George by Alex Gino Book Review

George by Alex Gino
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: August 25, 2015

George introduces a compassionate and thoughtful fourth-grade girl living in a boy’s body, who wants to be accepted by her family, friends, and classmates as Melissa—if only she could be brave enough to share her secret.

This middle-grade transgender story won the 2016 Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association. The committee praised George as “a classic story that speaks to the transgender child’s experience.”

George does speak to the transgender child’s experience, and I recommend it simply for that. Some young transgender readers might identify with George and feel less alone. The story might also help straight readers to understand how other kids like George see the world, and perhaps think twice about hurtful words and actions. Books build bridges that way.

George is also a timely book as many state legislatures, sport leagues, and school districts are dealing with controversial laws, policies, and rules for transgender students. I’m impressed that Scholastic saw the importance of publishing a book like this. However, George often feels like a primer on the transgender experience rather than a contemporary middle-grade novel about a transgender character.  

The author hits all of the main points of a how-to guide to transgender students like a translation of Schools inTransition: A Guide For Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools into a novel format. I stumbled on the multitude of stilted or stereotypical character descriptions and plot points. George has a thin frame and wants to wear pink outfits and glittery makeup, of course. Mom discourages any “feminine” behavior, like playing dress-up, as you might guess. The class bully hurls predictable derogatory comments at George and eventually punches George in the gut, like a “classic” bully would do. Perhaps precisely because these expected story elements are not well-tread territory in middle-grade novels, it’s forgivable here. Besides, the author refrains from outright didacticism that would make it a glorified how-to book, and the story is not bad. Just predictable.

Still, as a writer, I have a few other issues with this book as a literary work. The dust-jacket copy promises George will solve the problem for herself. Spoiler alert: George does not come up with the plan. Kelly does. I really wanted George to figure this out.

That brings up another problem in the spoiler-alert category. Kelly and Scott, George’s older brother, accept George’s transgender revelation too darn quickly. Scott eats a dinner roll and – poof! -- he is cool with her. Wouldn’t these characters balk at first? Maybe worry what other kids would say about them? I was glad they loved George unconditionally, don’t get me wrong, but I just didn’t believe they would welcome Melissa without any hesitation.

One other thing. Melissa? What’s up with that name? Kelly isn’t any better. My friends’ names are Melissa and Kelly, and I’m 50 years old. I don’t know of one Melissa or Kelly in fourth grade today. I wondered if the setting was the 1970s, back when I was in fourth grade, but there’s a cordless phone in one scene and Scott calls George “Dude.” I think it’s supposed to be contemporary fiction. And, more important, I think you should read George despite the name anachronisms, despite Kelly solving the problem, despite the predictable elements.

Please read it. So many children need to be better understood for who they are. Then, if you’re looking for exceptional contemporary fiction that happens to provide insights to the transgender experience, read Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills . We need more bridge-building books and more people reading them.


Tracy Nelson Maurer holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She writes about children’s literature and has published more than 100 titles for children. Her picture-book biographies, John Deere, That’s Who! (Henry Holt) and Noah Webster’s Fighting Words will be published in the spring of 2017. Find her on Facebook or at

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian Book Review

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian 
Illustrations by Mike Curato
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 5, 2016

You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of a worm and a worm. Of course, once their friends find out they are getting married, it turns out there are a lot of expectations. A ceremony, a cake, an officiator. And who is going to the bride? Or the groom? The answer is: It doesn't matter. Because Worm Loves Worm.

A simple story with a big message, this book manages to talk about gender, sexuality, and traditions in a way that is entirely age appropriate. As someone who didn't do all the "traditional" wedding things that some people thought we should, I understand the societal and familial expectations of doing something the way it has always been done. Beyond that though is also the message of equality. For the parents who don't like to discuss these kinds of issues with small children, I don't think this book is for you or your little ones. I for one love that it exists though. There is so much to talk about here, but I think you should just go read it for yourself.

