Tuesday, January 24, 2023

FARMHOUSE by Sophie Blackall. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2022. 32p. ISBN 978-0316528948 hc. $18.99    Gr. K-3    E PIC

Readers who enjoyed reading the story of a lighthouse keeper in HELLO LIGHTHOUSE (2018), will lose themselves in this story that opens up the rooms of a farmhouse to reveal the life of a mid-century farm family.  The carefully metered text flows through each room of the large house that shelters a family of fourteen.  The words continue through multiple daily chores, then extend to the barn and fields where a spectacularly beautiful apple tree is waiting to be picked before the sun goes down.  As the children grow up and leave home, nature begins to reclaim the structure and leads to a melancholy ending.  Read the Author's Note for a conclusion to the story.  Blackall's art is outstanding, as usual, adding detail and context to this sweet story.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

ABDUL'S STORY by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. Illus. by Tiffany Rose.  New York: Salaam Reads, 2022.  32p.  ISBN 978-1534462984 hc. $17.99    Gr. 1-4     E PIC

The book opens with "Abdul loved to tell stories," and then tells readers why he has trouble writing them down for school assignments.  Letters moved around in his brain, so he used his eraser quite often and was not happy with a sheet full of erasures.  As luck would have it, a writer named Mr. Muhammad was a guest in Abdul's classroom one day, and recognized when a young writer was in trouble.  He told Abdul to push through the writing without worrying about neatness.  Revisions could be made later.  After succeeding with this writing strategy, Abdul could write down his thoughts and work on formatting later.  That's called editing in my world.  Good strategy, Abdul!
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

OUT OF A JAR by Deborah Marcero. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2022. 32p. ISBN 978-0593326374 hc. $17.99     PreS - Gr. 3      E PIC

This story really begins with IN A JAR (2020) that follows Llewellyn's passion for collecting interesting objects from nature and storing them in jars.  The illustrations are simplistic at first glance, but full of pattern and detail.  The same artistic style continues to the second story where Llewellyn began to store his feelings in jars, instead of dealing with his emotions.  Soon he had jars full of fear, sadness, excitement, anger, joy, and disappointment.  It was embarrassment that pushed Llewellyn over the edge.  He didn't have any more room to store those bottled-up emotions and accidentally broke the jars.  Llewellyn experienced all of the emotions at once, leading him to decide that it would be easier to experience and share emotions when they occur.  By choosing a very literal way to talk about "bottled-up" feelings with the jar motif, Marcero has created an effective way to talk about emotions with children. 
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

KNIGHT OWL by Christopher Denise. New York: Christy Ottaviano Books, 2022. 32p. ISBN 978-031631-62-8 hc. $17.99    Gr. K-2    E PIC

Little owl had an unfaltering dream to be a knight.  It was all he thought about.  He applied to Knight School, studied hard, trained hard (even though he was smaller than most knights), and got a night job guarding the castle.  He carried on until one night when a fire-breathing dragon visited the castle and proposed to eat the owl.  After some tense moments, the clever and determined owl talked the dragon into sharing a pizza instead, as it would be much more delicious and make it easier to have conversation.  The dragon, who started out as a bully, became a friend rather than an adversary - and that was also good for conversation.  The illustration will hold a young readers attention, making this delightful story a great read-aloud option.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI  

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

AIN'T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT by Jason Reynolds. Illus. by Jason Griffin. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2022.  300p. ISBN 978-1534439467 hc. $19.99    Gr. 7-12    YA FIC

Neatly structured into three chapters, Breath One, Breath Two, and Breath Three, Reynolds and Griffin have tackled the feeling of having few options in a limited environment.  Considering that they came up with the idea for this story during the stifling confines of being indoors during COVID, each chapter ends with the meditative phrase, "in through the nose, out through the mouth."  It's a way to survive the uncertainty that overtook the mundane lifestyle during 2020. The well-chosen words of poetry could be about the immediate actions of the family on the pages or extended to encompass the political actions of the larger world.  Reynold's writing is always thoughtful and thought-provoking.  The wonderful surprise in this book is the impactful art of Jason Griffin.  With the journal pages as a background, covered with collage and taped-on text, the images are unforgettable.  Kudos to Reynolds and Griffin for one of the best books of the year! 
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

MURDER AMONG FRIENDS: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime by Candace Fleming.  New York:  Anne Schwartz Books, 2022.  291p.  ISBN 978593177426 hc. $19.99     Gr. 7-12        NF 364.1523

May 21, 1924 was the day that changed history for two Chicago teens and everyone who knew them. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, both from prominent Jewish families and already in college because of academic excellence, plan the "Crime of the Century." With all the equipment necessary to abduct and kill someone, they just needed a young victim.  They chose 14 year-old Bobby Franks, a second cousin to Richard.  The two often played tennis together, which adds to the callous nature of this crime.  The crime ended up less than perfect, landing Nathan and Richard in jail.  A very public trial ensued, with the famous defense lawyer Clarence Darrow taking the case in order to avoid the death penalty.  Could Leopold and Loeb plead insanity, or were they outright psychopaths?  This is a fast-paced story with a look into the minds of killers who could be your next door neighbors.  The story is well-documented with 50 pages of primary sources and photograph citations, plus an index in case you want to retrace specific pieces of the crime and subsequent trial proceedings.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE by Tae Keller. New York: Random House, 2022. 267p.  SIBN 978-0593310526 hc. $17.99     Gr. 6-8    J FIC

Mallory Moss has settled into a comfortable middle school life with supportive family and friends, including her best friend Reagan.  That doesn't mean that she always says the right thing in front of peers or agrees with her mom on every issue.  She constantly works to maintain her social status and avoid Pete, the school bully.  Mallory's life changes the day Jennifer Chan moves in across the street and their mothers arrange for them to get acquainted.  Since Jennifer doesn't fit in with Mallory's circle of friends, and keeps a detailed diary of her search for aliens from other planetary cultures, is it possible to stay friends?  As Mallory sorts out the issues of bullying and aliens, it turns out that Pete isn't the only bully around.  Readers will turn pages faster and faster as the adventure reaches a crescendo.  After mulling over a very thoughtful ending,  read the Author's Note on page 269 about her own experience with bullying in middle school. 
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI