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.
I’m not sure if Tom Leveen’s Party is even still readily available (Random House, $8.99), which is too bad because this book really impressed me. Each of the 11 chapters is narrated by one high school student, who is either going or perhaps avoiding going to an end of the year party. I’ve said this before, but I’m always a fan of these types of merry-go-round narrative books, when they are done well, and Leveen’s is. Reading various perspectives about the same events is a reminder of how differently we see the world, even when we’re standing right next to each other. Despite it’s seemingly innocuous theme, Party deals with a lot of complex issues: Islamaphobia, losing a parent to cancer, race, and depression. I definitely cried several times, especially in the first and last chapters. But don’t think that this book is all depressing either. There are a few funny moment, a bit of romance, and a reminder that best friends are always there for you, even if they haven’t been there lately. Furthermore, Leveen really magnifies the variety and multiplicity of teen voices. I’d love to see this book get more attention.
I had planned on discussing Seasons by Anne Crausaz on the first day of Spring (Kane Miller, $15.99). But dammit it feels like spring now! However, believe me, I am well aware that around here spring in March does not guarantee spring in April. Seasons, as you might expect, moves through the four seasons of the year, starting with, “Everything is green. It must be springtime”. The text is fairly simple, but flows nicely from one season to the next, “Fireflies, like flying stars. Summer has arrived!” . . . “The colors have changed. Autumn is here.” . . . “Now the fog is so think it’s hard to see. It’s winter.” . . . “Because soon, the flowers will start growing up through the snow, ready for // spring.” Moreover, the illustrations are remarkable. The cover is a clear indicator of the illustrations inside the book. That bright, vibrant yellow, with the simple flowers and bird are lovely. Similarly, each page concentrates on one or two aspects of nature, allowing the reader to focus in on flowers, lady bugs, water, snails, and snowflakes. All of the children featured are shown engaging with and enjoying nature. From smelling the berries to playing in the leaves, the children are not simply watching the season pass, they are participating in the delights of each one.
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.