Review: Art from Her Heart

“In the middle of her hundred years, Clementine Hunter had decided to paint.” page 5

Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead, illustrated by Shane W. Evans.
Putnam, Penguin Young Readers, New York, 2008.
Picture book biography, 32 pages.
Lexile:  AD870L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  5.3 (worth 0.5 points)  .

The life story of noted American folk artist Clementine Hunter, 1886/7-1988.

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This book is part of our picture book artist biography series of reviews.  Descended from slaves, Clementine Hunter was a folk artist who was a manual laborer on a Louisiana plantation known for attracting writers and artists.  From the 1940s when she attracted the attention of patrons at the plantation until the late 1980s, she gained in popularity until she was able, at the end of her life, to live independently from the sale of her artworks.

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Graphic Novel Review: Putuguq & Kublu

“You could have been hurt! You two need to be more careful near that inuksuk.” page 10

Putuguq & Kublu by Danny Christopher, illustrated by Astrid Arijanto.
Inhabit Media, Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada, 2017.
Early reader graphic novel, 40 pages.
Not leveled.

Putuguq and his dog are trying to play a trick on big sister Kublu.  While running across the tundra they meet Grandpa who reminds them to be careful around the inuksuit.  Of course then Putuguq has to try to lift his own stone… but the results aren’t what he expected!

 

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This is the first book of a graphic novel series called Putuguq & Kublu.   We had already read the second title (without realizing that it was the second in a series) called Putuguq & Kublu and the Qualupaliit!  I didn’t see any more in this series yet, but would definitely continue to buy them if more are released.

This is the introductory book, which shows us a little about our favorite siblings and their world.  I’m not very familiar with tundra seasons but am guessing that this takes place in the spring or summer, because flowers are shown blooming.

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Review: The League of Shadows

“‘I’m from here,’ I reminded her for what felt like the zillionth time. This whole thing started back in first grade when we’d been partners for a cultural heritage project…” page 21

Charlie Hernández and the League of Shadows (Charlie Hernández #1) by Ryan Calejo.
Aladdin, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 2018.
Middle grade fantasy, 330 pages including glossary.
Lexile:  780L  .
AR Level:  5.4 (worth 10.0 points)  .

Charlie Hernández has already experienced the worst day of his life – when his home burned to the ground and his parents disappeared.  So when shortly after that he grows horns, then feathers, it’s just baseline awful.  The county is having trouble finding him a temporary guardian, and softball star Alice Coulter tortures him for fun.

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Although the summary sounds rather bleak, this isn’t an overly dark or negative book.  Charlie is pragmatic and determined, although not unaffected by his situation.  He is grieving his parents, grappling with his own identity, and facing the normal struggles of any middle school student.  Like another speculative fiction book I often recommend, this story also includes realistic microaggressions.

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Review: Bayou Magic

” ‘That’s part of who you are, Maddy. Not how your story ends.’ I’m listening hard to what Grandmere isn’t saying.” page 154

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2015.
MG fantasy, 242 pages + excerpt from Towers Falling.
Lexile:  410L  .
AR Level:  3.1 (worth 4.0 points)  .

It’s finally Maddy’s turn for a bayou summer.  Her older sisters have each gone, one by one, but they saw only the problems of the bayou and didn’t seek out the wonders.  City girl Maddy is feeling enchanted by her new surroundings when she sees something gleaming below the boat – a girl underwater?

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I’m always challenged by these sorts of books where any magic is not immediately apparent, because the conscientious reader has to go all the way to the end to determine if the book is truly a fantasy novel or whether mental illness, slight of hand, foolery, or some other element explains away the unexplainable.  Luckily this one is in fact a fantasy, even though the outright magic doesn’t show itself on the page right away.

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Review: Binti

“But he read my astrolabe as fast as my father, which both impressed and scared me.” page 14

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.
Tom Doherty Associates, Tor, New York, 2015.
Adult sci-fi novella, 96 pages.
Not leveled.
NOTE: This is the first book in the Binti trilogy.

Binti is one of the Himba people, noted for their mathematical ability, never leaving their homeland, and for the clay mixture that they use for their skin and hair.  She is also the first Himba ever accepted into the home of galactic intellectualism, Oozma University, and she’s decided to attend.

Binti cover
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

This relatively short book covers only the journey, although she speaks about her home life and decision to apply, so we get a small taste of what her world was before this momentous journey.

If you have even the mildest interest in diverse speculative fiction, I’m sure you’ve already heard of Nnedi Okorafor.  The Binti trilogy is especially well-known as it’s won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.  The paperback copy I picked up was the 17th printing of a book less than 4 years old.  So between the critical acclaim and popular interest, you can probably guess this is a well liked book.

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Review: The Magic Paintbrush

“When Steve grasped the painting, it tingled against his fingertips. He felt as if he had rubbed his shoes fast over a carpet.” p. 19

The Magic Paintbrush by Laurence Yep, illustrated by Suling Wang.
HarperTrophy, HarperCollins, New York, 2000.
Historical fantasy, 90 pages.
Lexile:  530L  .
AR Level:  3.8 (worth 2.0 points)  .

