thoughts: I really love this one. I have always loved this one. The storytelling is just fun. Though I didn't realize as a kid that Big Bill might just be a bully bothering the young hero.

Have you read I Wish That I Had Duck Feet? Did you like it? Did you love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew.   

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #25 as of 6/20/2015 11:18:00 AM
Add a Comment
18. A Fine Dessert (2015)

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2015. Random House. 44 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A bit more than three hundred years ago, in an English town called Lyme, a girl and a her mother picked wild blackberries. Their hands turned purple with the juice. The thorns of the berry bushes pricked the fabric of their long skirts.

Premise/plot: A Fine Dessert shows four families from four different time periods making the same delicious frozen treat: blackberry fool. The first family is a mother and daughter living in Lyme in 1710. The second family is a mother and daughter--both slaves--living in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1810. The third family is a mother and daughter living in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1910. The fourth family is a father and son living in San Diego, California, in 2010. The recipe hasn't really changed, but, HOW they get the ingredients and HOW they use them has. (For example, how whipped cream is made.)

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. It was very well written. The premise is interesting, but, if it wasn't written so beautifully, I'm not sure it would work. I liked the family aspects of this one. It was a very sweet book.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on A Fine Dessert (2015) as of 6/20/2015 11:18:00 AM
Add a Comment
19. Seuss on Saturday #9

Scrambled Eggs Super! Dr. Seuss. 1953. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I don't like to brag and I don't like to boast,
Said Peter T. Hooper, but speaking of toast
And speaking of kitchens and ketchup and cake
And kettles and stoves and the stuff people bake...
Well, I don't like to brag, but I'm telling you, Liz,
That speaking of cooks, I'm the best that there is!
Why, only last Tuesday, when mother was out
I really cooked something worth talking about!
Premise/Plot: Peter T. Hooper is bragging to a girl, presumably his sister? presumably named Liz? that he is the best cook ever, and that he recently made the best scrambled eggs ever. Of course, his scrambled eggs weren't ordinary. His eggs didn't come from ordinary hens. His eggs didn't come from a store. He sought out extraordinary birds--both big and small--and spared no expense or effort. He even recruited helpers to help him collect the most exotic bird eggs. 

My thoughts: Like If I Ran the Zoo, this is all about the rhyme. This is classic Seuss coming up with silly, bizarre yet oh-so-fun words to say.
Then I went for some Ziffs. They're exactly like Zuffs,
But the Ziffs live on cliffs and the Zuffs live on bluffs.
And, seeing how bluffs are exactly like cliffs,
It's mighty hard telling the Zuffs from the Ziffs.
But I know that the egg that I got from the bluffs,
if it wasn't a Ziff's from the cliffs, was a Zuff's.
The book is definitely silly and over-the-top. And Seuss is definitely beginning to develop his style.  Is it my favorite? Far from it.

Have you read Scrambled Eggs Super? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Horton Hears A Who!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #9 as of 2/28/2015 5:50:00 PM
Add a Comment
20. Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Rachel Joyce. 2012. Random House. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

The novel opens with Harold Fry receiving a letter in the mail from a former friend, Queenie Hennessy; it is a goodbye letter. Though they haven't seen each other in decades, she wanted to tell him that she was dying of cancer. He's shocked, to put it mildly. Though in all honesty he doesn't think of her all that often, now that her letter is in his hands, he is remembering the woman he once worked with and what she once did for him. He writes a reply and prepares to mail it, but, on his way to the mailbox, it doesn't seem enough, not nearly enough. His reply is so short and inadequate. So after a brief conversation with a stranger about cancer, he decides to have a little faith and embark on a pilgrimage. He will walk to see Queenie in her hospice home. In his mind, logical or not, he's connected the two: walking and healing. He'll do the walking, but will it work?

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a character-driven, journey-focused read. From start to finish, readers are given a unique opportunity to walk with Harold Fry, to really get inside his head and understand him inside and out. It's a bit of a mystery as well. Since readers learn things about Harold chapter by chapter by chapter. The book is very much about Harold making sense of Harold: that is Harold coming to know himself better, of making peace if you will with the past and present.

I liked the book very much for the chance to get to know Harold and even his wife. (At first, his wife thinks he's CRAZY. Crazy for thinking up the idea, crazier still for acting on it. It just does not make any sense at all to her. WHY WALK OVER 500 MILES TO SEE A FORMER COWORKER YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IN TWO DECADES?!

