Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade

The Great TBR Readdown: Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection

Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection (Cookie Chronicles, Vol. 3), by Matthew Swanson/Illustrated by Robbi Behr, (Dec. 2021, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593302774

Ages 8-12

Ben Yokoyama is not having a good day. So far, the 9-year-old’s mom has burned his pancakes and his dad ruined his jersey in the laundry. It doesn’t get much better at school until he sees a chance to make a new friend. Darby is a kid who excels in math, and lets Ben in on a little secret: he’s got a super secret alter ego named Darbino. Darby’s quest to become perfect gave birth to Darbino’s identity, and he offers to help Ben attain perfection, too. At first it sounds great, but when you’re working at being perfect, Ben realizes that you have to give up a lot: baseball, for instance. As Ben starts to realize that being perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, he takes readers on a hilarious, very sweet, journey, illustrated in black and white, as if readers are peeking through a journal. This is the third Cookie Chronicle, with two more coming, and it’s a great series to booktalk to your Timmy Failure, Big Nate, Wimpy Kid, and Alvin Ho fans. Ben is biracial and there are nice multicultural nods to his American and Japanese heritage, including a look at the Japanese concept of kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery with gold seams, highlighting the mistakes and making them beautiful. Now that we’re in testing season (at least, we are here in NYC), kids will really appreciate the book’s take on the pressure to be perfect. Back matter includes a history of the fortune cookie.

Visit Matthew Benson and Robbi Behr’s webpage for more about their books (including the other Cookie Chronicles), and loads of fun, free printables.

Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Teens on the brink: The Light Fantastic, by Sarah Combs

light-fantasticThe Light Fantastic, by Sarah Combs, (Sept. 2016, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763678517

Recommended for ages 12+

April 19 is Senior Skip Day, and it’s April Donovan’s 18th birthday. It’s also four days after the Boston Marathon and 18 years after Timothy McVeigh drove a truck bomb through the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. April has a rare memory condition, hyperthymesia, which means she has photographic recall of her life’s events. This recall has spurred an obsession with tragedies that have happened in April, her birth month, throughout history. Elsewhere, Lincoln Evans – connected in his own way to April – is trying to understand his sometime girlfriend, Laura. Their teacher is distracted by another student’s chilling statement earlier. Across the country, a group of teens that call themselves The Assassins, led by someone calling himself (herself?) The Mastermind, are getting ready to set something terrible into motion.

The Light Fantastic brings together seven voices to tell the story of teens on the brink. There’s one adult voice here; a teacher’s voice, and she’s not there to be the heavy, the whistle-blower, or the accomplice. Each voice has a painful story to tell; each narrator has a tale to tell, intertwined with the events of April 19, 2013. It’s a tense, complex novel with some diversity to its voices. It felt a bit scattered at times – I think it may be the multiple narrators, backstories, and locations. Bringing everyone together online was helpful; I would have liked to see a little more of that interaction.

In these days when school and public violence surrounds us, The Light Fantastic is an important book to get into readers’ hands and get them talking. Booktalk this with A.S. King’s I Crawl Through It and by Marieke Nijkamp’s This is Where it Ends. Candlewick offers a free discussion guide with common core information.