Armchair Cybils: Fiction Picture Books

Well, I’m almost a week late with this Armchair Cybils post. I did write a post last week, only to somehow lose it entirely. One of my New Year Resolutions is to be better about getting to bed on time and getting enough sleep so I elected to leave it and then never got back to it over the weekend.

I’ve been able to read all the Fiction Picture Books on the Cybils shortlist except one. (This is a Moose is not available yet at our library but is on order so I’m hoping to read it soon.) Of the books I was able to read, Mark Pett’s The Girl and the Bicycle is my favorite. It’s a sweet story of a girl who falls in love with a green bicycle in a store window. She tries to save the money to buy it, only to find that it’s harder to make money than she realizes. Finally, a kind neighbor hires her to do odd jobs and she gets the money she needs. Along the way she also finds a friend in the neighbor. The ending is no less satisfying for being somewhat predictable (at least to adults). The illustrations are simple pencil and watercolor on brown paper bag colored paper. The book definitely has an old-fashioned feel, although the feeling is more timeless than belonging to any particular era.

Over the past few years I’ve grown to appreciate wordless picture books more and more. I find that often the lack of written words allows for more interaction between me and the child I’m reading to. Instead of reading the words the author gives us, we talk about what we think the characters are thinking or what they are doing. It becomes a conversation instead of just a one-way read-aloud. I’m not at all disparaging books with words. I still prefer most of my books to have words. I’m just becoming more of a convert to the idea that well-done wordless books can be excellent also.

I hope to review the other nominated titles some day soon. But for now, stop by Hope is the Word and see what Amy has to say about the other books in this category. (Spoiler: She agrees with me. )

More wordless picture books reviewed at Supratentorial: 
Two from last year’s Cybils: Flora and the Flamingo  and Mr. Wuffles
A bunch including two favorites: A Ball for Daisy and 10 Minutes Till Bedtime
Once Upon a Banana
Gem

Snow!

Ruth and I are talking about snow this week in kindergarten. Serendipitously, this morning we woke up to the first real snowfall of the season. Perfect!  We weren’t sure what Roxy, the dog, would think of the snow since this is our first winter with her. She loved it, perhaps even more than her three human companions.

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Snow themed books we recommend: 

Snow! by Uri Shulevitz
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
Snowflakes Fall by Patricia Maclachlan

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

I never really liked Math in school. I got good grades in the math classes I took, but I’ve realized since that I was never really good at mathematics but was reasonably good at memorizing formulas and studying and following directions. Once I reached higher math classes in college I realized there was a whole world of mathematics that I just didn’t get. I fully admit to being one of those students who grumbled about how there was no way they were ever going use something like trigonometry in the real world.

I wish a book like Jordan Ellenberg’s How Not to be Wrong had been around then. (Well, to be fair, maybe there was a book like that around then. But maybe I had to wait until I in my forties and more open to having my mind changed to appreciate it.) Ellenberg covers probability and regression theory  and non-Euclid geometry and basic calculus all while discussing real-life examples of how math is useful in the real world. He skips around from the MIT students who figured out how to beat the Massachusetts lottery to how a mathematician figured out how to design better planes in WWII to a discussion of the 2000 election results in Florida (remember Bush v. Gore). It’s not an easy book to read, Ellenberg doesn’t shy away from discussions of complex formulas and puzzles. But he has a very easy to read style of writing. It’s like having a really excited math professor in the room with you. Even if you don’t grasp everything he’s saying you get the idea. Math is really cool! And useful!

A few quotes:

One of the most painful parts of teaching mathematics is seeing students damaged by the cult of the genius. The genius cult tells students it’s not worth doing mathematics unless you’re the best at mathematics, because those special few are the only ones whose contributions matter. We don’t treat any other subject that way! I’ve never heard a student say, “I like Hamlet, but I don’t really belong in AP English- that kid who sits in the front row knows all the plays, and he started reading Shakespeare when he was nine!”….  p 412-413

and

Every time you observe that more of a good thing is not always better; or you remember that improbable things happen a lot, given enough chances….; or you make a decision based not just on the most likely futures, but on the cloud of all possible futures, with attention to which ones are likely and which ones are not; or you let go of the idea that the beliefs of groups should be subject to the same rules as beliefs of individuals; or simply, you find that cognitive sweet spot where you can let your intuition run wild on the network of tracks formal reasoning makes for it; without writing down an equation or drawing a graph, you are doing mathematics, the extension of common sense by other means. When are you going to use it? You’ve been using mathematics since you were born and you’ll probably never stop. Use it well. p 437

 

Armchair Cybils: Shortlist Thoughts

The Cybils Shortlists have been posted! Kid-lit enthusiasts everywhere are excitedly perusing the lists and putting books on hold at their local libraries.