It was a very pleasant read. Harold meets people every single day of his walk, and the book is a book of conversations.

It is set in England.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
21. Seuss on Saturday #10

Horton Hears A Who! Dr. Seuss. 1954. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool, He was splashing...enjoying the jungle's great joys...When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.
Premise/Plot: Horton hears someone yelling for help from a speck of dust, a tiny someone. But a person's a person, no matter how small. So Horton makes quite the effort to help, to save whoever it is.

My thoughts: I love Horton Hears a Who! I do. Poor Horton has to undergo a lot of torment to protect the Whos in Who-ville. Horton is the only one who hears them. All the other animals think he's making it all up. All the other animals are BULLIES. But Horton is steadfast, and, he'll always do his best to protect this speck of dust resting on a bit of clover. But his best may not be good enough. EVERY Who will need to speak up to be heard when all is said and done.

Have you read Horton Hears A Who! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is On Beyond a Zebra.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #10 as of 3/7/2015 1:58:00 PM
Add a Comment
22. Happy 5th Anniversary, drydenbks – Interview with Emma D. Dryden

Emma D. Dryden is a children’s editorial & publishing consultant with drydenbks LLC, a company she established 5 years ago today, after 25 years as a publisher and editor with major publishing houses. I had the privilege of working with … Continue reading

Add a Comment
23. Seuss on Saturday #11


On Beyond Zebra! Dr. Seuss. 1955. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Said Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell,
My very young friend who is learning to spell:
"The A is for Ape. And the B is for Bear.
"The C is for Camel. The H is for Hare.
"The M is for Mouse. And the R. is for Rat.
"I know all the twenty-six letters like that...
"...through to Z is for Zebra. I know them all well."
Said Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell.
Premise/Plot: One little boy claims his alphabet starts where other kids' alphabets end. He introduces the letters, "YUZZ," "WUM," "UM," "HUMPF," "FUDDLE," "GLIKK," NUH," "SNEE," "QUAN," "THNAD," "SPAZZ," "FLOOB," "ZATZ," "JOGG," "FLUNN," "ITCH," "YEKK," "VROO," AND "HI!" Of course, there's reasoning behind each new letter. Crazy fun as only Dr. Seuss can do. For example:
Then just one step a step further past Wum is for Wumbus
And there you'll find UM. And the Um is for Umbus
A sort of a Cow, with one head and one tail,
But to milk this great cow you need more than one pail!
She has ninety-eight faucets that give milk quite nicely.
Perhaps ninety-nine. I forget just precisely.
And, boy! She is something most people don't see
Because most people stop at the Z
But not me!
My thoughts: What's not to love?! I'll admit this is the first time I've read On Beyond Zebra! And I'll admit it didn't instantly become my new favorite Seuss book or anything. But is it worth reading? Yes! I like the rhyming and the storytelling. It's a very imaginative book. If you grew up reading and loving There's A Wocket in My Pocket and you haven't read On Beyond Zebra yet, well, I think you'll enjoy it.

Have you read On Beyond Zebra!? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it! If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me!  The next book I'll be reviewing is If I Ran the Circus.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #11 as of 3/14/2015 3:30:00 PM
Add a Comment
24. Review of the Day: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger
By Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books (an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
$16.99
ISBN: 978-0-385-74317-4
Ages 10-14
On shelves August 4th

After much consideration, I think I’m going to begin this review with what has to be the hoity toity-est opening I have ever come up with. Gird, thy loins, mes amies. In her 2006 book Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (don’t say you weren’t warned), philosopher Rebecca Goldstein wrote the following passage about the concept of personal identity: “What is it that makes a person the very person that she is, herself alone and not another, an integrity of identity that persists over time, undergoing changes and yet still continuing to be — until she does not continue any longer, at least not unproblematically?” In other words, why is the “you” that you were at five the same person as the “you” at thirteen or fourteen? Now I don’t know that a lot of 10-14 year olds spend their days contemplating the philosophical meanings behind their sense of self from one stage of life to another. But if they hadn’t before, they’re about to now. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead has taken what on the surface might look like a fluffy middle school tale of selfies and first loves and turned it into a much more layered discussion of bodies, feminism, the male (and female) gaze, female friendships, relationships, and betrayals. And fake moon landings. And fuzzy cat ear headbands. Hard to pin this one down, honestly.

