Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘friendship

cover image for Peekaboo!Peekaboo! by Taro Gomi

In addition to Gomi’s always wonderful illustrations, this board book has special twist. There is a small hole cut the entire way through the book and, as the cover suggests, each two page spread features a different face, with the cut-outs situated where the eyes would be.  Thus allowing the books to double as a mask – perfect for playing peekaboo with your little one.  Altogether this will make a delightful addition to any child library, or any library’s children’s collection.

cover image for Each KindnessEach Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

When a new girl joins Chloe’s class, the first thing that Chloe notices about Maya is how old her clothes are, and how her spring clothes are for the snowy winter outside.  When Maya smiles at Chloe, and asks if she can play, Chloe and her friends don’t smile back, and don’t invite Maya to join them in their games.  No matter how many times Maya asks, their answer is the same, until she simply stops asking.  But when Maya stops coming to school, Chloe wonders if she made the right choice.

My favorite thing about this book is that it allows the story to have an unhappy ending.  Maya never comes back, and Chloe never gets a chance to apologize or become friends with her.  Chloe realized her mistake far too late and now must live with her regrets.  It’s not an easy book, but it’s exactly the right kind of difficult that children need.  It’s an experience that they can relate to, and one that’s not too complicated for them to understand.  Yet at the same time it asks questions that defy easy answers.

Lewis’ illustrations, always gorgeous and detailed, are especially effective here, giving the book a quality that is both realistic and yet etherial and contemplative.

cover image for Three Observations and a DialogThree Observations and a Dialogue: Round and About SF by Sylvia Kelso

As the title suggests, this volume contains of three papers/talks on science fiction.  More specifically women and feminism and science fiction. Also included is a series of written exchanges between Kelso and Lois McMaster Bujold, who is mentioned frequently in Kelso’s essays.

I began reading this volume about a year ago, then realized that I should possibly consider waiting until I had actually read some books by Lois McMaster Bujold first!  At which point I set it aside while I did just that, only finishing it early this year.  So my memory of the first parts are a bit hazy.  What I do remember is that all of it is extremely interesting and thought-provoking, particularly when she’s discussing Bujold’s work..

Also, it’s nice it is to see two real live women respectfully arguing (also, agreeing, quite often!) in print.  It’s a good antidote for all the rivalries between women that the media tries to dredge up and/or fabricate.

cover image for Icing on the CakeIcing on the Cake by Sheryl and Carrie Berk

Fourth in the Cupcake Club series, this volume tells the story from Jenna’s point of view as she juggles the demands of being the club’s taste tester and dealing with conflict at home at the same time.  When Jenna mother announces her engagement (news that does NOT make Jenna happy) and then hires the club to make cupcakes for the reception, Jenna’s worlds collide, much to her dismay.

I don’t actually expect chapter books to be very good, or to be realistic, but I prefer them to be a little bit less farfetched than this.  Or, at least, to be farfetched for more exciting reasons than cupcakes and weddings.  And I definitely expect the interpersonal conflicts to be realistic; it’s certainly realistic that Jenna is upset that her mom is dating and then getting remarried, but it’s not well depicted here.  The same goes for the little bits of “culture” that are sprinkled in to make sure we know that Jenna is Jenna Medina and that she’s hispanic.  #WeNeedDiverseBooks, but we don’t need culture that’s layered on top like icing on cupcakes.

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cover image for The Dream ThievesThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

 Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue have managed to awaken the ley lines around Cabeswater, but their search for Glendower continues, and not without frustrations and setbacks. To further complicate matters, strangers have come to Henrietta looking for them and Ronan has been keeping secrets – and going off the rails (even more than usual).

 Full of the unexpected, The Dream Thieves stays focused on the tangled friendships and class conflicts that made that The Raven Boys so great, but it also  adds in even more magic and “BOOM!”  What makes this book so incredibly wonderful isn’t just the fantastic, or even how the fantastic and the realism blend together so seamlessly, it’s above all the emotional and moral weight that Stiefvater gives to the power and choices presented to her characters.

The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi BarahalThe Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal by Kate Elliot, illustrated by Julie Dillon

A companion story to Elliot’s Spiritwalker trilogy, this slim volume recounts the events in those novels from the point of view of Cat’s cousin, Beatrice.  As Bea is an artist, the volume includes quite a few wonderful illustrations, which are well integrated into the story.

