Bridging the Gap

Bridge Books.

No, not books about bridges. Bridge Books are those that carry a child over from picture books to early chapter books.

Picture books are often beautifully illustrated and tell a story a young child can relate to. The picture holds their interest while they process the story about the picture. The elaborate illustrations can fire their imaginations and make them howl with laughter. No one expects a preschooler to read them by themselves.

But by the age of four or five, the simplicity of a picture book story may bore a child. They want more, but sitting and listening to a long story with no pictures is also not the solution. Enter the Bridge Books, short, easy-to-follow stories that are more involved, but still full of captivating drawings and pictures that keep a child’s attention. Like a picture book, no one expects an emergent or new reader to read these books on their own, but they provide a deeper and longer story than a picture book, and it’s no stretch to finish a chapter or two before bed every night.

Bridge books come in a wide range of abilities for both the very beginning reader and the more advanced. Perhaps the very first one to start with is Baby Monkey, Private Eye, by Brian Selznick. My four year old couldn’t get enough of Baby Monkey, and still loves to carry the book around, even though she can now decode the words. Baby Monkey, though shelved in with the graphic novels, is the perfect first reader – simple repetitive words, very short sentences, and full illustrations which are loaded with easter eggs. From Baby Monkey we went right to Selznick’s more famous story, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which is much longer but just as beautifully illustrated with pictures that capture the imagination – and ties into actual film history that you can find on YouTube for added bonus. The movie version of the book, Hugo, is just as wonderful.

Every child learns and processes information differently, and there is a bridge book for almost every type of learner. Some have color illustrations as clear as a cartoon, others well-rendered pencil drawings, to simple outline drawings or comic-book style artwork. Some are in full-color, others just black and white. Some have illustrations on every page, others every 2-3 pages. If your child is bored by one, let them choose the style of illustration they prefer. As always, nudge your child to go a little deeper into the story – can they predict what will happen on the next page? What would they do instead? If they were best friends with the character, what would they tell them? Draw a picture about the story. Make some toast for Mercy.

For early reading practice, give your child easy readers such as Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems, Dr. Seuss, or Pete the Cat, but for lengthening that attention span and jumping to the next level of story depth, check out these series of early Bridge Books to read with your child. The picture content is large and frequent, and unlike some of the more advanced bridge series, will not leave you weeping from unbearably painful story lines and prose (You know I’m talking about you, Purrmaids). You might just find yourself sneaking a read on your own!

Teen Book Reviews: Warcross & Call Down the Hawk

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from two teens who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

Warcross by Marie Lu. Reviewed by Ella K.

Warcross is a book perfect for teens and young adults who enjoy science fiction and future societies. The story is set in a world where a young fourteen-year-old boy, Hideo Tanaka invents a pair of highly sophisticated virtual reality glasses called the NeuroLink. The glasses work by tricking the brain into thinking what it is seeing is real. In order to market the product, Tanaka also creates a video game that can be played within the virtual reality construct. This game, called Warcross, involves two teams battling to steal the other’s gem, called an Artifact, while avoiding a series of obstacles and the other team.

Emika Chen, a struggling hacker makes money in the only way that she can with her criminal record, as a bounty hunter. After failing to get a $5000 bounty that would have saved her from eviction, Emika turns to that fake reality to escape her problems. In the process, she accidentally hacks her way into the Warcross international tournament and makes the news worldwide. After this display of talent in hacking into one of the world’s most secure systems, Emika is invited by Hideo Tanaka himself to visit his headquarters in Japan. He offers her a ten million dollar reward to discover the identity of a hacker, nicknamed Zero, who he believes is a threat to the entire NeuroLink system. Emika has to use her hacking abilities, wit, and deception skills in order to remain undercover and thwart Zero.

The creation of this science fiction world is a shift away from the dystopian works that most know Marie Lu for, specifically her work in the Legend series. In this story, Lu showcases her writing and world building abilities by creating a world that many video game players dream of. The book’s plot is enticing outside of the new society that the reader gets to experience. While the betrayals and spy work that the reader gets to experience is captivating, the addition of a romance seems cliche in the midst of the situation that Emika finds herself in. It is well written, but Emika has been a powerful and independent person for most of her life. Her troubled childhood ensured it. Her interest in a powerful man takes away from that aspect of her character in a way. Overall, this hardly takes away from the book, and some readers, particularly those interested in romance, will enjoy the addition.

