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her mom has a bad habit of moving frequently and suddenly, she’s an astronomy nerd, and she dresses a few decades out of date.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.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

3 stars (I liked it).

Echo cover (link to Goodreads)

This book had a very interesting format. There are really four stories in this book: the framing “fairy tale” story and then three stories with three different main characters in three different historical settings, one in Nazi Germany, one in an orphanage in Pennsylvania, and one in California during Japanese internment. All are tied together with one magical harmonica and with musical themes.

I loved the musical aspect, and there were some really beautiful thoughts expressed, but I didn’t really find that each individual story caught me as much as I wanted it to. Some parts seemed far-fetched or confusing. I kind of hated how each story ended, and the very end of the book fell flat for me.

That said, the book kept my attention all the way through, and the last section (the one about a girl whose Japanese neighbors are taken away by the government) was my favorite. I loved the brave heroine.

Overall I liked it. You probably will too.