By all logic, Bridge should have died when she was eight years old. She skated into the street and got hit by a car, after all. Yet Bridge lived and with seemingly no serious repercussions. Recently she’s been taking to wearing little black cat ears on her head, but her best friends Emily and Tab don’t mind. It’s their seventh grade year and there are bigger things on their minds. Emily’s been flirting with a cute older soccer player, Tab’s trying to save the world in her way, and now Bridge has become friends with Sherm, a guy she’d never even talked to until this year. When a wayward selfie throws the friends into a tizzy, it’s all the three can do to keep their promise to one another never to fight. Meanwhile, several months in the future, an unnamed teenager is skipping school. Something terrible has happened and she wants to avoid the blowback. But while thinking about her ex-best friend and the way things have changed, she may be unable to hide from herself as well as she hides from others.

Let’s get back to that idea that with every new age in your life, you’re an entirely different person than you were before. That philosopher I was quoting, Ms. Goldstein, asks, “Is death one of those adventures from which I can’t emerge as myself?” Actual death, she’s saying, is where you change into something other than your own “self” for good. But aren’t the changes throughout your life little deaths as well? Is that five-year-old you in that photograph really you? Do you share something essential? Stead isn’t delving deep into these questions but simply raising points to make kids think. So when her teenage character ponders that her best friend has undergone a change from which her old self will never return the book reads, “But another part of you, the part that stayed quiet, began to understand that maybe Vinny, your Vinny, was gone.” Poof! Sherm wonders something similar about his grandfather and the man’s odd actions. He writes in a letter that his grandfather now feels like a stranger and then says, “Is the new you the stranger? Or is the stranger the person you leave behind?”

To write one part of the book, the teenager, in the second person was a daring choice. It’s so unusual, in fact, that you cannot look at it without wondering what the reasoning was behind its direction. When Ms. Stead was deciding how to put Goodbye Stranger together, there had to come a point where she made the conscious decision that the teenager’s voice could only work in the second person. Why? Maybe to make the reader identify with her more directly. Maybe to make her tale, which is significantly less fraught than some of the other stories in this book, more immediate and in your face. Insofar as it goes, it works. The purpose of the narrative is perhaps to prove to kids that age does not necessarily begat wisdom. For them, the revelation of the identity of the runaway, who was previously seen as so wise and older, should prove a bit of a shocker. It also drives home the theme of changing personalities and who the “self” really is from one age to another really well.

Right now, I can predict the future. Don’t believe me? It’s true. I see hundreds of children’s books clubs assigned this book. I see hundreds of teachers having kids read it over the summer. And time after time I see kids handed sheets of paper (or maybe virtual paper – I’m flexible) with a bunch of questions about the book and their interpretation of the events. And right there, clear as crystal, is the following question: “What is the significance of Bridge’s cat ears?” Don’t answer that, kids. Don’t do it. Because if the adult who handed you this book is asking you that question, then they themselves didn’t really read the book. You could ask a hundred questions about “Goodbye Stranger” but if the cat ears are your focus then I think you took the wrong message away from this story.

And there’s such beautiful prose to be enjoyed as well. Sentences like “You can see the sun touching the tops of the buildings across the street, making its way through the neighborhood like someone whose attention you are careful not to attract.” Or, “You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once.” And maybe my favorite one, “You know what my dad told me once? He said the human heart doesn’t really pump the way everyone thinks . . . He said that the heart wrings itself out. It twists in two different directions, like you’d do to squeeze the water out of a wet towel.” Trust me – if I could spend the rest of this review just quoting from this book, I’d do it. I suspect that would only amuse me in the end, though.

Bane of the cataloging librarian’s job, this book is a middle school title for middle schoolers. Not young kids. Not jaded teens. Middle. School. Kids. As such, were it not for the author’s fantastic writing and already existing fan base, it would languish away in that no man’s land between child and teen fiction. Fortunately Stead has a longstanding, strong, and dedicated group of young followers who are willing to dip a toe into the potentially murky world of middle school. There they will find exactly what we all found when we were that age. There will be kids who seem to be enjoying an extended childhood, while others have found themselves thrust into mature bodies they have no experience operating. With this book the selfie has officially entered the children’s literature lexicon and woe betide those who seek to turn back the clock. Naturally, this will lead some adults to believe that the book is better suited in the YA and teen sections of their libraries and bookstores. I condemn no one’s choice on where best to place this book, particularly since some communities are a bit more conservative in their tastes and attitudes than others. That said, I am of the firm opinion that this is a book for kids. We may like to believe that the situations that occur here (and they are very PG situations, for what it’s worth) don’t occur in the real world, but we’d be fooling ourselves. If the heroine of the book had been Bridge’s friend Emily and not Bridge herself, then a stronger case could be made for the book’s YA inclinations. Moreover the tone of the book, while certainly filled with intelligent kids, is truly intended for a child audience. Adults will enjoy it. Teens might even enjoy it. But it’s kids that will benefit the most from it in the end.