4 stars.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater. Reviewed by Mia V.

Call Down The Hawk, the first book in the Dreamer Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater, is a spin-off from the Raven Cycle series, following Ronan Lynch. The original Raven gang has all been split apart due to college, with Adam studying at Harvard, Gansey and Blue taking a gap year to travel and Ronan going off on his own. In the second book of the Raven Cycle, we find out that Ronan can pull objects and creatures (such as his pet raven, Chainsaw) out of his dreams. This power is incredibly rare and powerful, which makes Ronan vulnerable to being killed by those who don’t approve of his power or captured in order to make use of this power.

In Call Down The Hawk, however, Ronan’s power seems to be acting strange. Ronan feels as if he is dying if he is not near the ley lines, or the Barn at all times. Ronan also finds he is being hunted again, as threats loom from all different directions. Ronan meets other people with similar dreaming issues as himself, such as Jordan Henessey, who battles her own fears and nightmares which manifest themselves in real life due to her powers. As Ronan runs from those who want him dead, he also tries to help Hennessey deal with her own issues with her power. Call Down The Hawk takes a break from the search for Glendower and instead dives deeper into Ronan’s power and his own personal struggles both with himself and with his family.

I would definitely recommend this book. I would especially recommend it to someone who has read the Raven Cycle and has loved Ronan. Ronan was one of my favorite characters in the Raven Cycle, so I was very excited when Maggie Steifvater’s new Dreamer Trilogy was released and was set to focus more on Ronan. Although I was expecting the book to take a different direction, I still found the plot interesting and exciting.

4 stars.

Teen Book Reviews: We Are the Ants and Zen and Gone

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from a teen who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

We are the Ants by Shaun Hutchinson reviewed by Ali A.

We Are the Ants is a book about a 16-year old boy named Henry Denton. Henry Denton suffers from depression because his friend Jesse committed suicide. It doesn’t help that Henry gets bullied at school and gets periodically abducted by aliens. Although it might be a delusion, Henry absolutely believes he gets abducted by them while aliens run experiments on him. In one of the abduction sessions, the aliens try communicating with him. They show him a button and say that the Earth will end in 144 days unless he presses the button. Henry at first decides he will never press the button because there’s nothing on Earth to live for. He argues that no matter what humans do they will die anyway and their lives would have been useless, so Henry might as well end everyone’s lives quicker. Henry asks everyone he knows about whether they would press the button or not. At school Henry gets bullied more than usual until one day a new kid shows up to class, Diego Vega. Diego and Henry instantly become friends, but Diego never talks about his mysterious past or why he lives with his sister rather than his parents. One day Henry is in the locker room when 3 bullies assault him and beat him up. Henry wants to kill himself and share the same fate with Jesse, but Diego is the only thing Henry looks forward to in life. Later in the book Henry and Diego are at a fair when one of the bullies tries to hurt Marcus. Diego gets mad and punches the bully, which sends Diego to court. I’d rate this book 2/5 stars because of the terrible plot and ending. The author never says if the alien abductions are real or mere hallucinations, and the author never tells us if Henry pressed the button or not.

2 Stars.

Zen and Gone by Emily France reviewed by Ali A.

