Friday, July 29, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #33)

Author: Kevin Henkes 
Pages: 176
Age Range: 9+
Published: 2011 
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: ***
Rating: G

Alice Rice is on her way to Scallop, the small cottage by the Florida seaside that her parents rent every year to escape the harsh winters of home. This year is special; Alice will be celebrating her 10th birthday, double digits, the last birthday she can count using her fingers. And she knows it's going to be the year she finds a junonia, a rare spotted sea shell.

But when they finally arrive at the cottage Alice is disappointed to find that her neighbor Helen Blair is snowed in in New York, the Wishmeier's kids were too busy with school to make it this year and her mother's friend Kate (whom Alice calls Aunt Kate) is bringing her new boyfriend and his 6 year old daughter along. Alice's own family is small, just her mother and father, no grandparents or aunts or uncles or cousins and she looks forward to her adopted extended family visits in Florida. Now nothing will be the same.

She spends most of her days hunting for shells, watching birds, hoping to see dolphins and trying to entertain 6 year old Mallory. Mallory's mother abandoned her to move to France and Mallory hasn't adjusted well. She's moody and sullen and loud and a know it all and just plain too little. There are some misunderstandings and hurt feelings along the way but as Alice learns to see things from others’ points of view and to make occasional sacrifices she comes to understand how lucky she is and learns to feel empathy for the other girl. Ten is a lot closer to being a grown up and Alice is definitely maturing and well on her way.

This was a quiet, pleasant little book. Nothing overly dramatic or unique, nothing that stood out or wowed me but I found myself drawn into the simplicity of it, wishing I was with Alice on the beach; searching for seashells, watching the waves roll in and the dolphins frolic in the foam. There are images and labels of the various shells talked about in the book on the front spread which was a nice addition. I found myself referring it to now and again as I read. (I've never given much thought to the fact that seashells come in varying shapes and sizes, each with their own name.) Also the small illustrations in deep blue heading each chapter echo the waters of the ocean that set such a lovely backdrop for the story.  
Hand this to a child struggling with jealousy issues or having a hard time dealing with change.

Kevin Henkes is a jack-of-all-trades sort of character in the children's publishing world. He writes and illustrates picture books, writes juvenile fiction such as this and even has a YA title or two to his credit. I haven't loved his full-on fiction as much as I adore his picture books but the man is definitely talented.  If you're not familiar with his work, check out a few of my favorites:

Yes!! A book about Peeps! (though they  aren't technically called that in the story)

Have you read any Kevin Henkes books?  Which are your favorites?

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