Thursday, October 9, 2014

September Round-Up

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The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove
Viking, 2014

Enter Sophia’s world. A world where the mysterious Great Disruption has thrown the time and geography of the world into a jumble of Ages or time periods. Sophia lives in 1891 in Boston, a major city in the Age known as New Occident. But when her Uncle Shadrack, the famous cartologer (a mix between a mapmaker and an archeologist) is kidnapped, Sophia’s orderly life comes to an end. With just a strange glass map and instructions from her uncle to find Veressa, Sophia and her new and unpredictable friend Theo set off to save Shadrack. Unfortunately, they are unaware of the dangers barreling towards them as they travel south to the Triple Eras. Can Sophia figure out the mysterious glass map and put together all the clues in time to save her uncle?

The alternate history Grove has created in this fantasy is rich and complex. She presents the reader not only with sensory descriptions, but also with information about how the Great Disruption has affected the relationships of people, communities, and countries. Issues of immigration, class structure, and prejudice are all touched on in thoughtful ways. The chapters alternate between Sophia and Shadrack’s perspectives, both written in third person. This allows the reader to know more and to push the story forward with ever bigger cliffhangers. Although the seemingly sudden change of heart that topples the story to its climatic ending is a bit unbelievable, overall the story is satisfying and engrossing. This lengthy book (nearly 500 pages) is an excellent recommendation for avid readers looking to be immersed in a fascinating parallel world. Although there is some torture and gruesome description, kids who have read the last few Harry Potter books should be just fine. This is the first book in a trilogy.


Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 10+/Grade 5+

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Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Hyperion, 2014
(Reviewed based on an advance reader’s copy)

12 year old Grayson has a lot of secrets. He secretly draws princesses in his notebooks during class. He secretly pretends his extra long t-shirts are dresses. And, most of all, he secretly wishes he had been born a girl. Over time Grayson has learned that it’s better for him to hide his real self, to be gray, to blend in with his surroundings. But all that changes in 6th grade when Grayson decides to audition for the lead role, a female role, in the school play. As he steps into the role of Persephone, Grayson also steps out of his shell and into the world.

Set in Northern Illinois, this story is written from Grayson’s perspective. The sensitive and often poetic narration reflects Grayson’s growth as he becomes more confident and self-aware. Like Grayson, the story is quiet and unassuming, but short chapters and compelling characters keep the pace from dragging. The story centers around Grayson questioning his gender in an age appropriate way. He doesn’t worry about sex, boyfriends or girlfriends, and he never even has a crush on a classmate. All of his energy is spent figuring out his identity and, as the story goes on, on finding a group of friends who support and encourage him. Although Grayson becomes more confident, that doesn’t protect him from the reactions of others. Some of the people in his life are supportive, while others are protective, scared, or shocked. As expected, Grayson is the target of bullying at school. Mr. Finnegan is an inspirational, but human teacher and role model for Grayson. Although there are a few school situations that seem a little unrealistic, this is an excellent book for tweens who are too old for Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, but not quite mature enough for Will Grayson, Will Grayson. 


Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 10+/Grade 5+

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Lulu and the Duck inthe Park by Hilary McKay, Illustrations by Priscilla Lamont
Albert Whitman & Company, 2014

Lulu is most famous for her love of animals. She’s always rescuing them and bringing them home. Which is why Lulu knows without even thinking that she absolutely must save the duck egg that she sees rolling down the hill in the park. Two rambunctious dogs have destroyed all the ducks’ nests and eggs, but not this single blue egg. So as Class 3 leaves the park, Lulu slips the warm egg in her pocket. She tells her best friend and cousin Mellie, but can she keep the egg a secret for the rest of class that day? She just might be able to do it, but then something happens. The egg begins to shake and move. It’s hatching!

First in a series, this humorous early chapter book stars a wonderful, caring protagonist. Lulu’s love of life and animals will capture the readers’ attention, even as they sound out new words. McKay’s ability to write humorous, yet believable dialogue is once again on display, making this an engaging and entertaining read aloud. Lamont’s cartoonish black and white illustrations provide context, as well as break up the page for new readers. Although it’s never mentioned in the text, the illustrations show Lulu and Mellie as young black girls. However, the story focuses on Lulu’s relationships with Mellie and her teacher, Mrs. Holiday, rather than on any multicultural elements.

Read more about Lulu and her friends in Class 3:
Lulu series

More by Hilary McKay:

Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 6+/Grade 1+