In Natalie Kinsey-Warnock’s True Colors (Knopf, $15.99), Blue was found in a kettle on Hannah’s doorstep on December 7, 1941, when she was (probably) 2 days old. Hannah took her in, named her, and raised Blue on a farm in rural Vermont. As one of the few children in the town, Blue has always eagerly awaited the influx of summer visitors, including her best friend Nadine. During Blue’s tenth summer, however, everything changes. First, Nadine doesn’t seem interested in any of their usual summer activities. Second, Blue finds clues about the mother who left her behind and dreams about leaving town to find her family. Third, the editor of the local paper invites Blue to contribute a weekly column. The more she starts to research her town, the more she discovers that everyone is not who she thought they were. When Hannah has an accident, all of the people she has supported over the years step up to help Hannah and Blue. When Blue’s life is endangered, once again the neighbors are there, and Blue discovers that family is closer than she ever realized. Blue is a great character and her frustrations with Nadine are very realistic. Blue is just at the cusp of stepping outside herself, awaking to the existence of her community, and noticing (and appreciating) the people around her. I cried my little eyes out while reading the final few chapters and the quilted cover, which evokes the range of quilt references present in the story, is excellent.
Woo hoo! Sara Pennypacker’s latest book in the Clementine series is now available (Hyperion, $14.99)! These books, illustrated by the incomparable Marla Frazee, are my top recommendation for any early reader, who is ready for chapter books. Clementine and the Spring Trip is the 6th book in the series and there is due to be one final installment. Clementine, the first volume, is still my favorite, but this new one had me giggling all the way through. Clementine has the most delightful perspective on the world around her and I love love love that the adults in her life (parents, teachers, even the principal) recognize her uniqueness and support her, even when she’s challenging them. As many times as she has been sent to the principal’s office for not paying attention, the principal pays close attention to Clementine. Her parents encourage her to expend her energy in constructive venues (art, building projects, growing a garden) and never try to stifle her creativity. Her mother, the artist, and father, the building superintendent, have found happiness in their own lives and therefore are comfortable helping Clementine find her happiness. I admire the lack of DRAMA in these books, even as they are delightful to read and filled with clever stories and narratives. Pennypacker is excellent at recognizing the priorities of a third-grader (spring trip? great! but, not on bus 7, it smells!) and Frazee adds a tremendous amount of insight as well as humor into her illustrations: the image of the class gagging at the mere thought of riding bus 7 is perfect! Can’t wait for the final book. No! Stop! I don’t want this series to end!
In The Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies (Sandpiper, $5.99), siblings Evan and Jessie usually get along. But when Jessie, younger by 14 months, skips third grade and winds up in Evan’s class, Evan needs a break from his little sister. The more he tries to get rid of her, the more she tries to prove that she’s not just a little kid. Misunderstandings pile up and soon the two are in an all-out battle to see who can make the most money selling lemonade during the final heat wave of the summer. The stakes are high, pride mostly, and in this war, it’s winner takes all. Evan has the people skills, the friends, and the gumption. Jessie has the math skills, the strategies, and the organization. Evan needs to not feel dumb next to his younger sister and Jessie needs to learn how to make friends and connect with people. This war might be exactly what both kids need to discover a little about business, step outside of their comfort zones, and learn not to take each other’s gifts for granted.