Friday, October 25, 2013

Review - "Zombie Baseball Beatdown"

When the master of zombie movies, Mr. George A. Romero, started telling stories of the undead, they were laced with social commentary.  So the concept of sneaking some really deep ideas amidst the blood, gore and brains of the walking undead is nothing new.  Aiming all of this, carnage and intellectual debate alike, at middle graders, however, is something new, at least as far as I can tell.  That is part of what makes Paolo Bacigalupi’s Zombie Baseball Beatdown such a valuable book.  It’s gross (seriously, DO NOT even think about eating a hamburger during or even after), but it will make kids think.

It started as a normal day.  Rabi (short for Rabindranath), Miguel and Joe decide to sharpen their baseball skills in the park near the Milrow meat-packing plant.  Then the stink happens.  An “Ashy-barfy-rotten-meat-dead-cow-manure-sewer” stink.  Something at the plant has gone terribly wrong, and before they know it, the boys are fighting off zombie baseball coaches, running from zombie cows, fighting with bullies and trying to save the world.

Kids have a lot to deal with in their lives.  To paraphrase “2 Broke Girls” (something I never thought I’d write), “you’re stupid, you can’t reach stuff, it’s rough”.  Rabi, Miguel and Joe aren’t stupid, but they are kids, and they’re forced to deal with an avalanche of issues all at once.  Miguel’s family is being deported and he lives in fear of the ICE (U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement).  Rabi deals with casual racism (as does Miguel) and his horrific batting record.  Blonde-haired Joe doesn’t have the burden of worrying about being forced out of the country or accused of terrorism, which gives him freedoms his friends can’t enjoy, but as a semi-zombie-expert, he’s often on the front lines when facing the undead horde.

What Mr. Bacigalupi has done here is create a world where flesh-eating zombie cows may not be the most horrible thing in town.  This book really has it all.  It’s gross, funny, scary, thoughtful and challenging, but never feels as if it were trying too hard.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
2013, by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Preview copy provided by publisher for review

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review - "Carnivores"



Animals eat other animals.  It’s a fact of life.  And for many, many years, it’s a fact of life that children’s literature largely ignored.  Until now.  Now we have an influx of picture books about creatures eating creatures, ushered in my Jon Klassen’s wonderful, I Want My Hat Back (though I’m sure it was not the first, just the first that comes to my mind).  There was Klassen’s undersea follow up, This is Not My Hat, Mo Willems’ That is Not a Good Idea! (oops, spoiler alert!) and now we have Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat with Carnivores.  No more beating around the bush, it’s right there in the title.

Lion, great white shark and timber wolf are masters of their domains, but are getting discouraged by all the stink eyes, horror stories and fairy tales that paint them in a bad light.  They decide to ban together in a support group and try to figure out how to clean up their image.  Going vegetarian doesn’t help.  Great white shark doesn’t like the taste of seaweed, bark keeps getting stuck in lion’s teeth, and no matter how hard he tries, timber wolf keeps finding bunnies hiding in the berry bushes.  Losing hope, the trio turn to “the oldest and wisest carnivore”, the great horned owl, who dispenses some words of wisdom.  “I’m not bad.  I’m a carnivore.  Eating meat is just what I do.”  With this mantra in place, lion, great white shark and timber wolf return to their lives as predators with relish.

I love a picture book that makes me laugh.  I Want My Hat Back made me laugh hysterically for quite some time before I could contain myself.  Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Santat have echoed that feat with this fantastically twisted and laugh-out-loud hilarious book.  All the jokes, both verbal and visual, land right on their target (my favorite was the two-page spread revealing the owl’s greatest contribution).  It’s a great lesson about being true to your natural self, wrapped in a funny story that is sure to make kids grin and parents cringe (unless, like me, they find an illustrated picture of a wolf with a mouth full of bunny to be hysterical).  

This book book-talks itself.  I love it when my work is done for me!

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, ill. by Dan Santat
2013, Chronicle Books
Library copy

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review - "The Peculiar"

I’ve always liked the word “peculiar”. It brings to mind, not the frightening, but the strange and unreal. It’s the perfect word to describe the main characters of Stefan Bachmann’s debut novel, aptly named The Peculiar. In a world where humans and fairies live uneasily side by side, anyone willing to stick their neck out might certainly be called odd.