I don’t actually have very much to say about the finalists because I’ve read so few of them. In past years, this has led me to feel vaguely depressed as if I’m out of the loop of great children’s literature. This year, I choose to see it as a good thing. Kid Lit is at a fantastic place in history. There are just so many wonderful books being published for kids across all age groups and genres. I may not have read the books on the list this year but I have read a lot of great children’s books this year. I think that speaks to the overall abundance of good books we have to choose from as parents and educators. And that can’t help but make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

I plan on trying to read all the Fiction Picture Books and Nonfiction Elementary and Middle Grade Books before the winners are announced in February. Unusually, John has not read any of the Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. I’ll be putting at least a few of those on hold for him as it’s his favorite genre.

I asked my kids yesterday what their New Year Resolutions were. John’s was to “read more”. At first I laughed at him as this isn’t a particularly hard thing for him. Then I admitted it was my resolution also. So here’s to the beginning of a great year of reading!

Read Aloud Thursday: 2014 in Review

Chapter Books Read in 2014:

Read Aloud to John and David:

The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
A Prince Among Frogs by E. D. Baker
Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager
Obi: Gerbil on the Loose! by M. C. Delaney
The Time Garden by Edward Eager
A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle

 

 

Read Aloud to Ruth: 

Betsy, Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins
Toys Come Home by Emily Jenkins
Toy Dance Party by Emily Jenkins
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

Read Aloud at Lunch: 

Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Audiobooks:

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
Dragon’s Breath by E.D. Baker

Once Upon a Curse by E. D. Baker
No Place For Magic by E. D. Baker
The Salamander Spell by E. D. Baker
The Dragon Princess by E. D. Baker
Dragon Kiss by E. D. Baker
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Curse of Bane by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins
Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

This was sort of a transition year for us in our chapter book read-alouds. For awhile we’ve had a routine where I read one “special” book to each child at bedtime and also had one book going at lunchtime for all three to listen to. Over the past year it’s been clear that the books I’m reading to David and John are really being read to both of them. And somewhere mid-year we changed our routine so that we all read together on our bed instead of in the kids’ bedrooms. First we read Ruth’s book and then the boys’ book or books. Juggling three nighttime books has become a bit too much so we’ve gone to having just two, one for the boys and one for Ruth. David probably benefits the most from this as being the middle child he is is the most interested in both books.

It’s also been a year where it’s tougher to get the nighttime reading in, especially since they all want to listen to every book. I work one night a week. John is out late one night a week for Scouts. During basketball season there are night practices. During swim season there are swim meets. On the weekends we might choose to watch a movie instead of doing the nighttime reading. So it often is the case that we are reading maybe 4 nights out of 7. That’s ok but I might have to think about how we can change our routine to get more reading in. I’m thinking of having our nighttime reading be the same book as our lunchtime reading (something else that doesn’t happen daily).

Our two best reading experiences of the year were both through audiobooks. We spent months in the world of E.D. Baker, totally loving the princesses and dragons and princes we met there. We then spent the fall in Suzanne Collins’ Underland with Gregor the Overlander. Both were the best of a bookish family life: shared immersion in another world.

What’s next in 2015? The boys and I are currently reading Redwall (John and I for the second time, David for the first). Ruth and I are continuing to enjoy Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. And I have the first in the Sisters Grimm series on audiobook for listening the next time we go somewhere.

Stop by Hope is the Word for the first Read Aloud Thursday of 2015. Lots of reading lists today! Sure to be something that you can enjoy in the coming year.

 

2014 in Books

So, last year I made some bookish resolutions. And, as with most New Year’s Resolutions, I failed. I was going to read more, read more classics from the Well-Educated Mind list, read off my shelves/TBR list and blog more about what I read. As far as numbers I read about the same number of books (71). I forgot the classics resolution somewhere around Jan 7th and I still have shelves piled high with “someday” books and a TBR list that just keeps getting longer. And I blogged way less than I had in past years. So in some concrete ways, it was year of failure.

Ah well, it was fun trying. A year of reading is never really a failure, which is maybe why it’s my favorite pursuit. I always find it near impossible to name my favorite book of the year or the best book I read. Instead here are a few reflections on my year in books. If you’re interested the full list is here.

The Year of the Short Story

I have frequently stated that I’m not a fan of short stories. I appreciate the skill and craft, but I just like longer format fiction. This apparently was the year I decided to challenge that self-stated belief.

