Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Day Time Stopped: What were we doing?

The Day Time Stopped: 1 Minute, 26 Countries, by Flavia Ruotolo, (Oct. 2021, Prestel), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791374895

Ages 5-9

A little girl living in Genoa, Italy, takes a bite of her popsicle when time stops, all over the world. What was everyone doing? In Germany, two girls screech to a halt on their scooters; in the U.K., a child takes a picture, while in Cape Verde, Africa, a boy’s soccer ball gets stuck in a tree. A grandma in La Paz, Bolivia, was knitting a sweater, and a scientist at Concordia Station in Antarctica gets a call from his mother, who lives in Paris, France. Dolphins cuddle their babies, and snails get to enjoy their strawberries. One moment links the world in this sweet, moving story about the things that unite us. Bright illustrations show a variety of humans and animals. The story opens with an explanation of the world and how it’s split into different time and weather areas that helps kids understand how it can be morning in one area of the world and night time in another; summer in one country, and winter in another.

 

Posted in Intermediate, picture books

The weight of a moment: Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More

Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More, by Johanna Schaible, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Studio), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536222135

Ages 5-9

Collage artist Johanna Schaible’s debut picture book weighs time in terms of the universe and our place in it. Beginning with the formation of our world, the first half of the book catalogs time, inviting readers to consider all that has happened; the second half invites readers to consider their place in time, asking them thought-provoking questions about their future. As readers move through time, the pages decrease in size, then increase as they move through the present into the future. The collage artwork is breathtaking, spanning eons of time: volcanoes erupting in the earth’s formation; Pteranodons soaring across a prehistoric sky; a steamship traversing an ocean.  It’s a wonderful book that plays with perspective and thought on large and small moments, with the big stuff: the formation of the planet, the construction of the pyramids, hopes for the future, laid out on larger pages; progressively smaller moments fit into smaller pages. It’s a wonderful visual explanation for small moment writing, and encouraging introspection.

Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Great TBR Readdown: Hello, Neighbor and The Land of Broken Time

My Great TBR Readdown continues!

Hello Neighbor: Missing Pieces (Hello Neighbor, Book 1), by Carly Anne West/Illustrated by Tim Heitz, (Sept. 2018, Scholastic), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-28009-8

Ages 10-14

Based on the horror video game, Hello Neighbor, this is the first book in a middle school-and-up series introducing Nicky Roth, a new kid in the town of Raven Brooks, and their neighbors, the Petersons. Nicky and Aaron, the Peterson’s son, become friends over their shared interest in tinkering, but when Nicky visits Aaron’s home, he’s uncomfortable. Aaron’s father makes him uneasy, and Nicky notices that Aaron, his mother, and sister are equally uncomfortable around him. The kids at school seem afraid of Aaron, and secrets and rumors about his father run wild. What’s the Peterson family’s dark secret, and why does Nicky feel like Aaron’s father is stalking him?

Knowing nothing about the Hello Neighbor game, I picked this book up and discovered a quietly creepy, light horror novel for tweens. If you have horror fans, this should be a good book to hand them. There are three in the series so far; the characters have a good background to build on, and the suspense builds nicely throughout the book. Illustrations throughout keep the pages turning.

 

In the Land of Broken Time, by Max Evan/Illustrated by Maria Evan, (Aug. 2016, self-published), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1520569291

Ages 8-10

A self-published novella by husband-wife team Max and Maria Evan, we’ve got a time-traveling fantasy starring a boy, a girl, and a talking dog, taking place in a fantasy land ruled by time – or the lack of it. Christopher sneaks out of his house to go to a nearby traveling circus, meets a girl named Sophie, and ends up hijacking a hot-air balloon, where the two meet a talking circus dog named Duke. They end up in a land where sibling scientists work at opposite ends: one seek to help them repair time, while the other wants to use time to manipulate his own power struggle.

