Book review: Glitch, by Sarah Graley

Graley, Sarah. Glitch. Graphix, 2019. $14.99.  ISBN 9781338174519. 187 pages. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8

Izzy and Eric are excited for the new video game Dungeon City to come out. They have a weekend of gaming all planned. When Izzy gets home from school, she finds a package with her game in it. Izzy is torn between wanting to play the game and keeping her promise to Eric. Surely it won’t hurt to play just a little bit of the game. The adventure that ensues is much more than what Izzy had anticipated. The pages where Izzy is in the game have black borders around them, making it easier for the reader to tell the present from the video game apart. This graphic novel is LGBTQ inclusive. Eric, Izzy’s friend, uses she/her pronouns and the robot, Rae, uses they/them pronouns. The graphic novel accurately portrays how video games have a tendency to take the place of friendships.

Verdict: Readers will relate to Izzy and how enticing video games are. Twists and turns  will keep readers engaged. I work as a media specialist and I had a few students preview the book. All the students thought it looked engaging and I have a list of students waiting to check it out.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Red Yellow Blue, by Lysa Mullady, illustrated by Laurent Simon

Mullady, Lysa. Red Yellow Blue. Illustrated by Laurent Simon. Magination Press, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781433830303. Unpaged. Ages 5-9 . P7 Q7

Red is all about his own business. He is annoyed and agitated when Yellow compliments him. Yellow is understanding and knows it is a big job to be a color, especially one of the three primary colors. In the end, Red realizes he needs others. The illustrations are red, yellow and blue, along with green and orange. It is a great introduction to art and primary colors. I especially liked the page where yellow (as a sun) and blue (as a rain drop) make a green plant grow. Includes advanced vocabulary that will need to be explained to children, such as hue, spied, concentration, irritability, remarkable, disposition, glum, and harsh. While I appreciate the advanced vocabulary words, it breaks the flow of the story when the reader stops and explains what the words mean. Red is much bigger than the other colors, showing how important he thinks he is. Some of the colors the illustrator used for the animals are not their true colors, which can lead to a discussion on creativity. Includes a “Note to parents and caregivers” on how to develop a healthy self-esteem, promoting respect for everyone, fostering forgiveness for yourself and others.

Verdict: This book helps children navigate the balance between knowing what is their business and how they can cooperate with others. Great for a friendship and art lesson combined.

May 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Get on Your Bike, by Joukje Akveld, illustrated by Philip Hopman, translated by Laura Watkinson

Akveld, Joukje. Get on your bike. Illust. Philip Hopman. Trans. Laura Watkinson. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2018 (org. 2014). $18.00. ISBN 9780802854896. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Get on your bike is an English translation of Ga toch fietsen! Originally published in Dutch, the story centers around William and Bobby (org. Willem and Boese), an argument, and how one of the characters finds a constructive way to burn off steam and gain perspective when he’s angry. Hopman packs plenty of activity into his detailed, page-filling illustrations à la Richard Scarry. The peripheral characters often look and gesture at the reader, acknowledging our presence. Get on your bike will be appreciated by young wheel enthusiasts and features charming European cultural objects and architecture.

Verdict: The story depicts a healthy way to process negative feelings, promotes outdoor activity, and provides examples of fossil fuel free transportation. It could accompany a unit on relationships or emotions.

April 2019 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Be A Maker, by Katey Howes, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

Howes, Katey. Be A Maker. Illustrator Elizabet Vukovic. Carolrhoda Books, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781512498028. Unpaged. Ages 4-9. P7Q8

Creativity imagined! Be a Maker engages the reader’s imagination, creativity, and service attitude.  The young reader is immersed in ideas for building, exploring, thinking, drawing, playing, planning, and sharing. It is filled with vibrant and whimsical illustrations adding a delightful touch to this rhythmic journey.

Verdict: This book has a special message for young children and helps them see the power of giving back. This will be a great addition to any K-2 classroom or library read aloud lesson on creativity, community building, friendship, rhyming, voice, and pure imagination.

April 2019 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: The Language of Spells, by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett

Weyr, Garret. The Language of Spells. Illustrated by Katie Harnett. Chronicle Books, 2018. 299 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9781452159584. Ages 11-14. P7 Q9

A dragon who spent much of his life transformed into a teapot and a sad, solitary girl become friends and take on the task of finding the missing dragons of Vienna.

Though born in 1803, the dragon Grisha spent most of his life frozen into a teapot by an evil sorcerer, able to hear and see, but unable to move or speak.  Released from the spell after what Grisha has only heard called the great war, he flies to Vienna to join the other dragons of Europe.  Forty years later, Maggie who lives with her poet father in a Viennese hotel, becomes friends with Grisha and the two together work through Grisha’s clouded memories and the menace of the Department of Extinct Exotics to find the missing dragons and face the menace of the sorcerer who captured Grisha.

