MMGM: Bucket List Books For Kids

I think there is never a bad time to make a bucket list for your life. We make one at the New Year. We make one for the summer. For things we want to do for the holidays. They help us to see our goals and achieve them.

My kids and I have been talking about bucket lists, and they’re making one of things they want to accomplish for the upcoming school year.

In the spirit of Bucket Lists, I wanted to highlight two Bucket List books I find so adorable and the perfect way to show the concept to children if they are interested in the idea.

judymoody

Publisher’s Description:

Drumroll, please: Judy Moody is about to become a poop-scooping, hinny-riding, one-girl band extraordinaire as she takes on her very own Bucket List.

Judy is visiting Grandma Lou one day when she accidentally finds an uber-mysterious list of activities — a Bucket List! Which gives Judy an idea: How rare would it be if she made her own way-official bucket list of all the things she wants to do—before she starts fourth grade? Pretty soon Judy is off and running trying to cross off all her items: learn to do a cartwheel, invent something rad, go to Antarctica (the real one), ride a horse—the list goes on. But what happens if Grandma Lou achieves everything on her list? Does that mean she’ll be ready to . . . kick the bucket?

Seriously, Judy Moody has been a part of our lives for years. We’ve read them all, multiple times. Out loud and for silent reading. Judy is so lovable in all of her true humanness and ability to make mistakes and learn from them.

This book is  little different for Judy though, because she’s worried about a big time thing: maybe her grandma is dying? Why else would she make a bucket list if she wasn’t?

To prove to herself that bucket lists can be for everyone, she makes her own and comes up with creative ways to check items and experiences off of her list. Luckily, her little brother Stink is by her side.

Megan McDonald doesn’t disappoint with this latest Judy Moody book. Judy is growing up, thinking more outside of herself, and we find out more about her relationships outside of her core family.

Recommend for fans of Judy Moody and for early readers who are wanting a bit more of a challenge.

bffbucketlist

Publisher’s Description:

Ella and Skyler have been best friends since kindergarten—so close that people smoosh their names together like they’re the same person: EllaandSkyler. SkylerandElla.

But Ella notices the little ways she and Skyler have been slowly drifting apart. And she’s determined to fix things with a fun project she’s sure will bring them closer together—The BFF Bucket List. Skyler is totally on board.

The girls must complete each task on the list together: things like facing their fears, hosting a fancy dinner party, and the biggest of them all—speaking actual words to their respective crushes before the end of summer. But as new friends, epic opportunities, and super-cute boys enter the picture, the challenges on the list aren’t the only ones they face.

And with each girl hiding a big secret that could threaten their entire friendship, will the list–and their BFF status–go bust?

This book is SO MUCH FUN!

It totally took me back to my tween days where there was so much going on. Old friends, new friends … boyfriends. Feeling like you can’t grow up fast enough, but please, can time slow down a little. So many emotions. So confusing.

So when these two girls feel like they are growing in different directions, they find a thing to tie them together and send them down the same path.

All of the items on the bucket list are good examples of things kids can do. I loved the random acts of kindness and facing their fears. Both things that are important for kids to practice in their lives.

Also, it’s okay to not be able to control everything and to accept changes and moments as they come. (Life-long battle, not just for teenagers)

The voice was amazing. The girls were funny and lovable (as were the side characters.) I wanted to spend my life at The Donut.

It’s rare to find a book that makes me laugh out loud and also feel like there is an important message and truth to it all. Dee Romito hit all the right notes with this one and I am recommending it to any tween girl I know.

You can go to her website and make a bucket list of your own. There are different types of bucket lists, like I mentioned above, and then ideas you can click on to add to your list, or build your own.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead, read these books, and make your own list!

MMGM2

This is part of Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on her blog. There’s so many other fun reviews linking up so go check them out!

MMGM: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

littleprince

With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

Truthfully, I had a whole other blog post written for today, but I watched the new Netflix movie of The Little Prince with my kids, which inspired me to revisit the book (which is quite a quick read, even when you let the words repeat and sink in).

I read this book when I was very young, and then again when I was just the average young. Now, my youngness (I know that’s not a word) is slipping from me and I see the story differently.

Usually, I rave about Middle Grade on here and say, “read them yourself, read them to your kids!” This one is different for me.

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” – The Little Prince

The whole concept of this story, the most beautiful parts, were totally lost on my kids. Granted, they are very young, and maybe as teenagers they would get it a little bit more, but I’m not so sure this book is properly appreciated until you finally realize what it is Saint-Exupery is trying to say.