Zen and Gone is one of my all-time favorite young adult books. The novel takes place in Boulder, Colorado, and revolves around the lives of Essence and Oliver. Essence, a buddhist, is trying to take care of her little sister, Puck. Her mother works at a pot shop selling legalized intoxicants so she’s high and irresponsible most of the time and can’t give the care her children need. Oliver on the other hand is a kid with a mysterious past in Chicago. He was sent out to Boulder because of an incident involving his sister. Olliver rarely speaks about his past and feels sadness everytime he thinks of it. Essa and Olliver both take part-time jobs at a kite shop and become friends. Essa then invites Olliver to come with her other friends, Micah and Anish, to a hiking trip in the Rocky Mountains. Things start to go wrong when Essa and her friends realize that Puck stowed away on the trip to join them. Essa decides to bring Puck back home and cancel the dangerous expedition through the woods, especially when she finds a creepy guy roaming the woods in the dark, but it starts to thunder so they have to find shelter. Things go EVEN MORE wrong when Essa wakes up at 3:00 AM and discovers that Puck and Oliver are missing. However, Oliver comes back a few minutes later claiming that he was using the bathroom. Essa and her friends search everywhere in the woods, but can’t find Puck. Did this have anything to do with the strange man they saw earlier? Or did it have to do with Oliver, who she had just met a month ago? Plus, she barely knew anything about his life in Chicago, or his sister’s incident. Brilliant, touching, and spooky, Zen and Gone is the perfect book for readers who love adventure books and mysteries.

5 Stars.

Teen Book Reviews: Anger is a Gift and The Hate U Give

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from a teen who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro, reviewed by Ali A.

Anger Is a Gift is about the life of Moss Jeffries, a black teen living in Oakland. When Moss was 10, his father was shot down by police officers because the police told him to put his hands up but he had earbuds in and couldn’t hear them. Since then, Moss and his mother have been quiet and haven’t attended protests for other black people dying due to police brutality. However in Moss’s sophmore year his school turns into a prison. Police officers roam the hallways and make random locker inspections for no reason. Although Moss and his classmates don’t like it, they still tolerate it.

One day the police order one of Moss’s friends, Shawna Meyers to come for a locker inspection. The officer ravenously searches through her locker until he finds a large bag of white pills in the back. The officer violently assaulted her so bad that she couldn’t explain why she had the pills in her locker. Finally after she could speak she said the bag was for her prescription medicine. The officer who assaulted her didn’t get in trouble though. Soon after that incident, the school added in metal detectors. Moss’s friend Reg is in crutches and says it’s too dangerous for him to go through the machine. He said he’d rather have a pat-down but when Reg told the officer this the officer picked up Reg and threw him through the detectors. The damage on Reg’s leg was so bad that he was told by doctors he might never be able to walk normally again.

After all this, Moss and his classmates feel like this is enough. They decide to make a peaceful walk-out protest where all students walk out of the school at a specific time. However the school is notified about this mini-protest so they order officers in full riot gear to prevent the students from walking out of the school. The officers used tear gas, portable grenades, and batons. One of the officers, James Daley, pulled out a gun and shoots at Moss’s best friend Javier. James Daley then runs off and hides from society. Moss is depressed and decides to chain himself to a pole until James Daley is persecuted. What happens next is beyond Moss’s imagination. Anger Is a Gift shows the cruel reality and harshness that black people have to face in their daily lives. If you enjoy this book, you should also check out The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (reviewed below).

4 Stars.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, reviewed by Ali A.

The Hate U Give is perhaps the best book regarding racism for teenagers. The story revolves around the life of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old who witnesses the death of her childhood best friend. Starr attends a predominantly white school to escape the threats of her black neighborhood. Because of this, Starr is always switching between her two worlds, the white world and the black world. In the white world, everything is peaceful and Starr can be happy and safe. However in the black world, Starr is constantly facing violence, gangbangers, and drugs.

Starr never gets high but finally attends her first party in her black neighborhood. At the party, Starr spots Khalil, her childhood best friend. Starr hadn’t seen him in six months but Khalil and Starr start chatting. However the party is cut short when a shootout occurs outside the party site. Khalil drives Starr home to be safe but as Khalil is driving home a racist white cop pulls them over. Starr is silent and looks down as the officer demands to see Khalil’s license, registration, and insurance just because Khalil is black. Instead of Khalil showing the officer his papers right away, he asks the officer why he pulled them over. The officer didn’t respond as the officer became more frustrated he shot Khalil for not listening. Khalil’s death becomes news across the country and the officer who shot Khalil is put under trial. Starr wants to get justice for her friend, but doesn’t know if she should raise her voice because of the danger and threats she may receive.

