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Fat Angie by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo
Angie has hit rock bottom. She tried to kill herself in front of the entire school and now she just wants to make it through each day. She numbs herself with lots of junk food, eating her way past the pain of her sister being held hostage in Iraq and her adopted brother being cruel to her both in public and at home. Her mother is just anxious for Angie to be normal or at least to appear normal to everyone. But Angie’s entire world changes when the new girl is nice to her. KC Romance is not from Dryfalls, Ohio and it is obvious. She is innately cool, something that Angie has never even tried to pretend to be. Best of all, KC sees past the fat and the walls that Angie puts up to the real Angie, the one that Angie herself has never really known was there. Now Angie is inspired to do more and that means big changes both inside and out.
This teen novel deals with all sorts of issues, all focused through Angie herself. There is suicide, binge eating, being overweight, a sister missing in Iraq, cutting, and sexuality. One might think that it all doesn’t fit into a single novel, but it does thanks to the incredible character of Angie. The author writes with a wonderful snarky voice yet one that is ultimately human and smart. She is entirely herself even though she isn’t sure who that is.
I particularly enjoyed the snippets of therapy that are shared along with the therapist’s notes. This is the sort of humor that pervades this book. Yet there is incredible sadness within it as well. There is grief that others don’t share, mean girls that are beyond cruel, and a family that doesn’t try any longer. Angie has a lot to be angry and sad about, but somehow she rises beyond that. Most remarkable of all though is that in this book, she does it herself. And along the way, she helps others rise too.
Beautifully written, dark and wildly funny, this book will have you crying, raging and cheering. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader have announced the winners of the 2013 Children’s Choice Book Awards. The winners are selected by kids and teens with over 1 million votes cast this year.
The winners are:
KINDERGARTEN TO SECOND GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR
Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta, illustrated by Ed Young
THIRD GRADE TO FOURTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR
Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel
FIFTH GRADE TO SIXTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR
Dork Diaries 4: Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess by Rachel Renee Russell
TEEN BOOK OF THE YEAR
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
AUTHOR OF THE YEAR
Jeff Kinney for Diary of a Wimpy Kid 7: The Third Wheel
ILLUSTRATOR OF THE YEAR
Robin Preiss Glasser for Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet
Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein
Stein’s latest picture book is an uproarious read aloud and will be a welcome addition to any storytime. Mama Squirrel knows that all sorts of creatures want to eat her baby squirrels, but she won’t let that happen. She scolds all sorts of creatures away with her fierce “Chook, chook, chook!” Cats, dogs, owls, even humans scatter at her determination to protect her babies. Until one day when a bear comes to her tree. Mama Squirrel tries scolding, she tries throwing nuts, but the bear stays and then says that he will eat her entire tree! Mama Squirrel has one last trick though, and it’s an amazing one!
This book is one amazing read aloud. It is designed specifically to be shared aloud and I think will shine with a good sized group in particular. The scolding noise of the mother squirrel will have everyone “chook, chook chooking” along with her. The result will be one of my favorite sorts of story times: loud shared love of a story.
Stein’s art will work well with a group too. Her fierce defense of her babies projects straight from the page from her lowered brows and the set of her entire body. The illustrations have a rough edge to them that adds to their appeal.
Get this into your pile of books to share at your next story time, or keep it stored like fall nuts for the next time you need a great read aloud. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Penguin.
The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean-Francois Dumont
The chickens on the farm have built a wall but no one else is quite sure why. It started when the hedgehog suddenly appeared in the middle of the farm. The chickens were all very concerned about this strange new animal that quickly curled itself into a prickly ball. But most alarming was when it had disappeared the next morning. Perhaps it was after the chicks and eggs! None were missing, but that didn’t stop the hens from accusing the hedgehog of eating their worms. The rooster decided that they could not stand by and have this continue happening, so they leapt into action and built a wall. It was not just a small wall, but one that grew so high that one could not see where it ended in the sky. Can this wall save the chickens? And what is it saving them from exactly?
Dumont tells a story about flighty chickens who jump to absurd conclusions immediately about a foreign creature. The hens are frantic in their reactions, going to such lengths to protect themselves from nothing at all. Readers will see parallels between gated communities and the chickens’ wall as well as the fast judgments made about people who are different from ourselves. This would serve as a very nice book to introduce for discussions about diversity and community.