Young Bartholomew Kettle is a “changeling” child, though it is pointed out in the text that this is a misnomer. He was not a creature hidden in a crib while the real child has been stolen away. He, and his sister Hettie, are half-human, half-fairy. They’re Peculiars. Arthur Jelliby is a young member of Parliament, a set-in-his-ways kind of person, with his comfortable house and his pretty wife. But news that Peculiar children have been turning up dead upsets both Bartholomew and Mr. Jelliby’s lives, the boy because he soon learns the danger he and his sister are in and the man because, despite his inclination not to get involved, his better nature takes over and urges him to investigate. The last straw occurs when Bartholomew is marked to be taken, but it’s Hettie who disappears in the night, and Mr. Jelliby’s search leads him straight to the Peculiar boy. Together they must combat the nefarious Mr. Lickerish if they hope to stop the cataclysmic event the fairy has planned, and if they have any chance of getting Hettie back alive.
Stefan Bachmann was sixteen years old when he began work on The Peculiar in 2010. His inexperience is nowhere to be seen in The Peculiar’s 376 pages. His youth, however, is all over it. This work is lively, imaginative and elastic. The words simply bounce off the page. The world building, while not superb, is sufficiently detailed (with an absolutely wonderful prologue), and Bachmann’s characters are so well drawn, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t yet had even twenty years’ worth of experience in the world. My favorite is the well-meaning but mildly bumbling Mr. Jelliby, a character worthy of his Dickensian name. My only quibble is the cliff-hanger of an ending Bachmann has left us. The sequel, The Whatnot, is out now, and I'm dying to get my hands on it. I can’t wait to see what Bachmann has cooked up next.

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
2012, Greenwillow Books
Library copy

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review - "The Templeton Twins Make a Scene"



Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so they say.  If this is the case, than Lemony Snicket and Pseudonymous Bosch have a great fan in Ellis Weiner.  The formers’ style of narration had to be an influence on Weiner’s obnoxious, self-aggrandizing Narrator in his series about the Templeton Twins, the second volume of which, entitled The Templeton Twins Make a Scene is soon to be released.  Thankfully for Mr. Weiner, he does not rely totally on readers’ familiarity with peculiar narrators to keep his story afloat, and instead stuffs his book to the gills with jokes, action, twins, inventions and one ridiculous dog.

When we last saw the Templeton twins, Abigail and John, they had just thwarted nefarious twins Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean and their plan to steal credit for Professor Templeton’s One Man Helicoptor.  After a brief respite, during which the Templeton family moves to a new university, Professor Templeton begins work on a new invention, and the twins get a new nanny (named Manny – Manny the Nanny), the diabolical duo of Deans returns to wreak havoc on them all.

I would go into more detail, but really, you can work it out, especially if you’ve read the first installment.  Book two is more of the same.  Which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Yes, it is predictable, but so is every Nancy Drew mystery, and millions of kids still read and love those.  Mr. Weiner is aided greatly by his illustrator, Jeremy Holmes, whose clever and amusing graphics pepper the prose*.  

These books aren’t going to be for everyone.  Some of you will find the Narrator so maddening, you’ll want to tear your hair out.  Some of you are going to find him hilarious.  Different strokes.  But if you enjoy stories about crafty kids (and their dog, and their Manny) ruining the plans of ridiculous adults, you just might love The Templeton Twins.

*Final art was not seen, but based on the sketches, and Mr. Holmes’ work in the previous volume, I feel confident making this statement.


The Templeton Twins Make a Scene by Ellis Weiner, ill. by Jeremy Holmes
2013, Chronicle Books
Preview copy provided by publisher for review

Friday, October 4, 2013

Review - "The Secrets at the Chocolate Mansion"

Broadcast News is one of my favorite films of all time, and in it, Albert Brooks' character Aaron says something along the lines of 'the devil will convince us that we're all just salesmen'.  I've always loved this speech (not the least because Brooks so beautifully delivers it), but because I could relate.  I was a Girl Scout for many years.  I sold cookies.  Luckily for me, there wasn't an enormous amount of pressure to sell the most, and I got by.  Now, as a librarian, I have kids and teenagers coming in waves selling fruit, candy, wrapping paper and coupons.  And all of them have this desperate gleam in their eyes, as if their life depended on every sale.  Given the state of school budgets, that's probably not half wrong.  The pressure on these kids is enormous.

