I just returned from a beautiful quick trip to Duluth, MN, one of my favorite cities. It doesn’t make its way into the City Atlas, but I feel quite away gazing out at that moody inland sea, Lake Superior.
Here’s to lots of dreaming and hopefully at least a bit of traveling for our City Atlas and Activity Fun Pack winner — Brandy! Please e-mail me at email@example.com with your mailing address and I’ll get those off to you.
For my third giveaway — and there’s at least one more so please keep coming back so I can have the joy of sharing all these books! — I have a copy of the newly-named, National Book Award winner in Young People’s Literature, Raymie Nightingale.
This book comes courtesy of the wonderful folks at Candlewick Press who consistently publish such extraordinary titles for us. I think I was supposed to give this away for summer reading — oops — but Raymie is the perfect snuggle-up-in-the-chill-of-fall read, so I think we’re still good.
Honestly, Raymie is an unusually powerful book. I’m going to refer you to my original review to learn about it more in-depth. This is a novel that settled deep in my bones and keeps stirring in my mind in the months since I read it. Kate DiCamillo’s exploration of her own griefs and losses stemming from an absent father, and her work of alchemy — of spinning that straw into gold — pouring herself into these unforgettable characters, shining light on the miraculous healing potential in friendships and in ordinary people’s heroism in their care for one another — that’s what’s embedded in this story.
As I said in my review, I’d peg this book for ages 11 through adult. Many children younger than 11 have been gulping this book down, so read my review and then decide for yourself.
From now through next Tuesday, October 25, comment on the blog to enter the drawing. Can you remember the name of your best friend/s when you were 10 years old? Or tell us the name of a friend who has meant the world to you? Let’s hear it for friendship!
Charles William Eliot, the transformative president of Harvard from 1869-1909, called books “the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”
All of us who love books and reading can get downright soppy when it comes time to praise them. It is hard to express how much books impact our lives. Rather than even try, today I’m simply celebrating books with these fabulous books about books.
How This Book Was Made, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
published in 2016 by Disney Hyperion
The dynamic duo, Barnett and Rex, are back at it again, and who better to make book-making as engaging and appealing a subject as a golden Willy Wonka ticket. Their silly, self-deprecating, unconventional, winning way with both text and art works like a magnet, pulling us into this crazy, fascinating account.
It all starts with an idea. Simple enough. But gobs of hard work, wrangles with an editor, waiting, waiting, waiting, illustrating, printing, and shipping, come after that and the process is so full of surprising twists and turns, a circus world of interruptions, and any number of ludicrous bumps in the road, you would not believe it.
Unless Mac the author and Adam the artist spell it out for you, as they have done here. At the end of the day, though, all that work still does not make a book a book. What’s the last, key ingredient?
A thoroughly-inventive, humorous, masterful treatment of what goes into bringing you all the amazing stories you love. It’s a superb treat for ages 3 through Adult.
Brother Hugo and the Bear, written by Katy Beebe, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
published in 2014 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Of course, books have not always been made via high speed printing presses. Once upon a time medieval monks labored painstakingly to create them by hand, start to finish.
Katy Beebe relates this intriguing process while regaling us with a delightfully-improbable story about one monk, one manuscript, and one particularly-hungry bear. Effortlessly learn about the monasteries of 12th-century France, the preparation of parchment, pen, and ink, and methods of book-binding, while shuffling along with a hapless monk named Brother Hugo. Beebe’s use of the quaint manner of medieval speech is suffused with gentle humor, all to brilliant effect.
Meanwhile, Schindler’s artwork is exactly right. He provides a lovely, matching touch of whimsy and historical accuracy. Gorgeous, illuminated letters, bucolic French landscapes,and scenes of monastery life share the stage with a curiously book-hungry bear and poor, unlucky Hugo.
A historical note, glossary of terms, and author’s and illustrator’s notes complete the package, an utter pleasure for ages 5-6 and up.
The Not-So-Quiet Library, written and illustrated by Zachariah OHora
published in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Zoom into contemporary, hipster-land now with this salsa-fied, rambunctious ode to storytime!
Every Saturday, Oskar, his pal Theodore (a bear), and Oskar’s dad go to the library.
