Adam Zebediah Joseph’s Lillee Can Be delivers a sugary sweet children’s book with a punchy, poetic pace and solid sense of cohesion overall. The book focuses on the school and extracurricular lives of two young twins in an unspecified setting, making it an allegory of sorts. Specifically, the twins provide a totally relatable dynamic for any reader with a sibling, as the book directly confronts feelings of inferiority, unequal recognition, and other relevant issues that many children experience.
Likewise, the author is perfectly on trend with the wave of subtle social justice and advocacy messages within children’s and young adult literature currently. For example, Joseph boldly tackles sexism, gender identity, equal pay, and other concepts beyond merely familial themes, yet he does it with humility, honesty, and ease, without any preachy or condescending tones. Although the male character is unnamed, the female character (or mini SHE-RO!) offers an affirmative, fun, feisty, and feminist protagonist for readers to emulate. Lillee, the main character, demonstrates resilience and displays fearless fortitude as she faces gender boundaries and revolutions about our world, social norms, and cultural mores in this vibrant but also bold, bubbly book.
As far as the pros and cons, I love that the book perceptively resonates with girl power. I also applaud how his writing cleverly employs a rhythmical quality that makes you want to sing or rap each page aloud-of course with a fist pump, too! I further appreciate the teachable lessons in this book beyond character education and tolerance, since Adam Zebediah Joseph also cites many careers for young children to pursue. Occupational terms in this book and illustrations make it suitable for a teacher, counselor, parent, or family member and embed superb context clues for the definitions. However, I was a bit dismayed that the male twin character remained nameless throughout the entire piece. This anonymity seemed to counter the equity themes that this book so adamantly advocated. While I also liked the pictures, I wanted a bit more multicultural depictions to truly illuminate the themes that book defends: equality, respect, inclusion, etc.
In sum, this book provides a mirror for young readers to assess not only themselves and their personal relationships around them, but also a path for sociopolitical awareness. Read it yourself to see if a fairy godmother emerges or if other lessons enlighten these characters as they grow and mature. The author shows empathy and wisdom to tackle themes with such poise and poetic power!
Pages: 50 | ASIN: B07F7XCTLV
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Four Letters by Lucy Hensinger follows 14-year-old Emily as she discovers letters that belonged to her great grandmother, Lucille. She reads them and while seeking out details of Lucille’s story, she learns a few things about herself as well. Her journey takes her both literally and figuratively to the place where Lucille lived. She traces her steps both in her real life trip to Boston and in her vivid dreams where she follows Lucille’s life. Emily becomes fascinated in her great-grandmothers story and can’t wait to see where her story takes her.
Four Letters has a nice flow and is easy to follow. It’s short enough that the length wouldn’t feel daunting to younger readers but at the same time is engaging enough to keep readers interested. The story doesn’t get weighed down with Emily’s problems or her great-grandmother’s tumultuous love life. Hensinger manages to keep things light throughout the book.
I liked the incorporation of real places in Boston and the surrounding areas. I have been to Boston before, and recognized the narrow streets and great big buildings with countless windows. I have also been to Salem to the House of Seven Gables and some of the museums there. Hensinger did a good job giving the reader a feel for those places and will likely inspire people to visit.
Emily is a character that many readers will identify with. She is a fiery, feisty redhead who has found her way into some trouble at home. She doesn’t always shy away from a fight. She takes a trip to see her grandmother and discovers bits and pieces of her ancestry and becomes enthralled with her great-grandmother’s story. That is probably a good and productive escape for her from the trouble she found herself in at home. I identify with the ancestry myself. I thirst for any knowledge I can acquire about my own family history. It is easy to get wrapped up in the search for family history.
If I have any complaint at all, it would be that I felt it lacked a big “aha” moment. There wasn’t a big plot climax for me. I feel like the build-up was great. I was interested to see what happened between Lucille and Opie. I followed along and felt like I was as anxious Emily to see why they didn’t end up together. I don’t feel like that really got resolved. I know Emily just sort of resigned to the fact that she was grateful that her great-grandparents ended up together, but I would have liked to know the details of what happened between them after becoming invested in the characters.
It was a good, well-written story with characters that young readers will enjoy. Any reader will enjoy touring Boston and Salem with Emily. I look forward to more stories about these characters.
