Hope you’ve all been enjoying the book reviews! If you and your kids have been reading this summer, getting back into the school groove should be no problem. In case you need a few more books to get you through your Labor Day weekend, here are Foundling friend, Celia McGee’s latest picks!
Ages 12 and up
A Moment Comes, by Jennifer Bradbury. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.
Drawing new borders on a map is one thing. The human consequences are another. As in multiple distant places under European occupation, India’s imminent independence brought with it the Partition of 1947, declaring a homeland for Sikhs and Hindus in the western part, called India, and a new country for Muslims, Pakistan,.to the east. Formerly peaceful neighbors turned against each other, murderous riots along religious lines erupted. Amidst the turmoil, one of the British cartographers faced with the daunting task of border-making is a Oxford educated man named Darnsley, and into his household in Jalandhar–joining his social-climbing wife and sexually restless daughter–come two new servants, handsome Tariq, a Muslim with aspirations to Oxford, and Anupreet, a beautiful Sikh girl with a vivid, mysterious scar down her face. While Mrs. Darnsley schemes to meet Lady Mountbatten, wife to the Viceroy of India, byzantine tensions, crushes, difficult decisions, jealousies and resentments surface among Margaret, Anupreet, and Tariq, who is also under pressure to join a shady Muslim gang. Jennifer Bradbury draws a roiling yet exquisite picture of both populations and individuals under siege. When Margaret, Tariq and Anupreet finally band together in a daring plan, their bravery is remarkable, and a battle cry for a better, more understanding future.
Ages 10 – 14
The Neptune Project, by Polly Holyoke. Disney/Hyperion
“Some say the world will end in fire/Some say in ice,” wrote Robert Frost in one of his most famous poems. In Polly Holyoke’s tense, thrilling The Neptune Project, global warming has definitely wreaked havoc with the future, and the totalitarian government of the “Western Collective” patrols the shores and fishing villages of Pacific California using punitive Marine Guard. The teenage Nere and her friends have grown up by the ocean, but not until her already weak eyes and lungs threaten to give out does her mother, a scientist, reveal that a select number of children were genetically altered at birth to one day live underwater rather than on land, “the best way for humankind to survive.” Under her mother’s guidance, Nere, who already communicates telepathically with dolphins, goes through “the transformation” that enables her to make her home in the ocean—but soon has to watch as her beloved mother is slaughtered.. Holyoke pulls no punches where death, violence and the threat of betrayal are concerned. Nere finds a group of her own, new kind. While they cavort with the dolphins and “telepath” amongst themselves, lethal sea creatures can attack, the Guard is after them, and the “better world” Nere’s father and others are trying to build in a secret location is still many leagues and dangers away. Within Nere’ gang of mutated youngsters, the mix of tough and tender, boy and girl, innocent and corrupted creates a web of romantic attractions and loyalties. Holyoke cross pollinates science fiction with the familiar experiences of being young and in love, a leader or an outcast, a true soul or a lost one.
Like Bug Juice on a Burger, by Julie Sternberg. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Amulet Books/Abrams
As summer draws to a close, lots of kids have camp to look back on—was it a trial or a triumph, or somewhere in between? When Brooklyn youngster Eleanor’s Grandma Sadie makes her a present of ten days away at CampWallumwahpuck, where Eleanor’s mother spent several blissful warm-weather seasons, Eleanor immediately tries to trade this opportunity for the puppy she longs for. No way. And no how do things get off to a good start. Everything bothers Eleanor, from the big silver bus she has to ride in with a bunch of strangers—luckily she makes one, lovably goofy friend—to the woodsy environment, food that grosses her out (she subsists on rolls and salad), the fact that the camp’s special fruit drink is nicknamed “bug juice,” her humiliation at being stuck in the “Guppy” swimming class, and weird night noises that have this city girl shivering in her uncomfortable bunk. Matthew Cordell’s loopy illustrations heighten the tragicomedy. But perspectives have a way of changing, even in such short a time. And it helps that there’s a sweet goat on hand that is almost as cute as a puppy. This is a book about how you live and learn—and that they’re most fun together.
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, by Bob Shea. Disney/Hyperion
There are those who say unicorns don’t exist, that they’re made-up mythical creatures found in ancient legends and fairy-tales. Not so the unicorn in Bob Shea’s giggle-producing book, in which the one-horn wonder is not just real but very, very stuck up. His case of hubris makes the goat he rides magical circles around feel pretty bad—what with making it rain cupcakes, flying through the air, and impressing the whole school with his miraculous tricks. But then he starts to notice things about the humble goat that he doesn’t have—cheese-making abilities, cool and useful cloven hoofs, and the perfect gear for head shots in soccer. Instead of staying jealous of each other, though, the two team up, foiling crimes, inventing righteous dance moves, and enjoying simple pleasures like going to the park. They’re both pretty great—especially together. Look closely at the book’s cover, and also run your hands over it—there’s some unicorn glitter sprinkled around. Or is it fairy dust?
Bella Loves Bunny. By David McPhail. Abrams Appleseed.
What do you do when a bunny bounces on your bed? Well, if you’re a little girl named Bella, and Bunny is your favorite stuffed animal, you catch her, of course. The deservedly popular and revered David Mc Phail—Pigs Ahoy, The Great Race, The Puddle, Edward in the Jungle, and many more—in this board book turns his gentle, loving, sweetly old-fashioned gaze on a believable make-believe world. There, when Bella eats lunch, “Bunny has carrot cake for dessert,” and when Bella plays piano, “Bunny hops.” Turning to nourishing nature, Bunny smells flowers and then, with a bunny-sized shovel, helps Bella plant a seed. Parents paying close attention will notice that all these activities are spanning a day that must end in bed-time, often a point of resistance from their little ones. But with Bunny the one picking out Bella’s nightgown when it’s time to go to sleep, and the two drifting off in their side-by-side beds holding hands, their parents and caregivers can be certain that their children will want to Bella and Bunny in the land of sweet dreams and the feeling of being loved.