Reedy, Trent. If You’re Reading This. Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc., 2014. 296 pages. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-43342-6. Ages 12+. P7Q8
This novel follows the story of Mike who is trapped between his overprotective mother, the inspiration of his dead father, and his own drive to fit in at school. Seven years after his father died in the war in Afghanistan, sixteen-year-old Mike starts receiving letters from him full of advice about growing up and being a man. During this time he also decides to take a risk and secretly go out for the football team against his mother’s wishes. The story revolves around a boy learning how to grow up without a father and suddenly finding that missing advice that he has so desperately needed. Although the story is not as sad as I was expecting, it definitely has moments were it pulls on the heart strings and makes you stop and think.
September 2015 review by Beverly Minard.
Cole, Tom Clohosy. Wall. Templar Books, 2014. unp. $16.99. 978-0-7636-7560-8. ISBN:978-0-7636-7560-8. Gr. 3+. P7 Q8
25 years ago the Berlin Wall was toppled, bringing together not only the city of Berlin, but the country of Germany. The Cold War, a term that students today don’t hear very often, ended. This picture book, designed for young children, has a high appeal for older students as well. I am planning on sharing it with my 8th grade history teacher. The story is told from the perspective of a young boy whose family becomes separated the night the wall is finally completed. His father is on the East side of the fence and he, his mother and little sister are on the West side. The pictures are very dark and were constructed digitally giving an emphasis to how dark this period of time was for the world. The final outcome of the book, tunneling to safety, brings the dangers that the people went through to be reunited with those that they were separated from.
September 2015 review by Carol Bernardi.
Green, Tim. Lost Boy. Harper Collins, 2015. $16.99 ISBN 9780062317087 299pgs. Grades 5 and up, P7Q7
Ryder’s mom is struck by a truck and ends up in the hospital with little chance of living. Ryder must figure out who his dad is and hope that his dad can help save his mom’s life. This was a heart wrenching story and believable. Ryder does find his dad, who happens to be a pitcher for the Braves, but instead of a happy reunion between father and son, we find that Ryder’s father is shocked over even having a son and initially doesn’t want to help. This plot makes the story believable. Ryder’s dad does provide the money that helps save his mother’s life, but also tells him that he can’t be his father. There is no happy ending with Ryder’s biological dad, but other characters in the book step up to the plate to be Ryder’s father figure. This book doesn’t have a fairy tale ending, but a believable ending. May 2015 review by Jo Train.
Peet, Mal, and Elspeth Graham. Night sky dragons. Illustrated by Patrick Benson. Candlewick Press, 2014. Unpaged. S15.99. ISBN 9780763661441 Ages 4-8. P7Q8
Yazul, a boy living in a small town along the Silk Road saves the village by using his passion for building kites and his grandfather’s knowledge to drive a band of robbers away. The lyrical story explores themes of grief over a child’s loss of his mother, the desire of a boy for his father’s approval, the importance of community, and an acknowledgment that the wisdom of elders combined with the passion of youth can create solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. This story and the luminous pen and watercolor illustrations serve as an excellent introduction to the land and cultures of the Silk Road and is highly recommended for elementary and public library collections. December 2014 review by Jane Cothron.
Davies, Benji. The Storm Whale. Holt. 2013. $16.99. unp. 978-0-8050-9967-6. Ages 4-7:
In an isolated island home next to the ocean, Noi stays alone with six cats while his father works on a fishing boat. When the small boy finds a beached baby whale, he takes it home in his wagon and puts it in the bathtub. Finding Noi’s secret, the father understands that the boy is lonely but encourages Noi to accompany him to return the whale to deep water. The book is beautifully illustrated with charming caricatured drawings, but two of the messages might be inappropriate. First, although the father knows his son is lonely, he does nothing about solving the problem; and second, children should never be encouraged to remove beach creatures from their habitat, even though Noi’s actions are highly unlikely. P8Q5 December 2014 review by Nel Ward.
Holub, Joan. James Dean, ill. Mighty Dads. Scholastic Press, 2014. $16.99. ISBN 9780545609685. Unp. Ages 3-5. P8Q7.
The bright, colorful, bold illustrations, action verbs and sound effects will appeal to children who love making and building things. Traits like working hard, getting jobs done, and being enthusiastic about work are encouraged with the active language. While this book celebrates the teaching relationship between fathers and sons, I feel like a small change in the illustrations (the sign Big Daddy and Son Trucking) on the truck door) would have made this book more appealing to girls- girls enjoy learning from their fathers, and some like dump trucks too! December 2014 review by Carol Schramm.