My Quiet Ship by Hallee Adelman

 

My Quiet Ship

Hallee Adelman, Author

Sonia Sánchez, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction,  Oct. 1, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Conflict, Yelling, Anger, Coping skills, Family relationships, Imagination

Opening: Whenever I hear the yelling, I run to the spot.

Synopsis:

When the arguments begin between his parents gets bad, Quinn escapes to his special place, the Quiet Ship, where he’s the commander. Together with his faithful stuffed animal crew, Quinn can shut out the yelling that makes him sad and scared, and travel somewhere else — his imagination. His Quiet Ship takes him far away from the yelling.

But one day, the ship breaks. Quinn must be brave and find a way to tell his parents how their fighting makes him feel.

Why I like this book:

Hallee Adelman has written a sensitive and heartfelt story about a boy, Quinn, who builds a safe haven for himself when his parents start arguing. When their yelling escalates,  Quinn’s quiet spaceship allows him to blast off and travel through the clouds, stars and universe to a place that is peaceful. “Far, far away / from here… / From there… / From that yelling.”

The narrative is simple and imaginative and speaks a language children will easily understand. Through Quinn, children will learn coping skills to help them share their fears, sadness and worries.  Quinn bravely works through his anger towards his parents, finds his voice and confronts his parents.

Resources: This powerful book is an excellent conversation starter for both children and parents about handling conflict. Is yelling necessary? Are there more effective ways of dealing with anger? It is important that a children feels safe to discuss their feelings.

Sonia Sánchez’s illustrations are magnificent and really give this story life. The are bold and the yelling takes the form of angry, jagged streaks or heavy clouds that suffocate Quinn. Quinn’s desperate expressions are priceless as they communicate his anguish. She uses both traditional and digital media in her artwork.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd

Over the Moon

Natalie Lloyd, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Mar. 26, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Coal miners, Servants, Disability, Courage, Friendship, Competition, Magic, Legends

Opening: Dustflights are trained to sense explosions in the Down Below. Honeysuckle is my papa’s Dustflight, a tiny yellow bird they give every miner in Coal Top. 

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Mallie Ramble knows better than to dream. In Coal Top, you live the story you’re given: boys toil in the mines in the Down Below and girls work as servants. Mallie can’t bear the idea of that kind of life, but her family is counting on her wages to survive. Her father is injured in the mines.

It wasn’t always this way. Before the Dust came, the people of Coal Top could weave starlight into cloth. They’d wear these dreaming clothes to sleep and wake up with the courage to seek adventure . . . or the peace to heal a broken heart. But now nothing can penetrate Coal Top’s blanket of sorrow.

So when Mallie is chosen for a dangerous competition in which daring (and ideally, orphaned) children train flying horses, she jumps at the chance. Maybe she’ll change her story. Maybe she’ll even find the magic she needs to dream again. Maybe she will help her community to heal.

But the situation proves even more dangerous when Mallie uncovers a sinister mystery at the heart of Coal Top’s struggles — a mystery some powerful people, like Mortimer Good and his Guardians, will do anything to protect.

Why I like this book:

Over the Moon is an enchanting tale that will transport readers to Coal Top, a community that has lost its joy and is blanketed in sadness. And there is a girl, Mallie, who is pure of heart and brave enough to dream of flying among the stars. Natalie Lloyd creates a magical experience with a touch of realism. Her storytelling and literary style sets her apart as an original voice in children’s literature.

The characters are complex and unforgettable. Mallie is the loveable narrator who is wild and brave on the inside, “a fire-popper in a glass jar.” She has a short right arm and wears a fake orange “Popsnap,” that attaches at her elbow. She is her family’s breadwinner. She’s spirited and determined to keep her younger brother, Denver out of the mines. Adam is Mallie’s best friend and only sees her abilities. Together they make a good team. Honor and his friends are bullies. Iggy is a three-foot tall woman who cares for the flying horses. She is a tough trainer with a tender heart. Mortimer Good, is a beguiling and evil manipulator who wields a lot of control over Coal Top.

The plot is courageous, thrilling, and dangerous, with a sinister twist. Seeking “riches untold,” Mallie, Adam, Honor and other mountain kids show up for Mortimer Good’s competition. But they must prove themselves by capturing a magical flying horse (Starbirds) in the dangerous West Woods, which is full of monsters. There is adventure in training their horses, wonder in flying, danger in collecting riches from the mountains, and mystery in the origins of the dust.

Over the Moon is a labor of love for Natalie Lloyd, as she draws upon her own experience with a physical disability to create her main character, Mallie. In doing so, Lloyd shows her own source of courage as she pours her heart into brave, adventurous and kind-hearted Mallie.   

The heavy Dust that blankets Coal Top and snuffs out the light, becomes a powerful metaphor for the “dust” in our daily lives. Mallie is a reminder for readers that they need to push through their own challenges and darkness to find their inner light.

Over the Moon will touch your heart and soul. It is a tale of love, friendship, hope and courage. Lloyd’s fans will be “over the moon” with her new novel.

‘Mountain girl, lift up your eyes,

The stars are shining bright for thee.

Reach out and take the silver chord,

Braid beauty there for all to see.”

Natalie Lloyd is the New York Times bestselling author of A Snicker of Magic, which has been optioned for television by Sony TriStar. Lloyd’s other novels include The Key to Extraordinary, and The Problim Children series. Lloyd lives in Tennessee with her husband, Justin and her dogs Samson and Biscuit. Visit Lloyd at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Yes I Can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair

Yes I can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair

Kendra J. Barrett, Jacqueline B. Toner and Claire A. B. Freeland, Authors

Violet Lemay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Nov. 20, 1018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Disabilities, Self-confidence, Abilities, School, Curiosity, Interaction, Kindness

Opening: This is Carolyn. Like many kids her age, Carolyn loves animals, castles, and building with blocks. She is helpful to her mom and dad and even to her baby brother.

Synopsis

Carolyn is a happy, energetic, caring first-grader who just happens to be in a wheelchair. She’s excited to start her new year of school and make new friends. The other students are curious about Carolyn because she uses a wheelchair. Some are accepting, while other kids are reluctant. Yes I Can! follows Carolyn on a typical day at home, at school, and even on a field trip! She can do almost everything the other kids can, even if sometimes she has to do it a little differently. The other kids become used to Carolyn and notice what she can do.

Why I like this book:

The authors have written a very uplifting story that focuses more on what Carolyn can do, than what she can’t do. Carolyn is very outgoing, social and wants to participate. And there are many things available to help children with disabilities adapt and participate.

I like how the teacher in the story handles Carolyn’s disability in her classroom. She makes sure Carolyn  feels included when she asks her to pass out papers, when she invites her to help with the morning song and when she makes sure she can accompany the class on a field trip.  This helps Carolyn feels less  isolated.

And the teacher has to deal with the other students’ curiosity.  Kids are naturally very curious about someone they may perceive as different. Some feel cautious and awkward. They don’t know what to say or how to act. And Carolyn’s teacher is very supportive, so that her school friends feel comfortable including her in school activities, recess, and lunch. The students hardly notice her disability.

The illustrations are expressive, warm and endearing. They show diversity which compliment the book’s theme.

Resources: The book includes a Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers with more information on discussing disabilities with children and helping them to build positive, empathic relationships. I especially like the lists of questions with suggested answers that teachers can use.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Dust Storm! (Survivor Diaries) by Terry Lynn Johnson

Dust Storm! (Survivor Diaries #4)

Terry Lynn Johnson, Author

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Nov. 6, 2018

Pages: 128

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes: Dust Storm, Desert, New Mexico, Lost, Knowledge, Survival Skills, Courage

Synopsis:

Sixth-graders Jen Chiu and Martin Diaz are geared up to participate in one of the most exciting geocaching field trips ever in New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert.  Former best friends, Jen wants to find all of the caches before Martin does. When their van gets a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, the students help the teacher pass out water bottles and set up a tarp next to the bus for shade. Jen returns her backpack to the bus and discovers Martin peeking into the teacher’s briefcase to get the latitudes and longitudes for the upcoming competition. He darts from the bus to the trailer and grabs his mountain bike and takes off. Jen grabs her bike from the trailer and races after him.

When Jen catches up with Martin, she sees a wall of dirt rise high into the air.  A dust storm. They ride as fast as they can to stay ahead of it, but the blinding dust storm overpowers them. They are knocked off their bikes when they ride off a cliff they can’t see. Nothing looks familiar. The dust burns their eyes and skin, and is gritty in their mouths. They are far from their group and in the desert alone. They don’t have water, food, tools, proper clothing, sunglasses, and survival gear. They left their backpacks on the bus. Jen and Martin are lost. Night is falling, coyotes are calling, and small critters are crawling. They will have to use all of their knowledge and grit to survive.

Why I like this book:

Dust Storm! Survivor Diaries is a great adventure series that will get kids, especially reluctant readers, interested in reading. Terry Lynn Johnson has written a fast-paced series that is authentic and fun to read. Pen and ink drawings add to the drama of what is unfolding in the story.

The plot is engaging and the tension palpable. Dust Storm! focuses on Jen and Martin using skills they know after they get caught in a desert dust storm and become disoriented. What do they do first? How much time do they have before they become dehydrated? How do they  stay calm? What skills do they need most?

Dust Storm! is the fourth book in the Survivor Diaries. This series will have huge kid-appeal because the element of danger and the universal need to know what to do if you are unexpectedly caught in a situation where your life depends upon what you know. Johnson’s words of real-life advice are clear: Stay calm. Stay Smart. Survive. This is an important story for kids and families who like to hike to read together. It is also an excellent classroom book that belongs in every school library.

Johnson stories are inspired by true events. She began researching this desert story after she learning about two separate tragedies involving tourists who both died from dehydration after trying to walk for help after a car became stuck on a back road.

Resources: The best part of Johnson’s Survivor Diaries is that backmatter she includes: Survival Tips if you get you get lost and the bare essentials you need to carry while hiking a wilderness trail. After you’ve read the book, readers can visit her website to play the interactive Game – Will You Survive? 

Terry Lynn Johnson, author of Ice Dogs, Sled Dog School, and the Survivor Diaries (Overboard, Avalanche, Lost and Dust Storm) series, has lived in northern Ontario, Canada, for more than forty years. Before becoming a conservation officer, she worked for twelve years as a canoe-ranger warden in a large wilderness park. Visit Johnson at her website.

Greg Pattridge is the permanent host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Purchased Copy.

Everybody’s Favorite Book by Mike Allegra

 

Everybody’s Favorite Book

Mike Allegra, Author

Claire Almon, Illustrator

Imprint/Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes: Heroes, Humor, Mystery, Fantasy, Big words, Poop jokes

Opening: “You are very lucky. You are reading Everybody’s Favorite Book. There is not one person anywhere who has a different favorite book. Do you want to know why this is everybody’s favorite book? I’ll explain. ”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Anyone who says, “You can’t please everybody,” isn’t trying hard enough. At least, that’s what the cheeky narrator of this meta picture book thinks!

A “good” book may have a spaceman or a ninja or a cowboy, but Everybody’s Favorite Book has something better: a Space Ninja Cow. And that’s only the beginning. You like princesses? We got ‘em. Prefer a mystery? No sweat. Want the definition of gallimaufry? A good poop joke? A giant, carnivorous guinea pig? Spy kids? Check, check and check. And there’s more! Much more! This book has everything, for everybody! At least that’s what the cheeky narrator thinks!

Here’s hoping things don’t go awry. (Spoiler, they do.)

Why I like this book:

This clever and humorous picture book will appeal to kids who like to make up their own stories. And, they couldn’t have a better teacher — the outrageous and quirky author, Mike Allegra, who loves to think outside-the-box and make kids laugh. His book would make a great read-aloud in an elementary classroom.

A narrator guides readers through the story. With every page turn the story keeps changing because some readers don’t like violence, others want princesses, some prefer a mystery (missing Space Ninja Cow) and others want big words. As more characters appear, so does the chaos and the book becomes quite crowded. It becomes clear the narrator has lost control of his readers and finally shouts “STOP!”  How will the narrator regain control? Or will he?

Claire Almon’s cartoon-like illustrations are lively, colorful and hilarious. They add life to the story.

Resources: This is rambunctious and silly story will inspire reader’s imaginations. Encourage kids to choose a scene and write their own ending. Or have them draw the scene on paper. Make sure you check out Allegra’s website.

Mike Allegra is the author of the picture book, Sarah Gives Thanks. Under the pseudonym Roy L. Hinuss, Mike not-so secretly pens the Prince Not-So Charming chapter book series. He was the winner of the 2014 Highlights for Children Fiction Contest, a recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, and a nominee for a 2017 Pushcart Prize.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Copy won in a book giveaway.

Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor

Women’s History Month – Mar. 1 – 31, 2019

Turning Pages: My Life Story

Sonia Sotomayor, Author

Lulu Delacre, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Nonfiction, Sep. 4, 2018

Pages: 40

Suitable for Ages:  4-12

Themes: Sonia Sotomayor, Hispanic-American judges, Supreme Court, Autobiography, Pursuing Dreams

Opening: My story is a story about books — of poems and comics, of law and mystery of science and science fiction — written both in Spanish and in English.

Synopsis:

Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers.

Her first memory of how words mesmerized her came from her Abuelita (grandmother), who recited poems written long ago about the tropical island home her family left behind. When Sonia was diagnosed with diabetes at seven and had to give herself shots, she found comic books with super heroes her best medicine. Books became her “loyal friends.” They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico,

When her father died, Sonia was nine. She found refuge in a neighborhood library. A neighbor surprised her with a complete set of encyclopedias that added to the home library. She also became a big Nancy Drew fan and decided that she could figure out mysteries too. Books took her all over the world and to the moon.  They taught her right from wrong. She learned about inequality. And she began to dream of a future for herself where anything was possible.

What I like about this book:

Turning Pages is an inspiring book that will leave readers hopeful and excited about their own dreams.  The written word is important to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which is reflected in her lyrical and rhythmic text.  She writes with love, enthusiasm and candor. I am thrilled to see such a deeply personal book for young people. But I believe fifth – seventh grade students would benefit. She is an important role model for youth.

This is the first time Sotomayor shares her own personal story with young readers. It is a down-to-earth story about the magical power of reading and how it shapes periods of her life. In her words: “Books were the magic potions that could fuel me with the bravery of superheroes / little boats that helped me to escape sadness at home / my snorkel and flippers, helping me get there / my time machine, inspiring me to imagine what I would be when I grew up / my launchpad, blasting me straight into my dreams / lenses, bringing into focus truths about the world around me / mirrors of my very own universe.” 

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx with humble beginnings. Her family was from Puerto Rico and she spoke Spanish at home. Children of immigrants will relate to her struggle to learn English, balance two languages and learn to fit in with others. It was her love of books that helped her make sense of her life and her world.

Lulu Delacre’s beautiful and vibrant illustrations perfectly echoes the rich textures of Sotomayor’s life.

Resources: This book is a treasure and would be a great read-aloud for classroom discussions about  women in power, the Supreme Court or government service. There is a Timeline of Justice Sotomayor’s life and a lot of photographs on the front and back endpapers.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors

*Library Copy.

The Little Blue Dragon by Colleen McCarthy-Evans

The Little Blue Dragon

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Author and Illustrator

Seven Seas Press, Fiction, Nov. 5, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Hurricane, Separation, Loss, Childhood trauma, Courage, Friendship

Opening: In a land not so far away / and not too long ago, / a powerful hurricane / with winds swirling in all directions / separated the Little Blue Dragon / from her mother.

Synopsis: The Little Blue Dragon becomes separated from her mother after a hurricane. When things settle down, she realizes she’s alone in an unfamiliar place. The Little Blue Dragon embarks upon a journey to search for her mother. She flies to south, east, west and north where she meets a variety of friends who guide and loan her a cave to sleep in — monkeys, ducks, dogs, bats, polar bears and a chameleon.

Why I like this book:

This is a lovely book that addresses trauma, separation and loss in a comforting manner. Sometimes scary things happen to children and they don’t know how to cope with the situation. That is when a book like The Little Blue Dragon can be useful in helping children express their feelings and fear.

Colleen McCarthy-Evans’ colorful illustrations take readers on a visual journey through the dragon’s loss and despair to her making a new friend in a chameleon, who is separated from her little ones in a flood. Together they search for their families and find healing along the way. Friendship and courage allows them both to move forward. I like that the story is open-ended and allows children to make up their own ending.

I want to give a little more detail about the unique artwork, which beautifully compliments the story. McCarthy-Evans’ multi-media illustrations are a specialized photographic treatment of dioramas with animals she hand-paints from stones collected from the Pacific Coast of California.

Resources: There is a discussion guide at the end of the book with six great questions that help children and parents take a deeper look into the story. The discussion encourages children to share their feelings and explore how they handle difficult times. This book is also a good resource for teachers and counselors. There also is a list of activities that accompany the story. Children are encouraged to collect rocks and paint them to recreate the animals from the story.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

*A review copy was provided by the author.

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

The Bridge Home

Padma Venkatraman, Author

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Feb. 5, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 10 and up

Themes: Runaways, Homelessness, Survival, India, Friendship, Social issues, Hope

Opening: Talking to you was always easy, Rukku. But writing’s hard.

Synopsis:

Life is tough on the teeming streets of Chennai, India, as runaway sisters Viji and Rukku quickly discover. For cautious-minded Viji, this is not a surprise — but she hadn’t realized just how vulnerable she and her sister would actually feel in this uncaring, dangerous world.

Fortunately, the girls find shelter — and friendship — on an abandoned bridge that’s also the hideout of Muthi and Arul, two homeless boys. The four of them soon form a family of sorts, sharing food and supplies and laughing together about the absurdities of life. And while making their living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to take pride in, too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves — and are truly hoping to keep it that way…

Padma Venkatraman’s moving survival story brings to light the obstacles faced by young people in many parts of the world, and is inspired by children she met during her years in India. Her heroic characters will touch readers with their perseverance and unwavering love for each other.

Why I love this book:

Padma Venkatraman’s passionate, heartbreaking and hopeful novel sheds light on the extreme poverty of four homeless children in India. Her powerful storytelling and vivid imagery, draws readers into their extraordinary journey. The setting is culturally rich. Venkatraman is a lyrical writer and there are many poetic turns of phrase. The novel is a beautiful love letter written by Viji to her sister, Rukku.

The four heroic children in the story are homeless for different reasons and will touch reader’s hearts. Viji and Rukku bravely flee an abusive and alcoholic father.  Arul’s parents are killed in accident. Muthu’s stepbrother sells him into child labor. Other street children are abandoned on streets or dumped in orphanages. Viji is protective of Rukku, her developmentally challenged sister.

The plot is dangerous and suspenseful, making this story a page turner. Life may be harsh for this four-some as they scale the garbage heaps, but it also shows their resilience, sense of adventure, deep friendship and hope. The richness of their close relationship makes this story shine brightly, even in the face of adversity. They are brothers and sisters. “We’re not just friends, we’re family,” says Arul. 

There are lighter moments when Rukku befriends a stray puppy, she names Kutti. Rukku doesn’t like sifting through garbage and sits beneath a tree stringing beads into intricate necklaces. Her jewelry brings a nice profit in the local markets and helps feed their family. Viji also begins to see what her sister can do, rather than what she can’t do. I love these uplifting moments.

Growing up in India, Venkatraman’s memories of starving children provide the inspiration for her novel, The Bridge Home.  Her story is well-researched and she draws her story from the tales of the children she meets while doing volunteer work with her mother at respectable children’s homes and schools. Most important, I love that she writes about a culture she knows so well. I hope we see more uplifting novels from her in the future.

Padma Venkatraman was born in India and became an American after living in five countries and working as an oceanographer. She is also the author of A Time to Dance, Island’s End, and Climbing the Stairs. Visit her at her website. I highly recommend her other novels.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors

*Purchased copy.

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town by A. LaFaye

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Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town

A. LaFaye, Author

Nicole Tadgell, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Historical fiction, Jan. 1, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: African-American, Pioneer Settlement, Native Americans, Community, Kansas

Opening: The whoo-eeeh-follow-me holler of the six o-clock train rumbled right into Dede’s dreams. She rode across a prairie so wide even the angels couldn’t see the end of it. Her family had a plan. They would own a place in that open land.

Synopsis:

The Pattons want to leave sharecropping behind and have a farm of their very own. Mama sews dresses and Papa builds furniture to make extra money at night, and Dede shines shoes at the train station. It will take years before her family will save enough to pay off their debt and by their own place.

One day Dede sees a notice offering free land for colored folks in Nicodemus, Kansas. The Pattons pack their bags and board a train. It’s time for them to claim and stake out a homestead near the brand-new town of Nicodemus. They build a sod home along the bank of the Solomon River before winter. Papa stakes out the boundaries of their claim.  Before they can plow and plant their fields, they must face their first winter on the prairie. While they hunt for food, they meet Shanka Sabe, a member of the Native American Osage Nation, who shares his food with them. Will the Pattons  find a better future for themselves?

Why I like this book:

The cover is gorgeous, as are the expressive and detailed watercolor illustrations by Nicole Tadgell. They compliment A. LaFaye’s uplifting and poetic narrative about these African-American pioneers traveling west — building sod homes, hunting food, surviving harsh winters, plowing the spring fields, building fences, planting crops, meeting new neighbors and watching a town come to life.

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town, is a perfect classroom share for Black History month. It is a wonderful peek into a period of history that few know about. Nicodemus was founded in the late 1870s by Exodusters — former slaves and sharecroppers, like Dede’s family, who flocked to the Kansas prairie to stake out land, build a homestead and farm. I love that it is shared in a children’s picture book.

Resources: Make sure you check out the historical information About the Exodusters in the back of the book. There is another important piece of history that is briefly touched on in the book — the Native Americans who were forced to sell their lands in the Great Plains and move to Oklahoma. Check out this website, to learn more about Nicodemus and the amazing people who settled there. Each year the current residents, the families of former resident, and the descendants of the original settlers celebrate the Nicodemus Emancipation and Homecoming during the third week in July.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair

Amy Makechnie, Author

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jun. 12, 2018

Pages: 336

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Brain injury, Memory, Family relationships, Moving, Farm life, Missing persons, Mystery, Friendship

Opening: “I was ten when Gaysie Cutter tried to kill me. It was just like her too — always leaving a bad first impression. Her idea of a welcome wagon came in the middle of July, during my first Iowa heat wave, which was as hot as you know what.”

Synopsis:

Ten-year-old Guinevere St. Clair is going to be a lawyer. She is the fastest girl in New York City. She knows everything there is to about the brain. And she wants to ride into her first day at her new school on a cow named Willowdale Princess Deon Dawn. Gwyn is definitely not the kind of girl you forget.

But that’s just what her mother has done — forgotten. Gwyn’s mother, Vienna, hasn’t been able to remember anything past the age of 13, since she suffered a hypoxic brain injury. Gwyn and her little sister, Bitty, don’t exist in Vienna’s mind. As Gwyn tells Vienna’s new nurse, “we’re practically orphans.”

Gwyn’s father is obsessed with solving the mystery of Vienna’s brain.  He moves his family from New York to Crow, Iowa, where he and Vienna lived as children. He hopes that going home to Crow and surrounding Vienna with familiar friends and family, will jog her memory and help in her recovery.

As soon as they arrive in Crow, Gwyn is hot on the trail of a different case — one she thinks can actually be solved. Farmer Wilbur Truesdale is missing and there’s only one person who could know what happened to him: her brand new next-door archenemy, Gaysie Cutter.

The more Gwyn goes looking for answers, through, the more questions she encounters — about Wilbur, about Gaysie, but also about the mother she’s never gotten the chance to know. Gwyn’s determined to hunt down the truth about everything, but what if the truth isn’t as simple as pointing the blame at someone? What if sometimes the most terrible things that happen aren’t actually anyone’s fault at all?

Why I liked this book:

Amy Makechnie’s debut novel is complex, heartbreaking and hopeful. Her great opening immediately draws readers into the story. The vivid setting, poignant narrative, suspenseful plot and extraordinary characters create and unforgettable experience for readers. Her storytelling is richly crafted and heartwarming.

Gwyn is a genuine and unique character with whom you feel an immediate emotional bond. She is smart, curious, imaginative and jumps to conclusions a little too quickly. Her mother’s hypoxic brain injury impacts Gwyn and forces her to grow up too quickly. The author beautifully weaves Vienna’s injury into the story as a part of Gwyn’s life experience — it’s hard to “not exist” in your mother’s eyes. In her pursuit to solve the mystery about Wilbur’s disappearance, Gwyn uncovers her mother’s past and realizes how much she is like her.

There is a cast of quirky secondary characters that add comic relief. There’s Gaysie, a giant woman who lives in a rundown house with a “backyard that looks like an art exhibit”and is known for burying dead things on her property. Gwyn become best friends with Jimmy, who is always up for an adventure, and Micah (Gaysie’s son), who likes to wear bright pink shorts, sparkling silver shoe laces and is a target for school bullies.  Gwyn’s dentist father, Jed, is devoted to his wife, and Nana, is protective and takes responsibility for everything that happens.

Teens looking for something new and creative, will find The Unforgettable Guinevere St Clair a suspenseful, powerful and entertaining read. The characters will stay with you long after you finish.

Makechnie’s story also touched me on a personal level. Like Gwyn’s mother, my brain was deprived of oxygen following an unfortunate mishap nearly 15 years ago. This is the first children’s novel I’ve read where a hypoxic brain injury is mentioned. It took me back to my injury and made me think about how difficult it was on my family, who was loving, patient and supportive during my years of recovery. Fortunately my children were grown. Brain injuries vary and each person has unique symptoms and outcomes.

Thank you Rosi Hollinbeck for reviewing and recommending this book to me on your wonderful website. 

Amy Makechnie grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where shoe once tried to sail to the Mississippi River on a large piece of Styrofoam (she didn’t make it). The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair is her first novel. Amy nurtures her fascination with the brain and human body by teaching anatomy and physiology to high school students in a small New England town, where they dissect hearts and memorize long anatomical words. She is the mother of a wily flock of children, all of who provide daily inspiration for writing. You can visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.