Monday, April 27, 2020

Book of the Week: Leaving Lymon

by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Published by Holiday House, 2020
198 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8234-4442-7

Ages 8-12

With his daddy in Parchman Farms, the state penitentiary, Lymon is being raised by his grandparents in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After his beloved Grandpops dies, his aunts move Lymon and his grandmother, who can barely cope with her own needs let alone Lymon’s, to Milwaukee. When his daddy is released, Lymon hopes they’ll be together again, but Daddy makes promises he doesn’t keep, arriving in Milwaukee one day and leaving the next, always on the road for musical gigs. Lymon’s mother, who left him as a toddler, reappears on the scene when his grandmother’s health declines. She takes him to live with her in Chicago, where he has two younger half-brothers and a domineering stepfather. African American Lymon, who first appeared as a school-yard bully in last year’s Looking for Langston, is seen here from the inside out. A story spanning a decade, from 1938 to 1947, shows Lymon’s anger and sadness build across years of abandonment and, eventually, physical abuse. The constant in Lymon’s life is music, which he “has an ear for,” and it’s music that brings respite, and adults stepping up that bring Lymon hope, by story’s end. Cline-Ransome demonstrates her genius for depicting setting and fully fleshed out characters with an economy of style that makes for a quick, yet deeply satisfying reading experience. (KTH)  ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Book of the Week: Hike

by Peter Oswald

Published by Candlewick Press, 2020
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0157-4

Ages 4-7

A brown-skinned father and his child (who could be any gender) wake up before dawn, eat breakfast, pack their car, and head out of the city and into the wilderness, where they spend the day hiking. There are more than a few dramatic challenges for the adventuresome duo in this not-quite-wordless story, from crossing a creek on a single log bridge to scaling a steep rise. There’s plenty of nature appreciation, too (e.g., they stop to watch an eagle and later plant a small tree). Most of all, there is the camaraderie of father and child. Except for the judicious use of onomatopoeia, the muted watercolor illustrations tell the story of their day, which ends back at home as they place a selfie they took into a family scrapbook, next to photographs of three earlier generations of father/child hikers.  (KTH) ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 13, 2020

Book of the Week: A Game of Fox & Squirrels

by Jenn Reese

Henry Holt , 2020

224 pages 


Ages 9-12

Samantha, 11, and her sister Caitlyn, 14, have just arrived at their aunt Vicky’s in Oregon, but Sam is already thinking about going home. Caitlyn, who has a broken arm, seems content. After Aunt Vicky gives Sam a beautiful old card game called “Fox & Squirrels,” Sam encounters the dashing fox and friendly squirrels from the game in the woods. She’s determined to succeed at the challenges the Fox sets to earn the Golden Acorn, with which, he explains, Sam can wish herself back home. But the fox’s requests are morally questionable and increasingly disturbing, while his unpredictable personality and the way the squirrels strive to not upset him mirrors a truth that Sam doesn’t want to admit—the truth of why they’ve come to stay with Aunt Vicky and her wife, Hannah: Sam and Caitlyn’s dad is dangerous in the exact same way, and Caitlyn’s broken arm was no accident. A book that explores child abuse and its impact within a family—their mother’s ineffectiveness at protecting them, Caitlyn’s efforts to protect them both—and across generations—Vicky and their dad were both victims as children--is tense but also beautifully reassuring, especially as Vicky and Hannah provide safety and support for the sisters. The line between fantasy and reality is never delineated in a book about a white family that allows readers to mine their own meanings from its depths. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 6, 2020

Book of the Week: Prairie Lotus

by Linda Sue Park

Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020

260 pages

Ages 8-11

Hanna’s mama died when Hanna was 12. Now 15, she and Papa have left Los Angeles far behind to start over in the growing frontier town of LaForge, Dakota Territories, in 1880. Hanna has two strong desires: to get her diploma, and to make dresses for the fabric shop Papa is opening. Papa, who is white, doesn’t want Hanna to sew for the shop. He and Mama owned a dress shop, but because Mama was Chinese many assumed he married her to get free labor. Hanna knows her parents had a marriage of love and a true partnership in business, but Papa is worried what people will think. And when most of the other families pull their children out of school in protest after Hanna starts attending, Hanna isn’t sure people will even come to the shop once it opens. There are numerous similarities to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books here, many of them captivating. There are also critical, intentional differences. Racism on the frontier is openly acknowledged and examined through Hanna’s experiences and observations, while the Native people (Oceti Sakowin/Lakota) Hanna meets are portrayed with respect and dignity. Park writes about the Little House books, which she loved as a child, in an author’s note that begins, “I wrote Hanna’s story as an attempt at a painful reconciliation.” Familiar or not with those books, readers will find this one a deeply satisfying story with a resilient, winning protagonist. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center