Review: We’re All Wonders

“I know I can’t change the way I look. / But maybe, just maybe… / … people can change the way they see.”
pages 23-25

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio.
Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
Picture book, 27 pages
Lexile:  Not yet leveled.
AR Level:  Not yet leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

This picture book follows a young Auggie, main character of the chapter book novel Wonder, through the park and beyond as he reminds us that we’re all wonders.

We're All Wonders

I’ve seen this in pre-order for a while now, and was interested but also a little worried that the author is just tapping into her previous successful novel rather than doing anything original.  Then I saw it at Target and decided to buy it for my diverse targetpick of the month.  Interestingly, Z picked this off of the shelf and requested that I read it to him.  (I didn’t put it in his bookbin, it was on a family shelf and not in the kids reading area.  Also, yes, our littles have their own bookbins.  #teachernerdparent)

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Review: Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Yet here she was, three months later, with a full-fledged tumor. Either her doctors had missed it during her last exams – which seemed impossible – or it had grown at a terrifying rate.” page 17

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Broadway Books, Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, New York, 2010.
My edition 2011, some portions published as early as 2000.
Nonfiction, 381 pages including notes, index, and reading group guide.
Lexile:  1140L  .
AR Level:  8.0 (worth 18.0 points) .

Henrietta Lacks had an usual type of cancer.  Cells from this cancer were able to become the first immortal cell line and have been invaluable to many scientific discoveries and advancements in the past century.  But Henrietta was also a working-class black woman whose family was not informed of the existence of this cell line, and who died misdiagnosed.  This book manages to tell three stories: the story of Henrietta and the Lacks family, the story of her famous and scientifically important cells, and the story of the reporter’s own experiences interacting with the family.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The movie tie-in cover tricked me.  I needed to grab a Target pick quickly, so I grabbed this book without realizing it was one I had flagged as do not purchase/obtain from friend or library.  As you can tell, reading this book was something I was conflicted about, and after finishing it, I remain deeply conflicted and uncertain if I can recommend it (though I know a great deal more about the HeLa controversies than I did before reading this).

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Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

“I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting there crying when another car rolls up in front of me. I look up, and it’s Peter Kavinsky’s black Audi with the tinted windows.” page 36

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.
Simon and Schuster BFYR imprint, New York, 2014.
YA Romance/realistic fiction, 355 pages plus recipes and excerpt.
Lexile:  630L  .
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 12.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would recommend this book for high school students and not elementary school.

Lara Jean is the middle of three sisters and her mother has passed away.  Her oldest sister, Margot, is moving to Scotland, leaving Lara Jean in charge of her younger sister and father.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before resized

I am probably the only person ever to read this book because I first enjoyed Jenny Han’s middle grade book Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream.  This series has been hyped so much that I thought it would be another Everything, Everything, but after reading and liking Clara Lee, I grabbed this at Target.

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Review: The Temporary Bride

“Each time I remove my scarf I pass it through my fingers, in awe of what a simple thing it is, the dilemma it poses. The rules from the Iranian embassy are surprisingly unclear, open to bewildering interpretation.” page 31

The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec.
Twelve, Hachett Book Group, New York, 2014.  My edition 2017.
Memoir, 230 pages including extras.
Not leveled.

Jennifer Klinec is a fearless jet-setter, leaving her London life behind to explore the culinary arts of every corner of the world.  This book is the story of her month in Iran, wearing a headscarf, finding locals who will let her cook with them, and unexpectedly falling in love.

The Temporary Bride

This was so random.  I had a long afternoon and wanted a book, so I grabbed this one, but then ended up reading another book that I already had instead.  It sat on the shelf for a while – I have to be honest that the subtitle reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love which was a DNF for me.  And there were some legitimate concerns about how Klinec would portray Iran, since she’s an outsider, a Canadian with Serbo-Croation roots living in London.

However, once I got started, I enjoyed this book.  Klinec lays everything bare.  She is brutally honest yet insightful, and not afraid to make herself, or her loved ones look bad.  There were points where I disliked Klinec as well as others in the story, but I did feel that she was telling the truth as objectively as she could, given that she was a major participant.  When she’s viewing things through her own unique lens, she’s generally up front about the perspective.

