Friday, July 23, 2021

Fact Friday: Chunky by Yehudi Mercado

Chunky by Yehudi Mercado.  208 p. Katherine Tegan Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, June, 2021. 9780062972790. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Happy Friday! Fact Friday features Chunky by Yehudi Mercado. This graphic novel memoir draws on the author's youth, his health struggles and desire to fit in. Readers meet Hudi in his imaginary world where he stars in a variety of sports. IRL, Hudi is at the doctor's office being weighed and told that he needs to lose weight. He deflects with humor, which cracks his doctor up, but annoys his mother. Hudi's not paying attention though. Something has caught his eye and that something is following their car home.

Hudi is surprised to see his dad home and his mom wants him to talk to Hudi. His sisters don't want to play with him, so he goes to his room to sulk and he discovers Chunky. Chunky isn't just an imaginary friend, he's an imaginary mascot and it's Chunky's mission to cheer Hudi on. He will need it, because his parents insist he try a sports team to get Chunky out and active. And so, he tries a series of sports.

Hudi has a bit of a hard time fitting in. He's the only half-Mexican, half-Jewish kid he knows. He lost a lung to an infection and is overweight. His stress increases when his dad loses his job. Chunky and Hudi's talent for cracking jokes at his own expense help him through tough times.

Hudi is a charmer. The art is vibrant and energetic. Back matter includes a touching author's note and photos. Chunky  should be a hit with fans of graphic novel memoirs and artists like Raina Telgemeier. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

#tbt: Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. 224 p. Yearling/ Random House Children's Books, December, 2011. 9780375836909. (Own.)

#tbt features Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. In case you missed the Middle Grade Monday post, which synopsized the graphic novel adaptation, let me re-summarize the plot.

Eleven-year-old Turtle heads to Key West, Florida to stay with an aunt she's never met because her single mother just got a live-in housekeeping job with a woman who doesn't like children. It's the Great Depression and jobs are hard to come by, so Turtle's mom packs her off. Only, her letter explaining the situation to Turtle's Aunt Minerva is misdelivered, so Aunt Minnie is caught by surprise and none too please. Neither is her cousin Bean, since he has to give up his room and bunk with his two younger brothers. 

The three boys run a club called The Diaper Gang and it's a "no girls allowed" kind of club. Still, Turtle finds herself fitting in on Key West. 

There's a lot of humor here and many compelling characters. If you like historical fiction, be sure to check out Turtle in Paradise. The cover featured above is not the original. That appears below:

While I really adore the original cover, I really love the paperback cover. 

Turtle in Paradise was named a Newbery Honor and was Ms. Holmes' third Newbery Honor, her first being Our Only May Amelia in 2000 and her second, Penny from Heaven in 2007.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Pony by R.J. Palacio

Pony by R. J. Palacio. 304 p. Knopf Books for Young Readers/ Random House Children's Books, September 28, 2021. 9780553508116.

Publisher synopsis: Twelve-year-old Silas is awoken in the dead of night by three horsemen, who arrive unannounced to take his father away. Silas is left shaken, scared, and alone, except for the presence of his companion, Mittenwool . . . who happens to be a ghost. But when a pony shows up at his door, Silas knows what he has to do. He will set out on a perilous journey across a vast American landscape to find his father—a journey that will ultimately connect him with his past and future, and the unfathomable mysteries of the world around him.

R. J. Palacio spins a harrowing yet distinctly beautiful tale about the power of love and the ties that bind us across distance and time. For readers who love the poignant depth of War Horse and the singular voice of True Grit, this is one of those rare books for readers of all ages with the makings of a modern classic.

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee

Teen Tuesday features Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee. Ms. Lee is author of The Downstairs Girl, which I LOVED and featured in a Teen Tuesday post last year. Here, she uses the fact that there were eight Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic as inspiration for this layered, deeply moving narrative.

Seventeen-year-old Valora Luck has a first class ticket on board the maiden voyage of the Titanic, only she cannot board without her employer, as Valora works as a lady's maid. The problem? Her employer died after purchasing the ticket. Val wants to use her ticket to board, reconnect with her twin brother, Jamie and find a way to audition for Ringling Brothers' circus. 

Val and Jamie's Chinese father taught them juggling and acrobatics, skills the twins used when money was tight and their dad was drinking too much. Val has a couple of other problems as well. She doesn't have a passport and even if she had one, the racist Chinese Exclusion Act would make it all but impossible for Val and Jamie to enter in the U.S. Still, Val is determined to board. She spies an opportunity to put her acrobatic skills to good use and stows away. One eagle-eyed passenger witnesses this.

