- Category: Helen
This author was signing at OLA Super Conference and a colleague picked up a copy for me. The book takes a minute and fifteen seconds to read, but will take about twice as long if you do all the different kinds of stomping! Many librarians have asked for exactly this kind of book, which is why we selected it for our Winter Bestseller List (It’s shipping in early March). I imagine this book would work really well to get fidgety kids under “control” in the sense that they would at least be stomping when they’re supposed to be. It might become a favourite to start or end EVERY story time. The author’s 2016 book – Clap - is still available, as well.
ARP libraries, please let me know if you’d like a copy or copies.
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The Lady from Kent by Mackenzi Lee
The protagonist of this picture book meets a lady (from Kent) while waiting in line for a concert. The lady starts telling stories which grow more and more far-fetched, one of which is that she has a stunning singing voice. Just as our protagonist grows skeptical, the doors open, the crowd surges inside, and our protagonist loses track of the lady. Waiting for the music to begin, our protagonist decides all of the lady’s crazy stories must have been fabrications. Then the concert begins, and the Lady from Kent emerges, and sings like an angel. If that story was true, then maybe the rest were...
This is a really fun and clever picture book. Though the rhyming narrative works read from cover to cover, each two page spread has a title and is a stand-alone poem and one of the lady’s stories. One could read the first spread, a sampling of a few stories, and the last spread, and it would make sense. Each reading could be different. Or one could read just one of the stories, and carry on the next night, or story time. The CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel and author Linda Spalding both endorse this interesting and precisely crafted gem. The age range given is 5 to 95, and I agree!
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Our protagonist, who is never named, opens the story walking with her parents to an oncologist appointment. As she waits, she remembers different parts of the five years since her leukemia diagnosis. The illustrations and colours succinctly augment the text with emotional energy. For example, the smell of hospitals and drab colours on the walls are offset when the protagonist escapes home. She loves the smell of lavender. At home, beyond the scent of the lavender spray in her room the protagonist’s mother uses lavender products everywhere, bath water, sheets, etc. Our still gray protagonist is cozy in these scenes surrounded by vibrant colour and images of plants and leaves and even the protagonist’s mother is more colourful. It’s a pretty beautiful metaphor of her mother’s love. Lavender is dear to my heart, particularly as an essential oil. It’s especially pleasing to me that the protagonist is comforted by this scent.
This 96 page illustrated novel deals with the feelings as well as the logistics of diagnosis, the death of a friend, being a patient with a possibly terminal illness, relationships, etc. Our protagonist even falls in love. It might be challenging to place this book in your library, but I urge you to welcome it. The publisher pegs the age of this book at 10-14. We feel it fits best in the young adult section of our LBI KIDS Bestseller list, even though normally we would place that age range in juvenile fiction. We did this for reasons already given, as well as the fact that the protagonist is 15 years-old for most of the narrative. I’m interested to know where you would put this book in your library.
It’s scary to be diagnosed with cancer. I think this book could be a short, comforting, empowering read for a teenager facing this dragon. It could work for adults, as well.
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- Category: Helen
Canadian Michael McCreary introduces himself as a stand-up comedian who is also on the Autism Spectrum.
In his book, he explains parts of his life that were important to becoming a comedian. He also explains how his autism spectrum has affected him at different times in his life. He writes very well, and candidly. His first “romance," for example, was pretty embarrassing, in a cringe-worthy way, and exaggerated by language miscues. He narrates what happened to him at different times, and points out how a neurotypical person would not – probably – have made the mistakes he made. I learned the word neurotypical from this book, and a lot about ASD as it relates to the author, which is his stated goal. He has succeeded very well!
This is a really accessible, engaging, often laugh-out-loud funny, but sneakily informative book. To me, it’s a window into his world. For someone on the spectrum, it’s a rare and invaluable literary mirror. Because of this book, I’ve learned a little bit, and am also going to try to see some of his comedy! I highly recommend this book and urge you to make room for it in your library.
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The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Book 2) by Mackenzi Lee
My favourite books have had swords and all things swashbuckler-y (also dragon-y), since forever. What a delight to start a book, expecting neither, and finding both. Admittedly, the title does have “piracy” right in it - fair, enough...
