Book Review – The Good Son: JFK Jr. and the mother he loved by Christopher Andersen

I happily admit that I am part of the problem…I am endlessly interested in all things Kennedy. I really wanted to learn more about John Jr., and while I did, this was really a book more about Jackie and her relationships. Her relationships with her children, with the larger Kennedy family, with the many famous men in her life. A quick read, this book had the feel of an enlarged gossip column rather than a biography.

The Good Son: JFK Jr. and the Mother He Loved

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Children’s Book Review – Under the Freedom Tree by Susan VanHecke

History, told through poetry. What a wonderful way to tell the story! This true story of three slaves who were working building for the Confederate army. Knowing that they would either go back to slavery for the owner who had loaned them to the army, or that they would travel with the army farther away from their families, three men made a daring escape. They turned themselves in to the commander of the Union army, who then refused to return them to the Confederacy…since the state had withdrawn from the Union, it was no longer covered by Union laws. More slaves joined the three men, and soon there were enough people to form their own town…Slabtown. There, the people worked for the Union army during the day, and eventually they were paid for their work. Under the Freedom Tree, they learned of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The Freedom Tree still stands. The artwork is extraordinary…dark when the slaves are still on the run, lighter when there is hope. A stunning tribute.

Under the Freedom Tree

Children’s Book Review – Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Albie is one of those kids for whom life is a struggle. He isn’t one of the cool kids, he has a tough time fitting in at his new (public) school after being kicked out of his old (private) school, his mind gets fuzzy when he tries to do math in his head (or under pressure, like when the delivery boy is at the door), and his best friend ends up having to move after his family’s reality show becomes a hit. His folks hire a nanny to help out, and she gives him the support and room to just be himself…and to know that that is just fine. He is teased and bullied after he is not seen in the first episode of his best friend’s family’s reality show. His parents did not give permission for him to be on camera, so the production staff either blurred his face or shot around him. After that, no one believes anything he says. He tries to win back one of the first friends he made at the new school, a girl who has her own issues with being bullied for her stuttering. An engaging story about the tough time some children have just trying to be one of the crowd.

Absolutely Almost

Children’s Book Review – All Different Now: Juneteenth, the first day of freedom by Angela Johnson

The combination of Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis is almost too good to be true. The story of what happened the day slaves learned that they were now free is almost overwhelming. The enormity of this news and how it will change their lives…it is All Different Now. The arms raised in celebration, the quiet whispered prayers, the looks of love to each other and the far-off gaze that looks to the future are all so inspiring. E.B. Lewis’s paintings so accurately reflect the mood of Angela Johnson’s words. The end notes from both author and illustrator highlights the emotion that this topic generates.

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Children’s Book Review – The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Twin boys Josh and Jordan are kings of the basketball court, just as their father had been during his professional career. Written in free verse poetry, this novel draws the reader into the family right away. The boys have a problem when Jordan finds his first love and Josh feels left out. The twins usually do everything together, but now Josh does things alone, and he grows angrier as the book goes on. Things come to a head when Josh “passes” the basketball to Jordan too hard…Jordan is injured and knows that it was deliberate. The boys’ mother suspends Josh from the team (as assistant principal she can do that) and the family works to mend the rift between the boys. Everything else fades when their father is hospitalized and eventually passes away from a heart attack. It was hard to read this without breaking down! I became very involved with the characters…they were brought to life in just a few pages. An outstanding book.

The Crossover

Children’s Book Review – Malcolm Little by Ilyasah Shabazz

This picture book biography of Malcolm X is beautifully written by one of his daughters. In it, she tells the story, not of the man, but of the boy who was known as Malcolm Little. This young Malcolm grew up in a family of love, where education was prized, where kindness was an everyday occurrence, and where an appreciation of nature was always present. His parents instilled the values of tolerance, love and staying true to himself. Even in the hardest times, when their home was burned and they lost all possessions, the parents held the family together, showing brave determination in the face of hatred. Their life together was shattered when Malcolm’s father was killed, the depression hit and Malcolm’s mother was accused of not taking proper care of her children. The family was torn apart. Malcolm, however, had a strong connection to his parents and the lessons they taught. The writing and the beautiful illustrations show the strength of family and love that gave Malcolm his strong foundation.

Malcolm Little

Children’s Book Review – Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Milo and his parents are anticipating a quiet time during his winter break from school. Yet, amazingly, 5 odd guests arrive at their home/hotel, and soon things begin to disappear. The mysterious house, with plenty of nooks in which to curl up, seems to play a part in the story. The mysterious guests, who would seemingly be unrelated, are somehow connected. With the help of the unusual Meddy, Milo becomes involved in a real life role-playing game. An unusual plot premise which seems to work. Altogether, an enchanting story.

Greenglass House