Teen Book Reviews: “Concrete Rose” and “If I Tell You the Truth”

Today’s book reviews are by volunteer Ima T.

 

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Concrete Rose serves as a prequel to the much loved story of The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas. However, it’s not necessary to have read The Hate You Give, because the Concrete Rose has its own complete, separate storyline.

The story follows Maverick Carter, who is a 17 year old living in Garden Heights. He has been involved with the King Lords gang since his father had previously been a pivotal part of it beforehand. His role is to sell small amounts of weed and recruit new members. He made a nice sum of money from this role and could help pay the bills with his mother. Yet his life turns upside down when he realizes he has a son, which leads him to attempt to leave the gang. The reason he does this since he knows that the environment he is in with a gang would not be good for his son. But things start to change once he finds it harder and harder to scrape money together for his family and the people who support him. Maverick needs to find a way to break the cycle of involvement with gangs. One heart-stopping event occurs when a close friend of Maverick’s is murdered, and once this happens, he truly has to learn how to deal with grief and trauma with people who are still relying on him.

Concrete Rose is a fierce novel with important themes that can be applied to everyday life. For example, in the novel, Maverick struggles with the fact that he is being constantly compared to his powerful father, who was previously part of the gang but is now in jail. Nicknamed ‘Li’l Don’, he has big shoes to fill and constantly feels as though he should be more of a man. His emotional development throughout the book gives an inside look to readers who want to learn more about the father described in The Hate You Give. Concrete Rose is an amazing read, and truly lives up to its name of describing a boy who is struggling to flourish and realize his full potential.

 

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur follows the story of Kiran and her daughter Sahaara, and it is told from both of their alternating perspectives. A compelling part of the novel is the fact that some of the story is told in verse, while the rest of it reads like a normal novel. When the novel is in verse, it is often to display emotions like sadness or anger. This allows for the distressed thoughts that the characters feel to be expressed deeper. Kiran is Punjabi, and comes to Canada on an educational visa. She leaves her strict family to go to university else where, but the reader soon discovers that she has a child on the way as a result of sexual assault. Her decision to keep her future daughter strains her relationship with her family, and leaves her isolated in a foreign country. Kiran struggles with letting her daughter grow up without much money and familial support, and there is an added fear of getting deported. Kiran had to overstay her visa in Canada for her daughter since she didn’t want to go back to her home country out of fear of finding her rapist.

The first half of the book is told from Kiran’s point of view, and the rest is from Sahaara. Sahaara wants to find her own identity since she doesn’t know about Kiran’s background. When she learns about what happened to her mother, she fights to help take down the rapist and stand by her mother, while struggling with her own self identity in the process. If I Tell You the Truth is very well written, and it expands on the important theme of community and loyalty while displaying the growing relationship between mother and daughter. Kiran’s and Sahaara’s story will strike a chord in many hearts. This is an exceptional novel, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

Review of THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS by Rick Riordan

Today’s book review is written by teen volunteer Sarah Reid.

Percy Jackson and his friends aren’t ordinary kids. They are all demigods, half-god, and half-human, which means it’s up to them to save the world. When disaster strikes and Gaea threatens to wake from her eternal slumber, everyone is in danger. They must sail on the Argo ll and prevent Gaea from waking. At the same time Greek camp, Camp Half-Blood, and Roman camp, Camp Jupiter are prepared to go to war. But will they be able to prevent the battle between the camps? How will they defeat the giants? Will they be able to overcome the obstacles standing in their way? Can they make it to Gaea before the entire world and everything they know is destroyed?

This book along with the entire series is so amazing! Rick Riordan puts a unique spin on Greek and Roman mythology. He is an outstanding author and storyteller. The whole series is hilarious, creative, entertaining, and so action-packed. Rick Riordan uses awesome descriptive words to help you visualize what is going on. It’s almost like you are in the book. The idea for this book was so incredibly clever. The book teaches you about Greek and Roman mythology but in a fun, cool, and amusing way. All of the characters are so interesting and aren’t one dimensional like some other ones I’ve read about. They all have their own stories and cool different special powers. I love that there are always amazing plot twists that you would never expect in a million years. I loved everything about the book. I have read it and the series multiple times already, it’s just so good! I would give this book ten out of ten stars. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes books with action, adventure, friendship, comedy, and mystery, or to anyone who is just looking for an overall amazing book.

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Note:

This book is the last volume in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, which itself is a spinoff of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Here are the titles from both series, in order:

Percy Jackson and the Olympians:

  1. The Lightning Thief
  2. The Sea of Monsters
  3. The Titan’s Curse
  4. The Battle of the Labyrinth
  5. The Last Olympian

Heroes of Olympus:

  1. The Lost Hero
  2. The Son of Neptune
  3. The Mark of Athena
  4. The House of Hades
  5. The Blood of Olympus

Review of THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

Today’s book review is written by teen volunteer Matthew Reid.

Lois Lowry is an incredible author who has written more than 30 young adult books. She received her second Newbery Medal for writing The Giver in 1993 (her first Newbery Medal was for Number the Stars). The Giver is a fascinating and intriguing novel about a society that controls everyone from birth to death. Where pain, hate and love doesn’t exist. Each individual is assigned a role in this community when they turn 12 by the Committee of Elders, whether it is being a birthmother or taking care of the elderly people. If a man or woman wants to start a family they have to apply and the Committee of Elders has to find an appropriate wife or husband, they then are given one boy and girl from birthmothers who produce 50 newchildren every year.

 The story starts when Jonas, the protagonist, is Eleven. The Ceremony of Twelve is near and new batches of Elevens are given jobs for the rest of their lives. Jonas is anxious because he has no idea what the Committee of Elders are going to assign him. At the Ceremony of Twelve, The Chief of Elders skip over Jonas and continues with assigning Elevens. After the Chief of Elders is done listing all the assignments, she announces that Jonas is selected to be the next Receiver of Memory. A rare and very honorable status. The Chief Elder says that Jonas has shown all of the qualities intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom, and the capacity to see beyond. He meets a man that is called the Giver. The Giver holds all the memories of humanity in the past. For no ordinary person in the community know the past. The Council of Elders only goes to him for advice and nothing else. But the Giver is growing old and needs a successor to help the Council of Elders at desperate times. The Giver shows these memories to Jonas including sunshine, rainbows, and love but also hunger, war, and suffering. As Jonas continues his exploration, he uncovers truths that challenge his thinking and change his life forever.

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Note:

If you like The Giver, Lois Lowry has written three more books set in the same world. Check out Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

Groovin’ with Pete the Cat

Children’s books are notoriously hard to get published. Everyone has an idea for a children’s book, and almost all of them will never see a contract. More than 21,000 children’s titles are published every year in the US, by a number of publishers, which is only a dent in the number of actual submissions. Scholastic, the one who haunts school kids with that monthly flier, publishes just 600 books a year, from board books through High School. So when a children’s book is self-published, sells 7,000 copies in its first ten months and is then signed on by major publisher Harper Collins, you know there’s something really good there. And in this case, the really good is Pete the Cat .

If you haven’t read him, Pete the Cat is a groovy large-eyed, laid-back blue/black cat who lives with his mom and dad and his tuxedo-patterned brother Bob. He has a host of friends (Grumpy Toad, Gus the Platypus, Callie, Squirrel, etc) and he loves bananas and surfing. His stories are mostly easy-readers that play to the 2-7 year old crowd, but he is infinitely more interesting than that. Pete is the kind of story you want your child to like, because you want to read more of his stories.

Pete is the creation of James Dean, whose early illustrations wound up as musically or rhythmically-oriented stories by storyteller/musician Eric Litwin. Litwin wrote four of Pete’s adventures (Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons, Rockin in my School Shoes, I Love My White Shoes, and Pete the Cat Saves Christmas). I have to admit, these early volumes are my favorites, and I cannot help but read Pete stories as if he’s a surfer dude. Groovy, man. While Litwin and Dean split in 2011, Dean and his wife Kimberly have written more than 60 Pete adventures, with more on the way. Pete’s adventures range from curing hiccups (Mom knows best!) to sleepover friends who won’t sleep, to shopping in the grocery store and scuba diving.

The actual Pete the Cat

Being an artist was not Dean’s plan. His father was an artist, and he didn’t relish  reliving the struggle. While being an electrical engineer paid bills, art crept into his life more and more, until he began to pursue art full-time. When he adopted a tiny black kitten he named Pete, Pete’s antics crept into his artwork , and a legend was born.

