Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel & Friends, October 2014) is chocked full of amazing characterization. Rose is a preteen struggling with OCD and difficulties fitting in because she is on the autism spectrum. But Rose is not stupid, and her quick wit and clever ways of dealing with her frustrating life

One of Rose’s obsessions is homonyms, and she loves that her name has a homonym (rose/rows). When her father brings her a stray dog, she gives him a name with two special homonyms: Rain (rein, reign). Rain quickly becomes her treasured best friend, confidant, and support as her home life with her verbally abusive father deteriorates. With only her uncle on her side, Rose faces a challenging year.Continue Reading

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene (Dutton Books, 2014) is both an existential novel about the meaningless of life as well as an sensitive exploration of the importance of friendship in the midst of the seemingly meaningless.

Hazel is a 16-year-old girl with cancer, miraculously kept alive by a “miracle” drug that could stop working at any time for her. Stuck at home for years, Hazel has learned to distance herself from many relationships and friends, all the while reading her favorite books, studying hard, and taking courses at the local college. She is content, but as she has pointed out, a side-affect of cancer is often depression, so she has her moments.Continue Reading

Picture Book Sunday: Herve Tullet, Peas, and An Oak Tree Grows

It’s so much fun to read picture books with my toddler. She simply loves reading, and although here books of choice often revolve around The Berenstain Bears and Clifford or Dora (none of which I enjoy all that much), sometimes I can get in some great books that I love too. Here are the ones we’ve been reading lately.

Help! We Need a Title! by Herve Tullet (Candlewick Press, 2014) is the newest book by the clever interactive book author of Press Here! My toddler daughter loves this book, and I must admit it has a certain charm, although it’s a pain to read aloud! In this book, the main characters (“heroes”) are not complete. The author has not figured out what story to write, and when the book begins, the characters are startled to “see” people reading a book. They call a monster to make it interesting, but they all know that they really and truly need an author in order to make their story into an actual story.

The pictures are created with pen, crayon, pencil, paint, a photo of the author himself, and probably more forms of art that I have not recognized. Most of the pages are truly messy, as a “work in progress” would certainly be. My daughter loves that the main characters talk directly to her, and the unfinished look to the pages throws her off, but I love how it’s an unfinished look: it opens up discussion on the writing and creation process itself!

Little Green Peas: A Big Book of Colors by Keith Baker (Simon and Schuster, 2014) is a follow up to LMNO Peas and 123 Peas, with a new focus on colors. This book is not quite as fun for me as the original alphabet book, but I still really enjoyed it. There is something delightful about illustrated peas having fun! Each page has two or three items mentioned in the given color, followed by the phrase “and little green peas” or a similar variation of the phrase, which shows the little guys enjoying the red leaves and red fence, and so forth. Strawberry loved naming the colors on each page.

As An Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas (Nancy Paulsen, 2014) follows 200 years in the life of a mighty white oak tree. It begins with a small child (living in a wigwam), planting an acorn. Each subsequent page shows the changing world around the oak tree grows larger. The date on the bottom of the page move in 25 years, from 1775 to 2000. I loved seeing the changes from year to year. Although I’m not sure Strawberry understood the message of the changing generations, but it was something Raisin and I could enjoy. I also loved the emphasis at the end, that (spoiler!) although the tree was eventual injured and had to be taken down, there was still hope as a small oak sprouted next to the stump.

We recently had to have a few diseased trees removed from our backyard. Counting the rings of the tree was an encouraging thing as we thought about where on the tree rings we’d moved in this house, and how old the kids were when the tree was it’s various ages. I love the emphasis on history as a part of the tree. The book comes with a poster to illustrate various changing through history according to the tree rings: since I read a library copy, I was unable to see it. It definitely seems like a great book to put in our history and science collection!

What picture books have you discovered lately?

Precious Ramatowe Mysteries

Two years ago, I wrote about how much I enjoyed the first of the Precious Ramotswe Mysteries, a new series by Alexander McCall-Smith sharing the childhood mysteries featuring Precious Ramotswe, the future Ladies’ Detective. I enjoyed the second and third in the series as well. Simple mysteries give the young children reading a chance to feel like detectives themselves, and the limited number of chapters and simple writing give them confidence in their reading abilities.

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