The journal is definitely meant to be read after the other three books, as it’s not so much a complete story, but a counterpoint.  Fans will love it (I certainly did) and appreciate Bea’s point of view, the bickering between the two cousins, and finally getting to see Bea’s much talked about sketches.

sketch of Cat from The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal

cover image for Living With Jackie ChanLiving With Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles

When Josh arrives at his uncle’s apartment, where he’ll be spending his senior year of high school, all he wants to do is forget.  Forget the year before, the plans he’d made with friends, and the mistakes he’s made.  Josh may be determined to interact with other people as little as possible, but his Uncle Larry has other plans. Josh is soon roped into helping his uncle with the karate class he teaches at the local Y.  If Josh isn’t careful, he might just start making friends and getting tangled up in other people’s lives again.

I didn’t know until near to the end of the book that this was a companion story to a previous novel, Jumping Off Swings. (My fault, not anyone else’s.)  Living With Jackie Chan makes some sense without having read the first book, but I think it would have helped a lot to have read Jumping Off Swings first.  Largely because that meant, for me, the Big Mystery for much of the book was What Did Josh Do? I suspect that me spending most of the book thinking about the really dark things Josh might have done is not quite what the author had in mind.  Rather, the suspense works much better if it’s simply about if Josh is ever going to confide in others – and how much he will and what he’ll say.  That keeps the focus on coping with an imperfect family and what it means to be a good friend.

cover image for Bandette, Volume 1Bandette, Volume 1 by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

Bandette is the world’s greatest thief by night, and a teen girl by day.  With the help of her friends, she runs circles around both the police and her fellow thieves.  But when an international organization of villains wants her dead, is it more than Bandette can handle?

This particular version includes both the first series and a collection of additional comics and stories from guests authors and artists.  The main story is entertaining enough, if a bit old school (and the dialogue is a bit precious at times).  The extras are more of a mixed bag, as such things often are.

cover image for My Little Pony: Pony Tales Volume 1My Little Pony: Pony Tales Volume 1 by Thomas Zahler, Ryan K. Lindsay, Katie Cook, Barbara Randall Kesel, Ted Anderson

see full review here

tl,dr: mediocre. except when it’s instead incredibly creepy and disturbing, and not in a good way.

cover image for Lock and KeyLock & Key by Sarah Dessen

Ruby’s mother has never been reliable, sometimes even disappearing for days, but the two of them have always muddled along somehow, and she always come back. Until now. Ruby figures if she can just keep it together and make it through high school without anyone finding out, then things will be alright. And for two months, she manages…well, mostly.  But when her neighbor contacts child services, Ruby is suddenly sent to live with the older sister she hasn’t seen in over a decade.

The relationship between Ruby and her older sister, Cora, is definitely the best part of Lock and Key.  It’s not simple, and it isn’t fixed easily or quickly or with simple heartfelt conversations.  Which is no surprise, as relationships are what Dessen is best at, and this is a very classic Dessen novel.  While it lacks the shop/restaurant/etc. with a quirky cast of characters, it still has lots of interesting people with serious but everyday problems.  It made me both laugh and cry, as any Dessen novel should.

cover image for SaltationSaltation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Following the discovery of her aptitude for, and enjoyment of, flying Theo Waitley has made preparations to attend flight school rather than continuing on to a more scholarly pursuit, as is expected of students on the Safe World of Delgado.  Raised in a very different environment than most of her new classmates Theo, is behind in not just mathematics, but social skills as well. She’s also arriving mid year, making it impossible for her to try to blend in.  But Theo has always stood out.  The only question is, will Anlingdin Piloting Academy remember her for her skills, her lack of them, or for being a troublemaker?

I’m not sure if it’s Lee and Miller’s voice, or Theo’s analytical way of approaching life, (or me) but sometimes it feels as though events that ought to have emotional resonance lack the full punch.  That said, I am enjoying these books, and this one was particularly fun because it included getting to see Theo being competent and enjoying herself.

cover image for My Basmati Bat MitzvahMy Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

Some days, Tara Feinstein feels like she has just too much to juggle.  As if regular school work wasn’t enough, now she’s been partnered with the class clown for her robotics project.  Her best friend, Ben-o, is starting to act strangely, and her other best friend, Rebecca, has been spending time with her least favorite person, Sheila Rosenberg. When she decides to go through with her bat mitzvah, Tara knows it will mean extra studying.  What she doesn’t expect is her parent’s reaction, or having to argue with Sheila about whether she is Indian or Jewish – can’t she both?

