Review: Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green

Review: Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green

Bookish Notions

macy mcmillan

From Pajama Press:

Sixth grade is coming to an end, and so is life as Macy McMillan knows it. Already a “For Sale” sign mars the front lawn of her beloved house. Soon her mother will upend their perfect little family, adding a stepfather and six-year-old twin stepsisters. To add insult to injury, what is Macy’s final sixth grade assignment? A genealogy project. Well, she’ll put it off—just like those wedding centerpieces she’s supposed to be making. Just when Macy’s mother ought to be understanding, she sends Macy next door to help eighty-six-year-old Iris Gillan, who is also getting ready to move—in her case into an assisted living facility. Iris can’t pack a single box on her own and, worse, she doesn’t know sign language. How is Macy supposed to understand her? But Iris has stories to tell, and she isn’t going to let Macy’s deafness stop her. Soon, through…

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It’s not what you think

Rest in peace, Chris Cornell.

The First Ten Words by Rich Larson

Chris Cornell, 1964-2017

Chris Cornell died early Thursday morning. His band Soundgarden played a show on Wednesday night at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Two hours after the show ended, he was gone.

For two days, I’ve been working on a piece to pay tribute to him, and it’s been a struggle. Usually when I have a problem like this it’s because I’m staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what I want to say. That’s not the problem this time. The problem is I have way too much to say.

I’m not going to sit here and claim to have been a huge fan of Soundgarden. I didn’t dislike them, I just had to take them in small doses. I was a fan of Cornell. I love “Seasons,” the solo song he had on Cameron Crowe’s movie, Singles. It’s a droning acoustic song about isolation and the…

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Smile is perfect for young readers experiencing their own dental dramas

Smile
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
★★★★☆
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 
Review Source: Borrowed copy

I wish there were more fun stories like Smile out there. I went through my own dental dramas in my pre-teen years that lasted through to my sophomore year so Raina’s story really resonated with me. Losing teeth and watching the shape of your face change leaves people–not just kids and teens–with a lot of insecurity. Sharing these stories can really help remind some of these people in extreme situations that they aren’t as alone as they might feel.

I’d recommend Smile to children ages 8-12, especially those of whom are beginning to go to orthodontists themselves, or those who really enjoy comics and graphic novels, or those who aren’t keen readers. The dialogue is very beginner-friendly, and anyone who knows someone with braces will be able to enjoy the humour that Telgemeier spins from these sometimes painful and awkward years.

Only one more week before My Beautiful Birds releases in Canada!

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My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo
★★★★★
Genre: Picture Book
Publisher: Pajama Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2017 (CAN) / March 8, 2017 (US)
Review Source: Review copy

My Beautiful Birds is both sad and touching, compelling and infuriating, heart-wrenching and hopeful. It is the story of a young, Syrian boy named Sami. He and his family flee their war-torn home in search of a place of refuge and Sami experiences a great deal of distress. However, Sami’s distress is not directly associated with fear for his own life, or sadness of leaving his home—he suffers not knowing if his pet birds, who got left behind, are OK. Sami and his family find a refugee camp and are lucky enough to find shelter, build a garden, have neighbours to socialize and play with; but Sami’s distress impedes his daily life. One day, three birds settle in the refugee camp and Sami finds comfort in these new friends and his healing process begins.

I highly, highly recommend this book. The whole idea for the story began when Suzanne Del Rizzo herself set out to research the Syrian refugee crisis so she could explain and discuss the news with her own children. There is no political overtone or explanation in this book, but the setting and the illustrations nod toward the realities Syrian people are subjected to, making it appropriate for the youngest of readers, but also relevant and engaging for an older audience.

This is a debut in storytelling for Del Rizzo, as well as delving into a new medium (polymer clay) for her illustrations. The development in her artistic skill is amazing: the detail in the feathers and wings of the birds is something I could just stare at while petting the page because I expect it to feel as soft as the feathers look.

This book belongs in every library and classroom (grades 1-6 especially) and on the family bookshelf, too. I cherish my advance copy and I can’t wait to share it with friends and family. I’m so proud to see books like this being published.

Archie, Volume One: The New Riverdale is fresh, funny, and true to the characters I know and love

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Archie, Volume One: The New Riverdale by Mark Waid
★★★
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 176
Publisher: Archie Comic Publications
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Review Source: Purchased copy
Archie, Volume One: The New Riverdale is an adaptation on the classic Archie series. Jughead, Betty, and Veronica are all back at Riverdale High, and Mark Waid has succeeded in staying true to the personalities loved by generations of readers, while also modernizing the Archie universe, making it more accessible to a new generation of Archie readers.