Now why am I bringing this up in a review about a middle grade mystery novel about a haunted mansion?  Read it (yes, please do) and you'll see.  Because amidst all the clues and chills and chocolate, Ms. Margolis is saying something important.  The pressure to succeed can be crippling, and not just for children.  When Maggie Brooklyn's friend Sonya's family opens a new soda shop, and the Grand Opening is marred by a sugar/salt swap, a clumsy (or is she?) soda jerk and a smashed window with a threatening note, Maggie takes up the case.  Things continue to go wrong, and Sonya's mother, the proprietor is ready to cut her losses almost immediately, rather than risk being a complete failure.  Add to this a new babysitting gig in a supposedly haunted mansion for a lively three-year-old who has a "see-through" friend who sings haunting songs.  Pile on top of that a D+ on a history test and a boyfriend who won't talk to her, and it's no wonder that Maggie is starting to crack.  But with the help of her twin, Finn and some good old fashion gumption, Maggie manages to save the day, from soda shop saboteurs, ghosts, extra credit and stubborn seventh grade boys.

Ms. Margolis has at least one thing going for her in a very impressive way: she knows middle-schoolers.  She knows how they talk, she knows how they think.  Between the Maggie Brooklyn mysteries and her Annabelle Unleashed series (Boys Are Dogs, etc.), she almost has the market cornered on smart, funny, realistic girls.  Her books are mightily enjoyable, and subtly broadening.  You won't even notice you're becoming a more well-rounded person, until you just are.


The Secrets at the Chocolate Mansion by Leslie Margolis
2013, Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Preview copy provided by publisher for review

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review - "The Unfortunate Son"


In sixteenth century France, the abandoned son of a count, who was born with only one ear, makes a new life for himself with an elderly fisherman, his sister and their beautiful young ward, until one day he is set upon by ruthless Saracen pirates and sold into slavery in Northern Africa. Got your attention? Brilliant, because if left with the cover of The Unfortunate Son, I don’t know if I’d be able to sell this book. Not that it isn’t a fine work of art by Scott McKowen, it is. And it does accurately represent a scene from the book. It’s just a little…plain. And dreary. The sky is overcast, the water is choppy, and every single body on that boat looks sour and unfriendly, like they’re all suffering from food poisoning (which might not be far off the mark, mind you). I’m not sure why the publishers chose to highlight such a sour scene from the book as its cover (it’s also in shades of brown, which is a deathly cover for juvenile and young adult books. Brown=boring.) Luckily for author Constance Leeds the quality of the writing far outweighs the meh-ness of the cover.

The Unfortunate Son is actually the tale of two youths, Luc and Beatrice. Luc is disowned by his count father by virtue of his abnormality. Beatrice is the daughter of a disgraced knight who was murdered by the count before her eyes. Now she lives with her old nursemaid Mattie and her brother Pons in a small fishing village. Luc soon enters their lives and comes to live with the happy family and helps with the fishing. Luc and Beatrice form a quick but quiet bond. One day when out fishing with Pons, Luc is kidnapped by marauding pirates and sold into slavery to a wise scholar and physician. Salah proves to be a kind master, teaching Luc to read, to speak Arabic and many other subjects while training Luc to be his assistant. Back home, Beatrice refuses to believe her friend has died, and prays daily for his return. In the meantime, she tries to get to the bottom of the mystery of Luc’s heritage, eventually tracing his roots to the old count, now deceased. As Salah’s health declines, Luc faces a choice: stay behind in his new home that he has grown to love, or make his way back to France and to Beatrice.
The Unfortunate Son begins with a bang, with the birth of Luc, doomed by his malformation to be discarded by his father, and it never really lets up. We’re quickly introduced to Beatrice, Mattie and Pons and given their backstory. Leeds writes aggressively, with conviction. We’re always sure of where we are, of time and place. I was worried we might be taken over with Luc’s story once he is abducted, but Leeds carefully navigates us back and forth, and we are given just as much of Beatrice’s point of view as Luc’s. Multiple starred reviews had me looking forward to this one, despite the cover (sorry to harp, but it really is a dull cover), and I was not disappointed. It’s one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read in recent years.