Hilarious side note: this picture of Dad loading up his books to be returned is epic, is it not?
It is how I feel every time I lug my bags and bags of books to the library. Immediate connection with Oskar’s dad. I love having his company on this planet.
Okay. But this Saturday at the library, there’s a sudden booming. A crashing. Even a growl. Egads! There’s a monster in the library! A five-headed one at that! And he’s steaming mad! It seems he?…they?…think books are for eating and those cardboard covers and inky pages are really not doing it for them.
It’s a wild ride while Oskar and Theodore attempt to defuse the situation. Thankfully, Ms.-Watson-the-librarian steps in with just the right antidote — stories. OHora’s bold-as-brass illustrations grab us by the collar in this blast of a story that will tickle the fancies of any child (and parent) ages 2 and up. And P.S. Doughnuts and sprinkles are included. So get some to munch while you read this sizzler.
The Storybook Knight, written by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Thomas Docherty
published in 2016 by Sourcebooks, Jabberwocky
Oh, those Dochertys. They write great books about books! See my review of The Snatchabook if you haven’t already gobbled that one up.
Plus they live in Wales, which is cool.
This is a story about a gentle knight named Leo. Sort of the Ferdinand-the-bull of knights. He’s not into fighting and swordsmanship. Nope. He is a reader. Yay, Leo!
However, Leo’s folks do not see eye to eye with him on his preoccupation with books. There’s a dragon to be fought, and they want Leo to do it. They send him packing — sandwiches, shield, and all. He makes quite a Quixotic character on his slump-bellied horse, Old Ned.
Leo encounters several potentially-hazardous creatures en route to the dragon — a griffin, a troll — and unsurprisingly to us bibliophiles it’s his story lore that saves the day each time. When Leo meets the dragon, though — the entire, enormous, fiery, dagger-tailed, winged eminence — how can a book possibly come to the rescue?
So much book-love, such delight, warmth, personality, and peaceableness are crammed into this story, it simply radiates from the pages. You will love it. A sunny treat for anyone ages 3 and up.
A Child of Books, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press
Finally, this philosophical, artistic wonder. Jeffers and Winston say that they “both wanted to create a tale that celebrates our own love of classic children’s literature with an added modern twist.”
Goal achieved. And then some.
It starts right off with the end-papers, a wallpaper of titles and authors from the canon of classic literature that has been enjoyed by children and adults for centuries. Immediately, we are overwhelmed with the vastness of this treasure.
Hand-lettered text meanders through the pages, poetically describing the voyages of imagination undertaken by someone lucky enough to be “a child of books.” Mountains of make-believe. Forests of fairy tales. These are the worlds we enter and live in and are changed by when we dwell in the world of literature.
Although the concept, the largeness of this idea, seems too big for words, too immense for a picture book, the brief phrases here are at once so concrete and so enchanting that even very young children will connect and feel deep inside that someone else understands just how magical an experience storytime is. That’s a sweet kinship.
Meanwhile, the illustrations are brilliant, incorporating segments of text from classic literature — at times whole paragraphs, at times a sea of letters or words. Inventive compositions, fantastical, friendly, ethereal, explosive expressions of the world of story, dominate the pages. It’s a joy for book-lovers, ages 3 to 100.
I love a good piece of multicultural children’s fiction and am delighted today to share three novels set in contemporary Africa that present non-stereotypical portraits of this immensely-varied continent. The stories are set in three regions seldom spotlighted in children’s literature – Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast).
These novels accommodate a broad swath of ages. I’ll start with the one appropriate for the youngest audience:
The Fastest Boy in the World, written by Elizabeth Laird, illustrated by Peter Bailey
published in 2014 by Macmillan Children’s Books
Solomon is 11 years old, or thereabouts. He lives in the cool highlands of Ethiopia, 20 miles from the capital, Addis Ababa, with his Ma, Abba (father), small sister Konjit, and his revered, dignified, Grandfather, a man of few words.
The thing you must know about Solomon is that he loves to run. His nation is a nation of runners, slender, mighty marathoners who have won gold medals in Olympics competitions for generations. These runners are the heroes of the country, the superstars, and Solomon has in mind to join their ranks.
