-- Publishers Weekly, 3/9/2009
Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas. Viking, $15.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-670-06298-0
Chaltas's novel of poems marks an intensely powerful debut. Anke and her older siblings, Darren and Yaicha, may appear typical teenagers in public, but their home life is dominated by their father. Though he is verbally, physically and sexually abusive to her brother and sister, Anke seems beyond his notice (“with a sick/ acidic/ burbling/ bile/ i want what they have/ as horrible/ curdling/ vile/ as it is/ darren and yaicha/ get more/ than/ me”). The distance between the family members—separated by their silence—is palpable, as is Anke's growing sense of strength, partly due to her participation in volleyball at school (“My lungs are claiming expanding territory./ This is my voice./ This is MY BALL”). Though the pace is quick, tension builds slowly, almost agonizingly, as acts of abuse collect (a large bruise glimpsed on Darren's torso, muffled sounds from Yaicha's room that can't be tuned out). Readers will recognize the inevitability of an explosive confrontation, but the particulars will still shock. Incendiary, devastating, yet—in total—offering empowerment and hope, Chaltas's poems leave an indelible mark. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)
Redwoods by Jason Chin. Roaring Brook/Flash Point, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-430-1
Playing with the notion of just how immersive a book can be, illustrator Chin (The Day the World Exploded) makes his authorial debut with a clever exploration of coast redwoods. The framing story opens with a boy finding a copy of Red woods on a subway station bench (he's even on the cover). He delves in, and facts about the ancient trees spring to life around him: as he reads in a subway car that “there are trees alive today that first sprouted during the Roman Empire,” he is flanked by two figures from that era, driving home the point. Emerging from the station to find himself in the middle of a redwood forest, his adventures mirror what he's learning—standing in a redwood-made rain shower and glimpsing the Statue of Liberty in the midst of the forest (the tallest redwood is six stories taller). The straightforward narrative is given enormous energy by the inventive format and realistic watercolor illustrations—their soft edges and muted hues suit the mist-shrouded giants. Chin adeptly captures the singular and spectacular nature of redwoods in this smartly layered book. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
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