Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

 Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud, Point (Scholastic), 9781338332728, 2019

Format: Paperback

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre: Romance

What did you like about the book?  A nice option for reluctant readers into wish-fulfillment. The star of this busy beach read is Zora Emerson, a high-achieving and socially conscious 16-year-old girl of color who’s taking courses at prestigious Halstead (read “Princeton”) University. Zora founded an afterschool care program in her small New Jersey city of Appleton and that has led to both the summer scholarship and a nomination for a “Goodie” award (for teen philanthropy.) On campus, a cell phone mix-up leads to a “meet cute” with an actual prince (ginger-haired Owen) from the fictional British-esque country of Landerel. Misunderstandings, paparazzi and awkward parental situations make up some of the action-packed plot, resulting in an invitation to upcoming royal nuptials in Landerel, where Owen’s older brother is soon to marry a mixed race beauty named Sophie. Zora’s family is supportive, interesting and proud of their daughter and their African-American heritage.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It’s very breathless and crammed with far too many story elements. The plot is absurdly predictable, but presumably, this will make it smooth sailing for hi-low readers. Except for Zora, the cast is two-dimensional, although Owen has a sad backstory to explain his occasional melancholy.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Fans of the Princess Diaries who long to see a girl of color command the center stage. The romance is very chaste, consisting only of flowers, one or two kisses and a lot of texting. Things get more interesting once Zora and her mom arrive in Landerel and get to choose their outfits and rectify hair emergencies.

Who should buy this book? Middle schools and public libraries. Readers in grades 5-9.

Where would you shelve it? Fiction, or for genrefied collections, romance.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: March 17, 2019

 

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Sealed With A Kiss by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Olivier Tallec

   Sealed With A Kiss by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Olivier Tallec, HarperCollins, 9780062475770, 2019

Format: hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 2

What did you like about the book?  Seal is new at the zoo, having recently arrived from France and is eager to make new friends. When no one comes to greet her, she takes matters into her own flippers, and sets out to kiss all her neighbors without taking time first to freshen her sardine-breath. After dissing her get-to-know-you smooches, the other critters get called out by Sparrow and apologize. Humorous cartoon animals with bulging eyes created with acrylic paint, pencils and charcoal populate the zoo and signal the allegorical nature of the story…

Anything you didn’t like about it? Which is what? Be welcoming to strangers that try to kiss you without permission? I found this story to be tone-deaf. Maybe the animals have good reason to be wary of Seal, who has no concept of personal boundaries. I’m guessing that the author is making a case for being accepting of newcomers that come from afar and may have different customs, but I didn’t buy it.

To whom would you recommend this book?  I wouldn’t recommend it. For read alouds about what to do with someone who doesn’t understand the concept of personal space, I like You Will Be My Friend (2011) by Peter Brown.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: March 17, 2019

 

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How To Two – written and illustrated by David Soman

      How To Two – written and illustrated by David Soman, Dial, 9780525427841, 2019

Format: Hardcover picture book

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review)  5

What did you like about the book?  A counting book celebrating cooperative play. David Soman (of Ladybug Girl fame) uses minimal text combined with realistic watercolor illustrations to show little kids having fun outside, building from 1 (gleefully coming down a slide) to 2 (on the seesaw) to 3 (now jumping rope) and so on. The children come in assorted colors and outfits and all seem to be about 6 or 7. I liked that they inhabit their own world, investigating turtle pools and handling a sudden shower by running to a picnic shed without the aid of adults. Once the count hits 10, the day ends with assorted caregivers from all kinds of families showing up to take them home. In a peaceful wrap-up, the main character skips home with mom (“How to one”) and pulls out a favorite picture book to read on her lap (“How to two.”)

Anything you didn’t like about it? I have only one parallel construction quibble: why is it always “How to three!”,  “How to six!”, “How to eight!” but “How to four?” above the illustration where the kids are playing four-square? Seems like editorial oversight.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This book reminded me a bit of the iconic Roxaboxen (1991) by Alice McLerran, with illustrations by Barbara Cooney. Just kids, doing kid stuff on their own, away from adults. It would be a good anchor text for a discussion on playground behavior or inclusion generally. Most useful in a school setting.

Who should buy this book? Daycare facilities, elementary schools (great recommendation for kindergarten read-aloud.)

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: March 17, 2019

 

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Two Men and a Car: Franklin Roosevelt, Al Capone, and a Cadillac V-8 – Michael Garland

      Two Men and a Car: Franklin Roosevelt, Al Capone, and a Cadillac V-8 – Michael Garland, Tilbury House Publishers, 2019. 9780884486206

Format: Hardcover.

