If by David J. Smith

The world is so big, I can understand my son not understanding some concepts. I tried to explain the amount of snow that recently covered Buffalo, New York, and he just shook his head. How can he possibly understand the distance to the moon? The extent of the universe?

If by David J. Smith and illustrated by Steve Adams (Kids Can Press, August 2014) is a nonfiction picture book that tries to give kids perspective. By comparing huge concepts to concepts that a child understands, the author makes the things that we cannot quite comprehend a little bit more real. Continue Reading

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