It’s National Dog Day, and as a dog-lover I’m good with that!
Give your dog an extra treat, then treat yourself with one of these tail-wagging titles. From vintage to 2016, all of them are linked to my original review.
And a couple pieces of dog-gone good fiction:
Posted in fiction, Newbery Books, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged book reviews, children's literature, dogs, national dog day, picture books | Leave a Comment »
Some of you have already begun the new school year; some are just gearing up; There are many rich ways for each of us to learn and grow, an untold variety of approaches to education spanning the centuries and regions of our world. I hope something within this smattering of titles is just the ticket for you.
School’s First Day of School, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
published in 2016, a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press
Looking at the world from upside down and inside out angles is a great way to see old things anew, tickle funny bones, spark ideas. This brilliant picture book team has done just that, twisting the kaleidoscope a turn or two, making a brand-new school building into the new kid on the block.
The charming, new Frederick Douglass Elementary school is feeling a bit nervous about its upcoming First Day of School. Understandable, right? Soon scads of unknown children will throng its hallways, play on its playground, sit in classrooms, eat lunches. Some may not like it. Some may make rude comments about it. Blaring fire drills might go off!
With the encouragement of a friendly janitor, School copes with all this newness, one step at a time, and emerges from the first day on an overall upbeat note. Besides the lovely space within this text to step back and take a look at first-day jitters from a secure vantage point, Christian Robinson’s irrepressibly cheery illustrations exude comfort and friendliness with a genius vibe that somehow combines old-fashioned simplicity with contemporary diversity. It’s basically the perfect First Day of School book for ages 4-6.
The Class, Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kimberly Gee
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books
Ages ago, Karla Kuskin and Marc Simont teamed up to produce one of our favorite books, a survey of all the members of the Philharmonic Orchestra preparing for an evening performance.
This book happily reminds me of their approach. It’s a collection of classmates this time, twenty children from various households all around town, getting ready to become one wonderful class. Some are eager-beavers. Some are over-sleepers. Three eat pancakes for breakfast while two nibble toast. Eight get kisses at the bus stop. Two can’t seem to find their socks.
Charming, lighthearted illustrations spotlight this diverse group of kindergarteners. It’s a tremendously inviting book, great approach to the marvelous differences within commonalities that make up a group. Ages 3-7.
Steamboat School, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Ron Husband
published in 2016 by Disney Hyperion
The encouraging depictions of diversity in the previous two titles are, of course, not a given in our society.
Based on a true story, this book bears witness to the immense struggle to be schooled experienced by African Americans. It takes place in St. Louis in 1847, just as a shameful new Missouri law forbade education to “negroes or mulattoes.”
Through the testimony of one fictional boy, Hopkinson relays the courageous, ingenious actions of Reverend John Berry Meachum whose determination resulted in a highly-unusual method of schooling these children, taking advantage of a most unexpected loophole in the law.
Striking, atmospheric illustrations ratchet up the story’s tension and emotion while bringing the period to life. Includes a lengthy Author’s Note and recommendations for exploring this history further. Ages 5 and up.
Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
published in 2016 by Greenwillow Books
I’m a firm believer in all the vivid learning that takes place outside of a formal classroom setting. It’s unusual to find a book that captures so well the spirit of a whole world out there to investigate, the one hundred ideas sparkling in a pond, the windows-upon-windows of ideas opening onto more ideas all lying in wait in the most surprising places.
In which Frank and Lucky learn about beggar’s lice, burdock, and dog ticks!
Lynne Rae Perkins dives into that sense in this remarkable look at a boy named Frank, his dog, Lucky, and the immense amount of learning and idea-sparking these two encounter in their life together. From Entomology to Art, Math to Foreign Language — careen along with these two and be amazed at how they both accumulate a vast array of knowledge. Unschoolers — this is your book. Innovative reading, for ages 6 and up.
Just a reminder here, if you are looking for the Gold Standard in picture books about the homeschooling experience, look no further than Jonathan Bean’s masterpiece, This is My Home, This is My School. I am a huge fan of Jonathan’s work, and love the fact that he has allowed millions of homeschoolers to see themselves in a book about school for the first time. Kudos to him and his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
School Days Around the World, by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Alice Feagan
published in 2015 by Kids Can Press
I love introducing children to the intriguing cultures around our globe, the clever, beautiful, enticing ways people construct their lives. School is one of the things that looks different around the world, and this cheery catalog is a great way to explore that.