Quick note: J.J. Austrian is a graduate from Hamline University's MFA program and I am proud that he attended my school although I have never met him, which makes me sad, but very proud to be part of a program that is helping mentor such wonderful writers.

The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield Book Review

The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield
Publisher: Running Press Books
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Jack is off in search of the perfect tree, one that he can chop, hack and stack. Jack then stumbles upon three unlikely friends who show them their perfect trees.

Beautifully illustrated, this book reminds me of the collages I used to imagine I was making as a child. Not that the collages were imaginary, but they were always so much better in my head than in real life. This is the real life representation of the art I always wished I could do. The story can be used an environmentally friendly book with many practical applications for storytimes or the classroom. I was a bit confused as to why young Jack was so intent on finding the "perfect tree" if he was just going to us it as firewood, but that is neither here nor there.

Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell Book Review

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell
Illustrations by Rafael López
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 16, 2016 

Sometimes all you need to make your community a little better is to add a splash of color. For Mira, her neighborhood is drab and gray and so she begins to hand out colorful pictures she has drawn. A flower to the grocer, a butterfly, and a flower taped to a wall. Then she meets a man who is a muralist. He hands Mira a paintbrush and together they turn the East Village of San Diego into something beautiful.

Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, this delightfully bright book is awash with color and emotion. Reminding me of A Curious Garden, this is the story of transformation and what people can do within their own community. I love these kinds of stories, because it is important that children not only see themselves in stories, but can also see a place for themselves in the world. Mira seems to be a fictional character herself, but she is a good foil for children to see themselves in the story. As with any book about art though, it is the illustrations that are integral to the story. Rafael López was integral to the making of the Urban Art Trail, transforming San Diego's East Village where he lived. López's Mexican influences are on every page, having a vague fairy tale mythic quality to them. I simply can't state enough how lovely this book is.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Book Review

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: January 8, 2015

Born with a club foot and an abusive mother, ten-year-old Ada Smith has never left her London apartment. When German bombs threaten the city and her younger brother is evacuated, Ada seizes her chance and sneaks away with him. The pair is shipped to the English countryside with other evacuees and pawned off on Susan, a single woman who never had children and never wanted any.

Encountering a freedom she has never known before, Ada physically thrives in the country. She walks with the aid of crutches, teaches herself to ride a horse, learns to read and write, and hunts for German spies. While Ada’s well-honed survival instinct tries to keep her heart locked up tight, she slowly learns to trust Susan.

The emotional arc of this story is very satisfying. Each set-back that Ada experiences forces her to open up a little more. On a subconscious level she recognizes that Susan cares for her, but this thought terrifies Ada. Someday her mother will come to reclaim her. When that day arrives, Ada fears she will once again become the ugly, stupid, crippled girl so she cannot relinquish her emotional armor. Ada fights Susan’s love with a feisty flippancy that middle-grade readers will recognize. But even while Ada verbally holds Susan at arm’s length, she also brews Susan’s tea, knits Susan a Christmas scarf, and lets her shoulder lean against Susan’s arm as they sit side-by-side. This emotional evolution feels genuine and earned.

My one complaint with this book was its lack of historical detail in the setting. The story takes place in England in the middle of World War II. That time and place was not communicated with the rich detail that can transport a reader to the distant past.

The War that Saved my Life was a Newbery Honor winner for 2016 and it deserved such an accolade. This is a moving story about one girl’s personal war for survival in the midst of a national struggle. Readers will root for Ada Smith, a girl with determination, courage, and a great capacity for love.

Bio: Judy Dodge Cummings writes MG/YA fiction and nonfiction from her home in rural Wisconsin. A former history teacher, Judy has a MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Teens from Hamline University. Her latest book, Human Migration: Investigate the Global Journey of Mankind, will be released by Nomad Press in June 2016.

Twitter: @JDodgeCummings

Henry Wants More by Linda Ashman Book Review

Henry Wants More by Linda Ashman 
Illustrations by Brooke Boynton Hughes
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 26, 2016

Nothing is enough for Henry. He always wants more. More games, more races, more tickles, more books. His loving family tries to  satiate him, but it is soon clear that living with Henry is a rather exhausting affair.

