‘Giraffe Problems’ by Jory John & Illustrated by Lane Smith: A Picture Book Kids LOVE!

giraffe

Don’t just take my word for it, get a copy of “Giraffe Problems” by Jory John with chuckle-inducing illustrations by the talented Lane Smith. Read it to any child between three and thirteen. All will love it: guaranteed.

But don’t get the book only for the laughs. It’s much more than just another humorous picture book for entertaining children. The story of the giraffe with the really, really long neck, who doesn’t like his neck at all, will resonate with kids. Edward, the giraffe, laments his misfortune and wishes he had a neck like a zebra, an elephant, or a lion.

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‘The Other Woman’ by Sandie Jones: A Psychological Thriller that Will Keep You Wondering

the other woman

“The Other Woman” by Sandie Jones is the story of Emily Havistock and her new boyfriend, Adam Banks. Emily has had one devastating past relationship, and now has a small group of steadfast friends, but she wants more, and she thinks Adam might be “the one.” When he finally suggests introducing her to his mother, she’s thrilled.

But things don’t go as planned, and while his mother, Pammie, seems like a wonderful woman to the rest of the world, Emily gets the feeling that Pammie wants her gone. The clues are subtle and only noticed by Emily, but she’s positive that they are real. As her relationship with Adam grows deeper, the warning signs get stronger — Pammie does not want her in the family.

In the meantime, things are not all rosy with Adam. He doesn’t care for Emily’s close friend Seb, who happens to be gay. He likes to go out on his regular Thursday night with his chums and often comes back drunk. In fact, he drinks a lot. While the reader may notice these things, Emily does not seem to care much or be bothered by the questionable things Adam does. All of Emily’s wrath and emotion is centered on Pammie.

When Pammie reveals (thanks to Emily’s clumsy questions) that she has cancer just days before Emily and Adam are to be married, Adam calls the wedding off. Emily has her doubts about whether or not Pammie even really has cancer. Is this merely another ploy in her efforts to keep Emily out of the family?

Another complication is Adam’s brother, James, who seems to be everything Adam is, but kinder, calmer, and more sincere. Yet Emily is torn because while she is attracted to James, she also is suspicious of his attentions.

Jones keeps the focus on Emily and Pammie, and the pages keep turning as the reader endeavors to find out who will win — the evil Pammie, soon-to-be-evil-mother-in-law, or Emily. Perhaps, like this reviewer, readers will be expecting a surprise reveal about Emily. The actual ending is not easy to predict and will probably surprise most readers.

This is perfect for a quick vacation or weekend read. It’s a carefully crafted psychological thriller with a suspenseful plot and realistic characters. Enjoy.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur, the publisher, for review purposes.

Five Nonfiction Picture Books for Kids of Many Ages — From Monsters and Animals to Historical Figures and the Flight to the Moon

“Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky” by Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpr√©¬† shares with young readers the lonely, often tormented life of Vincent Van vincentGogh. Each page begins with “Vincent can’t sleep…” and begins with his childhood when at the age of nine or ten he once walked at night six miles from his home in the Netherlands to Belgium where he was “found with torn clothes and muddy shoes.” The author includes that he was moody, “Excited. Bored. Eager. Lazy. Explosive. Shy. His many-colored moods scare the customers — and he’s forced to go.” This is a wonderful book for encouraging discussion about being different. Van Gogh was different. He’s described as “A sensitive boy. A hidden genius. A brilliant artist.” But according to the Author’s Note, he may have only sold five paintings while he was alive. Questions to discuss can include what makes someone successful? Was Van Gogh successful? Was he crazy? Why are his paintings so revered and so valuable? A beautiful book about a brilliant — and tormented — artist. (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
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‘My Father’s Words’ by Patricia MacLachlan: A Simple Children’s Book with Not-So-Simple Thoughts

fathers words

“My Father’s Words” by Patricia MacLachlan is a beautifully written, emotionally wrenching story that had me crying through my lunch as I finished it. It’s a small, 133-page book set in large type with wide spacing. It’s easy to read, but much harder to really appreciate.

This is not a book that one should skim to just get the plot and then move on. MacLachlan includes phrases so thoughtful that the reader is compelled to reread them and think about them. It’s a perfect book for a classroom teacher to use as a read aloud, so that those special paragraphs and moments can be shared and discussed. But be warned, finishing this book without shedding a tear is an almost insurmountable feat.

The story, on its face, is simple. Fiona and Finn’s father, a psychologist and a wonderful dad, dies in a car accident. He swerves to avoid a child who has run into the street and is himself killed. The whole family is bereft.

At the suggestion of Luke, a close friend and neighbor, Fiona and Finn begin to volunteer at the local animal shelter, where they learn that while you comfort a shelter dog (or any dog, for that matter), the dog is also comforting you.

The ending of the book is perfect — so perfect that even if a reader sees the ending coming, it doesn’t matter. It’s beautifully written and extremely touching.

While it’s a simple story that third grade students could read and comprehend, older students will find it easier to understand the underlying truths that MacLachlan shares about life, death, memories, love, healing, and, of course, dogs. MacLachlan knows what most dog lovers know — that to have a dog companion is to never feel alone. Another truth my students know? To pet a dog is magic — it comforts and heals wounds and makes the sun shine on the darkest rainy day.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s edition provided by Katherine Tegen Books, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘Bone on Bone’ by Julia Keller Is a Don’t-Miss Murder Mystery

boneonbone

In “Bone on Bone,” the latest novel in the series about Bell Elkins, author Julia Keller delves deeply into the psyche of the protagonist, Bell, to deliver a novel that is powerful and emotional. Even readers who have read the previous novels (which does help understand motivations and characters) will marvel at Belle’s strength of character and moral resolve to do the right thing.

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