Archie made me nostalgic: for my old high school days and for the old Archie comics I used to read at the cottage in the summer. I was engaged and read through this pretty quickly considering I never got to sit down with it for more than 5 or 10 minute at a time. I didn’t want to put it down. Unfortunately, now I have to, because Volume Two isn’t on my shelf (yet).

The art is great. I feel like Archie got an HD upgrade! I am particularly fond of Fiona Staples’ work. Overall, I am impressed by the cohesiveness of the three different artists’ styles. While remaining distinct, the changing styles were not jarring or unwelcome.
This edition includes some special features in the back which include a Cover Gallery, a spread explaining how the Archie graphic novel was made, and an afterword from Mark Waid. There is also a preview of Jughead: Volume One by Chip Zdarsky, but I have to say, it didn’t grab me nearly as much as Archie had.

I recommend Archie to fans of the original series, to middle grade readers and up, and to those who enjoy comic books.

The Elephant Man is a classic I’m thankful my Dad passed on to me

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The Elephant Man by Christine Sparks
★★★★
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: March 31, 2016
Review Source: Purchased copy

The Elephant Man is a well-written and touching story based on the life of John Merrick. With some brief research it appears as though Sparks was well researched and included many major events of Merrick’s life surrounding the time he was in the care of Frederick Treves and the London Hospital. Some details (like his knowledge of his mother) may have been fictionalized, but ultimately I enjoyed the book enough to research more and I consider it to be successful for that reason.

This story takes into consideration the society and social treatment Merrick was subjected to as an “incurable” suffering from a condition that was unknown to doctors at the time–and even to this day research is inconclusive as to what syndrome he had. The reader is introduced to many characters who treat Merrick like an animal, but there are those who show compassion. Albeit, those who treat Merrick with even a glimmer of decency are few and far between, so on many occasions events were incredibly heart-wrenching. Sparks’ fictionalization, however, likes to emphasize the compassion exuded to Merrick, and so the scum are there to highlight the importance of the few caring individuals.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. The read is not too dense or over-loaded with symbols and tropes making it a quick read, but the content is not always necessarily nice or enjoyable to imagine and so the book is one I did take my time to digest. My dad gave me this book to read in my teens, and although I may not have appreciated it as much at 16 I wish I hadn’t taken eight years to get around to it!

The Hill by Karen Bass Review: Go Get Your Copy NOW

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The Hill by Karen Bass
★★★★★
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 256
Publisher: Pajama Press
Publication Date: March 31, 2016
Review Source: Pajama Press Review Copy

Wow! I wanted to read The Hill because of all the hype, but it managed to still exceed my expectations.

Karen Bass has delivered a well-researched and masterfully-crafted story of a rich city boy named Jared who survives a plane crash in the middle of nowhere. He wakes up to find a Cree boy named Kyle who is trying to help make sure he and the pilot are alive after the crash. In a fit of panic and desperation, Jared thinks leaving the crash site to climb a nearby hill to find cell phone reception is the best course of action. Jared fails to heed Kyle’s warnings about the hill, and since Kyle doesn’t want to feel responsible for Jared’s death, he follows him up against his better instinct. Not only does the hill not provide Jared with any reception, it leads them to a monster and a world neither of them are prepared to deal with alone. Only by working as a team and trusting each other do Jared and Kyle stand a chance at saving themselves, and even protecting their loved ones.

I have too many great things to say about this book. I loved the characters; I loved the humour and laughed out loud numerous times, in public places; I enjoyed the plot; I was gripped by the suspense; I was intrigued by Bass’ use of language and several of her metaphors and analogies; and I felt satisfied by the ending: it wasn’t rushed, and it tied together any loose ends. Most importantly, it makes me so happy to see more Canadian literature being published about Indigenity. I haven’t read a ton of Indigenous lit. but I feel as thought Bass was very respectful of her treatment of the trickster figure, Wesakechak, and of Wîhtiko. Not once did The Hill jarr me from my understanding of the Native oral tradition, creation stories, or trickster stories. I am completely open to discussion on this point, however, as I have no Native heritage myself and therefore have lots to learn.

There is quite literally only one piece of criticism I have for this story, and that is that I noticed a particular phrase used twice. However, many people might not even notice that if they weren’t reading this book as fast as I was, because there were several chapters between each use.

I think The Hill would make a great book for elementary- and secondary-school students learning about Canada’s history or Indigenous cultures. One of the things I loved most was the narrative voice and Bass’ use of language. I didn’t feel as though the plot, the jokes, or any references to Cree tradition or language were being spoon-fed to the reader. There was plenty of nuance and subtlety that made this–although quick and relatively easy read–a thoughtful and important read. This very well be a YA novel, but even those who don’t tend to read it would enjoy The Hill.

Two thumbs up. Five stars. Highly Recommended… all that jazz!

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