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Kelly Herold "Big A little a" RSS Feed (Smalltown, Midwest)
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Grief Girl: My True Story
Grief Girl: My True Story
by Erin Vincent
Edition: Hardcover
103 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest, harrowing read, March 15, 2007
"grief girl" is a memoir that reads like a YA problem novel. The narrator/author is fourteen years old when the unthinkable happens. Her beloved mother dies in a car crash and her father is severely injured. A month later, Erin's father dies from a blood clot to the heart.

Erin is the middle child, and much of her struggle after her parents' death results from her powerlessness. Older sister Tracy turns eighteen just days after their mother dies. She has already left school (grief girl is set in Australia) and begun a training program in cosmetology. Tracy has a steady boyfriend--a solid guy named Chris--and she assumes full responsibility for Erin and their much younger brother, Trent. As is only natural, she tries to shield Erin and Trent from responsibility, but is also angry that everything fell to her.

What I most appreciated about "grief girl" is its honesty. Vincent asks brutal questions, even if they don't have an answer and, in fact, reflect badly on her. Before her parents' death, Erin imagines the following scene while rehearsing a play with her theater group:

"I'll be sitting in this same chair a week from today and Mum and Dad will be gone. Tragedy will strike. Life will be ruined, changed forever. But the show must go on. I'll have to struggle on without them. I'll be up onstage rehearsing through the pain and everyone will think I'm noble and brave. Most people, if their parents died, would never be able to perform...but not me. I'm amazing and strong. It will be the best performance of my life. Everyone will say, 'Look at her! Isn't she incredible? A true star.'" (30-31)

Erin is not always likable as she narrates her story. While in school she becomes absorbed in her grief and it defines her. She wears her father's shirt for months on end. She fights with her sister and dreams of success only she can bring to her family. But, she's honest and straightforward, and "grief girl" resonates long after you've read the last page.


The Thing About Georgie
The Thing About Georgie
by Lisa Graff
Edition: Paperback
61 used & new from $0.01

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for the Middle Grade reader!, March 15, 2007
Fourth-grader Georgie has a good life. He has loving, talented parents--both professional musicians. He has a best friend, Andy, with whom he runs a profitable dog-walking business. He has a crush on the prettiest girl in his grade. And, oh yeah, he's also a dwarf.

Georgie has become used to the special accommodations made for him in school and at home. The janitor has placed his coat hook lower than those for the other students. His parents have taped Popsicle sticks to light switches so Georgie can reach them without trouble. And Georgie has become used to the staring and comments ever-present in his life.

All of a sudden, however, everything changes in Georgie's life. His best friend wants to include another boy, Russ, in the dog-walking business. Georgie just can't accept that Andy may make other friends and his jealousy messes up their friendship. Jeanie the Meanie, the kid everyone has known and despised since kindergarten for her erratic and sometimes cruel behavior, has made Georgie her own special project. And, Georgie's parents make a big announcement: Georgie is going to be a big brother! And the new baby...is not a dwarf:

"One day this kid, the one who wasn't even born yet, was going to be bigger than he was. It wouldn't take very long either; there were five-year-olds the same height as Georgie. Somehow it had never bothered him too much before. Georgie was short, and all those other kids weren't. But the thought of some kid living in his own home, growing taller every single day made him seriously queasy." (p. 43)

Georgie's predicament, on the surface of things, seems unique. But what I really love about "The Thing About Georgie" is that Georgie's story is really one of growing up, of figuring out who you are, and of opening your heart to others. Georgie, in the end, isn't much different from his peers. True, he's a dwarf and people sometimes stare at him. True, his parents will be having another child, one who is more "perfect" than he may be. But other people have problems too. His friend Andy, for example, has to share a room with his immigrant grandmother. And, Jeanie has to work against years of being the bad kid in her class, as well as having to deal with a difficult family life and attention issues. In the end, Georgie realizes that, yes, he has his problems and, yes, he's a unique individual, but, yes, he's not so very different in his individuality than anyone else.

Lisa Graff's debut novel, "The Thing About Georgie," is a novel Middle Grade readers will enjoy greatly. It's also a book perfect for the 3rd-6th grade classroom read aloud. Graff has structured the novel in an ingenious way. Each chapter is introduced by a "handwritten" account of what it's like to live as a dwarf ("Stretch your right arm high up to the sky. Now reach across the top of your head and touch your your left ear....Did you know you could do that? Well, Georgie can't"), but the struggles that follow are universal. "The Thing About Georgie" is the type of book that any pre-Middle Schooler will appreciate: each child has individual issues, but together they can deal with anything.

"The Truth About Georgie" is highly recommended for readers ages eight and up.


Who's Hiding?
Who's Hiding?
by Satoru Onishi
Edition: Hardcover
33 used & new from $2.95

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun for Toddlers, March 15, 2007
This review is from: Who's Hiding? (Hardcover)
Just look at this cover. How could you not pick it up and review it immediately? (I'm a sucker for symmetry.)

