The Bonaventure Adventures: Mabel’s Fables Book Review

The Bonaventure Adventures by Rachelle Delaney

 

mm

Canadian

Puffin Canada

May 2017

Middle grade

As a descendant of a famous Romanian circus family, Seb Konstantinov’s life has always involved skilled performers, animal acts and constant travel. But the once thriving circus has fallen upon hard times and its future is uncertain.

While his father, Dragan, attempts to modernize, Seb goes behind his back and applies to the prestigious Bonaventure circus school in Montreal. There’s only one problem: Seb has absolutely no circus talents. His dismal balance and failed acrobatic skills are a fact that both he and his father have long accepted. But Seb has hope, not only for his circus abilities but for the future of his family’s circus.

To his surprise, Seb is immediately accepted — without so much as a request to audition. As he makes his way from Eastern Europe to snowy Montreal, he soon discovers that the notoriously mean school “Directrice,” Angelique Saint-Germain, has motive for granting Seb acceptance. An old family friend of his father, she believes that Dragan is heir to a lucrative circus empire and that he will save the school from its own financial demise.

Unfortunately, Seb has no remarkable circus skill, nor the finances to help the school. What he can offer, however, is wisdom. As a self-proclaimed circus scholar, Seb knows the power of a story, and with his vision and storytelling abilities, he attempts to bring modernity to the circus and revive his family’s crumbling legacy.

Nicole’s rave: Despite being about the circus, The Bonaventure Adventures is really a story of friendship. Seb and his friends may not be your traditional circus performers, but they each offer a unique set of talents: Frankie does parkour, and her rough life has led to her unconventional acrobatic skills; Banjo, a boy with no internal compass, walks in everywhere late but has fantastic stories to share; and Seb is the scholar of the trio. This all comes in handy, when, through ingenious plotting and a bit of courage, they attempt to save the best circus school in the world.

Rather than over-the-top circus antics performed at lightning speed, Delaney opts for a slow, rhythmic unfolding of events and revelations. Her eloquent writing and attention to detail carried me through. Along with glimpses of Canada, I enjoyed the depth and nuance of The Bonaventure Adventures. Seb’s quest to understand his role in the circus is intertwined with the need to help his family, and inevitably the school itself. Plus, you can never go wrong with a lesson of belonging in one’s unique way.

While there is no thrilling adventure or crazy encounters in The Bonaventure Adventures, it caters well to readers looking for a quiet book about the power of friendship, family and determination. – Reviewed by Nicole Abi-Najem

Rating: 3.5/5

Age in store: 10

Perfect for fans of: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee StewartCircus Mirandus by Cassie BeasleyThe Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon.

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Kids Media Centre Post: Death in Children’s Literature

Here is an article I wrote for the Kids Media Centre critically analyzing the subject of death in children’s Literature.

http://kidsmediacentre.ca/2016/12/30/death-childrens-books-ever-soon/

 

UrP4fwuq1G3L+lCQHXVjJ4WD9n1O4!fHVzU32t1zotb2XltGqt5NH08Zg1lv!rMx0rUDeeqoUwC9Vrx87vEQ1LSjaF5npgVSlS9ewe+XLyc=  Do you remember when Charlotte crawled across her web and wrote “SOME PIG!” about her beloved Wilbur?

How about when Jess and Leslie discover the Bridge to Terabithia?

Both these children’s books bring us joy and fill us with nostalgia. While their scenes and special moments remain with us, they also contain one of the hardest and heaviest topics that make even adults stir uncomfortably: death.

Bridge to Terabithia book coverAnd yet, Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia are both stories that have endured within our cultural psyche and earned their place among the classics on our shelves.

Death may not seem like a topic we broach with children unless we absolutely must, but the pain of loss, the complexity of grief — simple as it may sound — is a part of life’s learning process. Whether the pain of Charlotte’s death due to old age, or Leslie’s sudden passing after a tragic accident — the sadness remains with us, and that’s not a bad thing.