This was a lovely and engaging story, full of realistic problems and middle graders acting in believable ways.  Tara’s family is supportive, but also unique and imperfect, as all families are.  Nothing is solved easily or neatly, and not every problem is even solved completely – some things take time.  Yet the ending still presents readers with healthy options and a better understanding of others, and hopefully themselves.  It should also be noted that Freedman is definitely drawing on personal experience, she herself is Jewish and her husband’s heritage is Indian, making her family much like Tara’s.

My one major complaint concerns the fact that it was made clear that neither side of Tara’s family talks about which of her elders she looks like. It had Tara herself, in fact, talking about her own looks as if she looked like no one else in her family.  And it attributed this to her mixed heritage, and talked about Tara feeling like she belonged to no one because of it.  While I don’t doubt that children like Tara often feel that way, and that there are families who do react this way to biracial children, in my experience the latter is extremely rare.  (I could be wrong! but that has been my experience.) The book, however, framed it as typical.  While this was a small part of the book, my reaction was anything but small, and not favorable or impersonal, and I fear I’m not the only reader who might react this way.

cover image for Rose Under FireRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Moyer Justice and her friend Maddie have just come back from the funeral of Celia Forester, a fellow pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary and a quiet girl they barely knew.  It’s Rose’s job to write up a report on Celia’s final flight – and the speculation is that Celia lost control of her plane while trying to take down one of Germany’s flying bombs. Leaving Rose to wonder what she would do when faced with a similar choice. What kind of sacrifices would she make for others? How far would she go to ensure her own survival?  Questions she’ll have to answer several times over when her own service in the war effort finds her trapped behind enemy lines – and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

The problem with talking about how amazing Wein’s books are is that I hate giving out spoilers.  Rose Under Fire doesn’t have quite the same kind of twists that Code Name Verity does, but I still find myself wanting to say that it was brilliant the way that Wein…and then I have to stop because I don’t know how to explain it without giving to much away.  Not of the plot, precisely, but of the experience of reading the book and traveling on Rose’s journey with her.

What I will say: you should read this. Yes, that means you.  Also, I loved the way that poetry was used throughout the book: to connect Rose to the life she used to have, as currency in the camp, and as a way for her to process what was happening to her – to all of them.

cover image for Team HumanTeam Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

“Friends don’t let friends date vampires.”

Mel lives in New Whitby, a town whose bragging rights include being the first city in America to welcome vampires. For the most part, they stay on their side of town, and humans stay on the other, and that’s just the way Mel likes it.  But paths are bound to cross sometimes, like when a friend’s father, a psychologist who treats both humans and vampires, runs off with a vampire patient.  Still, it’s very much NOT normal for a centuries old vampire to decide that he’s interested in attending high school, of all things.  So Mel has her suspicions about Francis from the start.  And then he starts showing an interest in her best friend, Cathy…

This book is definitely different, but in a good way.  A clever and funny way.  I like how wrong Mel gets things sometimes – and the fact that she’s not the only one making mistakes.  It’s also nice to see so many different family dynamics being explored.  It’s a wonderful story about friendship and family and community – and I want more!

Speaking of, weren’t we supposed to get a sequel?

cover image for A Big Year for LilyA Big Year for Lily by Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger

Lily Lapp loves the long days of summer, but she can’t wait for school to start again so that she can play with her friends at recess. In the Amish town Lily and her friends live in, everyone’s houses are too far apart for little girls to go by themselves to play at each others houses – and besides, it’s not like she minds the schoolwork.  Until then, at least she still gets to see everyone on Sunday, at church, and there’s plenty of adventures to be had at home with her brothers.

A Big Year for Lily is a nicely written tale about school and friends and family, along the lines of Ramona Quimbly, Betsy and Tacy, or Little House on the Prairie – only this time the story is about a little girl who happens to be Amish.  The chapters don’t always seem connected to each other – except that they do go in chronological order – but it works well for the book because Lily, at age nine going on ten, is still rather distractable.