On the surface of things, "Who's Hiding," by Saturu Onishi, is a simple book. 18 animals are lined up in rows of 6 across each double-page spread. They appear always in the same order: dog, tiger, hippo, zebra, bear, reindeer/kangaroo, lion, rabbit, giraffe, monkey, bull/rhino, pig, sheep, hen, elephant, cat. The animals, as you see, are colorful iconic representations and very appealing to a young child.

Once we meet each of the animals (I can just imagine reading their names over and over again to a small child), the fun begins. The first question is "who's hiding?" Then the child must find the "missing" animal--in this case the reindeer with only antlers and facial features visible. Onishi also asks "who's crying?," "who's angry?," "who has horns?," "who's backwards?," and "who's sleeping?" The final page features only eyes on blacked-out pages and asks "Who's who?" You know you have a smart toddler if they begin rattling out the names in order.

"Who's Hiding" is aimed at the 0-3 audience and is sure to provide hours of read-along fun. Enjoy!


Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend
by Melanie Watt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.14
70 used & new from $0.01

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend: 83% Safe!, March 6, 2007
Scaredy Squirrel is back, and this time he's preparing to make a friend. And preparing is the right word as Scaredy Squirrel does not go into the world unarmed. In fact, Scaredy Squirrel even knows ahead of time who would make a good friend and who wouldn't:

"A few individuals Scaredy Squirrel is afraid to be bitten by: walruses, bunnies, beavers, piranhas, Godzilla."

Scaredy Squirrel decides on a goldfish as a new friend, because he has a "bubbly personality," is "squeaky clean" and "quiet" and, most importantly, has "NO teeth" and is "germ-free." A goldfish doesn't do much, "BUT is 100% safe!"

But a funny thing happens on the way to the pond. A dog begins to chase Scaredy Squirrel and, after several hours of playing dead, Scaredy realizes the dog only wants to play. Scaredy must reevaluate and finds his "almost perfect friend" has "muddy paws," "wet doggy smell," a "loud bark," "drool," "germs," and "tooth." Most poignantly, dog is "83% safe, but Lots of Fun!" Aren't all good friends the same?

Mélanie Watt's Scaredy Squirrel books are charming not only because they give a scaredy squirrel (or kid) a little nudge, but also because her cartoonish illustrations are cheerful, drop-dead funny, and full of intriguing details. She also indulges the little ones with series of lists as Scaredy goes about his day. (Have you ever noticed how much the 3- to 5-crowd loves a good list?) For example, when Scaredy is preparing to befriend goldfish, we learn of "A few items Scaredy Squirrel needs to make the Perfect Friend: lemon, name tag, mittens, comb, mirror, air freshener, toothbrush, chewtoy." Each item is placed in its own illustrated box. The air freshener does come in handy, but I won't spoil the pleasure in finding out how.

"Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend" is perfect for the three- to seven-year old reader and is an excellent choice for a school or library read aloud. Risk-averse children everywhere will thank you.


Harmless
Harmless
by Dana Reinhardt
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from $0.01

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling teen read, February 22, 2007
This review is from: Harmless (Hardcover)
Dana Reinhardt created a splash last year with her charming and brilliant first novel, "a brief chapter in my impossible life." I'm happy to report that her second YA novel, "Harmless," is equally accomplished.

"Harmless" is much darker than a brief chapter in my impossible life. In the grand tradition of "I Know What You Did Last Summer," it's the story of a lie and its consequences.

Three ninth-grade girls narrate the story and tell the lie--that they were attacked and one of them nearly raped. Each of the girls is insecure and unsure of herself. Anna is a coddled and much-loved only child who has never been popular. Her best friend Emma was transported to their small town--a town anchored by a college and CompuCorp--and misses New York City desperately. Like Anna, she has two loving parents. Unlike Anna, her parents argue, and they moved away from the city a few years earlier because of a sexual harassment charge against her father. New girl Mariah shows up at Orsonville Day School because her mother marries a wealthy man Mariah does not like much.

Mariah rebels by hooking up with a public school kid named D.J. When she invites Anna and Emma to a party, the lies begin. At first, Anna and Emma tell their parents that they are at one another's house. When they're finally caught, the lie is told.

Reinhardt is particularly skilled at first-person narration. Each girl's voice is so distinct, that I no longer had to read the chapter title by the time I was halfway through the novel. Emma is confused and hurt. Anna is intelligent and self-absorbed. Mariah is angry and desires attention, but is good at heart. What I especially appreciated about "Harmless" is that these girls are recognizable. Yes, they've each had a problem or two, but nothing drastic or unusual enough to explain away their lie. As Mariah says:

"I know it sounds crazy now, but that night, making up the lie seemed like the easy way out. A harmless little lie. You've told lies before, haven't you? I ask them. Everyone's told lies. It was just that I was unable to see, right then, that the lie would gather speed and its current would carry it further and further away from me."

