Red Knit Cap Girl To The Rescue by Naoko Stoop Book Review

Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue by Naoko Stopp

So I couldn't review the second installment of this picture book series without first reading the first and I can tell you this, the words "Red Knit Cap Girl" do not roll off the tongue. Trying to apply logic to the story was even harder since the moon apparently appears only when all light has gone out as it doesn't like to compete with paper lanterns. In the sequel, in which Red Knit Cap Girl she must rescue a polar bear cub who has gotten trapped on the ice. Since I was already aware that this is a completely whimsical series it was no surprise that she managed to save the bear cub using a hang glider made of paper and doesn't get eaten by polar bears. The illustrations, which are created with acrylic, ink, and pencil on plywood are simply beautiful with just the right amount of whimsy and like Emily Winfield Martin, I could see on paraphernalia of all sorts, although I would settle for a Red Knit Cap Girl notebook. Oh, and there is a narwhal.

Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin Book Review

Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey by Emily Winfield Martin

Way back in 2012 I read a strange little book called Oddfellow's Orphanage by Ms. Martin that lacked in plot or storyline but more than made up for in the charming illustrations. I commented then that I wouldn't have minded some paraphernalia like paper dolls and clothes that had these delightful illustrations and that still stands and more so. Dream Animals is an adorable bedtime storybook with whimsical characters and a sing song text that will lull any child toward dreamland. Martin's illustrations lend themselves to a picture book of this type and she isn't afraid to show characters of color or strange animals like narwhals and who doesn't love narwhals?

The Sign Painter by Allen Say Book Review

The Sign Painter by Allen Say

Allen Say, author of one of my favorite children's biographies Grandfather's Journey, is no doubt a prolific artist. Sadly, although he is capable of writing good prose and telling a great story, The Sign Painter had neither of these. Although it reads like a non-fiction, I was confused as to whether this was a story that had happened to Say or whether this was simply a tribute to art with a loose storyline for children. Unlike some of his other books, there was no emotional through line and I found myself confused by where the characters ended up. It felt like there was a page missing or that I wasn't getting it and after reading it through twice, I am afraid that whatever meaning Say was trying to allude to, I am clearly missing. Perhaps it is simply about a transient worker and how art doesn't always have meaning, or perhaps it is about how art finds a way to express itself even when confined. Who know.

I Want A Pet by Lauren Child Book Review

 I Want A Pet by Lauren Child

From the wonderful and talented brain of Lauren Child, author and illustrator of Charlie & Lola one of my favorite children's programs of all time, comes the story of one little girl who desperately wants a pet despite her parents protestations. The illustrations are in typical Lauren Child fashion, which makes it likeable for me even if the content is just a rehash of an oh so familiar theme. Child wants a pet, parents suggest a stuffed animal, child dreams of exotic animals that should never be pets and in the end settles egg. That's right an egg. What's inside? Who knows. That is the best part, because I can imagine the things that a child will come up with if they were to be asked what they think is inside the egg.

Juvie by Steve Watkins Book Review

Juvie by Steve Watkins

Sadie was in the wrong place at the wrong time. After going to a party Sadie finds herself in the car with a very drunk and high sister and two losers who insist that she take them to a local convenience store. Before she knows what is happening she is caught up in a drug bust and soon her carefully planned future is spiraling out of control. In order to save her sister from being locked up and to protect her niece Lulu, Sadie agrees to lie and say she knew about the drug sale. As a first-time offender she was only supposed to get probation and some community service, but when the judge demands she give him the names of the two guys (who she doesn't know), Sadie is sent to Juvie for 6 months. What are the chances that Sadie can ever get her life back together again? Will her sister clean up her act? And what is the difference between not guilty and not innocent?

First off, I must admit that I know very little about the correctional system either for adults or children. It is not a world that I have ever had to experience or be a part of. What little I do know is from television programs and documentaries, but since this is not a subject I am highly interested in, even that knowledge is limited. So I went to the best resource I knew to answer some of my questions, my husband, who worked as Corrections Office and has a degree in Criminology.

In the beginning I was confused by the set-up within the prison. All the children and teens placed in one cell block, the severity of the crime not seeming to be a factor, all treated equally harsh by the guards and wardens. My husband was quick to point out that even children can be violent and since a guard never knows when something may happen or when someone will hurt them, they must be vigilant at all times, treating everyone as a potential threat. Harsh to some, but then these people, both in this book and in real life, have done some really gruesome things and some don't blink an eyelash at hurting other people.

As for the story itself, I felt that the parts that took place in Juvie were very well done. We get to see Sadie as she ponders how she got to this place and what she wants to change as she moves forward. There are good people and bad people. Some may be innocent, most are not. There's the girl who poisoned a dog and shows no iota of remorse. The teen who shot her boyfriend in the hand. And you can't forget the young middle schooler who decided she wanted a bike so bad that she was willing to beat a little boy with a metal rod in order to get his.

However, I wasn't so caught up in the back story. Like Fallout by Todd Strasser the story bounces between the present (Juvie) to the past (events leading up to Juvie). However, much of the information that is told in the present was more than adequate for informational purposes and I found the back story did little to add to the characterization of Sadie or those close to her. It also slowed down the pacing sometimes. Honestly, I wanted more of Juvie. I wanted to see more of her classes, more action, perhaps a therapist of some kind (where were the therapists?), and more of a conclusion. The story ends at month 3 of the 6 month stint and I honestly felt a little jilted. I wanted to see Sadie leave. Instead, I feel like she was just left in jail and unless there is a sequel (not likely for this type of book) poor Sadie will always be in jail--stuck.

Winger by Andrew Smith Book Review

Winger by Andrew Smith

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. Due to a little rule breaking the semester before (he used a cell phone), Ryan Dean is now living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for all the troublemakers at Pine Mountain. Despite Ryan Dean's genius mind though, he is really just a regular teen. He is in love with his best friend Annie, always thinks about sex, plays Rugby, might be cheating with his roommates girlfriend, loves drawing comics, and thinks he may or may not be a total loser.

Contemporary YA is a genre that seems to cater to a mostly female audience. Of course, boys are reading, but they move into the realm of comics, sci-fi, and non-fiction. Winger is one of the few successful contemporary teen books that I have read as of late and I believe it is successful for two reasons. The first is simple, language. Ryan Dean is all boy. He speaks, thinks, and self-deprecates in a language that sometimes feels alien to this girl and yet I have the strong suspicion that boys will understand every moment. (after all, it is written by a guy) The second reason is far more complex. The story is not particularly action packed. There are very few rugby games, with the majority of the book centering around Ryan Dean's relationships with the girls and guys in his life. His constant pining after two girls, complicated friendships with his friends, and the struggle to be a friend with a guy who is openly gay. I think it works because it is funny. That's right, the humor is what makes this work and would, for some guys, be an interesting read. That being said, for those guys who just want non-stop action, they should probably head over to Ender's Game or The Maze Runner.

Interesting point, I noted a few reviews back that there are a lot of books coming out these days with gay characters. Sometimes it works for the story and at other times this is an abysmal failure. This is one of the books where it works.

Honestly, I had a hard time getting into this book. Another boarding school, another high school romance, but once I made it past the first chapter, I realized that this book had so much more to offer. So far I have read three separate Andrew Smith novels and I have to say, I am a fan.