Henry is a typical toddler with a ton of energy and little ones are going to see themselves in him. Parents and siblings will also see themselves in the pages of the story as they get more and more exhausted throughout the day. Henry's demands are never mean or coming from a place of entitlement either. He wants more because he is having fun, not because he likes to command people to do things. That's an important distinction to be made in this story.

Also, remember a week ago with Mixed Me! where I said that there weren't a whole lot of books out their with multi-ethnic families and children? Well, her is another one and unlike the aforementioned book, this one allows the pictures to do the talking. As I said, I think there is a place for both kinds of stories. Some children need a book to spell out what being multi-ethnic is like and there are others who just need to see more characters like them in the pages of books.

This one is a perfect book for storytimes and bedtimes, anytime really, but would make a nice addition to preschool and daycare bookshelves.

Mad Scientist Academy by Matthew McElligott Book Review

Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 7, 2015

In Dr. Cosmic's class, the children are discovering all about dinosaurs, except that these realistic dino-bots are taking over and it is up to the children to shut them down, learning something about dinosaurs in the process.

A fun learning adventure for kids who love dinosaurs, this book was a delight to read and look at. We have monster students at a school for mad scientists who are, as these things go, left without adult supervision to discover on their own. An early introduction to comic books and adventure stories, this one felt like a nice read aloud book that would be a step into read-to-myself books.

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield Book Review

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: April 5, 2016

One day, in the middle of the wood, bear finds something strange. He doesn't know what it is, but when he touches it, it makes a terrible noise. Despite this, bear visits again and again, slowly learning how to play beautiful music. He plays for his friends who gather round, listening to him and applauding him. One day he learns that this thing is called a piano and he soon sets off to see the world, playing for audiences around the world. As the stage gets bigger and bigger, bear begins to miss his woodland home and his friends. Do they miss him? Do they still think about him? So bear sets off back home. What he finds are a bunch of loyal friends who have followed his every move, cheering for him from afar. And he finds that the best place to play music is with the people that he loves.

On the surface this book could seem like any other story about someone who goes off to be famous. But those stories may not include a bear and they certainly don't have such magnificent illustrations. This bear is so expressive. I found myself being drawn into his eyes that always looked so kind and yet just a little sad, especially as the store progresses. From wood to city, there was so much to pull the eye in and some beautiful spreads that gave a feeling of awe and wonder. Yet the story is also lovely and one that I feel adults can enjoy as well as children. Bear was never unhappy playing his music and yet he was also homesick. He didn't feel loved, but in the end missed his friends. And the best part was that his friends missed him too. As someone who has moved several times this is a feeling I understand completely and also want to be that person who cheers for others from afar.

This is one that I think I may actually buy for my bookshelf, if only to show off the lovely illustrations.

Like No Other by Una LaMarcher Book Review

Like No Other by Una LaMarcher
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: July 24, 2014

Devorah is the perfect good girl being brought up in an typically strict Hasidic family. Jaxon is book-smart African American nerd who has never been good at talking to girls. His four sisters don't count. They both live in Brooklyn, but they might as well be living in two different worlds. In Devorah's world, good Hasidic girls do not talk to non-Hasidic boys, or even Hasidic ones for that matter. Good Hasidic girls do not get stuck in elevators with boys. And they certainly don't start lying to their parents in order to see the boy from the elevator. Yet, Devorah finds herself doing all of this. Soon, she and Jax are sneaking around the city trying to see each other. It is a relationship that is doomed to be discovered. It is a relationship that could destroy everything Devorah knows.

Touted as a Romeo & Juliet story this book is the same only in the forbidden love department. No one is going to kill themselves and no one is going to kill Devorah or Jax. The love story takes place over week and months not days. Devorah loves Jax, but has no delusions that this is a forever kind of thing. Romeo & Juliet this book is not, and for that I was grateful.