"Harmless" is highly recommended for teen readers ages thirteen and up. Some sexual content.


Cures for Heartbreak
Cures for Heartbreak
by M. E. Rabb
Edition: Hardcover
50 used & new from $0.01

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest, beautiful book for the teen aged reader, February 18, 2007
This review is from: Cures for Heartbreak (Hardcover)
Margo Rabb's "Cures for Heartbreak" is one compelling, wise book for the teen aged reader.

Ninth-grader Mia lives in Queens with her mother, father (who owns a shoe-repair shop), and older, cantankerous sister, Alex. Mia and Alex attend the Bronx High School of Science, where Alex excels as a scientific genius.

One day, mom heads to the ER with a stomachache. 12 days later she's dead. Diagnosis? Melanoma with liver metathesis. Things happen in a blur as Mia finds herself shopping for a dress, with her frugal and decidedly unfeminine sister, for her mother's funeral. Mia, a confused, yet touching narrator, says:

"I stared at the hem of my $119 dress and thought about the one night I'd left the hospital to go home and instead of getting on the 4 train at 33rd Street, I walked all the way to the Barnes & Noble on 54th. I kept walking and when I got there I scanned the shelves of the grief section, the Death & Dying shelves, for a book that would comfort me, that would say exactly the right thing. I'm not sure what I'd been looking for, exactly. Maybe something like What to Do When Your Mother Dies from Melanoma, Which They Thought Was a Stomachache at First. How to Cope When You're Left Alone with Your Father and Sister, Who Drive You Nuts. How to Survive a Funeral, Especially One Hosted by a Disconcertingly Happy Funeral Director and an Upwardly Mobile Rabbi Who Drives a BMW. I didn't find a book I wanted to buy. All that had made me feel better was the walk." (14-15)

The beauty and authenticity of "Cures for Heartbreak" lie in the fact that there are no cures. Mia tries dressing in her mother's clothes, wearing too much makeup, fighting with her sister, reading romance novels, becoming a hypochondriac, and falling in love. The only things that work, though, are time, patience, and the real sympathy of a new friend.

"Cures for Heartbreak" is best suited for readers ages 13 and up. Pick this one for Rabb's honest, beautiful writing and her brave, yet vulnerable narrator. Mia is frightened, lonely and unsure of herself, yet she picks herself up time and time again. In the end, she realizes, "if grief had a permanence, then didn't also love?" (232)


Babymouse #5: Heartbreaker
Babymouse #5: Heartbreaker
by Matthew Holm
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.94
144 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Babymouse Rocks!!, February 12, 2007
"Babymouse: Heartbreaker" is No. 5 in the rockin' Babymouse series.

Young Babymouse is at it again--daydreaming, struggling with her locker, and trying to fit in with her peers at school.

This time, however, in the fifth installment of the Babymouse series, the Holms have thrown the worst of school indignities--the school dance--Babymouse's way.

A school dance leads to plenty of good daydreaming. Cinderella, handsome princes, makeovers, spectacular feats on the dance floor. It also leads to plenty of real life heartbreak when a "Glamourmouse" makeover fails and no one asks Babymouse to the dance.

Now what I really love about the Babymouse series is that Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm don't reach for the easy solutions. And, they don't pander to their audience by choosing romantic, cliched endings. Instead, an off-panel voice suggests to Babymouse that she might ask someone to the dance. And she gives it a go. And FAILS, as one might fail in real life. Then, an off-panel voice suggests she attend the dance by herself. Babymouse scratches her head and says, "Myself? I can do that?" Yes, she can and does. You go, girl! (Or, er, mouse.)

My favorite parts of the Babymouse books are always those set in school. In this Valentine's Day offering, we're told "School was not a very romantic place" and Matthew Holm's characteristic pink and black panels show glum-looking "children" getting off the bus, hands on backpack straps. Indeed. At least there's Babymouse to brighten the day. Every school library should have multiple sets.


New Clothes for New Year's Day
New Clothes for New Year's Day
by Hyun-joo Bae
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $0.01

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Stunning, February 6, 2007
"New Clothes for New Year's Day," by Hyun-Joo Bae, is told from the perspective of a small Korean girl. It begins,

"Today is New Year's Day.

It's a new year,

it's a new day, and

it's a new morning.

It's the first day for the beginning of everything.

The new sun hasn't shown up, and there are new clouds in the sky. (I hope we have new snow too.)

But the very best new things of all the new things are..."

Then our narrator begins to dress in her beautiful new clothes for the occasion*: "A crimson silk skirt. A rainbow-striped jacket. Delicate socks embroidered with flowers. A hair ribbon of read and gold." And, there's more: "flowered shoes, a gift from Father," a "warm, furry vest with the gold decorations," and a "special winter hat."