When you are turning 33 but you still cling to the magic of childhood and try to see the world through the eyes of your children. When you are all at once the pilot, and the little prince. You know what the rose means and what the fox represents.

But you know you still don’t remember being a child exactly right, even in your attempt to hold on tight.

I don’t want to be the adult who misses the elephant inside of the boa constrictor and only sees the hat. But, at the same time, I know that being a grown-up comes with wisdom, too, and that I wouldn’t love lines like this if I were still a caterpillar and not a butterfly:

“What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…”  – The Little Prince

So now, in rediscovering this classic, I am once again looking for the well in the desert. I am cherishing my relationships, and putting the work in. I am more earnest about the search for my inner child. I am looking up at the starry night sky, searching for what once was, and I will laugh.

“All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems… But all these stars are silent. You-You alone will have stars as no one else has them… In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night..You, only you, will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me… You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh”  – The Little Prince

 

 

What I’m Reading Wednesday: OLYMPICS! Picture Book Edition

The OLYMPICS! are a huge deal in our house. We love watching, cheering, and feeling with all of these amazing athletes. We’ve picked up a few picture books to help prepare for the OLYMPICS! and we enjoyed them so much I had to share.

There’s even a special book about Brazil we checked out to get to know the host country a little bit better.

Here they are in no particular order and with no review from me (aside from me saying here that the words were wonderful, the illustrations were lively, the books (both non-fiction and fiction) were inspriring and taught important life lessons.)

olympig

Publishers Description:

Just in time for the Olympics, a spirited, sporty romp about losing gracefully

Boomer the Pig has been training hard for the Animal Olympics, so when he loses his first race, he shrugs it off and cheerfully moves on. One event after another, Boomer keeps losing, and the frustration begins to get to him. But even after coming in last in every sport, there’s no getting this Olympig down. It’s just great practice for the Winter Games!

Cool comic book styling combines with classic picture book heart in this encouraging and hilarious story for every kid who’s ever been told “you can’t win ’em all.”

nadia

Publisher Description:

Nadia Comaneci was a feisty and fearless little girl who went from climbing trees in the forests of Romania to swinging into history at the 1976 Olympic Games, where she received an unprecedented seven perfect scores in gymnastics. But as readers will see in this first-ever illustrated picture book about Nadia’s journey to Olympic gold, the road from small-town girl to world-class athlete was full of many imperfect moments.       Expert illustrations that capture the energy and fluidity of Nadia’s exuberant gymnastic routines and referential back matter round out this inspirational story of determination and overcoming adversity. A perfect 10.

gisforgold

Publisher Description:

From the first games held in ancient Greece to the cultural extravaganzas of recent years, there have been some incredible and amazing events and milestones in the world of Olympic sports. Now in G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet, writer Brad Herzog showcases those athletes and events that not only set sports records but also impacted history and world views. Learn the meaning behind the five interlocking rings featured on the Olympic flag. Cheer on American Jim Thorpe as he won the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, only to lose his medals later. Read how the man dubbed as the “world’s laziest high jumper” won the gold in 1968 and later had a jump named after him. All these moments and more are brought to life in G is for Gold Medal.

8goldmedals

Publisher Description:

What does it take to win eight gold medals?

Napping away three summer vacations?

Eating enough broccoli to fill the back of a pickup truck?

Swimming the length of the Great Wall of China three times?

caillou

Publisher Description:

Clementine arrives at Caillou’s house wearing a blue ribbon. Caillou wonders how he could ever win such a prize. This gives Grandma an idea. She decides to organize backyard Olympic games with competitions like the heel-to-toe walk, the biggest smile or the silliest walk. In the end, everyone gets a ribbon — even Gilbert,for having the best purr. Caillou will learn that winning is not as important as having fun with his friends.

greek

Publisher Description:

You (the reader) are a small boy living near Athens during the mid-5th century B.C. Your father sends you off to school to learn about the arts and athletics. It is his hope that someday you will honor the family by competing in the Olympic Games. As you train and compete in the games you will get an insider’s look at what events are held, such as the pentathlon, running, and wrestling. After reading this book there will be no doubt in your mind that this is definitely a race you’d rather not run.

frog

Publisher Description:

Laugh out loud with this wonderfully funny and charming picture book story about frogs coming together from around the world to particpate in and celebrate their ‘Frog Olympics’.

The rhyming text is brilliant to read out loud at home or in the classroom.

Great for discussion starters about the Olympics and to talk about inclusion and how people, or frogs, of every size and ability can take part in the Olympics.


dreambig

Publisher Description:

Long before he became a professional All-Star basketball player, Michael Jordan had dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal—and with dedication and perseverance, that’s exactly what he did. This heartwarming picture book, written by Michael’s mother and illustrated by Barry Root, gives a rare glimpse into a sports hero’s childhood and emphasizes the role that good values play in success. An ideal companion to the New York Times bestselling Salt in His Shoes and releasing in time for the 2012 Olympics, Dream Big is an inspiration to all.

elympics

Publisher Description:

Get ready for figure skating, diving, slalom racing, and more–elephant style! X. J. Kennedy’s cast of spirited pachyderms compete for gold medals in the Elympics. This collection of fast-paced poetry will have you laughing and cheering as each new character strives in a different event. Some are as graceful as a bird. Other are as clumsy as a toad. Some crash land, but win by a nose. You never know what will happen when good-natured elephants throw their weight around and go for the gold medal.

touch

Publisher Description:

A biography of the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, from her childhood in segregated Albany, Georgia, in the 1930s, through her recognition at the 1996 Olympics as one of the hundred best athletes in Olympic history. Includes bibliographical references.

winners

Publisher Description:

Mia Hamm, American soccer champion and best–selling author of Go for the Goal, tells a true–life–inspired story of learning that winning and losing aren’t as important as being part of a team.

More than anyone, soccer superstar Mia Hamm knows the value of teamwork and perseverance. She shares this lesson, paired with energetic illustrations by Carol Thompson, in this motivational story perfect for soccer kids and their soccer moms!

brazil

Publisher Description:

Just in time for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, discover what it’s like growing up in Brazil with this fascinating, nonfiction Level 2 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series all about kids just like you in countries around the world!

Olá! My name is Marco, and I’m a kid just like you living in Brazil. Brazil is a country filled with beautiful rain forests, bustling cities, and world-class sports. Have you ever wondered what living in Brazil is like? Come along with me to find out!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

moon

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

My heart is just so full right now. I want to gush and gush about this magical book.

Kelly Barnhill has a natural fairly tale voice, one which pulls you in and envelops you in this magical setting and you can feel, hear, smell, taste and see everything around you. Barnhill built her world with a strong foundation and sturdy walls. The atmosphere in this book is so tangible, I felt like I had moved into the Bog. Or Protectorate. Or the treehouse near the castle ruins. Or the prison in the tower. Or the carpentry studio. Or a home that broke through the fog of sorrow and let the sunshine in.

I wanted to reach up to the moon and pull the tendrils down and drink and drink until, I too, would be enmagicked. I could feel the stars watching me. I could feel the Sorrow Eater coming. I grasped at the whispers of hope.

Even though I wanted to race through to the end to see how it would end, I read a paragraph, and then I read it a few more times. Then a few pages more, I had to stop again, and truly savor the words that danced through my mind like dream.

Each path the story took was one I would walk again and again, and when they converged in the end, I literally almost cheered out loud.

Somehow, I felt I was reading a story written at the beginning of time, but it felt so fresh at the same time. I knew my adult heart – the one who had mothered, had lost my own mother, had my ups and downs with believing – was learning from this story. Was growing and improving.

How amazing will this book be for children then? What an influence for good, without them feeling like they are learning a lesson. Lessons about doubt and hope. Growing up. Letting Go. Bravery and Courage. Love and Loss. But mostly love. These characters in this book give love so freely, but not naively, in such a way that is a good example to children today. To stand up for yourself against evil, but above all to love others and stand up for what is right.

The characters:

Xan, the woman who had made herself forget important memories, but who loved without boundaries. Luna, the girl who was discovering who she really was. The Madwoman who didn’t let sorrow or what other people thought bring her down. A Glerk, who was a Poet and a kind soul. An impossibly large, but actually tiny dragon who fits in pockets of jackets and hearts. Antain who was already great, but who turned out to be grand, in ways that truly matter.

I have no words to express how much I adore this book, because I’m still floating through the buzz of consuming Barnhill’s lyrical wonder.

There was not one thing I didn’t like about this book, and there are too many things to count that I adored. Instant classic in my home, a wonderful read-aloud, a savory silent-read.

