Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Black Bird Yellow Sun by Steve Light

Light steps away from his familiar, intricate style to produce a bold new board book. A sharply defined black bird stands against bold backgrounds of splashy color; a yellow sun, purple grapes, green grass, and pink flowers. Each background is sponge-painted, with thick, luscious texture. Hidden in each spread is a little orange worm, accompany Black Bird as she discovers the many colors that can be seen throughout the day, from the blazing yellow of the newly risen sun to the quiet blue of the moon against a darker blue sky.

The bold, brief text names the bird and the color in each page and nothing more, but the pictures open up older readers to speculation on a possible story. Why is the bird accompanied by the worm? Is she not hungry? Are they friends? Babies can also appreciate the bold contrasting colors and practice pointing and turning pages as they view each new color and shape.

The book itself is a medium-sized square, about 7x7 inches. It's a thinner cardboard than some board books, but without any additional moving parts should be sturdy enough for many small hands (and mouths) to enjoy it.

Verdict: This departure from Light's usual artistic style will be a welcome addition to board book collections, especially for the youngest of listeners. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763690670; Published March 2018 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lola Dutch by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright

An exuberant and imaginative character springs to life in this debut picture book from a husband and wife team. Lola Dutch is, as her animal friends often say, “a little bit much.” She begins the day sliding down the banister of her Parisian-style apartment house, then creating a magnificent (and messy) breakfast. The next project for the day is a trip to the library, resulting in towers of books about inventors and artists which, of course, leads to some great art. After all this fun, Lola still has ideas but Bear is firm. It’s time for bed! But first there have to be bubble baths, bedtime stories, and a majestic bed fort. But maybe sometimes simpler is better? Finally, Lola is tucked into her own gilt bed, in her pink room, with Bear to tuck her in and say goodnight.

The story is illustrated in soft pastels and watercolors with many homages to famous artists and authors. In her imagination Lola travels through a papercut landscape of Matisse, crosses a bridge over a Monet lily pond, and she and her friends create magnificent portraits in the style of Klimt, van Gogh, and Picasso, among others. The book itself is a creative adventure, with a dollhouse printed on the back of the jacket and paper dolls to cut out and play with.

This was fun and exuberant. Fancy Nancy fans are sure to enjoy it, as well as Eloise aficionados. The things is, it’s awfully similar to Eloise. Lola lives in a mansion, accompanied only by Bear, Gator, Crane, and Pig. They are too subservient to her whims to be family, and Bear especially seems to act much like a combined butler and nanny. All of the books they see at the library are older classics, scientists, and artists, nearly all male. Some of the names include Da Vinci, Bell, Edison, Morse, Dickens, Bronte, and Austen, and the main artists are Matisse and Monet.

It’s a cute book. But do we really need another book about a privileged white girl who gets to explore her dreams and artistic interests with no curbs or barriers? I’d argue that we don’t. Fancy Nancy is, I think, popular precisely because it features an everyday little girl making the most of what she has - Fancy Nancy can make even a motel visit into something special. Crafty Chloe makes things with her own two hands - she doesn’t need an artists’ studio, professional tools, and a mansion setting to let her creativity free.

Verdict: Is this cute? Yes. The pictures are adorable, the additional activities fun, and the cheerful text attractive. Will kids check it out? Sure. Will it be memorable? I doubt it. It’s time we saw more girls of different races exploring their creativity - and took it out of the city mansion setting. An additional purchase at most.

ISBN: 9781681195513; Published 2018 by Bloomsbury; Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sinking the Sultana by Sally M. Walker

Walker sets the scene for this horrific maritime disaster by walking readers through the history of transport - and steamboats - on the Mississippi river. From this more industrial history, she moves to an overview of the Civil War, focuses on several soldiers who will be involved in the disaster. These and thousands of other soldiers, released from prison camps in the South, prepare to head home on the doomed steamboat. Walker builds the suspense - and also the evidence - adding quotes, evidence, and introducing more key players. Finally, in the seventh chapter, it all comes to a head with the Sultana’s explosion - and the deaths of thousands of men, as well as other passengers. The aftermath is shown through survivor’s accounts, the experiences of rescuers, and what little is known of the investigation at the time. Finally, the verdict is reached - and no one is held responsible for the disaster, clearly due to a combination of bribery, greed, incompetence, and sheer bad luck.

Walker lists the prevailing theories of the time, later evidence, and the fates of those few who left accounts and whose names were known. A final author’s note discusses Walker’s investigation the story and the societies which keep the tale of the Sultana alive. There is also a glossary, bibliography, and index. The advance review copy I saw did not include all the art, but the final edition includes multiple maps, drawings, and photographs.

This account steps outside the usual fare of battles and major players to illuminate bribery and corruption - and the tragic results for everyday soldiers and their families. Walker also talks about the rescue efforts and humanity of local families who helped the survivors, many of whom had recently been their enemies.

Verdict: As I continue to update the 900s, I look not only for broad overviews but for titles that show new perspectives and different views of past conflicts. This is a good example of that, showing the effects of war on ordinary soldiers and families, as well as discussing the causes and aftermath of a preventable disaster. A well-written and interesting look not only at a little-known disaster but also at the history of steamboats and the mid-south area.

ISBN: 9780763677558; Published October 10 by Candlewick; Galley provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Putting my money where my mouth is: Other Awards


There are other awards, which are not Cybils or ALA. Hard to believe I know, but they do exist! I have a sort of random selection of awards that I've found work well in our library. I had a beautiful, comprehensive list of them.... which I lost. So I had to recreate it. There are a lot more, especially in the teen realm, but I don't really use those much.

Books reviewed on my main blog are linked to their review. (P) indicates they were purchased for the library. (R) means it was read and listed on my shorter review blog, Flying Off My Bookshelf.

Edgar Award (juvenile nominations)

  • Audacity Jones steals the show by Kirby Larson
    • Available in the consortium
  • Vanished by James Ponti (P)
  • Assassin's curse by Kevin Sands
    • Available in the consortium
  • First class murder by Robin Stevens
  • Newsprints by Xu Ru (P) (R)
CLEL Bell Awards
  • Library book by Tom Chapin (R)
    • Available in the consortium
  • Little plane learns to write by Stephen Savage (P)
  • Say Zoop! by Herve Tullet (P)
  • Motor Goose by Rebecca Colby (P) (R)
  • Things to do with dad by Sam Zuppardi
Gryphon Award
  • Hidden life of a toad by Doug Wechsler (P)
  • Honor Books
    • Dog on a frog by Kes Gray (P) (R)
    • King Flashypants and the evil emperor by Andy Riley
      • Available in the consortium
    • Sam the man and the rutabaga plan by Frances O'Roark Dowell
      • Available in the consortium
Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award
  • Deadly flowers by Sarah L. Thomson (P)
Jane Addams Children's Book Award
  • Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson
    • Available in the consortium
  • Sachiko by Caren Stelson (P)
  • Honor Books
    • First step by Susan Goodman (R)
      • Available in the consortium
    • I Dissent by Debbie Levy (R)
      • Available in the consortium
    • We will not be silent by Russell Freedman (P)
    • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
      • Available in the consortium
Scott O'Dell Award
  • Beyond the bright sea by Lauren Wolk
    • Received as part of a publisher prize. Added to the library
Charlotte Zolotow Award
  • Different pond by Bao Phi (P) (R)
Ezra Jack Keats Book Award
  • Crown: an ode to the fresh cut by Derrick Barnes
    • Available in the consortium
  • Muddy: The story of Blues legend Muddy Waters (illustrator Evan Turk) (R)
    • Available in the consortium

Putting my money where my mouth is: ALA awards 2017


I don't follow awards slavishly; I feel that winning an award and appealing to kids in general and my specific audience in particular are two (three?) different things. Still, it's good to be aware of what's out there and I do get school assignments for award-winning books. We are having a big awards display in March, and since the ALA awards are a large portion of children's awards, it makes sense to focus a post on them. (Note that I have left out most, if not all, of the teen fiction titles - I don't purchase in that area)

Books reviewed on my main blog are linked to their review. (P) indicates they were purchased for the library. (R) means it was read and listed on my shorter review blog, Flying Off My Bookshelf.