Eight-year-old Steve’s parents and all of his belongings are gone after a tragic fire, and now he shares a single room in Chinatown with his grandfather and Uncle Fong (no relation but a childhood friend of Grandfather’s).  They are so poor that after his paintbrush split in art class, he’s afraid to go home and tell his Grandfather, knowing that a new one is not possible.

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The Magic Paintbrush by Laurence Yep, illustrated by Suling Wang.

For a book with magic in the title, this book takes a while to get to the fantasy part.  The first chapters are all about establishing the setting – early 1960s San Francisco – and characters.  The tale of a magic paintbrush given to a poor boy who uses it to spread happiness is a Chinese story that has been retold many times, mostly in picture books.  Yep has a unique historical Chinese-American spin to his version though.

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Review: Little Book of Life Hacks

“Getting your most important (or tedious) task out of the way will create a powerful momentum for the rest of your day.” page 187

The Little Book of Life Hacks: How to Make Your Life Happier, Healthier, and More Beautiful by Yumi Sakugawa.
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2017.
Nonfiction, 200 pages.
Not leveled.

An illustrated guide to a wide variety of diys, life-hacks, how-tos, and helpful tips.

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It seems to be a pattern that I discover famous people and trends through reading.  This was a random pick at the craft store – however not chosen to be diverse (like my Target Picks), just a book I grabbed on a whim because the artwork was so cute.

The cover is really appealing although it doesn’t photograph well.  The gold elements are shiny and there is a lot of texture.  This book is easy to pick up, read a few pages, and put down, although I read through it traditionally the first time.  One element I disliked, is that while there are page numbers, only about half of the pages are numbered.  So it was difficult to refer to a specific page.

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Review: Ghosts of Greenglass House

“It was a little thing, but sometimes the smallest details were far more important than they seemed.” p. 178

Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars.
Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2017.
MG fantasy/mystery, 471 pages including preview of the next book.
Lexile:  800L  .
AR Level:  5.5 (worth 17.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is the second book in the Greenglass House series.

It’s Christmastime at Greenglass House again, and except for one pesky visitor, it seems that this year things will be back to normal – a quiet family vacation for 13-year-old Milo and his parents.  Then the bell rings…

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Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars.

Since this is the second book in a mystery series, it will contain some spoilers from the first book.  The synopsis above and my final recommendation at the very end will be spoiler-free.

Kate Milford is back with another successful mystery/fantasy.  This book is far more fantastical than the first installment, although there are still elements of a mystery and secrets to be uncovered.  As previously, there is an ensemble cast, with Milo at the center of the story.  About half the characters are from the previous books, with a whole set of new people descending on Greenglass House from the Liberty, a free space for asylum which some people in the city confuse with a mental asylum.

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Review: Greenglass House

“One of the problems with knowing nothing about the family that you were born into was that you never really stopped wondering about it. At least, Milo didn’t.” p. 53

Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars.
Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2014.
MG mystery/fantasy, 392 pages (including sneak peek at the next book).
Lexile:  800L  .
AR Level:  5.4 (worth 15.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is the first book in the Greenglass House series.

Milo’s parents run, and live in, a smuggler’s inn – running prohibited goods is popular because Nagspeake is practically run by the Deacon and Morvengarde catalog company, and their place used to be the home of notorious smuggler Doc Holystone.  But even a smuggler’s inn is usually quiet during Christmas vacation in heavy snowfall.  So Milo’s understandably perturbed when a surprise guest turns up, and then another, and then another…

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Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars.

I nearly passed over this book when compiling my diverse fantasy list.  First because before reading, I couldn’t easily tell if it even was diverse.  The cover features the eponymous house, and while the blurb describes Milo as adopted, it doesn’t say anything about his race, so I was doubting if it would be a good candidate for this blog.  But lately I’ve been including some books about adoption, fostering, and kinship care, even if they aren’t necessarily otherwise diverse.  Then I got the book and started reading.

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Review: The Real Boy

“He looked at the note. Writing it had taken an eternity, and by all rights the words should have transformed into poetry somehow.” p. 284

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire.
Walden Pond Press Imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2013.
MG fantasy, 341 pages.
Lexile:  730L .
AR Level:  4.9 (worth 10.0 points)  .

Oscar is content to mix up packages, serve the most powerful magician in the Barrow, avoid the cruel apprentice, and ignore the existence of the city of Asteri and the wealthy patrons who come to seek the magic his master makes.  His world is orderly and known, his thoughts consumed with plants and trees and cats.  Until disaster strikes and upends his life.

The Real Boy by Ursu
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire.

I’ve been wanting to read this book since 2016.  AICL doesn’t have a review, but found it good enough to mention in passing twice, first within the review of another book and then again at the end of this short story review (which reminds me I want to get to that book also).

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