At one point, one of the characters is talking about love (no specifics, don’t want to spoil), and the character says, “My love is boundless. My heart is infinite. And my joy expands and expands.”

As I read, I felt that way. My joy/attachment/love for this story expanded and expanded, and I never want it to end.

I’m linking up to more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Shannon Messenger’s blog so go check it out!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Distance To Home by Jenn Bishop

distancetohome

Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They’re headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.

This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?

Isn’t that the perfect middle grade cover? I am such a fan. And in this case, you can judge a book by its cover because this story is just as magical as the story suggests.

I so wish I had this book when I was young. I was such a baseball girl growing up. I played catcher and my claim to fame is playing a nine-game tournament the day I got my wisdom teeth out. I was all about A League of Their Own and Field of Dreams. Haha, but I digress, this book isn’t about my baseball playing days, it’s about Quinnen’s. And actually, of course, it’s about a whole lot more.

So many things to love about this book.

First, is Quinnen. Bishop really got inside her character’s head and I never felt like I left her the whole story. For such a young girl, she had a lot of turmoil going on. She’d just lost her sister, and we come to find out, her love of baseball is tied to that loss, and she’s really not sure she wants to or deserves to overcome it.

I think that’s a real portrait of grief that kids will relate to if they’ve gone through anything like this. I don’t want to give anything away, but Quinnen feels guilty about a lot of things from her sister’s last days, and she’s got to work through so many emotions before she’ll have some closure.

The fact that her favorite thing, baseball, is forever tainted, just makes everything even darker.

I loved watching the characters around Quinnen come together to teach teach her valuable lessons and strengthen her.

Another thing I love is the fact that Bishop shouts out to many books of my childhood through her character’s book clubs or memories. Nostalgia gets me every time.

The book alternates between Quinnen’s point of view in the present, with what Quinnen is going through now, and the past, showing us her relationship with her sister, both loving and strained (super true to life).

The present was mostly about baseball, the players that are staying with them, and Quinnen realizing everyone has their own problems and her heart still has room to love new people.

The past was where all the tension was for me, which was perfectly fine, the pacing of the book was like a baseball game and summer days, ups and downs, steals and seventh inning stretches …. but the past narration just had me wondering when that final moment would come. I knew her sister died, but as they kept moving through different scenes where I thought, “this is when it happens”, and it didn’t, I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how these sisters were going to end up.

This book has all the words, heart, subject matter and fun for middle grade readers and I would recommend reader’s to draft it into their bookshelves faster than a 90mph fastball.

 

What I’m Reading Wednesday: Picture Book Edition

These are the top four picture books we’ve been enjoying in our home this summer. There’s dozens more I wish I could highlight, so maybe next time, but here are my favorites.

thunderboyjr

Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.

But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name…a name that is sure to light up the sky.

National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie’s lyrical text and Caldecott Honor-winner Yuyi Morales’s striking and beautiful illustrations celebrate the special relationship between father and son.

My boys really liked this one, especially because it has a one-liner with a little potty humor. But they also liked the rhythm of it, they were immediately catching on and reading along. My oldest is named after his father, and after his father before him, so this made for interesting conversation in our home, how he wants to choose his own name now. I loved how it highlighted what the boy thought he was good at, connecting it to how he could name himself. We played this game after and it was a good spark for some creative thinking. The diversity of it was a plus, and also led to some cultural discussions. Definitely a re-readable book, loved it.

arewethereyet

Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat takes readers on the road trip of a lifetime!
“Are we there yet?” Every parent has heard this classic kid question on a long car ride–and after reading this astonishingly inventive new book (that even turns upside down for several pages!), you’ll never look at being bored the same way again.

Let’s face it: everyone knows that car rides can be boring. And when things get boring, time slows down. In this book, a boy feels time slowing down so much that it starts going backward–into the time of pirates! Of princesses! Of dinosaurs! The boy was just trying to get to his grandmother’s birthday party, but instead he’s traveling through Ancient Egypt and rubbing shoulders with Ben Franklin. When time flies, who knows where–or when–he’ll end up.

We read this before, during, and after a 12-hour road trip (each way) to see family. The words were so genuine, straight out of my kid’s mouths, I swear. But aside from the words, which are perfect, the illustrations were full of images to keep the kids busy, and they loved the twist of flipping the book upside down and sideways. Plus, time travel is always a win for my kids. They wanted to live in this book.

We’re huge Beekle fans in this house, so we’re happy to be continued fans of Dan Santat.

atribeofkids

When a young boy embarks on a journey alone . . .
he trails a colony of penguins,
undulates in a smack of jellyfish,
clasps hands with a constellation of stars,
naps for a night in a bed of clams,
and follows a trail of shells,
home to his tribe of friends.

If Lane Smith’s Caldecott Honor Book Grandpa Green was an homage to aging and the end of life, There Is a Tribe of Kids is a meditation on childhood and life’s beginning. Smith’s vibrant sponge-paint illustrations and use of unusual collective nouns such as smack and unkindness bring the book to life. Whimsical, expressive, and perfectly paced, this story plays with language as much as it embodies imagination.

This book is so peaceful and lovely. It’s quiet, so it wasn’t a huge hit with all of my boys, but my four-year-old loved to read it over and over. He loved the art and that each page connected to the next, with an idea or image. He felt so happy to make that connection. He also caught on to the fact that all of it was happening in their imagination, this tribe of kids, living in the wild. I know he didn’t appreciate the beautiful words like I did, but they were there, and they were dreamy.

bearandpiano

One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind. A moving tale of exploration and belonging from an exciting debut author-illustrator.

I have to say, I think this one is my favorite, even though I hate picking favorites, and am actually quite horrible at it. But all of my kids fell in love with this story, and so did I.

It was so well-written that it didn’t even feel absurd, a bear finding a piano in the woods and becoming famous over how talented he had become at playing it. The boys were rooting for him and when he went back to the forest, they were holding their breaths. Seriously, my kid’s reaction to this book was pure magic.

As were the illustrations. Every once in  while, a book comes along where I want to just frame every page and have a whole room in my house dedicated to the illustrations in this book. They were soft, and sparkly, and immersive, and exciting, and just, purely perfect. Sigh.

 

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

pax

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

Okay, so I’ll admit right from the beginning, this book has me feeling all sorts of conflicted.

When I finished reading the book, which definitely kept me riveted the whole time, the tension was high in just the rights spots and the story was, for the most part, well-paced, I was feeling high on the story for sure.

As I’ve let the story ruminate in my thoughts for a couple of days, there has definitely been a sifting of elements into a delicious pile I’d like to partake of again and a scraps pile I could’ve done without.

First, the words. Pennypacker, as always, did not disappoint in the prose category. There was never any doubt that I would fall in love with her words and they would make me FEEL something.

The characters. I loved Peter. I could feel that he’d had a tough life and he wasn’t close with his father. The things he’d learned from him were the things he hated most about himself. His connection with Pax was real and I turned the pages hoping he would make his way back to him.

I even really liked Vola. She was one of those characters who were so rough around the edges that when they show their soft center, you aren’t surprised, but you can’t help but smile. I think her and Peter were good for each other. Their time together ended too abruptly for me, even though I know he couldn’t stay there and leave Pax in his situation for too long.

Pax was my absolute favorite. This is the true genius of the book. Pennypacker writes from both Peter and Pax’s point of views and it’s when she writes as a fox that I lost my heart to the story. I’ve never met a fox, and I have no idea how they would think or feel, but when I was in Pax’s head, it felt genuine. Not since The One and Only Ivan have I felt so connected to an animal narrator.

The setting was a little underdeveloped, but I assume was intentionally so. Even so, I felt displaced at times. The theme of ‘war is the worst’ was a little overzealous. I prefer all things in moderation and would’ve received the message better if it was a little quieter. Although, I do understand that some veterans lives are completely consumed by their time spent in battle, so I don’t think it’s unrealistic, just heavy.

I did appreciate the ambiguous ending. I’m one of those readers who don’t always need it written out for me to the last second of happiness, or tied up in a neat bow. I love wondering about character’s futures, leaving room for more growth. Especially with Pax, none of the characters had reached a point where they had completed any sort of change in their lives. It was all just beginning.

I also think a lot of the book will go over the heads of young readers who read above their age group. But, the themes of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, anger management, sacrifice, growing up, wild vs. tame, and the bond between animal and man are important things for children to learn about or even recognize from the world around them.

One of the things that drew me to the novel, was the illustrations by Jon Klassen. There aren’t as many as I hoped for, but the ones that were there match the tone of the story and are a perfect compliment to Pennypacker’s words.

In the end, the things I liked about the book outweighed the things I didn’t, and I see why readers recommend it, just like I am now.

Worth the read.