Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids

Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids by Kristen Fischer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Geared toward pre-k to third grade, join Lyla as she embarks on a yoga journey with the help of the zoo animals. Each pose is paired with brightly colored mixed media illustrations and numbers as the story also reinforces counting. The animals gently encourage Lyla and give her practical tips to make the most of each pose. Small details, such as Lyla’s hair falling loose, warm this instructional story and make Lyla relatable to any young reader. The story ends with a page of smaller text explaining to parents how the poses work, which is a great aid just in case the illustrations are not enough. The rhyming adds to the cadence and flow of story, making this a relaxing and informative read. If only my yoga instructor was a dolphin.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Sounds True Publishing for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids by Kristen Fischer and illustrated by Susi Schaefer (Sounds True Publishing, 2017)

By Christine F.

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Review: The Big Bad Fox

The Big Bad Fox The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fox is terrible at being an intimidating and terrifying carnivore, which is unfortunate because his appetite is insatiable. His frequent trips to the farm annoy the mother hen and prove the guard dog’s nonchalant laziness. The wolf suggests that fox stealthy steal some eggs and hatch them into plump and tasty meals. A first seemingly brilliant idea, the chicks hatch and assume fox is their momma. Reminiscent of Mother Bruce, fox raises the chicks, engaging in fantastical play such turnip tea parties and role-playing about the big bad fox. Predictably when dinnertime arrives, fox realizes that he loves his little chicks, and he must seek sanctuary at the farm since the wolf has his own plans for chicken dinner.

Comical and sweet, The Big Bad Fox is a juvenile graphic novel for second to fifth graders. Renner reinvigorates a classic tale and relies on muted watercolors, white backgrounds, and shaded illustrations that are as simple and funny as this tale. Perfect for reluctant readers, school-aged children can welcome wolf into their imaginations and families.

I would like to thank NetGalley and First Second Books for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner (First Second Books, 2017)

Review by Christine F.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Review: Saints and Misfits

Saints and Misfits Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

During a heated political time, Ali has created a story for all cultures meant to explain the values and customs of what it means for one Muslim community and Muslim woman in America. Growing up with a more traditional Muslim family, Janna has to reconcile crushing on a non-Muslim boy, high school bullies, unsupportive friends, and conflicting emotions about being sexually assaulted by a monster—a covert monster who receives high praise in the Muslim community. Those who seem pious are anything but, and while Janna battles contradictions in her faith, she must also struggle with everyday life of being a teenage girl, including a nosy mother and annoying older brother. An honorable multicultural high school read, I have to admit that this story lost its momentum. I found myself skimming through dialogue. This slow pace fails with the quickened and perfect ending—unrealistic in its perfection. Blink and all of the angst and struggle disappears. The saints, misfits, and monster analogy/chapter labeling makes the novel more juvenile in this teen world. Amina’s Voice and It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel possess more poignancy tied in with historical value. I did enjoy Mr. Ram’s secret handshakes and Janna’s duty to correct her uncle’s overly formal responses to Muslim-American questions; the relationships Ali builds are solid, endearing, and relatable. Saints and Misfits is a commendable debut novel but one that I hesitate to recommend, even though I have seen great praise thus far.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, 2017)

Review by Christine F.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

It's Memorial Day!  

I am continually grateful for the sacrifice, honor, and love for country of our soldiers.  
Memorial Day is a lovely reminder to say it out loud! 

I am grateful for the many freedoms we enjoy and our soldiers protect.   Here at The Literacy Alliance, we are particularly thankful for our right to read, to write, and to learn!  As we visited daycares and schools this season with our Book Buster program, we shared our love of learning through books, puppets, science, and song!  As I watched our audiences, filled with smiling, laughing, and motivated children, my heart swelled.  

