More Than “Goode” Enough: A Review of The Glass Witch

The Glass Witch cover art

The Glass Witch
Lindsay Puckett
Scholastic Press
October 18, 2022
Age 8-12

Adelaide Goode is the youngest in a family of cursed and complicated witches, doomed to feel she is not magic enough, thin enough, or “Goode enough.” About to be left with her grandma for the summer, Addie clings to her mother in a snap decision that unleashes the curse, turns her bones to glass, and makes her the target of a witch-hunting spirit. Only by accepting herself and connecting with her family’s magic, or kindred, can she save herself, her family, and her town from shattering.

Challenged by low self-esteem and fear of abandonment, Addie uses tween snark and extraordinary baking skills as a shield against her fears. Puckett weaves heavy themes of body image, bullying, and family tension with more whimsical notes of a Halloween Pageant, delicious food imagery, and brave rescue rabbits to keep the tone light and the pace lively. And the addition of a fearless and monster-obsessed new friend, Fatima, makes for the perfect foil for Addie and her ideal companion in a magical crisis. Secondary adult characters begin in a less-defined manner but shine in a conclusion that sees Addie find her self-worth while learning about her family and her place in it.

Friendship, family, and magic combine in this lighthearted story of self-discovery and acceptance.

Should Revenge Be Served at All?: A Review of Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour cover art

Sweet and Sour
Debbi Michiko Florence
Scholastic
July 26, 2022
Age: 8-12

Mai, budding birder and BTS stan, and her parents have always spent idyllic summers with family friends in small-town Mystic, Connecticut. Until two summers ago, when their son and Mai’s BFF, Zach, betrayed her and the friends suddenly moved to Japan. Now the trip is back on and Mai is unhappily headed from west coast to east with a new BFF, Lila, and years of built up anger. When Zach, so changed from two years away, wants to pick up their friendship right where he thinks they left it, Mai must decide how to handle her hurt feelings (not well), whether to hang onto a grudge she may have outgrown (not fun), and how to be a better friend to new friends and old.

Told from Mai’s point of view, Debbi Michiko Florence perfectly captures the 13-year-old voice with swings from light to moody, petulant to kind. The text is sprinkled with good and bad memory flashbacks, labeled sweet or sour, providing the backstory of Mai and Zach’s childhood and the racist incident that fractured their bond. Mai’s journey from sadness to anger to letting go is choppy and full of tween uncertainty. But her moments of introspection and insistence on standing up for yourself and your friends, whether it be from anti-Asian hate, bullying, or on matters of consent, keep her character from verging into the self-centered and vengeful. With wise words from friends, she learns to process her feelings rather than bury them and how to both forgive and ask for forgiveness. The relationships between Mai and Lila, Zach, and a new friend Celeste provide powerful examples of different types of friendships and illustrate the value of each. A secondary storyline, featuring Mai’s parents and their perceived inability to handle her big emotions, could have been better developed, but lends import to the central theme of communicating one’s feelings. Mai’s complicated emotions add both sweet and sour notes to the narrative of this summer adventure exploring the complexities of friendship, memory, growing up.

Butler Bookshelf

This week’s Butler Bookshelf features recently released and coming soon titles! These include It Starts With a Bee by Aimee Gallagher. A poetic look into the world of bees. The colorful illustrations by Jennie Webber show the journey bees take to help the flowers you love, and the fruits and vegetables you eat, grow.  Check it out along with the other titles below!

Blue Badger
Written by Huw Lewis Jones and Illustrated by Ben Sanders
Published by Happy Yak
Available Now!

Don’t Call me a Hurricane
Written by Ellen Hagan
Published by Bloomsbury
Available July 19th, 2022

It Starts With a Bee
Written by Aimee Gallagher and Illustrated by Jennie Webber
Published by QED Publishing
Available April 5th, 2022

The Loophole
Written by Naz Kutub
Published by Bloomsbury
Available June 21st, 2022

A Taste of Magic
Written by J. Elle
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s books
Available August 30th, 2022

You Are Not Alone
Written by The Alphabet Rockers and Illustrated by Ashley Evans
Published by Sourcebook eXplore
Available now!

Butler Bookshelf

This week’s Butler Bookshelf features recently released and coming soon titles! These include The View from the Very Best House in Town by Meera Trehan. This debut middle grade novel explores the troubled friendship of Sam and Asha, both autistic middle schoolers. As Sam is accepted into a prestigious school and Asha is not, their friendship is put at risk. In addition to being told from the perspectives of both Sam and Asha, the very best house in town also has its own perspective in this story.

Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life
Written by Cheryl Blackford
Published by Clarion Books
Available now!

Ready for the Spotlight!
Written and Illustrated by Jaime Kim
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Wayward Creatures
Written by Dayna Lorentz
Published by Clarion Books
Available now!

The Monarchs
Written by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige
Published by Clarion Books
Available now!

On the Move: Home Is Where You Find It
Written by Michael Rosen and Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Published by Candlewick
Available February 8, 2022

The View from the Very Best House in Town
Written by Meera Trehan
Published by Walker Books US
Available February 8, 2022

Adventure Awaits: A review of Sydney & Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World

Sydney & Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World
Jacqueline Davies
Illustrated by Deborah Hocking
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Kids
Available February 2, 2021
Ages 6-9

Sydney the skunk and Taylor the hedgehog are roommates in a cozy burrow under an enchanting backyard garden. When Taylor yearns for excitement and adventure, Sydney grudgingly agrees to explore the Whole Wide World, despite the fact that “exciting is… exhausting.”  And exciting it is as they make their first foray out of the yard and into the unknown to explore, hunt for food, and battle foes both wild and motorized. Anxiety often overwhelms Taylor, but Sydney’s gentle encouragement and stalwart friendship see the pair through their frightening encounters and safely home to the burrow and their comfy armchairs. In this first installment of the early chapter book series, Jacqueline Davies (Lemonade Wars series) brings these lovable characters to life with sweet humor and honest emotions. Their explorations gently illustrate that fear and bravery go hand-in-hand, with both characters exhibiting courage and trepidation in turn. Deborah Hocking’s gouache illustrations add delightful detail, perfectly enhancing the text and portraying the excitement and anxiety adventure can hold. A delightful escapade that proves true friendship is worth its weight in tuna fish sandwiches!

Summer of Sisterhood: A Review of the Summer of Impossibilities

The Summer Of Impossibilities cover art
The Summer of Impossibilities
Rachael Allen
Abrams/Amulet
May 12, 2020
Ages 14-18

Spending the summer at a lake house may sound idyllic, but its anything but for four girls forced into it by their mothers—best friends since college. Each girl is hiding something—Skyler (her worsening arthritis pain), Scarlett (cutting and rage at her parents’ broken marriage), Ellie (confusion about her multicultural identity, body image issues, and bullying), and Amelia Grace (her sexual identity)—and more in need of the others than she realizes. Forging an uneasy alliance, the girls make a pact to each do something impossible with their summer: Skyler (return to playing softball), Scarlett (build a healthy relationship with her (totally unworthy) boyfriend), Ellie (turn the other girls into her BFFs) and Amelia Grace (be accepted and reinstated as a youth minister at her church). Gradually, and sometimes grudgingly, they build a friendship that turns them into family.

Told in chapters that alternate in perspective between the girls, Rachael Allen makes the leaps skillfully, using their differing points of view to explore events from multiple angles and create strong and distinctive personalities. Allen balances the story between the vibrant, volatile, emotional, and evolving characters that fight with and for each other and their families. She tackles tough topics in an honest, but not overly dramatic fashion. And while the setting of the lake, parties, and a summer-long slumber party could be over-the-top fluff, the idyll is a strong counterpoint to the girls’ turmoil, reflection, and growth. A valuable addition to the coming-of-age-story canon, with struggles that will resonate with a wide audience.

Island Adventure: A Review of Lost Beast, Found Friend

butler lost beast found friend

Lost Beast, Found Friend
By Nick Kennedy
Illustrated by Josh Trujllo
June 9, 2020
Published by Oni Press
Grades Pre K-1

Keelee is tired of picking fruits everyday to feed her village. One day while picking fruit Keelee is surprised to find a friendly, big, purple buffalo-looking beast trying to eat her fruit. Realizing that the beast is lost, Keelee sets out with the beast to find his home. The two have fun on their journey and agree to stay in touch even after the beast returns home. Keelee is now excited to pick fruit since it means getting a visit from her new friend.

This sweet story about making friends is whimsical and light-hearted. Vibrant colors are evocative of the island setting, and the non-human characters, like beast and Keelee (who is a bald, blue, creature), make the story all the more fantastical. The story itself is rather basic, but the illustrations really bring to life the words on the page. The story sticks to a simple rhyme scheme giving it a sing-song quality perfect for a bedtime read.

