Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Nominations

 Manners mash-up: A goofy guide to good behavior by various authors

This book is just plain fun. In the style of their previous collaborations, Why did the chicken cross the road? and Knock, Knock! Fourteen illustrators give their take on etiquette. 
  • Bob Shea instructs readers on the proper way to ride a school bus – no drooling and don’t clean the driver’s teeth, even if he’s a crocodile! 
  • Lynn Munsinger illustrates proper cafeteria manners, although her furry pigs don’t seem to be following her good advice. 
  • Henry Cole warns against staring – even when you see some pretty funny/icky stuff, especially in the school office. 
  • Leuyen Pham has a sweet spread on playground manners. 
  • Peter Reynolds illustrates classroom manners with several groups of excellently behaved children and dialogue that sounds like it was written for a teaching special on listening to teacher. 
  • Tedd Arnold blasts off into outer space and illustrates good sportsmanship with slug-like aliens playing slime ball. 
  • Adam Rex shows a hapless evil scientist trying to instill a few good table manners into his evil monster creations. 
  • Judy Schachner has a warm and colorful spread of good manners at a happy birthday party with a huge variety of children and activities pictured. 
  • Frank Morrison gives good advice for being a good visitor – which the wild group of kids in the living room don’t seem to have listened to!
  • Sophie Blackall has a darkly humorous illustration of what not to do in a doctor’s office, including the instruction “prosthetic legs aren’t toys.” 
  • Dan Santat instructs on proper behavior at the theater – even when it’s grand opera! 
  • Joe Berger shows some of the things you should NEVER do in a grocery store. 
  • Kevin Sherry gives pool rules, which should be followed even by giant squids. 
  • Tao Nyeu has a beautifully embroidered spread…about not picking in public, noses, toenails, etc.
The final pages give the authors a chance to talk about their goofiest manners mishap and gives a brief list of each author's titles.

Verdict: This is an amusing book that kids will enjoy looking over, but it’s not particularly substantial and there’s no actual plot to make it a good read-aloud. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 978-0803734807; Published February 2011 by Dial; Borrowed from the library

 Great big book of families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith

This book explores the many different kinds of families in simple text and cartoonish illustrations. The story begins, “Once upon a time, most families in books looked like this: One daddy, one mommy, one little boy, one little girl, one dog, and one cat.” The author encourages children to look for a family that matches their own in the following pages, as well as to find the cat who appears on every page. 

The first spread in the main body of the book is titled “Families” and the border is childlike drawings of various families. It talks about the kind of families children might live with – two daddies, two mommies, foster or adoptive parents, grandparents, or single parents. The next spread continues the border of childlike family drawings and talks about “Who’s in your family?”; siblings, relatives, or just two people. Then the book talks about where families live, go to school, different kinds of work, holidays, food, clothes, pets, family celebrations, hobbies, transportation and how families express their feelings. The book ends with an example of a family tree and a recap of how families are the same, no matter how different they appear on the outside. The cheerful cartoons that decorate the pages include some silly examples (kids using rocket packs in the transportation section for example) and lots of little details to pore over. There’s plenty of humor and honesty in the book, showing a wide variety of cultures, ethnicities, and individual family traditions and behaviors.

Verdict: Know your audience – the book does reference two mommies and daddies at the beginning, so don’t choose it for storytime if it’s going to inspire a walk-out of your entire storytime group, but it’s certainly a great choice for your library collection and a good title to hand to parents who are trying to explain family changes to children or kids who live in an “untraditional” family.

ISBN: 0803735162; Published April 2011 by Dial; Borrowed from the library

An edible alphabet: 26 Reasons to love the farm by Carol Watterson, illustrated by Michael Sorrentino

I’m always looking for new farm books. Living in a quasi-rural community, I’ve become aware there just aren’t too many realistic books about life on a farm (my own rural experience was shown to be painfully lacking when I visited a fifth grade class and my question of “what do you do that’s creative?” was met with the enthusiastic response, “Pig racing!” uh…wha…?)

Anyways, this is a really fun alphabet book with, once again, my favorite design – simple text for reading aloud to younger children and more detailed facts and information for older readers or one-on-one sharing. This book has multiple threads you can follow, a very simple one suitable for toddlers, longer sentences just right for preschoolers, and simple paragraphs for elementary readers and listeners. The book is packed with a plethora of food, creatures, machines and more. In order…
  • Ants on asparagus
  • Blueberries, beets, and beans
  • Clip, Clop, Crunch (carrots)
  • Dig in for dinner (root vegetables)
  • Eager ewes
  • Flip flop fry (fish)
  • Gaggle of giggling geese
  • Happy Herefords hiccupping home
  • Ice cold ice cream
  • Juggling jiggly jams and jellies
  • King-sized kohlrabi
  • Ladybug’s lunch
  • Making merry in the mud and muck (pigs)
  • Nibbling nectar (pollinators)
  • Oh! Overalls in the orchard (apples)
  • Pea pods pop!
  • The queen’s quivering hive
  • Reliable red rooster
  • Stink, stank, stunk (manure)
  • Tip top tasty tomato
  • Udders under umbrellas
  • Vegetable voyage
  • Woolly bears worry watermelons
  • Xtra-large eggs with yummy yellow yolks
  • Zoom zoom zuchinni
The text also includes rhymes, facts, silly stories, and more! The final pages include a list of words and images to find throughout the book.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, created in collage with acrylic and hand painted paper. Some of the faces are oddly structured, but the overall effect breathes enthusiasm and colorful life.

Verdict: This book is packed with so many different things, it’s a great choice for programs, storytime, reading aloud, and display. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-1582464213; Published July 2011 by Tricycle Press; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

How did that get in my lunchbox? The story of food by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti

 Ok, first just a question…do any kids talk about lunchboxes anymore? Seems like that word is a little outdated. Yes? No? Well, moving on…

Neatly divided clumps of text explain the process of food; growing, harvesting, cooking, preserving, packaging, and shipping for a simple lunch; bread, cheese, tomatoes, apple juice, carrots, chocolate chip cookies, and clementines.

The illustrations are bright and cartoony with a tinge of 50s style graphics. Smiling workers are shown farming, harvesting, cooking and packaging food, extra whimsical touches, like the bunnies after the farmer’s carrots hopefully following the boxes of packaged carrots off to the trucks.

Extras: A final page explains the importance of a balanced diet and additional food facts are also included, as well as an index.

Verdict: This is a nice introduction to the process of food, especially for kids who only see food in a grocery store. But part of me felt the whole thing was too…cheerful. There’s no mention of artificial additives or chemicals and all the workers look happy, healthy, and simply thrilled to be preparing a healthy lunch (and how many kids actually see a lunch like this? Not the kids I meet at the library, who seem to subsist on candy and soft drinks, or the menus I’ve heard announced at the schools, which always seem to be choices between chicken nuggets, pizza, and fish sticks.) On the other hand…this isn’t meant to be a book about sustainable farming, environmental concerns, organic food, or healthy eating. It’s a simple introduction to how food gets from the land to your lunchbox and its cheerful images are suitable for early elementary students learning about this subject. I’m on the fence on this once, you’ll have to supply your own verdict.

ISBN: 978-0763650056; Published January 2011 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library

 Rah rah radishes: A vegetable chant by April Pulley Sayre

An infectious, enthusiastic rhyme and glowing photographs introduce children to a variety of vegetables in this crowd-pleasing nonfiction read-aloud. “Eggplant’s extraordinary/Pumpkin’s art/Don’t eat zucchini?/Time to start!” 

The format of the book is simple; solid colored backgrounds of purple, orange, red and green show up couplets in bold font and a large photograph on each page. The photographs show a huge variety of vegetables in all their glory at a farmer’s market, in bins, tubs and piles. The acknowledgements give the source of the photos as the South Bend Farmer’s Market and “A few more bites” explains what a vegetable is and why they should be an important part of our diet (not to self – eat more vegetables!)

Verdict: I’ve read this in multiple story times and it never fails to raise a giggle from parents and delighted enthusiasm from kids. Be prepared for them to want to investigate the photos more closely, pointing to different vegetables and colors. Have them try out unfamiliar names and point to their favorite vegetables. This would also be a great read-aloud in a healthy eaters class! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-1442421417; Published June 2011 by Beach Lane Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Watch me grow: A down-to-earth look at growing food in the city by Deborah Hodge, photographed by Brian Harris

I loved the previous book by Hodges and Harris, Up we grow, but this one is even better. Based in Vancouver, this book shows how gardens can grow anywhere – even in a city. The book is divided into four sections; Growing, Sharing, Eating, and Caring.

 The growing section shows the many places in the city where gardens are growing and the people who are caring for them. There are suggestions for small spaces to fit in a little garden, like herbs on a sunny windowsill. Animals in the city are also included, like chickens and bees. Sharing talks about the ways people share land and crops; in community gardens, with city farmers, and with wildlife. Eating celebrates the deliciousness of fresh-grown fruit and vegetables and talks about ways to harvest, preserve, and share crops. The final section, Caring, talks about how growing gardens together not only cares for the land and nature, but also builds community relationships.
A final note about the book explains a little more about urban agriculture and lists the gardens and groups pictured throughout the book.

Verdict: This book is a great starting place for simple gardens, whether you live in the city or the country. It has great ideas for tucking growing things into small spaces and building community through gardening. And lots of great photographs of kids and adults working in and enjoying their gardens. (Incidentally, this is also the book that sparked off my dormant desire to move out to the northwest coast when I read it last year and I moved that goal back to the top of my list)…Highly recommended!

ISBN: 978-1554536184; Published February 2011 by Kids Can Press; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

How hybrid cars work by Jennifer Swanson, illustrated by Glen Mullaly

Cartoon-style illustrations and some comic panels help explain how a hybrid car works. Photos, timelines, and more show the history and evolution of hybrid cars, back to when cars ran on steam to present-day electrical hybrids. Information also includes greenhouse gases and how hybrid cars help decrease pollution, as well as alternative fuels.

An index, glossary, and link to the publisher's website for more information are also included.

Verdict: There was a lot of information in this book, but the organization was a little confused (this may be because I read it as an electronic pdf). I really didn't care for the mix of fuzzy photos (again, could have been epub) and cartoon-style illustrations. Also, this is one of the publishers who charge an arm and a leg for library-bound nonfiction, which will be outdated in a few years. An additional purchase if you have interest in alternative energies.

ISBN: 978-1609732172; Published August 2011 by Child's World; Electronic review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

Relativity by Michael Smith, illustrated by Octavio Oliva

A confused jumble of rhymes that supplies no actual information. The pictures are passable, but can't make up for the bewildering text which offers a series of comparisons and then tells the reader to find out on their own what relativity is. Not worth reading.

ISBN: 978-0979933981; Published September 2011 by East West Discover Press; Electronic review copy provided by publisher

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