Book review: El Fútbol Me Hace Feliz, by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Lauren Castillo


Boelts, Maribeth. El Fútbol Me Hace Feliz. Illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick Press, 2015. $6.99. ISBN 9780763689056. Unp. Ages 5-9. P8Q9

boelts-futbolSierra loves soccer. When she is playing, she couldn’t be happier—she only wishes her aunt were there to watch her. Now that she’s joined a new team, she doesn’t have to practice in the vacant lot near her apartment; however, she now travels on the weekends to surrounding fields to play. Sierra’s aunt works weekends and is a noticeable absence from her games. After a season of lonely games, it is up to Sierra to figure out how to share her passion for soccer with her aunt. El Fútbol Me Hace Feliz, is a Spanish translation of an English language publication. The English version is written using figurative language that is not equally matched by the translated text. Nonetheless, the genuine story is intact. The illustrations are friendly watercolors—often in the muted monochrome tones of the inner-city. Due to the popularity of soccer across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries, this translated version and the original will be popular additions to public and school libraries.

October 2016 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: No A Norman: La historia de un pecicito dorado, by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones, translated by Teresa Mlawer

Bennett, Kelly. No A Norman: La historia de un pececito dorado.Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. Translated by Teresa Mlawer.  Candlewick Press, 2016. $6.99. ISBN 9780763689063. Unp. Ages 4-8. P7Q7

bennett-no-a-normanA boy wants a pet. For his birthday, his parents give him Norman, a goldfish who can’t play fetch, cuddle, or chase balls of yarn. Instead, he just swims in continuous circles—or does he? No A Norman tells the story of how expectations affect perception and how those perceptions can change with an open mind. Originally published in English, this Spanish translation makes a good effort to maintain the boy’s expressive language and the comic tone of the story. The translated text extends to the brightly colored, almost cubist illustrations whose occasional letterings are also in Spanish. As a result, this version’s attention to detail delivers a great choice for young readers who seek a Spanish language option.

October 2016 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Nuestro Huerto: De la semilla a la cosecha en el huerto del colegio, by George Ancona, translated by Esther Sarfatti

Ancona, George. Nuestro Huerto: De la semilla a la cosecha en el huerto del colegio.Translated by Esther Sarfatti.  Candlewick Press, 2016. $6.99. 9780763687717. Unp. Ages 5-8. P7Q9

ancona-nuestro-huertoA school garden can transcend the daily science lesson to become a lifestyle enhancing center of the community. This is what we learn from George Ancona’s year-long study of one Santa Fe’s most successful school gardens. From capturing the sun’s energy to power a pump for the garden’s cistern to embracing traditional Native American farming practices, the students and teachers of Acequia Madre Elementary School have accomplished extraordinary feats of problem solving to introduce the natural world to the neighborhood. Originally written in English, the Spanish language version broadens this book’s scope of reception. It is not exactly a handbook for beginning or maintaining a school garden. It does, however, demonstrate the multitude of benefits that come along with the hard work of perpetuating a school garden—complete with full color photographs and children’s illustrations. As a translation, the text doesn’t take any liberties. The language is simple with vocabulary words defined in the narration. Nuestro Huerto is a successful tool for educators to use to initiate a conversation about how food is grown.

October 2016 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: The Poet’s Dog, by Patricia MacLachlan

MacLachlan, Patricia. The poet’s dog. Katherine Tegen Books, 2016. 88 pages.  $14.99. ISBN 9780062292629. Ages 7-9. P8Q8

maclachlan-poets-dogTwo children lost in a blizzard are rescued by a large dog, the narrator of the story.  Left behind when his poet/owner died, the dog and rescued children manage quite well on their own in the poet’s woodland cottage until the end of the storm, when the rest of the world intrudes one of the poet’s proteges skis in to check on the cabin. The children’s companionship allow Teddy, the dog, to remember his years with the poet and to come to terms with his grief. Later, reunited with their parents, the children and dog form a new family group.

Verdict: Veteran author MacLachlan excels at short, emotion-laden stories about families and this is no exception.  Highly recommended for elementary, middle school and public library collections.

October 2016 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Home at Last, by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Chris Raschka and Vera B. Williams

Williams, Vera B. Home at last. Illustrated by Chris Raschka and Vera B. Williams. Greenwillow Books, 2016. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9780061349797. Ages 4-8. P7Q8

williams-home-at-lastBeloved author Vera B. Williams died October 20, 2015.  In this, her last book, Lester who lost his parents in a car accident is really and truly adopted by Daddy Albert and Daddy Rich—and their dog Wincka.  Problems rise at night when Lester fears being alone and being taken away from his new home.  After nights upon nights of Lester asking to sleep with in his new Daddies’ bed, Wincka solves the problem by sleeping with Lester.

Two-time Caldecott honoree Vera B. Williams wrote the book and set it aside for a number of years.  In the spring of 2015, she invited her friend Chris Raschka to work on the illustrations with her.  Together they drew the pictures and Raschka colored them.  The author’s note is a wonderful tribute to the friendship between the two.

I wondered, after reading that Williams had written the book and set it aside, how it would have been received if it had been published earlier.  Michael Willhoite’s book, Daddy’s Roommate, has been widely challenged and banned many times since it was published, but it still filled the desperate need for books addressing families with gay parents.  Home at Last normalizes the two daddies and addresses the problems of dealing with what sounds like the adopted child’s PTSD.  I am glad that it is now available.

Verdict: The artwork is lively and colorful, but not exactly realistic.  That, combined with the large amount of text makes this a picture book for older children.  On the plus side, it is the only picture book I remember reading that addresses the lingering difficulties of adopted children adjusting to a new home after living through the emotional trauma of losing parents– and of adoptive parents dealing with the stress.  Libraries with picture book collections should purchase this book. Highly recommended.

October 2016 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Faraway Fox, by Jolene Thompson, illustrated by Justin K. Thompson

Thompson, Jolene. Faraway Fox. Illustrated by Justin K. Thompson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, c2016. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9780544707115. Ages 4-7. P7Q8

thompson-faraway-foxA young fox wanders through a blighted urban area, remembering the forest that is gone and missing his family.  Happily, he finds an underpass and travels under a busy highway to return to his family in a different part of the forest.   The author’s note discusses wildlife crossing structures and includes websites of organizations working “to improve life for humans and animals alike.”

Verdict: The stylized though realistic artwork and simple text effectively convey the loneliness of the isolated fox. This sad story shows the impact of human land development on wildlife. On a more hopeful note, the backmatter explains some of the strategies being used to lessen the impacts. Recommended for elementary and public library collections.

October 2016 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Oh, Harry!, by Maxine Kumin, illustrated by Barry Moser

Kumin, Maxine. Oh, Harry! Illustrated by Barry Moser. “A Neal Porter Book.” Roaring Brook Press, 2011. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN 9781596434394. Ages 4-6. P7Q8.

kumin-oh-harryHarry, though not one of the show horses, knows how to soothe a frightened filly and calm an anxious mare.  Problems arise when the six-year-old son of the stable owner arrives at the stable with a bag of tricks and frightens the high-strung horses.  When the boy accidentally locks himself into the feed bin, though, it is Harry who saves him—leading to a drastic and welcome change in behavior.  Barry Moser’s hilarious and realistic illustrations pair beautifully with poet Maxine Kumin’s rhyming couplets to portray the homely horse who saves the day.

Verdict: This funny book will appeal to horse lovers and story time listeners will enjoy hearing how Harry outsmarts Algernon Adams the Third. Recommended for kindergarten, elementary school and public libraries.

October 2016 review by Jane Cothron.