Thursday, May 25, 2017

As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds

Ernie and his brother Genie are from Brooklyn so they've seen it all and then some. That is until their parents pack them off to a small town in Virginia one summer to stay with their grandparents. Rural Virginia is a lot different from the big city for a lot of reasons, chief among them being that for one, they live out near woods where all kinds of critters (and snakes) live.

26875552.jpg (318×474)Genie is younger and he looks up to his older brother Ernie who is cool, always wears sunglasses and unfailingly sticks up for Genie, especially when other kids call him names like Geenie Weenie. They share a close brotherly bond and they need that bond more than ever since their parents are going through a bit of a rough patch-the summer trip to their grandparents' is meant to be a chance for their parents to work some issues out.


Everyone is scared of something but grown ups are usually better at hiding that from kids. For a kid like Genie this is a coming-of-age moment in his life since he isn't used to seeing grown ups have such visceral reactions to things that scare them. Grandpa for his part, although he is blind does not hesitate to do things around the house, the fact of which astounds the boys.

Reynolds deftly intertwines various topics in this novel, among them the complicated nature of family relations, the dichotomy between city and country and others which I won't divulge so I don't leak spoilers.

Being brave in most books for this age group involves kids finding the strength to do (or say) things. Reynolds inverts that dynamic and shows us that it's ok not to do things that scare us. Some read alikes to this book are Shelley Pearsall's The Seventh Most Important Thing, Andrew Clements' The Jacket and Daphne Benedis-Grab's Army Brats.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How to Avoid Extinction by Paul Acampora

28697361.jpg (314×475)Road trip!  I love road trip books and this middle grade novel by Paul Acampora is one of the better ones I've read in a while. Leo lives a very conventional (some would say boring) life in Pennsylvania. His grandfather has recently passed leaving a gap that his grandmother and mother are still trying to fill.

His grandmother has recently begun to wander off and poor Leo has been tasked with making sure no harm befalls her. Granny has other plans however and when she decides to take off in her vintage Buick from their home in Pennsylvania, Leo, his cousin Abbey and a big, gassy dog called Kermit hop along for the ride! (much to Leo's mother's chagrin)

What a ride it turns out to be as they journey across the plains and westward in search of dinosaurs. As with any road trip there are hijinks along the way but these serve to make their bond becomes even stronger. Like any family, they have secrets and long-simmering resentments that threaten to boil over but I won't reveal any spoilers here.

Another thing that I love about this book is that Abbey and Leo are open-minded enough to embrace other cultures and cuisines and experiences. The description of champorado makes the dish sound absoutely divine and I intend to find a place that serves it here in my city. Acampora's message overall is that because of its large size we need to try to learn about other people and how they see life. Some read alikes to this novel are Jack Cheng's See you in the Cosmos, and Fish in a Tree by Lynda Hunt.