Book review: Roll with It, by Jamie Sumner

Sumner, Jamie. Roll With It. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534442559. 250 pages. Ages 10+. P7 Q8.

Ellie is not only the new student; she is in a wheelchair and lives in a trailer park. When Ellie and her mom move to a new town to take care of her grandpa, she has to figure out how to maneuver around classrooms that are not set up for students in a wheelchair. Fortunately, Coralee, her new neighbor in the trailer park, befriends Ellie and becomes her first true friend. While Ellie engages in many of the same activities as other children, she shares her struggles with using the school bathroom, not wanting an aide to follow her around, and the awkwardness of people staring at her. Meanwhile, Ellie’s grandpa gets confused and puts himself in danger at times. Ellie’s mom wants to put him in a home for elderly people, but this makes Ellie fear that maybe her mom will put her in a home someday. Ellie’s favorite show is the Great British Bake Off and Ellie loves to cook, which may add familiarity for readers who enjoy the show. Readers will gain insight on what it is like to live with challenges while being inspired by Ellie, who does not let her disability define her or limit her. Sumner’s son has cerebral palsy, which inspired her to write this book.

Verdict: The message that children who are confined to a wheelchair can have just as meaningful life as children who can walk comes through loud and clear. Readers can relate to the issues that Ellie has to deal with. I highly recommend this book for all libraries.

October 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Sea Sirens, by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee

Chu, Amy and Janet K. Lee. Sea Sirens. (A Trot & Cap’n Bill Adventure). Viking, 2019. 140 pages. $20.99. ISBN: 9780451480163. Ages 8-14. P8Q9

Vietnamese American surfer girl, Trot and her rescued cat Cap’n Bill live for riding the waves, but Trot’s grandfather suffers from dementia.  The day Grandpa wanders away from the beachwhile Trot is catching one last wave, Trot’s mother grounds everyone—Trot, Grandpa, and Cap’n Bill.  Disobeying her mother, Trot and the cat head for the beach for one last chance to surf, only to be caught in a monster wave which takes them into a fantasy kingdom under the sea.  When Grandpa follows Trot and Cap’n Bill under the sea, the three find themselves embroiled in a war between sirens—mermaids—and sea snakes.

Verdict: The full color cinematic illustrations of fantasy sea life and legendary creatures along with an unpredictable ending make this graphic novel especially appealing. The inclusion of Grandpa in the story shows not only a strong intergenerational relationship, but also demonstrates that people with dementia may still offer wisdom and creative solutions.  Recommended for middle school and public library collections.

June 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Cilla Lee-Jenkins: The Epic Story, by Susan Tan, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

Tan, Susan. Cilla Lee-Jenkins: The Epic Story. Illus. by Dana Wulfekotte. Roaring Brook, 2019. $16.99. 264p. ISBN 9781250183637. Ages 8-11. P9Q9

Budding author Priscilla Lee-Jenkins, now headed for an “Epic Story” during her fifth grade, has matured since she wrote a “Bestseller” and a “Classic.” Facing a new teacher and middle school next year, she copes with a collection of trials—a clique of girls who think that her stories are “Silly,” her struggle to deal with toddler and infant sisters, and, worst of all, her grandfather Ye Ye’s stroke which made him forget his English and revert to speaking only Chinese. None of these problems is easy to solve, but help comes with good advice from supportive, loving people around her, including librarian Ms. Clutter. The book about mixed-race Cilla is semi-biographical as shown in Tan’s afterword and family photos.

Verdict: Black and white drawings add a valuable visual piece to the people in Cilla’s life, and her problems in life are fairly common for those of her age, making her highly relatable. Excellent pacing provides reasonable, but not immediate, solutions to her problems, making the plot and characterizations realistic. Tan indicates that the series is finished, but perhaps she’ll change her mind when Cilla faces a whole new set of worries in middle school. Highly recommended.

May 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Down by the River, by Andrew Weiner, illustrated by April Chu

Weiner, Andrew. Down By The River. Illustrator April Chu. Abrams Books for Young Readers. $17.99. ISBN 9781419722936. Ages 4-9. P7Q8. 

Down By The River is a picturesque view of a young boy’s fly fishing excursion with his mom and grandpa. The reader is immediately pulled into Grandpa’s reminiscing and heart-warming stories of the many fishing trips he had taken in the past with Art’s mom.  Grandpa taught Art everything from watching an osprey spy for fish to the importance of sharing his own story with the next generation.  You can’t help but root for Art as he catches his first fish and cements the memory of his special time with Grandpa.  The author uses specific vocabulary and rich, vivid illustrations to describe this unique fishing story. The illustrator uses charcoal pencil on paper, which was colored digitally, to create the realistic effects.

Verdict: This is a good addition to any library, especially in areas where fishing is valued and appreciated. It will be truly enjoyed by children who love to fish or long to fish.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: Izzy Gizmo, by Pip Jones, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Jones, Pip. Izzy Gizmo. Illustrator Sara Ogilvie. Peachtree, 2017. $16.95. ISBN 9781682630211. Unpaged. Ages 5-8. P8Q8.

Izzy Gizmo loved to invent, but didn’t have much success until she met a crow who needed her help to fly.  Through her grandpa’s support and crow’s belief in her ingenuity, Izzy learned perseverance and enjoyed friendship and success. The rhyme and rhythm of the text glides the reader from page to page and from one invention to another. Illustrations focus the reader on specific inventions with calm, monochromatic background colors setting the mood from failures to success. Verdict: This book is an inspiration for young readers and reminds us all not to give up on dreams, curiosity, and inventions. It would be a great addition to any K-2 library.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: Natsumi!, by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Priscilla Burris

Lendroth, Susan. Natsumi! Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780399170904. Unpaged. Ages 3-7. P7Q7

This book celebrates marching to your own drum beat! Natsumi is a little Japanese girl who does things a little too loud, a little too fast, and always just a little too much. As Natsumi’s village is preparing for the annual festival of traditional Japenese arts, she tries to find a place to fit in and help with the celebration. After constantly being corrected, Natsumi is feeling sad. Only Grandfather recognizes all that Natsumi has to offer, and finds the perfect place where she can shine. By the end of the book, Natsumi has found a place where she is celebrated for the things that make her unique. The pale pastel pictures compliment the story and offer many scenes of a Japanese festival. 

VERDICT: A good book for children with an important message that it’s ok to be different. 

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Lemons, by Melissa Savage

Savage, Melissa. Lemons. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9781524700126. 3 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q8

Lemons follows a girl named Lemonade from her home in San Francisco to Willow Creek, California. As she settles into her new home with her grandfather, whom she doesn’t know, she finds new adventures. There are fifty-three chapters in the book and each chapter is three to five pages long. With short chapters, children won’t feel overwhelmed by the length of the book. The author uses advanced vocabulary and describes things in detail, which adds depth to the story. The author is a child and family therapist who writes issue-driven books for young people, coupled with cryptozoology and the mystery of Big Foot. Lemons reflects the author’s knowledge of social work and how the system works. This book is realistic for children who have lost their parents and are moved by a social worker to another place to live.

Verdict: I highly recommend this book for children who love adventure and Big Foot. My daughter is a social work major and loves Big Foot. This book combines the two in an intriguing story that will keep the interest of readers.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.