The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds
2012, Viking
Library copy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review - "Vanished"

Since I started this blog, I’ve probably read more mysteries than I had in the previous *mumblemumble*years of my life. I have stated time and again that mysteries just weren’t my thing, but I keep proving myself wrong by coming across stories and characters that pique my interest. Mysteries are such a popular genre across the board that the middle grade world is lousy with them, and I’ve found that some are really quite remarkable. The latest who-dun-it I have discovered in this fantastic line is Vanished by Sheela Chari.

Neela has received from her grandmother in India a wonderful gift: a beautiful veena, a traditional Indian string instrument, with an extraordinary dragon carving on the handle. Neela has been taking lessons on her teacher’s practice veena, and is thrilled to have one of her own, especially one so special. What her grandmother and her parents have failed to mention is that Neela’s new veena carries a curse, and when it disappears from a church closet, Neela finds herself dragged into wide-spread search with threats appearing from all sides. Is the curse real, or are there human hands behind all Neela’s trouble?

Before reading Vanished, I had never heard the word “veena”. Now I’m interested in finding out more about veena music and musicians. A good book can do that to you, and I find that most good books I read lead me on some manner of information chase, which is a good thing. Stories don’t end just because the author says “The End”. And Chari’s story kept me thinking for a long time after I’d closed the book. Her characters, especially Neela and her foe/friend Lynne are very well drawn. They move the mystery along at an appropriate pace. Overall, I was delighted with the mysterious elements of this story: the disappearance of the veena, the shadowy curse, the international intrigue. All of it was put together marvelously to complete the package.

Vanished by Sheela Chari
2011, Disney Hyperion
Library copy

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review - "Bluffton"



Along with being a book nerd, I am a film nerd.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved movies.  In particular, I adore silent movies, those artifacts from long ago that represent the beginning of a massive industry and artistic medium.  And one of my favorite people from that silent era is Buster Keaton, the physical comedy genius who defied gravity and the laws of physics with his daring and unbelievable stunts and wacky, inspired contraptions.  So it was with great joy I learned that master graphic storyteller Matt Phelan was coming out with an historical graphic novel about Buster Keaton.  The  film nerd in me was greatly satisfied, and the librarian in me can’t wait to share this book!

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster tells the story of a young man, Henry Harrison, and the friendships he strikes up when a vaudeville troupe takes up residence nearby for the summer.  Henry is introduced to Buster Keaton, then the youngest member of The Three Keatons.  Buster’s job is to be the straight man, always being thrown about, but never cracking a smile.  They called him the human mop.  Henry and Buster’s summer is full of pranks and baseball, but when the weather turns towards fall, it’s time for the performers to move on and for Henry to go back to school, and back to helping out at his family’s hardware store.  The next summer brings much of the same, with Henry begging Buster to teach him the tricks of his trade.  The pair shares the ups and downs that come from being a not-quite-an-adult, and each of them grows up to find their place in the world.

Matt Phelan must love history.  He has beautifully illustrated the dust bowl in The Storm in the Barn and the turn of the century adventurers in Around the World.  I might be prejudiced because of the subject matter, but I think this might be Phelan’s best.  He perfectly captures the time period, and the emotional time period of young men growing up, sometimes not knowing exactly where they’re going.  Phelan’s watercolors evoke an idyllic slice of summertime that can’t help but make you nostalgic.

If this book encourages even one child at my library to look into the films of Buster Keaton and the silent era, I’ll be a very happy camper.

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster by Matt Phelan
2013, Candlewick Press
Final copy provided by publisher for review

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review - "The Apprentices"

Sequels, while often hoped for, are tricky things. Working with preconceived notions of characters and situations can be daunting for an author. Sometimes, the old magic just isn’t there, and sometimes, you get something that strikes just the right balance of something old and something new. The Apprentices, Maile Meloy’s sequel to her 2011 middle grade debut The Apothecary gets the balance almost just right.

