Friday, November 28, 2014

GAIJIN: AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR by Matt Faulkner. New York: Disney-Hyperion Books, 2014. Hb. $19.99 ISBN 978-1-4231-3735-1 NF Graphic Novel  741.5973 Juv.
Inspired by a distant relative who was sent to a Japanese internment camp in California during World War II, Faulkner uses his own illustrations and text to tell the story of Gaijin.  Just thirteen years old and half Japanese, Gaijin finds himself summoned to relocate at an internment camp at the local race track.  His Caucasian mother goes with him and tries to make the best out of living in a horse stall.  While living in San Francisco, Gaijin was often the target of discrimination against Japanese (or half Japanese) citizens.  After all, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and were enemies of the United States.  At the internment camp, he was discriminated against because he was half white.  The graphic novel format helps to convey Gaijin’s emotions  and challenges during World War II, when he didn’t fit in anywhere. The knowledge of internment camps, right here on American soil, has just recently become the historical back story in newly published juvenile literature.   If you’re curious about Japanese-American policies during World War II, Faulkner has provided more information for young readers at
Lynette Suckow, Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI

Friday, November 14, 2014

Here's an old favorite - ready for new readers.

Snow Bear by Jean Craighead George. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. New York: Hyperion Books for children, 1999.  28p.  ISBN 0-7868-0456-4 hc. $15.99  Gr. K-2  E PIC

This story can almost be considered an Arctic version of "Blueberries for Sal."  It takes place on the shores of the Arctic Ocean when Bessie Nivyek decides to explore a huge chunk of ice that looks like a ship.  Bessie meets a baby polar bear cub and the two have a time of carefree play together, while being anxiously watched by both Bessie's brother and the mother polar bear.  The arrival of an enormous male polar bear changes the circumstances, but all ends well.  The illustrations are wintery, yet brilliantly colorful.  As an imaginative story, this is amusing and entertaining but, as a story view into another culture, it is misleading.  It would be an excellent public library book, but a judgment call for a school library.
Kay T. Elzinga, Superiorland Library Cooperative Board Member

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BEDTIME MONSTERS by Josh Schneider. New York: Clarion Books, 2013. 32p. ISBN 978-0-544-002708 hb. $16.99    Gr. PreK - 3   E PIC

I knew I was going to enjoy BEDTIME MONSTERS from the first page where Arnold is pictured destroying New York. The illustrations of the animals running out of the cookie box leads children to imagination and creativity. When each monster shows up scared and climing into bed with Arnold, you can't wait for the next one to appear. Of course, the ending is also very unique with the monsters being scared off by "Arnolds."  Arnold falls asleep in a monster-free bed at last.  Besides being a good bedtime story or read-aloud, it would make a cute play for the classroom.
Mary Kashorek, Library Assistant, Spies Public Library, Menominee, MI

Friday, November 7, 2014

THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY by Laurie Halse Anderson.  New York: Viking, published by Penguin Group, 2014.  391p. ISBN: 9780670012091 hc.$18.99.  Y.A.FIC

Hayley's used to life on the road so when her veteran father decides they're going to put down roots in his old hometown, she is less than excited. Going to school every day and being expected to take the SATs turn out to be the least of her worries as her father's PTSD rules both their lives. Friends, and the possibility of a boyfriend, allow Hayley to cultivate connections outside of her small family unit until the return of a familiar face brings back memories long buried. Ultimately, Hayley realizes she must confront her father as they both struggle to understand what they need from each other.

What I loved the most about "The Impossible Knife of Memory" is the relationship between Hayley and her father. It is in no way entirely positive, or even healthy, but there is a strong connection between them that is real and palpable. Hayley herself is snarky, sure of herself, and bristly, though her people skills improve as time passes. I enjoyed her relationship with Finn; their mix of reality and fantasy in conversation is adorable. Mostly, I'm a sucker for a dramatic, emotional ending and this book delivers in spades.
Jesse Shirtz, Library Director, Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

BLUFFTON by Matt Phelan. 2013.   Gr. 6-8    JUV

Phelan’s graphic novel takes readers back in history to The Actors’ Colony at Bluffton, in Muskegon, Michigan in 1908.  The famous actor, Buster Keaton, was one of the children who spent summers there after working the vaudeville circuit with his family for the rest of the year. BLUFFTON is told through the eyes of Henry, a local boy who envies Buster’s life as a performer.In contrast, Phelan portrays Buster Keaton as a talented performer who would rather spend his time playing baseball than anything else. There are plenty of discussion points for students, as the author includes controversial topics such as allegations of child abuse connected to the physical nature of the Keatons’ stage act. The superb illustrations leave some room for interpretation and will inspire readers to research the names of other actors in the story.  By the way, this book was included in the Michigan Notable Books for 2014.
Lynette Suckow, Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI