The CMLD Kid’s Book Reviews Blog contains our insights on children’s and young adult books. Hope you find it both informative and entertaining.
Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson. Review by Sara Lozefski
Strands of Bronze and Gold is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about Bluebeard (who I had confused with Blackbeard the pirate). Bluebeard was a rich and attractive but evil and possessive man who would marry a woman, try to control her life, and then ultimately kill her and move on to the next wife. Marry, murder, repeat. Strands retells the story in novel form, where 17-year-old Sophia Petheram travels to Mississippi to live with her rich godfather, Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, at Wyndriven Abbey, his sprawling estate. Sophie’s new life seems like a dream come true at first, when her godfather spoils her with jewels, custom clothes, a horse of her own and a mansion to explore, but she soon learns that her godfather is not what he seems and that he has plans for her to become the next Madame de Cressac. De Cressac proceeds to slowly take away Sophie’s freedom and alienate her from the outside world, and she realizes that monsters come in all forms.
Nickerson easily draws her audience into the intricate world of Wyndriven Abbey and life on a Mississippi plantation in 1855. Readers will love the vibrant, compassionate and intelligent Sophie, who does her best to weather de Cressac’s mercurial moods. Like the Grim fairy tale on which it’s based, Strands is dark and a little graphic at times, so while it is a YA novel, I would not recommend it for younger readers.
Doing it Right: Making Smart, Safe and Satisfying Choices About Sex by Bronwen Pardes
Every library should have this book. In an era in which the emphasis is on abstinence only education and in which teens are receiving conflicting information about sex, Doing It Right: Making Smart, Safe, and Satisfying Choices About Sex by Bronwen Pardes is a must-have for every collection. Written in a way that is accessible for teens, this book informs the reader about the myriad choices they can make regarding sex. Yes, abstinence is an option, but we are fooling ourselves if we think it’s the only option and Pardes knows this. Chapters cover everything from puberty, how babies are made, to the different options for birth control and protection against STDs. She addresses pregnancy and abortion in a impartial manner. Doing it Right also tackles homosexuality and reminds the reader that being gay is okay and that it is NOT something one chooses, important in a world in which homosexual issues are rarely addressed in sex-ed classes. Transgender issues are also discussed as well. The only problem I had with this part of the book is that it referred to sex-reassignment surgery as a “sex change” at parts, a term that is frowned upon by the transgender community. Also, I wish the issue of asexuality were addressed somewhere in Doing it Right. Despite the couple misgivings I have, I urge every library to purchase this book. In anticipation of complaints, it’s a good idea to buy a book that encourages abstinence so that both viewpoints of the issue of teen sex are available.
Review by Julie Esris, Winslow Public Library
Fish in the Sky by Fridrik Erlings. Reviewed by student Emma Begin.
This was not a book I enjoyed. The dark, gloomy mood this book is set in was not for me.
The character of Josh Stephenson recently turned thirteen and is feeling lonely and confused. His parents are separated, with his dad traveling on the water and his mom working hard as a single parent. His 17-year-old cousin moved in and he struggles with figuring out his feeling for girls. On top of all this Josh is fighting his math homework every step of the way. The book is told from Josh’s point of view as he finds the way through the life of a teenager.
I would recommend this book to boys or girls, looking for something to explain how they feel during their life in middle school.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes were made by Stephan Pastis.
Reviewed by Lori Littlefield.
Endearing to readers young and old, Timmy Failure and his detective agency live up to their name: Total Failure, Inc. As a most inept, yet lovable, investigator – Timmy and Total, his 1,500-pound polar bear business partner share adventures and miscalculations that will keep readers laughing from start to finish.
Join Timmy as he struggles with the daily life of obstacles like mom and school, which are clearly intent on sabotaging his efforts to take his detective agency global. With wit, an abundance of humor, and an advanced vocabulary that keeps his friends perplexed, Timmy Failure: Mistakes were made is a delightful read.
Footwork: the Story of Fred and Adele Astaire by Roxanne Orgill. Review by Cheryl M. Coffin
This is a well-written biography of Fred Astaire and how he became a popular Hollywood actor/singer and dancer. Young readers will discover that this talented dancer did not become well-known overnight. It took many years of traveling from place-to -place, hard-work and dedication for Fred to realize his dreams.
This book would make a great addition to any library desiring to expand its children’s biography section beyond the usual figures of American history. Candlewick Biographies have short informative chapters, and they offer the young reader attractive illustrations and a diverse list of resources (related books, websites, movies and CDs).
Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin. Review by Cheryl M. Coffin
This picture book shows lovely, muted illustrations done in watercolors and pencils. The author looks at the important concept of peace. She begins with a very broad perspective, peace in the world, and narrows it down to peace in the nations, cities, neighborhoods, schools, homes and in our hearts. The author shares insightful quotes from well known people. These wise sayings are simple enough for young readers to understand but profound enough for all readers to appreciate.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina. Review by Cheryl M. Coffin
This novel is a very realistic coming-of-age story. It’s about a teenager who moves to a new neighborhood and becomes the target of a violent school bully. This story is a difficult by honest depiction of victimization. After a particularly brutal beating, Piddy Sanchez loses sight of who she is a s a person. It is only when she reaches for help that Piddy begins to feel empowered, with positive feelings about herself and what her future will be.
Language, violence and sexual situations of an adult nature.
Physical Bullying by Jennifer Rivkin. Review by Cheryl M. Coffin
Volume 2 in a series of 4 books on bullying. This volume deals with physical bullying and addresses why people bully, what bullying is and the best way to deal with physical bullying. This series includes brief vignettes from kids that have suffered at the hands of a bully, been bullies themselves or have seen bullying occur. It includes a quiz, so the reader can decide if he/she has ever bullied anyone and a section on how to ‘empower’ yourself. This series is appropriate from middle school on and is an excellent resource for media centers and guidance.
Courage has no color: The true story of the Triple Nickles by Tanya Lee Stone.
Reviewed by Lori Littlefield.
This large-format book tells the story of America’s first all-black paratroopers, unit, created and let by Walter Morris during World War II. As first sergeant at The Parachute School in Georgia, Morris’ men were responsible for guarding the facility once the white paratroopers finished their training each day. Even before the unit was created, Morris inspired his men by having them mimic the real training of the white soldiers to give them purpose. A long history of racial prejudice and discrimination was keeping most black soldiers out of combat, preventing them from fully serving their country. Instead, they built roads, cooked, did laundry, served meals and unloaded cargo. His men needed more. In the right place at the right time, Morris was allowed to create the 555th Parachute Infantry Company with him as first sergeant with all black officers and black men.
This story tells of the experiences of Morris’ men, details the extensive training, continued discrimination such as having rifles without bullets, and still they overcame the racism to become skilled military personnel fighting fires caused by Japanese balloon bombs. Filled with first-hand former member accounts, this book provides insight and a new perspective on WWII and the soldiers who became America’s first smoke jumpers. Complete with back-story, appendix, timeline and source notes, this book serves to fill a gap in the historical record, and it does it very well.
Life on the Home Front During the Revolutionary War by Helen Mason. Review by Cheryl M. Coffin
Life on the home front during the American Revolution is book four in an eight part series on the American Revolution written for young readers at a guided reading level of T. This particular volume focuses on how the 13 colonies were split between loyalty to the British crown and support for American independence. It also considers the key roles that slaves and women played in the Revolutionary War.
Each volume in the series includes a well developed timeline, glossary, resource list of books and websites, a bibliography section, index and table of contents. The book is well illustrated with maps, drawings, photographs and copies of famous paintings, and incorporates quotes from popular historical figures and primary documents.