Reading through Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2014

When Kirkus put out its annual list of the best kids books of 2014, I immediately went to my local library’s site. I live in a very rural area of Nova Scotia, but the library system had 9 of the 10 I requested on their shelves! Their book buyer must be making good choices. I’ve been reading through the books, and a couple have stayed in my mind.

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin. Rain ReignThis is the story of ten-year-old Rose who describes herself as having “high-functioning autism.” She’s obsessed with homonyms and Rain, a stray dog her father found wandering in a rainstorm. The story is told by Rose, and the author does a super job of telling the story exactly from Rose’s point of view. There were a couple of things that bothered me a bit: a) each time Rose writes a word that is a homonym, she lists the others in brackets – ex. Rose (rows) – this device wore on me after a while; b) because Rose is on the autism spectrum, she tells her story very honestly and simply, and this led to a little less emotional oomph in certain sections than there might have been. There are undercurrents of potential abuse which are handled very deftly. Overall, I was totally invested in Rose’s very believable story.

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza, by Jack Gantos (a Kirkus Finalist).Joey I’ve read other middle grade novels by Jack Gantos, and apparently this book is the fifth and final book in a series about Joey Pigza who lives with ADHD, poverty and neglectful parents. Gantos captures Joey’s voice so well that I really wondered if he has ADHD himself or if he lives with a young person who does. Parts of the story are a little over the top in terms of wondering – could that really happen? But it’s funny, poignant and a little exhausting as the reader lives inside Joey’s “wired” mind, experiencing first-hand his sometimes sad and scary, but always exciting, world.

I have to put in a plug for a book that really made me giggle recently – Chip Wants a Dog, by William Wegman.chip In this photographic picture book, Chip, a well-dressed Weimaraner, wants a dog, not realizing he actually is a dog (probably because he dresses like a human). I’ve always loved Wegman’s books, and the expressive Weimaraners look so funny living like humans.

I hope your holidays will be filled with lots of time to curl up with a great book (or ten)! And I wish you peace, good health and joy in 2015!