Tag Archives: moving

The Popper Penguin Rescue by Eliot Schrefer

by Eliot Schrefer
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

I loooooooved Mr. Popper’s Penguins as a kid. I believe it even fueled me and my sister pretending our stuffed penguin was alive, putting it in a box and “feeding” it torn up construction paper, on an Antarctic twist on proving responsibility to our parents to get a real pet. I haven’t re-read the book as an adult, mostly out of fear that it won’t have aged well.

The Popper Penguin Rescue features descendants of both Mr. Popper and his penguins. His distant relations, Nina and Joel and their mom, move back to town and into one of the old Popper penguin attractions and promptly find two mysterious eggs, about to hatch. They eventually decide to reunite the two chicks with the other Popper penguins, who had been rehomed on an arctic island. With the unquestioning help of an Inuit sailor, they take off from school to make the trip.

While on the island, they realize that the penguins don’t belong there, and are in fact having a devastating effect on the native puffins, who no longer have enough fish to eat. So they get Yuka, their Inuit guide, to take them and all the penguins to Antarctica. Once they get there they realize that the two chicks are a totally different species and should be somewhere else. In fact, because they have imprinted on Joel and Nina, they won’t survive in the wild at all, so the family decides to keep them in the end and use them to tour and educate people on penguins and climate issues.

This story is a lovely adventure for young children but requires a lottttt of suspension of disbelief that older readers might find frustrating. In particular, the family’s reliance on others – in particular a Native person for his labor and time, but also the Popper Foundation for funding – not to mention just dropping everything and going off on an adventure. But probably similar things happened in the original book and I was probably just fine with it, which makes me wonder if it holds up, both culturally and in my estimation as an adult.

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian

by Zanib Mian
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Omar is an elementary schooler of indeterminate age (though his siblings are 3 and 13 so I am guessing he’s 8-ish). His family is Muslim and lives in London, though they move at the beginning and he has to change schools. He quickly makes a new friend and a new enemy, but by the end of the book, the enemy has been won over with just a little compassion and understanding (turns out his little sister is very ill and gets all the attention). Omar’s new next-door neighbor is anti-Muslim when they first move in, but their efforts to be friendly finally win her over, too. All’s well that ends well!

This book has lots of illustrations and different text, in a Geronimo Stilton type way, but fewer different fonts and no colors, so it gave me less of a headache to read and might be a good stepping stone book between Geronimo Stilton and more traditional chapter books. This book also seems to be more of a window for others into Pakistani Muslim culture and less of a mirror for Muslims themselves as almost all of the terms are explained or at least given some context. I’m not sure I’ve seen any books like that for this age level but I’ll keep looking because mirrors are so important. I really enjoyed this one, but docked it a star because the title seemed to suggest more cohesion around the fact that Omar is an accidental trouble magnet, but the story seemed to meander a bit more than that (or be straight-out more about the bully storyline).

Roll With It by Jamie Sumner

final-front-cover-roll-with-itby Jamie Sumner
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

12-year-old Ellie is actually excited to move from Kentucky to her grandparents’ home in Oklahoma with her mom, except for the whole starting a new school thing. But that goes well and soon she even has friends! Coralee, who lives next door, and Bert, a boy with mild autism, who stick together because, as Coralee points out, they are all different because they live in the trailer park.

Ellie and her mom have moved to help out with Ellie’s grandfather, who has dementia. He gets himself into various scrapes, including a final episode that clinches his move into assisted living with Mema in which he is in a lot of real danger. Ellie has very fond memories of vacations in Oklahoma and doesn’t want to leave when her mother determines that her new school isn’t adequately meeting her needs with being wheelchair-friendly and providing an aide. It doesn’t hurt that Ellie hates having an aide, or that she finally has the best PT of her life in her gym teacher, Hutch (who it is hinted that Ellie’s mom has a crush on). There’s also a subplot with Ellie’s dad and his “shiny new family” and who makes up for not spending time with Ellie by sending her expensive presents like an iPad. Ellie also loves to bake, which reminded me of the Dirt Diary series and Pie in the Sky.