C. S. Lewis wrote “a children’s story is the best art form for something you have to say … the form makes it easier to see into the depths, even of death.” Childhood may be thought as a blissful state of innocence and naivety, leaving many adults skittering around emotionally heavier topics. But if done with care, introducing children to concepts loss and grief through books can aid during major transitions and difficulties.

Gustave book coverGustave by Remy Simard and Pierre Pratt is a picture book that contains strong colours and compelling imagery. It’s marketed to children as young as four, and while a simple story — it’s also a difficult one. Gustave has lost his brother. In the silent yet suspenseful plot that ensues, with the use of a select few words; Gustave comes to terms with what has happened. It may seem “too much,” after all; no child should be exposed to such a horrific idea of a mouse losing his brother to a cat.

But this is something, writes academic Judith P. Moss, which must be discussed. Otherwise, we would be blind to what child psychologists have already affirmed — children know about death before we give them credit. Moss says her own children began asking about death from the age of three. To let their questions go answered, to let their fears fester because our own fears of ageing and dying are so great, is to ignore questions that come as naturally as any other. “Death has replaced the topic of reproduction,” Moss goes on to write. “Dying has replaced reproduction as the hush-hush topic between parents and children.”

We cannot inure ourselves, no matter our age, from the topic of death. It will always make us uncomfortable. But stories compel healing and deepen understanding.

Ghosts book coverNot all books that deal with the subject matter of death are forthright in their approach. Take Raina Telgemeier — author of the phenomenal bestseller Smile — with her recent graphic novel Ghosts. A family moves to a foggy town to get younger sister Maya better treatment for her cystic fibrosis, which as we know, is a chronic condition with a grim prognosis. Her old sister Cat is also contending with the struggles of an ill sister. Together, they are introduced to a town immersed in the Day of the Dead celebration. And while not as direct as Gustave, through engaging narrative and imagery, both sisters tackle the issue of dying and the loss of loved ones. Many people have told me Ghosts is their favourite Telgemeier book.

To think of death in children’s book is to reassess our perception not only of children’s content, but a child’s own level of understanding. Books are a powerful medium that allows for quiet contemplation and brings to light subjects some may otherwise, be too nervous to discuss aloud. So, as we continue to buy and give kid’s books, we should not be afraid to pick up the ones that make us a bit uncomfortable; they will do our children and us a great service.

Book Review for Mabel’s Fables: Crushing It

This is my review of the Middle-grade novel Crushing It by Joanne Levy for Mabel’s Fables bookstore!

http://mabelsfablesraves.blogspot.ca

Self-described warthog Kat feels she is no match in beauty and popularity to her “best cousin” Olivia, whom Kat likens to a graceful gazelle. Now in seventh grade, Kat is the studious, nerdy Manga lover while Olivia is the school’s leading dancer and beauty trends expert. Both cousins may be complete opposites, but they stick together. Their latest mission: getting a certain boy to ask Olivia to the dance.

That boy is Chris, Kat’s best friend. But he’s changed over the summer – a lot – and so has Kat’s feelings towards him. Olivia has also noticed the change, and yet, however different she and Chris may be, he’s way too cute not to go with to the dance. As the three friends find themselves in tense, nail-biting situations, friendships and loyalties are put to the test.
Nicole’s rave: Crushing It is a simple, enjoyable read filled with wholesome and lovable characters, combined with gut-churning, sweat-inducing middle school drama. Readers will feel those romantic pangs when Kat helps Olivia – however reluctantly – get the boy they both like, they’ll cringe when Kat all-too often lies down like a doormat for Olivia, and they’ll root for Kat when she rises to the occasion. I love that author Joanne Levy never has the two girls turning against each other. There is no cattiness between them, just admirable maturity as they deal with their issues. Fun, funny and “good” silly, Crushing It is a page-turner young readers will relish. – Reviewed by Nicole Abi-Najem

Rating: 4 / 5

Age in store: 11
Perfect for fans of: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny HanThe School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani and Iacopo BrunoThe Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.