Book review: One Half from the East, by Nadia Hashimi

Hashimi, Nadia. One Half from the East. Harper, 2016. 256 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-242190-6. Gr. 6+. P8 Q8

The day that Obayda’s policeman father loses his leg in a Kabul car bombing is the day her life changes forever. With no money coming in, ten-year-old Obayda and her family must move to a remote village to be near her father’s family. Her father’s demeanor has changed, he never leaves his bed and he has nothing to do with his family any more. Her aunt thinks that if there were a boy in the family things would be different. Obayda is chosen to be a bacha posh, a girl who dresses as a boy, to bring honor back to her family. What a revelation this is for a Obayda, who can now do boy things! She soon overcomes any awkwardness and enjoys her new status. But, bacha posh are only free until puberty. Is there a way for Obayda–now Obayd–to remain free?  This story allows us a glimmer of what life is like for girls in a traditional Muslim home in Afghanistan.

Verdict: For those who love to read books about other cultures this is the book to read.

April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: A Dusk of Demons, by John Christopher

Christopher, John.  A Dusk of Demons.  Aladdin.  2014.  $7.99.  ISBN 978-4814-2018-1.  176 Pages.  Ages 9-13.  Q7P7

A dystopian novel based on governmental control by religious fear (not a new concept, though the fear is of The Dark One and not a God figure).  Ben, 14 years old, is raised on an island with a foster family.  When the patriarch dies, Ben and his family are thrust into a world which forces him to question the life he knew before “Master’s” death, and the religious dogma all live by.  The book is easy to follow and even easier to determine what is going to happen next.  I assume there is another book after this one because the main character is built up to have a powerful knowledge or power or gift given to him through lineage, but we never see or are given a hint as to what that is.  I felt like this could have been a good first half of a book, not the first book in a series.  The book ends abruptly and doesn’t spend enough time developing the story around, well, anything. Originally published in 1993 by Simon Pulse.

Verdict:  An easy to read dystopian novel with not much imagination.  It passes the time.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Mouse Scouts Camp Out, by Sarah Dillard

Dillard, Sarah.  Mouse Scouts Camp Out.  (Mouse Scouts series.) Random House Children’s Books, 2016.  $6.99.  ISBN 978-0-385-75608-2. 144 Pages.  Ages 5-8.  Q8P7

This is the third book in the Mouse Scouts series and focuses on teamwork and friendship through an overnight camping trip.  I liked the Mouse Scout Handbook which gives helpful tips to being a successful camper throughout the book.  The tips, while from a mouse’s perspective, are valid tips for a successful camping experience, such as how to make a compass and various wilderness dangers from poisonous plants to bugs and snakes.  The outdoors is not a comfortable place for everyone and this book shares tips to make outdoor life bearable for those who don’t come by it naturally.

Verdict:  A simple story of friendship and perseverance through teamwork with lots of tips and tricks for happily experiencing the outdoors.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: The Tale of Rescue, by Michael J. Rose, illustrated by Stan Fellows

Rosen, Michael J. The Tale of Rescue. Illustrated by Stan Fellows. Candlewick Press, 2015. $14.99. ISBN 9780763671679. 103 pgs. Ages 10-13. P8Q9

I loved this beautifully illustrated story about a family rescued from a dangerous situation by a heroic cattle dog. The mother and father take their 10 year old son on a weekend adventure, so he can experience a snowy country weekend. They get lost while walking in the woods, and are overcome by a blizzard. The cattle dog knows that something is wrong, finds the family, and using the herd of cattle as a sort of snow plow, clears the way for them. Eight years later, the boy goes looking for the dog who saved them, and finds that her name is Angus, like all the other cattle dogs the farmer has owned. The language is poetic and beautiful, and the dark watercolor illustrations perfectly accompany the text.

VERDICT: Dog lovers of all ages will enjoy this book very much, and readers of survival stories will also find something to like.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Cloud and Wallfish, by Anne Nesbet

Nesbet, Anne. Cloud and Wallfish. Candlewick Press, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9780763688035. 385 pgs. Ages 10-13. P7Q8

Noah, with his Astonishing Stutter, lives a relatively happy life with his family in Virginia. One day, everything changes, when his parents pick him up from school and whisk everyone off to East Berlin. Noah is now to go by the name Jonah Brown, his birthday is now a different date, and his life is to be regulated with rules like Don’t call attention to yourself, Don’t use our old names, They will always be listening, and Don’t talk about serious things indoors, because… they will always be listening. Noah is very confused- his parents’ explanation that his mom needs to do research to finish her PhD explains some of the situation, but not all of it. Why are they there? Are his parents spies? When he finally makes a friend, Claudia from downstairs, things become even more confusing. Claudia’s parents have been killed in car accident in Hungary, and she is living with her cranky grandmother. This story also makes some sense, but Noah begins to wonder if it’s really true. The grandmother tries to keep the children apart, since Americans are dangerous elements, but they manage to build a friendship based on shared imagination and loneliness. Noah calls the girl Cloud Claudia (from the German pronunciation of the name), and she calls him Wallfish (Jonah makes her think of a whale, which is “Walfisch” in German). Passages of story alternate with “Secret File” sections, which give historical and cultural context. The story comes to an exciting end when Cloud-Claudia and Wallfish are arrested during a demonstration, and Noah and his family are deported.

VERDICT: I loved this story. The complex character of Noah/Jonah is fascinating- he’s a bright and very resourceful, and doesn’t let his severe stutter hold him back. His relationship with his parents is loving and supportive, even during confusing and frightening situations. The blend of adventure, friendship, mystery, history and politics in this unusual setting will keep kids reading.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: A Rambler Steals Home, by Carter Higgins

Higgins, Carter. A Rambler Steals Home. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-60201-4. 213 pages. Ages 7-12. P8Q9.

Derby Christmas Clark, her brother Triple, and her father Garland are wanderers in the truest form. Their yearly expedition leads from the mountains of Wisconsin where they cut Christmas trees and sell them along the highway, to spring carnivals on their way south, to their summer home in Ridge Creek, Virginia. They travel and live in what they call “the Rambler.” Hitched to the Rambler is a concession stand where they sell apple cider and donuts in the fall, hot chocolate in the winter, carnival cotton candy in the spring, and burgers and sweet potato fries next to a minor-league baseball stadium in Ridge Creek in the summer. This story starts in the summer where we meet Derby and watch her discover her Virginia home while grieving the death of her friend the ballfield caretaker. Derby will grow on you along with her biggest desire to set down roots.

Verdict: This is a sweet story that explores what it means to call home not only a place, but people too.

May 2017 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel, by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Ashley Spires

Harper, Charise Mericle. Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel. Illustrated by Ashley Spires. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-544-63063-5. 120 pages. Ages 6-10. P6Q7

June loves to play with her dog Sam, particularly because the two are able to communicate unbeknownst to others. When her grandmother sends her a big chalkboard on a wheel,  June is thrilled.  She and Sam are entertained with completing the suggested tasks. It’s even more fun when a new girl moves in next door and ends up in the same class. Mae seems really nice, but classmate April is bound and determined that Mae will be friends with her and not June. The girls have to learn to get along, and eventually become fast friends.

Verdict: This is a very positive, fun story for beginning readers. The illustrations add to comprehending the story. Other nice touches are June’s grumpy teenage sister, the fact that Mae is a character of color, and the adventure of the wonder wheel.

May 2017 review by Penny McDermott.