Tuesday, December 29, 2015

THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick. Scholastic Press: New York, 2015.  670p. ISBN 978-0545-448680 hc. $32.99.   Gr. 6-10   JUV FIC

          The first 400 pages of this very thick book tells the genealogy of the Marvel family in pictures.  It's a fantastical story of two brothers at sea who become shipwrecked in 1776.  The survivor makes his way to London and takes up life in the theater; backstage where the rope rigging and backdrops are as familiar as the surroundings of a sailing ship.  Readers will flip through the pages quickly absorbing the story. It's almost like watching a movie, as Selznick zooms in and out of a scene with detailed pencil illustrations.
          Fast forward to 1990 with a new character, Joseph Jervis, and a switch to telling the story with text.  Joseph lives at boarding school because his parents are rich enough to travel the world.  He decides to do some traveling of his own - to London, where his elusive uncle, Albert Nightingale, lives in a museum of sorts.  Uncle Albert is a man of few words and fails to explain why a room in his house is left unused and unchanged.  After much effort and frustration, Joseph unlocks the mystery of the room and his family history.  Selznick's crafted storytelling conveys each character's emotions through words and illustration.  Selznick is famous for his ability to create two separate stories, find the common thread and weave it into a complete, but complex, story. 
          As the story reveals the final scene, it switches back to illustration and fast forwards again to Joseph as a grown man.  To read this story once is not enough.  THE MARVELS is a masterpiece of storytelling. Since this story is loosely based on an actual house in London, readers will find an afterword and a dramatic black and white photograph of the mysterious unchanging room.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

BONE GAP by Laura Ruby. Balzer and Bray: an imprint of HarperCollins Children's Publishing, 2015. 368p. ISBN 978-0062317605 hc. $17.99  Gr. 9-12  YA FIC

          BONE GAP begins as realistic fiction with the very human story of 14 year-old Finn, who daydreams, gets into fights but doesn't fight back, and sees people in a different way.  He notices their shape and movement more than their faces, but in the small community of Bone Gap, he knows who everyone is.  His older brother Sean is big and strong and does everything right, and he takes care of Finn.  It's the two of them against the world.  Their lives change overnight when the most beautiful woman in the world is found in the barn.  Her name is Rosza, she is a great cook, and she makes the brothers happy.  As quickly as she came, she leaves -taken by a man that Finn cannot describe, even though he saw Rosza get into his car and disappear down the road.  There are several mysteries taking place at the same time, eventually unraveled through the separate narratives of Finn and Rosza.

          At some point, the story transforms into surreal fantasy, paralleling the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, who was captured (kidnapped) by Hades and taken to the Underworld, just like Rosza was kidnapped and hidden from sight. Finn is fearless in his quest to find Rosza and becomes the hero of the story.  There are several allusions to the myth beginning about halfway through the story such as the superhuman strength and persona of the kidnapper.  References to the pomegranate seeds that Persephone ate, resulting in six months above the ground and six months below, are found in Rosza's cookie recipe with an especially delicious pomegranate filling, and her inner struggle to stay connected to her grandmother in Poland, while, at the same time, wanting to start a new life in the U.S. with Finn and Sean.  This is a story about perspective - inner beauty versus  physical beauty and the value of acceptance for each individual viewing the world from a slightly different viewpoint. 
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

PIG KAHUNA: Who's That Pig? by Jennifer Sattler. New York:  Bloomsbury, 2015.  32p.  ISBN 978-161962-6323 hc. $16.99   PreK-Gr. 1   E PIC

If you're looking to find a book that highlights individualism and friendship for those that are shy, this is the book for you.  Fergus and Dink are enjoying an ordinary day at the beach when they meet someone "anything but ordinary."  Tallulah is not afraid to be herself whether it's her special fashion sense, ability to stand on her head, or encouragement of Fergus tackle a new obstacle.  Children and parents alike will enjoy the positive and patient message that allows all to know how lucky we are to have differences.  The illustrations are soft and colorful, drawing the audience into a most wonderful story.
Emily Cummings, Children's Specialist, Dickinson County Library

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

SLEEPY SNOOZY COZY COOZY: A Book of Aminal Beds by Judy Young.  Illus. by Michael Monroe. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2015. 32p. ISBN 978-1-58526-9089 hc. $15.99   Gr. 1-3   E PIC

This is a wonderful and very informative book that can be used for a wide range of ages.  You can simply have fun reading through all the tongue twisting poems that give you some information about each animal, or you can also read the bottom part of each page and learn morefacts about these North
American animals.  The illustrations are beautiful, soft and perfect for a nighttime story book, especially since the end of the story brings you back to a child sleeping in his bed.
Mary Koshorek, Librarian Assistant, Spies Public Library, Menominee, MI

Thursday, December 3, 2015

SEARCH AND SPOT ANIMALS by Laura Ljungkvist.  New York:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2015.  32p. ISBN 978-0-544-54005-7 hc. $16.99   Gr. PreK-1   E PIC

Not quite the same as Martin Hanford's WHERE'S WALDO books, this collection of visual puzzles is based on the line art of Laura Ljungkvist.  Multi-layered illustrations combine silhouette, outline, and texture to create busy pages that challenge the reader's sense of pattern while searching for designated animals.  Young readers and parents will enjoy working through this book together while feasting their eyes on the vivid colors.  A second book is in the works for late in 2016 titled SEARCH AND SPOT GO featuring cars and trucks and modes of transportation. This is a new series to keep an eye on!
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI