‘Two Roads’ by Joseph Bruchac Is a Middle Grade Historical Fiction About Identity and Prejudice

2 roads

With “Two Roads,” Joseph Bruchac again demonstrates his brilliance with a novel that inspires as much as it teaches readers about a neglected part of US history, the treatment of veterans after the first World War. The compelling story also shares very much more — including ideas about morality among the hoboes of that time, prejudicial treatment of Native Americans and prejudicial treatment by Native Americans, government wrongdoing, and the importance of family and friends.

Continue reading

‘Santa Bruce’ (and more) by Ryan T. Higgins Is a Picture Book That’s as Much Fun for Adults to Read as for Kids to Listen to

 

santa bruce.jpg

“Santa¬†Claus Bruce” by the talented Ryan T. Higgins is a picture book that is certainly as much fun (or more) for adults to read as it is for the kids listening to the story. Higgins’ wry humor coupled with the extremely expressive illustrations make for a wonderfully satisfying picture book experience.

It’s winter and Bruce wants to stay in bed, but the mice and geese have other ideas. They want holiday spirit, and they want lots of it. They deck the halls, make eggnog, and put up the Christmas tree. Needless to say, Bruce is not in the holiday mood.

While outside, grumpily shoveling snow dressed in long underwear and a warm hat, Bruce suffers from (another) case of mistaken identity. (Higgins’ fans will remember that the first case of mistaken identity was when the goslings mistook Bruce for their mother in the first book in this wonderfully humorous and touching series.) And so Bruce has now become Santa.

The hilarity and confusion continue as Bruce and the others, the geese and mice, have opposing agendas. Longtime readers know which agenda wins, and so Bruce is Santa and — unwillingly — brings a bunch of holiday cheer to all those around him.

Adults will love the double entendres as the erudite mice discuss bears and weather. “Actually, bears don’t hibernate. They spend the winter in a state of lethargy.” Another mouse responds, “I thought we were spending winter in the state of Maine.” There is one illustration of the bunny home with Mama Bunny, Papa Bunny, the baby bunnies, and the “grown-up bunny who still lives with his parents.” Kids won’t get it, but the adults reading it will.

Kids love the grumpy adult-figure and the clever and determined mice and geese and other forest animals. It’s a heartwarming Christmas tale that will be enjoyed all winter long and well into Spring.

1 grumpy

For younger Bruce fans, get “1 Grumpy Bruce: a counting book” by Higgins. In this sturdy board book are all the adorable forest figures (and elephants) from “1 grumpy bear” to “10 woodchucks chucking wood.” And although it’s “just” a counting board book, there is still a clever twist at the end. Trust Higgins to make a counting board book more than just a book of numbers.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Disney-Hyperion, the publisher, for review purposes.

Don’t Miss ‘The Storm Runner’ by J. C. Cervantes; the First Book in a New ‘Rick Riordan Presents’ Series

storm runner

J. C. Cervantes is the talented author who has written the first book in a trilogy about Mayan gods and the kid who is the child of one of them. It’s Rick Riordan’s “Lightning Thief” taken south to Mexico (and New Mexico). In “The Storm Runner,” Zane Obispo, who limps because one leg is shorter than the other, discovers that he is godborn, the child of one of the Mayan gods. In fact, that explains his leg because as one character tells him, humans and the gods don’t mix perfectly.

Continue reading

‘Love Can Be: A Literary Collection About Our Animals’ Is Filled with Beautiful Stories about the Creatures Who Fill our Lives with Beauty

love can be

“Love Can Be” is a touching and creative collection of writing about animals and our connections to them. The contributors include Joyce Carol Oates, Delia Ephron, S. E. Hinton, and Reyna Grande. The stories vary in content from Dean Koontz sharing a story about his much-loved dog Trixie, to Reyna Grande discussing monarch butterflies and comparing their long migration to her life. Both stories share the beauty and mystery of our love for animals.

