Monday, February 10, 2020

Adult Fiction Pick: Creatures

Creatures
by Crissy Van Meter
Algonquin Books
2020
256 pages
ISBN: 9871616208592

Creatures is a introspective study of a broken family: a mother who follows her own arrow wherever it may lead, many times far away from her young daughter, a father who knows more about creatures of the ocean than he does his own precious creature: an impressionable, quiet, often lonely daughter who craves her father's attention and love. Evangeline worships her father, an alcoholic, druggie who provides weed and coke for most of their island. The island itself, Winter Island, just off the coast of Northern California, often battered by storms and forgotten by time.

Growing up, Evie parents herself, going hungry and sometimes homeless, crashing at millionaires' homes, hanging out with Playboy bunnies, and pro athletes when they take an island rental or camping in a tent when her dad loses everything.

The book opens before Evangeline's wedding. Her groom is out at sea and a storm threatens his return and even his life. A whale has beached itself and lies rotting on the beach. That whale becomes a symbol of everything that is wrong with Evie and her mother. Her mother shows up with no notice and pretends to care about Evie's wedding. Evie grits her teeth as she tiptoes around her mother in order to create no waves.

The story is told going back and forth in time to child Evie and her dad's failures and abysmal parenting, and how it has affected Evie's lack of emotion. She cannot feel anything at all. Things that would break another person, Evie treats with no human emotion. It is interesting to see a character who appears stoic but is the most tragic person in the entire book.

Recommended for those who enjoy a character study and those who love tangled family relationships. There is no one in Evie's life who is able to help or save her from herself. Creatures is a sad, yet beautiful, book. The cover art is spectacular!

Adult book clubs may find much to talk about in this book, if they can pour more wine.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Children's Pick: The Way Home for Wolf

The Way Home for Wolf
by Rachel Bright
Illustrations by Jim Field
Scholastic Press
2020
32 pages
ISBN: 9781338592740

Little wolf cub Wilf is a tough little guy who is as stubborn as the day is long. He wants to be a big wolf, strong and proud, and lead the pack, but others tell him he's too little. Longing to prove himself, he sets out strong and tough with the others, but he struggles to keep as they leave their old home. A blizzard separates him from the pack, and he's all alone and afraid. He falls through the ice into freezing water and is rescued by a sea unicorn who gets him to his next guide-helper: a giant walrus. With help from a string of polite strangers, Wilf is reunited with his pack. Wilf vows to help any stranger find their way back home, and the final page says it best, "...We're all just a handful of friendships from home."

A book about caring for others and guiding those who are lost is a lovely addition to children's lit. Beautiful and sensitive illustrations capture Wilf's fear and desperation when lost and his happiness and love when reunited with his family. The Way Home for Wolf will be in the mix for multiple awards for children's books and will be on the Scholastic book fair this year.

Highly recommended for early readers. A touching bedtime story.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Bug Dipping, Bug Sipping
(Ready To Read, Pre-Level One)
by Marilyn Singer
Illustrations by Lucy Semple
Simon Spotlight (Simon Children's)
2019
32 pages
ISBN: 9781534441408

From beloved children's author, Marilyn Singer, Bug Dipping, Bug Sipping helps young learners become readers. Singer won national awards for Mirror, Mirror (NCTE 2015 Award for Excellence) and won the Cybils Poetry Award.

Beginning readers will love the cadence and rhyming prose where bugs zing, cling, disguise, crawl, rise and seem to come to life in beautiful illustrations by Lucy Semple. Colorful cover design makes this book a standout on any library or bookstore shelf.

A page of fun bug facts follow this charming story.

Highly recommended for any young reader and especially for kids who love things that crawl and creep.




Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Picture Book Pick: I Love You, Fred

I Love You, Fred
by Mick Inkpen
Illustrations by Chloe Inkpen
Aladdin
2019
32 pages
ISBN: 9781534414754

Fred is an adorable dog, full of energy and love. He knows how to sit and stay. He brings back the ball when you throw it. He knows words like "bed" and walk," but one word he can't figure out is FRED.

When Fred confronts another dog upstairs who looks like him and even has a ball like him, (it's his own image in the mirror), he wonders who the dog is and why the dog has no smell. Later, when he sees the dog again (in his own reflection in the pond), he panics but is saved by his boy. It's then Fred realizes FRED his his name. He is FRED.  He's so happy and delighted to have a name and be loved and cuddled by his boy.

Cute illustrations are spunky and playful depicting Fred's bouncy personality. This is a a true treasure of a picture book, and young readers who love dogs (or want a dog) will love Fred. A must have childhood read.

Highly, highly recommended ages 2 and up.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

YA Magical Realism Pick: Winterwood

Winterwood
by Shea Ernshaw
Simon Pulse
2019
319 pages
ISBN: 9781534439412

Ethereal, mysterious, magical, and poetic, Winterwood will be your YA favorite read!

Nora Walker was born near the wild woods. Her family has been a part of the woods since before the woods themselves. The Walker women have a mythology of their own. Townspeople claim that the Walker women are witches and to be feared.

When a brutal snowstorm comes, Nora knows she'll be snowed in for weeks. There is no way to access the town for supplies or help and no contact with the outside world. She's not afraid; that's just the way things have always been, but when she finds an unconscious boy in the woods, she knows she has to save him. Her mother and her grandmother before her have left Nora with a spell book and book of healing cures. She works her magic, and the boy comes back to life. He's from the boys' camp on the other side of the lake, but doesn't remember much else.

Oliver has no memory of why he was in the woods or how he could still be alive. He's been missing for weeks, and there's no way he could have survived the wild woods. Nora knows something is wrong and the woods begin acting stranger than usual, but Oliver is so alone, Nora feels herself drawn to him. When a white moth begins to seek her out, she knows death is not far behind. What happened that night?

Suzy, a girl from Nora's school, one who has never spoken to her before, arrives on her doorstep, seeking a warm place to weather the storm. She has a tale of her own about the boys' camp. There is one boy dead and one boy missing. Nora knows she'll have to confront Oliver. What does he know about the dead boy? Did he have anything to do with his murder? The unexpected TWIST at the end is EPIC! I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Masterful storytelling and compelling, poetic prose that seems to sing off the pages make Winterwood the best YA read of 2019! This one will be up for awards season.

Beautiful cover art is a masterpiece of graphic design and marketing.

Highly, highly recommended. A must have and a MUST READ. 5 STARS!

Friday, January 10, 2020

MG Contemporary: The Disaster Days

The Disaster Days
by Rebecca Behrens
Sourcebooks Young Readers
2019
292 pages
ISBN: 9781492673316

Hannah Steele ives on Pelling Island, a small island near the coast of Washington. It's quiet and quaint with picturesque views and friendly neighbors--neighbors who live half a mile away. Hannah's having a not so great day after her best friend begins to ghost her, clearly having a much better time with new friend Marley. Hannah is hurt and betrayed, but has to go about her afternoon as though nothing is wrong. Asking her bus driver to drop her off at the Matlock's house, Hannah is ready for her babysitting job.

It's a normal day on a small, quaint, quiet island. No need to worry about a tween girl in charge of two younger children. Then, an earthquake hits and the house is turned upside down. Terrified, the kids huddle together with the pet hamster and wait for the shaking to stop. Once it does, they discover that Internet and television is down. They are all alone without communication to the outside world and no adults nearby. Hannah will have to rely on her own strength and calmness to keep the kids' safe.

Zoe has been badly injured and is losing a lot of blood. It's all up to Hannah to figure a way out and find help for Zoe.

A quick read that should satisfy reluctant readers. Recommended grade 5 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.