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre: History

What did you like about the book? The lives of the 32nd US president and the notorious ‘Public Enemy Number One’ are chronicled in parallel, based on a tenuous (at best) connection through a car. Legend has it that Roosevelt rode in the mobster’s bulletproof car when traveling from the White House to the Capitol to deliver his historic speech on December 8, 1941.  The car had been confiscated and impounded when Capone was arrested for tax evasion in 1929, and had been in possession of the federal government ever since.  The book is well-researched and presents interesting information about both men and the time in which they lived.  The scratchboard-style illustrations, mostly based on real photographs, are augmented by newspaper headlines and helpful captions.  A lengthy timeline and comprehensive bibliography are included as well.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The book opens with the line “This tale begins as a story about a car.”  I think readers will feel duped by the premise that there was an actual connection between FDR and Al Capone, when there is no evidence to prove that Roosevelt ever rode in the car.  The book is interesting on its own, but the title is misleading, and the ultimate revelation that the car story is the stuff of legend is disappointing.

To whom would you recommend this book? 20th century history buffs, although there are plenty of good biographies of both men available

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Biography or US History

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Leigh King, Lincoln St. Elementary School, Northborough, Mass.

Date of review: 3/18/2019

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Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature – Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Robert Bateman

   Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature – Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Robert Bateman, Orca Book Publishers, 9781459819924, 2018

Format: Hardcover Picture Book

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) “5”

Genre:  Biography

What did you like about the book? This is a beautiful picture-book biography that tells the story of the famous Canadian artist, Robert Bateman.  As a young child, Robert “Bobby” Bateman fell in love with the natural world around him.  He loved to observe animals and plants, study their shapes, textures, and colours.  During his frequent nature walks in his youth, Bateman would reproduce what he saw in his sketchbook and later paint them.  And, soon as he was old enough, Bateman set forth and traveled the world to study animals for his next art pieces.  He ventured to the Arctic, Antarctica, and Africa where he studied everything from polar bears to penguins to lions.  Eventually, Bateman returned to Canada and settled on Saltspring Island, British Columbia where he continues to paint in his studio and advocate for animal welfare.

I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature.” Author, Margriet Ruurs’, text was brief, but informative and gave Robert Bateman’s stunning photography, etchings, and paintings the limelight they deserved throughout the story.  I was particularly enamoured with Bateman’s reproductions of the wildlife and scenery in British Columbia, Canada as it is the place where I was born and raised.   Strange enough, when I was a young child, I was introduced to Bateman’s paintings by my Granny. When visiting my Granny’s house, I would frequently thumb through two books by Bateman which resided on her coffee table.  Those books were: “The Art of Robert Bateman” and “Robert Bateman: An Artist in Nature.” I recall then as I do now, that I was completely gobsmacked by Bateman’s sense of detail and realism found in his paintings. Bateman truly knows how to capture the spirit of everything he paints from foxes to Orcas and grizzly bears to lions. Besides Ruurs’ text and Bateman’s reproductions, this book provided additional biographical details about Robert Bateman and a list of Bateman’s works appended at the end.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Ruurs’ book is suitable for children in Grade 1 to Grade 3.  It is the type of book that would interest readers who appreciate Bateman’s work and it may inspire children to pursue their dreams to become an artist.

Who should buy this book? Public Libraries and Elementary School Libraries.

Where would you shelve it ? Juvenile Biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Kira McGann, Library Media Specialist, Norman E. Day School and Rita E. Miller School, Westford, MA

Date of review: 3/17/19

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Not Your Nest! by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Not Your Nest! by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi. Dial Books for Young Readers, 9780735228276, 2019.

91-r2GAWrhL._AC_UL320_Format:  Hardcover

Rating: 1- 5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review): 4

Genre:  Picture Book

What did you like about the book? This is a funny story, composed of only dialogue, about a bird who repeatedly builds herself a nest, but then the other animals in the tundra keep taking it over for their own homes. There are plenty of both positive and negative examples of sharing and setting boundaries which can be discussed with children, and yet the story is enjoyable on its own. The colorful illustrations add to the setting and feeling of the story.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would make a great read aloud for young children. Fans of Jon Klassen’s Hat series will enjoy the similarly silly dialogue-centered story.

Who should buy this book?  Public libraries, school libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham, Massachusetts

Date of review:  March 17, 2019

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Spend It!: A Moneybunny Book by Cinders McLeod

Spend It!: A Moneybunny Book by Cinders McLeod. Nancy Paulsen Books, 9780399544460, 2019

81NbeKW+F3L._AC_UL320_Format:  Hardcover

Rating: 1- 5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review): 3

Genre:  Picture Book

What did you like about the book? This story is a relatable way for young children to begin thinking about money and to consider the problem of wanting more items than you can have. Sonny has his three carrots allowance and needs to decide between different toys that he wants because he can’t afford all of them. His mom talks him through the options, and he ends up happy with his final decision. The funny cartoon illustrations and handwritten font add to the appeal for young children. This is the second book in a series of four all about finances (Earn It, Save It, and Give It).

Anything you didn’t like about it? There’s not much more to the book than the story of Sonny realizing he doesn’t have enough “money” and deciding which toy to buy.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children who are first learning about and making decisions about money. I think this would be best read one-on-one with a child amidst a discussion about spending money in their own lives (rather than a read aloud with a group).

Who should buy this book?  Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham, Massachusetts

Date of review:  March 17, 2019

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