The books is only about 50 pages, and is a quick enough read. I’d like to see something a little more fleshed out, because the world-building felt a little rushed, but was promising. Where is this land? What are the origin stories for the scientists, gnomes, and townspeople who waited for the prince? How did this power struggle between the two scientists begin? There are Narnian influences here that I enjoyed spotting, and there’s obviously more backstory to draw on; the story’s end leaves a sequel – or a prequel? – open to possibility. Maria Evan’s illustrations are beautiful, bright, and colorful, and brought the land and its characters to life. I’d like to see more. Let’s hope we get it.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

March picture book roundup

There are some adorable picture books publishing in March and April! Let’s take a look at some – there are some great storytime reads to be found!

A Fire Truck for Chuck, by Annika Dunklee/Illustrated by Cathon,
(March 2018, OwlKids), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472852
Recommended for readers 3-6

A little boy named Chuck visits a yard sale with his mom, where he sees it: a fire truck! And it’s only a buck! What luck! Mom buys Chuck the truck, who proceeds to play with it everywhere. Including the mud. Yuck! Chuck is afraid his fire truck is lost forever, but joyfully finds out otherwise. Thanks, Mom! This adorable story of a boy and his truck is perfect for kids who love their vehicle stories – and there are many! You don’t need to be a car and truck fan to love this story, too – toddlers and preschoolers will all empathize and understand the love between a kid and his or her favorite toy. While not exactly a rhyming story, A Fire Truck for Chuck uses the easily rhyming word to weave humor and fun into the story. Cartoony illustrations are bold and bright and will get kids’ attention.

 

I’m a Duck, by Eve Bunting/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand,
(March 2018, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-8032-9
Recommended for readers 3-6
This adorable rhyming tale about overcoming fears is especially great for pre-K 3 and 4-year-olds. A little duck recounts the tale of falling into the lake as an egg; saved by his mother, he’s grown up too scared to go swimming, “…and that is bad. A landlocked duck is very sad”. With some encouragement from family and friends, and a little bit of practice in safe, shallow puddle, little Duck is ready to face his fears – and succeeds! I’m a Duck illustrates the importance of encouragement and positive reinforcement in addition to the power of facing one’s fears (and the emphasis on safety is a relief for caregivers). Mixed media illustrations give a snuggly, cuddly feel to the animals in the story. I love Eve Bunting’s books, and am thrilled to add this one to my shelves.

George is a happy old hound dog who just wants a nap. Farmer Fritz, his human, heads off to a retirement cabana and leaves George in charge: and that means helping the new family navigate life on the farm! Poor George; these folks are hapless, which means George is herding cows, finding lost siblings, and generally saving the day. Not only can he not get his nap in, he can’t get these folks to figure out his name, which goes through several name changes throughout the story. Full-panel artwork alternates with graphic novel-like panels to provide a fun romp. Short, concise sentences and farm animal shenanigans make this a fun read-aloud choice. Ask the kids what they’d like to call George – or how he could finally get his new family to figure out his name! A fun story for animal fans.
Not ‘Til Tomorrow, Phoebe, by Julie Zwillich,
(March 2018, OwlKids), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771471725
Recommended for readers 4-7
The second book in the Phoebe series (the first, Phoebe Sounds It Out, was published in March 2017) introduces kids to the concepts of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and just as importantly, patience. Phoebe’s day is full of “tomorrows”: Mama will make her pancakes tomorrow; she’ll get ice cream after her haircut tomorrow; musicians will visit her class – you guessed it – tomorrow. Frustrated, Phoebe turns to her grandmother, who bakes cookies and teaches Phoebe the best way to turn today into tomorrow: get a good night’s sleep. Kids will understand Phoebe’s frustration, for sure; you can even introduce the story by asking kids, “Who’s tired of hearing about all the good things that will happen TOMORROW?” As with Phoebe Sounds It Out, the illustrations are bold and expressive, with soothing colors to put kids in the mind to listen and learn. There’s a lovely relationship between grandparent and grandchild here. Phoebe is a child of color.
Posted in Science Fiction, Steampunk, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Time fractures can cripple cities in Timekeeper

timekeeperTimekeeper, by Tara Sim, (Nov. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781510706187

