Book review: Phoebe Will Destroy You, by Blake Nelson

Nelson, Blake. Phoebe Will Destroy You. Simon & Schuster, 2018. 246. $18.99. ISBN 9781481488167. 14+. P8Q7

What’s a teen to do when he has a successful mom, an author and a college professor, who struggles with alcohol addiction and despite serious professional mistakes, keeps getting another chance?  Nick has been in therapy and has a father who supports and loves him.  When his mother returns from yet another stint in rehab, the stress in their house prompts his father to send Nick to spend the summer with his Aunt Judy, Uncle Rob, and cousins, Kyle and Emily, in the small beach town of Seaside, Oregon. His dad is trying to help, but Nick has a lot of unresolved feelings about his mom and uncertainty about what his senior year will bring. Seaside is a sleepy town, unlike Eugene, and Nick’s job at his uncle’s car wash, the Happy Bubble, is a routine that gets old. Nick becomes a willing chauffeur for his younger cousin Emily and her friends.  At a beach party he sees Phoebe, and his feelings change about what this summer might bring.  Phoebe has a reputation among the locals, but that just makes Nick all the more intrigued. He’s going to find out for himself what lies behind this enigmatic young woman.

VERDICT: Blake Nelson creates realistic characters and setting.  Nick is someone high school readers will appreciate, understated and earnest, even as he becomes involved with someone who is clearly “wrong” for him. He is no saint, but he’s trying to be righteous through the confusion of change. Nelson depicts the poignant foible of the smartest people to see only what they want to see as opposed to what is true. Even those with Nick’s advantages are not immune. Heartbreak is difficult to write well, but Nelson succeeds.

November 2018 review by Patricia Emerson.

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Book review: Fake Blood, by Whitney Gardner

Gardner, Whitney. Fake Blood. Simon & Schuster, 2018. $21.99. 333p. ISBN 978-1-4814-9556-1. Ages 9-12. P8Q7

In his attempt to attract Nia, 11-year-old A.J. pretends to be a vampire, but he doesn’t know that she wants to be a vampire slayer. Shy to the extreme, A.J. is also convinced that his two extroverted best friends, Ivy and Hunter, have a much more exciting life than he does—until he discovers that they made up their summer adventures. Discovering a real vampire brings Nia and A.J. together

Verdict: The graphic novel format that this debut author/illustrator uses is perfect for the middle-school angst as A.J. goes to humorous extremes in his crush on Nia, sprinkling himself with glitter and covering his gums with fake blood. Fans of Raina Telgemeier will enjoy this read.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr

Sanders, Rob. Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights. Illus. by Jared Andrew Schorr. Simon & Schuster, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5344-2943-7. Ages 4-6. P7Q9

In a land where children no longer have the satisfaction of knowing that adults will protect their future, Sanders gives a minimalist explanation view of what young people can do to make their lives better in the time ahead, suitable for the youngest readers. Alphabetically organized suggestions amidst the collage illustrations go from “assemble” to “be zealous.” An end note, “Peaceful Protests,” gives a brief history of non-violent protests during the 1950s and 1960s, and a glossary finishes the book.

Verdict: Bold graphics incorporate people of ethnic, class, and age diversity who work together toward a common end, and the letter “V” stresses voting, which may encourage parents to get involved. This timely volume carries such vital messages as “every voice matters” and “peaceful ends through peaceful means.”

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Once There Was a Story, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jane Dyer

Yolen, Jane. Once There Was a Story. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. Simon and Schuster, 2017. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-7172-6. 135 pages. Includes bibliography. Ages 4-10. P8/Q9

A well thought out and beautifully crafted book, Once There Was a Story is a collection of fairy tales and folk tales from around the world. Containing 30 short stories in all it includes classics, lesser known tales, and 2 of Jane Yolen’s original short stories. Jane Dyer’s accompanying illustrations are a wonderful addition which only adds to the quality of the book.

Verdict: This would make a wonderful addition to any elementary library. The stories are varied and entertaining and the quality of the book itself would make it a copy that could hold up through the years and many hands. The binding is well made and it is a good size for a read aloud book.

November 2018 review by Michelle Cottrell.

Book review: I’m Sad, by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Black, Michael Ian. I’m Sad. Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781481476270. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

Have you ever been sad and you think you will be sad forever? A large pink flamingo is sad. A child and a potato engage in conversation with the flamingo, helping the flamingo realize that it is okay to feel sad. Together, they explore why sad things happen, what makes others happy, and if they will still be liked if they are sad. The large illustrations accurately show facial expressions, which adds to the simple text. The flamingo’s words are pink, the potato’s words are brown and the child’s words are blue.

Verdict: Children will relate to feeling sad and realize that it is okay to feel sad. Our worth is not tied into how we feel. This book can help adults explain sadness to children in a lighthearted way that gives the child acceptance of his or her feelings. I highly recommend this simple picture book.

June 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Boing!: A Very Noisy ABC, by Tim McCanna, illustrated by Jorge Martin

McCanna, Tim. Boing!: A Very Noisy ABC. Illustrated by Jorge Martin. Simon and Schuster Books, 2018. ISBN 9781481487559. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7Q8

Boing! is an alphabet story on the go! Starting with a sneeze from grandpa, “Ah-choo!”,  a red ball is flung out of a little boy’s hands and begins a bouncing journey from A-Z. With lots of literary devices including onomatopoeia, alliteration, and repetition, this book is fun to read out loud. The ball takes them over a bridge, to the park, and even to the zoo with whimsical illustrations. The simple one word text is bold, with the first letter in a vibrant color, and the remaining letters that spell the word in black. Just as the story concludes with a “Yawn”, and “Zzzzzzz”, Grandpa sneezes again!

Verdict: A great book for young readers learning the alphabet. This would be a perfect addition for home and preschool/kindergarten. Also, grandparents would love to read this to grandchildren.

November 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: I Just Ate My Friend, by Heidi McKinnon

McKinnon, Heidi. I Just Ate My Friend. Simon & Schuster, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781534410329. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6 Q6

It is hard to find a friend, especially when just you ate your friend! A yellow colored creature ate his friend and he is searching for a new friend. All the creatures have a reason why they do not want to be the creature’s friend. His facial features show he is sad when he realizes that he may not find a friend. At the end of the book, a green creature wants to be his friend. The last page shows his green friend, with the words, “I just ate my friend.” The illustrations show starry black skies with each new creature who are potential friends. The concept of eating your friend can be a scary one for kids. How do you explain to kids that a creature eats another one? Why would you want to be friends with a creature who eats its friends? It’s not inclusive when the creatures keep telling the yellow creature that they do not want to be its friends.

Verdict: The book is supposed to be comical, but I do not think it is funny to eat your friend. I also don’t think it is nice to tell friends that they will not be your friend. I think the book is pointless and doesn’t have a message that promotes friendship.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.