Normally, this book isn't my kind of thing. Anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time knows that I take issue with romance books, particularly of the young adult variety. What drew me to this book was that the story centers around the Hasidic community, a community that I admit to having a bit of a fascination with. Now, not being Jewish in any way, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of everything in the story, but I did think the book did a good job of introducing elements of Hasidic life into the story without feeling heavy-handed or didactic. Devorah herself is at the age where she is beginning to question whether the things she has been taught all her life are what she wants for her life. Does she really want to be matched up with a boy at eighteen and have babies? What about college?  What if she ends up with someone like her brother-in-law? And are the people outside the community really all that bad?

I liked Devorah. She was relateable in a way that felt surprising, given that her life is so different from most of the people who would be reading this book. Jax, on the other hand, felt a bit flat to me. The problem with Jax is that he has nothing to lose in this story. He pushes Devorah to do things she can't or shouldn't, due to a desire to be with her, but nothing bad is going to happen to him if this does or doesn't work out. His parents don't care who he is dating as long as he keeps his grades up and goes to work. He won't lose his reputation by dating her. Nothing will happen if people in his community find out. Jax is just a foil to tell Devorah's story. And Devorah has everything to lose. Her family, her community, her freedom.

The antagonistic character in Devorah's brother-in-law, was a little too awful. He is shown as fiercely and angrily devout, in a way that made all the males in the story seem overly domineering and angry. Even Devorah's father and grandfather end up being portrayed this way and that bothered me as there was no effort made to try and show these people in a understanding way. If all men are like Jacob, then she really does need to worried about marrying someone like him, but they can't all be. This is painting the Hasidic community with an extremely broad brush in which the religion itself has no redeeming qualities.

**SPOILERS** In the end, everything felt a bit too tidy and unrealistic. Devorah manages to convince her family not to marry her off, to let her go to college, and breaks it off with Jax with some heartbreak but little else. One can see that Devorah is on her way out of this family and community and is just trying to hang in there another 2 years until she goes off to college. Jax, once his part in the love story is over, disappears. Nothing more than a fond memory. Here is what I wanted in the end: Devorah is kicked out of her community and goes to live with someone who used to be in the community and helps her get into a regular public school and prepare for college. She misses her family and sees them occasionally, but these visits are rare and her grandfather never comes. As much as she misses it though, she knows she is making the right decision because she really doesn't want to just get married and have babies. OR Devorah refuses all her male suitors...for two years straight. She doesn't see Jax or communicate with him, but leaves for college in the city. On her first day at the school, after her parents leave the dorm, she finds a new pair of red sneakers and a note telling her to meet him at the park. He waited.

I know that is terribly romantic, but if you are going to make me suffer through a teenage romance, let's at least go totally realistic or not at all. The in-between thing where Devorah is left on the fence about her life as Hasidic with no clear direction just felt like such a waste of such a great character.

