February 22, 2018

Forest World by Margarita Engle

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:37 pm by suebe2

Forest World
by Margarita Engle
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Hurt and confused, Edver doesn’t know what to expect when his mother ships him off to Cuba.  He knows that the two of them fled the island when he was just a baby and he knows that this is where his father lives, but what is the surprise about which his mother hints?

Before Edver gets on the airplane, his mother loads him down with gifts and warnings.  Don’t boast. Don’t flash around your money. Don’t ask for food. The people in Cuba have very little and she wants to help him fit in and connect with those around him.

But Edver doesn’t understand how he can hope to connect.  Not without the phone that his mother took away.  Sure, he was skateboarding while playing a game but if that biker had been paying more attention the guy wouldn’t have gotten hurt.

In Cuba, Edver discovers that his phone wouldn’t have worked anyway and that no one knows anything about the games he loves.  His grandfather, abuelo, teases Edver about the games but the most clueless of all is the one who was meant to be a pleasant surprise.  His sister.  Edver is only a year younger than Luza, a girl who loves art, magic realism and the forest on the family mountain.  She is proud of the work that their father does to keep the animals safe from poachers.

Not surprisingly, she resents Edver and the relationship he has with their mother.  Edver doesn’t understand her anger but he too wants to lure Mama to Cuba.  But she’s off looking for rare animals in a Southeast Asian jungle.  So the siblings invent a butterfly, never before seen, to lure Mama back to Cuba.  What they don’t expect is that before she arrives they will come face-to-face with someone much more dangerous.

If your young reader has never sampled Engle’s work, this book would make an excellent introduction to the Young People’s Poet Laureate as named by the Poetry Foundation. This book is a novel in verse, fast-paced and accessible.  Poems alternate between the point-of-view of Edver and Luza.  Readers learn about the sibling’s unusual names, how Cuban families were split, and the damage done by poachers who lure people into helping them.

For anyone interested in poetry, Cuba, human rights, or the environment.


February 16, 2018

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 12:55 am by suebe2

The Word Collector
by Peter H. Reynolds
Orchard Books/Scholastic

Collectors collect whatever it is that they are passionate about.  This means that some of them collect stamps.  Others collect coins.  Still others collect art, but that’s not what Jerome collected.  Jerome collected words.

Whenever he heard a word or saw a word that caught his attention, Jerome would write it down. He liked short words and long words.  Some words  sounded like songs.  Others were marvelous to say even if he didn’t know the meaning.  The longer Jerome collected words, the more scrapbooks he filled, each word written on a piece of paper and taped on the larger pages.

One day Jerome was transporting his collection when he tripped. Words flew everywhere.  Now his collection was a jumble with big words next to small words. Jerome looked at what words had landed together and began stringing words together.  Soon he was writing poems and songs and he discovered just how powerful words could be.  In the end, he knew he had to do one more thing…

Ha! I’m not telling you because I refuse to spoil this marvelous aha ending.

If Reynolds’ name sounds familiar, you may recognize it from another of his books – The Dot.  Reynolds plants a reminder of that one in the art work for this book.  When he discusses someone collecting art, the person is gazing on a collection of dots.  I admire Reynolds’ books both as a writer and a reader.  They are astonishingly simple on the surface but simultaneously quite deep.  That’s a hard trick to pull off but Reynolds has done it again just as he did in The Dot. 

In The Word Collector, Reynolds captures all that is amazing both about words themselves but also about sharing them with others.  A top-notch choice to encourage your pre-reader and celebrate the writer in your life no matter their age.




February 5, 2018

Fallingwater by Mark Harshman and Anna Egan Smucker, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:52 pm by suebe2

by Mark Harshman and Anna Egan Smucker
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Roaring Brook Press

“No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”  ~Frank Lloyd Wright

By 1934, it had been years since Frank Lloyd Wright had built anything worth mentioning in the newspaper.  In fact, someone had actually reported that he was dead.

When Wright received a letter from Edgar Kaufmann, owner of a Pittsburgh department store, he accepted the invitation to come discuss a new project.  Kaufmann welcomed Wright to Pittsburgh but then hurried him out to Bear Run. He wanted the architect to see the waterfall and the creek tumbling down the hillside.

Wright had dreamed of building near a waterfall and this was his chance to do even more. He made multiple trips to Bear Run.  He listened to the water.  He examined the rocks and the cliff.

Walking the familiar Wisconsin countryside back at home, Wright thought about the possibilities.  In his workroom, he studied the maps. And he thought some more.

Nine months after his first visit, he got a message from Kaufmann who was eager to see the plans.  He’d be there in two hours.  Wright’s assistants panicked but Wright was ready, finally, to put pencil to paper.  Although the plans had not been started, by the time Kaufman arrived, the house on the waterfall has taken shape on paper.

As a writer, I loved this story.  Sometimes I find myself thinking about a project for weeks or months.  Suddenly, facing a deadline, I sit down to work and things come together.  I know there has been controversy about Wright but this is an excellent book about his creative process. It shows young readers that success can follow a long dry spell.  It depicts the power of inspiration.

Pham’s paintings are watercolor, gauche, and ink.  I have to admit that I admire how nature is a bit dreamy looking while the architecture it inspired is concrete and more solid.  Yet they combine in Pham’s art much as they do in Wright’s architecture – to form an integrated whole.

Share this picture book with young artists and dreamers as well as older fans of Wright’s work.


February 1, 2018

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:21 pm by suebe2

by Kate Milford
Clarion Books

Milo has done his homework and is all ready for a quiet Christmas holiday. After all, this is the off-season for the inn that his parents run. Most of their regular customers are smugglers and winter is the “off-season” for smuggling and staying in the inn both.  So Milo is shocked, surprised would be too mild a word, when the bell rings.  A guest has braved winter cold and snow to stay in the creaky old inn.  Twelve-year-old Milo just gets one settled in when another arrives and another.

Milo’s parents place a call and the cook returns, bringing with her not one but two daughters.  Milo had been expecting the older girl, an accomplished baker, but not Meddy who is about his own age.  Meddy crosses a line with Milo when she pushes him about not looking like his parents.  Since he looks like his Chinese birth parents, Milo isn’t surprised not to mistaken for the Pine’s birth son since they are both Caucasian but he let’s Meddy know just how intrusive her questions are.

And that’s before someone lets themselves into his room and sneaks away with a map he discovered after all the guests arrived. One of them dropped it and Milo was trying to figure out who without having to ask.  He’s still annoyed that they’ve all pushed their way into his home and holiday.

Yes, his parents run an inn but these aren’t their regulars and they all seem to expect something from Milo.  Milo realizes that they all have a connection to the house.  As he’s trying to figure out what, he and Meddy form an uneasy alliance that blossoms into a friendship. I’m not going to say anything more because I really don’t want to give away the mystery – why they are all there and how they are all connected to the house.

I have to admit, I’m not sure why I took so long to pick this one up since the sequel has just come out.  And Greenglass House won an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.  And I can see why. Her characters have depth and most are redeemed by the end of the book. I say most because the villain, even after being unveiled, remains a villain.  Milo has warmed up to the other guests, even those who aren’t particularly likable at first.  I believe the reader will as well.  Especially to the house.

Because in this book the setting is so rich that it is truly one of the guests.  Like each of them, it is holding secrets tight.  Some involve heartbreak.  Some hope.

This is definitely a book worth reading.  Share it with your young mystery lover.  I would say this was a bit gothic because the house often has the moody feeling but although it is moody it isn’t consistently dark enough to feel truly gothic.  Fun, fast-paced and with a cast of characters the ready will want to revisit in the next book – Ghosts of Greenglass House.


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