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One New Fave, Plus Some Classics: Sunday Book Review

May 14th, 2023



In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month:

The new favorite on the shelf is “The Infinite Questions of Dottie Bing,” by Molly B. Burnham, with illustrations by Fanny Liem. (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, 2023, grades 3 and up, 199 pages, $17.99.) Thoughtful book about the death of a family member (Dottie’s grandma, Ima) and the difficulty her grandfather is having, processing the grief. (Or not processing, as the case may be. He seems perfectly happy carrying Ima’s ashes around in a Chock full o’ Nuts coffee can, enjoying his time with her, playing cards and hanging out.) Reminds me of Judy Blume’s writing — thoughtful, respectful of kids, and deals with serious family stuff in a considerate, humorous and loving way.

I found my copy of “The Silver Crown” by Robert C. O’Brien on the shelf the other day. Most readers are more familiar with O’Brien’s more well-known book, “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,” but Silver Crown is equally brilliant. Family trauma, a huge adventure, and a fearless young girl and her companion.

“The Hundred Dresses,” by Eleanor Estes, with drawings by Louis Slobodkin, was written in 1944 and stands the test of time. When people tell you, oh bullying is a new thing, we never had issues with that when I was in school, sensitive little snowflakes, etc… hand them a copy of this book. Stays with you forever. Beautiful and strong.

“Chanticleer and the Fox,” adapted from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Because, you know. Hens and roosters and foxes.

“Linnea in Monet’s Garden,” with text by Christina Bjork and art by Lena Anderson. Lovely, thoughtful way to introduce kids to the French impressionist and the world he painted.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Book Review

May 7th, 2023

Emmy and Lizzy

(“Gleneden Beach,” photo by Steven Pings Rawley, all rights reserved, plz do not use without permission)

Do you know how I first started reviewing books? Yeah, neither do I. I do remember, many moons ago when I worked for the Oregonian, someone asked if I’d be interested in writing book reviews for the paper? It was the book review editor, I believe, lol. Yeah, no. Because a few of my friends had written reviews and the kvetching, it never ended. Book reviews, which should be easy and fun, are more difficult than they appear. I was pretty happy to stick with restaurant reviews, bar reviews, answering the phones and typing up the wedding announcements.

Then blogs came along, and some of us bloggers started getting swag in the mail. That was cool. But Thee O was swag central so I was used to that already. I remember getting a boatload of supplies from Swiffer, and toys for the kids, but the main thing was books. The swag dwindled, but the books kept arriving, and that was (and is) fine with me. I review what I can, keep a few copies, and give the rest away to students, neighbors, friends, and Little Free Libraries. Kismet!

It doesn’t pay, but I like it.

But now I have about eighty books I’m overdue to review, so enough chatting. Bon appetit, babies!

“Helga’s Dowry: A Troll Love Story,” by Tomie de Paola (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977, ages 4 and up, $8). Did you know that ol’ one-eyed Odin, such a bad dude, cursed unmarried troll maidens to wander the Earth forever? Wait. What’s so bad about that? You could see some interesting stuff, out wandering around. I love de Paola, and this one was new to me. I snagged it from the free box at the school where I was subbing last week. Again, kismet! It’s cute and funny and I think we can all learn something here. Starting with: You don’t have to get married, y’know? You have choices and options in this life.

“Dad and the Recycling-Bin Roller Coaster,” was written by Taylor Calmus (“Dude Dad” from the Magnolia Network DIY show, “Super Dad”) (wow that was a big intro, huh?). The fun, goofy art is from illustrator/character designer Eda Kaban, who has designed for some of my favorites, including Marvel and Disney. (WaterBrook, 2023, $14.99.) A well-meaning dad spends the afternoon trying, and failing, to entertain his three young children with his kooky inventions. Cute book.

Nic Yulo’s debut picture book, “Patch of Sky” made my heart full. (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $17.99.) Pia is a determined little girl; Patches is her pig. When Pia finds out that pigs can’t look up to see the sky (design flaw) she decides to remedy the situation. Yulo is a delightful artist and I know the kids will love this sweet, kindhearted book. (She grew up hearing stories about her father’s pet pig, Eggman, and this gave her the idea for the book.) (PS — this one won’t be released until this summer, please add to your list!)

More reviews this week, stay tuned!