Our heroine, Felicity Montague, is described as wanting to become a doctor, womanly wiles – blah, blah, blah, so one really doesn’t expect so much action… but, I’m getting ahead of myself. Felicity’s story begins when her employer - to her narrowly suppressed glee – accidentally cuts himself. She’s pleased because the wound requires stitches and she’s been reading voraciously about how to do stitches and wants a chance to practice. (In an anticlimactic side-note, she’s disappointed to find the cut isn’t serious). In her world of the 18th century, women aren’t admitted to medical school and she’s been rebuffed at every turn. Her attempts to enroll lead her to a recently estranged friend’s wedding, where Felicity hopes to meet the groom – a doctor she admires. Her plan of how this meeting might in any way lead to an apprenticeship proves a moot point when her friend, the bride, suddenly flees the morning of the wedding. Felicity follows... and we follow into a WONDERFULLY unpredictable plot.
Felicity’s wit and many of the conversations are extremely quick and funny. All of the characters are engaging and well-drawn, especially Sim, one of said pirates from the title. Sim’s interest in Felicity and Felicity’s disinterest in romance (her asexual nature) add to the suspense of the book, but don’t take away from the dragons. YES! Dragons! We don’t even have time to talk about them. I cannot wait for the third book in this series. I didn't read the first but had no problem in following the plot. Recommend this book to fans of the adult and YA Gail Carriger series, particularly the adult series the Custard Protocol.
- Category: Helen
The Serpent’s Secret is the first book in the series Kiranamala and the Kingdom Beyond. Aru Shah and the End of Time is the first book in the Pandava series. I received an audio book for one of these novels and about a week later the other I’d reserved at my local library became available. I thought it might be helpful to compare them as they both feature similar, but different, diverse characters and stories.
Although these books are both for ages eight to twelve, The Serpent’s Secret is more appropriate for the younger end of this range. The age and maturity of the protagonist depicts this difference, but equally, this book has fewer characters, a less complicated plot, less terrifying adversaries and less overall danger.
The story begins as our protagonist, Kiran, arrives home to find her parents missing. She’s mulling over a mysterious note from them when a huge, slobbery, monster crashes into her kitchen. It is a rakkhosh, she realizes, from the bedtime folk tales her parents have always told her (Apparently, these folk tales are actually true!). She is immediately saved by two princes on winged horses. Although the monster seems intent on eating the three of them, it is also chanting rhyming threats that are more funny than scary. Our princes are reluctant to kill the monster, and render him unconscious, instead. A quest to find Kiran’s parents ensues into a kingdom in a different dimension...
DasGupta's world building is vivid and imaginative, and peopled with elements from Bengali folk tales. Banter between the princes, Kiran and other characters is often hilarious and always engaging. There are battles and fighting, but rakkhosh rhymes and their copious snot and drool create more slapstick comedy than fear for the reader. The monsters feel harmless rather than menacing. The author also works STEM content into the story, like ideas about dark matter, time, dimensions, etc. Albert Einstein even makes an appearance! An author’s note relates many of the scenes and characters to part of Bengali Folktales she heard as a child. It is her hope that her ideas might encourage young patrons to read more. I’m looking forward to book two!
In Aru Shah and the End of Time, by contrast, there is a lot more at stake. Aru inadvertently releases a malevolent spirit from a lamp when she intentionally disobeys her mother – for a dare. When said spirit is free, everyone around Aru freezes. Her mother is frozen in place, the frenemies who dared her, everyone on the street... She learns that she and Minnie, another tween girl, are Pandava - two reincarnations of five hero brothers born again and again to save the world...
Weighty themes of trust, self-hood and honour define much of the action. The gods of Hindu Mythology are all characters in this story, as well as the mythical creatures they ride. They are extremely interesting and their backstories and interactions enhance the story immensely; but, it is tougher sledding than the world in The Serpent’s Secret. Also, Aru and Minnie are tasked – alone – with completing quests, and eventually confronting the evil spirit before time stops completely and everyone in the world dies.
Rakkhosh demons are among the adversaries confronting Aru and Minnie, but they aren’t funny and they are very scary. Rick Riordon was involved in publishing this book. Readers who enjoy his many series should enjoy this one.