Lola Levine: Drama Queen

lola

Lola Levine: Drama Queen

By Monica Brown, Illustrated by Angela Dominguez

 

Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (January 5, 2016)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review, there were three books in the Lola Levine Series.

 

 

A natural act.

Lola Levine: Drama Queen melds an outsize personality, acting lessons, and an easy cultural mix into one smooth play.

Our protagonist, the effervescent Lola, is precocious without being snarky. She’s kind and brave, even when she fails. She’s a witty thinker, which is a joy to read, and her family is quirky enough to be interesting and solid enough to be comfortable. They love each other, even when it’s hard. This little girl stands out in the chapter book crowd from sheer force of personality (and, maybe, volume of voice).

The book easily integrates cultures (in this case, both Jewish and Latino), something done too rarely in chapter books. We see this in the references to food and heroes (e.g., Dolores Huerta, farm activist), as well as in the inventive use of the epistolary format. Lola both writes letters—real letters, not texts or emails—to her bubbe in Florida, as well as keeps a diary. Each diary entry begins with “Dear Diario,” and ends with “Shalom.”

There is fun, smart wordplay used throughout the book. Classic growing-up moments are introduced with precise timing and subtle context within the story (think bubble gum, hair, and scissors). And acting lessons, such as improvisation games and role playing, are introduced in ways that let Lola’s personality shine.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

 

 

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Year One Re-Post #5: Ava Tree and the Wishes Three

Originally published in December 2013. This quiet, elegant little book has resonated with me through the months.ava tree cover

AVA TREE AND THE WISHES THREE

By Jeanne Betancourt, Illustrated by Angela Dominguez

 

Published by: Feiwel & Friends; First Edition (March 31, 2009)

Available in: hardcover, Kindle, NOOK

 

 

Wishful thinking… what an intriguing premise.

Ava Tree and the Wishes Three is a solid chapter book with some big concepts packed into sweet, bite-size bits.

One unique aspect of this story is its configuration: there are three parts, each with five chapters. The action takes place over three days, with each part one day. I love that this lets the chapter book reader tackle something a touch longer and more complex than they might be used to. The three parts gives the reader goals within the book, so it might not seem overwhelming.

The story also tackles the death of parents. Although this is handled gracefully and with true empathy throughout, this fact is boldly revealed on page one. I admit to being slightly shaken right away. But once the story evolves, as much as this is sad, the author doesn’t exploit this tragedy, but rather holds and examines it carefully.

The plot is somewhat complex—as one would expect with a story that supports three separate parts—but is explained with plain repetition at just the right times. No child will be confused by this complexity. In fact, the depth of this story is one of its winning factors.

The warm, slightly boxy illustrations bring a light, welcoming feel. And the use of magic, rabbits and mean boys play into a world into which children can sink with comfort, even while digesting some uncomfortable sides of life—and death.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Wishful Ava Tree

ava tree cover

AVA TREE AND THE WISHES THREE

By Jeanne Betancourt, Illustrated by Angela Dominguez

 

Published by: Feiwel & Friends; First Edition (March 31, 2009)

Available in: hardcover, Kindle, NOOK

 

 

Wishful thinking… what an intriguing premise.

Ava Tree and the Wishes Three is a solid chapter book with some big concepts packed into sweet, bite-size bits.

One unique aspect of this story is its configuration: there are three parts, each with five chapters. The action takes place over three days, with each part one day. I love that this lets the chapter book reader tackle something a touch longer and more complex than they might be used to. The three parts gives the reader goals within the book, so it might not seem overwhelming.

The story also tackles the death of parents. Although this is handled gracefully and with true empathy throughout, this fact is boldly revealed on page one. I admit to being slightly shaken right away. But once the story evolves, as much as this is sad, the author doesn’t exploit this tragedy, but rather holds and examines it carefully.

The plot is somewhat complex—as one would expect with a story that supports three separate parts—but is explained with plain repetition at just the right times. No child will be confused by this complexity. In fact, the depth of this story is one of its winning factors.

The warm, slightly boxy illustrations bring a light, welcoming feel. And the use of magic, rabbits and mean boys play into a world into which children can sink with comfort, even while digesting some uncomfortable sides of life—and death.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….