Visit 13 children from a wide variety of countries and types of schools. From the South Pacific to Alaska. Homeschools, public schools, international schools. School in an orphanage. School in an old castle. Immense schools and tiny schools. Fascinating at every turn!
Colorful, happy cut-paper illustrations will make you want to travel and visit each one of these extraordinary places. Broaden your world and find out ways you can help children in places where school is less available. This one’s a delight for ages 4 and up.
And one more reminder — some children from other cultures may well be joining your children in their classes. Anne Sibley O’Brien’s book I’m New Here, offers a superb, lovely introduction to what it’s like to be oh-so-new in America. Highly recommended for ages 4 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged African American education, book reviews, children's literature, cultures, education, first day of school, homeschooling, immigrants, picture books, school, slavery, unschooling | 4 Comments »
Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, by Polly Faber, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy
first U.S. edition published in 2016 by Candlewick Press
Mango Allsorts is a charming new heroine. With her love of chess and karate, and a knack for making yummy buttered noodles, you can see immediately that she’s an interesting, lively person. Yet Mango defies the categories young girls are often squeezed into in contemporary fiction which makes her extra-compelling. She charmed the socks off of me in a very few moments.
The cast of characters includes a caramel-loving boy and a cranky collector!
She’s got spunk, but it’s quieter spunk. She’s got pluck, but it’s exceedingly polite pluck. She’s brave, but not brash, with an empathetic heart and a willingness to move as slowly and patiently as required to set Nervous Individuals at ease.
The Nervous Individual in this case is a small, slightly-disoriented, tapir. A lost tapir named Bambang who finds himself caught up in the noise and bustle of a strange city. Rescued by Mango, lured to her home with a promise of banana pancakes, Bambang becomes Mango’s dear friend.
Making a Malaysian tapir at home in her neighborhood is tricky business. There’s a bit of a Paddington Bear feel to the small scrapes Bambang gets into. But Mango’s gentle, smart supervision is just what’s needed.
The illustrations by Clara Vulliamy and overall packaging of the book are scrumptious. This is the first in a series of Mango and Bambang books which are making their way across the pond to U.S. markets. Marvelous treats to hand a sturdy new reader or to use as a read-aloud with children ages 4 and up. My girls would have adored this series! Highly recommended. 135 heavily-illustrated pages.
Posted in fiction | Tagged book reviews, chapter books, children's literature, tapirs | Leave a Comment »
We are Olympics-junkies in our household so in keeping with the Olympic spirit, I thought I’d share some sure-fire winners this week that take the cake in some unusual categories!
A Winner for Swallows and Amazons Fans and All Skippers
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes, written and illustrated by Sara Gillingham
published in 2016 by Phaidon Press
If you have any Swallows and Amazons fans in your household, let me just say that this is The Perfect Companion to Nancy Blackett and company. If you have no idea who the Swallows and Amazons are, you’ll still love this snappy, exceedingly-clever, perfectly-designed book about nautical codes.
The magnetic intrigue of signal flags, semaphore code, morse code, and the alpha-bravo-charlie international radio alphabet — well, it’s universal, isn’t it?! Sara Gillingham has masterfully combined them all in an incredibly accessible book. I am telling you, if we’d had this when my kids were small it would be dog-eared and battered with use.
From A to Z, discover what the flags look like and the intriguing messages each conveys, such as “I have a diver down; keep well clear at low speed.” Learn how to create a letter in semaphore and morse, and what the corresponding word is in the radio alphabet, as you pick up juicy tidbits about the many, many kinds of boats out there.
Then explore more with the links to nautical history, codes, decorating with flags, and boats. Avast, you homeschoolers out there — this could take you for a l-o-n-g ride! Splendid, for ages 5 to adult!
A Winner for Friendly Folks
Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Book from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Taeeun Yoo’s illustration magic will lasso your heart from the first page of this warm ode to friendliness and welcome. Gah! I love her work!
This little fellow has a tiny elephant for a pet. The boy adores his elephant, treating him with the thoughtful lovingkindness that’s part and parcel of true friendship. However, other pet-owners are not so welcoming of such an unusual creature. The sign on the clubhouse door, in fact, reads, “Strictly No Elephants.” Slump.
The brave, hospitable solution to this predicament will warm the cockles of your heart. An ever-timely tale about the power of welcome, this one gets all my love. Ages 2 and up.
A Winner for Older Siblings
How to Share with a Bear, by Eric Pinder, pictures by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux
What do you do when you’ve just built a super-cozy-pillow fort-cave, all set for some cozy reading, only to discover it’s been abruptly taken over by …a bear! Or when you create a blueberry trail leading that bear away from your cave, only to find he’s doubled back and settled right in again!
That’s the situation time after time for Thomas, an inventive, responsible, clever kid who’s just looking for a little space of his own. Try as he might, that little bear keeps snookering him out of his sweet cave. Where did it come from? And what kindhearted solution will Thomas finally arrive at to satisfy them both?
Patience, love, imagination, all in huge supply in this dear story about big and little brothers. Charming illustrations. A lovely read for ages 3 and up.
A Winner for Cool Dads and Their Lucky Kids
My Dad Used to Be So Cool, written and illustrated by Keith Negley
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books
This little boy’s tattooed dad seems to have had a rock-star past — the drum kit stuffed into the closet is a big clue. But when he tries to imagine his dad wailing on an electric guitar in front of a hip audience — it just doesn’t match up with the laundry-folding, rug-vacuuming, shoelace-tying dad who inhabits his life.
Why would someone so, so cool, give that all up?! Why?!
I am in love with this striking depiction of fatherhood and father-son relationships. Cool, contemporary design, flooded with sacrificial love, real questions, and peaceful security. Brilliant, for ages 3 and up.
A Winner for Moose-lovers and Gigglers
Too Many Moose! by Lisa M. Bakos, pictures by Mark Chambers
published in 2016 by Sourcebooks
Speaking of unusual pets, Martha mulls and marvels and comes up with one humdinger of an odd pet — a moose.
In my experience, whenever an author pops a moose into a story, it’s sure to descend into utter mayhem!
That’s certainly the case for Martha as she decides, in typical American fashion, that More Is Always Better. More moose, in this case. And more. And more.
Magnificently merry pandemonium in text that lithely, humorously skippets about amongst the most energetic moose you’ll ever meet. Bright, lively illustrations happily capture the many moosey personalities. Jolly humor for ages 3 and up.
A Winner for Snail-Mail Fans and Kindhearted Persons
It Came in the Mail, written and illustrated by Ben Clanton
published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
I am old enough to remember when looking in the mailbox was fun. Birthday cards. Airmail forms. Leisurely jottings from a grandmother. Rather than the avalanche of junkmail and the drought of longhand-letters that’s our lot today. Anyone else miss that?
Liam does. He loves getting mail. But his mailbox is as devoid of the good stuff as mine. Liam thinks up a surprising solution to this, and thanks to an epic, magical mailbox, he’s soon the happy recipient of some top-notch deliveries!
With an accumulating pile of Cool Stuff, though, Liam has to do some recalibrating. Sparkling with surprise and good humor, heartwarming with kindness and unselfishness, this happy account might inspire some new snail-mail writers. Ages 3 and up.
A Winner for Curious-Minded Ones
Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights, written by W.H. Beck, numerous photographers credited
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The dramatic, inky-black pages of this book portray the mysterious dark depths of the ocean, far, far below the reach of any sunlight, the ebony depths of a cave, and the shrouded dark of the forest at night.
photo credit David Shale
Set against them are fantastical photographs of a group of creatures who have one thing in common: bioluminescence — the ability of living things to make their own light. Breathtaking, strange, beautiful, they glow like aliens, twinkle like so many fairies, gleam as though made from radioactive glass.
Learn just a smidgeon about how and why and where these special animals light up the night. Spectacular photography and highly-accessible writing make this a treat for ages 3 or 4 and up.
A Winner for Sly Foxes and Even-smarter Chickens
Outfoxed, written and illustrated by Claudia Boldt
published in 2015 by Tate Publishing and distributed in the U.S. by Abrams
Harold the fox has one, big dream: to become a detective.
