The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
This is, without question, one of the best and most beautifully written books I’ve read in several years. Ava Lavender is a normal girl in many respects but with one major difference: she was born with wings. In an effort to determine where she came from, she recounts her family history and in doing so spans continents and generations. Love is gained and then lost, moments turn from thrills to devastation, and families break apart and come together again. Through four generations of women Ava comes to her own story in a stunning coming-of-age novel that embraces humanity in all it’s beauty and fragility. Walton’s use of lyricism, historical detail, powerful and unique characters, and magical realism combines to create a hearbreaking and unforgettable narrative. And though it was published as a young adult novel, its emotional maturity and expressive narrative make it an appealing read for both teens and adults. Continue reading A Beautiful, Lyrical, Magical Story
The Sun in My Belly by Sister Susan; illustrations by Sister Rain
Jenny and Molly are two young girls playing ball in a field. They begin to argue and finally walk away from one another, both angry and sad. Jenny cries, but the warmth of the sun on her head gives her comfort, and she begins to realize that everything is connected and thus inside of her. As she reflects on the beauty of the natural world around her—and subsequently the beauty in herself—she is happy and no longer feels alone. When Jenny encounters Molly again, they both apologize for their behavior and begin to share their thoughts on the world and its many wonders.
Inspired by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun in My Belly introduces readers to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and connectedness. Sister Susan and Sister Rain, both ordained nuns in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote this book to share a philosophical concept: we are never alone because everything is a part of us, from the rain and sun to the plants and animals with which we share our world. Continue reading Buddhist Teachings in a Lovely Picture Book
The Dragon’s Tooth by N. D. Wilson
In the middle of America (Wisconsin, to be precise), twelve-year-old Cyrus Smith and his older siblings Antigone and Daniel are living their everyday hum-drum lives. Of course, their version of “hum drum” involves living parent-less, managing a run-down motel, and eating pancakes for just about every meal while pretending to the outside world that all is well. But when a strange tattooed man claiming to know their deceased father shows up, a strange turn of events (and one wild taxi ride) takes them to Ashtown and the steps of the Order of Brendan, the secret society of famous explorers throughout history. Thrown headfirst into a world of conspiracy, secrets, and adventure, they fight to prove themselves and stay alive in what is a sometimes crazy, sometimes scary, and always entertaining journey.
N. D. Wilson, author of the 100 Cupboards series, has created an adventurous and magical world that could almost exist in your own backyard. Think Harry Potter but in America and with real historical people as characters. Continue reading Action-packed Fantasy (with a bit of history and mythology, too)
What’s So Special About Planet Earth? by Robert E. Wells
Sometimes Earth can be uncomfortable with weather that’s either too hot or too cold, and huge storms seem to come out of nowhere. In this introductory book about the planets, author Wells invites kids to pretend they’re visiting each of the planets in our solar system to find a new place to live. (As he says, “If you’re thinking about moving, you’d want to visit first, to see if the planet was right for you.”) The journey brings us to all eight planets in our solar system, Earth included, and at each we learn about distance from the sun, planet diameter, orbit time, number of moons, temperatures, and more. Each planet is interesting, but none seem to quite fit the bill for what humans, plants, and animals need in a home. When we finally travel back home to “our” planet, Wells explains why Earth is just right for us and the animals and plants we live with. He also tells us that we haven’t always taken good care of our home (pollution, etc.) and there are ways to make it better. He talks about recycling, reducing use of resources, and reusable energy. After all, planet Earth is pretty special–we’d better take care of it!
Bright, cartoon-like illustrations make the book fun, and some pages are written and drawn at different angles so readers have to rotate the book, which makes it interesting. In some ways, What’s So Special reminds me of The Magic School Bus series Continue reading Planet Earth Is Home
I Haiku You written and illustrated by Betsy Snyder
you be my jelly,
i’ll be your peanut butter–
let’s stick together!
This, as you might expect, is a very sweet book. Readers will find a fun and poignant haiku on each page paired with cute illustrations of bold lines, smooth watercolors, and characters reminiscent of illustrator Gyo Fujikawa (one of our favorites). The characters express their love for everything from bikes and lemonade to parents, friends, and pets. Children and adults will both love the silly but apt comparisons in each poem. Snyder finds a way to boil down sentiment to basic ideas, and she does so very effectively without being condescending.
