by Wendy Mass
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
One problem with reading an author’s series as they write it is that they don’t always stop where you (or they!) expect them to. Graceful is the fifth (and supposedly final) book in the Willow Falls series, though Mass said that about The Last Present, too (which I did not review but was very good). Another problem is that sometimes when their latest book comes out, it’s been a while since you’ve read the rest of the series so sometimes you forget details. I probably would have given this book five stars if I had re-read the series and the details had been fresher in my mind. There were several points at which the characters referenced a past event that dimly rang a bell but I wasn’t quite able to place its importance in the present moment of the story, so I definitely recommend reading these all in quick succession and in order!
Each book of this series has followed a different character or two and by the end of the series they are all friends even though they are different ages (I think the oldest set are 14 at the end and the younger ones are maybe 11 – so a significant age difference at that age which is pointed out once or twice). The series starts with Amanda and Leo when they turn eleven and discover the magic in their small town in 11 Birthdays; Finally is the story of Rory’s addition to the magical world; 13 Gifts focuses on Tara and her cousin Emily; The Last Present brings in Grace and her brother Connor; and Graceful is finally chronicles Grace’s turn to interact in the magical world. Graceful ties together the whole story in a slightly more satisfying way (if memory serves) while allowing readers to linger in the magical world of Willow Falls and these lovely teens and pre-teens who have become friends. I really enjoyed the realism and the fantasy but I think I prefer Mass’s straight fiction a little bit more since it tends to have meaningful, recurring themes that tie together a bit more strongly.
by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Overall: 2.5 out of 5 stars
The whole time I was reading this, it seemed really familiar. I finally realized it was very similar to The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty (copyright 2013; Ohi’s book is copyright 2015). Both feature a protagonist whose books go missing in the night and turn out to be swiped by a critter who doesn’t have anyone to read to him. He learns his lesson, puts the books back, and gets read to from his new friends from then on. Despite the unoriginality, this one’s cute enough that if The Snatchabook is out and you want something similar, this is a good runner-up (FYI: The Snatchabook is in rhyming text; Where Are My Books is not).
by Steve Jenkins
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
Did you know that dogs are color blind? How about that snakes are fully blind and rely on their sense of touch to find prey? Well, did you know that bullfrogs can’t see things unless they’re moving? In this book, there are animals with eyes the size of basketballs, eyes that water can go through, eyes that can see more colors than people can, eyes that can see heat, eyes that can see in different directions, and much more. You might even learn something about your cat’s eyes! There are four types of eyes, including camera eyes which are found on mammals like humans and elephants, but also birds and reptiles.
Maybe because I live in the Boston Bubble of LGBTQ heaven, but I was surprised by my aunt’s declaration that there wasn’t a big need for books about transgender kids because there just aren’t that many (in response to this article in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review). I would love to hear from readers in other places (especially if you are in the business of finding books for a large cross-section of kids!) if you think this is a good thing or overkill. Especially on the heels of Fun Home winning Best Musical at the Tonys last night and other books such as Tomboy by Liz Prince becoming their own genre (gender identity graphic novel memoirs), I think this marks a turning point in children’s literature and society in general.