"Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy" by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes; $15; Chronicle Books (ages 6-9).
Charlie and Mouse's grandfather, Grumpy, comes to stay for the weekend in this charming chapter book for early readers, the second in a series. Charlie, who is getting big, and Mouse, who decides he is "getting medium," delight in having Grumpy around to pounce on, watch a not-too-scary movie with inside a blanket fort, and fix hot dogs and pizza. They're sad when Grumpy has to pack his bag to go, which is actually one of the best things about this book. It's okay for kids to be sad, and I applaud author Laurel Snyder and illustrator Emily Hughes for showing that beautifully. And for leaving the door open for Grumpy to come back. He forgot his toothbrush!
"Real Friends" by Shannon Hale, artwork by LeUyen Pham; $13 paperback; First Second (ages 8-12).
Young readers who loved the best-selling graphic novel memoirs "Smile" and "El Deafo" will be instant fans of "Real Friends." Though white, Mormon, 1980s Salt Lake City is very different from multicultural, high-tech, contemporary Silicon Valley, Shannon's experience finding and keeping a best friend, and dealing with the ins and outs of "The Group" are easily identifiable for anyone who's been a schoolkid in oh, about the last 100 years. Shannon deals with anxiety, as well as bullying from peers and an older sister. She doesn't always do the right thing and she's not the popular leader her friends Adrienne and Jen are. Not everyone can be! Shannon does, however, have the imagination of a budding writer: she devises elaborate stories to play with her friends. LeUyen Phan's stunning artwork in "Best Friends" helps the reader feel what Shannon is going through. A helpful Author's Note explains more about Shannon's elementary school years, and encourages kids to "hang in there."
"Slider" by Pete Hautman; $17; Candlewick Press (ages 10-14).
David Miller says he has a boring name and an ordinary existence as the middle child stuck between a straight-A older sister and an autistic younger brother. David does acknowledge that he is good at eating massive quantities of food —especially pizza — fast. His hero is San Jose's Joey Chestnut, the perennial Nathan's Hot Dog champion. There's money to be earned in competitive eating contests, and David needs to win one because he accidentally put $2,000 on his mom's credit card. Oops.
David trains for the Pigorino Bowl, held at the Iowa State Fair, for a month: eating heads of cabbage, bowls of spaghetti, and lots and lots of pizza. While stretching his stomach he also takes care of his brother. Turns out he's pretty good at that, too.
"Slider" has plenty of gross-out humor and eating challenges, as well as an unsolved mystery, to keep kids turning the pages.
"You Bring the Distant Near" by Mitali Perkins; $18; Farrar Straus Giroux (ages 12 and up).
Three generations, six women — each a unique blend of Bengali and American cultures, and all with stories to tell. "You Bring the Distant Near" is a special novel of the American experience, one with much to say about families, immigration, prejudice, fitting in, growing up, learning, loving.
The book begins in 1973, just before the Das family immigrates to the U.S. to a primarily black New York neighborhood that Tara and Sonia's Ma, Ranee, considers an unsafe stepping stone in their American journey. The girls make friends and learn to code-switch between languages and cultures with help from TV (for Tara, aka Marcia Brady) and books from the library (Sonia). Ranee badgers her husband, whom Tara and Sonia adore, to make enough money so the family can move to New Jersey. They do make it out. Then tragedy hits, followed by the first big laugh of the book, which involves a young hippie priest.
Ranee holds tight to her biases as she settles into the life of a Bengali widow living in America. Her daughters grow up, find partners and careers, and have daughters of their own. The family now includes black in-laws. Gradually Ranee eases back into her daughters' and thus granddaughters' lives. Some of the biggest changes (and laughs) come when Ranee becomes an American citizen. She wants to "look more American," too, and that to her means wearing muumuus. Then she returns to her old New York neighborhood, not the same person she had been decades before.
It is no surprise that this young adult novel by East Bay author and Stanford alumna Perkins was longlisted for the National Book Award. "You Bring the Distant Near" should find a wide audience among teens and adults in Silicon Valley and beyond. (Disclosure: I am proud to consider myself a friend of Mitali Perkins.)
This story contains 931 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.