Tag Archives: animals

Lety Out Loud by Angela Cervantes

lety-out-loud-image_1by Angela Cervantes
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Lety and her best friends Brisa and Kennedy, rising 6th graders, are doing a special summer program volunteering at the local animal shelter. To Lety’s annoyance, their classmate Hunter is also there, and he scowls a lot and is rude to Lety about her not being a U.S. citizen or being fluent in English. They both want to be “shelter scribe,” the person who writes the profiles of the animals for the website, and get in trouble for developing a contest to determine who gets the honor. Over the course of the story, however, he opens up to Lety and the two become friends – and maybe someday will be more than friends?!

There’s also the sort of opposite storyline that happens with Brisa. While out shopping with her family and Lety, they encounter an angry white man who yells at them to learn English and “go back to Mexico” (Brisa’s family is from Peru, and even inserts a phrase in Quechua, the language of her grandparents, which was very cool). Brisa is scared and decides to leave the shelter camp to go to ESL summer school, but Lety comes up with a plan to get her back. She also comes up with a plan to get Hunter’s dog back for him, and to be able to adopt a dog herself.

This is not the first book in this series but it works quite well as a stand-alone read, and I learned about it because a fellow children’s librarian chose it for her 4th and 5th grade book club. I think it raises a lot of really great, topical issues and would be great for a book club, even if things get resolved very (too) neatly to be entirely satisfactory to me as an adult reader. I also suggested it to a fellow children’s librarian who writes animal profiles at a shelter! (I also especially love the word play because when this title is read aloud, it sounds like “let it out loud”!) There is some Spanish in here, and it is handled very well and not at all clunky.

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord

9780545914246by Cynthia Lord
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Emma is about to start fifth grade at her local public school, which she has never attended before. She’s been homeschooled, as had her brother until recently. Emma misses her brother and laments how he’s changed, though they are clearly still close. On her first day of school, Emma is put in a group with two girls who she wants to befriend and Jack, an autistic boy, who she sort of wants to befriend and also sort of doesn’t. Emma is not put off by Jack’s unusual mannerisms and, though she would prefer to work with the two girls, she enjoys working with Jack when they devise a plan to force Emma and Jack to do their part alone. Emma’s internal conflict arises when she feels she has to treat Jack poorly in or attempt to get to know the other kids. She eventually figures out that she can both stick up for him and make new friends in a new school, which seems tragically idealistic and didn’t quite ring true to me.

Despite that, I really enjoyed this book. I had it as an audiobook over the long weekend here in the U.S. and zipped right through it on my road trip (as opposed to You Go First which I had to stop listening to because the reader’s voice was way too annoying when she was voicing the annoying girl). I read it at the request of my boss and we agreed that, as the parent of an autistic child, Lord seems to have found a groove there, but we are wary of parents-as-experts not necessarily being the best resource. Our basis for this is the Light it Up Blue autism awareness campaign, run by Autism Speaks, which has come under scrutiny for not including voices of actual autistic people. The critique is that it’s an organization made of parents and other people who have autistic people in their lives, but do not include autistic people in their leadership and, more than that, sometimes say hurtful things. In contrast, the Autism Self-Advocacy Network is just what it sounds like, and their tag line is “Nothing About Us Without Us.” Keeping in mind that sometimes even parents of autistic children can make missteps, the boss and I were wondering how an autistic person would review this book. Until that happens, I’ll rank it high, with caveats.

Lost in the Library by Josh Funk

9781250155016

by Josh Funk
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

The two lions outside the New York Public Library come to life in this sweet tale. When Patience goes missing one morning, Fortitude finally ventures into the library to try and find him, going from room to room and interacting with the various famous features of the historic building. I loved that when Fortitude reunites with his pal Patience, he learns that Patience has been reading up stories to share with him. It’s a lovely homage to the NYPL, despite the fact that the layout may be different in the near future.

I loved Josh’s previous picture books, especially Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast and How to Code a Sandcastle, and this one did not disappoint. If anything, Josh’s rhyming has gotten even more impressive, with every stanza having an ABAB rhyming scheme (as opposed to ABCB in previous books). (In the interest of full disclosure, Josh is a friend, so I am especially aware of how hard he works on his rhymes, and how hard it is to get them right!) He makes them seem effortless, and the story is solid. A bit more grounded in reality than Lady Pancake, but no less creative for it.

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

9781452150147

by Brendan Wenzel
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a beautiful new book that’s great for opposites. I used it in my toddler storytime, right after Bread and Butter and right before This is Big Big Big. The pictures are simple and clean, easy to see from far away but also interesting up close. It starts with black and white and then moves into brilliantly-colored animals. We had a lot of fun pointing out our body parts, being quiet and loud, and generally interacting with the book. This is definitely a book to grow with as there are notes on all the animals at the end, with their full names and endangered status (vulnerable, threatened, critically endangered, etc).