For the most part reading about Amish life was merely interesting, and Lily’s life didn’t seem all that different from the lives of most other little girls in other parts of the US.  While the chores that Lily and her brother are responsible for are highly gendered, that sadly isn’t all that different from the rest of the country – it’s just more noticeable in the book because the chores are different and because the chores being gendered is condoned rather than ignored.

That said, I was taken a bit aback when Lily switched to women’s clothing at age ten and her first comment about wearing her new dresses while playing was that getting stuck by the straight pins used to hold them together would take some getting used to.  Perhaps there was simply something wrong with how Lily’s pins had been put into her dress? But I got the impression that instead it was more how Lily was moving (and amateur internet research backs that up) – which is just rather awful if it’s true, as that sounds like that would be rather restrictive of girls’ and women’s movements.  Not that there aren’t plenty of really crappy things the rest of us make ten year old girls do, but…still. ugh.

cover image for Magic StepsMagic Steps by Tamora Pierce

It’s been over four years since Sandry first came to live at Summersea.  Her friends – Triss, Daja, and Briar – have all left with their teachers on travels that will keep them away from Winding Circle for years.  Although she misses them, Sandry has plenty to keep her busy.  Not just keeping up with her own studies, but also looking after her Uncle, who refuses the get the rest he needs to recover from a recent heart attack.  Soon Sandry has has even more to take care of: a pupil of her own to teach and a mystery to solve.

The premise of this quartet – that Sandry, Briar, Daja, and Triss are responsible for teaching the mages they find, no matter how young they are themselves – is not the most credulous.  (And yes, I realize I just said that about a book that centers around magic.)  It is fun to watch though, and I always appreciate the way that Pierce centers craft – particularly “womanly” ones like textile arts – in these books.

cover image for Paper DaughterPaper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold

The death of someone you love is supposed to turn your life upside down, but not quite like this.  When Maggie Chen’s father is killed in an accident, she and her mother struggle to carry on with out him.  But while going through his papers – clippings of articles he’s written, notes for future stories, mementos of a life he’s no longer there to live – Maggie discovers that her father’s life might never hav been his to begin with. That her father may have lied about who he was from the moment he met Maggie’s mother.

Although interesting at times and clearly well researched in terms of the history of Chinese immigration to America, Paper Daughter is also a good example of why authenticity is important.  Rudine Simms Bishop talks about the difference between books that are intended to be read by children of color, versus books that are about children of color but intended more for white audiences – and the way that the latter tend to define racism as requiring active malice and often include “lessons” for the characters of color about not expecting all whites to be racist.  Unfortunately, this book definitely fits in that category.

It’s not an awful book, and as I said, includes fascinating bits of history and culture.  It also has engaging characters  and – the problem mentioned above notwithstanding – thoughtful and poignant moments.  Recommended, but with reservations.

cover image for grl2grlgrl2grl by Julie Anne Peters

In ten short stories, Peters shares with readers significant moments in the lives of a variety queer youth.

I think what I like best about this collection is the way that it doesn’t try to provide readers with any solutions or answers. Novel length stories about queer youth are so often about dealing with the baggage that tends to come with being queer in a heteronormative society, and thus even when well written usually come to “it gets better” type resolutions. This collection is made up of only glimpses into people’s lives, and the length of the stories precludes any kind of universally uplifting resolution.  Peters is also not afraid to be honest here, and shows us not only heartbreak but the joy of discovery and hate motivated violence as well.  The end result is a collection that’s not only honest and real, but complete in a way that happy endings aren’t.

cover image for She Loves You, She Loves You NotShe Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters

Alyssa hadn’t planned on coming out to her father and stepmother yet, that happened quite by accident.  Now she’s been shipped off to live with the biological mother she barely knows, in a small town far from her friends and the girl she loves.

Parts of this book were a little odd – such as Alyssa believing that her mother is a prostitute when she’s not – and this isn’t Peters’ best novel.  But the general premise is interesting and it’s a good perspective to make sure is included in library collections.

cover image for Here I AmHere I Am by Patti Kim

After a long plane ride, a young boy arrives in a new city, in a new country, full of unfamiliar words and sounds and places.  In his pocket, he’s brought a small piece of home.  When he accidentally drops it, and another child picks it up, will he lose his last treasure from home? Or make a new friend?

