Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Song for a Summer Night"

By Robert Heidbreder & Qin Leng
ISBN No. 978-1-55498-493-0

"Day's left the stage. Night's in the wings. The summer air sings what a summer night brings." In an age of books like "Go the F*** to Sleep" suggesting that already sleep-deprived parents let their children stay up waaaay past their curfews must be fighting words. But they are such lovely words. Those opening lines from this charming, beautifully illustrated lullaby of a book announce a contrarian kind of bedtime story about the promise, not of a new morning, but of the start of a day's end. When the children in this story break curfew to party with the cute creatures of the night (shy skunks, sparkling fireflies) they're appreciating the magic of a moonlit summer night many decades before they'll go gently into another, more sombre, good night. It's touching stuff.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"The World Without Us"

By Robin Stevenson
ISBN No. 978-1-4598-0680-1

It takes a certain kind of courage to publish a youth novel about suicide when even the mainstream media is still trying to figure out how to report on it without nudging depressed millennials in that direction. It takes even more courage (balls? gall?) to give your book the same title as another one about what the world would look if the virus of humanity were suddenly gone for good. Stevenson's book is all those things (ballsy, galling, torn from the headlines) - just not to everyone at the same time. Yes, the titling of an end chapter "The Point of it All" suggests a certain resolution to a tragic phenomenon. It isn't. Instead, its characters are the human beings behind the headlines. They never feel like stock characters or ciphers and their motivations - ultimately - are always about doing the right thing and making the world a better place for themselves and their loved ones, now and long after they're gone. That's a heady ambition in contemporary adult fiction. That Stevenson achieves it in youth fiction is a miracle. It's a smart, daring read.