One day, quite unexpectedly, Grandfather announces he’s got an errand in Addis Ababa and wants to take Solomon with him. What can it be that would take Grandfather there? For Solomon, it’s tremendously exciting, but while in this strange city Grandfather collapses. It’s up to Solomon’s sturdy runner’s legs to fetch the help they need.
Perfectly paced, with joys, tensions, yearnings, fears, and triumphs for characters we immediately care about, this is a warm, engaging chapter book that could be read aloud to children ages 5 or 6, or independently at a few years older. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to seek out more of Laird’s work.
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, by Katherine Rundell
published in 2011 in Great Britain; 2014 in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Will – that’s the name she much prefers to her given name, Wilhelmina – lives an immensely wild, wind-borne life on a farm in Zimbabwe. Gazelle-fast, baobab-sturdy, free as air, tough as elephant hide, content so long as she’s cartwheeling through life with her best friend, Simon, and her dear father.
Then, shatteringly, Will’s life is up-ended when her father dies, and the callous woman partially responsible for his death glides in to occupy Will’s home, packing her off to the incongruous, cold, walled-in, backbiting world of an English boarding school. Where her schoolmates are far crueler than a thornbush. Where Will is impossibly forlorn, painfully squeezed into a culture that doesn’t fit.
There’s only one thing to do: make a run for it.
This is one of the best books I’ve read for a long time. I couldn’t put it down. Rundell’s language, her innovative, piercing juxtaposition of words, and her ability to capture the ethos of Will’s life in rural Zimbabwe, are stunning. Her characters wrapped themselves around my heart in a speedy minute. How I love that fierce wildcat, Will.
In addition, the unflinching, visceral portrayal of the shock of a new culture is critically important reading for anyone who has either experienced it first hand or has a close relationship to a third-culture kid. Highly recommended for ages 10 to adult.
Amadou, age 15, and his little brother Seydou, were tricked.
With little to eat in their local Ivoirian village, the two of them boarded a bus, the boss men promising they’d be taken where they could earn a bit of money, find food for themselves.
That was years ago. Their actual destination: a remote cacao plantation where they have been enslaved ever since, brutally forced to harvest, prepare, and ship the cocoa beans worth so much money to the wealthy, corrupt businessmen at the top of the food chain. Attempts at escape have only resulted in more heinous beatings.
Now, strangely, a young girl has been brought to the camp. First girl. First time a worker has arrived on her own rather than in a busload. She doesn’t look like, act like, talk like someone from rural Ivory Coast. Yet she’s fighting like a wild boar for her freedom.
Tara Sullivan has crafted a tense, brutal, shocking story in order to shed light on the horrifying-yet-common practice of using child-slave labor to produce the chocolate that you and I enjoy as a soothing pleasure. While the end of the book reads a bit more like an exposé than a novel, the subject matter demands our attention and Sullivan grabs that, no kidding, in this story of three young kids, fighting back with everything they’ve got. Ages 15 to adult.
Posted in fiction | Tagged Africa, book reviews, chapter books, child labor, children's literature, cocoa plantations, Cote d'Ivoire, culture shock, Ethiopia, middle grade fiction, TCKs, YA fiction, Zimbabwe | Leave a Comment »
Hello friends! Today I’ve got a winner for the Edwardian mysteries AND I have another set of books to give away!
Our winner is Rebecca Newman. Congratulations! Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your shipping address and I’ll get those off to you.
Meanwhile, I’ll include the links again for purchasing these, as they are not available on Amazon.
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
The Mystery of the Jeweled Moth
The third title in this set — The Mystery of the Painted Dragon — is due out in the UK in early 2017. Not sure when it will be available in the U.S.
Today, courtesy of my daughter who’s a dynamite bookseller at one of our Twin Cities independent bookstores, I have another giveaway. I’ll call it the Globetrotter Giveaway! There are two parts to it.
City Atlas, illustrated by Martin Haake, written by Georgia Cherry
published in 2015 by Wide Eyed Editions
This beautiful volume takes us on a world tour, visiting some of its most impressive cities. 30 cities in all, from Lisbon to Helsinki, Cape Town to Montreal.