I thought this story was rather sweet, the illustrations were well done, and the decision to make it wordless fit the plot and themes perfectly.  I’m not sure how easily children would be able to parse the logic of the story; it’s definitely a picture book that is best for older children, younger children may require guidance or the opportunity to re-read the story several times.

cover image from Far From XanaduFar From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters

Mike was born and raised in Coalton, Kansas.  She figures she’ll live the rest of her life there as well, and that’s just fine by her.  Until the day Xanadu walks into Mike’s life, and she begins to wonder if maybe there’s more out there for her to find.

This is by far one of my favorite novels by Peters.  There’s just something about the characters that felt very real and unforced.  There’s plenty of messed up people in this book, but also quite a few that are doing the best they can with what they’ve been given, and, of course, kids just trying to figure things out.

cover imafe for It's Our Prom (So Deal With It)It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters

Prom is so very NOT Azure’s kind of thing.  It’s expensive, elitist, and not at all inclusive.  So when the principal asks her to be on the Prom committee she jumps at the chance to turn it into the kind of party she thinks it ought to be – and she convinces her two best friends, Luke and Radhika, to help her do so.  But when the school board hears just what Azure has in mind, they might change their minds about wanting her to be a part of planning this year’s prom.

It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) is told alternating points of view, Azure and Luke’s, but it really felt like there should have been a third.  Not having Radhika’s point of view made the trio feel unbalanced, and it also meant the book spent a lot of time wondering why she was upset, who she liked, etc.  When, instead, it would have been much more interesting if it had focused more on how people would react to her confessions, and not just vice versa.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t spectacular, and could have been much better.

cover image for Moxie and the Art of Rule BreakingMoxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne

Moxie has always been good at following the rules: Don’t answer the door or have friends over when home alone. No using her T pass unless she has a friend or family member with her.  Be home by nine. Until the day Moxie slips up and opens the door to a dangerous looking stranger.  Now she has fourteen days to find the missing loot from a decades old museum heist – or the crooks who think her grandfather stole it will find a way to make her whole family pay.

The premise and plot are more than a little farfetched, but Dionne’s characters have depth and their relationships are nuanced.  I especially appreciated the allusions to classic middle grade mysteries like From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Westing Game; they’re definitely part of what makes this book memorable as well as fun.

cover image for LunaLuna by Julie Anne Peters

Regan’s family has their share of problems…and secrets.  Whose doesn’t?  But it’s Luna, Regan’s sister, that has the biggest secret of all.  To everyone but Regan, Luna is Liam, her older brother, their parent’s son, a normal boy.  But at night, Luna becomes the person she knows she was meant to be. And Regan is the only one who knows.  How long can they keep this secret?  And what will happen to their family when it comes out?

This book was so very frustrating, because while I’m glad for any and every book that depicts transgender teens respectfully, and I understand Peters’ reasoning for not wanting to speak for Luna, I kept wanting to hear the story from her point of view.   The main theme of the story was to show people what it’s like to be Luna, but having a first person point of view that wasn’t hers meant that we always saw her through the eyes of others instead.

cover image for By the Time You Read This I'll Be DeadBy The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Daelyn Rice needs to escape her life – and she knows the only way out is death.  She’s tried before but failed, and thus why she’s home schooled, why her parents hover, and why she knows this time has to be her last.

I hate being critical about books that tackle serious subjects, but the truth is this just wasn’t very well written.  Like much of Peters work, it wasn’t awful, and there were some poignant moments, but neither did it manage to be anything to get excited about.

cover image for Define "Normal"Define “Normal” by Julie Anne Peters

Antonia Dillon already has too much to do.  With her mother unable to function most days, it’s up to Antonia to make sure her brothers get fed, laundry gets done, and everyone stays alive – and that’s on top of her own school and homework.  So when Dr. DiLeo asks her to volunteer for peer counseling, the last thing she wants to do is say yes – despite how good it will look on her college applications.   And if she’d known she’d be assigned to counsel Jasmine Luther, she most definitely never would have agreed to do it.

This book may have been published in 2000, but it felt like it should be from the early 1990s.  It’s not quite an after school special – but it’s very, very close.  The conceit of asking readers to question who is more “normal” – Antonia, who teachers love but whose home life is falling apart, or Jazz, who teachers hate but who is cared for and confident of herself – is a laudable one.  Unfortunately, the Peters’ image of what is considered punk or outside the mainstream of teen culture seems to owe more to My So Called Life than anything from the same year.