to our inaugural Fourth Friday Review Round-up! [How’s that for alliteration?]
Fourth Fridays is a new feature to showcase a selection of recent favorites from our reviewers, across different audiences from infant to teen.
We are always reading, and post lots of reviews, but the Fourth Friday list will max out at 10 titles.
When a reader discovers a book they love and want other people to read, we want to get the word out. Rest assured, the books that make the Fourth Friday Roundup are only titles our reviewers would buy for themselves or as a gift.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Book covers link to Amazon.
It seems only fitting that our January round-up include a few titles with some snow!
JUST SO WILLOW
by Sara F. Schacter, illustrated Stepanie Laberis
Sterling Children’s Books, 2019
Picture Book | Audience: 3 to 9
emotions/feelings, perfection, problem solving, seasons-winter
Review Tagline: Because perfection can come in many forms.
When Willow looks out her window, she sees a beautiful sight: a soft, blanket of snow. Willow likes things to be just as they are, and this smooth snow makes her happy. The friends next door throwing snowballs and making snow creatures? Not so much. They are having so much fun, they don’t hear her telling them to stop. So she decides she needs to get closer – except how can she do that and still keep the snow perfect?
Review Excerpt: This is a wonderful story that balances problem solving and being open to change. The obvious story of Willow’s quest to keep a perfect blanket of snow, is complemented by her effort to solve problems. More specifically, how she worries about what could happen. Illustrating that concept for young readers is a way of helping them understand the idea of anticipating the result of a choice or action.
Picture Book | Audience: 3 to 8
friendship, kindness, nature, seasons-winter
Review Tagline: Beware of Ice: frozen character melts hearts.
In a forest full of snow people, Drift was a very lonely guy. He didn’t wear a hat or scarf, so he wasn’t invited to play with the others. Drift wished for a carrot nose. Surely, that would make him a perfect snowman. One day three children walked by and noticed that Drift could use some accessories. They offered him their hat, scarf, and mittens. That night there was a blizzard, and the wind blew his mittens and hat. While he searched for them, he heard a sound. A small bunny was lost, afraid, cold, and hungry. Drift knew what he had to do.
Review Excerpt: A heartwarming story of kindness and friendship that everyone can enjoy. This has a Frosty-the-Snowman feel, but with much more depth. It is truly its own unique tale of friendship and paying forward the gifts we are given. Every child who dreams of playing with their own Frosty will adore this book.
None this month. Stay tuned. We’ll have recommendations in February after the 2019 Cybils Awards winners are announced.
Dinosaur Boy, Book 1
by Cory Putman Oakes
Middle Grade Fiction | Audience: 8 to 12
adventure, friendship, humor, science fiction/fantasy, book series
Review Tagline: A dinosaur-alien adventure for scaly tweens throughout the galaxies.
Being part stegosaurus has made Sawyer Bronson an easy target for the bullies in his class. Lucky for Sawyer, Ms. Mathis, the new principal, rigorously enforced the “Zero Tolerance” policy for bullying. Ten of Sawyer’s classmates have already been expelled. Funny thing is, once they left school, no one heard from them again. At the urging of his new classmate Sylvie, Sawyer and his best friend Elliot decided to figure out what happened to the kids. What they uncovered was something out of this world!
Review Excerpt: A fun combination of characters (and character origins) will have readers asking for extra chapters! Sylvie, Elliot, and Sawyer are a great trio who illustrate how different personalities can work together – and be friends! Sylvie represents a demographic is not often addressed well in middle grade books: a girl trying to earn her father’s affection after feeling abandoned.
FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS
Rise of the Empress, Book 1
written by Julie C. Dao
Speak, 2018 (Reprint Edition)
Young Adult Fiction | Audience: 14 and Up
mature, fairy tale, fantasy, suspense/thriller, book series
Review Tagline: Before Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
The cards have prophesied a destiny of greatness and power for Xinfeng. Her Guma says Xinfeng (18) is fated to become the next Empress of Feng Lu, should she take that path. Raised under her Guma’s magic and cruelty, Xinfeng wholeheartedly accepts her fate and hungers to leave her poor village behind. But Xinfeng’s lust for power will come at a great cost. She must give up her only love, Wei, and take advantage of the dark blood magic within her. Xinfeng uses this dark magic to enhance her beauty, sending her further into darkness as she hunts down her enemies. All the while, an ancient corrupt power looms over her in her pursuit of greatness.
Review Excerpt: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an East Asian fantasy that re-imagines the story of the Evil Queen in Snow White. I found it to be unique with all the deeply complex and developed characters. Xinfeng’s story is incredibly intriguing and intense. She is an ambitious and arrogant anti-heroine whom readers will find relatable and despicable at the same time. That is what makes the story all the more compelling. This dark fantasy is impossible to put down and the ending leaves readers wanting more.
PRIDE [A PRIDE AND PREJUDICE REMIX]
written by Ibi Zoboi
Balzer + Bray, 2019
Young Adult Fiction | Audience: 13 and Up
coming of age, contemporary fiction, diverse characters, family, relationships, romance, urban fiction
Review Tagline: The comfort of a classic, with a fresh feeling all its own.
Zuri Benitez calls the Bronx home. She has lived there with her big family, her whole life. She’s proud of all the loud block parties, the shouting neighbors, and the kids having fun. Zuri loves everything about the place she calls home. But “home” is starting to lose its meaning as her neighborhood becomes gentrified. When the Darcy’s, a rich African American family, move in across the block, Zuri’s chaotic life is about to get messier.
Review Excerpt: Pride is a unique, multicultural retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and I appreciated its diverse representation and in-depth dive into different cultures. Zoboi doesn’t overly emphasize the romance, allowing other elements of Pride to shine. Zuri’s admirable and profound story will make a great impression on all readers. Her beautiful poems are definitely a highlight.
WE ARE THE ANTS
written by Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse, 2017
Young Adult Fiction | Audience: 16 and Up
mature, anxiety, coming of age, diverse characters, relationships, science fiction, social issues
Review tagline: 144 Days: Save the world? Or not?!
Teenager Henry Denton is overwhelmed by his stressful life. His boyfriend committed suicide and his family is struggling to stay afloat. Now his alien abductors (with whom he has had previous interaction) have told him that the future of humanity is up to him. He can push a giant red button and save the planet OR let the aliens destroy the world. He has 144 days to decide. Given the pain he feels and his family’s struggles, he’s not sure why humanity would survive. But as a man of science, Henry decides to figure out if the world and its people are worth saving. What lies ahead is a dark journey, where Henry tries to find beauty and meaning in his chaotic world.
Review Excerpt: Readers who like science fiction with realism will find everything they love – and more – in this book. The story itself is thought-provoking, and the author provides insight into navigating different kinds of relationships. With Henry’s incredible journey, Hutchinson throws out a lifeline to readers who also struggle to find their place in the world. Readers will feel for Henry in his heartbreaking and heartwarming moments. I certainly appreciated Henry’s words of wisdom and life lessons.