Thank you to all who protect our right to provide these programs! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Review: Lemons

Lemons Lemons by Melissa Savage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lemonade’s mother dies, and she finds herself in Willow Creek, a small Bigfoot-obsessed town, with her grandfather, Charlie. Her new friend, Tobin, owns a Bigfoot detective agency and “hires” Lem to help him sort through and document Bigfoot sightings. Like Lem, Tobin has also lost a parent; his dad went MIA during the war and although brought back alive, has mysteriously disappeared in transit. The two friends struggle together through their losses and grief as they begin to uncover a few surprises. Lem must also reconcile the meaning of home as she decides whether or not to stay with her grandfather or return to her old home via a well-intentioned adoption. A book that questions the boundaries of family, friendship, and heartbreak, Lemons is a beautiful middle grade read for third to seventh graders. Well-written, Savage does not begin the plot heavy with backstory. Instead, she jumps headfirst into Lem trying to honor her mom’s character by embracing the world around her—with a few hesitations. From lonely old ladies, who bake the best cookies, to single parents and grandparents trying their hardest to raise children, fall in love with these small town characters with one Twinkie-loving, hairy obsession. Savage knows how to build strong characters and make them feel like your best friends. Such a feel-good read with one of my favorite beasts.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Crown Books for Young Readers for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. Lemons is set to publish May 2, 2017.

Review by Christine Frascarelli

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review: Spork

Spork Spork by Kyo Maclear
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Spork is the hybrid of a mother spoon and a father fork. This marriage is rare in the utensil world, as cutlery remains segregated. With his points and roundness in conflict with each other, Spork does not fit in with the other spoons or forks. He attempts to artificially change his appearance but fails. Useless and lonely, Spork contemplates his existence on the dinner table. One day, a messy creature struggles to use the other utensils, and Spork seizes the opportunity to shine. Unafraid, he rushes in to save the meal. This “messy thing” turns out to be a baby, and Spork is just what this infant needs—a little bit of everything—to eat.

Maclear notes that she too is a “Spork,” coming from a biracial household with a British father and Japanese mother. A story about interracial relations and fitting in, Spork is a unique way to explain acceptance, differences, and loving oneself. For preschool to second grade, the text is simple and powerful. Arsenault’s metallic-colored illustrations complement the silverware theme but are also a bit disturbing. Whether meant to be humorous or just some spaghetti sauce, the red liquid bursts look like a bloody massacre. Some of the utensils’ faces are slightly creepy as well as the headshot of the infant, with a bib covered in red splotches. I would have loved this book so much more with cuter faces for the utensils and different coloring for the food.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Review by Christine Frascarelli

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review: North of Happy

North of Happy North of Happy by Adi Alsaid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Late one night, Carlos and his older brother, Felix, decide to taste test their way through the food stands of Mexico City in search of the perfect taco. In a tragic accident, stray bullets kill the free-spirited, nomadic Felix, leaving Carlos with his brother’s ghost and the desire to recover his own happiness. During Carlos’ high school graduation party—faced with a well intentioned but uninspiring predetermined future with the family business—Carlos runs away from his privileged life to a small island off of Washington state. With no plans except to visit Provecho, a bucket list restaurant in his brother’s diary, Carlos must find a place to sleep and a way to earn a living. In a matter of luck or fate, Carlos begins working as a dishwasher at Provecho and is taken under the wing of the master chef with the threatening promise of termination if he does not stop dating her daughter, Emma. Carlos must learn to fit in and earn his keep while navigating mental exhaustion and new love.

A story about romance, trust, maturity, and ambition, North of Happy makes readers feel like they are experiencing life for the first time. As stars and lakes ignite in the moonlight, Alsaid envelops readers in his enchanting backdrops and heartfelt, raw emotions. A beautifully written title for young adults looking ahead to the future, North of Happy inspires and awakens questions about the meaning of our existence. Although a somewhat clich├ęd plot, Alsaid adds poignant commentaries on grief and love that add an entirely fiery yet visceral quality to the story. Recipes introduce chapters to exemplify the all-pervasive passion for food and need for a fulfilling career. Days later, I find myself wondering about a conclusion and writing my own ending for Carlos, Emma, and the entire restaurant family as they touched my heart and stayed in my mind.

North of Happy is set to publish on April 25th, 2017. I would like to thank NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. Review by Christine Frascarelli

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