Middle-eastern Picturebooks

by Rukhsanna Guidroz
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Leila is from Pakistan and takes us on a very sensory visit to her Naani’s (grandmother’s) house, with smells of curry, the clink of bangle bracelets, and the lovely soft feel of her grandmother’s many vibrantly colored scarves. Leila isn’t sure she likes her knobby knees and skinny arms, but she loves how being with her family makes her feel about herself.

a1l-cwaki-l-663x800by Mina Javaherbin
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Mina and her grandmother are inseparable and this autobiographical picture book is just one big love note to her grandma. In addition to describing the basket delivery system they rigged up from their third-floor apartment and helping her grandma make her chadors, Mina also remembers their neighbor Annette and her grandma, who are not Muslim, but who are great friends to them. Mina and Annette also discover that their grandmas pray for each other.

screenshot_20190521-130345_chromeby Supriya Kelkar
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Harpreet loves his colorful patkas (cloths used to make Sikh turbans) – until his family moves across the country, away from the beach and to a place where it snows. Now all he wants to wear is his white patka because he doesn’t feel like celebrating or having courage. But when he makes a new friend, he returns to his old self, and his old interest in expressing himself through his patka’s color.

YA Graphic Novels like whoa, part 2

9781596436206Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman
Overall: 1 out of 5 stars (unfinished)

I had to stop reading this one because it gave me a headache. I mostly picked it up on a recommendation from a colleague, and because Roman was married to Raina Telgemeier (not just gossip – this GN spree was brought to you by a spunky 8-year-old who loves Raina so I’ve been looking for other graphic novels that she could read while she waits for Raina’s next book HURRY UP RAINA). Anyway, plot. Was there a plot? I’m not sure. A kid starts school at Astronaut Academy. There are other kids. There are teachers. There are dinosaurs you learn to ride…? There are magic flying buses that join up Power Ranger / Transformer style to create Metador. I couldn’t really follow what was going on because it reads like a little kid wrote it and makes no sense. But maybe some kids would like that? Probably kids who like Captain Underpants. I feel no need to finish this.

9781608868988Goldie Vance, Volume 1 by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Goldie Vance has been compared to Nancy Drew, and very rightly so, but with a modern feel. Goldie still lives in the 1960s, but is interested in (and holds hands with) a girl. She is very precocious and also a very good detective. She gets into far more action-movie sequences than Nancy, which were exciting to read (if you like suspending belief). Goldie is also in high school (she works as a valet at the hotel her dad runs) and has a vendetta with the daughter of the owner of the hotel. She races cars like in Grease, which was also fun. I liked that the mystery wasn’t straightforward and took actual brainpower and observational skills to solve.

9780375865909Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Peanut tells the story of Sadie, who wants to stand out at her new high school and decides to tell everyone that she’s deathly allergic to peanuts. However, her lie soon gets much more complicated than she imagined, having to lie about epi-pens and reading ingredients carefully and even keeping her boyfriend away from her mother. Eventually, as you might guess, she gets caught in rather a dramatic way when someone catches her eating something suspected to have nuts in it. EMTs are called and the school nurse and teachers are panicked. Sadie, who has wanted to come clean at least with her close friends, is left a laughingstock, especially by the popular girls she had once wanted to befriend. The story ends with hope, though, of her earning back her boyfriend’s trust, if not exactly all her new friends. I thought this made for an excellent cautionary tale about the very likely outcome of a lie like this. The flipside, where real allergies are not taken seriously, is not really addressed, which is too bad. I was right with Sadie as she made every decision and felt for her desire to fit in, even as I knew where this was heading. We squirmed uncomfortably together as she realized how much she had to lose by confessing her lie, and just had to sit and watch it play out.

The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson


by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Twelve-year-old Lowen and his family apply for a Dollar Home in a former mill town, presumably somewhere in the northeast United States. He is eager to escape their city, Flintlock, and start fresh where they could own property. Lowen in particular is escaping haunting memories of his neighbor Abe’s death, shot in a robbery of the convenience store down the street. Lowen feels responsible and holds a lot of guilt around that, because he was frequently annoyed by Abe’s incessant energy and questions and had sent him to the store to get some peace. Lowen’s working through that guilt is the real story, but it’s obscured a bit by his family’s immersion in fixing up their Dollar Home in time to meet the deadline. Complicating things is that many people in the town don’t really want the Grovers or the other families there, so they thwart the families’ business efforts, which is really like cutting off their nose to spite their face. By not supporting the businesses, they are not only failing to revitalize their town, but also making it so that the families can’t afford to fix up their homes, leaving them in states of ruin.