In all I read five collections of short stories this year:

Dear Life by Alice Munro
Bark by Lorrie Moore
Acts of God by Ellen Gilchrist
Selected Short Stories by William Faulkner
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

I still think I prefer the longer form of a novel but I did learn to enjoy the short story more. I have several collections on my shelf  or TBR list to read in the coming year: Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel and The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol.

The Best 34 hours I Spent

Alternate title: That’s one way to get to the classics.
Other Alternate title: Best serendipity reading

Early in the year I read Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Somewhere in reading about it, I saw several references to David Copperfield. I love Dickens but had never read David Copperfield. I thought about reading it but it was the summer and I had a stack of books I needed to read in preparation for John’s 6th grade year. So I decided to listen to the audiobook. Twenty-seven CD’s and 34-some hours later and I was still loving Dicken’s creation.

I also read (and enjoyed) three other classics for the first time:  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.

Truth is Better than Fiction (This Year, at least)

This year, the books that stood out for me the most were both non-fiction books. First, Lawrence Wright’s mind-blowing Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. If you were around me when I was reading this book, I apologize. I probably bored you with long experts or stories. It was that good. Crazy and spooky. But really, really good.

I also probably bored a lot of people with spy stories from my other great non-fiction read of the year: Ben MacIntyre’s A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. Spies and Scientologists both make for fascinating reading.

You Can Never Go Wrong Writing about Books

Nick Hornby’s Ten years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books is a collection of columns he wrote for The Believer magazine. The columns are a celebration of reading and books and especially of a particular kind of reading: reading for whimsy, reading for joy, reading what you want because you want it and because you like it. It would made a wonderful gift for anyone who loves books and reading.

 

 

And the one that negates that whole “no best book of the year thing”: 

Ok, I know I said I have a hard time picking my favorite book or best book of the year. But Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son was just so good that I’d have to say it would win. If there was a winner. I said it all in my earlier review so I’ll just point you back there.  And say that at the end of the year it still stands out as the top of the top for this year.

December Reading

Fiction Read in December 

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
More short stories. I think I’m slowly becoming converted to a fan of the genre. Or maybe it’s that short stories work well for my current attention span. These are typically Atwood: deliciously dark and creepy in places and all with beautiful prose and characters that are impossible to forget.

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
Another installment in the Flavia deLuce mystery series. Looking forward to the next one.

Non-Fiction Read in December 

Doctored by Sandeep Jauhar

A Spy Among Friends by Ben MacIntyre
I have a deep fascination with spies and I think I would read a grocery list written by Ben MacIntyre. In this new book, MacIntyre looks at the deception of Kim Philby. He chooses to focus on Philby’s betrayal from the perspective of several of Philby’s closest friends (including James Jesus Angleton, one of the founders of the CIA) who Philby systematically betrayed over decades. I knew only a tiny bit before about Philby before reading this book and came away completely and utterly intrigued.

Doctored

I had high hopes for Doctored, Sandeep Jauhar’s “memoir-expose” about the American health care system. I was hoping for an insightful look at medicine in America with thoughts about what works and what could be done better. Sadly, I was disappointed.

Jauhar’s memoir is primarily about his experience working as a cardiologist on Long Island. He is shocked by the financial and business practices he sees around him in the other doctors and hospital. He feels pressured to see more patients and make money and realizes that much of the system has become corrupt and focused on making money rather than on truly caring for patients. At the same time, Jauhar is feeling financial pressures at home with the expense of raising a young family in NYC. He finds himself compromising his ideals and then hating himself for it.

I think many readers are going to find Jauhar more than a little whiny and annoying. It’s hard to relate to a physician who is complaining about never having enough money. Jauhar and his wife make many choices that they feel put them in a financial bind but they take a LONG time to accept that it’s their own choices more than the American health care system that is the problem. (They want to live in Manhattan. They insist on sending their kids to a private preschool. Jauhar’s wife, a physician also, chooses not to work in order to care for the kids.) The reader will have figured out 100 pages before they do what the solutions to their crisis are. Jauhar also comes across as a man faced with growing up and not liking it. There is a lot of angst about youthful ideals vs. middle age pragmatism. There are a lot of references to vague spiritual searching. Many of his issues seem to stem as much from familial expectations and pressures (competition in a traditional Indian-American family with an older golden-child brother for example) as with the health care system.

My main disappointment, however, was in what Jauhar left unsaid about being a doctor in America today. He talks a lot about the unsavory practices of private practice physicians (and clearly has a bias towards academics which he views as somehow more pure). Much of what he said wasn’t my experience. However, pediatric medicine is very different than adult medicine so I may just not see what he sees. More interesting to me would have ben an issue he touches on only briefly: what does it mean to be a good doctor.

