Book review: Groundhug Day, by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Christopher Denise

Pace, Anne Marie. Groundhug Day. Illustrated by Christopher Denise. Hyperion, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781484753569. 48 pgs. Ages 5+. P8Q8

Did you ever wonder why his shadow makes Groundhog go back underground? In Groundhug Day we learn that Groundhog doesn’t understand shadows and is afraid of them. Moose and his friends are planning a Valentine’s Day party and are worried that Groundhog won’t be able to attend if he sees his shadow and goes back underground. When they realize that he is afraid, they take him outside to show him the fun and beauty of shadows. The soft, glowing illustrations feel old-fashioned and are really, really lovely. Their softness gives a authentic feeling to the spreads where the animals are playing with their shadows. In the end, Groundhog does go back underground because he’s cold, after receiving many hugs, but comes back out just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. I liked that a number of the spring holidays are mentioned (Valentine’s, Groundhog’s, St. Patrick’s, and Easter).

VERDICT: This is a sweet story that celebrates friendship and understanding of others’ points of view. It will be a perfect read-aloud in the spring when kids are looking forward to the upcoming holidays.

June 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

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Book review: A Squirrelly Situation, by Jacqueline Kelly, illustrated by Jennifer L. Meyer

Kelly, Jacqueline. A Squirrelly Situation. (Calpurnia Tate Girl Vet series, book 5). Illus. by Jennifer L. Meyer. Holt, 2019. 100p. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-62779-877-8. Ages 8-11. P8Q8

Characters from Kelly’s Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and the setting of early 20th century Texas have evolved into an easy series of chapter books in which Callie Vee, who wants to become a veterinarian, typically encounters wounded animals. In this book, her brother brings home an abandoned baby squirrel which is adopted by the family cat. The injury comes when Fluffy the squirrel breaks his tale in a slamming screen door. The book culminates in Emily’s discovery of why a small, lumpy squirrel weighs so much in the community contest to produce the heaviest squirrel.

Verdict: Fluffy’s escapade in the kitchen and the different reactions of family members to the new addition provide the humor in the book, and the black and white drawings enhance the delight of the book. A simple read with some adventure but not a lot of fright.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Captain Rosalie, by Timothée de Fombelle, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, translated by Sam Gordon

de Fombelle, Timothée. Captain Rosalie. Illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. Trans. by Sam Gordon. Candlewick, 2018. 60p. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-5362-0520-6. Ages 10+. P7Q10

As her father fights in World War I and her mother works in a factory, 5-year-old Rosalie believes she is on a secret mission spying on the enemy while disguised as a little girl. She goes to school early in her French village and sits in the back of the classroom with older children and listens to her mother read letters from her father in the evening. Rosalie’s life changes when her mother receives a blue envelope and the father’s letters stop coming. Determined to discover what has happened, she runs away from school to find the envelope and read the letters. Instead of the happy descriptions of life at home when her father returns her mother “read” from the letters, she finds the dirty, misery of her father’s life and the revelation that he has died. Watercolor and ink sketches accompany two-page spreads with dark backgrounds highlighted by Rosalie’s flame-colored hair or the blue ink of the letters.

Verdict: The grimness of war is relieved by the love of Rosalie’s mother for her daughter, the warm understanding by one of the older students for Rosalie, and Rosalie’s own resilience. A tremendously powerful story in quiet, spare tones.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Tamaki, Mariko. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. Illus. by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. First Second, 2019. 289p. $24.99. ISBN 978-1-250-31284-6. Ages 14+. P9Q9

The on-again, off-again relationship between selfish classmate Laura Dean who keeps cheating on Frederica (Freddy), 16, and then pulling her back has formed a toxic cycle that Freddy doesn’t know how to break, but her communication with an advice columnist and help from best friend Doodle to see a psychic gives her a way out. Black and white panels infused with pink display a diverse, mostly queer, cast of characters in Berkeley and high school who are close to adulthood and searching for answers in both romantic and platonic relationships. Verdict: The realistic depictions of different kinds of love will ring true with readers whether straight or queer, and the illustrations expand the painful story of growing up.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Wild Weather: Storms, Meteorology, and Climate

Reed, MK. Wild Weather: Storms, Meteorology, and Climate. Illus. by Jonathan Hill. (Get to Know Your Universe! Science Comics series). First Second, 2019. 119p. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-62672-789-2. Ages 10-13. P9Q9

The 19th of this series picks up the pace of quirky comics to explain another facet of science. The narrator throughout the entire book is a curmudgeonly TV weatherman annoyed with his ignored colleagues as a giant snowstorm approaches the area. He launches into explanations of high and low pressures, types of clouds, formations of tornadoes and hurricanes, wind currents, the water cycle, jet streams—and the influence of climate change.

Verdict: This book may be more inviting than some of the others in the series because it uses less highly scientific terminology and the narrative is accessible. The interaction among protagonists is also highly amusing. Included are a glossary, weather tools, and debunking wild weather myths.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Supernova, by Kazu Kabuishi

Kabuishi, Kazu. Supernova. (Amulet series). Graphix/Scholastic, 2018. 197p. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-545-82860-4. Ages 10-14. P8Q8

After ten years, the epic Amulet series is one book away from its finale, and the eighth book sets the foundation for the culmination of Emily’s work to save worlds beyond the Earth. She returns to Alledia and frees the elves despite her lack of magic stone control and imprisonment in the Void throughout adventures showing personal growth, family, and courage. As in earlier books, brilliant color highlights the battles and fast-paced activity with strange creatures and vivid Gaboda trees. Kabuishi also transfers much of the plot to focus on Emily’s younger brother, Navin.

Verdict: Lovers of this series will continue to be fascinated with the ongoing saga; those who read this without the earlier books will return to pick them up.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Breakaways: Bad at Soccer, Okay at Friends, by Cathy G. Johnson

Johnson, Cathy G. The Breakaways: Bad at Soccer, Okay at Friends. First Second, 2019. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-250-19694-1. Ages 10-13. P7Q8

On the first day of a new school, Amanda, an older girl, recruits black fifth-grader Faith to the soccer team. The thought of being popular sends Faith over the moon with joy until two seventh-graders, Sodacan and Marie, explain that the three of them are at the bottom of C team while Amanda is on the A team. Faith works out her frustrations remembering dreams about Mathilda, the knight who helps her escape her reality. A Muslim girl saves the soccer season, Faith joins Sodacan’s all-girl band, a transboy comes out during a sleepover, and much more.

Verdict: The diversity can feel forced, and the crowded book that sometimes uses stereotypes attempts too many issues—sexual harassment, crushes, LGBTQ identities, ethnic differences, etc. Johnson has attempted to cover in one book what could be far more effective in three or four so that readers could get a better feeling of the different characters. Middle school readers will enjoy the speed and the struggles of the characters.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.