Each city is presented on a two-page spread, a travel guide of sorts. Museums, cathedrals, castles, and monuments are here. Food to try, street art to spy. Gardens and parks, waterways and harbors, pepper the pages with intrigue! There’s also always an individual saying hello in a local language, plus the country’s flag, a couple of stats, and something hidden to search for in the illustration.
Go ice-skating in Toronto. Wander Wenceslas Square in Prague. Listen to some Mariachi bands in Mexico City. Sample a pumpkin rice cake in Seoul. It’s just the ticket to crank up your wanderlust.
There’s no in-depth information here. Just a snapshot of what you might see visiting these places, a tantalizing look at the differences in what home might look, sound, and taste like. It leans heavily European, with 16 European cities, 5 in the U.S. and Canada, 3 from Latin America, 4 from Asia, 1 in Africa, and 1 in Australia.
Along with that, some of you may remember another spectacular volume I reviewed awhile back, Atlas of Adventures. It has a similar format, but it covers an entire country on each two-page spread.
Wide Eyed Editions is creating Activity Fun Packs to go along with these books, and I have the one for the Atlas of Adventures.
There are 8 scenes and 7 maps to color, drawn in lovely clarity by Lucy Letherland and printed on really quality paper, plus a sheet of colorful round-the-world stickers and a pull out poster with an illustrated world map on one side and a chart of the world’s flags on the other.
I’d say the coloring here is geared for a child ages 7 or 8 and up. Lots of juicy detail.
I’m giving away these two beauties, wishing you hours of ooh-ing and ah-ing over the splendid diversity in our world.
To enter, just comment before next Wednesday, October 19, telling us what world-class city you’d love to visit next. U.S. shipping addresses only or I’ll go broke🙂 And just a heads-up — I have a couple more giveaways for the next few weeks so please come back!
While many Americans mark today as Columbus Day, here in Minneapolis, I’m glad to say, we also honor it as Indigenous People’s Day.
As Columbus didn’t discover the Americas — numerous peoples and vast civilizations were already here when he arrived — and as he wasn’t the first European to find the Americas — did you know that yesterday was officially Leif Erikson Day? — and as he stumbled across the continents quite in error…you must admit, it’s a bit of a strange holiday. Not to mention the aftermath.
I much prefer to honor the First Nations in their fascinating array of cultures, from the whale-hunting, blanket-tossing peoples of the Arctic to the pueblo-building, basket-weaving peoples of the Southwest. Native Americans continue to be largely overlooked and misunderstood in our nation’s conversations about history, racism, and civil rights. Becoming acquainted through the small but growing shelf of children’s literature is a valuable step in the right direction.
All of the titles I chose for today happen to cover peoples from more northerly regions, from the Arctic stretching down through the Great Plains of Canada and the United States and across to the Eastern Woodlands. I hope you can find them in your libraries or bookshops.
Dragonfly Kites (Pimithaagansa), written by Tomson Highway, illustrations by Julie Flett
published in 2016 by Fifth House
Canadian publishing houses are doing an amazing job of putting out gorgeous, well-crafted stories featuring First Nations characters, both historical and contemporary. Three of the 5 books I have for you today come out of Canada. Thank you, neighbors!
The vast, quiet, wild spaces of northern Manitoba are the summer home for Joe and Cody, two lucky boys whose days are filled with imaginative outdoor exploration.
Along with their faithful dog, Ootsie, the boys forge worlds from sticks and stone and string, adopt a wild tern, commune with chipmunks and eagles, and create delicate, iridescent kites with dragonflies and a large dose of gentleness.
Written in both English and Cree, I am telling you — this story tugs on my non-electronic heartstrings! What a lush life. Julie Flett is an award-winning artist, quite a favorite of so many of us, and her work here is spacious, elegant, pristine. I love this book! Ages 3 and up.
Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story, written and illustrated by S.D. Nelson
published in 2012 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Buffalo Bird Girl was a child of the prairies, born in the 1830s to the Hidatsa people who lived in what is now North Dakota.