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

9780385755559

by Kelly Jones

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Sophie Brown and her parents have just moved from Los Angeles to a farm in the country following her father’s job loss. They are taking over the farm that belonged to her father’s Uncle Jim, who apparently used to have some unusual chickens on it. Between finding the chickens, discovering their unusual qualities (one lays glass eggs, one has chicks who can turn animals to stone, one can turn invisible, etc), and learning to care for them, Sophie also has to fend off a would-be chicken thief, a feat she manages with considerable grace given the circumstances. She even makes some new friends along the way which will ease her transition to her new school in the fall. My favorite thing is her friendship with the mailman, Gregory, which reminded me a bit of my favorite mailman, Donald, when I was a kid. But I digress.

This was a solid story. It’s epistolary, and sometimes the letter format seemed a bit clunky, like when Sophie wrote several letters to the same person in one day, because so much happened (near the denouement), or when she really needed an answer by the next day but mail takes a bit longer than that, even in Gregory’s speedy and capable hands. I did not suspect the twist until pretty close to its reveal, which is always satisfying. And I liked that the evil grownup got what she deserved – but also that she seemed more complex than just pure evil. Sophie’s mother is of Mexican descent and her father is white, and she mentions race quite a bit. She says people are always assuming her family works on a farm, like as harvesters or migrant farmworkers, and how that hurts to hear over and over. Also it’s a small town and people are always surprised and confused that she’s Jim Brown’s great-niece, and then someone explains that she’s half Mexican, and that also seems to not sit well. But meanwhile, Sophie’s mom is a writer and keeps the family afloat, and the whole family has fun singing and dancing one night, and she makes migas with some of the eggs they get from Uncle Jim’s chickens, even providing the recipe and a non-didactic description of what they are that makes them sound as delicious as they are in real life!

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price

fc9780062380104

by Jennifer Maschari
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Hoooooooooooooly cow. Remember when I said the last middle grade book had all the feels and was a perfect 5 out of 5 stars? This one maybe deserves a 6. WOW. I’m still mulling over the metaphor in this one – there’s a lot here. Magical realism at its best, and that is a huge compliment from me, because I hate magical realism. You could also call this one fantasy, I suppose.

The story opens when Charlie Price is 12 years old, a few months after his mother dies from cancer and 6 months after his best friend disappeared after the death of his own beloved grandmother. Charlie is stuck going to grief group at school, but at least their friend Elliott is there, who lost her little brother, along with them both losing Frank. Charlie and his little sister, Imogen, also lose their father to his own grief as he is increasingly less available for them. One day, though, Imogen claims she has just come back from a secret world where she got to spend time with Mom. When Charlie follows her down the mysterious hatch that has appeared beneath her bed, he’s thrilled to see Mom again but his senses are soon on high alert – this “Not Mom” isn’t quite right. As Imogen spends more and more time in the other world, she begins to fade from this world. Finally, Charlie has to take action to save her, and winds up pulling everyone out of their own tailspins of grief.

As I mentioned, this is a powerful metaphor, especially if you’ve ever grieved for someone or experienced grief yourself, about memories, about what keeps you in that downward spiral and about who and what can get you out of it. It’s crucial, I think, that those who have also experienced a deep loss are the ones who can help, that you can all lean on each other. This other world is not real and there is something so compelling and yet so sinister about it. It’s just so, so beautifully done, and even a bit creepy.

DO NOT READ IN PUBLIC or you will become a sniveling hot mess / puddle of tears! I’m still piecing it together and rehashing it in my mind, but I’m sure there’s more to it than I’m remembering as this metaphor is incredibly rich. Also I read it in one day. Just heads up – you may want to do the same, so clear your schedule! One last note is that a dog dies along the way, which is another type of loss that might hit hard for some kids (or heck, even grownups).

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled

fc9780062373458

by Lynne Rae Perkins
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

This picture book isn’t so much a story as it is an amusing way of explaining different school subjects through a dog’s antics (they learn about fractions through how much of the bed Lucky takes up at night, they learn about science through picking burrs and ticks off Lucky, etc). It’s very charming and the parts told from Lucky’s (the dog) perspective are very dog-like and funny. Grownups will appreciate some of the jokes more than kids but they’ll all like it. This would be best as a one-on-one readaloud with a slightly older child who has been to school, maybe a 2nd-grader. The humor reminds me a little bit of the Otter books by Sam Garton (whose new Otter book just came out, incidentally: Otter Goes to School – I can’t wait to read it!).