Pages: 108 | ASIN: 1481733419
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From Frights to Flaws, by Sunayna Prasad, is the first in the author’s Magical Missions series and follows the plight of Alyssa McCarthy as she discovers a magical world complete with a talking marble statue and fantastic creatures bent on saving her from a newly-discovered nemesis. Alyssa is a twelve-year-old girl living with her cousin and uncle–a man who cares for her but provides a highly regimented life of homeschooling, chores, and virtual seclusion from the outside world. When Alyssa begins to find peculiar notes around their home addressed to her, she strives to make herself noticed and validated by her uncle. Her life, and the lives of her family and friends, go from humdrum to fantastically frightening in a matter of moments.
As the first book in a series of fantasy stories, From Frights to Flaws has the potential to be a memorable read. However, as a teacher who often uses literature from all genres in my classroom, I can’t help but notice some issues with character and plot development. On several occasions throughout the reading, I felt that unique situations were brought to light too quickly without sufficient background and build-up. The author is aiming at an audience who is still developing a schema as they read, especially in the fantasy genre. It is important to be as descriptive as possible to draw in readers with elaborate explanations. I feel those explanations are missing as the setting moves from the everyday to the land of mythical creatures and magical beings. The author takes for granted that the reader is able to follow quickly and make assumptions.
I was struck early on in the reading with the similarities to the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Alyssa, a wonderfully written character, is thoroughly described in the initial chapters, but loses some of her uniqueness as the book progresses.
The setting of the book is one of its more appealing aspects. The author has chosen to set Alyssa’s adventures in present times with references to tablets, iPhones, iPods and GPS navigation. This alone will attract a younger audience. The fantasy element interwoven with this modern-day setting makes for an appealing read for preteen readers. I was impressed with the growing number of fantastic creatures as the story line progressed. From dermaidens to the centidile and from Regulus, the marshakeet, to the ash-breathing adder, the author has laid out a long list of beings who can easily compete with those in any fantasy novel for preteens.
Prasad has the base for a strong work of literature for young readers, but lacks some of the well-developed background and detail I would like to see in this particular genre. Sunayna Prasad has created a story that is enthralling in many ways.
Pages: 216 | ASIN: B00EO8U7O8
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Tomorrow is Lucy’s first Christmas. Everyone is busy getting ready for the big day. Lucy wants to help. But when she tries to help Mom wrap presents, she makes a mess. When she tries to help Dad decorate the tree, she tangles the lights. When she tries to help Ben build a snowman, she gets stuck in a snowdrift. Surely there must be a way for an eager kitten to help!
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It’s important to share messages of acceptance with children, but it can be difficult if you don’t take into consideration their level of understanding. What a child can understand is vastly different than an adult. The One Eyed Pug by Deborah Hunt is a cute little story about a pug puppy that has a slightly difficult life waiting for her. She has to go through the anxiety of being separated from her birth parents and then living with a stranger. While she does her best to adapt to her new life, change is right around the corner as her ‘mother’ ends up being unable to care for her and gives her to another family. Our little pug now has to deal with the uncertainty of a new home with new people without understanding why she was given up in the first place. Things seem to start going better for our pug until the introduction of a new friend and the terrible accident that follows close behind.
Using animals as a way to deliver important messages and teach important lessons to children is something that is not easily done, but delivered well in this story. Children seem to be able to listen carefully and understand difficult lessons when taught through an animal that can speak. Hunt uses the story of the pug to show children that change is not always bad. She also teaches them that while bad things may happen, there are good outcomes as well. Our pug has only lived for a short time yet she’s met with various changes and has to face the anxiety of the unknown each time. This story can also teach children compassion. Compassion for those who are different than us and compassion for those who are struggling.
There are several drawings throughout the book which can give the readers a nice interruption to the waves of text. It is important to keep children engaged as well as entertained. The drawings give more information on what the characters look like which helps the readers connect more to the story. The language in the story is very easy for new readers to understand. While this isn’t a first step book, it is definitely suitable for a child who has experience reading books with little pictures. The language might be too young for older readers, even though the message it sends is positive.
Deborah Hunt takes us on a trip to learn compassion and acceptance with The One Eyed Pug. This tale allows children to connect their own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty with things like change to the life of the protagonist, the little pug. It also allows children to see that dogs and other pets have feelings as well, even if we can’t always understand what they’re trying to tell us. Even when our little pug goes through a life changing situation, she comes out strong because she has the support of those who love her around her. This is an important thing for children to understand as well: we are all stronger thanks to the people who support us. This would be a great book for any avid young reader.
Pages: 80 | ISBN: 1945175788
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