S.D. Nelson tells the story of her rich life and culture in this fascinating, beautiful book. The enormously-strong earth-mound lodges and grandmother’s hot, hearty breakfasts; the seasonal farm chores, buffalo hunting and favorite children’s games; the frightening attacks from the Lakota and the changes that came with the traders and missionaries.
All of this is told vividly, accompanied by Nelson’s captivating acrylic paintings, graphite drawings, and historic photographs. Each page is full of appeal while the story of this amazing woman’s life grabs hold of us, mesmerizes us straight through to her old age.
A lengthy Author’s Note provides extensive information about Buffalo Bird Woman, the Hidatsa people, and the clash of cultures that came with European arrivals. A timeline correlates her life with events from 5000 BCE to 2009. A fantastic read for ages 5 and up.
Grandpa’s Girls, written by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave
published in 2011 by Groundwood Books
Four cousins are charged with excitement! Because today they’re going to visit Grandpa!
Grandpa lives on an old farm, right alongside Hwy. 5 in British Columbia. There are chickens to squawk at, a root cellar to explore, and one lofty rope swing for sailing through the sweet, hay-scented air of the barn.
Best of all, there is Grandpa. A World War II vet. A cowboy, rancher, businessman. A storytelling, candy jar-keeping, memory-laden, wonderful man. No wonder these girls love to visit him!
This warm, family story is fully contemporary, with lighthearted illustrations conveying a sunny, casual vibe. A few words in the Interior Salish language — which my computer does not even have the characters to write! — are the only real clue that Grandpa and his girls are members of an indigenous people. I love finding books which portray the ordinary lives of contemporary Native Americans, and this one is an absolutely delightful example. Ages 2 and up.
Fatty Legs: A True Story, written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
published in 2010 by Annick Press; 103 pages
Our most northerly story today is the brave, lamentable account of a little girl who lived with her dear family and Inuit community on “the scattered islands of the Arctic Ocean.”
Margaret Pokiak-Fenton spent her childhood on Banks Island, a five-day journey across open ocean from the mainland where small outposts perched along the coasts of Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories. By the time she was 8 years old, she had only traveled a few times to this outside world.
But her sister had been “plucked” like a fledgling from its nest by the outsiders, taken to be schooled in Aklavik, and had returned home with the magical knowledge of Reading. How Margaret longed to read! To read for herself the beautiful book called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with its tantalizing rabbits and strange tunnels.
Margaret begs for years to be allowed to go to that school, but her parents vehemently forbid it. When she finally wears them down and begins school, it’s not the fairy-tale setting she expects, but a nightmare of abuse all too familiar to the thousands of Native children educated in boarding schools across the Americas.
Margaret’s daughter-in-law, Christy, has written this powerful memoir. It is a sorrowful page-turner about a resolute young girl, illustrated with strong, emotive illustrations and Pokiak-Fenton’s family photographs. We need to know these stories, hard as they are to bear. This one’s for ages 8 and up. The author has parsed out several episodes of this story in picture book format for younger children, if you’re interested.
When the Shadbush Blooms, written by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden
published in 2007 by Tricycle Press
The Lenni Lenape people lived in the forested lands in what is now the northeastern United States. If you live in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, these were one of the First Peoples in your region.
Carla Messinger, a member of the Turtle Clan Lenape, has written a marvelously inventive account of her culture. Walking through the 12 months of the year, Traditional Sister and Contemporary Sister narrate the activities associated with the changing seasons.
The happenings remain constant, although these two live centuries apart. The dress, the look of the land, the means of farming, fishing, playing, preparing — these all vastly change as witnessed by the colorful, ingenuous illustrations. Each two-page spread features the traditional way of life on the left, morphing smoothly into the contemporary scene on the right. Brilliant!
Even the names of the months — each richly tied to the moon — are differentiated, with the Lenape language on the left and its translation into English on the right. An Afterword tells us more about traditional Lenape culture.
Again, I love seeing the contemporary lives of indigenous peoples. This book allows us to view both worlds. Read it and let your children discover the fascinating differences between the pages. Ages 3 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged book reviews, children's literature, Cree, diversity, First Nations, Hidatsa, Indigenous People's Day, Interior Salish, inuit, Lenape, multiculltural kids lit, native americans, picture books, racism | Leave a Comment »