His father, however, has other plans for him. He declares that it’s high time Harold grow up and take on some foxy responsibility. In other words, Harold, it’s time you catch a chicken.
As a detective-wannabe, Harold thinks this should be a snap. But Harold is not figuring on such a supremely smart chicken. Laugh along as sneaky-but-outfoxed Harold gets led on a wild-chicken chase by one savvy bird. Illustrated brilliantly with color, humor, and snazz! Great fun for ages 4 and up.
A Winner for Wee Nature-lovers
The River: An Epic Journey to the Sea,
written and illustrated by Hanako Clulow (correction: written by Patricia Hegarty)
first published in England; first American edition 2016 by Kane Miller
Experience the wonder of migration in this beautiful book by Japanese illustrator Hanako Clulow, beautifully packaged to tantalize the hungry minds of toddlers.
Follow the migratory path of one little fish from the icy waters of the north, through the waterways leading to the ocean. Just a little bit of lyrical text accompanies these pretty scenes of varied habitats along the way. Extra magic is thrown in via a peek-hole tunneling through the whole account, revealing a holographic image of a dipping, diving little orange fish. A beauty for ages 15 months and up. Available in September 2016 through Usborne — order by using the link here.
A Winner for Tricky Monsters
The Big Monster Snorey Book, written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson
published in England, 2015; first U.S. edition 2016 by Nosy Crow
Anytime you see Leigh Hodgkinson’s name on a book you know you’re in for a raucous good time and this new blast is right on track.
Meet Little Monster, a clever, conniving little shaver who’s surrounded by the most galumptious, hideous snorers of all sleepdom. Good gracious but they do make a racket!
But that’s not the worst of it! When those hairy brutes wake up, they’re ravenous. And what do they like best to eat?! Little monsters!!
Fear not, though, because Little Monster has a stupendous plan! Meet some crazy beasts and cheer for the little shaggy green guy in this energetic story for ages 3 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged bioluminescence, boats, book reviews, children's literature, fatherhood, friendship, humorous stories, migration, morse code, nautical code, picture books, semaphore, siblings, signal flags | Leave a Comment »
I’ve got four novels to recommend today, all of which have deep relevance for our fractured societies and our heartfelt desire to be peacemakers, bridge-builders, and extenders of mercy. They are for middle-graders through adult — I’ll try to write in such a way that you can judge which would be good fits for you and the people in your life.
The lightest, most accessible to a younger audience, is:
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, by Firoozeh Dumas
published in 2016 by Clarion Books
Iranian-born Firoozeh Dumas moved to California as a young girl and narrated her immigrant life a few years back in a best-selling memoir, Funny in Farsi. Here she spins her experiences into a fast read with plenty of humor and a light touch, perfect for middle graders. Dumas dedicates her novel to “all the kids who don’t belong, for whatever reason,” making this an ideal read also for those seeking to understand the refugee/immigrant experience.
It’s the ’70s. Zomorod Yousefzadeh has moved from Tehran to Newport Beach, California, and is starting over in a new school. She’s determined to reinvent herself as an everyday, American girl, beginning by choosing an easily-pronouncable name — Cindy, as American as the Brady Bunch! — and suntanning with her new neighbor (not at all what Persian girls ought to do.)
Shedding your identity when you are Iranian is not quite so easy, though. Middle-schoolers are a tricky lot, with radar attuned to wannabe members of the herd who don’t really belong. Add the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the scenes of streets mobbed with fervent followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the American hostage crisis, and suddenly “Cindy” and her family are faced with awkward questions, hostility, and strenuous difficulties.
Author: Firoozeh Dumas
Regarding Middle-Eastern people with suspicion, lumping all Muslims together in a “dangerous” category, failing even to understand such basics as that the Iranian people are not Arabs — these remain problematic attitudes for us in the U.S. Dumas educates us in the basics of the Revolution while she opens our eyes to the experience of many immigrant children, and does it all with a warm, light hand. Great read for 5th grade and up, addressing issues of faith often ignored in middle-grade fiction. 370 pages.
Every Single Second, by Tricia Springstubb
published in 2016 by Balzer and Bray
With themes of racial tensions, friendship, loyalty, abuse, and God’s will, and an exploration of choices, the impact of split-seconds that reverberate through families, communities, and years, this book packs in a freight-load of food-for-thought and fodder for discussion.
