Book review: A Drop of Hope, by Keith Calabrese

Calabrese, Keith. A Drop of Hope. Scholastic Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781338233209. 305 pgs. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8

Ernest, Ryan and Lizzy are middle school students in a small, struggling town in Ohio. When they learn about local folklore describing a “wishing well,” they find it and things begin to change! Calabrese does a great job of capturing the ambiance of a small American town, its school, and its diverse inhabitants. The story’s theme is how small actions can make change in ways we don’t even think of. The kids realize that people they know need help in various ways; they don’t know exactly how to approach the problems, but their good intentions and small actions do help greatly in the end. I liked that it isn’t clear if there is some magic going on or not (at least at first), that there is an old mystery that gets solved, and that odd combinations of characters end up developing positive relationships.

VERDICT: This is a wonderful book for readers who need to read something hopeful, kind and uplifting. I think we could all use more of this these days.

January 2020 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma, by Keith Calabrese, illustrated by Juana Medina

Calabrese, Keith, and Juana Medina. Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma. Atheneum Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781534408944. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P6 Q7

Lena is very excited about the first day of school, but her shoes are nervous. Lena has her headband talk to her shoes and remind them of past situations when they were scared, but decided to be brave. A simple story of first day of school jitters. Some of the illustrations are colorful and others are mainly black and white. Her bedroom is in black and white, except for the colorful clothes she has set out to wear on the first day of school. It appears that the illustrator was trying to accentuate her clothes by making the rest of the page black and while. I think the illustrator was successful using this technique.

Verdict: Children can relate to feeling nervous about school or any new situation. I recommend this simple book on facing our fears and being successful. Focusing on the shoes instead of the child being nervous makes it more comfortable for a child to read.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.