Tuesday, May 31, 2016

ANNA AND THE SWALLOW MAN by Gavriel SavitNew York: Random House Children’s Books, 2016.  240p.  ISBN9780553513349 hc. $17.99     Gr. 7-12     YA FIC

Anna, only seven years old, finds herself alone on the doorstep of her locked apartment as her father, a linguistics professor, is rounded up with other intellectuals by German soldiers during the Nazi takeover of Poland.  Her father’s friend, Herr Doktor Fuchsmann, deserts Anna when he realizes that her father is not returning from his meeting.  A tall thin man, later named Swallow Man by Anna, recognizes her plight and sees potential for disguising himself, so he acts as her father as they both escape from the city.  While keeping mostly to the forest for safety, the pair meets a Jewish musician, a peddler of questionable character, and an unscrupulous physician.  There’s danger around every corner and the suspense never stops. Anna learns something from each of the father figures in the story, but the most valuable lessons come from her philosophical conversations about war and humanity with the Swallow Man.  Communication is the overriding theme of the story.  Anna’s father is a linguist who taught Anna to be fluent in several languages. Swallow Man also knows several languages, including “road,” an adaptation to local language that allows you to blend in and acquire what you need to survive while traveling.  He also knows the chirping language of birds and what the vocalizations mean in the natural world, another skill for survival.  This book is a study of relationships, how they evolve when war replaces the rules of civility, and the part of our humanity that is "hope.".
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

GATOR DAD by Brian Lies. , 2016.  32p.  New York:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ISBN 978-0544-534339 hc. $17.99    Gr. PreS - 2   E PIC

How does a gator dad spend the day with his offspring?  He starts with a breakfast like no other, takes the kids to action packed activities, returns home for more games, makes bath time an adventure, and reads plenty of stories to the young gators before tucking them into bed.  It sounds like a day with any kind of dad, especially one who chooses to be the primary caregiver for the family.  Lies wrote this book because he works from home, has a working wife, and takes care of the children on a daily basis.  His message to families everywhere is that dads may have a different parenting style than moms, but the desired result is the same - happy, healthy children.  Gators as main characters make the illustrations much more interesting and the kitchen scenes are just a little gross, which will delight human readers.  GATOR DAD would make a great lead-in to Father's Day or classroom discussions on family structure.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

THE KID FROM DIAMOND STREET: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick.  Illus. by Steven Salerno.  Clarion Books: New York, 2016.  40p. ISBN 9780544611634 hc. $17.99    Gr. 2- 4   JUV NF   796.357092

Edith Houghton claimed to have been "..born with a baseball in my hand," and played baseball so well that she was chosen to play on a women's team in the 1920's at the tender age of 10.  The Philadelphia Bobbies, named for the bobbed hairstyle that was popular with independent women at the time, was the only team for women, so they played against men's teams. The Bobbies had a chance to play exhibition games in Japan, another country that loved baseball, and traveled there by train and ocean liner.  Besides playing baseball with the Japanese teams, the women also experienced Japanese culture, a rare opportunity for most Americans.  Edith returned home and continued to play ball until she was 19.  Salerno enriches the story with vivid illustrations from charcoal, ink and gouache techniques that work perfectly with the text.  One of the best is a bird' eye view of the baseball team practicing on the ships deck while sailing to Japan.  A follow-up biography at the back of the book includes several photos of Edith and interesting facts about her.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST by Holly Black. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015.  336p.  ISBN 978-0316213073 hc. $18.00   Gr. 9-12   TN FIC

Hazel and Ben, siblings from Fairfold, have always lived with a healthy respect for the magical powers of the "folk" who live in the surrounding forest.  After all, there's a horned boy in a glass coffin in the forest, much like the fairy tale character, Snow White, who has fascinated the pair since childhood.  Hazel's biggest problem at the moment is that she has a reputation for kissing all the boys except the one she really likes, and Ben can't seem to find a suitable boyfriend.  Everyday worries are soon put aside when the school comes under attack by Sorrow, a horrible tree-like creature that puts anyone nearby under a spell of sadness.  At the same time, the horned boy is released from his enclosure in the forest and finds his way to Fairfold, meeting up with Ben, and putting the brother and sister team in the middle of a fairy war.  Secrets from the past are revealed in both mortal and fairy families as the adventure widens to include a vengeful fairy king and the magical creatures he controls.  Holly Black delivers another exciting teen fantasy full of romance, imagination, and adventure.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

LOST IN THE SUN by Lisa Graff.  Philomel Books, 2015.  304p. ISBN 978-0399164064 hc. $16.99    Gr. 4-6   JUV FIC

This story opens memorably as Trent and his brothers put coins into an arcade machine that tries to pick up a plushy prize with a mechanical claw.  Week after week the boys try for a prize, only to find out the claw isn't strong enough to lift any of the toys out of the tightly packed pile.  Life isn't always what it seems; and from Trent's 12 year-old perspective, it's getting worse. In the past few months, he's been rude to his father, disrespectful to his teachers, and picked fights with his classmates.  He has real trust issues with his father, stepmother, and new baby sister.  His mom and brothers are still talking to him, but he's pushing them away also.  Ever since he hit a hockey puck into a teammate which resulted in his death, Trent thinks everyone hates him and is acting accordingly.  But then, Fallon Little enters the picture and triggers his curiosity with her odd clothes and attention to detail.  He seems to stay out of trouble with Fallon around, until one incident that alienates both Fallon and his mom, leaving Trent completely without emotional support.  Very slowly and intentionally, he starts to repair the relationships he destroyed in the past few months - with some surprising results. 
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI