Monday, October 1, 2012

Favorite Books of 2012 ... continued

Well, the year keeps plugging along and so do the wonderful new children's book releases!  There are still a few I can't wait to get my hands on ... but all in good time.  This week I am going a little highbrow with some books that are potential award contenders, and while they may not be the ones kids immediately gravitate to, they are at the top of their field.

The three books you must know about this week are really as different as it gets.  The One and Only Ivan is another Newbery front runner about a silverback gorilla stuck in a zoo at the mall.  Lions of Little Rock is a historical novel that just knocked me off my feet.  It is probably the best written book of the year with shades of To Kill a Mockingbird lurking throughout.  Finally, Three Times Lucky is one of the most clever books I read, and I hope that it is able to find an audience.  I worry that it may not have the kid appeal it needs to really take off.

So if you are looking for a great kid book - that is also at the top of its field - check out this weeks post as well as my first post: Favorite Books of 2012 ... So Far.  I sense what you're thinking, it won't be too long until Favorite Books of 2012 ... The End.  I know, I can't wait either.

Title:       The One and Only Ivan

Author:   Katherine Applegate

Target:    Grades 2-5

Series:     No

What this book is about:
Ivan is a silverback gorilla living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, along with his best friend Stella, an elephant, and Bob, a stray dog.  Ivan has given up and accepted the fact he will never see outside his cage or interact his kind again.  But when a new elephant, Ruby, is brought to the Big Top Mall to boost falling attendance, Ivan makes a promise to his best friend Stella, that Ruby’s fate will not be the same as theirs.

Why I love this book:
It took me two tries to get through this book.  While it is incredibly touching, I had a hard time with the slower pace of the story.  It is told entirely in Ivan’s voice and because the whole story is set in their cages in a mall it is very introspective at the start.  However, that said, it is a beautiful and heartfelt story and after the second try I got so caught up in Ivan’s plight to help Ruby that I couldn’t put it down.  So please stick with it!

It will change the way you look at animals in captivity (if you aren’t there already,) although the animals are portrayed with human characteristics so that will of course bias the reader.  

Who this book is for:
Kids who care about the plight of animals will love this books, although I must note that it does tell of the killing of Ivan’s parents, so the most sensitive of kids should probably wait until they are older to read it.  

It is written in very simple prose, with the longest chapter being about five pages and others only a few sentences long, so no child will feel overwhelmed by the scale of this book.   But really many children will come to care about Ivan and Ruby if given the chance, because the book is so well written

Final thoughts:
This story is based on a real gorilla that now lives at Zoo Atlanta.  I think kids will have a lot of fun looking up the animal on which the story is inspired.  Quick editorial note:  about three weeks after I wrote this review, the real Ivan passed away, however there is still wonderful information available about him on the Zoo Atlanta website.

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: The One and Only Ivan  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:        The Lions of Little Rock

Author:    Kristin Levine

Target:     Grades 5 and up

Series:      No

What this book is about:
Marlee is a twelve year old girl growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958.  She is white and attends a segregated middle school. She is so shy that she finds it difficult to say the things that go on in her head, but when she befriends Liz, a new girl in the class, Liz helps her find her voice.  Liz disappears from school one day and the rumors are that she is a colored girl who has been masquerading as white.  Marlee has to decide how far she is willing to go in using her voice to maintain her friendship with Liz.

Why I love this book:
This is a beautifully written historical novel that looks at the year after the Little Rock nine when the high schools are shut down in an attempt to stop integration.  It is told through the eyes of Marlee who is such a sensitive girl, trying to understand and find her voice, while the adults around her are doing the same.  She is a character whom I immediately liked, despite her challenges.

I love one quote from the book that says “(adults) pretend the world is straightforward, simple, easy...  You’re a good person and try your best and nothing bad will happen.  But the truth is, the world (is filled) with variables and changes (it) is complicated and messy.”

This book had me questioning what I would have done, how much I would have acted or stayed silent.  And it was all done with a wonderful story that had me bought in from the first chapter.

Who this book is for:
I have targeted this book older because I think children need a certain amount of emotional maturity and empathy to truly get all the wonderful messages and nuances contained in this book.  Also, don’t be scared off by the subject matter.  I was initially hesitant, but the story is so well done that kids will be caught up immediately.

Final thoughts:
One of my favorite books of the year, however the cover just stinks.  I don’t know a single child or adult who will be drawn to this book based on the cover.  Now that I have read the book I get it, but.....I hope the paperback cover is more compelling because this is such a book worth picking up.

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: The Lions of Little Rock  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:       Three Times Lucky

Author:   Sheila Turnage

Target:    Grades 4-6

Series:     No

What this book is about:
Miss Mo LeBeau is a rising sixth grader in the small southern town of Tupelo Landing.  When a murder occurs in this small town, Mo and her best friend Dale, of the Desperado Detective Agency, help the police (despite their ardent objections) in solving this mysterious crime.

Why I love this book:
I am not sure where to begin with this one.  I was telling my husband, Mo is like Opal in Because of Winn-Dixie thrown into  Stars Hallow from the Gilmore Girls, if Stars Hallow was in the South.  Got it?  

For starters, the central diner serves whatever they feel like cooking that day, and marshmallow fluff sandwiches are not off limits.  Mo’s guardian gets a car but the "Th" has fallen off it so it is referred to as the Underbird for the rest of the book.  Mo was orphaned as a baby during a hurricane and sent downstream in a flood so she refers to her unknown mother as “upstream mother” and her guardian has named her Mosses.  The writing is just so clever that I kept being blown away by the small but delightful details in the story.

Who this book is for:
If your child liked Because of Winn-Dixie, I think they will also like Three Times Lucky.  It is a mystery and a quirky take on life.

Final thoughts:
This book is full of charm, heart and clever writing.  I so hope it finds its audience.

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Three Times Lucky  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

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