Friday, December 3, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations, The Trickles

Oh no! My perfect alphabetical order destroyed! Oh well. Here are a few I missed, or have only just received from the publishers or library. I may update this list if more of the titles I'm missing show up over the next few weeks.

By the way, when I say "borrowed from the library" I am referring to our system, or consortium, whichever you prefer. "My" library is fairly small - a town of 8,000, service population of 20,000, and we own approximately 72,000 items. But through our system and the connected systems, I have more or less immediate access to items in multiple counties and through our inter-library loan system to almost all the libraries in Wisconsin. Systems rock!

  • Alphabet Kids: Oni's good hair day by Michelle Bodden and Patrice Samara. Oni is worried about her first day at school, but the friendly kids make her feel at home. Until Allegra says her hair is different, "crunchy." Oni is upset, but her parents show her pictures of family with lots of different hairstyles and explain that her hair has "the life of the land we came from" in it. When Oni returns to school, resplendent with more beads in her hair, Allegra apologizes and all the kids get beaded hairstyles. The dialogue falls a little flat in places and the ending is unrealistic, but parents and teachers wanting a series of books intended to introduce their children to different ethnicities might find this series useful. Review copy received from publisher.
  • Calvin can't fly by Jennifer Berne. Wish-fulfillment for the bookish. Calvin, one of many, many, many, many starling siblings, prefers to read instead of join them in lessons in starling life. When it comes time for them to fly south, Calvin has to admit he hasn't learned to fly. His siblings take pity on him and carry him, then Calvin saves them from a hurricane with the knowledge he gained from reading books. Calvin is so excited and happy at the ensuing celebration that he spontaneously flies. Ok, that makes this story sound really...dumb. But I actually really liked it! It's funny, kids who love books and dislike tromping along with the rest of the crowd for team sports etc. will really like it, and it offers the idea that you need both hands-on learning and books to be prepared for life. I just...well, the adult in me finds it illogical. I have to admit MY extensive reading hasn't prepared me for identifying the signals of a hurricane and it seems a little too easy when Calvin just flies after his siblings worked so hard to learn. But that's the adult in me. Kids will love this story and it makes a great read-aloud. Review copy received from Sterling.
  • Don't let Auntie Mabel bless the table by Vanessa Newton. A multi-racial family sits down to Sunday dinner, but Auntie Mabel's prayer goes on and on and on....finally, Poppa finishes off the prayer and it's time to eat. There's a lot of nice diversity in the many, many faces shown throughout the book, and kids will giggle over the bored grownups and children playing with their food while Auntie Mabel drones on. Unfortunately, that's all the text is - Auntie Mabel droning on, in rather clunky rhyme. While I really want more "everyday" multi-racial books for my library, I don't think this one will hold children's interest. Review copy received from Blue Apple Books.
  • Bedtime of the sky and other Sleepy-bye stories by Carolyn Wolfe. Saccharine, pedestrian poems with mediocre illustrations. This would have been better as a private family memory, which it appears to be. PDF provided by Avid Readers.
  • Champ and me by the maple tree by Ed Shankman. Mediocre rhyme and undistinguished digital illustrations. Again, this is perfectly fine as a present for your own kids or friends, but it's not of interest to the general public. PDF provided by Applewood Books.
  • Queen Vernita meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer by Dawn Menge. Poorly written, heavily didactic and painfully "cute." Get some nonfiction on astronomy and skip this poorly disguised astronomy lesson. PDF provided by Outskirts Press.
  • The Scariest Dream Ever by Maria T. DiVencenzo. A little boy dreams of scary monsters but his mother has the perfect solution - put them all to work! The scary witch does the laundry, the many-legged spider cleans the kitchen, and so on. Finally, the little boy is ready to sleep. Alixandra Martin's mixed media illustrations shift perfectly from the looming darkness of the little boy's room, in shades of blue, black and gray, to the bright colors of the industrious monsters and the little boy's delight in their antics. Parents who don't have bedtime problems probably will want to skip this one - who wants to give the kiddos ideas? But if you've got an irrepressible bed hopper, this just might do the trick. Recommended. Review copy provided by Winterlake.
  • Around our way on Neighbors' Day by Tameka Fryer Brown. Swirling, vivid paintings full of life, movement and color, celebrate a block party and the warmth and excitement of friends and family. I found the rhythm of Brown's text hard to follow - if you're going to use this in a community or party storytime, be sure to rehearse it first to get the lines to flow smoothly. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Me, Frida by Amy Novesky, illustrated by David Diaz. A fictionalized account of Frida Kahlo's experiences and emotions during the time she lived in San Francisco with her husband, Diego Rivera. The artwork is gorgeous, the writing evocative and lyrical. Now, list for me the kids you would hand a picturebook about Frida Kahlo to. Yeah, I can't think of anybody either. This one might find some use in an art or history class but it's not one I'd add to a small public library. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • My friend Maya loves to dance by Cheryl Willis Hudson. An unseen narrator describes her friend Maya's love of dance, ballet, jazz, and more. Maya loves her costumes, music, and all the beauty and movement incorporated in dance. There are a couple things that jarred for me in this book. Most of the dance portrayed is ballet - only two spreads show Maya dancing something other than ballet, and three more spreads show her in street clothes doing undefined movements (or at least I don't recognize them as a specific dance style). But, the text suddenly pops up midway with "kente cloth is best" when describing her costumes. If it's best and her favorite, why is she dancing predominantly classical ballet? Also, the final spread which reveals that the girl in a wheelchair seen once earlier in the audience is the narrator and "artist" feels forced to me. It takes away the focus of the story, which should be Maya and her love of dance. I feel like those two elements were popped into the story. Other than that, this is a lovely dance book with lots of variety and will probably be popular. Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • All the seasons of the year by Deborah Lee Rose, illustrated by Kay Chorao. Rose's simple rhymes speak of a mother's love through all the seasons of the year. The real attraction, for me, is Kay Chorao's delicate and exquisite drawings. They draw out the sweetness of Rose's text without descending into the saccharine. Weed your copies of "Love you forever" and add this one instead! Review copy provided by Abrams.
