Monday, September 19

Reviews of the Week 9/19

Today's books almost took a "sports theme" turn, but I wanted to talk about a middle-grade novel that's been receiving some acclaim and starred reviews. So maybe a "fall theme"? "Admired people theme"? Yeah, no. I'm gonna give up trying to find a theme now...


Hey, Coach!
Written by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Kim Smith

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1454916079
Publisher: Sterling Children's
Date of publication: August 9, 2016
Age: 3 - 6 years
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: soccer, sportsmanship, teamwork, rhyme

"GOAL! This sprightly rhyming picture book captures all the fun and energy of very young children having a blast on the soccer field. Over the course of their first season, the players progress from unsure newcomers to enthusiastic good sports who love the game—and even score!"

With adorably fun illustrations and spot-on rhyming skills, this is an awesome picture book. It's one of those that just makes me smile fondly, you know? It really does accurately capture cute young kids trying to figure out the game of soccer. And in really impressive verse! For example, "I think I'm ready. Can I play? / Oh...we run the other way?" The one trouble I had was determining the voice--the dialogue in the story seems to jump from kid to kid. You could almost say the narrator is all the children as a whole. But then there's this one boy seems to star in particular...? I'm not sure.

Still, it's cute. I adore the Smith's art for the story with a wide variety of players, emotions, and experiences. Combined with the personality of the illustrations, the text carries you through the sad-but-cute spills and awesome thrills of a team's soccer story. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it for storytime (I'm always a fan of good rhyming books for storytime—it just lends itself to being read aloud).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

1st and 10: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Football (Revised & Updated)
Sports Illustrated Kids
(Gary Gramling; Christina M. Tapper; Paul Ulane)

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1618931733
Publisher: Sports Illustrated Kids
Date of publication: 2nd ed - July 19, 2016
Age: Grades 3 and up
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: football, NFL, football players, best of

"Presented in a fun format of Top 10 lists, 1st and 10 is a comprehensive look at how football players, old and new, stack up against each other with trivia and rankings of more than 30 different topics from the gridiron. Young sports fans are guaranteed to love the vibrant NFL action photos from the Sports Illustrated collection and the insider knowledge of Sports Illustrated Kids. Top 10 rankings include Greatest Rushers, Hardest Hitters, Trick Plays, Best Comebacks, Best Fans, and Touchdown Celebrations."

Now, I know this one is legit because I happen to married to one football-happy guy and he really enjoyed this book. Which is part of the reason I made the target age Grades 3 and up. This may be targetted at kids, but it has a lot of awesome information that's fun for all ages.

The format is really appealing, as well. Huge photo spreads with everything from action shots to humorous pics fill the book that's made easily perusable. It doesn't have an index (bummer) so it's not great for reference, but it's still fun to see what there is (a table of contents serves as its only organization). Football lovers will definitely get a kick out of this one (pun intended).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Maybe a Fox
Written by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1442482425
Publisher: Atheneum
Date of publication: March 8, 2016
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: library ebook

Themes: death, grief, sibling relationships, family, foxes

"Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.

"At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide."

Why do I read these. Another acclaimed yet totally depressing middle-novel. Beautifully written yet totally sad. You know the drill. Sigh...

Okay, I'm done being dramatic. I will give this book some points for creativity and original thought—to ask the question "what comes after death" and answer it in a beautiful way does deserve some kudos. The grief is sharp and hard in this book, but that's what makes Jules a really fantastic character. It was easy to see the story from her perspective because it felt so real. Really, if these types of books are your thing, then of course this should be on your to-read list. But maybe give it a peruse before giving it to your kids.

Closest readalike is definitely Pax (how did we get two from-the-fox's-perspective books in the same year?).

Find it at your library or on Amazon