Tuesday, September 27

Reviews of the Week 9/26

Happy Banned Books Week! In honor of the occasion, I've read Tru & Nelle, a fictional account of two authors-of-banned-books' childhood friendship. Yep, we're talking about Truman Capote (who's book In Cold Blood was first banned at Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, Ga. in 2000 due to a parent's complaint of sex, violence, and profanity) and Harper Lee (who's book To Kill a Mockingbird—one of my favorites!—has been banned/challenged at least 15 different times due to such reasons as profanity, racism, racial slurs, bad community values, and the good ol' fashioned reason of it being a "filthy, trashy novel"). Also, a HUGE Happy Book Birthday to the middle book here, Pug Meets Pig! Just be prepared if you choose to invite a T. Rex to your Book Birthday party...


If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party
Written by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1454915508
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books
Date of publication: August 16, 2016
Age: 3 - 6 years
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: birthday party, dinosaurs, tantrums, friendship

"You never know what will happen when a T. Rex crashes your birthday party. Sure, you'll be super excited when he turns up at your door. But then he’ll stomp. He’ll ROAR. He’ll look at you as if he’s wondering how you taste with a little mustard. In the end, though, you just may find yourself asking him to come back next year!"

There are quite a few expected pit falls with having a T. Rex at your party (such as looking like dinosaur food or the too-sharp talons ripping the bounce house), but the author still has fun with his—albeit somewhat rude—personality. I did appreciate the parallel to dealing with temper tantrums, but the story as a whole wasn't my favorite. For instance, I'm still a little confused about why you'd want the T. Rex to come back next year.

The illustrations are wonderfully colorful (especially the T. Rex) and simplistic in design (a lot of basic shapes). I could see this as the inspiration for a fun kid art/craft after reading it. Sometime, though the perspective was a bit oddly skewed for the story it was trying to tell, but hey, that's children's books for you. If you've got a dinosaur lover in your life, then give this one a try.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Pug Meets Pig
Written by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Joyce Wan

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1481420662
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Date of publication: September 27, 2016 (Happy Book Birthday!!)
Age: 4 - 8 years
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: pets, pugs, pigs, friendship, change, getting along

"Pug is a very happy pup. He has his own yard, his own bowl, and even his own cozy bed! That is, until Pig moves in and starts eating from Pug’s bowl, interrupting Pug’s routine, and, worst of all, sleeping in Pug’s bed. Will Pug and Pig ever learn to live together as friends?"

The adorableness of it all! Gah, this book kills me with cuteness! Just look at this pug!

Okay, okay, I'm going a little overboard. But Wan's Kawaii-style illustrations have always been a favorite of mine. Her illustrations are perfect for this book because she captures just the right amount of action and emotion to go with the story's simple text. Which brings me to my next point: this is a great book for a beginning reader. The text is sparse, repetitive, and simple in its word choice. Gallion told a wonderful story—about making friends when it's hard—while also creating a wonderful piece of educational reading.

So yes, it is predictable and not all that unique of a story, but it's still one that I'd recommend because of the adorable illustrations and simple text. Give it a try!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

True & Nelle
G. Neri

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0544699601
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: March 1, 2016
Age: Grades 3 - 6
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: library ebook

Themes: Harper Lee, Truman Capote, friendship, outsiders, racism, parent relationships, community

"Long before they became famous writers, Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) were childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. This fictionalized account of their time together opens at the beginning of the Great Depression, when Tru is seven and Nelle is six. They love playing pirates, but they like playing Sherlock and Watson-style detectives even more. It’s their pursuit of a case of drugstore theft that lands the daring duo in real trouble. Humor and heartache intermingle in this lively look at two budding writers in the 1930s South."

It's a charming novel that is the perfect introduction into some classic pieces of literature and their respective authors. The story itself carries a lot of the same themes you'd see in To Kill a Mockingbird and it's format (with short stories at the end) gives a nod to Capote. It's easy to see that G. Neri did a lot of research. But at the same time, it's just a fun romp of a story that feels like you, yourself, are a child playing with Tru and Nelle. Yes, a mix of simple fun and deeper motifs.

I didn't totally love it, and that may be due in part to the playful storyline; it took a while for the two kids to find the case to solve and even though that took up most of the story, it's solving was not the climax. It's not a traditional story, nor does it have traditional perspectives (it seems to flash between Tru and Nelle willy-nilly). I don't hate it (in fact, in makes it feel a bit more like reading a biography than just one simple story) but I don't love it. Still, I'd recommend it, especially to those who love historical fiction and classic literature.

Find it at your library or on Amazon