Leif and the Fall by Allison Sweet Grant and Adam Grant

Leif and the Fall by Allison Sweet Grant and Adam Grant
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Leif is a leaf. A worried leaf. It is autumn, and Leif is afraid to fall. “All leaves fall in the fall,” say the other leaves. But Leif is determined to find a different way down, and with his friend Laurel, he uses the resources around him to create a net, a kite, a parachute in hopes of softening his landing. The clock is ticking, the wind is blowing. What will happen when a gust of wind pulls Leif from his branch?

In a culture that prizes achievement, kids are often afraid to fail–failing to realize that some of the very ideas that don’t work are steps along the path to ones that will.

Success is never guaranteed.

I was impressed by the wide range of ages this picture book seemed to be written for. Some layers of meaning sure seemed like they were meant for older kids, but the basic storyline about the importance of persistence was straightforward enough to be appreciated by younger readers as well. This isn’t something I see done very often, but it makes me smile every time it happens. It’s delightful to find examples of stories like this one that can speak to kids of all ages.

There were a few times when I wondered why Leif kept throwing away his inventions. It seems wasteful, especially as other leaves began to fall and he had fewer friends to help and fewer materials to work with. Surely he could have found a better use for his inventions or kept trying to improve them! This was a minor criticism of something I otherwise enjoyed a lot, but it is something I’d want to discuss with young readers after finishing this tale.

The ending made me smile. I nodded along as Leif put all of the pieces together and realized what had just happened to him after his time to fall from his tree finally came. This conclusion was as logical as it was downright funny! While I was satisfied with how everything was wrapped up, it also left room for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one.

Leif and the Fall was a humorous take on a serious subject that I was glad to read this autumn.

Our Subway Baby by Peter Mercurio

Our Subway Baby by Peter Mercurio
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Non-Fiction, LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

This gentle and incredibly poignant picture book tells the true story of how one baby found his home.

“Some babies are born into their families. Some are adopted. This is the story of how one baby found his family in the New York City subway.”

So begins the true story of Kevin and how he found his Daddy Danny and Papa Pete. Written in a direct address to his son, Pete’s moving and emotional text tells how his partner, Danny, found a baby tucked away in the corner of a subway station on his way home from work one day. Pete and Danny ended up adopting the baby together. Although neither of them had prepared for the prospect of parenthood, they are reminded, “Where there is love, anything is possible.”

Every child deserves a happy, loving family.

I was delighted by the fact that the author included a scene talking about why he and his life partner were a little hesitant to adopt little Kevin when the topic first popped up. Their reasons were sensible, and yet I couldn’t help but to hope they’d figure out a way to make it all work.

There were a few moments of unexpected humor in the beginning that made me giggle. Danny clearly wasn’t expecting to find a newborn baby lying on the floor in the corner of a subway station, but he leapt to action immediately. The way he described this discovery to Pete only grew funnier each time I reread it.

My favorite scene happened after Kevin was sent to a temporary foster home while the court system tried to figure out where this child should grow up. Danny and Pete were given permission to visit him there. Something remarkable happened during that visit that I can’t wait for other readers to discover for themselves. It was as heartwarming as it was delightful.

This was such a sensitive and thoughtful tale. It explained topics like foster care, adoption, and infant abandonment in honest but completely age-appropriate ways. Small children can understand more than they’re sometimes given credit for, especially when everything is laid out for them clearly and with plenty of compassion for everyone involved. The author excelled at all of this.

Our Subway Baby brought a tear to my eye. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

This fun, inclusive board book celebrates the one thing that makes every family a family . . . and that’s LOVE.

Love is baking a special cake. Love is lending a helping hand. Love is reading one more book. In this exuberant board book, many different families are shown in happy activity, from an early-morning wake-up to a kiss before bed. Whether a child has two moms, two dads, one parent, or one of each, this simple preschool read-aloud demonstrates that what’s most important in each family’s life is the love the family members share.

Every happy family shares at least one thing in common. Keep reading to find out what that is!

Parents and caregivers show love for the children they’re raising in countless ways. I adored seeing so many different examples of what this can look like as people go about their ordinary daily routines. The author covered everything from comforting a child after they scraped their knee to baking a special cake for them on their birthday. The wholesomeness of it all shone out of every scene, and it was absolutely perfect for this age group.

Writing a simple but compelling board book for toddlers isn’t easy. Ms. Beer did an excellent job of plainly stating what she thought the smallest members of society should know about the beautiful diversity of family life while also including deeper meanings for the adults or older kids who will be reading this out loud to the little ones in their lives.

