Friday, February 28, 2020

Things You Can't Say and Poetry Friday

Bishop, Jenn. Things You Can't Say
March 3rd 2020 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Drew lives with his librarian mother and younger brother in Rhode Island. The family is struggling with losing the dentist father to suicide three years previously. Drew has a good friend, Felippe, but spends most of his time working in the children's department of the library, reading his zombie versions of children's books to the younger patrons and generally helping out. He's irritated when summer starts and the offspring of another librarian starts to work in the children's department as well. Audrey doesn't even like children, although she has excellent skills with computers. She just makes Drew feel awkward, especially when he is caught off guard and tells her that his father "doesn't live with them anymore". It's also awkward when a friend of his mother's from high school, Phil, shows up at the house to visit. His plans had changed suddenly, and the mother wasn't able to prepare Drew, but Drew is just angry, even though he's been okay with his mother dating. He gets the feeling that Phil's not in that category, but is still uncomfortable. He takes his confusion out on Felippe, although he starts to get along better with Audrey. He even introduces her to local attractions, and she starts to work better with the children. All through the book, Drew has tiny moments of missing his father, wondering what he could have done to help his father, and worrying that he will be just like his father. This (along with partially overheard conversations) leads him to wonder if perhaps Phil is his real father. That would solve many things, and also give him back a father. He and Audrey investigate this possibility through the internet and an old yearbook. In the end, he has to finally talk more to the people in his life who matter in order to make sure that there are no misunderstandings in what everyone feels.
Strengths: I enjoyed the fact that Drew was volunteering in the library; many of my students do that, but other than A Kind of Paradise, I can't think of another middle grade novel where this happens. Not sure zombified versions of kids' stories would fly in my community, but the originality and creativity are good to see, as well as Drew's fearlessness at speaking in public. The friend drama with Felippe is spot on. I enjoyed the progression of his relationship with Audrey as well... does he like her? Is she just a friend? If she is, why is he so concerned that his mother not embarrass him in front of her? Thinking that your parents are not your own is a very common feeling in middle school, and Drew has even stronger reasons that other children to investigate this possibility. The portrayal of a grieving family, three years from the event, is accurate. This is never soggy or wallowing in grief, which I appreciated. It just hits Drew sometimes, and he thinks about it, then moves on. It's also good that therapy was mentioned.
Weaknesses: This was a bit on the long side, but I would have liked to have seen more about Felippe. The cover isn't tremendously appealing, but it DOES have basketball on it, which is an automatic selling point.
What I really think: Bishop has a note at the back that she has never experienced this sort of death, but she had some sensitivity readers. Everyone is different, but she definitely has a credible version of "right". I need a lot more funny books than angsty ones, but this had a good enough mix that I will buy it.

Bulion, Leslie and Meganck, Robert. Amphibian Acrobats
March 1st 2020 by Peachtree Publishing Company
ARC provided by the publisher

This was quite an interesting book. It has a variety of different amphibians, and for each one, there is a poem, and then some explanation about the animal. The poems are quite well done, and let me tell you-- I am SUPER picky about poetry. My only reservation is that when my students need poetry books for a seventh grade project, I'm not entirely sure they will pick this one up, especially since the requirement is usually that their poetry collection have at least 40 poems and this has 20. I did really like that there is a section at the back about the poetic form for each offering, and that might be enough for me to justify purchasing this.

I can see this being a great book to have for a science class studying amphibians, or an elementary class wanting some fun poetry to read. The illustrations are delightful, and there is quite a lot of detail about the habits of each creature.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I saw Things You Can't Say randomly on Twitter the other day and I remember it very clearly because I loved all the colors in the cover. I ended up staring at it for a bit because the color combination was just so soothing to look at. The Amphibian Acrobats sounds like the kind of poetry book I would read or would have in school. While I appreciate haiku's about leaves and rain, it's the poems that are a bit more grounded in general that end up making more sense to me.