Friday, January 4, 2019

Mini Reviews [21]

A Flicker of Hope by Julia Cook, 
MacKenzie Haley (Illustrator)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): HOPE is our children's window for a better tomorrow. In terms of resilience and well-being, hope is a critically important predictor of success. This creative story from the best-selling author of My Mouth is a Volcano!, and Bubble Gum Brain, reminds children that dark clouds can be temporary and asking for help is always okay. We all have times when we need to borrow a little hope from someone else. When your clouds get too dark, and too heavy to push away, Reach out and ask, "Can I borrow some light?" "I'm having a really bad day."

It's always okay to admit to yourself, "I just can't do it today."

Everyone needs somebody sometimes, to help them find their way.

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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product. 

A Flicker of Hope is a children's book, although I think the writing is for an older audience. It might be a good teaching book, but it didn't really work reading it one-on-one with my son. I always ask him what he thinks about a book when we finish, and what he enjoyed most about the story. The only thing he could really say about A Flicker of Hope was that he liked the candles, and wanted to know why his birthday candles didn't die when their flames went out.

In the book, one of the candles is feeling sad and having negative thoughts, so her candle is dimmed and dull. Another candle comes along to give her hope, which effectively brightens her light. However, the other candle starts talking about everyone having gifts, and how candles without a light are no longer able to share theirs. It was a good lesson in personification, but the deeper messages were lost on him.

I think A Flicker of Hope addresses important issues about depression and touches on mental illness, encouraging people to ask for help when they feel down, but it doesn't mention someone needing more than a friend. Yes, you should continue to ask for help, but sometimes that's not enough. Maybe the book could have encouraged readers to seek medical help? Also, essentially telling a person not to kill themselves, or let themselves die because they have "gifts to share", might not be the best approach. A person having negative thoughts and feelings is likely unconcerned with what they have to offer the world. 

I believe the wording was too wordy at times, and the story wasn't presented in a way that younger children would easily comprehend. I think a few of the pages could have been removed (like when the second candle essentially repeated everything the first candle said at the beginning), and the story could have been simplified for its target audience.


Ida and the Whale by Rebecca Gugger,
Simon Rothlisberger (Illustrator)
Expected publication: April 2nd 2019
Synopsis (via Goodreads): What lies behind the sun, the moon, and the stars?

Ida can’t stop thinking about these and other very important questions. Then one night, a flying whale wakes her and takes her on an amazing journey—where some of her questions are answered and even more created.

This gentle, philosophical tale is a visual treat sure to fill curious little listeners with wonder. 

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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product. 

The illustrations were lovely! I think Simon Röthlisberger did an amazing job bringing Rebecca Gugger's words to life. The story felt a little random and nonsensical, but there were a few memorable moments. The whale takes Ida on an incredible journey, and shares bits of wisdom along the way. "Some quicker, some slower, but all of us grow." I thought it was an enjoyable story that my children could understand and relate to. However, now my son wants a whale to show up at his window to take him on an adventure!


Shhh! by Barroux
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Night falls…It is late. Close your eyes. Time to sleep. This wonderful bedtime story from the masterful illustrator Barroux takes you on a journey through a child’s imagination to a series of dreamy landscapes where animals ready themselves for sleep. The simple, lyrical text and charming illustrations will gently lull even the most reluctant sleeper, providing a calming way for parents to say goodnight.


Listen to the world gently slowing down, then stopping. A whimsical moon character tiptoes to the sky. Shhh! A boy imagines his stuffed animals winding down for bedtime, one by one. Visit a dozing polar bear on an ice floe; a lion in pajamas brushing his teeth; tired giraffes resting their sleepy heads on clouds; a whale singing a soft, beautiful song; a whispering elephant; a yawning hippo; a toucan counting sheep; and finally, the sheep themselves, who are waiting for the end of the story. Time to sleep now. It is late.

With gently humorous text and enchanting imagery that will soothe both little ones and their adults, this bedtime story will quickly become a family favorite.

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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

The synopsis for Shhh! is longer than the actual book. It's also a little misleading, because it didn't soothe me or my children. They were still bananas after reading this story, although they did enjoy it. My daughter liked pointing out the animals and making their sounds, while my son thought it was funny to see a lion brushing its teeth. 

However, the story felt choppy and didn't flow from page to page. There were very few words, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I felt disconnected from the overall story. It was just me turning pages and saying words, instead of feeling like we were a part of the story.

21 comments:

  1. A Flicker of Hope sounds like a good teaching book. I like that there are books out there about this subject matter for younger people.

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    1. There was a page at the end with information and talking points, so that was nice, but I think it was lacking something overall. I could understand what they were talking about, but the candles didn't feel real, so I'm not sure children will relate to them even if they're feeling the same way.