Dean’s success is an author’s dream – self-published, picked up by a real publisher just two years later, a runaway success (more than 7 million copies sold), merchandise deals, and now a TV series on Amazon Prime, with voices by no one less than jazz singers Jason Mraz and Diana Krall (which totally fits, because Pete gives off that groovy chill of a cool jazz cat). They say self-publishing doesn’t pay, but Dean is one of those handful of lucky authors who won that lottery.

While I find some of the titles to be uneven and lacking the lyrical qualities of the bigger titles such as Groovy Buttons, Pete remains one of my current favorite preschool titles, stories you don’t mind reading over and over again, with subtle morals (family, keeping your cool, how to be a friend, sharing, learning, etc) that won’t make you roll your eyes with saccharine. Rock on, Pete!

Cheshire Library has more than thirty Pete titles!  Here are some of them:

Pete the Cat: Rockin in My School Shoes
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons 
Pete at the Beach
Pete’s Big Lunch
Pete the Cat: Scuba Cat
Pete the Cat: Snow Daze
A Pet for Pete
Pete the Cat and his Magic Sunglasses
Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes
Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues
Pete the Cat Goes Camping
Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party
Pete the Cat and the New Guy

A Lighthearted Romp Through the Spaceways

Our Teen Librarian, Kelley, shares some of her favorite sci-fi:

Recently I rediscovered a book that I loved long ago: The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz. I enjoyed it just as much, if not more than before. The book is a rarity among older science fiction, it doesn’t show its age with ridiculous predictions or stilted dialog and literally feels as if it could’ve been written yesterday. Partly, I believe that this is because it is as much a fantasy book as a science fiction book, but mostly it’s because the author’s writing is funny, imaginative, and clever, and his characters are delightfully quirky and likeable.

Between the 1940s and the 1970s Schmitz wrote a large number of short stories and several, fairly short, novels. His fiction is characteristically light-hearted, fast-paced, amusing and entertaining. It straddles the SF/fantasy genres, can be equally enjoyed by adults and younger readers, and (very unusual for the time and genre) features female characters who are every bit as strong and interesting as the men. This spurred me on to read more of Schmitz’s work, happily most of which are again available, both digitally and in hard copy, and a lot of it is available online for free.  I read all of it- Eternal Frontier, the Agent of Vega story sequence, all of his series set in the “Hub”, and all of the numerous independent tales. Twelve of his stories are available from Project Gutenberg , and more are available from Free Speculative Fiction Online (including the entire full-length novel The Witches of Karres). I loved them all, but I still love Witches best.

The Witches of Karres was originally a novelette published in the December 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Schmitz expanded the novelette into a novel in 1966, and it is unusual in being relatively long. As is common with this author, it is set in a far-flung future in which humanity has spread across many planets in a substantial part of the galaxy. The story is about Captain Pausert, an amiable, well-intentioned, but inexperienced young space ship captain who finds himself increasingly embroiled in wild adventures when he rescues a young female slave from an abusive owner. Events snowball from there, and he soon finds that he has purchased three young sisters. But these are no ordinary girls; they are from Karres, the witch world, and skilled in manipulating klatha – the universal force which powers witchcraft. This is the start of a whole series of adventures in which Pausert and his feisty and formidable young allies face multiple threats and problems as a result of attracting the attention of some powerful and dangerous organizations, with the survival of civilization being ultimately at stake.

And- if you found Witches as utterly funny and charming as I did, you are in luck! The story has been continued by other authors (but are not unfortunately available online for free). The Wizard of Karres, by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer, The Sorceress of Karres by Eric Flint and Dave Freer, and (forthcoming) The Shaman of Karres also by Eric Flint and Dave Freer are direct sequels but were written long after James Schmitz’s death in 1981, the first being published in 2004. The authors make a good job of matching Schmitz’s light and amusing writing style and they pack in enough new ideas to keep readers involved and entertained. These stories are not quite as terrific as the original, of course, but still great fun, as are all the James H. Schmitz stories linked above. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

If you enjoy The Witches of Karres, here are some other titles from our downloadable audiobook collection you might like:

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