I think most doctors go to medical school with some idea of wanting to help people and we come out of the training process with some idea of what being a good doctor means. It means healing people, getting the right diagnosis, listening to your patients, caring for them. It means practicing excellent medicine, reading up on current therapies, practicing evidence-based medicine instead of just doing what you’ve always done.

I’ve been in practice for 15 years and I find that it’s so much harder than I thought to figure out how to actually do all those things in real practice. Patients often want things that I think are bad medicine. Antibiotics for colds. Unnecessary lab testing. Referrals for unproved treatments. Do I do it and keep them happy? Does a happy patient equal a good doctor even if the medicine being practiced is questionable? I’m sure doctors through history have struggled with these issues but I feel like today the added pressures of self-diagnosis by Google, doctor rating sites on the Internet, Minute Clinics in pharmacies that will almost always give the medicine the patients want, and insurance companies who are monitoring referral and testing and prescriptions makes it even more difficult to know by what standards we should measure ourselves.

Jauhar talks a bit in his book about factors that cause dissatisfaction in work. I think a large source of dissatisfaction is not knowing how to know if you are doing a good job. And today it’s hard for a doctor to know by whose standards to grade themselves (and if anyone has been trained over time to care about grades and standards it’s a doctor who has been through 20+ years of schooling). Should I care that I am performing well on the insurance company’s annual report? The local hospital’s report card (yes, we get them)? My patient satisfaction level on an Internet site? How closely my practice follows the guidelines of my specialty? I don’t think any of those are good ways. I tend to measure myself by an internal barometer of sorts: Am I satisfied that I did the right thing even if the patient is unhappy? If the patient and I don’t agree on a plan, is there a way to compromise to find a solution? Do my patients respect me even if they don’t always agree with me? Have I truly listened to each person? Have I tried my best to have them walk away feeling somehow healed, even if that doesn’t mean cured?

I think that it would do my profession good to talk about these issues more. Unfortunately, Doctored is not the start of this discussion.

Armchair Cybils

I’m a day late with my Armchair Cybils link-up. A short-lived but nasty stomach bug hit our house this weekend, and although only two of us so far succumbed, we’ve all been a bit sleep-deprived. Added to that were several holiday parties, basketball games, prep for the last week of school before Christmas break and all the other fun craziness of the season.

I have been reading. However, I haven’t been reviewing and posting as much as I had hoped to do. Instead of trying to “catch up” I’m going to link below to the books I have reviewed here and then give a short synopsis for the ones I haven’t reviewed already.

Non-Fiction Elementary and Middle-Grade Books Read:

Anna and Solomon by Elaine Snyder
Story of how the author’s grandparents immigrated to the US from Russia. Probably not a topic that naturally appeals to kids, but would be a great addition to a story about immigration. Illustrations by Harry Bliss are a great accompaniment. 

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox
Told by champion open water long distance swimmer Lynne Cox, this is the story on one particular elephant seal who chose to make its home in the Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand. Christened Elizabeth by the people of Christchurch, the seal returned to the river despite being relocated multiple times and finally was allowed to stay in the city. Watercolor illustrations by Brian Floca add warmth and kid appeal.

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

Gravity by Jason Chin
Simple explanation of what gravity is. I did love the illustrations that show what happens without gravity and think they added appeal even for very young readers who might miss the bigger concept. I might have to reread this one. I had it out briefly from the library and remember being a bit disappointed, but that might be because I really loved Chin’s book about the Galapagos.

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffin Burns

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio by Jonah Winter
Well-done, beautifully illustrated biography of Joe DiMaggio.

The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert

When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses by Rebecca Johnson

Fiction Picture Books Read:

Brother Hugo and the Bear by Kate Beebe
I loved this charming story of a monk who cannot return his library book (the letters of St. Augustine) because a bear has eaten it. As penance, he is forced to journey to a nearby monastery to borrow their copy and then to copy the book out by hand, all the while keeping an eye out for the bear who now has developed a taste for delicious words. There is enough detail on the making of the book to go along with a medieval history study but the quirkiness of the story and charm of the illustrations make it fun to read. I also loved that Beebe got the idea from the fragment of a real medieval letter explaining that a book had been eaten by a bear. 

Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century by Jane O’Connor
Another great addition to the Fancy Nancy canon. In case you’re wondering if we like Fancy Nancy here, I’ll just say that I am frequently instructed by a certain 5 year old (who is pretty fancy herself) to bring home every single Fancy Nancy book I can find at the library. 

Lost for Words by Natalie Russell
Tapir’s friends all can write: poems, songs, stories. But he can’t figure out how to express himself until he realizes he doesn’t have to use words but can draw instead. 

