Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Best of Iggy

Image result for best of iggy cover"The Best of Iggy
Annie Barrows
Sam Ricks, Illustrator
Putnam/Penguin, January 20 122 pages
Grades 2-5
Humor/Chapter-Graphic Hybrid

Our faithful narrator begins the book by introducing Iggy, who has impulse control issues, by dangling a carrot. There are three types of things we wish we hadn't done. The types are described and then noted that Iggie has done them all within the pages of this book. Readers are now treated to the hilarious situations in which Iggy finds himself doing the before mentioned things, seemingly without remorse. The first involves luring a scarf-wearing family friend to jump off the roof of the shed. The second is a bathroom incident containing Mom's makeup and Dad's shaving cream. The third-and most serious-is an ill-advised desk race with his buddies with unforeseen results, leaving both Iggy and his teacher devastated. Apologies are made, lessons are learned, and another carrot is dangled, encouraging readers to check out Iggy's second adventure, set to be released in the spring of 2020.

Barrows has plenty of experience encouraging the new chapter crowd to read through her wildly popular Ivy and Bean series. Now Barrows introduces a lovable and painfully human boy named Iggy, who is sure to appeal to reluctant male readers. The book starts with a bang and the hilarity keeps rolling, encouraging kids to turn pages to see what hijinks Iggy will encounter next. Barrows sticks to a linear plot, as to not confusing emerging readers and is not afraid to get a bit serious at the end of the book. Truly, Iggy means well, yet finds himself in trouble. The trouble has repercussions and Iggy takes his punishment on the chin and makes restitution as appropriate. Some kids will relate to Iggy, some will live through him, yet all will fall in love with him. The comic illustrations are generous, well drawn, and perfect for the target audience. Although the book is a natural fit for reluctant boys, girls will also enjoy this new series. Even this fifty year old found herself laughing out-loud in the library staff room as I read this story during lunch. The lesson Barrows leaves us with is that we may mess up in life, but if we say "sorry" and try to make it better, it will not be the end of the world. Readers are congratulated at the end of the book for making it through, further encouraging them to continue on with the series. A welcome new hero who will appeal to fans of Stink and Horrible Harry.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Genesis Begins Again

Image result for genesis begins again cover"Genesis Begins Again
Alicia Williams
Atheneum, 2019 384 pages
Grades 5-7
Realistic Fiction

Our story begins with thirteen-year-old Genesis bringing new friends home from school, only to find her family's possessions out on the lawn. They have been evicted--again--and Genesis and her mom must move in with Grandma until Dad can find a new home. The place Dad finds is the house of Genesis' dreams. It is in the suburbs and the neighborhood is safe and clean. Her new school has many opportunities and Genesis begins to slowly make real friends for the first time in her life. She decides on a whim to audition for the school's talent show and blows her new classmates and teacher away by her voice, earning a spot in the show. Popular kids suddenly want to befriend her and invite her to join their acts. The only problem is that Genesis does not feel pretty enough to have the confidence to stand up to people who don’t have her best interests at heart, including her father who is behind on the rent and has lost his job due to a drinking problem. To fix her troubles Genesis purchases cream to lighten her complexion, hoping that this will make her more beautiful and therefor worthy of being loved. Will she learn to love herself the way she is?

First time author, Williams, explores what it means to be beautiful and learning to love yourself. Genesis has an addicted parent and a backwards Grandmother, who makes her feel insecure and inferior for inheriting her father's dark skin. Through the love of her mother and support of a kind teacher and new friends, she begins to realize that she truly is worthy and lovable just the way she is. This lesson is important for young people, regardless of skin color, and readers will hopefully see themselves in this revelation. The skin lightening made me very uncomfortable, but this may be the point of the author. Hopefully readers will learn from our protagonist’s mistakes and misconceptions. The story line about Genesis' alcoholic father will ring true to many young people in similar circumstances and will reassure them that their parents love them regardless of their addictions. Genesis's spashy singing success is a bit unrealistic, especially considering she has had no formal training, but it was nice to see her excel at something to help boost her confidence. The story ends a bit cleanly with a sense of hope that will satisfy young readers. A timely book with a lot to say that will both reassure and educate.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Roll with It

Image result for roll with it sumner coverRoll with It
Jamie Sumner
Simon & Schuster, 2019 246 pages
Grades 4-7
Realistic Fiction

After Ellie's grandfather's Alzheimer's starts to become too much for Grandma to handle, Ellie and her mom travel to Oklahoma for Christmas, intending to stay indefinitely. Ellie loves her grandparents, but life in their cramped trailer, especially when trapped in a wheelchair, wears thin quickly. The good news is that Ellie makes two new friends in the trailer park and begins to socialize outside of her new school and gain some independence.  The bad news is that the new quirky friend group is treated like “trailer trash” and do not fit in with the social scene of the school as a whole. Ellie loves to bake and feels that this is a hobby in which she excels and can be a “regular” kid. When she enters a baking competition, she hopes for the best. Can she finally be the best at something? As the year progresses Ellie's new relationships deepen and she even makes a little room for her estranged father. She begins to spread her wings and even Mom seems a bit happier. Will they be able to stay? And what will happen to Grandpa? He seems to be getting worse by the day. There are no easy answers in this slice of life of a young girl who refuses to let life with Cerebral Palsy get her down.

Much as seen in Auggie from Wonder and Aven from Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, Ellie is a character that refuses to let her disability define her. Readers are given an inside view of what living with Cerebral Palsy is like from the terrible effects of seizure medication to the limitations of a wheelchair. Through it all, Ellie is a regular girl with interests and dreams. The first person narration places readers right into the story and they will identify with Ellie right away. Although the plot is simple and straight forward, the book never lags or gets boring. More of a character piece, there is enough action to move it along. Ellie is truly the star of the show and we experience her growth as she matures and begins to feel empathy and what it means to be a compassionate daughter, granddaughter, and friend. The chapters often begin with Ellie's letters to famous chefs and cooking magazines, giving the book and added layer and reminding the reader that this girl has passion. Problems are sewn up a bit too neatly by the book's end, but that will please young readers, who will be satisfied with the hopeful resolution with no dangling plot threads. Long chapter lengths, lack of illustrations, and middle school aged protagonists make this book best suited for older elementary, yet the plot reads so quickly that reluctant and younger readers will be sure to finish. Give to fans of realistic fiction featuring kids overcoming challenges.