Book review: Worry says What?

Worry says What? by Allison Edwards

I received a complimentary copy of this book from National Center for Youth Issues through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I feel like the mark of a truly great children’s story (be it a book or a movie) is how well it works for adults. Ideally, you want the story that you read as a kid to stay with you through your life, and not just to stay, but to have you coming back to it, discovering new meanings where you haven’t seen them before. More frequently (and all of us, adults, who’ve had to read too many children’s books or watch too many cartoons, will agree) you want a story that’s at least not so simplistic that it makes your brain slip into a coma.
Or sometimes you could get that special kind of story that speaks so well to kids, but also resonates with adults on every level. There is no secret hidden meaning – the meaning is usually right there in the title – and that’s exactly what we, as adults, lack sometimes: having a complicated problem laid out for us and not having to dig through layers of sub-plot and character development for the solution.

That’s exactly how “Worry says What” works for me.
And I say “works” and not “worked” because I’ve read this book over a dozen times. (that’s another mark of a great children’s book – if you, an adult, can read it over and over again and not start hating it) And every time it works for me; every time it reminds me that – long story short – it’s all in the head.

The hero of this story, a Girl, has been living with a monster named Worry. He torments her all day, every day – telling her she’s not worthy of success, she’ll never have friends, she should just give up and not try anything. Will the Girl really give up, or will she learn to stand up to the monster and fight?
Allison Edwards has really found a way to reach kids on their level without simplifying the hardships of anxiety. I’ve read this book to a few kids in the library, and they all saw how easy it would have been to succumb to Worry and how brave the girl was for fighting him. And they all came to the conclusion that the next time they see a kid who looks uncertain or worried, they will reach out to them without waiting for an invitation. Because kids and adults alike know how hard it can be to ask for help when you’re dealing with anxiety.
We can’t forget to mention the illustrations that are expressive and colorful. I think it was a wonderful idea to keep changing the look of the monster as the story progressed. The fact that Worry becomes diminutive and scared when the Girl finds her strength and fights him, really shows how a lot of our worries come from within, therefore we can battle them and win.

This book can serve as a wonderful introduction to living with anxiety for kids who aren’t sure what anxiety really is. It can help kids identify the symptoms not only within themselves, but in their friends.
And for adults like me, who have never had to deal with anxiety, but were suddenly, brutally faced with it, “Worry says What” is a great reminder that it’s all in the head.

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Book review: Baby teeth

BABY TEETH, BY ZOJE STAGE

I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I finished this book at the end of October, but then the worst period of my life  happened, and there was no place for books or reviews. Such a big break offers  an interesting perspective on several books that were read, but never reviewed.

“Baby teeth” obviously made a big impact on me, since it’s still fresh in my  mind. And my memory is BAD, like catastrophically bad, especially when it  comes to books, for some reason. I have a theory that my brain knows how much  I love books, so it wants to make reading extra special for me. Like, do you have a  favorite book, especially one with some twists and turns; and you wish you could  read this book again and be surprised by it like the first time? I actually CAN do  that!

Yet it appears there are some books that are too good to be forgotten.

“Baby teeth” contains not one, but two alternating POVs that paint a  devastating picture of a terrible mother-daughter relationship. I mean, most of us  have mommy and daddy issues, but this is some next-level shirt!

Hanna is the seemingly sweet, smart, precocious daughter of Alex from  Sweden and his wife Suzette. Hanna loves Alex so much that she wants to marry  him one day (she’s seven, so marrying her dad is… sweet? Nope, still creepy AF).  Too bad that stupid Mommy is in the way.

Meanwhile, Suzette was raised by an absentee mother whose neglect  bordered on abuse. Which makes Suzette all the more eager to be the perfect  mother and to raise a perfect daughter. She gives up her career to raise her  daughter, she’s pouring all her love and energy into Hanna – and Hanna can’t  even talk.

Obviously, as things unfold, we see that the relationship is fraught by more  problems from both sides, and it wouldn’t be out of place to use the phrase, Well  that escalated quickly.

I was debating whether to write a spoiler-free review – but even discussing the  book’s many achievements can be considered a spoiler. So let me just say that I  loved “Baby teeth” and this is one of those rare occasions where I would love to  get a sequel! The writing of debut author Zoje Stage is engaging and intriguing.  She’s dealing with a very sensitive subject and she doesn’t shy away from  exploring it, but she’s also not making it too over-the-top. This is the story that  seems completely realistic.

Five real stars for Baby Teeth!

AND NOW FOR THE SPOILERS!

From the beginning of Hanna’s narrative I was getting strong Omen vibes,  which was both positive and disappointing. Positive because I’m a sick weirdo  who loves me some creepy, murderous children. And disappointing because it’s  been done before and there aren’t too many ways to go with this character arc.