The book jacket says that “both the young and the young at heart will enjoy sharing these simple poems of affection and appreciation,” and I think that is absolutely true. Continue reading Love as Playful Poetry
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien is a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier, living out a life sentence for her life as a notorious assassin. After surviving a year as a slave in the harsh mines, she is suddenly given a way to freedom: the king is hosting a competition for a position as his personal assassin, and Prince Dorian, crown prince of Endovier, wants to champion Celaena. Despite her loathing for the war-faring king, Celaena agrees, and her new journey–emotional and physical–begins. Once she arrives at the palace, she finds her competition to be fierce, full of other criminals and soldiers. Over the weeks of elimination challenges, Celaena finds herself involved with many of the big names at court. She also finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery as other potential assassins are found dead, one by one. Is she next? How can she stop what seems to be a malevolent, magical force? A destiny awaits her beyond any she could have imagined. Oh, and don’t forget love interests! (I’ll just say “love triangle with swoon-worthy guys” and leave it at that.)
Maas started her story on the premise that Cinderella was actually a deadly assassin. Continue reading Cinderella is an Assasin
Well, it’s official: Our Time in Juvie has been alive and kicking for exactly two years! We’re pretty excited to have shared the last two years with some wonderful books, authors, publishers, and readers. It’s been a great run so far, and we’re looking forward to another two (plus infinity) years of sharing our love of kids’ and YA books.
As always, there are more reviews and interviews to come, so we’ll see you soon. Happy reading!
(Image from monogramchick.blogspot.com)
Wolf Won’t Bite! written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
In a seeming role reversal from the original fairy tale, three little pigs capture a big, toothy wolf and put him on display in their very own circus where, no matter what they do, “wolf won’t bite!”
Sure of their safety despite their antics, the three little pigs (dressed in a strongman leotard, ringmaster suit, and frilly tutu) continue to up the ante in their circus acts, rejoicing in the knowledge that they are safe no matter what. Kids will delight in going from one page to the next as the pigs lift Wolf in the air, make him jump through hoops, and even shoot him from a cannon. While the pigs twirl in excitement, safe and sound, wolf looks confused at his predicament, and kids will laugh at the ridiculous pictures and, in a twist from the original story, perhaps even feel sorry for the poor wolf as he’s dressed up and put on display. In the end, predictably, wolf is tested to his limit and the three little pigs… Well, let’s just say things don’t go according to plan! Continue reading No Matter What, “Wolf Won’t Bite!”
Hello friends and fellow book lovers!
You may have noticed that we’ve been conspicuously absent this month, and unfortunately, it is likely to continue through the month of June. Our lives have been briefly taken over by things like jobs, moving, and wedding planning (Ruby is one of Jenny’s bridesmaids!). But never fear–we shall return! In the meantime we’ll likely keep updating our Facebook page and Twitter, and we encourage you to read through some of the past reviews on the site that you may have missed. And yes, we do still have all those wonderful reviews and author interviews we’ve been promising, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, READ! It is a wonderful era in the world of children’s and young adult literature, and fantastic new books are being published every week by debut and established authors alike. Summer is a great time to read, and we’ll be back with more reviews before you can say, “There are so many good books to read that I don’t know which to choose next!”
See you soon!
Jenny and Ruby
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Jack Gantos has a whole summer planned full of baseball, history books, and war movies when suddenly, caught in the middle of his quarreling parents, he becomes “grounded for life,” ruining everything. Even though he lives in the dying town of Norvelt (originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to help poor families) and there’s not much to do, when his mom volunteers him to help an aging neighbor type up the town’s obituaries, he’s less than thrilled. Soon, though, Jack finds himself absorbed in the town’s history and the “original” Norvelters, as his spunky neighbor calls them, and he’ll do anything to get out of house arrest and over to help her in her task. Soon he’s involved not only with the obituaries but in a feud with an old man who ride’s a trike, play-acting the Grim Reaper, distributing Girl Scout cookies, digging a fake bomb shelter, and a near-constant nose bleed, not to mention a potential murder. Suddenly his summer is anything but dull!
Described as “melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional,” Dead End in Norvelt is a most-times funny and sometimes heart-breaking story of a boy coming of age in an old town past its prime full of wacky yet believable characters. Both darker and lighter themes blend with Gantos’ humor as Jack finds himself imbedded in nearly everything going on in town. The relationships between Jack’s parents and himself are enough to fill a book, but author Gantos has woven an entire town’s worth of personalities and interactions together seamlessly. Continue reading History Turns Into Itself in This Newbery Winner