A pampered cat narrates his tale of woe when a new baby joins the family.
Hinck (Great Love: The Mary Jo Copeland Story, 2013) nails Chester’s voice from the start. “Hi, everyone! It’s me, Chester. I know what you’re thinking: Wow, that is one handsome cat!” Lemaire’s cat-centric illustrations radiate Chester’s attitude and range of emotions. When Mom, whose head is out of the frame, rubs his belly, he’s shown lolling back with eyes half closed. Chester’s description of his perfect “before” life goes on too long, though the self-absorbed tend to do that. When Mom and Dad announce they are leaving and Grandma is coming, Chester grows uneasy: The text reads, “ ‘I object!’ I said. I flattened my ears out so they would know that I was serious,” while Chester’s speech balloon simply says, “Meow!” Using cats’ actual body language to describe Chester’s feelings is an inspired choice; kids will relate to the jealousy big siblings often feel, and they’ll also learn to read their pets’ signals. Eventually, the parents return home with a “package” Chester believes is a gift to make it up to him—until out comes a “screaming, screeching, bouncing, banging creature! The baby, they called it.” The family is so enamored, “it was like I didn’t even exist. You can imagine the horror.” The indignities build until the family points out that the baby loves Chester, too. “If having my fur pulled out by the roots is love, then I am going to need a lot of therapy.” Just as Chester thumps his tail in protest, the baby giggles, and Chester learns that the baby will fall asleep when he snuggles up and purrs. This gives the rest of the family time to pay attention to Chester, an outcome he finds supremely pleasing: “I win!” School-age siblings will appreciate the wry humor in Chester’s snappy remarks—“No one ever cheers when I poop”—while his discovery that his interactions with the baby can have positive effects may encourage big brothers and sisters to make similar discoveries of their own.
Dealing with sibling rivalry may be a common picture-book theme, but this book’s droll and amusing approach is a welcome addition to the genre.
Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.
Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?
With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.
Pirates, magic and a secret society collide in this fantasy middle-grade novel.
This fast-paced novel follows best friends Cameron and Miguel, who are looking for adventure while cruising through their Arizona town on a tandem bicycle. They find it when an enchanted pirate ship flies overhead and lands in a convenience store’s parking lot. The ship sets up as a shop, which uses an intoxicating mist to trick customers into buying overpriced sea-themed merchandise, while simultaneously making them defenseless against pickpocket pirates. Cameron has bigger problems when Blackbeard, the ship’s intimidating captain, decides that the tween has stolen a powerful ring that would allow him to shape-shift into any person he imagines. Raising the stakes, the pirates kidnap Miguel and force him to perform grunt work with no chance of release. Cameron enlists the help of his best gal pal, Marcella, to free Miguel, but their mission takes a surprising turn when they discover a secret society protecting an underground gold mine. Author Loge keeps the action coming as the trio encounter a nasty doppelganger, a sinister talking parrot and a gang of violent pirates. The breezy writing ensures that the story doesn’t get stale. With so many quick twists and turns, young readers could get lost along the way, but Loge clearly explains all the unexpected changes to keep his audience on track. In addition to a sprinkling of black-and-white illustrations, Cameron’s easy friendship with Miguel and Marcella keeps things light and youthful when the tale could have been bogged down with one too many odd, mystical events. The heart of the book—a young boy as the chosen one who must defeat an evil enemy—has been a common YA plotline in recent years, but Loge’s energetic style makes the theme seem fresh.
A fun adventure for anyone who’d love to see a few spunky kids trick some bad-news pirates.