Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations: The S's

Did you miss Calvin Ramsey's Ruth and the Green Book from the R list the other day? Well, that's just one of the amazing books I've set aside to do a little more chattering about. It's a stunning, powerful book by the way, and one which I recommend highly.

We've still got lots of amazing books here in the S's - just 'cause I can't think of more to say doesn't mean there's not some great choices here for your library or classroom!
  • Sally's great balloon adventure by Stephen Huneck. I don't really get the appeal of the Sally stories. I find the illustrations static and the plots without much interest. I prefer Calhoun's Henry stories or Alexandra Day's Carl, both of which are similar. But if you have Sally fans you'll want to add her latest adventure. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Santa Christina and her sled dogs by George William Kelly. There are the bones of an interesting plot in this story, but unfortunately it rambles in the middle and has a hard time getting back on track. We start out learning about Santa Christina, wife of Santa Claus, and her sled dogs. Very good. Brisk, short text, interesting art. Then we get a short history lesson on Balto and the plot starts disintegrating. Santa Christina and her sled dogs go to New York and take part in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and see the statue of Balto in the park and....then Santa's reindeer challenge them to a race. Ah, back to the plot. It's a tie and they decide to share the distribution of gifts that year. Amy Cameron's art looks best in the Alaskan vistas and the depictions of the various sled dogs. The Macy's scenes look crowded and over-colored. I would be interested in seeing more from this small press - and this particular author - but the plot derailed for me throughout the middle of the book. Review copy received from publisher, McRoy & Blackburn.
  • Sea of Sleep by Warren Hanson. It's illustrated by Jim LaMarche, so we know it's going to be beautiful and it is. Lyrical, exquisite writing paired with LaMarche's soft, glowing watercolors (yeah, I know they're made with acrylics and so on, but they look like watercolors to me). The perfect bedtime story - create a great family tradition with this lovely book. Borrowed from the library.
  • Seaside Dreams by Janet Costa Bates. Cora feels she has a special bond with her grandmother, so she's not sure how she feels about the many relatives arriving for Grandma's 70th birthday party. Cora doesn't even have a present! But after some of their traditional beach walks, she thinks of the perfect present to give Grandma, who misses her sister, still living in Cape Verde. This is a warmly written story of a family who has adapted to hard times, a new country, and a new life while still maintaining their family's strength. Recommended for grades 1 - 3, as the text is lengthy for a read-aloud. Review copy provided by Lee & Low.
  • Shadow by Suzy Lee. I love, love, love Suzy Lee's amazing wordless books. Her art is fascinating and endlessly new. However, I've had trouble circulating Wave, which is the most accessible of her books. I would say Shadow and her other similar titles; Wave and Mirror, are the kind of books you buy for that small, special group of children who appreciate unique and complex books. I wouldn't suggest filling your collection with these - we need some Fancy Nancy, and plenty of trucks and dinosaurs! But there are special books you add with one or two specific children in mind and this is one of those special ones. Borrowed from the library.
  • Short tale about a long tale by Marilee Crow. Poorly written and badly illustrated. Not recommended. PDF provided by Guardian Angel Publishing.
  • Sick day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead. I didn't care for this one the first time I read it, but it grew on me. Amos McGee is a quiet and friendly zookeeper, who lives an orderly life, doing the same thing each day. Part of his routine is to spend some special time with his special animal friends; playing chess with the elephant, racing the tortoise, etc. When Amos gets sick, his friends help and cheer him in their own special ways. It took me a while to fall in love with the illustrations, drawn in shades of gray and brown with gentle washes of color. This is a quiet book that will slowly become a steady favorite. Borrowed from the library.
  • Sid the Squid and the search for the perfect job by David Derrick. Although it has some rough patches, this was a surprisingly fun and enjoyable story. Sid the Squid (am I the only person who started hearing the Batman theme song?) is looking for the perfect job. He tries directing traffic, working in the movies, walking dogs, etc. but each job ends in disaster. Finally, he discovers the perfect job that uses all his talents and which he's perfectly suited for. There are a few rough edges to the text and a few overly didactic passages, but for the most part it moves briskly with plenty of humor provided by the interplay between the text and the broadly comic illustrations. I'd be interested in seeing more work from this author. PDF supplied by Immedium.