Newbery Medal Winner
  • Hello universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (P)
    • Honors
    • Crown: an ode to the fresh cut by Derrick Barnes
      • Available in the consortium
    • Long way down by Jason Reynolds (P)
    • Piecing me together by Renee Watson
      • Available in the consortium
Caldecott Medal Winner
  • Wolf in the snow by Matthew Cordell
    • Honors
    • Big cat, little cat by Elisha Cooper (R)
      • Available in the consortium
    • Crown: an ode to the fresh cut by Derrick Barnes
      • Available in the consortium
    • Different pond by Bao Phi (P) (R)
    • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (P)
Sibert Award
  • Twelve days in May by Larry Dane Brimmer (P)
    • Honors
    • Chef Roi Choi and the street food remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (R)
      • Available in the consortium
    • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (P)
    • Not so different by Shane Burcaw (P)
    • Sea otter heroes by Patricia Newman (P)
Geisel Award
Pura Belpre Awards
  • La princesa and the pea by Susan Middleton Elya (P)
  • All around us by Xelena Gonzalez
    • Available in the consortium
  • Frida Kahlo and her animalitos by Monica Brown (R)
    • Available in the consortium
  • Lucky broken girl by Ruth Behar (P)
    • Publisher prize
  • Honors
  • Epic fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (P)
    • Publisher prize
  • First rule of punk by Celia Perez (P)
    • Publisher prize
Schneider Family Book Awards
  • Silent days, silent dreams by Allen Say
    • Available in the consortium
  • Macy McMillan and the rainbow goddess by Shari Green (P)

Putting my money where my mouth is: Cybils Awards 2017

The Awards Hibiscus

I have been involved with Cybils since 2009, specifically in the nonfiction divisions, but also in picture books, graphic novels, and easy readers/early chapters. Cybils is unique in that it is a grassroots award; nominations are public, judges are chosen from a varied group of parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors, and educators. The twin criteria are child appeal and literary quality and we also look at diversity. Shortlists are announced on New Year's Day and winners on Valentine's Day.

Books reviewed on my main blog are linked to their review. (P) indicates they were purchased for the library. (R) means it was read and listed on my shorter review blog, Flying Off My Bookshelf. Winners in each category are highlighted. (Final note - as I do not purchase ya fiction, I have not included that category).

Board Books
Early Chapters
Easy Readers
  • What makes a monster by Jess Keating (P)
  • Shark lady by Jess Keating (R)
    • Available in our consortium
  • Once upon a jungle by Laura Knowles (P) (R)
  • Danza by Duncan Toniatuah (R)
    • Available in our consortium
  • Hatching chicks in room 6 by Caroline Arnold (P) (R)
  • Adrift at sea by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (R)
    • Available in our consortium
  • Dazzle ships by Chris Barton (R)
    • Available in our consortium
Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels
Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction
  • Miss Ellicott's School for the magically minded by Sage Blackwood
    • Available in the consortium
  • Countdown conspiracy by Katie Slivensky (P)
  • Dragon with a chocolate heart by Stephanie Burgis (P)
  • Last day on Mars by Kevin Emerson
    • Available in the consortium
  • Face like glass by Frances Hardinge
    • Available in the consortium
  • Spirit hunters by Ellen Oh (P)
  • Properly unhaunted place by William Alexander (P)
Fiction Picture Books
  • After the fall by Dan Santat (P) (R)
  • Book of mistakes by Corinna Luyken (R)
    • Received from a publisher as a prize. Added to the library.
  • Big cat, little cat by Elisha Cooper (R)
    • Available in my consortium
  • Escargot by Dashka Slater (R)
  • Creepy pair of underwear by Aaron Reynolds (P) (R)
  • Baabwaa and Wooliam by David Elliott (R)
    • Available in my consortium
  • Flowers for Sarajevo by John McCutcheon
    • Available in my consortium
Junior High Nonfiction
  • Whydah by Martin Sandler (P)
  • Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team by Steve Sheinkin (P)
  • Motor girls by Sue Macy (P)
  • Poison by Sarah Albee (P)
  • Bound by Ice by Sandra Neil Wallace (P)
  • Isaac the alchemist by Mary Losure
    • Available in the consortium
  • Locked up for freedom by Heather Schwartz
    • Available in the consortium
    • Will purchase later - direct from publisher
Middle Grade Fiction
  • Amina's voice by Hena Khan (P)
  • Armstrong and Charlie by Steven Frank
    • Available in the consortium
  • Insignificant events in the life of a cactus by Dusti Bowling
    • Available in the consortium
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz (P)
  • Epic fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya
    • Received from a publisher as a prize. Added to the library.
  • Restart by Gordon Korman (P)
  • Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel
    • Available in my consortium
Middle Grade Nonfiction
Poetry
  • Out of wonder by Kwame Alexander
    • Available in my consortium
  • One last word by Nikki Grimes
    • Available in my consortium
  • Bull by David Elliott
    • Available in my consortium
  • Fresh-picked poetry by Michelle Schaub (R)
    • Available in my consortium
  • I'm just no good at rhyming by Chris Harris (P)
  • Miguel's brave knight by Margarita Engle
    • Available in my consortium
  • Keep a pocket in your poem by J. Patrick Lewis (R)
    • Available in my consortium
Senior High Nonfiction
  • Uprooted: The Japanese American experience in World War II by Albert Marrin (P)
  • Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
    • Available in my consortium
  • Dog in the cave by Kay Frydenborg (P)
  • Alice Paul and the fight for women's rights by Deborah Kops (P)
  • How dare the sun rise: Memoirs of a war child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana (P)
  • Queer, there, and everywhere by Sarah Prager (P)
  • March against fear by Ann Bausum (P)
Young Adult Graphic Novels
  • Spinning by Tillie Walden (P)
  • Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld
    • Available in my consortium
  • Soupy leaves home by Cecil Castellucci
    • Available in my consortium
  • New Super-Man Vol. 1: Made in China by Gene Luen Yang (P)
  • Buddha: An enlightened life by Kieron Moore
    • Available in my consortium
  • Tyson Hesse's Diesel: Ignition (P)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