Changes are bearing down on Nella Sabatini in her working-class, Italian neighborhood. Her beloved Catholic school is closing. Her long friendship with Angela is withering. Her new friendship with science-geek Clem is expanding. Her evaluation of her dad is marred.
Then — in just a split second — the world turns upside down. Angela’s brother Anthony — a boy Nella idolizes — accidentally shoots and kills a black man and the neighborhood is engulfed in acrimonious, menacing tensions. How do our misperceptions of people, our lack of knowledge about another’s hidden facets and secrets, color our understanding of them? What happens when good people make — in just a second — really bad choices? Where is God in all of this? Where is forgiveness? What do old loyalties mean, in a time like this?
Author Tricia Springstubb
Springstubb does not hold back from issuing challenging questions, nor from demonstrating the power of words to bring about understanding and healing, and the power of love and kindness to change lives. It’s an absorbing, timely, thought-provoking read for ages 11 and older. 359 pages
An Episode of Sparrows, by Rumer Godden
originally published in 1955; NYRB Kids paperback issued in 2016
This novel by the amazing Rumer Godden entranced me. Originally written over 60 years ago, its themes of abandonment vs. belonging, mercy vs. cold justice, a proclivity to see the good vs. the ill in people, are timeless.
Godden paints a complex portrait of one neighborhood in London and its galaxy of residents. The wealthy dwell in Mortimer Square’s “gracious and imposing” houses, while the street urchins pack themselves cheek-by-jowl into a variety of homes along Catford Street. The Misses Chesney — Angela and Olivia — two well-to-do sisters, regard those street urchins through dramatically different eyes, particularly when it becomes apparent that some of them are pilfering soil from the Square’s gardens.
That story, of why and how a terribly-lonely girl named Lovejoy Mason conspires with a scrappy Irish lad named Tip to sneak pailfuls of earth over the wall, down the street, and into a secret location in the dark of night — that’s the stunning story played out in Godden’s rich, beautiful prose. Also running through the entire account lie the remarkable healing properties of a garden and the danger of invalidating the gentle, quiet voices among us.
Author Rumer Godden
It’s not a skimming book. It’s one where you sink your teeth into every gorgeous line, where you pause to soak up the depth of Godden’s perceptiveness, the poignant camaraderie she clearly felt with the betrayed, forlorn ones in this world, and where you come away with an intimate acquaintance of characters who feel true and real.
I heartily recommend it to adults and to those ages 13 and older who are prepared for a more mature read. There is absolutely nothing childish about this book other than the age of the protagonist. For girls, especially, who have enjoyed Little Women or other Alcott novels, or some of the Anne of Green Gables sequels — that’s about the level of emotion and prose to expect. 246 pages.
All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
published in 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Finally this YA/Adult read. I review almost no YA books on Orange Marmalade so please attend to the fact that this gritty read is most definitely YA!
Plunging headlong into the racism and deadly altercations between police and young black men roiling our nation, Reynolds and Kiely offer up this tumultuous story.
Rashad, a young black teen on an innocent errand to a convenience store, finds himself in one blinding flash the victim of racist suspicions, accusations, and unprovoked, vicious police brutality. Quinn, a young white teen who happens to witness the scene, has long, deep, personal ties to the policeman involved. Both boys attend the same school which quickly becomes the epicenter of tensions and protests that test the core values, alliances, beliefs, and tempers of students and the entire community.
Authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Told in alternating voices by Reynolds and Kiely, the characters of Rashad and Quinn are unvarnished, conflicted, and turbulent with teen-age emotions. There is strong language throughout the account, drug and alcohol use by teens, banter about sexual exploits, and a sexualized vision of teen girls. Its gritty realism serves to prevent the account from veering into contrived, easy-answer fiction and to present itself more like a journalistic exploration of an actual incident. The challenges are honestly complex and thorny.
As Quinn struggles with his response to the situation, his conflicting obligations to old friends vs. the truth, and the ugly racism within himself, we are brought uncomfortably close to our own responses. As Rashad manages his anger, fear, and discomfort with the spotlit position he finds himself in, we are given an extraordinary front-row seat to the experience of young black males. These dual perspectives are guaranteed to spark thought-provoking reflections and discussions.
