Over the River & Through the Woods by Linda Ashman

5 stars Holiday

This is a fun twist on the classic. Everyone is going to grandma’s but they’re coming from different regions and in different methods of transportation. I enjoyed the creative modes the author used to get the guests traveling to grandmas yet somehow, when they arrive, they are all together, in the old traditional means of transportation. What happened along the way?

The whole family has received Grandma and Grandpa’s invitation to come to their house for the holidays and they’re all coming, with a pie. The four families pack up and begin their trip. Written in rhyme, each family has travel issues along the way but have no fear, just when they think they will not make it, they hear a “Neighhhh!” They are saved! The horse is pulling a large sleigh which has enough room for everyone, driven by a friendly fellow. Once everyone has boarded and everything is put on the sleigh for the holidays, they head off to another family member who is stranded.

After all four of the families have been loaded and their holiday goodies have been loaded on, they head out to grandma and grandpa’s house where the they celebrate with family and friends.

What a cute and fun holiday book. I loved the illustrations; they are simply beautiful to look at. Kim does an amazing job! Her attention to detail, the bright and colorful illustrations really make this book spectacular! It took me a while to find my rhythm with this book but once I did, it was fun to read. I really liked this book. 

Small Things by Mel Tregonning

5 stars Mental Health Children’s Picture Book

I know that just about everyone has dealt with the feelings that the boy in the book encounters.  What I didn’t know was the impact this picture book/graphic novel would have on me as it, blew me away. Containing no words, this book carries a strong, important message that I feel that children and adults can relate to.  I feel that this book needs to read together, at least the first time through, because there are many issues that this boy addresses that an adult should talk with a child about to make sure they understand what is truly happening.  

Life becomes overwhelming for this young boy and immediately, I start to see things piling up for him.  He’s not fitting in at school even though he tries, his grades at school are falling, and at home, he’s angry at those who are there for him. Life is not good. 

With powerful, black-and-white illustrations set in graphic novel format, this fantastic, wordless, picture book tells the story of a boy burdened with anxiety that literally, begins to eat at him.  I liked the concept of the emotion eating at him because this is what I typically say when I talk about some emotions so to actually see it, was very effective. The emotions begin to arrive in many places where he encounters his difficulties and then they continue following behind him, in the illustrations.  The boy notices the bites which occur on his arms, pants and his head. The emotions have no particular shape but are just random wiggly shapes and they seem to multiple. 

I just felt for the boy and I understood completely what he was going through.  Day-in and day-out, the same old and nothing was getting better.  Just looking at the illustrations, and watching the boy, you felt his despair.  Those eyes! The cracks on his face!  Who is going to help him!?  Then, a door opens and the look. 

I think reading it more than once and seriously looking at the illustrations is a must.  You definitely need to check out this book.  I highly recommend it.  

Author:   https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/23/shaun-tan-completes-graphic-novel-after-authors-suicide-her-absence-made-me-try-even-harder

Dig by A.S. King

5 stars YA

I have to say that this novel had the most unique characters I have read about in a long time.  Their actions and just their names had me shaking my head quite a few times as my head and my heart were battling it out.  My heart quickly took control in the second half of the novel as all the pieces of the novel came together.  Just like A.S. King’s other novels, this novel had some terrific messages to tell.

There were quite a few characters to keep track of in this novel but they were worth it.  I kept a cheat sheet as I read so I could keep them all separate. Some characters stood out more than others and I took a liking to a handful of them. 

There was The Freak, who watched individuals from a distance.  She left her dysfunctional family and now, she just wanders.  People like her, I think, know more than what we give them credit for.  She comes and goes as she pleases. From some of the things that she says, I think she’s different. There was also The Shoveler.  I really felt sorry for this guy.  New to town, he hangs out with his neighbor who is single.    The Shoveler lives with his mom but he’d really like to know who his dad is, I mean he’d REALLY like to know.  After shoveling with his neighbor one day, he decides that his neighbor has a lot of shovels and he takes one.  He shovels with the shovel and he ends up carrying the shovel around with him, hence the name.

There is Loretta who I feel, lives in her own little world.  Inside her lunchbox, she keeps her own little sideshow and she spends hours with these little guys.  She also must keep them fed. Loretta also has a side business which she runs simultaneously while working on Sunday nights at the Arby’s drive-up.  This girl just cracked me up!  The last character I would like to talk about is Marla.  Marla was the grandma and my heart broke for her.  She tried so hard to be perfect and for what?  The holidays and her house, she tried to make everything just right.  She also tried to show everyone what a caring person she was and it was wearing her down. No one noticed, no one cared, and she knew it and it upset her. I wanted to reach inside the book and just hold her as she searching around her room trying to find a place to sit, searching for somewhere she could relax without disturbing “her perfect” room, where was her happiness?

Here were all these individuals, these people who seemed to be doing their own thing without any clear connection to others around them.  It was interesting how once, one connection is made, the other individuals in the novel fall into place.  I loved page 326, this whole page spoke to me and I had to read it a few times as the emotions were raw and real. 

It started out as a strange novel but A.S. King again provided us with another fantastic novel.  Not everyone will enjoy this novel, but those who do will enjoy King’s talent.   

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

4 stars Middle School / Children’s chapter fiction

Definitely read the author’s notes in this novel as I felt that they added a great deal to this story. In her notes, Padma discusses some of the many reasons why children become homeless and their status once they’re out on the street. The freedom that these children search for is often not immediate. Out on the street, these children are often met with uncertainty. Discrimination, hunger, poverty, abandonment, and danger on many different levels is often a part of their daily life. There are millions of homeless children living on the streets in India, Padma states, but this problem is global as you know and she hopes that her novel will bring awareness to them and acceptance.

Based on personal stories the author kept in a journal over the years, this novel shows the determination and strength that the children in India have as they search for their own freedom. Determining that it’s not safe living with their abusive father, Viji takes her younger sister, Rukku and they run away. Viji knows it would be hard living on the street, tending to her sister, but didn’t realize it would be this hard. They have no safe place to unwind, to relax, or to breathe easier. Every minute, Viji keeps vigil watch over Rukku, as she tries to find them supplies to keep them going for another day. This task is exhausting yet Viji is not complaining, she’s just waiting for a break.

Relief comes when Viji spots an abandoned tarpaulin tent that’s attached to a bridge. When Muthu and Arul claim that the tent is theirs, it’s finally decided that they’ll all share it. Four children and Rukku’s new dog will all stay under the one tarp.

I enjoyed how the boys showed the sisters how they made their money and they treated them as equals. The character of Aunty was wonderful and her relationship with the girls, especially Rukku warmed my heart. I loved Viji stories, Rukku talent and how Rukku shared that with the others. The waste mart, I couldn’t get this place off my mind. I will have this imaged etched in my mind for a while. The friendship these four had were what a family is all about. The only issue I had with this novel was that I didn’t have that emotional element to the characters that I felt I should have. A few moments in the novel were emotional left downs for me. As they were transpiring, I was expecting this Kleenex moment but no, it just happened and I moved on. It should have been more emotional for me yet it wasn’t.

A great novel that’s a quick read but gives a lasting impression.