An impressive sequel about an aquatic journey that stands on its own while building on the first trip.

Bella Bella

From the Aaron's Wilderness series

London (Foggy Goes to the Library, 2015, etc.) resumes the middle-grade adventures of his boating enthusiasts, this time along the Pacific Northwest coast.

Last year in Desolation Canyon, three Desert Storm veterans brought their teenage children together for a rafting trip down the Green River in Utah. Now 13-year-old Aaron and his dad rejoin Roger (and his 13-year-old daughter, Lisa) and Willie (who brings his 17-year-old son, Cassidy). They embark from the First Nations village of Bella Bella on a 10-day trip around Queen’s Sound, along the coast of British Columbia, in sea kayaks. Aaron is thrilled to see Lisa, on whom he has a crush. He’s less happy encountering Cassidy, since the former juvenile delinquent enjoys roughhousing with him and flirting with Lisa. Over 10 days, the group hopes to explore the coast’s many islands, see wildlife, and learn about First Nations tribes, like the Heiltsuk. It becomes quite a different trip when they hear gunshots one morning from a ship named the Sea Wolf. The Chinese fishermen are gathering geoduck clams, occasionally firing their guns to scare sea lions from the catch. After speaking with Wong, the diver, the group begins paddling away—and hears a thump and a cry within the Sea Wolf’s hull. Later, Aaron overhears the adults telling Cassidy that the ship may be transporting illegal immigrants from China to Vancouver. In this novel, London once again delivers an infectious blend of action, science, and tween romance to readers of all ages. The author’s son, Sean, also returns with gorgeous illustrations accompanying the narrative’s truly magical moments, like when orcas “swam right between our kayaks, their dorsal fins slicing the surface!” Aaron’s growing pains are visible not only regarding his crush on Lisa, but also whenever his father applauds Cassidy (Aaron thinks: “It was like a needle stuck in my skin hearing my dad praise him like that”). After presenting various opinions, the book addresses the central conflict of poor refugees seeking better lives thoroughly and compassionately. Aaron endears himself to audiences, not by being an awkward kid but a blossoming young man.

An impressive sequel about an aquatic journey that stands on its own while building on the first trip.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943328-33-8

Page Count: 180

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Essential.

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THIS BOOK IS ANTI-RACIST

20 LESSONS ON HOW TO WAKE UP, TAKE ACTION, AND DO THE WORK

A guidebook for taking action against racism.

The clear title and bold, colorful illustrations will immediately draw attention to this book, designed to guide each reader on a personal journey to work to dismantle racism. In the author’s note, Jewell begins with explanations about word choice, including the use of the terms “folx,” because it is gender neutral, and “global majority,” noting that marginalized communities of color are actually the majority in the world. She also chooses to capitalize Black, Brown, and Indigenous as a way of centering these communities’ voices; "white" is not capitalized. Organized in four sections—identity, history, taking action, and working in solidarity—each chapter builds on the lessons of the previous section. Underlined words are defined in the glossary, but Jewell unpacks concepts around race in an accessible way, bringing attention to common misunderstandings. Activities are included at the end of each chapter; they are effective, prompting both self-reflection and action steps from readers. The activities are designed to not be written inside the actual book; instead Jewell invites readers to find a special notebook and favorite pen and use that throughout. Combining the disruption of common fallacies, spotlights on change makers, the author’s personal reflections, and a call to action, this powerful book has something for all young people no matter what stage they are at in terms of awareness or activism.

Essential. (author’s note, further reading, glossary, select bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4521-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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