 

Here to Save the Day: A Review of The Last Last-Day-of-Summer

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer cover imageThe Last Last-Day-of-Summer
Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
Versify, April 2019
Grade 5-7

The Last Last Day of Summer, by Lamar Giles, introduces us to two lovable cousins, Sheed and Otto, aka the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County, a magical place where banshees, monsters, and robots need managing—managing the boys are happy to provide. Indeed, the boys’ long history of town-saving adventures shines through the pages. It may be our first time joining Otto and Sheed, but they’re old pros at saving the day. Only the twin sisters, the Epic Ellison’s, give these two brave, clever boys a run for the money … or, rather, a run for the keys to the city. When the last day of summer starts with a headline, informing Sheed and Ollie that the Ellison girls have earned a third key to the city—one more than the boys have—the Alston boys are determined to catch up. It doesn’t take long for them to run into a mysterious stranger with a curious camera. A click and a clack later, Logan County is frozen in time, leaving only the boys and a bevy of unexpected visitors to figure out how to reverse the damage and free the town and its zany cast of character. The story is deeply grounded in family and gently explores themes such as loss and fear, confidence and insecurity, and the ups and downs of friendship. In the end, our imaginative heroes must work through their differences; think creatively about which moves from their long list of Maneuvers will help them solve their pile of problems; and tap strange people, unexpected creatures, and even a few frenemies to unfreeze Logan County.

Many thanks to local author, SCBWI-IL member, and guest reviewer, Malayna Evans. Malayna has used her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago to write a three book series featuring two South Side Chicago siblings stuck in ancient Egypt. Her debut novel, JAGGER JONES & THE MUMMY’S ANKH, will be released in spring of 2019. She lives in Oak Park with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hamster. You can learn more about Malayna and her work here, http://malaynaevans.com , or follow her on Twitter, https://twitter.com/Malayna , or Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/malaynaevans/.

 

Maybe Today or Maybe Tomorrow: A Review of Maybe Tomorrow?

maybe tomorrow

Maybe Tomorrow?
By Charlotte Agell, illustrated by Ana Ramírez

Scholastic
March, 2019
Grades: Pre-K — 2

 

 

 

 

Elba the hippo spends her days dragging around a heavy, black box. One day Elba meets an alligator named Norris who is upbeat and surrounded by butterflies. The two become friends, and as they grow closer, Elba reveals to Norris that she is mourning the loss of her friend Little Bird. Norris tells Elba that although he did not know Little Bird, that he can help Elba mourn her. Elba and Norris then notice that her box has shrunk and become much lighter and easier for Elba to carry. Elba tells Norris that she will always have her box, to which Norris responds, “Yes, maybe you will… But I will help you carry it sometimes.”

Agell’s text is thoughtful and poignant, gently teaching children not only that it is okay to be sad, but also how to help those who are feeling sad. Agell makes a point of showing that there is no simple solution to sadness and that some people may always carry some sadness with them. The text encourages the reader, via Norris, to be empathetic and patient with those who are feeling sad. Agell shows that grieving is part of the healing process and cannot be rushed. Ramírez’s beautiful digitized watercolor drawings perfectly complement Agell’s text. The soft pastel colors convey a hopeful mood and bring gentle, understanding energy to accompany the text.

Where Do You Fit In? A Review of Click

Click

Click by Kayla Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 2019
Ages 10-13

In Kayla Miller’s Click, the variety show is coming up at school and outgoing Olive has not been asked to join a group. This leaves her feeling outcast and alone when she is unable to find her own “click.” Olive refuses her mom’s help to find a group, instead turning to her Aunt Molly. She decides the best choice is to become a host, the talent show announcer. In her words, “It would be a way that I could help all of my friends with their acts by introducing them” (p.132). This story was heartfelt and cute with bright colored pastel artwork which suggest that the tone is cheerful. The digital medium conveys the lively tone through expressive faces and flat simplistic backgrounds with bold highlight lines. The novel does a wonderful job touching on family relationships, specifically mother and daughter. At first, Olive’s mom oversteps her boundaries in trying to help her. By the end of the novel, a balance is achieved between allowing Olive to be independent and encouraging her to follow through. Olive also learns that, in friendships, growing apart and having different interests is okay. Her friends even encourage her in her choice to become a host. The novel has a solid plot portraying realistic issues for friendship and family. Miller shows these serious middle school themes in a lighthearted way that doesn’t take away from the tension.