This week at the library; or, Vacation is all gone now

We finally got in a great starting group for Anime Club!
Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Sensory Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
    • Vacation!
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
    • Vacation!
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Obstacle Course (2 sessions)
    • Worked 12-8
  • Thursday
  • Friday
I am pleased that I was gone for 5 days (if you count the weekend) and I only had one voicemail - and that was a hang-up so it doesn't count. I am not a fan of phones. Lots of deadlines this week, mostly for scheduling and things like the STEM calendar. March and April are done! Email me if you want to be added to the list for the editable publisher file!

I also had a book club that went long - and confirmed me in my suspicion that few kids nowadays know much about history. We had a vigorous discussion about dates (no, I was NOT born in the 60s *rolls eyes*) and about whether Snow Treasure is true or not (it isn't - it's historical fiction).

I'm glad I remembered to go to the HEAL committee meeting. It's a planning committee for a wellness program with a lot of different participants from various county groups. I think I've got some possible spots for Library on the Go this summer.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Bolivar by Sean Rubin

I usually don't like big, bulky graphic novels that are more art than words. Or books about New York. Or philosophical treatises about what people see or don't see around them.

This book has all of those things. I loved it anyways.

The story begins subtly, in the mosaics on the end pages. They show big, green and gray, clawed feet moving alongside a pair of small, human footprints. The title page and opening are lovingly created, showing a busy New York with tight-packed brownstones and patches of green and trees. A voice over announces a new dinosaur exhibit, talking about their extinction. Slowly, the reader realizes there's something... different in the picture. Until the story begins and we know the truth - there is a real, live dinosaur in New York. His name is Bolivar and this is his story.

Text is interspersed with full-page illustrations, alternating with comic panels. Readers will follow along Bolivar's somewhat lonely life, snickering at the sometimes humorous way he lives "The forms said you couldn't have any dogs or cats in the apartment. Bolivar didn't have any dogs or cats, so he was allowed to live there." But someone does notice Bolivar - Sybil. A small, blonde girl next door. Sybil's mother is too busy with work, errands, and life in general to listen to Sybil and her classmates just make fun of her. But she's determined to prove Bolivar really exists. Armed with a camera, she sets out to capture her proof, and in the process explore New York. But things don't end the way she expects; when Bolivar is mistaken for the mayor and outed as a dinosaur by the famous (white, male) paleontologist, Sybil starts feeling sorry for him. Eventually, Sybil realizes that what she really wants is a friend - and Bolivar decides that maybe having just a few people see him won't be so bad after all.