Dumont’s illustrations have a wonderful silliness to them. The chickens are pop-eyed and always moving quickly. The hedgehog is still, low and quiet. The two set each other off nicely in both the illustrations and the storyline.
Translated from the original French, this book has a universal appeal and also a clever quirkiness that adds charm. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Moods are matched with colors in this jazzy picture book. Jamie is having a really great day, feeling purple and just being. But when his brothers kick him off the couch, his mood turns stormy gray. As he draws, his mood turns green and easy. Then his older brothers make fun of his drawing and Jamie’s mood turns black. Basketball gives him a swishing orange mood and running home almost late has him racing red. Family dinner is lemon pie yellow and washing up brings on tides of bluesy feelings. The day ends with that same cold plum purple mood as it began with. What color is your mood?
Brown’s poetry has a jazz beat and lots of metaphors that make it dance in your mind. Children will immediately recognize the moods and easily relate the colors to them. From the teasing of older brothers to the pleasure of making art, Jamie’s moods are universal. Brown’s writing begs to be read aloud, written so that it tumbles off the tongue.
Evan’s illustrations have a jaunty vibe that matches that of the poem. The art is digital collage created with oil paints and graphite. The illustrations have a great depth of color, something that makes this book all the more vibrant. They also have a wonderful texture from the paint and from swirls in the color.
This is a positive way to look at complex emotions and would make a great book to start a discussion about feelings and moods. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking.
Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston
Valley’s mother was killed by the black helicopters while she was out in the garden when Valley was four years old. Raised by her father, she has been taught to hide at all times. There is a den in their house where she and her brother Bo can never be found. Valley knows above everything else that Those People will kill her without even thinking about it, just like a coyote. But now Valley is out of the house and on the road with explosives strapped to her and the trigger waiting for her to decide exactly when to use it. When the first explosive goes off prematurely, Valley is left on her own in a world she has had little contact with. But Valley knows how to read people and how to manipulate them, right up to the end she is in complete control. Or is she?
This taut thriller turns the world on its head. Valley’s story is told in flashbacks so readers know that they are learning the backstory of a domestic terrorist. And what is amazing about the writing and the storytelling here is that despite that knowledge, readers will begin to understand Valley and the way she was raised and how she came to be the person she is now. That alone is a tremendous achievement.
Then there is Valley herself. A girl who is bitter, strong and lonely. She has lived much of her life in the company of only her father and brother and much of that she spent hiding completely alone. She is bright and fierce, burning with a hatred for Those People that her father carefully instilled in her. And she is wrong, oh so very wrong, about the world and about others and about her own family. She is flawed and ever so human under that bomb.
Well written and carefully paced, this book is tantalizingly taut and thrilling. In the end though, it is about a girl caught in a web of lies that she cannot see past. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from library copy.
The winner of the 2013 Little Rebels Children’s Book Award has been announced. This is the first year for this British award that recognizes the best radical children’s fiction that promotes social justice and is awarded by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers.
The winner is:
Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Released June 11, 2013.
Explore three of the greatest primatologists of the 20th century in this graphic novel. The book begins with the story of Jane Goodall and how she was recruited by the famous anthropologist Lous Leakey to research chimpanzees. It shows how she first learned to quietly watch the chimpanzees and be accepted by them as well as her own personal life as she lived in the jungle. When Dian Fossey is then recruited by Leakey, the story turns to her life and her very different personality as she researched gorillas using similar techniques to Goodall. The last woman recruited was Galdikas and she studied orangutans and had her own adventures as her research progressed. Told with humor but also immense respect, the stories of these three pioneering women show the importance of female scientists and the unique paths you can take to reaching your dreams.
Ottaviani writes in the voices of the three women, beautifully capturing their individuality through their words. The three are profoundly unique yet also amazingly similar in their bravery, dedication and resilience. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the three of them were together and the ending which demonstrated how different they were from one another. It takes a lot of skill to write three women’s voices with such clarity that they are distinct and special.
The art by Wicks has a wonderful simplicity and also a playfulness that makes the book welcoming and light hearted. This is nonfiction that reluctant readers and young biologists alike will enjoy. The graphic format is compelling and given the nature of the research makes the entire experience more tangible for young readers.
A great graphic novel, this is a stellar pick for school libraries and public libraries that will have children learning about scientific history without even realizing it! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.