310 pages. My husband listened to an audio version of the book read in two voices by Guy Lockard and Keith Nobbs and found it extraordinarily powerful, so I’m recommending that as well.
Posted in fiction | Tagged book reviews, children's literature, immigrants, iran, mercy, middle grade novels, police brutality, poverty, racial violence, racism, YA novels | Leave a Comment »
I’ll start this week’s list with three gorgeous books about wildlife…
Wild Animals of the North, written and illustrated by Dieter Braun, English translation by Jen Calleja
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books
This spectacular piece of work by German illustrator Braun introduces us to feathered, scaly, antlered, furry, sleek, tiny and enormous creatures who inhabit the great northern tier of the globe.
Stretching across North America, Europe, and Asia, on land, air, and sea, the 80 amazing animals in this catalog range from the unusual markhor to the well-known striped skunk; from the mysterious snow leopard to the lounging walrus.
Braun’s arresting shapes and muted, natural colors flood these pages with awe and dignity, while small patches of text converse with us engagingly about quite a number of the entries. It’s a beauty to pore over again and again for ages 3 to 100.
Animal Doctors: Incredible Ways Animals Heal Themselves, by Angie Trius and Mark Doran, illustrated by Julio Antonio Blasco
published originally in Spain; English edition published in 2016 by Laurence King Publishing Ltd
Did you know that capuchin monkeys rub their fur with bits and pieces of various plants in order to rid themselves of parasites? Or that African elephants know just what to munch in order to kickstart the birth of a calf?
This fascinating book explains some of the extraordinary, clever ways creatures use nature’s pharmacy to rid themselves of fleas, clean wounds, neutralize venom, disinfect nests, and lots more! Just the right amount of information, masterfully laid out in a pleasing format, covers 14 widely-varied animals and their cool skills. A brilliant approach for curious persons ages 5 and up.
Amazing Animal Journeys, by Chris Packham, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books
Charming, pleasant illustrations make this book about intriguing migration habits a perfect fit for young children, ages 2 and older. Lovely!
Discover the forths-and-backs of some of the planet’s migration stars, from the pretty little Golden Jellyfish to the mammoths of the seas, the Blue Whale. Perfectly-pitched, brief bits of text feed the curiosities of children and make them more nature-aware.
We’re in the midst of baseball season, so here are a couple great titles for young fans:
The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton, by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
published in 2016 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
This lively biography of a spunky gal introduces Edith Houghton who began playing professional baseball when she was — I am not making this up! — 10 years old. The focus of this story is the slice of her life from ages 10 to 13 making this immensely relatable for young readers.
Edith played for the Philadelphia Bobbies back in the 1920s and even made an epic journey with the team to Japan where they played before tens of thousands of fans. Salerno’s vivid, colorful illustrations whisk us into the 20s and around the world. Enjoy it with kids ages 5 and up.
The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Jez Tuya
published in 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company
Perhaps you know the story of William Hoy, a ballplayer from Ohio who was immensely popular back at the turn of the century. Hoy had to overcome ridicule and unusual obstacles in order to play professional baseball. Because Hoy entered the sport before there were any hand signals used. And he was deaf.
This brief, upbeat account shows Hoy’s perseverance and the bright idea he had for umpires to use hand signals instead of only shouting out the calls. Where would baseball be without ’em?! Happy, cartoon-style illustrations keep things light. Ages 4 and up.
And a final, eclectic, fivesome:
City Shapes, by Diane Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier
published in 2016 by Little, Brown, and Company
I love the decades of work Tana Hoban did, photographing urban sights that invited children to observe and delight in their world. This new book reminds me of her vision.
Collier’s strong, vibrant collages swizzle us into summer in the city. Murray’s upbeat verse draws our attention to shapes to be spotted in those scenes. Marvelously diverse, inviting us to look and see in new ways. Great mind fodder for ages 2 and up.
Nobody Likes a Goblin, written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
published in 2016 by First Second
Oh, Ben Hatke, what you do with a pen!!
Atmospheric, personality-laden, magnetizing illustration work pulls us effortlessly into this story of a plucky little goblin and his frantic search for an old friend, pursued by hosts of folks who really, really don’t like goblins!