It's disappointing that in such a diverse city all the main characters of the story (besides the dinosaur) are white. However, at least the crowds, people, and various staff show a little more diversity although it's ironic that a story about not noticing what's around you picks such a small portion of the population to focus on...

Despite this drawback, the art is exquisite, full of detail and obvious love for the giant city and its busy inhabitants. Lots of cross-hatching, earth tones, and many clever details fill the story. It's not exactly a middle grade title, nor yet a beginning chapter, but I plan to introduce it to my 3rd and 4th graders. I can see it being used in classrooms as well, for observation and story pacing.

Verdict: I don't often buy Archaia's titles - they tend to be more expensive and leaning towards the artistic rather than the popular. But this charming title will definitely be attractive to my readers (when it was pulled out in our recent unboxing event several kids immediately slapped their name on it) and an excellent book club pick. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781684150694; Published November 28, 2017 by Archaia; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Beanstalker and other hilariously scary tales by Kiersten White, illustrated by Karl Kwasny

This was another choice for my October Book Explosion club meeting (genre - fantasy) which I did not have time to read. It turned out to be quite awesome, but not quite right for any of the kids who attended that meeting, so it's just as well nobody wanted it although there's still a chance it will get picked by a latecomer!

Apparently this was inspired by a series of tweets from the author, which I missed as I do not tweet. It's not quite fractured fairy tale fare, although very close, and it's a mix of gory, gruesome, and just gross. But it's also quite funny and I giggled all through it.

The story opens with Rapunzel in her tower and Prince Charming coming to save her. Only her "fair hair" isn't what he thinks it is and Prince Charming *cough* or Charring, has his own secrets.... following her stepmother, we visit another kingdom where everyone loves the sweet, charming, lovely, Snow White. They love her so much they prefer to wake at night, as she does, and everyone looks rather pale... When the stepmother sends her stepson Jack away, he winds up at a kingdom that is looking for a princess - and they decide to set a test with a pea in the bed. Except Jack never was good at spelling (or eating vegetables) and he leaves something quite different in the bed... not to mention the pease porridge...

So it continues, weaving in classic fairy tales, adding zombies, arsonists, and vampires, interspersed with rewritten nursery rhymes with quite a different meaning. Finally, just when the narrator is about to give up hope (along with the stepmother - yes, it's the same stepmother in all the stories) Jack manages to do something clever, for the first time in his life. Er, maybe. Maybe not. Yeah, definitely no sequel for this book...

Verdict: Recommend to readers who like Lubar's Weenie books or Gidwitz deliciously dark fairy tale fantasies. Just...don't eat the pease porridge. Ever.

ISBN: 9780545940603; Published 2017 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consoritum

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: One happy tiger by Catherine Rayner

I hadn't realized Rayner had created a board book until it came up in the Cybils finalist list. I enjoy her sketchy illustrations and have used several of her picture books in storytimes and toy bags in the past. The illustrations in this book are actually from an older, British picture book - Augustus and his smile. But how does her art work in a board book setting?

Against an orange background, a sad tiger sits alone, facing away from the reader. But on the next page, he discovers two little red bugs on a leaf. Then the background changes to green, against which three blue and green birds shine. The tiger's pleasure and surprise grows as she sees four butterflies, fluttering about the page. Five transparent dragonflies appear next, then six footprints in the original orange world. The tiger, now happy, bounces cheerfully through a rainstorm, stretches sleepily in the company of eight bees, swims with fish in a rainbow of tigers. In the last spread, the happy tiger looks at ten of her new friends.

The book is a little taller than the typical board book - think roughly the size of the Scarry classic, I am a bunny. The pages are sturdy but a little thinner than the heavy-duty cardboard used in board books.

Although this is primarily a counting book, there's still a slight storyline as the tiger's moods change. Rayner's art is colorful but not lurid - soft blues, greens, and oranges meld throughout the story. The splashy pictures mimic a child's drawing in some cases, as in the simple fish shapes sketched into the water, and in others show the power of line and movement, as in the messy scattering of line that so beautifully captures the tiger's anthropomorphic expressions.

Verdict: This book will be an excellent choice not only for toddlers, learning numbers, and identifying animals. It's also a good resource for parents and teachers wanting to work with children on recognizing emotions, if they're ready for more subtle changes in expression.

ISBN: 9781589252349; This edition published 2017 by Tiger Tales; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library