Each story, those which are not stories about beloved pets and those that are, share a sense of wonder about the world around us and the animals that inhabit them. Those animals whose lives intersect ours enrich us through that interaction from raccoons being saved to frogs and turtles in danger on roadways.

One story, by Wade Rouse, made me cry. He shares the power of dogs to heal us, and his story about rescuing animals and how they repay that good deed many times over is a truth that those who rescue hear over and over. “That dog got me through my cancer treatment” is a statement that I have been told from at least two people who adopted dogs I’d rescued. One was a puppy mill survivor, Irving, and the other a terrier mix whom I found wandering down the sidewalk in Highland Park, unwanted and ungroomed. Rouse’s story is about his father-in-law who had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and, ignoring all advice and warnings about getting someone a dog for Christmas, they got him a black Lab mix. It was beautiful, tear-jerkingly beautiful — both the story and the writing. Just like love can be.

Love can be many things, and with animals, all things are possible. One thing that is sure is that “Love Can Be: A Literary Collection About our Animals” would be a perfect gift for any animal lover on your holiday gift list. Truly.

The Kirkpatrick Foundation is donating all net proceeds of this book to animal charities in Oklahoma as well as honoraria donated to the contributor’s selected animal charities. Dean Koontz, for example, is a huge supporter of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), an organization that supplies service dogs to the handicapped and facility dogs to those who work in hospitals and schools. (I attended training for my facility dog at the Oceanside branch of CCI, to which Koontz has donated generously.) His much loved dogs were CCI dogs who were released for various reasons and adopted.

The Kirkpatrick Foundation’s Safe & Humane initiative is comprised of people who care about the welfare of animals and understand that the wellbeing of animals is a key component of community well-being. They are committed to making Oklahoma the safest and most humane place to be an animal by the year 2032. Learn more about that here.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Wunderkind PR for review purposes.

‘Sawkill Girls’ by Claire Legrand: A YA Horror Story with Female Heroes

Sawkill-Girls-Final-Tagline-678x1024

With “Sawkill Girls,” author Claire Legrand creates a positively Stephen King-ish horror story that takes place on an exclusive island for the extremely wealthy where girls have mysteriously disappeared for decades. In addition to the three female main characters, the island, with its woods and cliffs and mysterious hidden areas, becomes almost another character.

Continue reading

‘Squirm’ by Carl Hiaasen Is Yet Another Superb Middle Grade Adventure for Animal Lovers

squirm

Carl Hiaasen’s adult books are crazy-wonderful, and his middle grade novels are just as crazy, but much more child-appropriate. They are crazy fun, crazy fabulous, crazily filled with wonderful animals, and wonderfully filled with crazy characters.

In this novel, which takes place both in Florida and Montana, Billy Dickens is the main character. He narrates the tale of his journey to find his father, and along the way he finds an unexpected extended family, performs some hero-worthy exploits, and develops appreciation for his quirky parents.

Continue reading

‘We Don’t Eat Our Classmates’ by Ryan T. Higgins Is a Hilarious Picture Book for Pre-School-Age Readers

eat classmates.jpg

In “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,” talented author Ryan T. Higgins explores what it would be like if a dinosaur, specifically a very carnivorous T. Rex, attended school. Penelope the T. Rex was ready to start. Her dad had made her lunch, three hundred tuna fish sandwiches. What she was not ready for, though, was the fact that her classmates were human children.

As any self-respecting T. Rex knows, children are delicious. So Penelope ate them. Her teacher grew angry and insisted that she spit them out immediately. She did. The children were not happy. Penelope was not happy. Going to school with delicious snacks available was just more than the precocious dinosaur could stand.

But one day, in a hilarious turn-around, Penelope found out what it feels like to be the one on the dinner plate, and she didn’t care for it at all. Higgins entertains readers — young and old — with his trademark clever twist that will keep his fans loving each and every picture book he writes. Kids will love this one, and their parents will, too.

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