Just about every sort of family you can possibly imagine was included in this tale, including LGBT+, interracial, adoptive, and single-parent families. No matter who was being shown helping their child find a lost toy or having a tea party, the love that each parent felt for their child or children shone through in every scene. It made me smile to see how much effort the author put into focusing on what we all share in common no matter who we are or what we look like.

Love Makes a Family was a heartwarming read that I’d heartily recommend to families of all shapes and sizes.

Rabbit’s Snow Dance by Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac

Rabbit’s Snow Dance by Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Rabbit loves the winter. He knows a dance, using an Iroquois drum and song, to make it snow—even in summertime! When rabbit decides that it should snow early, he starts his dance and the snow begins to fall. The other forest animals are not happy and ask him to stop, but Rabbit doesn’t listen. How much snow is too much, and will Rabbit know when to stop?

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With great power comes many opportunities to misuse it.

Repetition is one of those things that can make or break a children’s book. Luckily, the repetition in this book was handled perfectly. It happened often enough to give the storyline a sense of rhythm, and the words used in it were so catchy that I actually really liked seeing them pop up over and over again. They also gave the audience a lot of insight into Rabbit’s personality. The more he repeated those terms, the more I learned about who he was as a character.

The only thing I wish had been added to this tale was an explanation of where Rabbit’s powers came from. His ability to control the weather was impressive. I only wish I could have known if it was something he’d always been able to do or if his decision to make it snow in the middle of summer was a one-time mistake. With that being said, this is a minor criticism of something I enjoyed reading quite a bit.

There was so much humor tucked into the plot. I chuckled my way through many of the scenes, especially the later ones when Rabbit’s wish for winter weather began to come true. There were so many moments where his stubborn insistence on skipping ahead to his favorite season had consequences that he couldn’t have seen coming but might have taken they risk they’d happen anyway if he did. It was delightful to watch this character react to everything that happened to him as a result of his stubbornness.

I’d recommend Rabbit’s Snow Dance to readers of all ages, from kids to adults, who love legends.

Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin

Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Dial Books (an imprint of Penguin Group, USA)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (393 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

Fenella was the first Scarborough girl to be cursed, hundreds of years ago, and she has been trapped in the faerie realm ever since, forced to watch generations of daughters try to break this same faerie curse that has enslaved them all. But now Fenella’s descendant, Lucy, has accomplished the impossible and broken the curse, so why is Fenella still trapped in Faerie?

In her desperation, Fenella makes a deal with the faerie queen: If she can accomplish three acts of destruction, she will be free, at last, to die. What she doesn’t realize is that these acts must be aimed at her own family and if she fails, the consequences will be dire, for all of the Scarborough girls.

How can she possibly choose to hurt her own cherished family not to mention the new man whom she’s surprised to find herself falling in love with? But if she doesn’t go through with the tasks, how will she manage to save her dear ones?

When all you ever wanted is a normal life with your family, what would you be willing to do to get it? What if you just wanted it all to end?
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Fenella was cursed. There was no way around it. She was taken into Faerie and has lived there for hundreds of years as a captive to the “Mud creature” Padraig. Essentially a slave, she demands her right to die and her freedom from the Faerie Queen. One thing about faeries…nothing comes without a price and that is one thing Fenella should have learned. When she is told that to die she must perform three acts of destruction, she agrees blindly. Not until it is too late is she informed that the very lives she sought to protect will be the ones in jeopardy. If she performs the tasks, she will be free to die. If she does not, she returns to Padraig, a slave once again. The Faery Queen councils her to live out her life and forget about her need to die but Fenella is set on her path, and it very well might cost her more than she ever thought possible.

This book is a continuation of Impossible. Coming into it not having read the first book, I was a bit lost at first. Who were these strange tree creatures and why was this odd girl trying to kill herself and not doing a very good job at it either? As I read, I realized that it was completely readable without the backstory and settled in for a ride through faery trickery and betrayals. I was not disappointed in that regard. Full of twists and turns I found myself wondering at the theme of destruction that permeated the book. There is an element of romance that got a little close to the scorching edge of what constitutes normal in young adult these days.

One of the hardest things for me about this book was the main character. Fairy tales, I love. Fenella I really did not like. Her reactions were a bit off for someone who had been alive for four hundred years or so. If the character is going to be a teen, then great. If they are mentally four hundred than you expect a level of maturity (or at least I did) that was not there. Some of the choices she made in the series of trials were questionable and that kind of soured my feeling about the book in general. My suspension of disbelief was not working in this particular case.

While I love a great faery story and appreciate the overall quest for the impossible that this book had going for it, when you can’t identify with the main character it makes the book a tough read. I wanted to like this girl who stood up to the Faery Queen and her captor but I just could not connect with her. The opening message with the goal being to kill one’s self as the goal of the story was a little off, too. The imagery and the author’s style of writing were thought-provoking, as was Ryland and his snarky cat comments. How interesting that destruction was used as a theme in this book, but in the end there were some good things that rose up from the ashes if you will.

