Reviews

Does Perfection have a Purpose? The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Oppel, Kenneth. The Nest. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015. 244 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-1-48143-232-0; Tr. $6.84, ISBN 978-1-48143-233-7; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-51811-847-0

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Horror

Part of a series? No.

Plot Summary:

Steven is a nervous kid. He has nightmares that something creeps at the edge of his bed, watching him. He washes his hands to keep germs away, and he keeps prayer-like (but not prayers, since he isn’t sure he believes in God) lists asking for protection of his family and friends. He worries all the time — about the scary knife man who rides through the streets, offering to sharpen knives; about the wasps that have always terrified him, but that he now finds out he is allergic to; and now, about his family when his parents bring home their new baby boy. His new little brother has a long and difficult road of surgeries and struggles ahead of him; he is born very sick, and doctors diagnose him with a rare congenital disease. Steven knows that adults tell him that he can’t catch it, but he still worries. He also hesitates to call the baby by his name, because what if the little boy dies from his condition? Consumed with worry (and guilt), Steven struggles with sleeping…until an angel-like being comes to him in a dream, dispersing the scary dark shape that lurks at the edge of his bed, and promises to fix the baby if Steven agrees to the fix. His brother can be made perfect by these beings, but it is up to Steven to make that call. Is this really the answer to his family’s problems? 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is unputdownable. It moves forward like a thriller. The angelic beings show more and more of themselves as the book progresses, and choices become much more difficult. Mysterious figures appear, and no one believes Steven when he talks about his dreams and how nervous they are making him. The book also presents the important idea that no one is “perfect.” Everyone is “a little bit broken,” even if not everyone looks it.

This book also reminded me a great deal of Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. That book is devastating and beautiful, and it also deals with some very difficult topics and frightening figures.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic reading circle book. It tackles some really tough topics (OCD, anxiety, babies living with disabilities), but it does so in a way that I haven’t seen before. The book makes you think about difficult topics while also keeping you on the edge of your seat to find out what happens next. Illustrations by Klassen are gorgeous and eerie. I would love to have students read and discuss this one. (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 7/1/15

Horn Book Guide starred 4/1/16

Horn Book Magazine starred 9/1/15

Kirkus Reviews starred 8/1/15

Publishers Weekly starred 7/20/15

School Library Journal starred 8/1/15

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Reviews

AAARGH! Frazzled

Vivat, Booki. Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom. Harper, an Imprint of HarperCollins, 2016. 225 pages. Hardcover $11.09, ISBN 978-0-06-239879-6

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: School Story/Realistic Contemporary Fiction (Illustrated Novel)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Abbie Wu is not excited about middle school. Instead, she’s terrified. Adding to the stress of middle school is the fact that she is the Great Peter Wu’s little sister. Reluctant to be seen as a mini-Peter, she desperately wants to find her Thing so that she can make her own identity.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Really sweet read about wanting to find/craft one’s own identity. The style is very similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Popularity Papers, and Dork Diaries series. Illustrations and text work together to tell the story, but this is not a picture book or graphic novel.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a really fun book club pick. We could hold our very own “snack swap” (modeled on Abbie’s lunch swap) in order to be in the mood for Wu’s story. (Bonus points for cheese puffs!) (Idea from myself; allergies will definitely be taken into consideration.)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews starred 7/15/16

 

Reviews referenced:

Erik (screen name). (2016, Sept. 29). Review! Frazzled by Booki Vivat (Review of the book Frazzled). This Kid Reviews Books. Retrieved from https://thiskidreviewsbooks.com/2016/09/29/review-frazzled-by-booki-vivat/

Kirkus Reviews. (2016, June 28). Frazzled (Review of the book Frazzled). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/booki-vivat/frazzled/

Ms. Yingling (screen name). (2016, Sept. 24). Saturday morning cartoons- Frazzled (Blog post). Ms. Yingling Reads. Retrieved from http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/2016/09/saturday-morning-cartoons-frazzled.html

 

Reviews

Catch-up Post: Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

I read this one over the summer. I’ll have to do a reread for a better memory of the book, but this is what I wrote in an assignment of mine:

If you liked how Ivy worked to help others even during her own time of stress…

Try Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith. In this book, Hurricane Katrina brings two boys together. Zavion and his father must escape their New Orleans home during the havoc of the hurricane in 2005. They lose everything except each other. Thousands of miles away in Vermont, Henry loses his best friend Wayne in a terrible accident. All he has left of Wayne is the marble they traded back and forth for luck. When Henry’s mom accidentally donates the marble in a pair of Henry’s jeans to victims of Hurricane Katrina, Henry has to go to New Orleans to find it. Will Henry heal? Can Zavion ever feel like he’s on solid ground? Read to find out!

Note: This book has some strong language for a 4th-6th grade level book. In the time following his friend’s death, Henry is upset, and he use some minor swear words (“freaking,” “crap,” “damn,” and “pissed”) when overcome with emotion.

Ellis Smith, Tamara (author). (2015). Another kind of hurricane. New York: Schwartz &   Wade/Random House. Hardcover: $16.42 (Amazon.com). ISBN: 978-0-553-51193-2. 336pp. Ages 9-12 (Kirkus Reviews).

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, April 15). Another kind of hurricane [Review of the book             Another Kind of Hurricane]. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from             https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/tamara-ellis-smith/another-kind-of- hurricane/

I really felt like the kids sounded “real,” which is key when recommending a book to a child! This book involves some tough stuff, but it’s definitely worth a read.

Genre:

  • Historical Fiction

Major Things:

  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Grief and loss
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Accidents