A Starred Review for SNOW PONY AND THE SEVEN MINIATURE PONIES (plus some other nice reviews)

I love stars, be they in the sky or in the pages of Entertainment Weekly. I particularly adore starred reviews of books...and Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies just got one from School Library Journal!

*TRIMMER, Christian. Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies. illus. by Jessie Sima. 48p. S. & S. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481462686. 

K-Gr 2–Children come from miles around to see the aptly named Snow Pony, whose coat is the color of snow and whose mane is as dark as ebony. Known for her hair-braiding and line-dancing skills, Snow Pony regularly puts on shows for an adoring public, along with her best friend, a little girl named Charmaine, and Hunter the dog. But a rival pony, the jealous Queenie, is determined to seize the spotlight and subject the crowds to scrapbooking lessons. This retelling softens the edges of “Snow White” and jettisons the romance in favor of a friendship-heavy plot. No poison here—Queenie merely distracts Snow Pony with a trail of apples that lead her into the woods, where she gets lost and meets seven miniature ponies. While Snow Pony immediately bonds with her new pals, she longs to see Charmaine and Hunter again (and her pals are just as worried about her). Bright illustrations depict winsome settings and characters. Accompanied by sparkling stars, Snow Pony cuts a graceful figure, while the endearingly eccentric, diminutive ponies are squat, with long manes covering their eyes. This version of the tale strikes a whimsical note, eschewing snark in favor of offbeat but kid-friendly humor, and though on the lengthy side, it’ll easily grab children’s attention. VERDICT Fairy-tale reimaginings are common, but this quirky one more than holds its own. A superb story for longer read-alouds and one-on-one sharing.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly also had nice things to say: "This book will top the pile of bedtime favorites in horse-loving households, with jokes thrown in for the grown-ups, to boot." And Booklist justly called me out for being ridiculous: "Trimmer's tongue-in-cheek story is full aware of its ridiculous premise--not to mention the irresistible adorableness of miniature horses--but readers lured by these won't be disappointed."


The first review for Ben Clanton's Something Extraordinary (6/16/15) has found its way to my inbox, and it's a star!

"Bored with the familiar, this young daydreamer imagines how life could be different. For starters, he'd liked to fly or have his drawings—in this case, a robot—come to life. The ideas become more creative as he continues; he would like it if "the rain came in seven different colors. And flavors!" His longings are depicted in watercolor-and-pencil compositions, rendered in a muted palette of browns and blue-greens. Ultimately, his puff of air on a dandelion carries the wish "that something would happen. / Something real!" In a quietly ironic twist, the boy notices a springtime scene (brighter, by subtle degrees) just across the gutter. The birds that had earlier accompanied him, chirping in small, musical speech bubbles, are seen tending their family in a branch of a tree. Organic pink and yellow shapes form the flowers that grace the cheery paradise. The protagonist's earlier desire to talk to the animals is achieved as he bends toward a turtle and produces his own music bubble. In less capable hands, the idea that the real is extraordinary (and by extrapolation, that enjoyment requires close observation) could have come across as cliché and didactic. Instead, scenes full of gentle humor and inventive play convey respect and affection for the audience. The slowly dawning message will elicit excitement about spring, wishing, and the ability to decode a narrative." (Picture book. 4-7)

A Starred Review for IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT

I'm not going to lie--I'm a little emotional that my Spring 2015 titles are getting so much love from reviewers. In a starred review, VOYA gave IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT a perfect ten. The review appears in their February issue. 

"At the age of eight, Jonathan Aubrey barely survived the plane crash that took the lives of his parents, younger sister Tess, and Auntie Carrie, leaving him under the guardianship of his widowed Uncle Joey. Jonathan's physical scars may have faded over the past ten years but his desire to escape his lonely, isolated life has only increased. Looking for something better or at least different from what he already knows, Jonathan discovers he can create alternate worlds where he can be happy for a while. Now Jonathan splits time between his everyday existence and his preferred Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend world, but with graduation coming, he knows things must change. Will he be ready to choose just one world?

Jonathan is the best kind of main character any story could want; he is sympathetic, flawed, and is as surprised as the reader by how events unfold. His life experiences are so unique that they should be un-relatable but Jonathan's honest, emotional responses allow for a real connection. Feelings of isolation and dreaming of a more ideal life will feel familiar to just about any reader, no matter what their background, but it is Jonathan's method of escaping his everyday struggles that teens will envy. The matter-of-fact acceptance that others worlds are possible and how one person can travel from space to space makes it easier for readers to focus on the characters, their relationships, and their difficult choices. Every piece of the puzzle that is this books slides into the exact right spot, forming a picture-perfect work of fiction."

In a World Just Right goes on sale on 28 April 2015.


A Third Starred Review for WE ALL LOOKED UP

Publishers Weekly has graced Tommy Wallach's debut novel with a starred review, its third one to date.

"An asteroid named Ardor is on course to destroy the world. As four Seattle teenagers count down the weeks until impact, they wrestle with the meaning of their lives and their possible deaths. Peter, a basketball golden boy, must decide if he should save his sister from her nihilistic boyfriend and whether true love is worth ignoring the status quo. Eliza, a photographer with an unseemly reputation, negotiates her father’s cancer diagnosis, her mother’s abandonment, and the need to chronicle the chaos erupting around her, while finding herself drawn to Peter. Rounding out the story’s rotating voices are Anita, a straight-A student who just wants to sing, and Andy, a slacker who must decide where his loyalties lie and how to handle his dangerous friends.Debut novelist Wallach increases the tension among characters throughout, ending in a shocking climax that resonates with religious symbolism. Stark scenes alternating between anarchy and police states are counterbalanced by deepening emotional ties and ethical dilemmas, creating a novel that asks far bigger questions than it answers."

We All Looked Up goes on sale on 24 March 2015.

A Second Starred Review for WE ALL LOOKED UP

VOYA loved We All Looked Up, giving it a perfect score. The review appears in their February issue. 

"Four Seattle high school students whose lives have not intersected much are brought together by the disturbing news that an asteroid is headed for Earth with a 66.6% chance of collision that will obliterate human life. With impact expected in two months, life becomes drastically different. Food is rationed, gas prices skyrocket, satellite and cell service grind to a halt, and looting and lawlessness make the streets unsafe. Through the alternating perspectives of popular jock Peter, promiscuous Eliza, slacker Andy, and overachiever Anita, the reader sees each character grapple with the prospect of a shortened life, challenged to make the last days meaningful in a doomed world where human nature has bared its teeth.

With the terrifying possibility of an apocalyptic ending for humankind and the philosophical and ethical challenges that this brings, We All Looked Up offers much food for thought: What would you do if you were given a limited number of days on Earth?  Each of the major characters, having lived life for others, examines past choices and recognizes the need to change course. Readers, in turn, will be challenged to question what matters in their own lives. This compelling, well-written narrative, which offers sometimes raw insight into human motivation and behavior, will have readers racing to the final pages and pondering its ideas long after."

We All Looked Up goes on sale on 24 March 2015.

A Starred Review for WE ALL LOOKED UP

The first review of Tommy Wallach's brilliant debut novel, We All Looked Up, just hit my inbox. Very excitingly, it's a starred review. Here's what Kirkus Reviews thought about the book:

"The end of the world turns into a life-changing opportunity for four high school seniors. High school is all about labels. In this stunning debut set in present-day Seattle, there's Peter the athlete, Andy the slacker, Anita the overachiever and Eliza the slut. Just as each notices a strange blue star in the sky one night, the president announces that the star is actually an asteroid with a path that is 66.6 percent likely to hit and destroy the Earth in two months. Told from the teens' alternating viewpoints, sometimes with cleverly overlapping details, this edgy story follows how each copes with impending doom with brilliant imagery and astounding depth. Knowing that all life will probably end in just weeks, the four teens abandon their labels and search for meaning in the time they have left. Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, they forge a "karass"—an unbreakable, and indeed life-changing, bond—as they explore purpose, evil, faith, independence, friendship, sex and love together. In the background there is also social commentary to be gleaned as the world becomes a dangerous place and martial law becomes a farce. But just like the asteroid that dots the night sky, Wallach pierces his darkness with tenderness and humor. A thought-provoking story that will bring out readers' inner philosophers." 

We All Looked Up goes on sale on 24 March 2015.

A Second Starred Review for RED BUTTERFLY

Like Kirkus, me, and sure-to-be many others, Publishers Weekly loved Red Butterfly. Here's what they had to say in a starred review:

"Evocative first-person poems divided into three sections—“Crawl,” “Dissolve,” and “Fly”—combine with small, delicate b&w illustrations from Bates to provide a framework that helps organize the chaotic feelings 11-year-old Kara struggles to express. Mysteries pervade her life: although ethnically Chinese, she lives in China in near poverty with her Caucasian mother, hiding her misshapen right hand in long sleeves, speaking English at home, unable to attend school. Mama promises that someday they will live with Kara’s father in Montana, but for now: “Don’t ask me,/ Kara,/ don’t ask me.” Piecing together her story, Kara realizes Mama discovered her, an abandoned baby, and stayed in China illegally to raise her. After this transgression is discovered, Kara finds herself in an orphanage as her Montana parents vie with another family to adopt her. Sonnichsen creates a palpable sense of yearning for home and belonging (“I want to explain, but/ I can’t make my mouth form words./ How a place so beautiful/ can make me feel so sad”) in this heartbreaking, heartwarming, and impressive debut."

A Starred Review for RED BUTTERFLY

Well, this makes me very happy. Kirkus Reviews has given a starred review to A. L. Sonnichsen's debut novel, Red Butterfly. I'm so in love with this book and am thrilled that at least one other person feels the same way.

"Set against the backdrop of China's one-child policy, this emotional debut novel-in-verse reveals how one girl refuses to be left behind. Eleven-year-old Kara lives a sheltered life in Tianjin with Mama, an elderly, American, non-Chinese woman. Mama rarely goes out and refuses to send Kara to school like other Chinese kids. With money tight and a "daddy" who lives in Montana, Kara begins to question why they can't go live with him. When Kara's neighbor Zhang Laoshi tells her about being abandoned as a baby, Kara suspects that her hand, "with two short nubs / instead of fingers," is at the root of her woes. "This is why my birth mother / didn't keep me, / why she decided to try again / for someone better." Piece by piece, she discovers a shocking secret about why they must hide. Soon, an accident during a visit from Jody, Mama's older daughter, sets into motion a roller-coaster adoption process. Kara must make unthinkable choices and painstakingly claim with whom she belongs. Sonnichsen draws upon firsthand experiences in volunteering to improve China's orphanages and adopting her own Chinese daughter. With spare, fluid language, she creates the endearing, authentic, nuanced emotions of a girl stuck between two worlds and brings to light a foundling's hope and determination. An adoption story that's rich in family complexities and that readers won't abandon."