Or so I thought! It turns out that a masterful author like Zoje Stage can bring  the Omen type story down to earth, making it completely believable. What? You  don’t know what your kid is thinking, and don’t pretend like you do! In fact,  that’s one of the most hypnotizing and scary notions of the novel – you never  know what your kid is thinking, so how can you be sure that he’s not plotting  your violent death? Yeah, marinate on that thought for a while and you won’t be  able to sleep without locking your bedroom door.

Suzette’s horror is amplified by Hanna’s stubborn refusal to speak, and when  someone finds a way to communicate with Hanna, Suzette really wishes that she  could remain oblivious to what was happening in her daughter’s mind.

Speaking of which, my only issue with the novel was the choice of Hanna’s  imaginary (or was she?) confidant, the French Witch. I was so not on board with  this narrative choice, and that is what was giving me the Omen vibes, but the way  that this particular thread unraveled was, once again, quite believable.

And I loved that the parents followed through with taking Hanna to little kids’  loony bin, cause I was afraid that poor clueless daddy would rather ship off  mommy than part with his precious squirrelly girl. But no, common sense  prevailed, and that also set this book apart from the others of a similar nature.  Too often do the kids go unpunished for the terrible things they do, because  grown-ups feel the need to believe in a child’s innocence above all.

Which is why I want the sequel! Preferably when Hanna tricks the loony bin  into thinking that she’s been cured and goes on a revenge spree against mommy  and possibly daddy – I wonder how strong her love would remain after daddy  sent her away…

Book review: Mia&Co, vol.1

by Vanyda and Nicolas Hitori De

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Europe Comics through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Mia&Co is the first in (hopefully) a series of graphic novels about the life of Mia and her best friends. She’s just an ordinary teenage girl who gets along better with boys than with girls. The friend group loves hanging out together, playing video games and listening to music. This story doesn’t have any wild adventures, or magic, or vampires – and that is what’s so appealing about it. “Mia&Co” is a slice of life, a look at how us, regular folk, live our lives. And who would have thought that our lives could look so charming?

Mia is the only girl in her friend group, which instantly made me relate to her – I used to get along better with boys than with girls when I was younger. In fact, this whole friend group feels so relateable, the whole book made me nostalgic for my teenage years. I also used to play video games and listen to music with my friends; go to concerts; explore the city; try to venture outside the friend group, but always ended up going back.
The author does such a great job of making the characters feel real with just a few words, and of course the illustrations help tremendously. The color palette is very cozy, it makes the reading experience so relaxing.
Mia&Co is like a very chill episode of a teenage TV show, without any major drama, just some kids hanging out, enjoying life and each other’s company.
I really hope there will be more books in this series!

Death March Escape, by Jack J. Hersch

The full title reads – Death March Escape: The remarkable story of a man who twice escaped the Nazi Holocaust.
I would say “remarkable” is an understatement in this context. There have only been a handful of recorded cases of prisoners escaping from concentration camps during WWII and not all of those who managed to escape, ever made it to freedom. Many were hunted down, found and killed; many perished on their own, without food and shelter.
Which is why the story of David Hersch, a man who escaped a death march – got captured but somehow not killed – then escaped again – was taken in by kind and courageous people – and lived to tell his tale… is unbelievable!
And yet that is the story we are fortunate to read in this amazing book. I was going to say “wonderful”, but I’m always hesitant to use such words when talking about horrific events. Yet Jack Hersch, David’s son, wrote a truly wonderful book, in the way that it tells the full story without skipping details or minimizing the horror, yet it’s almost a light read. In other words, you can read this book and still sleep well at night, compared to reading some other books on the subject that leave you with nightmares for days and nights to come.
I loved the way that the book was framed as both the story of David’s life and time in the camps, but also as Jack reconnecting with his father. In fact, the idea of writing the book came to Jack after he happened upon a photograph of his father on the memorial website for the Mauthausen concentration camp. A photograph that Jack had never seen before, of a man who used to be his father before the horrors of WWII. This discovery prompted Jack on a quest to find out as much as he could about David Hersch, and in a way to find out more about himself.
I highly recommend this book to a variety of people! If you’re interested in WWII – this book is for you. If you’re interested in the Holocaust but are afraid of the more harrowing stories – this book is for you. If you’re interested in stories about the strength of the human spirit – this book is for you. If you’re interested in stories of survival against unimaginable odds – this book is for you.
Finally, if you’ve ever wondered if your family has any secrets or fascinating tales to tell – this book is definitely for you, as it will spark curiosity in you to find out more about your own family.