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  2. A Flicker of Hope sounds good-intentioned if not quite aimed at its target audience. And the artwork looks beautiful. Ida and the Whale sounds fun. Still giggling about your little now wanting a whale to coming swimming by for him. :)

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    1. I think A Flicker of Hope does have good intentions, but it doesn't quite deliver. It's good for kids to know they have options, and that they should seek out help, but I'm not sure the story conveyed that information in the right way. If a child is feeling depressed or suicidal, they shouldn't just ask anyone for help, but an adult or a medical professional. Their feelings could get worse if they continuously ask other children for help and are made fun of or ignored. I wish the book had been more specific and less wordy.

      Ida and the Whale was fun! A few of the pages were upside down, and the whale explains that sometimes you need to view things from another perspective. I love that my son has an active imagination, but I sometimes have to remind him that certain things are pretend and not real. ;)

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  3. The covers are really cute and the illustrations are beautiful!

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    1. Of the three, Ida and the Whale was my favorite! I liked how vivid the colors were.

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  4. Quotes: "he liked the candles, and wanted to know why his birthday candles didn't die when their flames went out." [...] "now my son wants a whale to show up at his window to take him on an adventure!"
    Awww. The second book reminded me of a Doctor Who episode LOL - there was this young boy who wanted to see a flying shark face to face (flying sharks existed in that reality), but his father wouldn't let him.

    I think writing for children is a very difficult task, especially if you want them to take something away from the story. It's a good thing that some authors are being a little more daring nowadays, but I suppose they sometimes loose touch with their intended audience...

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    1. I still haven't seen Dr. Who! It's on my list of things to watch this year. Do you think I'll be able to get through all of the seasons? How many are there now? Why wouldn't the boy's father let him see a flying shark? That sounds awesome, and I'm sure there had to be a safe way to view them, yes?

      I agree. Writing for children is difficult, because they have fewer pages (and words) to make an impact. I think there's a delicate balance they have to follow, to make the story interesting for children and also memorable or educational. Sometimes they're just fun! However, like you said, sometimes they focus too much on the story, and then lose touch with their intended audience. Some authors do it really well! Have you read any books by Bill Pete? We love him! :)

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  5. Ida and the Whale looks so cute! I totally understand your son's feelings of wanting to go on an adventure too. (That would have been me as a child!)

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    1. I love that he's so adventurous! I hope he continues to enjoy books as he gets older. :)

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  6. Thanks for sharing. Flicker of Hope definitely sounds like a good message, but not necessarily for that young of an audience, and it could have addressed more options for help, etc.

    -lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I think A Flicker of Hope had a lot of potential, but it didn't read like a children's book. I also think the author should have given the readers more information regarding who to contact when they feel depressed or negative. It basically says they should keep asking for help until someone says yes, but that person might not be in a position to offer them the help they need. For example, if they're asking classmates, they're not going to know what to do themselves, so the child is likely not going to get any answers.

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  7. Sounds like Flicker of Hope tried to do something good, but sort of missed the mark? Glad Ida and the Whale was a hit. Sorry to hear the Shhh didn't quite meet expectations either. Kids books are tough. I find a lot that I read to my grandson aren't all that great either. He still likes to be read to and likes bits and pieces of most of them. :)

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    1. It's really hard to find books for the kids that we LOVE! It's why we read so many from the library, because you never know what you'll find. If we stumble across a really good one, we almost always order a copy for ourselves. A Flicker of Hope had the right idea, but wasn't as effective as I think it could have been. <3

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  8. oh I know my daughter would LOOOOVE Ida and the Whale just because of the illustrations. She wouldn't mind if it's a little bit nonsensical LOL she loves whales!

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    1. Haha! I know my younger children prefer the pictures to the story, so sometimes I make up my own! :)

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  9. Ida and the Whale sounds like a lovely book and the fact the illustrations are so well done has me thinking it will be a good one for gift giving. Shhhh, on the other hand is one that I think I will pass on. Bedtime books really should have some soothing properties, shouldn't they?! I'll stick to my old favourite, Goodnight Moon. ;)

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    1. Ida and the Whale would make a wonderful gift! We also have some bedtime favorites! Two Sticks, Counting Crocodiles, Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night, and a few others. If you haven’t read any of these, I highly recommend them all! :)

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  10. I saw My Mouth is a Volcano! at the library last week, with my kiddos, and almost picked it up but then we grabbed some other books instead. A Flicker of Hope sounds like it was on the right path but just needs a few tweaks here and there. :)
    Jen @ Star-Crossed Book Blog

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    1. My Mouth is a Volcano? That sounds fun! I'll have to see if our library has a copy. :) A Flicker of Hope had the potential to be really impactful, but I think it fell short.

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless