Monday, January 21, 2019

Parents - mislaid, lost, stolen or strayed

Someone once said that the first thing a writer needs to do when writing for children is to lose the adults.

This might be good writing advice.Kids see themselves as capable. They want to read about kids solving problems without a lot of adult interference.

Many current books take this advice literally. The parents are - gone! One parent is dead or ill or missing. The other parent is not as available as he or she should be. The problem of dealing with a missing parent often becomes the problem of dealing with a grieving parent.

Here are two books about lost, missing, dead and disappeared parents that I can't get out of my mind.

When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer. Lily Decker has a plan. She will walk the very straight and narrow path. Her best friend will question her mental health periodically. She will avoid stressors. Then, and only then, she may avoid her mother's fate. When Lily was only 7, her mother tried to kill her and herself. Lily's mother suffered from schizophrenia as had two previous generations of women in her family. 

Lily gets a newspaper internship and in covering a story at the local zoo, she gets between a mother elephant and the baby elephant when the mother threatens her infant. This act is NOT on Lily's approved list of activities. But Lily can't stand by and let the baby elephant, Swifty, suffer.

Sometimes, books written for teens should be read by the parents. Lily's father watches her obsessively for signs of mental stress. Back off, Dad.  Relax. If the worst happens, you need to be a calm place in Lily's life.

Sunny by Jason Reynolds.  Jason Reynolds!  JASON. REYNOLDS.
Sunny runs the mile. He has trained since he was a toddler. He runs the mile and wins. Every. Single. Time. Until the day he stops.

It's hard for him to explain to his dad, Darryl, why he can't run the mile anymore. It's boring. It's too quiet. It's not Sunny. Sunny wants to move with sound and rhythm. Sunny wants a sound track.

Sunny's mother ran the mile. And when she ran, she won. Her memory is why Sunny can't explain that he needs to do something else. Aurelia, Sunny's homeschool tutor, understands. Coach wants to keep Sunny on the track team. But if you don't run, how can you take part in track? Coach finds a way. Darryl learns a lesson in parenting and in sharing his memories of the wife who died too young.
This book is wonderful.

In my next post, I will share two more reviews of books about kids who are missing one or both parents. 

Brangwain Spurge - the journey from what!!?? to "I see!"

Please, do NOT name your next child Brangwain - unless you and your offspring are elves.  Even then, the name may not be fortuitous.  It was not lucky for Brangwain Spurge.

In an attempt to broker a lasting friendly peace between elves and goblins, the archivist Brangwain Spurge is catapulted into goblin territory, carrying a priceless jewel.  His host is the goblin historian, Werfel, the Archivist. Werfel's delight to be chosen as Spurge's guide to all things goblin knows no bounds.  He takes great pains to amuse and please his disapproving guest while they wait to approach the mighty Ghohg, Friend of the People.

You can find these details on the publisher's page or Goodreads.  The title,- The Assassination of Brangwain Splurge, the author, - M.T. Anderson, the illustrator, - Eugene Yelchin - and his detailed, black and white, drawings are enough to have readers of YA fantasy buzzing.

I don't fall into the demographic most publishers shoot for when producing books for teens and young adults.  Teens tend to be people approximately 12 through 15-ish.  YA? anywhere from 14 to 22, depending on the publisher. When I fell into those age ranges, phones hung on walls or sat on desks and some of my friends shared their phone lines with their neighbors.  So...

My first reaction to the wordless opening pages was, "Meh." Even when the story began - I think of stories being made up of words -  I scratched my head and sighed.  A snobby superior elf and an overeager lumpish goblin - hasn't this been done before? Was all the fuss merely a reaction to the partnership of stellar prose with excellent artwork?  Was this just a novelty effort to attract readers?

Brangwain's duplicitous contact back in the Elf Kingdom did not surprise or interest me.  BUT, this is M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, so I read on.

The drawings made sense to me. After all, goblins are horrible creatures with strange and awful habits.  EXCEPT, Werfel was so very, very nice.  Brangwain is a supercilious prat. As he levitates and sends brain pictures of all he sees back to Ysoret Clivers, his elvish contact, his host tries again and again to please him.

Brangwain's actual mission, unknown to him, is one of the oldest plots known to man.  When it fails and the elves that show up on the border have no intention of rescuing Brangwain, the two scholars, goblin and elf, find themselves on the run.

That got my attention.  Once on the lam, the pictures sent back, even now, to the elves, change in tone and detail.  Spurge's attitude gradually softens, while Werfel becomes less and less eager to please. 

The conclusion is cataclysmic! Unexpected! Fitting!

So, now I see what the fuss was all about - not the novelty of the graphics - not the setting of the fantasy.  If you want to see what I see in this book, read it.  It's on your library's shelves right now.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Best Books 2018 - Part 5

I am going to end this series with a blast of top review sites.

First: Kirkus lists their favorite Middle Grade books in several lists by genre - fantasy, adventure, graphic novel, non-fiction, etc.  Love! Love!

Kirkus does the same thing with their favorite YA books.  You may never need to read another review source.  BUT you probably will.

Second: PW's Best Children's Books of 2018.  The premier guide for booksellers presents the best-selling and best reviewed books of 2018. 'Nuff said.  If you can, subscribe to PW's e-newsletter on Children's books.  You will receive a lot of fascinating book business news and 4 to 5 great reviews twice weekly.  This link will lead you to ALL PW's e-newsletters. 

Third: National Public Radio's Best Children's Books 2018   Colorful and fun this list underscores many titles from other lists.

Fourth: Time Magazine's Best YA and Children's Books of 2018.  It's only 10 books long but the books on this list are powerful choices.

My search for these book lists led me to some wonderful blogs, not just the websites that I featured.  I may have to up my blogging game. OR, easier and a bit for fun for me, I will share those blogs here.

That sounds like a great 2019 Resolution.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Best Books of 2018 - part 4

The Children's Book Review is a great resource for children's book fans!  I subscribe to their FB and Twitter feeds and appreciate the work that the staff puts into hunting down, reviewing and reading the best books for children and teens.

So here is The Children's Book Review's list of the Best Chapter Books of 2018.

BTW, if you just visit The Children's Book Review, the first thing you see today is a link to The Best Young Adult Books of 2018.  Check this website out!

#BestBooks2018, #TheChildren'sBookReview

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Best Books of 2018 - part 3

This list is not as comprehensive as some.  But JASON REYNOLDS helped to pick the books reviewed.

The man himself

Nuff said.

Here is the link to the Washington Post's Best Children's Books of 2018.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Best Books of 2018 - continued

Today I share a series of book lists called The Best and Brightest Books of 2018 from the Denver Public Library.   Their lists include books for all ages of children and teens, from different genres and  with different content.  Librarians are the best. Thanks!

Click here!

Video break - B.B. King does Sandra Boynton!

I suspect I shared this before but hey! It's  new year.