The young girl dresses with care, tying each bow with perfectly, straightening her socks, and checking her progress in the mirror. It's a simple, yet beautiful and optimistic tale, completed by Hyun-Joo Bae's stunning illustrations. And the illustrations are truly something special--colorful, simply composed, and embellished with flowers, gorgeous rooms, and, finally, snow.

Hyun-Joo Bae has included two pages of informational text at the end of "New Clothes for New Year's Day" explaining each item of clothing, its significance, and the role of New Year's Day in Korean culture. "New Clothes for New Year's Day" is highly recommended for children ages four to nine and is an excellent choice for a read aloud on New Year's celebrations. It will also be enjoyed by that dress-up obsessed child in your life.

=============================================

* Don't worry. Our hero begins her day dressed in a white robe designed to be worn underneath her costume.


The New Policeman
The New Policeman
by Kate Thompson
Edition: Hardcover
34 used & new from $0.13

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music, Family, and Time, February 3, 2007
This review is from: The New Policeman (Hardcover)
Kate Thompson's "The New Policeman" begins with family secrets. Protagonist JJ Liddy's family history is missing a few chapters. Born to a musical family in Kinvara, Ireland, JJ one day discovers the town rumor about his family--that his grandfather killed a priest. Moreover, his last name, Liddy, is his mother's name. And, his mother's father disappeared before she was born.

But most of Kinvara ignores the rumors because the Liddy family has a gift--the gift of music. They all play instruments and host céilí ("a dance") at their farm. Still, rumors about his family's past trouble young JJ.

JJ isn't the only one with problems in Kinvara, however. There's a new policeman on the beat and he's not very good at his job:

"Larry O'Dwyer sighed and took a step towards the narrow double doors. He'd had a good reason for becoming a policeman but sometimes it was difficult to remember what it was. It wasn't this; he was sure of that much. He hadn't become a policeman to curtail the enjoyment of musicians and their audiences. A few miles away, in Galway city, violent crime was escalating dramatically. Street gangs were engaged in all kinds of thuggery and muggery. He would be of far more use to society there. But that, as far as he could remember, was not why he had become a policeman either. There were times, like now, when he suspected the reason, whatever it was, might not have been a particularly good one."

And, the town is suffering from a lack of time. Time is draining away. When JJ's mother says that all she wants for her birthday is more time, JJ sets about trying to find it for her.

A local publisher named Anne Korff helps JJ find more time for his mother. I'm not going to give away any secrets, but Korff's help involves a souterrain, another world, and multiple disappearances from Kinvara. (There's a wonderful anecdote, by the way, about Anne Korff in a short foreword to "The New Policeman.")

"The New Policeman" is a beautifully written novel. Each chapter begins with a song, notes included for the musically inclined. It's fast-paced, funny, and thought-provoking--easily one of my favorite novels of the year.

"The New Policeman" was the winner of the 2005 Whitbread Children's Book Award and of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.


Ingo
Ingo
by Helen Dunmore
Edition: Paperback
65 used & new from $0.01

2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first in an outstanding trilogy, February 3, 2007
This review is from: Ingo (Paperback)
"Ingo" drew me in as the tide does its protagonist, Sapphire Trewhella.

Sapphire (Sapphy) lives in Cornwall, on a hidden cove, with her older brother, Connor, and her parents. Sapphy's father is drawn to the sea and sings of Ingo--the world under the water--to his children. Connor and Sapphy know the sea, their cove, and the tides like a suburban kid knows the rhythm of her own street. One day their father disappears on his boat without a trace.

Matthew Trewhella's disappearance upsets daily life for Sapphy and her family. Mom has to work out of town and Connor makes a new friend, a girl from the sea. When Connor, ordinarily the best big brother you could ever have, abandons his sister to meet his new friend, Sapphy follows him into the ocean. There she meets Faro, a Merperson and brother of Connor's new friend, Elvira. Sapphy is drawn into the world of Mer, losing all sense of earth and earthly time.

Connor brings Sapphy out of the sea and she struggles with the impulse to return. It turns out that Sapphy and Connor have some Mer in them, each to varying degrees. Sapphy is ready to give up earth and to become one with the Mer, but Connor, more grounded in earth, holds her fast.

As "Ingo" is the first in a trilogy, we don't learn everything about the Mer, their world, Sapphy and Connor's relationship to Ingo, and what happened to Mr. Trewhella. I know I'll be waiting anxiously for books two and three to find out.

The beauty of "Ingo" is in Dunmore's lyrical prose and the atmosphere she creates. You can feel the pull of the tide and the song of the Mer when you read the novel. Sapphire's struggle to resist their pull is tangible and, as a reader, you hope she succeeds.


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