Angie Thomas did a marvelous job crafting this book because The Hate U Give shows readers how many black people get mistreated throughout America and why it is important to speak up for racial justice.

5 Stars

Teen Book Reviews: The Unwanteds and Lord of the Flies

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from two teens who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, reviewed by Claire J.

Upon being asked what book she is most thankful for, my cousin responded with the book The Unwanteds. She said the book appealed to her, as she related to many of the Unwanteds. The book allows people who couldn’t embrace their creativity an environment to thrive. When I read it, I liked how people did not have to suppress their hobbies. They had no rush to become serious and become an adult. I like the childish aspect of the book. Most of all, I really liked that the book gave people who felt out of place for the entirety of their lives a place to embrace their identities. I also just wish I had a place where I could also escape from reality and embrace my own creativity as the main characters did.

When asked about who my cousin’s favorite character was, she said her favorite character was Mr. Today, the man that saves everyone from death. I would have to agree. I want to be like him in the sense that I also really wanted to help others. Since I feel that my passion and dream is to provide whatever I can to help other people thrive, Mr. Today is an important factor that contributed to this dream. I also liked his wacky sense of fashion, as I also like to experiment with my own clothing. When he was killed in the series, I was so upset. I don’t approve of the main character taking Mr. Today’s position. Before anything else, the book had simply just brought me a lot of joy while reading it. I am the type of person who becomes immersed in their book, so I enjoyed days I spent reading on my bed, enjoying the contents of the book. Overall, I really enjoyed this read.

5 stars.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding, reviewed by Ali A.

In my opinion, Lord of the Flies by William Golding is the greatest classic book written. The book is about a group of schoolboys who get stranded on a desert island during a world war. However, all of them are scattered around the island. The main character, Ralph, finally finds another chubby boy named Piggy. Together they find a conch shell and blow it to summon all the boys to them. They hold a meeting and make rules for the island, assign jobs, start a fire, and elect a chief. Ralph ends up winning the role of chief, but makes Jack, another important character, a co-leader. At first the community is peaceful and law-abiding to the rules, but soon problems occur.

One of the problems was that the people assigned to keep the fire going on the mountain weren’t doing their job, and neither were the hunters. It is vital that the fire burns at all times, because the fire sends smoke into the air for ships to see them. The hunters were also not able to catch any meat, so Ralph thought they should give up hunting and instead help with other tasks, such as building shelters. However, Jack and the hunters continued to hunt and come empty-handed. Although it was frustrating for Ralph, he kept his cool and decided to just call more and more meetings. Then a little boy with a mulberry birthmark says that he sees a vicious monster on the island, and soon he goes missing. This injects terror into the community and more and more people say they saw the “beastie”. Finally one day a ship goes by the island. Ralph is excited for a potential rescue, but it turns out the signal fire on the mountain wasn’t burning! Ralph quickly went to light it again but the ship had already passed. All the people who were supposed to keep the fire going were out hunting and they finally killed a pig. Ralph and Jack got really mad at each other and Jack ended up slapping Piggy. Then one night military planes fought in the air and a dead parachutist falls onto the island. When two twins wake up to help light the signal fire, they notice the dead parachutist tangled in rocks. From far, the twins think the parachutist is the beast and they run to warn the community. Jack and his hunters decide to hunt the beast but can’t find it so Jack, Ralph, and Simon decide to try again and they too spot the dead parachutist. Just like Sam and Eric, they think that the dead parachutist is the beast so they confirm to the community that the beast is real.

Tension starts building between Jack and Ralph, so Jack decides to make his own “tribe”. Jack gathers his hunters and makes his own tribe where he’s the chief. Ralph’s group was based on peace, survival, and rules whereas Jack’s was based on hunting, violence, and dictatorship. The events following this cause mass destruction, corruption, and killing. This is my favorite classic book because the actions on the island resemble the actions in society. Countries usually start at peace with each other, but after a few wrong and cruel actions, they can cause hatred and warfare between them, just as Jack’s tribe did to Ralph’s community. Although this book did end with a cliffhanger, you can read a book called The Second Flight: A Sequel to Lord of the Flies by Elizabeth Blackwell to continue the story.

5 stars.