A beautiful balance of action and warmth.

The Book of Charlie

Raucous adventure abounds in Antil’s (The Long Stem Is in the Lobby, 2013 etc.) heartfelt coming-of-age novel set in upstate New York during the 1950s.

Fans of Antil’s The Pompey Hollow Book Club (2011) will be eager to learn more about the misadventures of their favorite club members in this colorful follow-up novel. It’s the summer before their freshman year of high school, a time when they begin to leave childhood behind but are nonetheless itching for adventure as much as ever. The story is told from the perspective of ghostly Ole Charlie, a kindly neighbor who has passed and is now the group’s guardian angel. Fast-paced and action-packed, the novel follows young Jerry and his friends as they get their first jobs, rescue orphans and down-on-their-luck polio victims, and plan their biggest caper yet to catch a pair of criminals. Though the intrigue surrounding the two escaped criminals and the subsequent plan to flush them out are what pushes the novel forward, its heartbeat lies in the quiet moments that reveal the character of this close-knit community. Following World War II, which forever changed their lives, these communities have emerged stronger than ever. The people work together, care for each other’s kids, rally behind perfect strangers with abounding kindness and believe in the basic good in each person. As the kids of the surrounding communities all come together to protect their towns, a beautiful sense of brotherhood emerges; it’s an uplifting examination of what community really means. History buffs will also appreciate the many referencesto WWII, Gen. Eisenhower and decoy missions in England before D-day. Not without its faults, the novel is sometimes difficult to read. Readers will appreciate the unique language of the time period, but some sentences, especially in opening chapters, are unusually long and need to be read several times for clarity. Nevertheless, it’s a delightful read.

A beautiful balance of action and warmth.

Pub Date: March 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0989304412

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Little York Books

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2014

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A story with a tried-and-true plot that needs to freshen up its presentation.

The Lost Little Rabbit

A lost bunny searches for his mother in this debut picture book.

The youngster is already lost in the beginning of Lakhiani’s version of the time-honored tale of a lost child reuniting witha parent. On a foggy day, a young rabbit finds that he doesn’t recognize where he is. He calls for his mother, but instead of her voice in response, he hears the hum of a bumblebee. The nameless little rabbit asks if the bee knows where his home is, but the bee doesn’t and sends him on to the wise owl, who “sees everything.” As the little rabbit runs through the “eerie” fog toward the owl’s tree, he meets a kind squirrel. “I’ve lost my mother….I am lost and scared,” explains the little rabbit. The squirrel leads the rabbit to the wise owl’s tree, which the rabbit climbs to ask the owl, “[C]an you see where I live?” The fog is too thick for the owl to spot little rabbit’s home, so he gives the little rabbit a snack and invites him to rest. Falling asleep, the little rabbit dreams of his mother but is awakened by the hooting, buzzing and chattering of his three new friends. Looking around, he sees his mother, who embraces him: “I will never again let you out of my sight,” she tells him. The digitized art by Adams, some of which is credited to Thinkstock, is in a cartoon style that clearly delineates the characters but includes a few anthropomorphic details—a graduation cap for the owl, spectacles for the squirrel and only four legs for the bee—that add little value. Since the story centers on the little rabbit failing to recognize where he is, the choice to make the right-hand page of every spread identical is potentially confusing; regardless, it’s repetitious. The text fails in the opposite direction: It doesn’t create the typical patterns that can help toddlers follow the story, build anticipation and learn to chime in—steps on the path to reading alone. Erratic rhythms, changing stanza lengths and rhyme schemes, and awkward syntax undercut attempts to enliven the tale with poetry.

A story with a tried-and-true plot that needs to freshen up its presentation.

Pub Date: May 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491895603

Page Count: 24

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2015

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An excellent introduction to the Kenyan culture for children.

If You Were Me and Lived in ...Kenya

A CHILD'S INTRODUCTION TO CULTURES AROUND THE WORLD

Roman (If You Were Me and Lived In…Norway, 2013, etc.) offers a children’s primer of the geography, sports, food and vocabulary that Kenyan kids encounter in their daily lives.

The latest installment in this cultural series—preceded by books on Mexico, France, South Korea and Norway—takes young readers to the African nation of Kenya, where they get a short, engaging lesson on the country’s culture. The opening phrase “If you were me…” helps kids imagine a narrator not much different from themselves. Their Kenyan counterpart lives with their parents (“If you needed your mommy, you would call for Mzazi. When you are speaking to your daddy, you would call him Baba”), buys milk from the market and pays for it “with a shilling,” eats snacks (“samosa, a small triangular pastry filled with meat or vegetables and fried in oil”) and goes to school. The book covers Mombasa Carnival, a large yearly festival, and discusses its importance. It also explains the basics of cricket, a popular sport in Kenya, and the fact that kids usually entertain themselves with handmade toys. Roman’s books are successful since she draws connections between cultures while maintaining a tone that keeps young readers engaged. Colorful illustrations further enhance the text, such as one showing kids playing with cricket bats. A glossary at the end offers a pronunciation key for the unfamiliar words throughout. This series of books would be a natural fit in school classrooms and would also provide a good way for parents to teach their own kids about the cultures, languages and geography of different countries. This installment is a quick read that may help kids see the similarities between themselves and their Kenyan peers.

An excellent introduction to the Kenyan culture for children.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481979917

Page Count: 30

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2014

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