Savvy by Ingrid Law — Audiobook Edition

Savvy coverMibs Beaumont’s 13th birthday will reveal her special talent – her savvy – but it’s only the beginning of the process of learning to use that talent. Last year, when her brother Fish turned 13, his newfound power over local weather resulted in a short-lived, but damaging hurricane. He’s still figuring out how to keep that power under control.

A few days before her birthday, her father is in an accident that leaves him in a coma in Salina, 90 miles away. Mibs’s mother leaves the younger Beaumonts at home with Grandpa Bamba to be with him, but when events on her birthday convince Mibs that her savvy can help her father, she stows away on a Bible delivery bus in an attempt to follow. Her rescue mission gets complicated when Fish, the pastor’s kids, Roberta and Will, Jr., and the Beaumont’s younger brother, Samson, join in, and the fact that the bus still has several stops scheduled in the opposite direction before returning to Salina doesn’t help, either. In the two days that it takes to actually reach her destination, Mibs discovers the true nature of her savvy, Fish figures out the secret of managing his, and all five kids find ways to share their respective talents, savvy and otherwise.

Savvy places a lot of emphasis on the roles that a person’s talent plays in the context of a community. Mibs’s talent is an inherently social one, focusing the necessity of control on the way that that talent affects her relationships with her brothers, her friends, and a handful of others encountered through the course of the novel. The audiobook, narrated by Lily Blau, does a great job of bringing the story to life and settling Law’s tendency toward creative colloquialisms into the broader “tall tale” approach to the story.

Check back Wednesday to find out how the next Savvy book, Scumble, compares!

For a conservative but very detailed review, visit Kimberly Lyn Kane’s blog. For another take on Savvy, check out another review on Librarian Tells All.

The official Savvy book trailer:

P.S. Apologies for the delayed review.

Ten: The Books that Will Be 2013

This weekend, I went to the Alberta Library Conference and, among other things, had a chance to read about (and sometimes preview!) some of the books that will be coming out this year. This week’s Ten highlights titles that I’m most excited to read and, hopefully, share with you later this year.

Dream Boats coverDream Boats written by Dan Bar-el and illustrated by Kirsti Anne Wakelin
Released June 2013
“Where do children go when they close their eyes to sleep?
They step onto their dreamboats and sail toward adventure.
From Maiqui in the Andes floating through the constellations, to Aljuu paddling along the shores of Haida Gwaii with Eagle, Orca and Black Bear, to Ivan sailing into St. Petersburg, then sneaking between the bony legs of Baba Yaga, stories and memories lead them on.
Dream Boats takes readers into the dreams of children around the world, dreams that are filled with family and legends, culture and love. Written in lyrical prose by Dan Bar-el with gorgeous art by Kirsti Anne Wakelin, this is a book to be treasured by generations of dreamers. (from simplyreadbooks.com) Continue reading

The Boy in the Dress written by David Walliams and illustrated by Quentin Blake

The Boy In The Dress is television comedian Walliams’ first book.

The story is about Dennis, a twelve-year-old soccer lover, who lives with his older brother John, and their father, who resorts to eating to cope with his divorce from the boys’ mother.  Dennis finds interest in women’s fashion and comfort in his mother’s old clothing, and it is here that he discovers that he enjoys cross-dressing. He remains shy and wary of sharing this discovery with his family and friends until his father catches him with a copy of Vogue. His father is outraged, and his brother calls him “Denise.”

theboyinthedressHe meets school idol Lisa Jane, and becomes friends with her when he is given detention as a result of a misguided kick. She convinces him to dress up in a wig and dress, and when he passes unnoticed as exchange student “Denise” at a local corner store, he decides, after much contemplation, to attend school dressed as a girl. While he does a good job of convincing many schoolmates, his cover does not last. When a soccer ball passes by him he can’t resist the urge to kick the ball. His wig falls off and his worst nightmare comes true as he humiliates himself in front of the whole school. On top of everything, he is expelled from the school. Just when it seems things are going all askew, the author adds a little twist, bringing a nice closure to the story.

I came upon this book quite randomly when the red cover caught my eye. Though quite thick, the white space and short chapters made it even more appealing. It is a good book that addresses some questions such as what it means to be different, and accepting who you are. While there were some moments that the story slows, and the UK monetary terms can be a little confusing, it is a book that I am glad to have come upon and can recommend as one that may help readers to manage some of the trepidation associated with being different.

Watch a short introduction by Walliams

or listen to the first chapter of the book.

Read more about the book from the Guardian, Trashionista, and the Daily Mail.

Bugs in a Blanket by Beatrice Alemagna

Beatrice Alemagna’s delightful Bugs in a Blanket is a story of diversity – of discovering difference in the world, and learning to take joy in it. 

At the bottom of the garden, in a warm and cosy blanket, lives a host of bugs. Seven adorable having fun at a party.Though a community through proximity, they are not yet a community in spirit: none of the bugs have actually met! Little Fat Bug decides to change this one day, though, by throwing himself a birthday party and inviting all of his neighbours.

Like all good hosts, he throws himself into preparations, high on excitement for the dance party ahead. But upon opening the door to guests, he has the shock of his life: none of the guests look like him! How can this be?? And can fun truly be had when such differences exist?…

Bugs is very much one of those books that work at various points in a little one’s development. With gorgeous, mixed-textile illustrations, it proved a compelling visual read from the time that my daughter was only a few months old. Its simple language, in turn, lends itself well to the (amazing!) memory of toddlers. Finally, its consideration of difference is very much attuned to toddlers’ perceptions of variations all around. And with “Why? Why? Why?” being the phrase of choice in our house right now, the “Because, Because, Because” half of the narrative is especially timely!

For a peek at the story, mosey down to Phaidon. For gloriously crafty inspiration, go no further than your friendly Sewing School

The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle

Only Alien on the Planet coverGinny’s already a bit off balance when she first encounters Smitty Tibbs. Her closest brother, Paul, has up and gone away to university, and the rest of the family has left its comfortable, stable life on the west coast and moved across the country. So when her new neighbour, Caulder, asks Ginny to help him figure out what’s wrong with Smitty — who hasn’t spoken or visibly responded to anyone since an accident when he was two — Ginny isn’t eager to get involved. Despite her reservations, she does quickly find herself as fascinated as Caulder with Smitty’s strange silence. But as the two work to draw Smitty out, the first signs of success suggest that breaking down his walls may have bigger consequences than they’d realised.

I loved this book as a teen, and I was thrilled to discover that it had been re-released a few years ago. Even better — the book is at least as good as I remember. Ginny’s parents and brothers are lovely, providing grounding in the midst of a complicated and difficult situation while still maintaining both flaws and lives of their own. The gradual development of Smitty’s story is handled skilfully, and Ginny’s ongoing struggle with her role in Smitty’s recovery is thought provoking, but so tightly focused on her unique circumstances that her conclusions never feel preachy. The language is also worth noting: more than once, I was caught by a passage so beautifully put that I stopped to copy it. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a ponderable book, and for those who read for language. This book has plenty to offer both.

Read reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly for two different perspectives on Randle’s handling of Smitty’s psychological recovery. For another blog review, visit Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Ten: Outstanding Author Websites

We’ve talked about author blogs here before, but often the blog is only part of a website full of book and author information, extra resources, writing advice, and other materials. This week’s Ten highlights author websites that present truly exceptional content.

Neil Gaiman
Author of Coraline and The Graveyard Book
Love Gaiman’s work? Wondering what he’s up to lately (really, it could be just about anything)? Stop by his website to read his journal, find out where he is, talk about his books, or access his collection of online video, short stories, essays, and other works. Continue reading

The Unforgotten Coat written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and illustrated by Carl Hunter and Clare Heney

The Unforgotten Coat coverJulie’s new classmates, Chingis and Nergui, have a lot of stories to tell. Some are interesting, like the ones about their home in Mongolia — complete with Polaroid pictures! Some are strange, like the reason Nergui needs to keep his hat on in class. And some are downright scary. Is Nergui really being chased by a demon? Julie, the boys’ guide to life in Bootle, spends the most time with Chingis and Nergui, but even she can’t quite sort out the line between truth and fiction in their stories. Following the boys home one night reveals some of the answers, but new questions arise when their whole family disappears the same night. A final twist, courtesy of the now-adult Julie, provides the explanation for the book’s title.

The Unforgotten Coat offers a portrait of immigration — specifically illegal immigration — through the eyes of children. Julie’s host-child voice, pleased to welcome but openly curious, creates a familiar frame for the more complex perspectives of the two boys, struggling to comprehend the relationship between the old home and the new, and the threats associated with each, even as they interpret that relationship for their classmates. The surprising source of their photographs of home adds an intriguing layer to the story’s mystery, and might well inspire a bit of experimenting on the part of readers. I’ll let you discover that secret for yourself!

Read reviews from Publishers Weekly or Auld School Librarian.

Find out about The Reader Organisation, which The Unforgotten Coat was originally written to support, and a bit about the background of the story.

Also, check out this article on Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Perfect Weekend, just because it’s so lovely.