Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World and Love, Penelope

Happy first day of spring! Of course, we are celebrating that in Ohio with the traditional 2-4 inches of snow. Roads are clear, kids, so come to school!

Blake, Ashley Herring. Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World
March 6th 2018 by Little, Brown
Public Library Copy

Ivy and her older sister Layla have missed their mother's attention ever since their twin brothers were born. Their mother is the author and illustrator of children's books, but having twins at 41 took a lot out of her. When their small Georgia town is hit by a tornado and their house is destroyed, things get even worse. The family spends time in the school gym, and then rents a room at a local bed and breakfast run by Robin. Robin is very kind and supportive of Ivy, and the two understand each other since Robin's partner, Jessa, has made Robin's existence in a small Southern town a tiny bit complicated from time to time. Ivy is devastated by the loss of her home, as well as the loss of her private sketchbook, which is filled with pictures of her holding hands with a girl. When Layla found out from someone else that her best friend Gigi had a girlfriend, Ivy overheard them having a big fight, and both Gigi and Ivy have been at odds with Layla ever since. Ivy is also having trouble relating to her best friend, Taryn. Taryn is boy crazy, loves soccer, and just has different interests from Ivy now, which makes it hard when Ivy's parents send her to live with Taryn's family after one of the twins becomes very ill. Ivy has also made a new friend in June, the daughter of the town doctor. June's father lives in California, and her mother is weirdly overprotective, but Ivy and June share a love of art, poetry, and drawing. When Ivy starts getting pages from her notebook left in her locker with notes suggesting that she would feel better if she talked to someone, she is worried at first, but then somewhat reassured. She hopes that the person who found her notebook is June, since she has a growing feeling that she has a crush on June. Eventually, Ivy's problems with her friends, sisters, and parents reach a point where she must finally talk to all of the people she loves and explain why she has been struggling.
Strengths: Like One True Way and Star-Crossed, this is a great middle grade LGBTQ+ book. I loved Robin's advice that "If a person was [were!] questioning all this stuff, that person doesn't have to know all the answers. They don't have to be sure about anything. They don't have to label themselves as anything but human if they don't want to." I really enjoyed the 14 Hollow Road-like tornado plot as the jumping off point for so much of the turmoil. The fact that her family was supportive, her friends were okay, and June wasn't quite sure at first, but later decided that they could be friends, was a reassuring touch. Despite some drama, everyone acts with as much empathy as can be mustered. Even Gigi and Layla make up, since Layla was not upset about the sexuality of her friend, but by the fact that she kept it secret. Taryn feels the same way about Ivy.
Weaknesses: It seemed a bit contrived that there were two other gay women in the town who both knew Ivy, and it would have been interesting to see how Ivy would have reacted without their presence.
What I really think: There was a bit too much drama for my own taste, but since all stories are different, it's certainly within the realm of possibility. I have had a LOT of readers coming to me asking for books about gender identity and sexual identity.

I have a number I am able to hand them, but it just surprises me that they ask me. Of course, I grew up at a time when people did not discuss ANY sensitive issues outside of their own homes, and even at home, they discussed things in whispers. I have to say that I personally find this to be preferable, but I know that openness and transparency about all manner of issues are preferred today. I find that saying things out loud to other people only makes them worse!

30340847Rocklin, Joanne. Love, Penelope. (Illustrations by Lucy Knisley)
March 20th 2018 by Amulet Books
E ARC from Netgalley

Penelope lives in Oakland, California with her Mama and Sammy. Her father was killed in a motorcycle accident, and Sammy adopted her when she was young. She's a huge fan of the Golden State Warriors, even though her classmate, Hazel Pepper, is from Colorado and prefers the Nuggets. Now that Mama is expecting a baby, Penny is keeping a journal of notes to her sibling. In it, she details a school project her class has been assigned about her family's history in California. Sammy's background includes members of the Ohlone tribe, and since her class studied them in third grade, Penny appropriates fome of Sammy's background for her project. She feels guilty telling this untruth to her teacher, Mr. Chen, and doesn't quite know how to come clean. In the meantime, she and her friend Gabby watch lots of basketball games, think about the drought in California, and deal with the relocation of Nell, Gabby's goat. Penny also does learn a bit more about Sammy's heritage, but has to deal with some prejudice against her mothers at school. When summer arrives, a girls' basketball team is formed, her mothers are able to legally marry, and her sibling finally arrives.
Strengths: For readers who like books in journal format, this is a fairly well paced account of an elementary school student with fairly specific interests, a little friend drama, and a diverse background.
Weaknesses: This is not actually a notebook or graphic novel. There are a few illustrations, but it's mostly text. And would parents really tell a child when they were just one month pregnant? I thought everyone waited until a good three months, since so much can go wrong.
What I really think: Knisley should write a graphic novel. Her style is similar to Raina Telgemeier's and Victoria Jamieson's, and whatever those two write immediately appeals to my readers. Without the pictures, though, this is a bit too young for my students. With pictures, I'm pretty sure my students who like graphic novels would even read a book about potty training!
Ms. Yingling

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