Wednesday, September 30, 2015

August Round-Up

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The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt, Translated by David Colmer
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2016
(Reviewed based on an advance reader’s copy)
Mr. Tibble is a newspaper reporter with a problem, a cat problem. His problem is that every single article he turns into his editor is about cats. Unfortunately, these articles aren't particularly newsworthy. Mr. Tibble has tried to write about non-catty things, but he’s just too shy to talk to people and learn about the town’s news. But then Mr. Tibbles meets Minou a young woman who begins bringing him local news items gathered from the town cats. She’s human, but she has some strangely feline qualities that makes Mr. Tibble wonder. Then Minou uncovers an unpleasant secret about one of the most respected men in town, but all the witnesses are cats! Can Mr. Tibble and Minou unravel the mystery before it’s too late?
Originally written in Dutch and published in the Netherlands, this cat-filled romp has a timeless flavor. The dialogue is witty and the humor is light and breezy, which perfectly matches the pacing of the story. The characters, mostly cats, are quirky, but never exaggerated. This is a great choice for a family read aloud.

More by Schmidt:


Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 8+/Grade 3+

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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Feiwel and Friends, 2015
(Reviewed based on an advance reader’s copy)
Jackson’s worried. Jackson’s hardworking parents can’t seem to make ends meet, so they’re going to have a big garage sale. But will it be enough to cover rent? And what about food? Although his family lives in an apartment, there was a time when they lived out of their minivan. To top it all off, Jackson has been catching glimpses of a giant black and white cat with fingers. Crenshaw. The imaginary friend Jackson thought he has out-grown is back. But why?
Divided into three parts, this realistic fiction title handles the serious subject of homelessness with pathos, but most importantly, humor. Although the threat of homelessness hovers over Jackson’s family at all times, there’s also a spirit of hope and determination. The friendships are strong, but it is the family dynamic that anchors the story. Throughout Crenshaw remains mysterious and inexplicable. By the end of the story, even science and fact oriented Jackson decides to enjoy, rather than question, his quirky and loyal imaginary friend. The vocabulary is rich and the short chapters move the story along quickly.

More by Applegate:


Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 9+/Grade 4+

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Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, 2015
Cat-ear-wearing Bridge, feminist Tabitha, and soccer-star Em have always been a set. A set of friends who drew animals at the top of their homework assignments. A set of friends who never fight, ever. And now they are a set of friends facing 7th grade. Together the girls make new friends, experience first crushes, and grapple with changing bodies, feelings, and perceptions. At the same time, each girl explores what love and friendship means to her through conversations, coincidences, and reflection.
Set in present day New York City, this sensitive and delightful story is written from multiple perspectives that overlap and connect in surprising and thoughtful ways. The short chapters are tied together, but they also highlight moments in the characters lives that explore friendship and love. The linear narrative of the three girls is interspersed and juxtaposed with the story of an unnamed first person narrator who is somehow connected to the girls. This enigmatic element highlights the complex difficulties of friendship. Stead’s character development is strong and includes a multicultural cast. The dialogue is believable, humorous, and thought-provoking. Each word is carefully and purposely placed so even the smallest moments have meaning. All of these elements create a compelling story that begs to be reread again and again to savor the connections and characters.

More by Stead:


Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 11+/Grade 6+