Overall, if you enjoy a story about insurmountable odds and the things you are willing to do to set yourself free than this book may be for you.

No Easy Way Out by Dayna Lorentz

No Easy Way Out by Dayna Lorentz
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, YA
Length: Full Length (470 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

It’s Day 7 in the quarantined mall. The riot is over and the senator trapped inside is determined to end the chaos. Even with new rules, assigned jobs, and heightened security, she still needs to get the teen population under control. So she enlists Marco’s help–allowing him to keep his stolen universal card key in exchange for spying on the very football players who are protecting him.

But someone is working against the new systems, targeting the teens, and putting the entire mall in even more danger. Lexi, Marco, Ryan, and Shay believe their new alliances are sound.

They are wrong. Who can be trusted? And who will be left to trust?

The virus was just the beginning.
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Fans of Life As We Knew It and those who love apocalyptic plots will love this modern Lord of the Flies. The sequel to No Safety in Numbers is a pounding, relentless rush that will break your heart and keep you guessing until the end.

Imagine being quarantined inside a mall with people dying all around you from the flu and limited resources…

Ms. Lorentz writes a raw and gritty story about a dystopian type world where the impossible has happened and only the strong will survive. I didn’t read the first book, so I may have missed some nuances in the story, but it was easy to see that bullies and greed had survived the epidemic and were becoming rampant in the mall. The author makes you start to look around corners and wonder about dark spots right from the start. This is the second book in the series, No Safety In Numbers. I know I’d hate being sequestered with all those strangers, especially since it looks like there may be no way out.

A lady Senator takes over command. The mall security herds the shoppers into “Home Stores” where they have cramped sleeping quarters. Anyone who coughs too much goes missing in the night. The food is ugly and soon you have groups sneaking around looking for better snacks, alcohol, or sex.

What makes this story readable is the characters Mr. Lorentz creates. In the midst of the chaos and despair, there are a few children who are determined to make it. They want to escape the mall, they want to stay alive and they are strong when others fall. Her characters are human and make mistakes. There’s a bit of the “Lord of Flies” flavor in this story.

I found the story both interesting and a bit dreadful to read. There will be at least one more book in this series and my interest in finding out what happens next will make me watch for it and read it. Why not give it a read yourself and see if the author can lasso your interest, too?

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter
Publisher: Dial (Penguin Books)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Age Recommendation: 8 – 12 yrs
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Rating: 5 suns
Reviewed by Cholla

Abbie Adams and her family come from a long line of witches, and she’s having a tough time keeping it a secret from her best friend and the rest of her school. Especially the day her little brother morphs into a wolf and tries to eat his teacher.

That’s also the day her father brings home a kitten. Abbie’s been begging for a cat for months, and she falls in love with that fluffy fuzzball right away. But there’s something peculiar about this kitten, and it just might take a witch like Abbie to figure out what it is.

Being in the fifth grade isn’t easy to begin with, but for Abbie Adams its pure torture. First, she has the world’s worst teacher, Ms. Linegar. Then, she can’t tell her very best friend about her secret – that she’s really a witch. Toss that together with being a witch in a world of mortals and you have a recipe for trouble, Abbie Adams style.

Abbie is your normal fifth grader, aside from her magical powers. She has an annoying little brother, the best best friend ever, and parents you can either love or not, depending on the day. Combine these exercises with sex boosting foods to feel the difference in your sexual power. prices cialis A serious consequence of gallbladder removal surgery can viagra samples in canada pop over to this pharmacy shop be the onset of chronic pancreatitis. So men can now enjoy their sexual intercourse happily without any female viagra sildenafil difficulty. Most possibly they are black generic uk viagra advertising propaganda to hurt tadalafil’s name. She tries her best to do what’s right but sometimes her eagerness gets the better of her. Her world changes forever when her father surprises her with the gift of a little black kitten one afternoon. The arrival of the kitten, Benjamin, is when Abbie’s determination and witchy powers are put to the true test because there’s something special about her new little friend.

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams is a great book for kids and adults alike. It takes humor, history, and a mystery and mixes it all together with a bit of mischief on the side. The author has a way with making you laugh while teaching you at the same time. She makes history appealing to young children as well as making her characters real. All throughout the story, Abbie’s internal dialogue lets you know that she’s done things she shouldn’t and that she knows just that – but she also acknowledges the fact that sometimes Abbie just made bad choices and regrets the outcome. And by the end of the book, you’ve solved a problem, learned a bit, and have been taught a bit about being a better child.