Book review: Hideout, by Watt Key

Key, Watt. Hideout. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780374304829. 311 pages. Grades 5-9. P7 Q7

Hideout is a buddy adventure set in the mysterious swampy areas of the Gulf Coast. Sam’s new fishing boat has broadened his small world to include the very wild bayou that stretches for miles around his house. While exploring, Sam discovers a dilapidated hunting camp and, to his surprise, a very hungry boy named Davey attempting to inhabit one of the crumbling cabins. In his effort to help his new friend, while keeping it a secret from his family, Sam quickly realizes that Davey could be in serious trouble. Hideout is very much in line with Watt Key’s previous young adult novels. It features a male lead, takes place along the Gulf Shore, and discusses the complexities of family relationships. Young readers will enjoy the adventure and danger of Hideout. Male readers will relate to Sam and Davey’s sense of adventure and their views of what it means to be a brother.

Verdict: Hideout is a suspenseful story that will keep young readers interested. It would be a popular edition to a school library. The target audience is young boys. There is mention of smoking and drug use and a description of a dead body.

June 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Hattie and Hudson, by Chris Van Dusen

Van Dusen, Chris. Hattie and Hudson. Candlewick Press, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780763665456. Unpaged. Ages 4-10. P8 Q9.

Hattie McFadden explores a lake and makes a friend with a large mysterious creature she names Hudson. She is determined to convince the town that Hudson is not harmful but friendly. Endpapers are a relaxing pond scene. Illustrations are very detailed and adorable.

Verdict: With the higher vocabulary, it is a great read aloud for discussion for a discussion of friendship or for an advanced reader. 

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: How to Find a Friend, by Maria S. Costa

Costa, Maria S. How to find a friend. Clarion Books, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9780544926783. Unpaged. Ages 2-8. P8 Q8.

A squirrel, illustrated in blue, is looking for a friend.  A rabbit, illustrated in red, is also looking for friend.  Similar colored bugs try to give each of them advice on how to find a friend, but they keep missing each other.  Humor is in the pictures as the looks one way, and the outlined illustration reveals how they continue to miss seeing each other, but affect each other’s lives.  For example, the nuts fall off of squirrel’s wagon hitting the rabbit, who says, “Ouch!” Humor creates a wider age level group to enjoy the book.  Endpapers are maps; the beginning ones are unmarked, and the final endpapers show in red and blue dashed lines and silhouetted pictures where their paths crossed.

Verdict: It is an adorable and humorous addition to a library.

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Bee-wigged, by Cece Bell

Bell, Cece. Bee-Wigged.  Candlewick Press, 2008. $6.99. ISBN 9780763693121. Unpaged. Ages 4-9. P8 Q9.  

Jerry Bee tries to make friends, yet people are scared because he is an enormous bee.  When he finds a “wig” and wears it, he then is able to make friends.  He shows kindness and does many things that change his life.  When the “wig” comes off, others are again afraid.  The “wig” explains, and he is then able to have friends who like him as a big bee.  There is some play on the word “be” (example: beeline) and humor.  The book has the lesson and theme of accepting people that are different.  Fun endpapers have the yellow and black stripes of bees.  Illustrations have a great variety with being double page spreads or in ovals that are similar shaped to the bee, and talk bubbles are used.

Verdict: Great read aloud provoking discussion about friendships and developing level of vocabulary.

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Mervin the Sloth Is About to do the Best Thing in the World, by Colleen A.F. Venable, illustrated by Ruth Chan

Venable, Colleen A.F.  Mervin the Sloth Is About to do the Best Thing in the World.  Illustrated by Ruth Chan.  Greenwillow Books, 2016.  $17.99.  ISBN 978-0-06-233847-1.  40 pages.  Ages 4-7.  Q8P8

A silly cute story about Mervin the sloth working up to doing the best thing in the world.  Because he’s a sloth this takes some time, much to the frustration of almost every animal around him.  Watercolor illustrations and simple text depict the other animal’s thoughts of what the best thing in the world could be, all from their perspective.  What does the Gazelle think the best thing in the world is?  Gazelling of course!  But what is the best thing for Mervin?  It’s worth the wait to find out at the end of the story!

Verdict:  Great illustrations and positive message!  This book is fun to read aloud book, and a peaceful sit-and-enjoy-the-pictures book for those children with the patience to do so.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Blue Penguin, by Petr Horáček

Horáček, Petr. Blue Penguin. Candlewick Press, 2016. Unpaged. 15.99. ISBN 9780763692513. Ages 3-6. P7Q7

A single blue penguin is born into a flock of black and white penguins and becomes isolated in his differences.  As the blue penguin sings his songs of loneliness and dreams of a white whale, another penguin listens, learns the songs and becomes a friend.  Other penguins, too, being to listen, which changes the songs from those of loneliness to songs of friendship.  When a huge, white whale responds to the first song, and comes to take the blue penguin away, the other penguins ask him to stay.

Mixed media illustrations use spashes of color in the snowy Antarctic to carry the blue penguin’s sense of isolation and then his growing inclusion in the penguin community.

Verdict: I recommend this story of friendship and community for preschool, elementary, and public library collections.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

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.