Book review: Cinnamon, by Neil Gaiman, pictures by Divya Srinivasan

Gaiman, Neil. Cinnamon. Illus. by Divya Srinivasan. Harper, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-06-239961-8. Ages 6-8. P9Q9

Cinnamon, a blind princess in a country of the far past, refused to speak, and her desperate parents, the Rajah and Rani, promised a reward for anyone who could teach her to talk. The whimsy surfaces throughout the folk-type tale goes from gentle to dark as the “reward” is a palace room, a portrait, a field of mango trees, and a green parrot and the aged aunt ends up being eaten by the tiger that makes Cinnamon talk through pain, fear, and love. Flat, naif illustrations use bold colors to give the calm feeling of a wealthy family secure in the greenness apart from the heat of the nation as the reader sees the action framed by doorways and natural objects. The opaque appearance of Cinnamon’s pearlescent eyes highlight her beauty, and the matte illustrations filled with jewels and elephants give an authenticity to the South Asian setting. The huge tiger adds strength and excitement to the story. The author first posted the story on his website over 20 years ago.

Verdict: Strong visuals move the story forward, and the plot twists provide a compelling read. Quirky and delightfully bizarre.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

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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: The Lincoln Project, by Dan Gutman

Gutman, Dan. The Lincoln Project. (Flashback Four series) Harper, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-237441-7. 224 p. Gr. 3 – 7. P9Q7

gutman-lincoln-projectLuke, Julia, David, and Isabel are recruited to be Miss Z’s time travelers.  She wants to collect pictures from historic events and has invented a time machine.  This time machine will allow travelers to return once to a momentous event in history where the four travelers can snap a picture.  For the first time-traveling event Miss Z selects President Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address.  The travelers meet with some struggles and don’t end up succeeding at their mission.

Verdict: This book ends on an edge-or-your-seat cliff hanger.  I’m not fond of that device.  If I spend money on a book, I want the complete story, not one that ends with “If you want to know how this ends, you’ll have to buy my next book.”  Aside from the ending, the book is a satisfying read.  There are historic facts embedded in the narrative, so a young reader will get a sense of the event.  There’s also enough action to keep a reader engaged.

October 2016 review by Shelly Jones.

Book review: This Is the Earth, by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander, paintings by Wendell Minor

Shore, Diane Z., and Alexander, Jessica. This is the Earth. Paintings by Wendell Minor. Harper, 2016. Unp. $17.99. ISBN: 9780060555269. Gr. 1+. P8 Q8

shore-this-is-the-earthThe end papers of this book have a painting of the Earth seen from the moon. A photograph was taken by astronaut Bill Anders who commented “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.” The message of this book is to take care of Earth. The environmental message is told in a rhyming text with illustrations that help to carry the message.

Verdict: What a great book to read aloud to a class which is studying the earth. It would also be great to use along with Earth Day.

November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Swing Sideways, by Nanci Turner Steveson

Steveson, Nanci Turner. Swing sideways. Harper, 2016. 278 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-237454-7. Gr. 4+. P8 Q8

steveson-swing-sidewaysAnnabel is promised that this will be the summer of freedom for her. It is a summer of discovery for her and her new friend, California. Annabel, who narrates the story, finds a true friend, and a quest–to find the horses her new friend’s mother spoke of as a young girl.  Annabel also finds a loss that is devastating to her. Over the course of the summer, she becomes more sure of herself and gains the ability to stand up for herself.

Verdict: This would be a great book to give to someone who is dealing with the loss of a friend or someone who is dying of cancer.

November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: The Brightest Stars of Summer, by Leila Howland

Howland, Leila.  The Brightest Stars of Summer. (Silver Sisters series, #2)  Harper,  2016.  $16.99.  ISBN 978-0-06-231872-5. 353p.  Ages. 8 – 12.  Q8P8

howland-brightest-stars-of-summerThree sisters get to spend 3 weeks of their summer vacation helping their Aunt prepare for her wedding.  All three sisters are going through various personal insecurities and their experiences on this trip help them learn to be happy with their individualities in both a humorous and touching manner. This book is the second book of the Silver Sisters series, but can stand alone if the first book is not read.  The first book is loosely referenced.

Verdict:  Middle grade girls will like this book.  Easy to read with fun, yet very realistic, life experiences that explore the anxieties of growing up and the challenges of forgiveness.

October 2016 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Made for You, by Melissa Marr

Marr, Melissa. Made for You. Harper, 2014. 356p. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-201119-0. Ages 16-up. P7Q7

Marr Made for YouAfter waking up from an almost fatal accident, Eva Tilling may be the only one able to save her friends and herself. Eva is not what she seems. She wakes up with the ability to see how the person she touches dies. She discovers she must use this as a way to save her loved ones. The race is on between Eva and the person trying to kill the ones she loves, while still being able to protect herself. Throughout the whole story, I was trying to find out who the serial killer was. This book is not only suspenseful, but also compelling especially when the serial killer becomes a voice for the chapter. It is a must read–just make sure to keep the lights on and doors locked when you do.

January 2016 review by Rachel Martin.