I ended up caring more about the characters and story that I thought I would at the beginning. This book clocks in just over 400 pages and I was annoyed at the beginning because there was a LOT of telling, not showing. But with the size of the book, it’s easy to see why – it’s daunting enough, no need to add more pages. There wasn’t really a part of the book where it lagged and I thought she could have cut that, or parts to the story that felt extraneous, or characters I could have done without. It was just a big story, hard to shoehorn into one middle grade book. Yet middle-grade it is, with a nice, tidy, feel-good ending and everything. The other thing that grated on me was that every chapter began with a header of exactly how much time had passed since the end of the last chapter – again, showing, not telling. I suspect that it was necessary in some spots and so they forced it onto all of the chapters, but it resulted in feeling not very well written. Overall, though, I thought there was a lot in here about relationships and grieving, and a pretty epic journey for this family.

Popular by Maya Van Wagenen


by Maya Van Wagenen
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Eighth grader Maya’s dad finds a vintage (1950’s) etiquette book for young ladies and her mom encourages her to find some kernels of truth in it. Maya decides to challenge herself to follow the book exactly, no matter how silly or outdated, for her entire 8th grade year, and keep a journal. After all, she figures, she’s already at the bottom of the popularity pyramid; what does she have to lose?

I was prepared for this one to be terrible at worst, and saccharine at best. But it turns out Maya is a gifted writer (or, if I’m being cynical, had a lot of help – but I suspect most of it was natural talent) and also had some interesting insights into the nature of teenage popularity and what are enduring pieces of wisdom. For example, the girdle seems unnecessary and very of-its-time, but the idea of grooming your body and pushing yourself to be outgoing and engage new people in conversation seems pretty solid. Her transformation into a well-liked and, yes, popular, kid was gradual enough to be realistic (there are some setbacks) and yet the month she spent reaching out to other people held the most change. I also loved at the end of the book when she interviewed all the kids at all levels of popularity and no one seemed to think they were at the top. It seemed very much like a “grass is always greener” situation.

Spoiler alert: About halfway through the year, you learn that Maya’s family is moving in the summer, and of course her risk-taking only increased, but I also couldn’t help but wonder if some of the responses to her changed when kids knew she was leaving. Her relationship with her best friend also changes a little bit and we get some insights into other things going on in her life in this year (a favorite teacher gets terminally ill; some stuff about her adorable family, etc), which add to the depth. Maya shares some probably deeply embarrassing details relevant to her insights, which charmed the hell out of me.

Maya is probably a senior in high school now, or maybe out of high school, as it looks like she was 15 in 2014 (so born in 1999). It looks like she’s worked on the screenplay for turning her book into a movie, so I’m interested to see how that turns out, if it does (looks to have been in development for a while now so who knows). I’m also curious how her life turns out, and how high school has gone for her in a new town. Our teen librarian chose this book for the middle school book club and I think it would pair nicely with Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli for an interesting discussion on the nature of popularity and socialization.


Spinning by Tillie Walden


by Tillie Walden
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Walden’s graphic novel memoir falls solidly in the same camp as Honor Girl and Tomboy (and is about as confusing and as much of a letdown as Honor Girl). From her website, it seems as though Walden is a very gifted cartoonist, but the drawings in Spinning are very simplistic and I had a hard time telling characters apart and following the story. It’s also hard to take a very fluid activity like ice skating and depict it in a static medium like drawing. It was also hard to watch her put so much time and money and effort into skating when she wasn’t really that into it. Much later, when she does actually quit, she wonders why she didn’t do it sooner, and I was left wondering why also. She touches briefly on her secret relationship with her girlfriend, Rae, but doesn’t really come to any grand conclusions about it, or about skating, or about anything really. She depicts being sexually threatened (harassed? assaulted? I’m not entirely sure how to describe what happened) by her SAT tutor, but it doesn’t really fit into the rest of the narrative in a meaningful way. She also touches on her relationship with her twin brother, who thinks that her being gay is wrong, but she also has other mentors who tell her she’s just fine, like her cello teacher, showing how important it is to have adults in your life who fully support you (unlike her dad, who asked if he had done something wrong to make her gay, which was sad). I’m not really 100% sure what the point of this was, other than an outlet for Walden herself and maybe another in the category of “it gets better” reads for LGBTQIA teens, but given that she’s only 20 it seems like a solid debut work. Plus I love ice skating, so it was interesting to get an inside peek at that world (and synchronized skating, too).