April Hart is intrigued. She's an American designer of haute couture clothing and doesn't fit society's expectations for women of the time. She has a plan and wants Val's help. Can Val trust April? How will Val find Jamie in Third Class? Will Jamie agree with Val's pie-in-the-sky plans? And, what will happen to Jamie's good friends if he does decide to join Val?

Ms. Lee's tale unfolds from Val's POV and it's engaging from the start. Val is plucky and blunt. She's a survivor and totally devoted to her brother. The setting is vivid and suspense is high as Val shuttles between the cabins in First and Third class. She dons disguises and switches accents as she searches for a way to make her plan work. Characters are richly developed and some are endearing, which makes the author's warning at the beginning of the book, eight Chinese passengers boarded, six survived, all the more ominous.

 I read this one with my ears and loved how the narrator effortlessly switched accents and languages! For me, listening to a book read by a narrator fluent in both languages heightens my appreciation. I tend to skim over foreign words and phrases, but listening draws my attention. There were times when plot conveniences threatened to take me out of the story, but Val's voice brought me right back in.

Fans of Ms. Lee's earlier books as well as fans of historical fiction will love Luck of the Titanic. Warning: there will be tears. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Turtle in Paradise: the Graphic Novel by Jennifer L. Holm

Turtle in Paradise: the Graphic Novel by Jennifer L. Holm and illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau. 256 p. RH Graphic/ Random House Children's Books, June, 2021. 9780593126318. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features Turtle in Paradise: the Graphic Novel by Jennifer L. Holm and illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau. I had no idea this adaptation was even in the works, let alone out. Thanks to the children's librarian at my local library for displaying it! Sometimes, I can't keep up!

This graphic novel is adapted from Ms. Holm's 2010 Newbery Honor-winning novel of the same name. More on that in this Thursday's #tbt. It's June of 1935 and the country is in the middle of The Great Depression. Eleven-year-old Turtle has to travel to Key West, Florida to stay with an aunt and cousins she has never met because her mother got a job as a live-in housekeeper to a woman who "can't abide children." It seems Turtle arrived before her mother's letter and Aunt Minerva is none too pleased. Neither are her boy cousins, especially Beans, who has to give up his room for Turtle. Beans heads "The Diaper Gang" and no girls are allowed. They allow Turtle to tag along though and Turtle slowly comes out of her shell.

The art captures the Depression-Era Key West beautifully from the architecture through the clothing. The palette is decidedly beachy as well. Turtle in Paradise: the Graphic Novel should appeal to fans of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamison, as well as fans of historical fiction and anyone who wants to fall in love with a girl with grit.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Fact Friday: Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians but were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer

Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Readers Edition) by Anton Treuer. 386 p. Levine Querido, April, 2021. 9781646140459. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher and audiobook borrowed from the public library.)

Happy Friday! Fact Friday features Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Readers Edition) by Anton Treuer. Using a question and answer format, Dr. Treuer poses and answers around two hundred questions one might have about terminology, history, cultural practices, politics and activism regarding Native Americans. Dr. Treuer is an Ojibwe author and professor. The tone is thoughtful and seeks to educate the curious. There are plenty of well-captioned photos to illustrate the text, giving readers extra insight. 

Dr. Treuer speaks some painful truths about how Native Americans were/ are treated by the U.S. Government and its citizens. The book is a remarkable starting point for any reader seeking to unlearn American history. Back matter includes suggestions for further reading, source notes and an index.

The audiobook was narrated by the author in a dispassionate, reasoned tone allowing the facts to speak for themselves. I was glad I had the arc handy to see the photos and read the back matter. And, I absolutely love the cover! This is a book that belongs in all school and public libraries serving young adults. Highly recommended!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Friday Memes: Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt

 Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. 326 p. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, September 7, 2021. 9781534406438. (Review of arc courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

Publisher synopsis: Perfect for fans of The One and Only Ivan, this exquisite middle grade novel from Newbery Honoree and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt follows an old camel out to save two baby kestrel chicks during a massive storm in the Texas desert— filled with over a dozen illustrations by Caldecott winner Eric Rohmann.

Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She’s won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion.

But those stories were from before. Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she’s not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears—kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents—and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel’s most brilliant story yet.

First Line(s): "Incoming!"

     Even in her sleep, Zada recognized that voice.

     The old camel raised one eyelid. It was still dark. There was at least an hour left before dawn. She did not recall setting an early alarm bird.

Page 56: "We'll be the fastest ever!" announced Zada.

     Asiye agreed. "We'll fly right past those other camels."

     But in the meantime, Teodor brushed them until their fur was as soft as silk., "Güzel develer," he told them. Beautiful camels. Afterward, he gave them each a handful of fat, juicy figs.

I actually finished this gorgeous novel last week and am scheduled to participate in a blog tour around the book's release date. I just wanted to get this out there on the radar.