Valentine's Day Picture Books to Love

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here is a delightful and educational book about ... Valentine's Day shapes. I enjoyed the illustrations immensely and liked the educational content. This would be a household favorite, I think, though I found myself wishing for more actual story. I also was not crazy about the way the text was laid out on the page. Why not integrate it with the art more? I would not place this as a Valentine's Day book, regardless of the title. But as a concept book, it's fun with lots to look at and items and shapes to name. My trusty assistant* would consider this a favorite!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The adult reader will for sure relate to the bear who just wants some friggin QUIET! Throughout the story the poor bear is beset by his best friend with questions and requests and just a whole lot of chatter. Like the bear, I found his best friend irritating. And given how irritating, I wasn't entirely convinced in the bear's avowal of affection at the end. The illustrations were light and happy, the story simple enough, if long. A cute, non-love-and-hearts Valentine's find!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The sweet illustrations perfectly match an equally sweet story of a surprising friendship. A bear finds surprises (edible ones) and eventually starts leaving gifts of his own. Of course the adult in me was thinking, "No, don't it's a hunter's ploy! He wants you for a bearskin rug!" But it wasn't a hunter. Nope, rather a sweet little... HAH I won't spoil it. The repetition was engaging, but overall I thought it was perhaps a bit too repetitive. The back and forth went on perhaps too long without anything else happening. My preference: this maybe should have been a 10-16pg board book instead of a 32pg picture book. Of the new Valentine's Day books however, this is a winner.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The adult me loves this book. Concept, illustrations spot on. The story of a zombie looking for love in all the seemingly right places is just what I'd expect. And the solution, zombie meets zombie, also expected. The twist on a popular pop song was less expected and highly funny (for me, the adult), but overall I found it a bit wordy and predictable. Slight, like an underfed zombie. So because I'm an adult, I'm giving it four stars for my own reading enjoyment. As a parent and for my inner child, I would give it three. For the simple reason that my four-year-old assistant would not let me read her this book. Too scary. And I think the dating theme was handled a bit too maturely for the audience. But the illustrations are boss. Can I say "boss"? Probably not. I'm probably too old. Sorry.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely love the illustrations, and the voice of the story and the story itself. I did not, however, fully "get" the abstract concept. I know the author doesn't want it to be pedantic, and I appreciate that, but if I didn't really catch on, I wonder how well a child will? I wanted more direction/author intrusion. Very pretty book, however.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet little heart-catching girl makes valentines for all her friends. What a delightful book! I love the happy illustrations, the craft-ability, and how well the illustrations and spare text work together. I was surprised to see who the valentines went to - perfect for a child's world. This is a classic. I can see why it's still a favorite after so many years.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story of a girl whose Valentine's Day is nearly ruined all because ... Ha, I almost did it again. I love the explosion of pink in the illustrations. And I love the subtle switch-up of the valentine's with Daddy's work papers. The text could have been a bit trimmer, but this is a fun, girl-friendly Valentine's Day book.

*Four-year-old Little Miss Rowdy Britches

Mouse Scouts by Sarah Dillard Book Review

Mouse Scouts by Sarah Dillard
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Meet Violet, Tigerlily, Hyacinth, Petunia, Junebug, and Cricket, six new Mouse Scouts who are trustworthy and strong, thrifty and brave . Best friends Violet and Tigerlily can’t wait to start earning their merit badges. But their troop leader, Miss Poppy, is one strict rodent. Earning their first badge—planting a vegetable garden—is going to be hard work for these little mice. 

I was never a girl scout, although I did do a uber-Christian version called Missionettes. Badges existed, but I don't really recall caring about them or doing much to get them. If I recall, I didn't have many. It is perhaps this ambivalence that also made me ambivalent towards this book.

Written on the same level as the Judy Moody series, this is a good bridger books for readers who have outgrown Junie B. Jones. However, I found the story to be a bit slow with a lot of gardening facts that didn't hold my interest. I imagine that the audience for this book is rather specifically tied to girls who like Girl Scouts and/or gardening. As this is going to be a series, I think there will probably be a focus on different badges for each book. For me, the book lacked a certain amount of humor that I am used to seeing in books for this age group, but the book wasn't bad though. I feel like I have a lot of caveats for this book, because the truth is, it just isn't my kind of book. Too quiet, too girly, and too focused on something that I care very little about. It has its audience, and that audience certainly doesn't include me. 

Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs Book Review

Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs
Illustrations by Shane W. Evans
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: October 6, 2015

Mike has awesome hair and a ton of energy. His loves that he is a perfect mix of his parents who are black and white. Of course, Mike has to answer a lot of questions about being mixed, but he doesn't mind so much because he loves his family.

An issue book that deals with a bi-racial that may have a rather specific audience, but is an important one. According to the last census, among American children the multiracial population has increased almost 50 percent, to nearly 4.2 million, making it the fastest growing youth group in the country. Yet there are so few children's books on the subject. Now, as the We Need Diverse Books movement has pointed out, diversity is still something that the children's book industry struggles with (and is making great strides in). Picture books have a tendency to have animals rather than children since one doesn't have to worry about what color a mouse or a bear or a rabbit is. As much as I like the animal books, there is definitely something to be said about children needing books that show people like them.

Normally, I am rather harsh when it comes to celebrity authors. What I felt like this book lacked in writing style, I think it made up for with the story itself and the illustrations. There is actually a really great rhythm to the story although some of the rhymes themselves felt a bit clunky at times. Shane W. Evans illustrates with his usual bright colors. And Mike's hair! Such fantastic red curls.

At times, I am thankful for books that have incidental diversity, like the father's day book (that I cannot recall the title of) that I read a few years back in which the parent's were multi-racial, but this is never addressed in the story. Yet, I also think books like this are also incredibly important. Age-appropriate and upbeat, I hope this book finds its audience and with a celebrity author, it just might.

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabil Sehgal Book Review

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabil Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal 
Illustrations by Jess Golden
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Release Date: January 16, 2016

An international twist on a familiar nursery rhyme, this book introduces use to a busy three-wheeled taxi in India. Anything and everything happens as the tuk tuk rolls through town--from an elephant encounter to a taste treat to a grand fireworks display.

Have you ever heard a song sung in another language that was originally written in English? Usually, the syllables don't all match the song, while close to the original version, sounds stilted and odd. That is the problem with this book. The idea of it is fantastic, but the words simply didn't go with the traditional tune of The Wheels on the Bus. I tried. I sang it out loud, trying to force the words to work with the melody, but I couldn't. Some were close, but most of the song felt like it was missing or had one too many beats. I applaud the attempt to make a multi-cultural story like this. I myself own a New Zealand version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. (A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree) However, if you are going to cram your story into a well-known tune, it must actually fit, otherwise the song and the story fall flat.

Cockatoo, Too by Bethanie Deeney Murguia Book Review

Cockatoo, Too by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Publisher: Little Bee Books
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Two cockatoos meet two more cockatoos in tutus and two tutued toucans. And then two more! Can they all can-can? They can! The cockatoos and toucans join together for a dance and ask the reader: "Can you can-can too?" 

A fun play on words that will introduce the basic concept of homonyms as well as simple rhyme. There is a nice rhythm to the story that was refreshing after reading a few books with some bad rhyming schemes. What I especially loved where the bright watercolors set against large white spaces on the spreads that created an open and inviting feelings. In a way, the background of each picture reminded me a bit of theater, as if the fronds and trees were sets and the white was the open stage. This feeling was only furthered by the fact that the birds are dancing in tutus. 

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman Book Review

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: April 1, 2015

Caden Bosch is on a pirate ship headed for the deepest point on Earth. He is also a brilliant high school student with friends who are starting to notice his odd behaviors.

Oscillating between present and past, Challenger Deep tells the story of one young man and his descent into madness. At first, the story felt disjointed, wrong. The pirate ship wasn't quite right, the parrot on the captain's shoulder a little too knowledgeable, the people on the ship a little more odd than one would expect, even on a pirate ship. As we go back to the past though, it soon becomes clear that what Caden is experiencing is some sort of psychotic break. It begins with the walking. Caden walks and walks, absorbed by the many thoughts in his head. Paranoid thoughts in which he thinks that a boy at his school wants to kill him, but of course he doesn't...that can't be right. Can it? His family and friends have no idea what to do and brush it off at first, but soon Caden can't hide his manic state of mind. Soon Caden finds himself in a mental hospital and as he sinks further away from the real world, the pirate ship becomes so so real.

This was not my favorite book, but it had nothing to do with the storytelling. It was because of how uncomfortable the story made me. Having known some people with various mental illnesses, I knew that no matter how this story ended, this kid will never fully escape the effects of his illness. I also knew that although the pirate ship was all in his head, to him it was very real and that too made me sad. I didn't like the book because it was a hard and harsh reality that I know is important, but was so heavy. I equate it to watching the movie Pan's Labyrinth. The movie is exceptionally well-done, but so dark that I have never been able to watch it more than once, even though I own it. If I find someone who hasn't seen it, I tell them that they must, but warn them that the story is dark and there isn't really a happy ending. And so I say the same to you. This is a wonderfully made book, but it is dark and it doesn't really have a happy ending.