The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-El

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

This is a lovely story about a polar bear named Duane, and his many friends in the very, very far north: C.C., the snowy owl, Major Puff, a military trained puffin, Magic, a lovely white snow fox, Handsome, a very, very vain musk ox, whose primary occupation is staring at his reflection in the water, Twitch, an arctic hare, Boo, a caribou, and Sun Girl, a human girl, whom you might think would be the main character of the story, being the only human, but she isn’t. (Duane is)

As with most children’s books with animal characters, these animals (and one human animal) all get along as friends, and even better, all seem to speak the same language. Don’t let this deter you from reading this wonderful gem of a story, because, from the very beginning, when Duane and Handsome begin their journey, we learn lots of things about these friends, the great white north, and, if we pay attention, to what and who we are, as well. Enough from me. As Duane thinks at the start of this adventure, “Light mood, positive spirit, bouncy steps. These are the ideal things to bring along when exploring.”

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC BAR-EL)

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

Castle Crenshaw (Ghost) is a runner; a very fast runner. Will he be fast enough to compete on the Defenders? Will he always have to run in his rolled up jeans and ratty old high tops? This is a quick read with a lot of depth and heart, and when it comes to finding your way within the difficult life of poverty, anger, and need, the Defenders just may be the key. This is the first book in the series, Track, now complete with Patina, Sunny, and Lu. It’s definitely a series worth reading.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC REYNOLDS BK.1)

Sweet Dreamers by Isabelle Simler

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

I love ordering picture books – it seems the new ones coming out now are getting better and better. The illustrations are beautiful, and their accompanying words fit perfectly. Sweet Dreamers is just such a book. I ordered it based on a very favorable review, but as I read it, I was astounded by its depth. The animal pictures are created digitally, and are lovely lines of orange, white, ocher, green, and more. The short descriptions, of each featured animal are thought provoking and precise in their descriptions of the animals’ sleeping procedures. This is a lovely bedtime book and so much more.

Located in Children’s Picture Books (E SIMLER)

You Be You! The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family by Jonathan Brafman, illustrated by Julie Benbasset

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

This is a very factual and simply written book for children, discussing all kinds of things about love, attraction, marriage, the decisions about whether to have or not have children, as well as extensive information concerning gender identity. Written for children, it includes lots of colorful pictures, and does a great job of explaining phrases children may not have heard before. The chapters are short, and very easy to follow, and the entire book has a very kid-friendly vibe without being the least bit “cutesy.” I think this will be helpful to kids of all ages and their parents (and teachers.) I highly recommend it as a very good read about subjects that are often daunting to approach, approached in a very calm and informational manner.

Located in Children’s Nonfiction (J 305.3 BRA)

Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

When I was 9 years old I heard the speech that President John F. Kennedy made to announce to the world, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” And I remember my mother and father being amazed at this proclamation, and my dad saying, “If anyone can do it, we can.” I lived through years of reports about the Apollo space missions, being sad about the defeats and happy when their efforts were successful. And then, within that decade NASA and the brave astronauts did what many believed to be impossible; they put not one, but two astronauts on the moon. Until now, I’m not sure there has been an adequate book for children about this feat, but there is now. That book, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, is one of the finest pieces of nonfiction I have read in my many years as a children’s librarian. Suzanne Slade and Thomas Gonzalez (author and illustrator) have provided a wonderful compilation of all the preparations and flights, from Apollo 1’s tragic beginning to Apollo 11’s triumphant moonwalk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. This is a magnificent children’s book, written in a way accessible to all children, but definitely not just for children. It is a feast for all.

Located in Children’s Nonfiction (J 629.45 SLA)

Three Books by Torben Kuhlman

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon
Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure
Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse

This marvelous series of books by Torben Kuhlman (in English translation) is a 3 book compilation of stories about mice that learn to fly, help build a vessel, and go to the moon. The stories are factual (well, except for the mouse part,) and certain to be read and reread by children. The many illustrations are extraordinary, the text is uplifting, and the outcome for both the mice and this book series is transcendent.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC KUHLMAN)

Raymie Nightingale / Louisiana’s Way Home / Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

Raymie, Louisiana & Beverly Series

Raymie Clarke decides that if she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night and tells her they need to leave home immediately, and this time Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana tries to oppose the fates and to find a way to return home. But, as her life begins to become entwined with the lives of others in Richford, Georgia, she starts to worry that she is destined only for goodbyes. But that’s a story for another time.

Beverly Tapinski is done running away from home. She’s fourteen now, and she’s not running, she’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a place to live and a job and tries to forget all that she has left behind: her friend, Raymie, and her mom, Rhonda (who never cared a whit about anyone but herself). She finds she’s still making connections with the people around her.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC DICAMILLO)

The Collectors by Jacqueline West

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

Do you notice things people have left behind or lost, or just forgotten? Van does. Van sees all kinds of things other people don’t notice at all, partially because of his partial deafness and the need to wear hearing aids. But one day, Van notices a girl stealing pennies from a fountain, and everything changes. He follows the girl, Pebble, and uncovers an underground world full of wishes and the people who collect them and can make them come true. The problem is, not every wish should come true, and Van discovers just what can happen when the wrong people and the wrong wishes are involved.

I seem to be picking out more books lately with scarier stories to tell, and sometimes it’s good to get out of your book comfort zone. This is a complicated story, with a cast of fascinating characters, and a hero you’ll really root for.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC WEST)

Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

It’s spring break, and Amelia wants more than anything to go to France like her best friend or even to Florida, like everyone else, but her father has too much work, so she’s resigned to spend her week at her favorite place, the local art studio. Louise, the owner of the studio and Amelia’s friend, introduces her to Casey, who is hanging out with his aunt while his parents are trying to decide if they should divorce. The two hit it off. While out for a walk one day they decide to play a game of renaming people on the street and making up their life stories, and that is the beginning of a new story for Amelia. Kevin Henkes is primarily known for his picture books, but he has written an impressive collection of middle grade fiction, and while I generally consider him to be somewhat taciturn, he knows how to craft a great book, and he really knows kids.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC HENKES)

The Dam by David Almond

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

I don’t normally review picture books, but when The Dam by award winning David Almond came in my most recent book order, I knew it deserved a special mention. The Dam is the story of a last look by a father and daughter at an area that will soon be covered with water; a chance to remember the people who have been moved out of the area, the houses that were once homes to happy families, all the musicians who once played on that hill, and the wildlife that would never return. It is a time for the daughter to honor it all with the playing of her violin there one last time.

“This will be gone,” he told her.
“And this.”
“And this will be washed away.”
“And this will never be seen again.”
“And this will drown.”
“And these can never live here again.”

Although this seems a sad story (and part of it certainly is), it is also a story about what we treasure, and how things must change, and how we can make things better by honoring and remembering. In these days of fast and new and replaceable, and hurryhurryhurry, it is important to realize some things have to change, but they should be remembered.

Located in Children’s Picture Books (E ALMOND)