Category Archives: children’s

Book Review: Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz & Renée Watson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published Jan 2018
256 Pages

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights.

Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born. – Goodreads

I gave this book 5 Pickles and yes I normally give the rating at the end but this will be a short review as this read was perfect for anyone that wants to know more about Dr. Betty Shabazz.

Firstly, while reading this book not only do you learn about Dr. Betty and the struggles she went through as a child but you find out information about the African Americans and their struggle internal struggle. What I mean by internal struggle is African Americans have a huge huge spending power. The Housewives League went around the neighborhood to get people to commit to spending their money at Black owned businesses. The issue back then was Blacked owned businesses charged more than white owned business.

This exact ties into today. Granted due to online stores and cutting the middle man, Black businesses are on a rise but that is only for certain products. Brick and mortar stories are important and due to various reasons they are scarce within Black communities.

As much as I loved this book as it showed me more about who Dr. Betty Shabazz was as an individual and not just as Malcolm X’s wife, I wanted to know more about The Housewives League. I wanted to know more about what was done to unite Black communities outside of becoming desegregated from their white counterparts.

When the book begins it is at a turning point in Dr. Betty Shabazz’s life. It makes a whole lot of sense why it begins where it does as well as where it finishes. I want to know more about this woman and this book was a great starting point.

Again,

5 Pickles 

 

Book Review: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Published Sept 25th, 2018
218 Pages

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.- Goodreads

Although I purchased a copy of Katherine Arden’s book The Bear and the Nightingale, this is my first read by her and man it was fantastic.

The entire time I was reading this book, I was thinking of the movie Jeepers Creepers. The scarecrows, the school bus breaking down everything . . . well mostly everything reminded me of this movie.

But to the book. It was creepy. Real creepy. Arden sets the stage for a horror movie but still is able to keep it PG. How? Talent.

Ollie is an interesting girl because she is really talented but also in mourning. So she doesn’t do anything outside of reading. Not like in most instances this is an issue but in the case of Ollie it is a bit because she was an interactive girl and then closed up. I don’t blame her.

But the best part of the book other than the creepiness is the story within the story. I wanted more of it because it integrated with the main story so well and when they came together in real time, it wasn’t awkward and most importantly it wasn’t forced. Thank GOD! It wasn’t forced.

I loved the pace of novel. It moved at the right speed to keep you so into the story. It wasn’t fluffed with un-needed backstory nor was it fluffed with questions. I didn’t feel as if I was missing something and another important thing is I didn’t feel like I need something. Everything was there and the book concluded with an actual conclusion; not a cliff hanger that will make you think there will be a book two.

Honestly, Ollie’s story is done. May not the mini story or the creepy scarecrows but Ollie herself does not need a book two.

This is a short review because I really do not have anything to say other than a fantastic read that made me go down memory lane about a movie, I use to watch with my dad.

Overall,

4 Pickles

 

Book Review: The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Ryan Andrews (illustrator)

Candlewick Press
Aug. 7th, 32018
416 Pages

Twelve-year-old Lowen Grover, a budding comic-book artist, is still reeling from the shooting death of his friend Abe when he stumbles across an article about a former mill town giving away homes for just one dollar. It not only seems like the perfect escape from Flintlock and all of the awful memories associated with the city, but an opportunity for his mum to run her very own business.

Fortunately, his family is willing to give it a try. But is the Dollar Program too good to be true? The homes are in horrible shape, and the locals are less than welcoming. Will Millville and the dollar house be the answer to the Grovers’ troubles? Or will they find they’ve traded one set of problems for another? From the author of Small as an Elephant and Paper Things comes a heart-tugging novel about guilt and grief, family and friendship, and, above all, community. -Goodreads

Long read but definitely worth it. There were a lot of messages/themes within this book. However, the biggest one that bothered me the most or should I say affected me the most was how the adults treated the new families, specifically the children.

The whole purpose of those families moving into these crap houses, is to fix them up and bring business into a dying a community. But the town, which voted for each family, are fairly rude and disrespectful to new comers. This occurs throughout the entire book and it really bothers me. New comers to a town, school, work anything is very hard to deal with it. It is even worst when people generally don’t want you there. I felt so bad, mostly for the kids, who were being call the dollar kids by the adults.

The shooting of Abe is an important part of the book but it stays a bit in the back burner. It’s the elephant in the room that doesn’t exactly show itself all the time but you know it is there. When the truth comes out and that guilt is released, you exhale because its the tension within the novel and you’re just happy to let it go.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It is simple but then complicated (in a good way) with overlapping issues that push the reader’s involvement on a emotional level. You are able to connect to the characters, not just Lowen but to everyone in the family and that is a hard thing to do as a writer knowing that more than likely adults will read your book.

I would recommend this read, especially for kids who need to see grief play out and see a different way to deal with your past and what looks like your future.

3 Pickles

Book Review: The Golden Fountain by Zuheb Alep

Troubador Publishing Ltd
Published Feb. 28, 2018
320 Pages

The Golden Fountain is the story of a twelve-year old Benjamin, a rebellious boy whose fierce desire to become a leader is threatened by the children disappearing around his city. The citizens of the city has long suffered their children’s disappearance, but the fact that they were never discovered leads Benjamin to finally decide one thing; he would creep on-board a ship carrying eight thousands soldiers to rescue them around the world. 

This story is set parallel in a world to our own, with magical creatures such as talking snow-cats bred for war, winged humans with elemental powers, birds as large as a horse and ferocious witches. 

This world is more than magical, with the balance of light and darkness about to break. Only Benjamin can prevent that with his unbreakable sword and a unique compass. Fall into a story completed with many themes, mostly about love and worst of all … death.- Goodreads

Jumping right into this review, I was disappointed in this read and I was for several reasons.

  1. The book starts off strong and with the promise of magic and prophecy. But after a few chapters it doesn’t deliever.
    1. The opening chapter begins off Benjamin recalling a dream that is pretty much a premonition. But once this happens the author proceeds to stretch any mention of this or any form of prophecy, magic for some time.
  2.  Benjamin, although his intentions are pure, he has a narrow mind to what he wants and how he wants it. He doesn’t think things through and for the most part has a fairly easy journey. Yes, there are some complications but the journey is fairly smooth, which is surprising for a boy under the age of 16.
  3. It is very hard to tell the difference in where the story is taking place and what time period. Yes, it is in a parallel world and there are modern aspects or details in the story but it doesn’t flow where you 1: feel confident about the setting and 2: get confused by how its a fairly modern world i.e. cars but balloon travel is needed.
  4. The book was drawn out and utterly slow.

Despite these issues with the book, I felt that the the premise or what I believe the author was reaching for was strong enough to warrent me to finish the book. I think that the book would have been stronger if there was more going on and if Benjamin developed better and/or had a better sense of being a good hero was opposed to just wanting to do what is right at any cost.

Based on this, I give this book an overall score of

2 Pickles

Book Review: Shadow Warrior: Based on the True Story of a Fearless Ninja and Her Network of Female Spies by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Celia Krampien (Illustrator)

Annick Press
Published Sept. 12, 2017
64 Pages

It’s 1558, and warlords across Japan are battling for territory and control. Into this setting, Tanya Lloyd Kyi weaves the stories of three people: Mochizuki Chiyome, a young woman determined to become a ninja whose plans are thwarted by an arranged marriage; Takeda Shingen (The Tiger), a fierce warlord seeking a new weapon to outsmart his enemies; and Aki, an orphaned tavern girl whose destiny is changed by a mysterious woman.

As their stories intersect, the three characters become key players in an elaborate network of undercover female ninjas who will eventually shift the balance of power in Japan. Based on the true story of Mochizuki Chiyome and her all-female spy network.- Goodreads

*Short Review*

I really enjoyed this. I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up this book but the amount of history and story placed in this quick read was amazing. From the beginning, you are pulled in and you don’t want to leave.

This book is detailed without being dragged out and its colorful and complicated without feeling the author is trying to do too much. My only issue with this read, is I wish it was longer.

I loved how the author moved easily between three different point of views/three different stories. But I wanted to know more about each of them. Not necessarily their past, but what they were doing presently, what happened when the world started changing. I know that this book is meant for children, specifically middle schoolers but this read opened my curiosity to Mochizuki and what women did during this time.

It really is a good starting point for anyone that is mildly interested in badass women.

4 Pickles

Book Review: The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold, Levi Pinfold (Illustrator)

Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Published Nov. 10, 2016
216 Pages

Frank doesn’t know how to feel when Nick Underbridge rescues her from bullies one afternoon. No one likes Nick. He’s big, he’s weird and he smells – or so everyone in Frank’s class thinks.

And yet, there’s something nice about Nick’s house. There’s strange music playing there, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever.

But there’s more to Nick, and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Or the only one who needs help …-Goodreads

This will be a short review and mainly because I am not sure how I feel about this book. To begin this book was not what you think it is. Although I would consider this a coming of age story it isn’t a typical coming of age story. Frank is a difficult character to love. I say that because there was no real personality to her. She was a very shy girl that was being bullied and cared  a lot about her reputation. But beyond that there was not a lot to her. I couldn’t say she was strong, noisy a bit but she was truthful as much as she could has been. She was very unsure of herself but there was some growth, especially towards the end, which is why I consider this a coming of age story.

However, what shifted in this book was the magical element. It came out of nowhere…nothing lead up to it. I liked that aspect of the book. But I didn’t feel that the magic was the best route for this book. I am not the author, obviously, therefore, I had no right to say that but something was off, maybe misplaced about Nick and his secrets. Maybe it was Frank and the lack of life she brought to the book. I am not exactly sure.

But the entire book felt monotone and it was slow; even when thing were happening. I love this author but this was not the strongest book.

Overall,

2 Pickles