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch by Anne Isaacs
Tall-tale about a British widow who inherits $30 million and a ranch in Texas. She moves there and settles into a happy peaceful life of gardening and raising giant tortoises until word gets out that a marriageable woman with a boatload of money has arrived. The ending is easy to see coming but getting there is silly fun. Ruth and I had a lot of giggles reading this one. 

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett
Mac Barnett and Chris Van Dusen team up together to create a silly retelling of one of the most ludicrious presidential anecdotes: President Taft getting stuck in his bathtub. It reminded me a lot of the wonderful King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. If you’re sensitive to your kids giggling over naked butts, don’t get this one. 

Quest by Aaron Becker
As I was writing this, Ruth said, “I LOVE Quest. Can you put the third one on hold?” She’ll have to wait for the third addition to this luminous, creative trilogy but you can tell she is a big fan of these wordless picture books. If you’ve read the Caldecott Honor Book Journey, you know what to expect with this continuation. If you haven’t, get them both out. They might change your mind about wordless picture books. 

Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer
Rupert has a secret: he loves to dance. When his owner Mandy finds out, she is thrilled and starts to give him dancing lessons. Rupert, however, doesn’t want to have lessons, he just wants to dance for fun. Mandy comes up with a great solution to convince/trick him into dancing again. The underlying message here was a good read for me as the parent of a child who really rebels against the idea of being told what to do, even when it’s something he enjoys. 

The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald

Two Speckled Eggs by Jennifer Mann
Sweet book about two girls who are slightly different from all the rest but find friendship together. 

Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston
Lovely, slow, thoughtful story about a girl who observes the seasons changing around her from a favorite quiet place. The illustrations by Jim LaMarche are absolutely gorgeous. 

Other books read:

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

Firefly July
Fantastic anthology of poems compiled by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by the incomporable Melissa Sweet. My link is to Amy’s full review, I say ditto to everything she says. 

Cybils books previously reviewed here at Supratentorial.

After serving as a Cybils judge last year, I realize it’s virtually impossible to realistically talk about predictions or a shortlist having read so few books. But it’s still fun. So here is my list of my top 5 books in the two categories that I have read the most:

Non-Fiction Elementary and Middle-Grade:

Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward
The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox
A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

Fiction Picture Books:

Brother Hugo and the Bear by Kate Beebe
Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston
Fraidyzoo by Thrya Heyder
The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald
President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett

Stop by Hope is the Word to see what Cybils nominees Amy and others are reading (Amy for one, has been reading a lot of middle grade fiction). And if you’ve been reading Cybils nominees, consider participating!

I Kill the Mockingbird

The kids in Paul Acampora’s I Kill the Mockingbird are the kids that the seventh grade me wished desperately to know. Lucy, Elena and Michael are best friends who also happen to be book nerds. One summer they come up with a plan of “literary terrorism” to get people interested in one of their summer reading books, To Kill the Mockingbird. What starts out as a local campaign spreads nationwide with the help of the Internet and they end up having to figure out how to kill their own creation.

The friends’ plan is about getting people to read great books on the surface but really it’s just as much about helping Lucy deal with her mother’s cancer and grieving the loss of a beloved teacher, Fat Bob, and figuring out how to have one last crazy summer before going off to high school. In the same way, I Kill the Mockingbird is about kids who love books but also about young teens who still have one foot in the camp of childhood but are aware that they are growing up. Like the classic that it pays homage to, it’s really a coming of age novel.

There is so much to like here. Any weakness comes from the need to suspend belief a bit to believe that there are still small towns and communities like the one portrayed here. The kids are all self-confident book lovers who don’t seem to worry at all about things like being cool or fitting in. The parents are all understanding and cool. The town is safe enough that the kids can wander wherever they want on their own, unencumbered by parental oversight, yet wordly enough that it supports an independent bookstore and is close enough by public transportation to many other small towns. There are no real negative repercussions from their campaign. Maybe that’s all nit-picky but it did read as a little idealistic to me. Still, I decided early on to just go with it and enjoy the book, idealism and all.

One thing Acampora does well is to include a religious life for the kids. They all attend a Catholic school, where Lucy’s father is principal. Catholicism is woven through the book along with discussions of faith and mortality and why bad things happen. It’s exceedingly rare to find an adult book that treats religious life as something ordinary. It’s seems that religion is usually either dealt with in a heavy-handed overtly Christian way or it’s dismissed outright. I think it’s even more rare to find a book for middle-grade kids that handles religion in this straight-forward way.

I would definitely recommend this for anyone (kid or adult) who loves books.