The trickiest part of the book, and the part that may raise the most eyebrows, is Stead’s handling of the notion of feminism and the perception of girls and women. Emily and Bridge’s friend Tab takes a class from a woman who seems to have stepped out of a 1974 women’s studies college course. Her name is Ms. Berman but she says the kids can call her Berperson. Tab, for her part, devours everything the Berperson (as they prefer to call her) says and then takes what she’s learned and applies it in a bad way. She’s a middle schooler. There are college girls who do very much the same thing. So I watched very closely to see how Tab’s feminist interpretation of events went down. First off, the Berperson does not approve of what Tab does later in the book. Then I wanted to see if Tab’s continual feminist statements made any good points. Sometimes they really really do. When it comes to the selfie, Tab’s the smartest of her three friends. Other times she’s incredibly annoying. So what’s a kid going to take away from this book re: feminism? For the most part, it’s complicated but the end result is that Tab is left, for all her smarts early on, a fool. That’s a strong message and one that I’m worried will cast a long shadow over the concept of feminism itself, reinforcing stereotypes that it’s humorless and self-righteous. On the flip side, there are some very intelligent things being said about how girls are perceived in society. When a girl is slut shamed (the exact phrase isn’t used but that’s what it is) for her picture, she says later, “But the bad part wasn’t that everyone was looking at the picture. I mean, it was weird and not great. But the bad part was that it felt like they were making fun of my feeling good about the picture. Of me liking myself.” Lots to unpack there.

If Stead has a known style then perhaps it’s in writing mysteries that aren’t mysteries. Every question raised by the text along with every loose end is tied up by the story’s close. Characters are smart and their interactions with one another carry the thrill of authenticity. Stead is sort of a twenty-first century E.L. Konigsburg. Her kids are intelligent but (unlike Konigsberg, I would argue) they still feel like kids. And there are connections between the characters and events that you didn’t even think to hope for until, at last, they are revealed to you. I heard one adult who had read this book say that it was “layered”. I suppose that’s a pretty good way of describing it. It has this surface simplicity to it but even the slightest scratch to that surface yields gold. I’ve focused on just a couple of the aspects of the title that I personally find interesting, but there are so many other directions that a person could go with it. If Stead has a known style, maybe it isn’t mysteries or kids smart beyond their years or multiple connections. Maybe her style is just writing great books. The evidence in this case speaks for itself.

On shelves August 4th

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews: educating alice

Videos:

Those of a certain generation may be unable to read the title of this book without the Supertramp song of the same name coming to mind. So, with them in mind . . .

Note the waitress.  I wonder if she’s taking a vanilla shake and cinnamon toast to a table.

Share

5 Comments on Review of the Day: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, last added: 3/21/2015
Display Comments Add a Comment
25. Seuss on Saturday #12

If I Ran the Circus. Dr. Seuss. 1956. Random House. 58 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
"In all the whole town, the most wonderful spot
Is behind Sneelock's Store in the big vacant lot.
It's just the right spot for my wonderful plans,"
Said young Morris McGurk, "...If I clean up the cans."

Premise/Plot: A young boy imagines the circus he could have if only he cleaned up the vacant lot behind his favorite store. What a circus, he'd have. The best, BEST circus ever. He shares his plans for all his sideshow acts and for all the acts under the big tent too. Page after page, readers see one fabulous act after another.

My thoughts: Loved it. I wasn't expecting to love it. No one quite does rhythm and rhyme like Dr. Seuss. His books are fun to read, but, they're even better read aloud. He makes it look so simple and easy. To write in rhyme, to entertain young ones with a fun, imaginative story. But the thing is, it isn't that easy at all. So. I am definitely enjoying reading and rereading Seuss this year! I can't believe I never read this one growing up. But it's NEVER TOO LATE.

Have you read If I Ran the Circus?  Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!
 
If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Cat in the Hat.

Bonus: How The Grinch Stole Christmas was published in 1957. I reviewed this one in December of 2014.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Seuss on Saturday #12 as of 3/21/2015 12:21:00 PM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts