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Finding a Way Forward – Tiny Infinities by J. H. Diehl

TINY INFINITIES
Written by J. H. Diehl
(Chronicle Books; $16.99, Ages 10 and up)

– A Junior Library Guild Selection –

cover illustration from Tiny Infinities by J. H. Diehl

In Tiny Infinities, the debut middle grade novel by J. H. Diehl, the summer when Alice turns thirteen, her family’s structure disintegrates. Her mother has become a bedridden recluse, her father moves out, and Alice’s two brothers are temporarily placed with their aunt. Alice willfully stays at the family home, erecting the Renaissance tent her parents met in, resolving to sleep in the backyard until her father returns. Due to finances, cell phones, internet, and camps are cut. Earning money babysitting is bittersweet—Alice’s parents are too distracted to pay much attention. Alice discovers each family has complications. Piper, the young girl she watches, has an undiagnosed loss of speech and possibly hearing.

This quiet story considers deep issues including how one family member’s illness or injury affects everyone. Because of her parents’ split and her mother’s inability to recover, Alice loses touch with close friends rather than explain.

Swimming keeps Alice centered; she’s determined to get her name on her swim team’s record board. A friendship with the new girl, Harriet, develops. Harriet’s keen observations while somewhat off-putting are also perceptive: she advises Alice to switch to backstroke. While this is another change, Alice eventually realizes that she likes swimming backwards without seeing where she’s going; it gives her confidence in her ability to maneuver the pool, and life. Alice and her friends learn from one another how to find their way—realizing it is their way to find.

Tiny Infinities is an honest coming-of-age middle-grade novel. Alice understands for the first time that there is “no line between hot and cold, or warm and cool, love and not love. Tiny infinities [are] always going to be there.”

Fireflies play a clever role in the novel throughout. Beneath the book’s beautiful glimmering jacket is a stunning smooth casewrap adorned with fireflies. The brightly contrasting endpapers offer a pop of color.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

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A Passover Tale

Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim from Kar-Ben Publishing is written by Deborah Bodin Cohen with illustrations by Jago. Today’s Guest Reviewers are L.A. Parent calendar editor Michael Berick and his 6-year-old daughter Julia. A first grader, Julia enjoys reading (especially Harry Potter), creating art and making up characters.

michaeljulia

The book Nachson, Who Was Afraid To Swim tells the story of a young Jewish boy (Nachshon) back in the days when Jews were slaves in the land of Egypt. Few things scared young Nachshon, not even the Pharaoh, so people started calling him “Brave Nachshon.” However, he does have one major fear – that is going into the water. Later, as a young man, Nachshon meets the prophet Moses and listening to his words changes Nachshon’s life.

The book nicely tells both the bible-based tale of Nachshon’s role in the Jews’ exodus from Egypt as well as the more universal story of facing one’s fears. This is not a particularly well-known Passover tale so non-Jews might not be that familiar with it; however, its story of courage speaks to everyone.

Julia liked the book and was glad that there’s “no Pharaohs to rule over us now.” The part of the book she liked the best was (and this is a spoiler alert) when Nachshon jumped into the water at the book’s end. The slightly stylized 978-0-8225-8764-4_medillustrations, which somewhat recall Allison Jay’s drawings, suggest ancient times without seeming old-fashion. Julia liked the illustrations at the book’s end where you could see people’s reflections in the water. Julia also thought that it would be a good book to be read to kids ages 3-7, and I would agree with that. While it might not be the best way to introduce the story of Passover to young readers, it is a fine way to teach children about overcoming fears.

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