  • Signed, Abiah Rose by Diane Browning. This story is beautifully written and has an intriguing subject, but I can't think of a single child under the age of 10 who would be interested in reading about 18th - 19th century folk artists and women's involvement in a very anonymous movement. I personally found the story fascinating and the pictures beautifully expressive of the time period, but it wouldn't circulate in my library. This might be a choice for a larger library, where there's a wider range of interests among the kids. Borrowed from the library.
  • Sister Exchange by Kevin McNamee. Poorly written and badly illustrated. I was personally appalled by the idea of lying to and frightening a child to get them to get along with their sibling. Shades of Struwwelpeter anyone? PDF provided by Guardian Angel Publishing.
  • Sivu's six wishes by Jude Daly. A stonemason named Sivu creates masterpieces - but is embittered by his lack of wealth and power. Suddenly, his wishes come true and he is the businessman he envies...then the mayor...then the sun...then a rain cloud...then the wind...then a rock...and he realizes it is the stonemason who is the most powerful. The brief note at the end says this is based on a Taoist tale "The Stone Cutter." I know very little about Taoist philosophy, so I suppose it is coming from a completely different culture that makes this story confusing to me. In each more powerful incarnation of Sivu, he makes more and more people miserable and they curse him for his cruelty and power. But...at what point did he decide to abuse his new power? Why couldn't he have used it to help? The message of the story seems to be twofold; that no matter how lowly, everyone has power over something, but also that power = oppression. There were a couple funny bits, as when as a businessman "he would declare that a shipment of wool was too woolly." I wouldn't suggest this unless you have a segment of patrons familiar with Taoist and/or Eastern philosophy. Unless I'm generalizing and the themes I see aren't Taoist, just what I saw in the story. Borrowed from library.
  • Smoky and the Feast of Mabon by Catherynne M. Valente. Smoky, on a journey into the woods at night, discovers the meaning behind the Wiccan harvest holiday of Mabon. The writing was bland and a bit choppy and while some of the illustrations are pretty, many are appear awkward and unskilled. However, there aren't a lot of Wiccan picturebooks out there. If this is something your library needs, it's an acceptable addition. PDF supplied by Magical Child Books.
  • Snow happy by Patricia Hubbell. The author's various books on trains, cars, boats, etc. are popular in my library, as are illustrator Hiroe Nakata's pictures for Lynne Berry's Duck series. This was an interesting pairing, as I'm used to seeing Hubbell's books with Megan Halsey and Sean Addy's sleek, modernistic art. In brisk, cheerful rhymes and colorful splashes across the white snow, children celebrate all the ways they are "snow happy." This is a sweet and fun treat, whether or not you live in a snowy area. Borrowed from the library.
  • Socksquatch by Frank Dormer. This utterly unique, funny, weird little picturebook is about a socksquatch. Who is looking, naturally, for a sock. Can any monster help him? The humor and appeal of this book will depend on your readaloud abilities - practice monster moans first! Recommended for Halloween and monster storytimes. Borrowed from the library.
  • Soggy Town of Hilltop by Kevin McNamee. Poorly written and badly illustrated. Not recommended. PDF provided by Guardian Angel Publishing.
  • Space Cadet Topo: The day the sun turned off by DGPH. Although the text is cliched and clunky, the illustrations are complex and sleek. There are lots of interesting little details and ideas in the pictures. The text was a little too heavy-handed for my taste, but the pictures were interesting. PDF supplied by Immedium.
  • Spartacus the Spider by Etienne Delessert. Spartacus the spider is a failure. Flies laugh at him, his webs fall apart, and he hasn't lived up to the grand and exciting name his parents chose. So, with some inspiration from human scientists, he sets out to build the strongest and best thread ever...and succeeds. Then he worries that everything in the world will get caught in his unbreakable web and all life will end so he goes back to spinning his sloppy, useless threads and being "simply Spartacus". Huh? No, I don't know what to make of this one either. Review copy provided by Creative Editions.
  • Subway by Christoph Niemann. This is a great book about the subway...if you live somewhere with a subway. For my subway-less kids, I'd probably choose something with photographs or more realistic illustrations. But if you live in a city with subway amenities...it's a very cool book. Borrowed from the library.


Stephanie said...

I think I'm starting to see a trend with Guardian Angel Publishing...

Jennifer said...

Well, I wouldn't normally continue reviewing offerings from a press that don't...fit my review parameters, let's say, but in the interests of covering EVERYTHING nominated, I've listed their titles. It's hard to say it, because I know those authors and illustrators must have worked hard and loved their work...but the products just aren't something I would ever consider adding to the library.