Two years have passed for Janie and Benjamin since the events of The Apothecary. Janie is in school in the U.S. and Benjamin is traveling the world with his father, trying to do good in troubled areas. Despite being memory drugged at the end of her previous adventure, Janie has recovered most of her memories, thanks to Benjamin’s forbidden and sometimes confusing communiques. She has even begun an experiment to recreate one of the alchemical recipes from the Pharmacopoeia, the desalinization of sea water. She is so close to achieving this goal, in fact, that she attracts some unwanted attention, and as a result, she is thrown out of school on trumped up charges, and her nearly completed experiment is stolen. What Janie doesn’t know, is that what the nefarious Mr. Magnusson really wants is not her experiment, but her friends, Benjamin and his father. Janie is bait. From here The Apprentices is a tight chase to the finish, with Benjamin trying everything in his power to reach Janie, and Janie trying everything in hers to keep Benjamin safe.

Adventure stories must have risk if they are going to succeed. If your heroes don’t stand to lose something, where is the danger? In Janie and Benjamin’s world, the risk is huge: nuclear fallout. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. In The Apothecary, the resourceful crew manages to contain a nuclear blast, and the baddies at work in The Apprentices are trying to make sure such a thing never happens again. Soviet spy and British traitor Mr. Danby is back, with new motives, but much the same goal. And Mr. Magnusson, the slightly slimy, island owning, kidnapping businessman is an effective villain. He’s just smart enough to be a serious problem.

If I had one problem with The Apprentices, it would be with the character of Pip. In The Apothecary, I was Pip’s defender. I was charmed by his Artful Dodger-ness, and found him a necessary relief from the doom and gloom. Here, however, Pip’s role is so marginalized as to be practically unnecessary. The plot could have continued, and in fact, concluded without his help, and his inclusion in the story at all feels like a forced attempt to bring all the previous players back for the second volume.

The Apprentices, like The Apothecary, is a mature middle grade read. It’s not for the dabbler, or the faint of heart. There are heavy issues at play, and as our characters traverse farther and farther into teenagedom, there can only be more heavy on the way. But it is a rewarding read. Meloy’s use of language is above par, and her pacing and scenarios will keep you up at night, turning pages, until you’ve reached the end.

The Apprentices by Maile Meloy
2013, Putnam Juvenile
Preview copy provided by publisher for review

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review - "Same Sun Here"

I get requests at the library every so often for “multicultural books”. Generally, they are looking for picture books, but there will be requests for middle grade books as well, especially books that are good to read aloud with a classroom. The past few years have given us several titles to fit this exercise, one of my favorites being Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai, and 2012 offered another wonderful example: Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani.

Meena lives in New York City’s Chinatown, by way of India, and River lives in coal-mining Kentucky. They are paired together by chance in a pen-pal program, and quickly start to bond over their shared experiences. Both Meena and River live without their father, who works away from the family. Both have grandmothers to whom they are very close. And both feel the danger of their homes being uprooted: Meena by her pernicious landlord and River by the dangerous practice of mountaintop removal. Meena and River share stories and advice, argue about boy/girl dynamics and eventually find strength in each other.
Same Sun Here not only gives glimpses into the lives of two very different cultures, it offers examples of families that are struggling economically, right on the cusp of the 2008 financial crisis. Meena and River’s letters are a unique historical document, taking note of Barack Obama’s election and the variety of opinions and reactions this brought in different parts of the country. House and Vaswani are very conscientious of their audience and never let the fear or outrage overwhelm the story. Always we are drawn back into the inherit goodness of these two children and their burgeoning friendship. Though the story ends on a bit of an ambivalent note for one of them, there is still a powerful hope than remains.
Written in two distinct voices, but never feeling alien to each other, Same Sun Here is a valuable book. It teaches compassion and the urgent need to stand up what you believe. I’ll be glad to have this book in hand when teachers and parents come to call.

Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
2012, Candlewick
Library copy

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Backlist Files - "The Race to Save the Lord God Bird"

One of the best heist films I’ve ever seen is not really a heist film at all. Nothing is stolen, though the rules are thoroughly broken. This particular film is called Man on Wire, a documentary directed by James Marsh which tells the story of tightrope walker Philippe Petit who in 1974 strung a wire between the World Trade Center Towers in New York City and spent the better part of an hour walking back and forth, evading police and capturing the attention of the world (This story was dramatized in the Caldecott winning picture book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein). What makes the film so successful is its appropriation of the heist film tropes (the plan, the execution, etc.) to tell a real life story.

I bring this up, because in reading Phillip Hoose’s masterful The Race to Save the Lord God Bird I was strongly reminded of mysteries and thrillers I’ve read where the ending is doubtful, but the clues continue to pile up. Hoose tells the story of the “Lord God” bird, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker like it were a detective story. We meet the usual suspects, good and bad, responsible for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s disappearance and reappearance through time. There are mysterious occurrences and unexplained rumors abound. What was once a plentiful population dwindles through hunting (which continued to happen even after the species was named endangered) and the destruction of their habitat. Finally, all that is left of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker are a few credible but unsubstantiated sightings.
Hoose’s writing is so neat and so clever, his prose reads like good fiction. This is a classic mystery, a natural whodunit. In addition to being a well told tale, the story of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a perfect example of the need for preservation, a story of the people who fought for that preservation and how laws came into effect to achieve it. I was prompted to read this book in anticipation of Hoose’s newest ornithological tome, Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95. I can only hope that this new title lives up to the high standard set by its predecessor.

The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose
2004, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Library copy

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review - "My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer"


How do we start to talk to our kids about tough issues? Not having any children myself, I’m often in the difficult position of having to advise parents on tackling tough subjects, offering books that might help them start a conversation. But one conversation that doesn’t seem to be happening in children’s literature for middle grade readers is that of gay marriage and gay equality. There are books for younger readers and listeners, picture books like Donovan’s Big Day and King and King that present gay marriage as a matter of fact, but once you pass the picture book stage, there’s very little out there. There are a few series that feature gay parents, like Lauren Myracle’s Flower Power series (two Moms) and Amy Ignatow’s Popularity Papers (two Dads), but it wasn’t until My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari that I saw a text that actively took the issue of gay marriage and equality and tried to make it relatable to a middle grade audience.

For eleven years of June Farrell’s life, it has been just June and her Mom. And this was okay. It wasn’t that June didn’t want a dad, or didn’t wonder what her biological dad was like, but her mom was her world, and she liked it that way. And then Mom met Eva, and everything changed. Now Vermont has passed a law allowing for civil unions for gay couples and June’s Mom wants to marry Eva. It’s not as if June doesn’t like Eva (though they certainly have their differences), but she’s not sure she wants an addition to her family. And then there’s the community to think about. It seems as if so many people are against the civil union law, and there’s even a campaign started to boycott the family business. All of this unrest interferes with June’s life, especially when her mom forbids June from entering a pie in the local fair. The whole summer seems to unravel for June, who has to decide how she feels about her mother, about Eve, about those who call her mother names and has to decide once and for all to stand up for herself and those she loves.

The subject matter of My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer is definitely not light fare. It gets a little heavy, especially with some of the truly unsettling name-calling that gets bandied about. But kids are smarter, savvier and more empathetic than we adults sometimes give them credit for. I think a book like this is important. Is it perfect? Hardly. The opposition, the Take Back Vermont-ers, is painted in very broad, one-note strokes. These are bad people, monsters even, a caricature which reduces the quality of the discussion. A parent would have to be on hand to explain that not everyone that opposes gay marriage is a foaming-at-the-mouth hate monger. But the book gains points in the struggle within June herself. She wavers on how she feels about having a gay Mom, about having a new step-mother, about what it means to have people out there hate you just for being who you are. In June’s struggle, Gennari has found her conversation, and parents and caregivers can find a starting off point to talking about a very sensitive issue.

Overall, I feel as if a book like this can do more good than harm. Anything that teaches and encourages our kids to think out of the box and for themselves and think about the need for equality among all people is a good thing. We need more of this conversation.

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari
2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Library copy