The snark can wait a minute. Just got back from ALA Midwinter and am happy to report the summer reading is lookin’ good. Like so good Matthew McConaghey or however you spell his dang name will stand in front of a pool hall and drawl about how they are “good, real good.” Here’s a sneak peak at what I can’t wait to come out in July…and not just because I went to Jewish day school for 13 years.
1. SO PUNK ROCK by Micol Ostow and David Ostow (Flux, July 2010). The story of The Tribe, a Jewish day school band on the verge of breaking out and selling out at the same time. Sister Micol writes the story while brother David provides graphic novel panels interspersed throughout making for an enjoyable visual reading experience. The story of how one technically Jewish Man (he is above 13) named Ari decides that forming a band is the road to popularity and Sari Horowitz’s heart is told in prose and pictures that are subtle in their hilarity while hitting the truth exactly on the head. One great throwaway joke shows The Tribe about to perform at their first gig, the bar mitzvah of their bassist’s cousin. The panel shows the banner for “Ross’ Bar Mitzvah, Tha Thug Life” hung under a sign reading “Abe and Gladys Goldfarb Room.” The Tribe goes through trials and tribulations worthy of the Torah as they navigate fame, morning prayers, romance and how it feels to have the cutest guy in school as your best friend when you are most definitely not. The Ostows use a light hand in telling their story even while throwing out band names worthy of an “I’ll out-obscure band you” contest. Even if you don’t quite get while it’s freaking hilarious that going to Jewish day school means your basketball star will go to college on a math scholarship, you’ll get the truths about love, life and friendship the Ostows cover deftly and with lots of ruach (Hebrew for “spirit” but has a connotation that cannot be explained like most Jewish words. Just trust me.).
2. BROWN RABBIT IN THE CITY by Natalie Russell (Viking Juvenile, July 2010). My friend Susann and I were attracted to the warm, modern color palette and Ezra Jack Keats’ style art of this book. When we opened and started reading we were groaning within minutes. “I know where this is headed and it’s not good,” I said as quiet-loving Brown Rabbit visited the city to see his friend Little Rabbit, a fetching girl rabbit with a carrot purse and free spirit. “I’ve been in this relationship before!” bemoaned Susann as Little Rabbit took Brown Rabbit all over the city: to her fave cafe, out dancing, schlepping his country soul all over the big bad city. (Oy, when Brown Rabbit starts reminiscing about playing his guitar while Little Rabbit danced when they first met, we almost LOST it.) A book that truly appeals to both adults and children, it tells multiple stories on many levels that can be interpreted many ways. The illustrations are stunning and we both wanted to plaster our walls at home with them. This sequel to LITTLE RABBIT shows what kidlit can do best: tell a simple story that has deep, complex, emotional meaning if you want it to or just be a nice story that keeps you turning the pages.
3. BAMBOO PEOPLE by Mitali Perkins (Charlesbridge, July 2010). From the fantastic Mitali Perkin’s (RICKSHAW GIRL) comes the untold stories of the Karenin and Burmese people, currently living under military rule. Told from the perspectives of Chiko and Tu Reh, fifteen-year-old boys on either side of the conflict who are just trying to survive being thrust into violence and war against their wills and beliefs. Chiko’s father has been thrown in jail for protesting the military rule and in particular the violence against the Karenni people. Chiko is conscripted into the army where he learns that his book smarts aren’t the only kind of intelligence and how to start being a man. Tu Reh and his family have been forced into a refugee camp where they fight the Burmese from the jungle and try to stay alive. Circumstances force the two together and to forge an understanding. Perkin’s gives a engaging, real voices to her characters who pull you along with them on their often-terrifying ride through a tense situation. Perkin’s teaches readers about a world that exists today and about which we know very little as Westerners. But her message doesn’t feel clunky nor does it hit readers over the head. Instead, it shows us a slice of life that we should consider more closely and about which we should care. Check it out. Excellent for reluctant and guy readers.