The Dam by David Arnold

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

The illustrations are just specular!  Knowing that this story is based on a true event makes this story much more heartfelt and emotional.   As the father and daughter walk into the valley together, there is this calmness in the story as he talks about how the dam will change life in the valley. No longer will there be joyous parties and dancing, the wildlife and animals will cease to come here, for this land will be forever changed.  They come to a tall, brick structure and go inside. The daughter is instructed to play her violin one last time inside this structure while her daddy sings along.  I can’t describe how wonderful the illustrations are as these two fill the room with their music.

The duo continues playing their music in all the buildings in this deserted community, filling “the houses with music,” until

“The birds heard.

The beast heard.

The earth heard.

The trees heard.

The ghosts heard.

The day was darkening.

Out of the valley they walked.” 

Water slowly covers the land, until, “This was covered over.  This was drowned.  The lake is beautiful.”  The father and daughter return to the land, the land they had last visited and played their duet.  It is new, yet it’s the same. 

The music is still there and it will continue and so will the memories.  Life changes but it’s still the same.  Fantastic story!!   Check out this beautiful picture book! Definitely a 5-star read for me!

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

5 stars Historical Fiction

That Opal was a hoot!  I couldn’t believe the transformation of this lady from the beginning to the end of the book.  I was grinning from ear to ear as I heard her, her spunk, determination, and compassion just fell out of the book.  Being a black woman, she knew exactly where her place was but that wasn’t a place were Opal wanted to be. If you think about the time period that Opal and Nev were an item (1970’s), equality was a hot issue.  Liberation, racism, and equal rights were being sought after and it seemed that everyone was on edge. 

On stage, I could only image what their performance was like and I would have loved to just see them up close.  I doubt any performance was ever the same as their personalities, feelings, and the chemistry of the stage all came into play when they took the stage. Opal seemed to be the one who pushed their performances, who shined, while Nev filled in where he was needed and he worked on other matters. 

Set up like an interview, this book is an oral history of the lives of Opal Jewel and Nev Charles, a singing duo from 1970’s.  I loved the book, Daisy Jones and the Six so I knew I would enjoy this book also.  The two books are alike yet they’re different.  I liked how this book was an interview which consists of flashbacks that told the story of Opal and Nev.  We hear from their friends and family, they speak about their ups and their downs, and we forget that this book is a work of fiction. As I read the book, I imagined hearing Opal’s voice as she talked about her relationship with Nev and then, I had to get the audio of this book to actually hear her words being spoken.  Her voice brought strength to the words that I had previously read, for it solidified what I had previously thought about her.  I really enjoyed the audio version of this book and the books was fantastic also, I got the best of both worlds!   

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest opinion.

Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome

4 stars Middle School

He’s a person, can’t anyone see this!  This book states that it takes places in the 1940’s but the story is all too familiar.  Living with his grandparents, Lymon has the stability, connections and the ability to express himself but that quickly vanishes.  When they’re no longer able to care for him, other family members step in and accept Lymon into their home but not everyone in the household is thrilled about having him there.

The only person who Lymon was wanting and needing was, the one individual who would just pop into his life, whenever they felt the need to.  You can feel the desperation in his voice and in his actions as they made their appearance and when they walked out, Lymon was again looking, looking for them everywhere.  Lymon has lots of questions but no one was honest with him. They liked to dance around the questions that he asked of them.   

When Lymon lived with his grandparents, his grandfather taught him how to play the guitar and this love united them.  This was a connection that he also had with his father, for his father did gigs and he always had another show.  I enjoyed this music connection and how the author used this throughout the story. 

This was a fantastic story and it was an emotional one for me.  Lymon needed some stability and he needed someone to be there for him but would he ever find it and who would that person be?  I think the ending was too perfect for me considering how the story was progressing and the characters. 4 stars   This is a sequel to Finding Langston.

“Daddy, when am I gonna see you again? Feel like I have been asking this question my whole life and never getting the answer I want. But I keep asking hoping for the answer I want to hear.”

How Sweet the Sound: The Story of Amazing Grace by Carole Boston Weatherford

3 stars Chilren’s Biography

This wasn’t what I thought this book would be like, but it’s a start.  This song was a favorite of my grandmothers and it’s also one of my mother’s favorite songs, when I saw the cover, I knew I had to read it.   I wondered what the song’s words came from and what they meant as it’s sang a lot at funerals and religious services. 

The song began with John Newton aboard a slave ship.  He’s a passenger as the ships being tossed about, during a stormy night.   John hears the crew complaining as he worries about the ship going down with the storm.  As the storm whips around him, John reflects back on his life. 

John’s father was a sea captain and his mother stayed home and took care of him. She took him to church and John was a good Christian boy.  When she died, John put on his sea legs and went with his father to the sea, where he got into trouble and he became a wild fellow.  This was the time that he also met his wife, Mary.

The storm grabs John’s attention as the boat is being torn apart.  Everyone fears the worse and hopes the best.  The illustrations capture the fear that these individuals felt. Fortunately, they do eventually find land and John later retires.  Once an individual who transported slaves, John now preaches to end slavery.  I had a few questions about things that were happening here as it seemed rather choppy.  John now writes the first lines to this famous song.  Those lines travel across sea and land where other individuals sing them and add their own words to them until ……..we have a song.   What?  Yep!  There are Author Notes at the back (which I highly recommend you read), Additional Reading and Info, and Amazing Grace (the song).

I feel that the illustrations captured the energy of this book.  They were bold, colorful, and the individuals presented were nicely done. I was surprised at how much of the book was devoted to the life of John and how much of the book was devoted to the song, itself.  Then, to find out that he only wrote the first lines to the song.  That was a huge surprise to me!   The Author’s Notes at the back of the book need to be read as I found them very informative.  They helped answer some of my questions and put the book together for me.  I also liked having all the verses of the song together in the back, with the nice illustration in the background, that was a nice touch.  I was disappointed that not more was written about the rest of the song though.   

The Boy on the Bus by Penny Dale

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

If you know the song, The Wheels of the Bus, you’ll have to read this book as this book is about a young boy driving the bus but he’s picking up farm animals.  At each bus stop, a different animal gets on and sometimes more than one animal boards the bus.  The boy is having the time of his life driving the bus, gathering up all the farm animals as he says, “On you get! Take a seat! Not full yet!”

The bus is bouncy up and down over the dirt road as the bus fills up, and I mean fills up!  The animals look to be having a good time also as they find room for each other until the bus looks like it cannot hold another person.  With realistic looking animals, this is a fun, colorful, and entertaining picture book!  5 stars from this Nana.  

Goodnight, My Angel by Billy Joel

5 stars Picture Book

What a sweet lullaby and the illustrations that accompany this book couldn’t be any sweeter. Written for his daughter, Billy Joel wrote the song after his daughter aquestioned him about death.

Even though you may not be with the one that you love, they will always be a part of you, is just one of the messages that I took away from this picture book. Memories and dreams, they are in your heart and become a part of you. This would be a great bedtime book. It comes with a CD or you can watch the video of Billy Joel singing the song on YouTube.

Listen to Billy Joel:

We Will Rock Our Classmates by Ryan Higgins

5 stars Children’s

I love Penelope because she’s more than a T-Rex. Penelope loves to go to school and the students in her class don’t treat her any different just because she’s a dinosaur.  Instead of playing cops-n-robbers, they play cops-n-dinosaurs so Penelope can play with them.  Penelope loves to read, play, and draw just like any other child plus Penelope has feelings just like they do too.  Penelope’s favorite thing to do in the whole wide world is, to rock-out on her guitar!

Penelope gets so excited when the teacher announces a talent show that she’s the first one to sign up. She had to walk past Walter the Goldfish to get to the signup sheet, now that’s a brave dinosaur.   Rehearsing over and over again at home, Penelope is ready for the big night when she can play on stage.

When they have a school rehearsal, Penelope freezes!  What!?! Penelope can’t move.  She can’t play her guitar.  What will happen on the night of the talent show when everyone comes to watch Penelope rock-out? 

Doubt has started to creep into Penelope.  She wonders about her ability to play.  How can she get the confidence she needs to play?  A cute book about this fantastic dinosaur and her classmates.   

Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses

5 stars Children’s

I absolutely adored the cover of this book when I first laid eyes upon it.  This song has tons of memories attached to it and I couldn’t wait to read it.  Picking it up from the library, I sat inside my car, reading and singing the words to myself, as I looked through the pages before driving home.  What a great tribute to a fantastic song as this child reminds us that music is everywhere around us.

The energy that this book projects is powerful as the young girl hangs out with her father.  The sights and sounds of the world around her, spin out on the page from the windchimes, to the bees and butterflies on the flowers.  She’s enjoying the open countryside with her father until a storm whips up nearby.  They find refuge at a market that is having a music festival where they can forget their troubles for a while.  The storm passes as the song continues, the pages are turning and “Where do we go?  Where do we go now?”  becomes the question as they head outside to finish out their day.  With fantastic illustrations and the text, that will leave you singing their song in your head, this book is one that you’ll need to check out.  Thank you Guns n’ Roses, for taking me there, I really enjoyed it.  5 stars

Operatic by Kyo Maclear

3 stars Middle School Graphic Novel

The cover of this graphic novel caught my eye and looking inside, I knew I had to read it.  There is something about the feel of these heavy pages and the artist’s style that makes me love these types of graphic novels. With a concentration of color on each page and the way that the illustrator captures the story, appeals to me. I think these qualities give me the feeling of significance and comfort.

This graphic novel is about Charlie and she’s in middle school. When I think of middle school, I think of chaos.  To me, it’s that in-between stage where you’re trying to figure things out and your body is trying to figure things out and you want to try new things but you’re not sure and ………, it’s chaos, if you think about it.  So, welcome to Charlie’s world.

It’s the end of her school year and she’s noticing things around her and trying to make sense of it.  Which is hard for her to do. She also needs to find a song which describes her for where she is at, in her life right now, for an assignment. This is an assignment that Charlie takes very seriously.  There is also an end-of-the-year school talent show which Charlie has promised that she will perform in with her best friends.  There seems to be a lot of activities occurring in Charlie’s life right now.

I felt a bit confused reading this novel at times as the flow felt jumbled and I wasn’t quite sure what was happening.  It felt as if, the novel jumped from one thing to another and I was left hanging trying to figure out exactly where I was. 

I did like the parts where Charlie was researching her song.  Good information and investigating on Charlie’s part. I enjoyed Charlie’s teacher and how he covered his topics. The illustrations were fantastic. I think you need to really look at the illustrations in this novel, they were fun to look at and the details in some of them made me laugh.  There were a lot of great topics that the author tried to cover but I think too many topics was the issue.  I think by trying to include too many topics, a few of them didn’t get the space in the novel that they deserved.  I give it 3 stars based on the confusion and the topics that I felt needed more space.  I enjoyed the music aspect of this graphic novel, Charlie’s investigative work, the excellent illustrations, and the quality of the book.