Flash Review: Stargazing by Jen Wang

By Maureen Tai, 31 January 2021

Stargazing is Jen Wang’s sweet, engaging and heart-warming graphic novel about friendship, fitting in and forgiveness. Christine finds herself blossoming, thanks to her friendship with the gregarious, fun-loving and artistic Moon, even as Moon struggles to meet the expectations of their tightly knit Asian American community. When Moon becomes more popular at school however, their friendship is put to the test. After tragedy strikes, Christine must decide if she can rise above her guilt and insecurities and become the friend that Moon needs. Wang’s gorgeous illustrations, beautifully colored by Lark Pien, make Stargazing a visual treat even for younger readers (100 words).

Flash Review: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

By Maureen Tai, 24 January 2021

The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered. So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden. But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.

Annabelle

Set in rural Pennsylvania before the end of World War II, Wolf Hollow is a gripping and emotionally intense coming-of-age novel by Newbery Honor-winner Lauren Wolk. Twelve-year-old Annabelle’s idyllic, rustic life is upended by the arrival of the sadistic and duplicitous Betty Glengarry. To protect herself and a reclusive, war-scarred veteran from Betty’s escalating malice, Annabelle must trust her own instincts and act courageously – even by telling untruths – to fight for a justice that she alone believes in. Although the stark brutality is tempered by Wolk’s sparse, beautiful prose, Wolf Hollow is better suited to older middle graders. (100 words)

Flash Review: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pēna & illustrated by Christian Robinson

By Maureen Tai, 17 January 2021

He wondered how his nana always found beautiful where he never even thought to look.

CJ muses in Last Stop on Market Street

Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street is a beautifully written picture book about appreciating diversity, finding happiness and helping those in need. On one of their weekly bus rides to the soup kitchen, CJ asks his nana questions about what he sees around him. His patient grandmother’s wise, kind responses help CJ come to appreciate differences and see joy and beauty in the everyday. De la Peña’s lyrical prose is a delight to read aloud, and Christian Robinson’s bold and bright collage-like illustrations will make younger readers itch to create drawings of their own lives and families. (100 words)

Flash Review: The Last Garden by Rachel Ip & illustrated by Anneli Bray

By Maureen Tai, 10 January 2021

Is it possible to write a book review in 100 words or less? Absolutely!

For 2021, we’re challenging ourselves to publish every week, bite-sized reviews of big, heartfelt stories that stay with us and that we hope will stay with you too. Kicking off with The Last Garden, a charming debut picture book for both its author and illustrator.

The Last Garden is local author, Rachel Ip’s gently thought-provoking picture book about wartime gardens and the enduring power of nature. Younger readers will be charmed by Anneli Bray’s sumptuous illustrations and the story of a city’s last garden, lovingly tended to by a little girl even as blackened buildings and smoke-filled skies surround it. As the fighting intensifies, the city’s residents are forced to flee, and the garden is abandoned. When peace, and the girl, finally return to the garden, a delightful surprise awaits! This poignant, yet hopeful story will spark discussions about courage and resilience during challenging times. (100 words)