  • Gunner, Football Hero by James E. Ransome. Gunner loves football. His parents aren't interested in sports, but they support his obsession. Gunner is thrilled to join a PeeWee sports team and the coach is impressed with his ability to throw a pass but...Gunner is too short, too round, and just not good enough. He's just a backup - but he still works hard, shows up every time, and gets himself ready just in case. (yeah, I know backup isn't the official term. I'm not a sports person, ok?) Finally, he has his chance and leads his team to victory...almost. This is a great story about perseverance, working hard, supporting the team, and good sportsmanship. I can't help feel that Gunner is a little too angelic - would a kid really be constantly cheerful and never depressed or upset when he's constantly overlooked? Would his teammates really cheer him unreservedly even when they lose? But it's still a great sports story - there aren't many for younger kids and this fills a gap. Recommended. Review copy received from Holiday House.
  • The ABCs of Rock by Melissa Duke Mooney. I really, really don't think this book is aimed at a child audience. Each letter of the alphabet has a band or person listed. A page of "art notes" in the back give a brief snippet on each band or performer and how the art was chosen for their page. The art is rock posters. This is a present for the teen or adult rock aficionado, not for the picturebook section. Maybe for reading with a child while the parent recalls memories. Borrowed from the library.
  • Ten big toes and a prince's nose by Nancy Gow. A princess with large feet meets a prince with a big nose and the two fall in love. Hmm...this is a sweet and attractive story on the surface, with lovely pastel illustrations and a nice moral - don't judge people by how they look. But what message is this book really sending? Both the princess and the prince are judged by their appearance - no suitor will stick around to find out how nice they are inside. But when the two meet each other, their flaws are hidden. They fall in love BEFORE they see each others' physical defects. The other thing that bugs me about this is how relieved they both are when they see that they both are...appendage-impaired, if you will. From this story, we learn that if you have a flaw, you better find someone else with an equally bad flaw because only that person is ever going to look past your appearance. There are plenty of fairy tales and legends about a beautiful prince or princess falling for someone that's less than lovely. I would rather have seen a retelling of one of those than this "all must be equal" mush. Oh, and it's rhymed rather cloyingly. This will be a huge hit with most parents and teachers, who always seem to like the combination of rhyme and moral, but it doesn't work for me. Borrowed from the library.
  • There was an old lady who swallowed some bugs adapted and illustrated by Johnette Downing. This favorite of retellers lists a variety of bugs on the menu and replaces "perhaps she'll die" with "perhaps she'll cry". The final surprise of the story is when the old lady's stomach is full and she croaks! Naturally, since she turns out to be a frog on a lily pond. The collage illustrations are very bright and large, so much so that they lose much of their definition when viewed closely. This would probably work well in a large group setting, where the children are seeing the story from a distance. Review copy provided by Pelican.
  • Cop's night before Christmas by Officer Michael D. Harrison. A lonely police officer is missing his family on Christmas Eve. When an unusual police officer shows up to take his place, he happily returns to his family. David Miles' simple illustrations are pleasant, if a little pedestrian. The text really was a disappointment to me. It's written in labored rhyme, often the sign of an amateur picturebook author (why do people think kids' books should be in rhyme? Why?) and contains little gems like "The diner was small,/Open every day, all the time./If you tasted the coffee,/You might think it a crime." The author is a police officer with extensive experience who started an organization called Santa Cops which delivers presents to children. But I found his depiction of a police officer very confusing. Now, I may be entirely wrong here, since the sum total of my experience with the police is sitting through boring city training meetings with them, the occasional call when kids are fighting, and that one time I locked my keys in the car...but do police officers actually change flat tires and rescue kittens? This is a pretty sanitized patrol - no drunks, vagrants, disturbances...Then the officer apparently spends a couple hours at a diner - it doesn't say when he arrives, but most of the people are gone and it's "nearly eleven" when he leaves. The part that bugs me the most is he walks out the door and here's a "Santa cop" complete with badge, handcuffs, and helicopter who promises he knows the town and there's no place to hide from the policeman goes home. Leaving Santa-stalker to walk the streets...ok, maybe I'm over-reacting a bit, but this is really a pointless story. I would have prefered a realistic tale of some of the kids Officer Michael Harrison has helped - it seems like he's worked with a lot of kids and is very experienced, but mostly with older kids, so maybe he doesn't realize that younger children don't need rhymed pap. Review copy provided by Pelican.

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