Andrea Tarr

This comforting, lyrical story focuses on the mystery and beauty of an approaching storm. As wind whistles through the treetops and lightning brightens the darkening sky, a mother and her watchful daughter participate in a gentle, lilting call-and-response dialogue. Joann Early Macken’s story works as both a delightful educational introduction to the various aspects of a rainstorm, as well as a feather-light reassurance to a child who is curious and fearful about the weather.

The mother’s replies are printed in italics, while her daughter’s questions appear in a large, bolder font. These are consistent throughout the tale, making it easy to distinguish the voices of the two characters. The mother’s answers, compassionate and comforting, lend a lullaby-like quality to the text, while Susan Gaber’s lovely depictions of the emerging storm, some on two-page spreads, offer views of the mother-daughter bond, as well as portraits of contented and cozy animals and humans who are safe at home.

As they experience the drama created by the storm, the mother’s soothing explanations calm her daughter. Watching and pondering, dashing between raindrops, both have witnessed the beauty and power of nature. Detailed illustrations offer little ones the opportunity to explore, observe and appreciate the wonders of the natural world. A lovely rhapsody of shared fascination, Waiting Out the Storm is a delight for both young readers and listeners.

Freelance writer Andrea Tarr is a librarian at Corona Public Library in Southern California.

This comforting, lyrical story focuses on the mystery and beauty of an approaching storm. As wind whistles through the treetops and lightning brightens the darkening sky, a mother and her watchful daughter participate in a gentle, lilting call-and-response dialogue. Joann Early Macken’s story works as both a delightful educational introduction to the various aspects of […]

Ten-year-old Allie, who is growing up during the Great Depression, is quite content living in a two-family home in New Haven, Connecticut. Her parents want more space, however, and one day her father announces major news: they are moving to a rented one-family home in Stamford. While this may seem like a positive development, Allie has reservations about leaving her best friend, Ruthie, and worries that she will have no friends and that she may not be accepted in her new school.

Swept off her feet by the magical name of her new street, Strawberry Hill, Allie's fears nearly vanish. She begins to acclimate to her new home, neighborhood and school, though she views Stamford as vastly different from New Haven. Faced with new challenges, Allie must sort out the true meaning of friendship. She grows to appreciate her family and comes to learn a few perplexing, though valuable, lessons on her journey toward self-discovery.

Teacher and author Mary Ann Hoberman has been writing books for children for more than 50 years, though Strawberry Hill marks her first foray into fiction. Currently serving as the Children’s Poet Laureate, Hoberman wrote the rhyming text in the picture book A House is A House for Me, which was a 1984 National Book Award winner. Distinct picture book offerings, such as One of Each and Seven Silly Eaters, as well as memorable poetry collections, such as The Llama Who Had no Pajama, have enlightened and entertained countless readers. Hoberman’s latest offering, Strawberry Hill, is a delightful and endearing autobiographical coming-of-age narrative.

Hoberman’s sweet look at the loss of innocence combined with the small steps we take toward maturity has a charm all its own. Join Allie on her trek to make Strawberry Hill feel like home.

Freelance writer Andrea Tarr is a librarian at Corona Public Library in California.

 

Ten-year-old Allie, who is growing up during the Great Depression, is quite content living in a two-family home in New Haven, Connecticut. Her parents want more space, however, and one day her father announces major news: they are moving to a rented one-family home in Stamford. While this may seem like a positive development, Allie […]

Once upon a time 12-year-old Finn Garrett was what we'd call a normal kid. Although he formerly enjoyed his friends, family and his cat, all of that has changed now. Since his father's untimely passing, Finn's life is upside-down.

First of all, Finn's appearance is changing by the minute: once an average – looking kid with dark hair and pinkish skin, Finn now finds his hair turning white, and his formerly pink skin becoming chalky. Deeply disturbed, Finn reasons that he is fading way, disappearing. So before he is gone for good, he decides to tell his story in this memoir-within-a- novel, The Last Invisible Boy.

Part journal and part graphic novel, the book flows with a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Finn's memoirs reflect a wry innocence combined with the pain of loss, making this outing a sweet, sorrowful look at grieving and healing. We amble along with fretful Finn, in and out of his semi – catastrophic days, as he introduces us to his many interests, touching on just about everything except "The Terrible Day That Changed Everything": the day his father died.

Finn repeatedly reflects on his wonderful memories, reveals the highlights of his friendship with good pal Melanie and shares his insatiable interest in etymology. We may agree with Finn's claims that his thoughts resemble a "runaway bus," but we are routinely amused and touched as he regales us with tales of his "spaceship flights," love of astronomy, numerous cemetery visits and his nonstop worries about invisibility. Finn even provides detailed information about his visits to the school district psychologist, but we do not learn details of Finn's father's death until well after the halfway point in this starkly original book.

Author Evan Kuhlman's effective attempt at dealing with death and bereavement follows his adult novel, Wolf Boy, which covered similar terrain. J.P. Coovert's simple black-and-white illustrations enhance the good – humored tone of The Last Invisible Boy, and ensure that Finn comes to life as a believable character the reader won't soon forget.

Andrea Tarr is a librarian and freelance writer in Alta Loma, California.

Once upon a time 12-year-old Finn Garrett was what we'd call a normal kid. Although he formerly enjoyed his friends, family and his cat, all of that has changed now. Since his father's untimely passing, Finn's life is upside-down. First of all, Finn's appearance is changing by the minute: once an average – looking kid […]

When her best friend Anjali suddenly dies, 12-year-old Meredith Beals thinks her whole world is falling apart. She describes her feelings as “all weird and numb, like your cheek after you’ve been mauled at the dentist.” After a week of being “most exquisitely and totally alone,” Meredith vows to write letters to her absent friend, detailing life without her in an attempt to keep Anjali present.

In her touching new novel, author Melissa Glenn Haber is spot-on in capturing preteen fears and foibles. An entirely credible Meredith “communicates” with Anjali for approximately six weeks, confiding her personal thoughts about school pals, sibling rivalry and her complicated relationship with Noah, a boy Anjali had always fancied. Her humorous phrases, occasional misspellings and raw honesty about her grief combine to make these letters very real. (“Where are you? I need you to be here so I can tell you much I hate Wendy Mathinson!!!”)

Meredith’s descriptions of school antics and angst eventually give way to mentions of her hopes for the future, and the tone of the letters very gradually begins to change. While once Meredith’s missives were written in desperate attempts to keep Anjali close, the letters shift in their contents and significance, indicating that Meredith’s need to communicate is becoming less of a coping mechanism and more of an appeal to her friend for help with life’s mysteries.

As her fondness for Noah develops, Meredith becomes concerned not only that she is betraying her best friend, but that she might have once been betrayed by Anjali. A bright but shy girl, Meredith feels she is on the outside of many school relationships, so the letters serve as a sort of therapy. She eventually comes to terms with her need to write to Anjali and, while keeping her close, also accepts the fact that her best friend will always be a part of her life and that she can go forward with her memories as comfort.

The clever epistolary feature works well, especially in poignant passages that focus on Meredith’s uncertainties. Through this one-way correspondence, Haber has crafted a tender and original coming-of-age story that has much to offer young readers.

When her best friend Anjali suddenly dies, 12-year-old Meredith Beals thinks her whole world is falling apart. She describes her feelings as “all weird and numb, like your cheek after you’ve been mauled at the dentist.” After a week of being “most exquisitely and totally alone,” Meredith vows to write letters to her absent friend, […]

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