Review: Gwendy’s Button Box

Gwendy's Button Box
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eerie, creepy, melancholy, claustrophobic. A good old fashioned mixed-blessing Twilight Zone type read. I haven’t read much Stephen King, (I hate to be scared), but I HAD to try a Castle Rock book because Hulu might be filming a Castle Rock television series in my town!!!!!

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Review: 7 Ate 9

7 Ate 9
7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Capital I the private eye takes a case from scared number 6: 7 is missing and so is 9. Word on the street is that 7 ate 9, and the worry is that 6 will be the next victim. What follows is full of numerical puns and wordplay (the waitress had the scoop; the 8 hangs out on the corner of 2nd Ave & 4th Street; finally I put two and two together) which will be fun for the savvy young reader and his or her adult story time companion. I walks the city streets meeting 8, B, 11, and 5, and the mystery is solved with an “A-ha!” that is fun and clever. The noir private detective setting and some of the turns of phrase may be lost on the little ones who pick this up, but the colored pencil and watercolor illustrations are spot-on evocative of 1940s city life.

Recommended for children who love numbers, elementary math teachers, writing teachers wanting to illustrate colloquialisms.

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Review: Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource That Unites Us All

Water's Children: Celebrating the Resource That Unites Us All
Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource That Unites Us All by Angèle Delaunois
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Each page of this book features a child or children in a different part of the world expressing what water means to him or her. There are warm climate settings, cold climate settings, town, farm, forest and desert settings. There is a balance of boys and girls depicted. Most are interacting with the water (or its products). Each page also shows how to write “water is life” in the language the child would speak in that region.

The first page has an unseen person asking “Child of here, child of there, child of water . . . tell me about the water you see, the water you drink, the water that bathes you.” On the pages that follow, children answer. This is a perfect set-up for a discussion during story time, a writing activity for older elementary students, a thoughtful art activity for children of any age. What is water? How do you use it? What does it mean in your life?

The text itself is poetic and dreamy. On repeated readings, it is almost a lullaby and could become a bedtime story.

There are different colors and moods on every page. On some, the children look happy. Some are playing and some are working. Some pages are gloomy. Young readers will understand, through the text and illustrations, that some children struggle to get the water they need to drink and produce food.

Gerard Frischeteau is famous as an animator and commercial artist, and the illustrations here do have the feel of television animation. It’s up to each reader whether that’s a plus or a minus.

It would have been wonderful if the book included a map showing the locations of the children’s countries and the ecosystem depicted. Also useful would have been a pronunciation guide for the translations of “water is life.”

This is an excellent story time resource, particularly for this year’s summer reading theme, “Build a Better World.”

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Review: The Weight of Zero

The Weight of Zero
The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Weight of Zero is a coming of age tale about a teenager struggling with her recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Catherine, recovering from a suicide attempt, is convinced that being bipolar equals never being able to have a full life. “Zero,” the feeling of utter despair and the desire to kill herself, is always just behind her, ready to strike. She is afraid to form attachments – Her childhood friends fled when she told them the truth about herself, and she’s sure everyone else will do the same.

With the current hoopla over books that depict teen suicide, this is an excellent choice for several reasons: It starts with a quote from Otto Frank: “Most parents don’t, really, know their children.” This is an important one. It reminds adult readers that you simply cannot always see the signs of trouble in your children. (And children do, sometimes, lie to their parents in an attempt to protect them.)

The main character, Catherine, initially resists the help of adults and her peers in group therapy, but eventually comes to see the benefit of honesty and participation in life.
Author Fortunati shows that everyone you meet is dealing with some kind of pain. Being bipolar or suicidal does not make you special or exempt you from caring about those around you.
Anything you didn’t like about it? While most of the book is compellingly paced, the ending feels a little rushed, the resolution a little easy.

I would recommend it to teenagers interested in reading about depression and friendships. It also is a good read for adults trying to understand the depressed or anxious young people in their lives. Parents may want to read this as an avenue towards understanding that they are not always at fault when a child has a psychiatric diagnosis.

This is a good selection for libraries with room for a broad collection. As a sad and thoughtful book, it may not pick up momentum and become a blockbuster; you may night see high circulation numbers. However, Fortunati has crafted real-feeling characters for whom the reader will come to care. Those who pick this up will enjoy ad be moved by this read. Clinical depression and anxiety are not especially common topics for YA novels and, if your library has space, it would be great to have this one on hand for just the right reader.

Teen librarians who want to have a title “in their back pocket” to readily share with a young patron should read this one.

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Review: Hey Harry, Hey Matilda

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hey, Harry, Hey Matilda gives us a quirky, snarky set of correspondence between adult twins. The hinge point of the story is that Matilda has told her boyfriend that her twin died. It’s what bonds them together in their not-so-fantastic relationship: his twin died, “too.” It’s time to bring said boyfriend home to meet Mom but, what to do? Harry, Matilda’s very not-dead twin brother will be there, too.

Despite being a somewhat humorous look into the communication between two close-knit siblings, neither of them was likable enough to keep me caring. The story also progressed slooooowly. I found myself impatient with the whole thing. Eventually there are two more “big” reveals, but what they really reveal are just more self-centered people who take no responsibility for the impact their actions will have on those they supposedly love. What is the message here? Everyone lies? Lying about life-changing things is okay? Maybe it’s an exploration into how lies warp a person’s ability to develop as an adult? (view spoiler)

This is a good beach read or stuck-in-an-airport read, because Hulin has a fun writing style. However, if you have a long to-read list and don’t have infinite time, this is not a must-read.

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