Verdict: I cannot recommend this title too much.  Garret Weyr’s gorgeous flowing language carries this fantasy with its twinned themes–that magic carries a heavy price and that humans become incapable of seeing that which they do not believe—to a satisfying ending. Weyr excels in weaving emotions into the fabric of the story and Maggie’s conflict about her mother’s death is an important thread.

Though Grisha’s life encompasses the tumultuous 19th and 20th centuries of European history, his teapot imprisonment  prevents  him knowing more than hints of the horrors of the Holocaust, though careful readers will catch the references in Yakov’s letters to his family and in the evacuation of family and children to the English countryside. Likewise, the menace of the Department of Extinct Exotics and the sorcerer echo the threats of the Cold War and totalitarian governments of post-war Europe.

I did not find that Katie Harnett’s illustrations added to my enjoyment of the story.  Her style of illustration, while pleasant, did not match the elegance of Weyr’s prose.

Other books by the author (published under the name Garret Freymann-Weyr) include My Heartbeat (a 2003 Printz honor book), Stay with Me, After the Moment, When I Was Older, and French Ducks in Venice.

I find this one of the best books I’ve read recently.  I recommend it for all middle grade, high school, and public, libraries.  I can only hope that it becomes available as an audiobook.

Book review: You Don’t Know everything, Jilly P!

Gino, Alex. You Don’t Know everything, Jilly P! Scholastic Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780545956246. 247 pages. Ages 11+ P6 Q8

Jilly P realizes she has a lot of privileges as a White hearing girl. When her sister, Emma, is born deaf, Jilly learns sign language to communicate with her. A fantasy reader, Jilly connects online in the Young Vidalians chat room with Derek who is Deaf and Black. Jilly feels a connection with Derek because her sister is born deaf and she has Black relatives. Her Aunt Joanne is Black and has two children from a previous marriage. Aunt Alicia is White, which makes them a mix-raced couple. When Jilly notices her Uncle’s prejudice against Black people, she is bold and stands up for her Aunt and cousins, even when it causes conflict. When Derek’s friend is killed by a police officer, police brutality against Black people is brought to Jilly’s awareness. She realizes being Deaf and Black has its challenges. This well written novel shows the reader how they can be an ally and support their friends and family. With strong themes of Black rights, LGBTQ+, and Deaf culture, the author encourages people to talk and ask questions to bring awareness to prejudices. Strong proponent for Black Lives Matter and protect Black Deaf lives.

Verdict: I highly recommend this book for youth who are interested in social justice. After reading this book, it made me want to read Gino’s other book, George. It is a story about a transgender person and the challenges she goes through coming out.

Reviewer’s note: The whole book and even the cover refers to the family and friend as “black.” I was under the impression that “black” is not as socially acceptable as African American. Since the book referred to the characters as “black” I wanted the review to reflect the book. I did some research and this is what I found. “Today, some people view “black” and “African American” interchangeably. But many have strong opinions that “African American” is too restrictive for the current US population. In part, the term African American came into use to highlight that the experiences of the people here reflect both their origins in the African continent and their history on the American continent.

But recent immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean have different combinations of history and experience, so some have argued that the term “black” is more inclusive of the collective experiences of the US population.”

–Source:  Urban Wire :: Race and Ethnicity, the blog of the Urban Institute by Margaret Simms. February 8, 2018 edition.

February 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Penguin Flies Home, by Lita Judge

Judge, Lita. Penguin Flies Home. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17. 99. ISBN 9781534414419. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Penguin attends flight school, but he misses his friends from the South Pole. His flight teacher, Flamingo, hatches a plan for a field trip back to the South Pole. Penguin is excited and once he returns, he enthusiastically wants to teach his friends how to fly. When his penguin friends would rather swim than fly, Penguin realizes not everyone wants to fly. He wonders if his friends will still like him if they don’t share the same dream. When Penguin tells his friends he is heading back to flight school, they have a surprise for him. Colorful illustrations show Penguin’s feelings during his adventure. The end pages show pictures of his new friends from the flight school year book and Penguin’s scrapbook of his penguin friends. Aerial view of the penguins in the formation of a heart shows the support of his friends. Although this is a companion book to Flight School, written in 2014, it can stand alone. Judge’s book, Flight School, was adapted into an off-Broadway musical and is currently running in New York and China.

Verdict: A heartwarming story of support and encouragement, modeling for children how they can follow their dreams, make new friends and maintain former friendships. Readers will be inspired by the message to follow their heart, even if it means they are different from others. I recommend this book for elementary school age libraries and public libraries.

February 2019 review by Tami Harris.