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Review: I Got This

“I’m also incredibly proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, but at first I wasn’t sure why everyone was talking about it. Then I realized that as I was growing up, there hadn’t been any Latina role models in gymnastics!” page 149

I Got This: To Gold and Beyond by Lauren Hernandez.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins New York, 2017.
YA biography, 231 pages.
Lexile:  1020L.
AR Level:  6.8 (worth 5.0 points) .

Laurie Hernandez was a bit of a dark horse.  Just turned 16 and only recently eligible for the US Olympic team, she not only was part of the winning 2016 gymnastics team, she also won the silver medal in balance beam.  Fresh off her Olympic win, she went on to win Dancing with the Stars, a nationally televised ballroom dancing competition.

I Got This Laurie Hernandez

This book is definitely a teen read.  Apparently Hernandez’s nickname in the press is the Human Emoji, and she embraces that as each of the 20 chapters has a different emoji associated with it (a few do repeat).   However, she also manages to pack in information about gymnastics and some startlingly good life advice, coming from a 16-year old.

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Board Book Review: I Like Myself!

Book intended to promote self-esteem for all children is highly problematic for children of color – not recommended.

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004.
Board book, 32 pages.

I Like Myself is the story of an exuberant and imaginative little girl* and her dog.  The girl states in first person narration that she likes herself in a variety of ways and circumstances.

I Like Myself cover resized

Each page spread has at least one sentence and some as many as three.  The text is rhyming, but the rhymes are at times spread over multiple pages.  This book reads like a Seuss imitation, with additional words at the end as padding.  It felt like some of Seuss’ affirming early readers, but with a larger vocabulary and a huge disconnect between the words and the pictures.  The pace was uneven and relied heavily on the pictures to form a cohesive story.  Unfortunately the pictures were even more of a disappointment.

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Board Book Review: Snow

A welcome winter addition to a collection of diverse board books – our second book.

Snow by Carol Thompson.
Child’s Play (International) Ltd., Swindon, UK, 2014.
Picture book in board book format, 10 pages.
Winner of the Best Book Award from Oppenheim Toy Portfolio.

Snow is part of a series on different types of weather.  This book features a very young African American (possibly mixed race) boy seeing snow, preparing to go outside, experiencing and interacting with the snow in different ways, and finally returning inside as he gets cold.

Snow cover cropped resized

This was another Target pick that I found completely delightful.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m working on building a board book library for the littlest member of our family.  This book is square and larger than the typical board book, although it doesn’t have many pages.  It definitely needs to be held by bigger hands at first, or laid on the floor for a child to turn pages.

The words are sparse and written into the pictures on the white areas.  Most of the words are onomatopoeia, with a few no more than five word sentences.  The book could easily tell a complete story to a child even if the words were never read aloud to the child (although of course I encourage you to read the words and enrich your child’s experience).

Snow p 1-2
The opening of Snow shows the portrayal of a very young child’s hair growing in.

The illustrations are delightful.  In particular, I felt that Thompson appropriately visualized the way a very young child’s hair grows in, how as the strands of hair get long enough they begin to curl but there is a stage of tight curls mixed with wavier or even straight strands that haven’t grown in enough yet.  The graphics also convey a sense of delight, and the use of mixed media (with drawn characters) adds depth and interest without overwhelming the young reader.

Overall I was pleased with this book.  The bigger kids had a look and seemed to enjoy it, but it didn’t hold their interest long as the simple story is quickly conveyed with a single read-through.

Snow second to last page
Second to last page of Snow.

The pages are significantly thinner than what I normally would think of as a board book. That combined with the larger than normal size makes this look a little more like a “real” book. This is a transitional board book – one that Baby could listen to sitting in an adult’s lap but not one to play with independently because it would get all chewed up!  Toddlers seem to be the intended age group for this book – able to hold and interact with the bigger size, less destructive on a book, and could sit and look through the pictures to understand the story.

This book is part of a series but the pictures online didn’t really make it clear whether the others are all diverse.  They don’t all feature the same characters, so I won’t be ordering any others unless I can flip through a copy beforehand.

However, I can recommend this book as a welcome addition to your home or kindergarten classroom library, or a gift for a toddler.