Pandemonious delight! Read it again and again! Highly recommended for brave children ages 3 and up.
Now You See Me, Now You Don’t, a wordless book by Silvia Borando
originally published in Italy, 2013; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press
This book is a complete hoot!
Put a crew of Crayola-bright creatures onto Crayola-bright pages and watch the ones whose skin color matches the background fairly disappear. It’s camouflage like you’ve never seen before, with just a pair of eyeballs left to blink out at us.
No matter what the background color, though, there’s one creature that never seems to materialize. Who could it be? Jolly good fun for little peepers ages 18 months and older.
The Mixed-Up Truck, written and illustrated by Stephen Savage
published in 2016, a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press
Stephen Savage is back with another earnest, amiable truck. You just can’t help loving these guys!
This time it’s a cement mixer who’s new on the job. His task is to mix up some white powder and water to make cement for the construction site. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. Watch, groan, smile, cheer! A delight for ages Under-Two and up.
Alfie Outdoors, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
published in 2016 by Red Fox
Here’s another classic Alfie story, republished by Red Fox who is bringing (thank you!!!) all the Alfie stories once again into U.S. markets. No reason for any child to not know Alfie and Annie Rose!
This story fins Alfie and Dad prepping and planting a new vegetable garden where Alfie is growing carrots as a treat for a special friend of his named Gertrude.
Simple, non-electronic, outdoor play is a lovely element in so much of Hughes’ work and this certainly exhibits that. Get inspired for some gardening of your own, with ages 2 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, wordless books | Tagged animals, baseball, book reviews, children's literature, deafness, Edith Houghton, gardening, goblins, migration, picture books, William Hoy | Leave a Comment »
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill
published by Algonquin Young Readers
ON SHELVES BEGINNING TUESDAY, AUGUST 9!
Minnesota-author Kelly Barnhill has come out with another powerful middle-grade fantasy starring a short, bustling witch named Xan, Glerk the swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. There’s magic-aplenty in her story, not the least of which is how quickly these three will wrap themselves around your heart and cinch you into their lives, troubles, and urgent endeavors.
Life in the forest utterly changes when a small girl named Luna is folded into this trio’s company. Rescued as an infant by Xan, Luna takes a mighty slurp of moonlight and becomes enmagicked. Oops. There’s nothing for it but to raise her as their own. But an enmagicked child, as you might guess, is quite tricky to raise. Gobs more potential for disaster than with your ordinary, mischief-making toddler!
Luna needed rescuing because of the cold, cruel practice of the Protectorate: every year the elders mercilessly abandon a child as a peace-offering to the witch of the forest. Xan, unbeknownst to them, makes a habit of rescuing those babies. Eventually, a young man rises up with a brave plan to put an end to all this unspeakable sorrow and death. By killing Xan.
Barnhill’s impeccable writing makes for effortless reading, while she spins her plot with perfect pacing. Packed within the story are some tremendously thought-provoking themes which elevate this quite beyond an ordinary fantasy and make it a superb choice for a middle-grade-and-older book club.
Appearances are not what they seem. Behind the labels we place on people, quite the opposite character might lie. The hag might be good, and the councilmen evil. The weak might be strong, and the powerful, weak. Ugliness might mask beauty.
A great deal of commentary on governance also runs through the narrative, commentary I think George Orwell would have welcomed. The rulers of the Protectorate — an ironic name if there ever was one — control the populace through fear, lies, and oppression. They brook no questions or dissent. Those who control the narrative, wield the power, so it becomes critical to utterly control the narrative. And in their power, these gluttons and cowards refuse to actually protect the weak. Instead, they feed on them. Ordinary citizens are chained to despair through ignorance and fear.
That’s the dark side. The moonlit side of the story is that love and self-sacrifice open the way, empower, restore. It’s a treacherous road to get there, but an incredibly satisfying one.
386 pages. Ages 11 through adult. Great book to hand a fan of fantasy, but I read little fantasy and thoroughly enjoyed this so don’t simply skip it if that’s not normally your genre of choice. I predict this will garner some awards.
Posted in fiction | Tagged book club reads, book reviews, children's literature, fantasy, Kelly Barnhill, middle grade novels | Leave a Comment »
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