Review: Swing by Kwame Alexander

2 stars (It was okay).

Cover of Swing. Link to Goodreads.

This is a contemporary YA about two teen boys who are trying to make their mark on the world in a rather endearingly floudering teenaged way. I have super mixed feelings on this one. It was poetic and well-written, but it seemed to meander, and I felt much of the time like I wasn’t sure where it was going. Then the ending came out of left field, and I guess that was the point, but . . . it didn’t quite land for me. I was left feeling confused mostly.

I’ve also noticed that verse novels don’t translate well to audiobook, and that’s what this one was. If you like somewhat abstract novels or want books about the experience of being Black in America, this one is a decent representation.

Review: The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

5 stars (It was amazing!).

The Mad Wolf's Daughter cover (link to Goodreads)

I have to admit, I judged this one by its cover. I heard multiple times that it was amazing, but I wondered if maybe the people talking about it were friends with the author or something. I got it as an ebook from the library at one point and started reading it, but I struggle with ebooks, and I never got more than a few pages in.

When the audiobook finally became available at my library, I decided to try it again, and I’m SO glad I did! I don’t usually read historical fiction, but I immediately got sucked in. This is one book that I highly recommend the audiobook for. The Scottish accents help to immerse you in the world.

I loved Drest’s voice and her relationships with her brothers and father, but most of all the complicated realizations she comes to along her quest that make her question the world and her place in it. It’s a simultaneously simple but sophisticated tale, and it as moments of sadness, fear, humor, and triumph.

The basic plot is this: Drest is the youngest daughter of a Scottish war lord, but when her entire family is arrested, she teams up with an injured member of the party that took them to rescue her family before they are all hanged.

It’s short, and it’s wonderful. Give it a try.

Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

4 stars (I really liked it).

Tristan Strong cover (link to Goodreads)

Out of all the books I’ve read in the kid-finds-out-the-myths-are-real subgenre, including the Fablehaven, Percy Jackson, and Aru Shah books, Tristan Strong might be my favorite. I have a soft spot for Fablehaven too, admittedly. But Tristan is consistently a surprising character, and the cast of characters he encounters is interesting, funny, and cool. There’s Tar Baby, John Henry, Brer Rabbit (and his cohorts, Bear and Fox), the Bone Ships, Anansi, and more, each with an interesting spin that makes this more than just a tour through the tales.

The book is action packed. It’s definitely a book for kids, not the type of book adults want kids to read to better themselves, though I think it does that too. I plan on reading the sequels.

Review: Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

4 stars (I really liked it).

I sometimes wonder why books in verse are converted to audiobook. There’s just so much you miss listening to a poem. Perhaps if the narrator paused at the ends of lines and did a dramatic reading, it would work okay. I somehow got all the way to the end of this not realizing it had been in verse (much like Other Words for Home). I do listen to my audiobooks at 2x speed, so maybe it’s my own fault. At any rate, go get a physical copy of this one.

This is a weird little story about an unusual girl, and it grew on me. It doesn’t go to the predictable places, in a good way. The main character, Calli, has multiple problems that get in the way of her making friends: she has Tourette’s syndrome, her mom has a bad habit of moving frequently and suddenly, she’s an astronomy nerd, and she dresses a few decades out of date. Watching her make friends was incredibly satisfying eventually, but it was uncomfortable being in her head for a lot of the book because I have known kids like her, who struggle to find any friends at all.

Heck, I’ve been a kid like her. Not the Tourette’s. Anyway, I liked it. Beautifully written, and I think it’s important for kids to realize what it’s like to be the kid that everyone picks on because they’re so strange. I’m surprised this book didn’t win awards, honestly. It seems like the type of book that should.

Review: Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo

2 stars (It was okay).

Flora & Ulysses cover (link to Goodreads)

This is the sort of book a six-year-old would probably love. It’s absolutely bonkers silly. None of it makes any sense. It’s precious and cute and zany.

I’m talking: Flora’s mother ignores her, focusing instead on her romance writing career. Her father, separated from her mother, is loving but a pushover. One day, Flora sees her neighbor vacuum up a squirrel in her back yard. The squirrel survives and develops the power to fly and write poetry. Hijinks ensue.

I barely got through it. If it had been longer, I would have given up. There were moments I liked, and I generally liked the main character, but I absolutely didn’t “get” it. My favorite parts involved William Spiver and Flora’s dad. There are cute pictures and very short chapters, so I’d recommend this for an emerging reader, around the same time they might be reading Junie B. Jones or My Weird School.