August 3, 2015

Appleblossom the Possum

by Holly Goldberg Sloan
First sentence: "One moment she's calm and cozy with a knee in her nose and a tail around her neck."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy acquired at CI3 and signed by the author (squee!).
Release date: August 11, 2015
Content: It's pretty basic: simple language (though there are a few difficult words thrown in), and a lot of white space and illustrations. It's probably appropriate for a strong 2nd grade reader and up. I think it'd make a great read-aloud for younger children, as well.

The store's publisher rep warned me, when she highlighted this book (and I got all excited), that this is a departure for Sloan. And she's right: talking possums is a bit of a departure for Sloan. But that's really the only departure; many of the themes -- of family and resilience -- are the same.

Appleblossom is the youngest of Mama Possum's first litter (which is why Appleblossom and all her siblings have A names). She's happy when she's younger, hanging out with her brothers and sisters, and learning acting lessons from Mama. It was scary, especially the lessons about People monsters and Dog monsters, but she knew she had her family with her. And then the day came that Mama left. (It's the wild. It happens.) Appleblossom and two of her brothers -- Antonio and Amlet (because Hamlet isn't an A name) -- decide that they don't really want to go off on their own so they stick together in their neighborhood. And then tragedy strikes: Appleblossom falls down a chimney into a house. With a Dog.

First off: I think this is one of those books that would be better read aloud. The way the book is written feels like a story one would tell around a campfire or at bedtime, rather than a book to lose yourself in. The language Sloan uses to describe the people world, and the characters of the possums -- the brothers end up meeting their dad, Big Poss -- as well as the simple adventures the possums have all lent the story an air of whimsy that lends itself more to reading aloud.

Given that framework, it's a wonderful tale. It's full of adventure and humor and charming artwork. I think (even though I didn't absolutely love it like I did Sloan's other books), given its intended audience, it's absolutely perfect.

August 2, 2015

First Sunday Daughter Reviews: August 2015

Amazingly enough, there has been reading done this past month! (Maybe I shamed them into it?)

C's rehearsal schedule had a lot of down time, so she picked up these to re-read:
She says that she still doesn't like the last one as much as the third, but that she got the symbolism and what Collins was trying to "say" better this time around.

She also convinced A to read them. (She finished Hunger Games, and is halfway through Catching Fire... which she's not sure she "gets". She was asking me the other day what the point of that book was.)  A also started a book group with some friends. Their first book is:
She says that the people in it are super stupid, which is driving her nuts. I tell her that it's a good discussion point for her book group.

Hubby also took her to a local comic book store, and a very lovely employee (she said she liked helping the girls because she was a geek girl herself) picked up a couple issues of this for her

Which she really liked.

E - that's what I'm going to call our foster daughter - went to debate camp, and has been spending her time on the internet doing research for this year's debate season. She picked up this one for her birthday, though, and said it was a lot of fun

And K went to the library, and brought back some graphic novels. Her favorite one (which she won't let anyone else read) was this:
She REALLY liked it. A lot.

What are your kids reading?

July 31, 2015

July 2015 Round-Up

Summer's winding down around here; I just registered half my kids for school and we'll do the other half on Monday. A couple are nervous about it: change is a scary thing, as is middle school. Even so, I'll be happy to have a more set routine again (even if it means being busier).

I don't remember reading this much, though my bingo card supports me in it: I've got all but five or six squares left. I don't know if I'll finish though: I don't particularly want to read a biography of someone I dislike. (Partially because I don't know who I dislike who has a biography out...)

My favorite this month was the lone non-fiction:
Between You & Me
It really was delightful.

As for the rest:

Middle Grade
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate
The Golden Specific
The Wand and the Sea

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Finding Audrey
Trouble is a Friend of Mine

Gone With the Wind
The Library at Mount Char (audio book)
The Conference of the Birds
The Little Paris Bookshop

What was your favorite this month?

July 29, 2015

The Wand & the Sea

by Claire Caterer
First sentence: "Holly Shepard was unlike most twelve-year-olds in that she didn't at all mid sharing a cramped cottage bedroom with her pudgy, snoring, laptop-loving younger brother."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Key & the Flame
Review copy provided by the author's publicist.
Content: It's kind of slow to start, and the fantasy is more Narnia-esque than Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Even so, there's nothing content-wise, and if there's a 9- or 10-year-old who likes Narnia, they'll probably love this. It's in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

It's been a year since siblings Holly and Ben and their British friend Everett have been to the magical land of Anglielle, where Holly can do magic, and where they're caught up in a good versus evil battle. They're determined to get back, but this time, the portal they used before won't work. This time, it's the water element that's highlighted. This time, they need to rescue their friends, who have been imprisoned by the king, and try and find the other adepts, who have been exiled from Anglielle.

Of course, it's not a simple thing: Everett is still playing the role of the sulky somewhat traitor (think Edmund), the prince Avery's loyalties are still in question. They do meet a group of pirates, on the ship the Sea Witch, that are quite fascinating. And when Holly finally confronts the Big Bad Guy, it's pretty intense.

I went back and re-read my review/reaction to the first book in the series, and it seems I liked it. I had a less positive experience this time around; the first book didn't stay with me as much, and it's been a couple of years, and it took me longer to get into this story. Still, it's channeling Narnia quite well, and in the end, the adventure was satisfying, while leaving room for another sequel. (I'm starting to suspect there will be four in all; one for each element.)

Not bad, overall.

July 27, 2015

Trouble is a Friend of Mine

by Stephanie Tromly
First sentence: "Of course I didn't like Digby when I first met him."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: August 4, 2015
Review copy provided by the publisher rep.
Content: There's some mild swearing. And inferences about drug use by teens. I think it'll be in the YA section (grades 6-8) though. (It's not too bad.)

Zoe is the product of a bad divorce: her Wall Street broker dad cheating on her mom. She generally sided with her dad, but ended up in her mom's custody, moving to a small podunky college town in upstate New York after the divorce. Zoe doesn't want to be there at all and when Digby -- kind of the high school pariah, of sorts -- decides that she needs to be his side-kick (she really doesn't have much say in it; he really just inserts himself into her life and she doesn't kick him out) in discovering what has happened to a local kidnapped teenager, she goes along with it. For kicks and giggles.

When the ARC came into the store, it had this sticker on it:

I won't say it gave me high hopes, but I was expecting some laughs. And there were: Digby has a talent for getting into some very bad situations, and there was some pretty amusing antics trying to get out of them. And Zoe's mom with her bumbling cluelessness was pretty amusing too. (Though: not as amusing as the mom in Finding Audrey.) But while I didn't find it funny, I did find it endearingly charming. Incredibly charming. And fascinating. There's a mystery running throughout -- and not just the finding the kidnapped teenager one -- that kept my interest, and kept me guessing, which added to my general enjoyment. And I just adored Zoe and Digby and their friend Henry. And all the other people they came into contact with. It was just... delightful.

So, maybe it's not the hilarious read our rep promised. But it's still definitely worth the time to read it.