Recommended for ages 13+

My first entry in this year’s Diversity Reading Challenge is Tara Sim’s Timekeeper, a steampunk story taking place in an alternate Victorian London, where clock towers control time. A damaged clock affects the populace, and if a clock is badly damaged or loses a vital part of its machinery, the town “stops”: no one dies, but no one can leave; the citizens are stuck in a time loop. That’s what happened to 17 year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart’s father three years before, and Danny’s become a mechanic in the hopes that he can free his father one day. On an assignment to a clock in the London borough of Enfield, Danny meets Colton, who throws a figurative wrench in all of Danny’s plans. Colton is a clock spirit – the essence of time for the Colton Tower clock – and the two boys fall in love. Danny knows this can’t end well, but he risks everything to be with Colton, who will find a way to keep Danny coming back to Enfield.

Some of the people of London are against the clock towers. They want time freed, uncontrolled, and stage protests that get heated. Clock towers are attacked, and Danny is blamed. He has to find a way to clear his name, keep Colton safe, and keep his father’s town safe so he can bring him home alive.

Timekeeper is the first in a planned trilogy by debut author Tara Sim. The story is very detailed – budding clock aficionados, and readers interested in the science of time (horologists – thanks, Google!) will fall in love with the lyrical way Sim discusses the delicate parts of the clocks and the idea of a spirit manifestation of each clock tower. The romance between Danny and Colton is sweet and gentle, and Danny’s feelings for men is more or less accepted, with some minor snark from the novel’s bully.

Shadowhunters fans will love this one. Get your steampunk on and put this with your Gail Carriger books, your Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, and your old school Jules Verne and HG Wells collections.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle School, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

McSweeney’s brings back a classic by the author of The Neverending Story

momoMomo, by Michael Ende/Illustrated by Marcel Dzama/Translated by Lucas Zwirner, (Aug. 2016, McSweeney’s), $14.95, ISBN: 9781944211066

Recommended for ages 12+

Momo is a little girl who just appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and lives by herself in a small amphitheater in town. The people in the neighborhood embrace her and seek her out; she has the gift of listening, that seems to help soothe everyone’s nerves, solves problems, and fixes broken friendships. But the awful gray men are moving in and sucking the joy, the life, out of the neighborhood’s inhabitants. They Gray Men recognize that Momo is special and are determined to get hold of her before she can throw a wrench in their plans to steal time from everyone around her.

I am a huge Neverending Story fan, so I picked up Momo with tons of good childhood feelings (and that Limahl song on a loop in my head). Much like Neverending Story, Ende tackles a lot of big concepts in a middle grade book. The Neverending Story gave us a story about conquering depression: The Nothing was a devastating darkness that threatened to consume all of Fantasia. Ende also uses The Neverending Story to address concepts like grief, loss, and existential crisis. It’s the kind of book you read as a kid and appreciate the fantasy, and read as an adult, on a completely different level. Momo is similar in scope, contemplating the loss of free time and personal relationships. Pretty weighty and forward-thinking, especially when you consider that this book was written 40 years ago, before we were consumed with smartphones, tablets, and cable television. Momo’s gift for listening makes her adored until the gray men – who live off the time they steal from everyone – decide to isolate her by corrupting everyone around her. Children aren’t allowed to run and play in the streets any longer; parents don’t have time to spend with their children because they’re working so hard to save up free time – the rat race isn’t a new concept, and Ende mourns a time when people knew one another by name, listened to one another, and had time for one another.

Previously published in hardcover in 2013, McSweeney’s is giving the book a proper 40th anniversary celebration, with new illustrations from Marcel Dzama and a new translation from the original German by Lucas Zwirner. I’ve seen The Neverending Story on quite a few reading lists over the last couple of summers, which makes me really happy – and I’m going to happily booktalk Momo to middle schoolers who are looking for more realistic fiction with a touch of the fantastic: no gnomes, no knights, no spells, but something… more. If you know readers who love Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, give them Momo.

A strongly suggested addition to middle grade and middle school-level collections.