The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story by Silvia Vecchini

3 stars Children’s

This graphic novel addresses the issues an earthquake has on young children. Torn from their homes, these children have to deal with the issues of the unknown as their community tries to rebuild.

I liked how the novel immediately begins with some powerful action. Mother Nature begins unleashing her power upon the community, leaving its citizens left to fend for themselves. We follow Matteo, Giulia, and Federico as they learn to live with the aftermath of the destruction.

The devastation from the quake is massive. The citizens are warned not to enter the “Red Zone” but to some that zone is their life and contains everything they have. How can you tell someone to stay away from the only possessions they have?

A make-shift school is immediately constructed while the community tries to rebuild. Why is it taking so long to move forward? What are they supposed to do in the meantime? Each family tries to rebuild their lives and get some structure into their lives, to the best of their ability, but it’s hard when all your possessions are in the “Red Zone.”

I really liked the idea of this graphic novel and I thought, the illustrations were fantastic. We are experiencing more weather-related catastrophes lately and having children understand them is important. The illustrations were bright, colorful and had a great flow. I liked everything about this novel but I thought it was missing a few things. I really had no connections to the characters as I had no background on them. I wished I had known something about them and/or their relationships with other individuals in the novel, so I knew exactly the emotional toll this disaster played on their lives. I know that any tragedy is hard but I felt that my character and emotional connection was not fully engaged while reading this novel. I think this is a good novel to share with children, it’s a good starting point.

Snack Attack! by Terry Border

4 stars Children’s

I liked it but it didn’t wow me, like I thought and hoped it would. I liked how the three snacks played together but wasn’t it smart Cookie who found the note? I thought it was interesting how Cheese Doodle came up with the interesting ideas and Pretzel was the scared one. Cookie was still the smart one who kept telling Cheese Doodle how his ideas wouldn’t work and then, what happens at the end? Oh, Smart Cookie….I’m sorry

I thought it was a cute story but maybe I’m reading more into the story than I need to be. The pictures were fun and I do hope there is another book that follows this one, as I need to know what happens next.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Denise

5 stars Children’s

After reading this children’s story and the author’s note on the back two pages, I got chills.  This story is fantastic and I am so glad that I picked it up.  It tells the true story of a woman who shared stories from her childhood which changed the lives of many.  As I read this story, I thought of how she stepped forward and went about making a difference. This woman was not a loud, strong woman.  This woman saw a void and wanted to fill it. 

The year is 1921 and Pura Teresa leaves San Juan to visit her sister in the U.S. Seeing what the U.S. had to offer, Pura finds a job and begins to settle in. When the library posts a job for a bilingual assistant, Pura knows that she is the perfect individual for the job.

Realizing there are no Puerto Rico folktales on the library shelves, Puro recalls the stories that she heard growing up. As the children gather around her during story hour, Puro doesn’t need any book to read from. Puro’s words are enough that the children are soon whisked away into Puro’s world and imagination.  It isn’t long before Puro begins to create puppets to add to her stories and then, the word gets out about Puro and her stories and there is no stopping what happens to these wonderful tales.

This children’s book put a smile on my face and it warmed my heart as I read about her journey through life, sharing her stories.  I hoped her journey would never end as she was such a positive individual.  This book gives the full account of her life and it truly is a wonderful story.  Make sure you read the author’s note which is located in the back of the book. Located also in the back of the book are a few pages on additional resources you could use for more information on topics contained in the story. 

Another by Christian Robinson

3 stars Children’s

This is a wordless book that I liked yet I felt that it was missing something. The illustrations were wonderfully done with bright, bold colors and simple lines.  It was the storylines that went through my head, as I flipped through the pages, that confused me.  I went over this children’s book numerous times, looking at it a variety of ways and still, I’m puzzled.

As a girl slept in her bed with her cat (with a red collar) looking out her window, a bright porthole opened up in her room. Soon, another cat identical to the one lying on the bed (this one had a blue collar on) popped through the porthole and snatched the red toy mouse that was lying on the bedroom floor.  Crawling back through the porthole, the cat carries the mouse, who is now followed by the first cat and the girl, who has awakened and seems curious to what is happening.

It seems that they have entered another world as gravity for one, is not the same. There are other differences but what I like is that this world is not too busy, the pages aren’t overflowing with colors and activities.  The pages have a great flow to them and you can follow what is happening. There are geometric shapes throughout the pages yet no definite pattern.

Perhaps I am reading too much into this book.  Perhaps I wanted too much from this book.  I do feel that it would be beneficial a child who reads this book to talk about it someone. I think discussing it with someone, they might discover something they missed in the book or a different view.