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The amazing Mac Barnett discusses how he makes a living lying to children.  For the librarians in the audience, he even uses a Venn diagram!  Funny, wonderful stuff.

Here is the first full trailer for Mockingjay:

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Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza by J.L. Powers, illustrated by George Mendoza and Hayley Morgan-Sanders

George loved to move, so he decided to be a basketball player.  Then one day the world outside looked red to him and he started to see other colorful squiggles in the air and suffer from constant headaches.  The doctor told him that he was going blind, but George didn’t lose all of his sight, instead he continued to see bright colors and flashing lights.  He had to stop playing basketball because he could no longer see the basket.  Eventually, George took up running, mostly because it made him so tired that he could forget being blind.  He could run very fast, so fast that he went to the Olympics, twice.  But George continued to see a world of colors that no one else could see.  It wasn’t until a friend was killed that he started to ask himself why he was there, and George started to talk about being blind to groups and also to paint the world that he sees.

A truly inspirational story, Mendoza is an example of someone being incredible resilient in the face of a life-changing disability.  The fact that he began to run after losing his sight is amazing and also inspiring.  But it is his visions and his art that shine on the page, a world painted in colors that only he can see.  The process of George becoming an artist is shown in all of its slow progression which also gives the sense that there is time to find your path, time to be the person you are meant to be.

Seeing his paintings on the page is immensely powerful.  They are bold and bright, done in thick lines.  They have a voice to them that shouts on the page and they tell the story of what George sees more clearly than any words can. 

Highly recommended, this picture book biography is a powerful tale of resilience and overcoming barriers.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from pdf received from J.L. Powers.

mr ferris and his wheel

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

After the Eiffel Tower stunned World’s Fair visitors in 1889, it was up to Chicago to impress people at their 1893 World’s Fair.  So a nationwide contest was announced, but unfortunately many of the designs were just slightly-modified Eiffel Towers, so all of them were rejected.  George Ferris was an American engineer who had already designed big bridges, tunnels and roads across the nation.  He had an idea for a structure that would not just rival the stature of the Eiffel Tower, but would also move and be able to be ridden.  The judges of the contest reluctantly agreed to let him try, but would not offer him a penny of funding.  Ferris managed to find a few wealthy investors to help him and construction began on the huge project of creating a delicate wheel that would be strong enough to turn filled with people.  The tale of the building and invention of this now iconic ride is rich with suspense and the delight of accomplishment.

Davis has written a very successful picture book biography on George Ferris and his delight of an invention.  Occasionally in the text, there are sections in smaller font that offer more details and information.  It is all fascinating and those sections will be enjoyed as much as the main text.  Davis clearly explains differences between today and the late 1800s, such as the lack of Internet to carry ideas.  The story has plenty of dangers, lots of action and the ever-present danger of failure to carry it forward and make it enjoyable reading.

Ford’s illustrations are filled with rich, deep colors that capture different times of day.  They are a winning mix of straight, firm lines and hand-drawn characters and structures.  The play of the two on the page makes for illustrations that are eye-catching and that draw you into the story and the time period.

This is a particularly strong picture book biography that children will pick up thanks to the everlasting appeal of the Ferris Wheel.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

three little peas

Three Little Peas by Marine Rivoal

Two little peas jump down from their pea plant to get some air.  They head out on an adventure across the garden.  They visit a cat, some snails, and even try out how it feels to be a flower or a different kind of plant.  They go high and low, exploring together.  But when they reach a frightening part of the garden filled with insects and animals, they try to run away.  Then they find a safe place in the warm soil where they hide.  Only to become a large pea plant of their own the next spring, and then one little pea jumps free, making it three little peas.

The story here is simple enough for a toddler to enjoy and they will love going on an adventure along with two charming green peas.  The peas pop in their green on the page where everything else is black and white.  But oh my, what a black and white world it is!  Rivoal does her art using etching and the effect is beautifully layered, almost crystalline forms.  The illustrations show below ground as well with rocks and other objects hidden there.  Even the blades of grass are lovely in the attention to detail and their grace.

Stunningly lovely and unique illustrations elevate this simple picture book to something magnificent.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

vanilla ice cream

Vanilla Ice Cream by Bob Graham

This is a story of the journey of a sparrow from a rural truck-stop in India to a metropolis in the south.  Told in simple writing, readers follow the sparrow as he tries to steal food from a customer of the truck stop.  Then he flies aboard a truck carrying bags of rice.  The rice is loaded aboard a ship and the sparrow follows the food aboard.  They head south and he is able to find food and water on the long slow journey.  When the sparrow arrives in the city, he spots Edie Irvine, a toddler walking with her grandparents.  And so the two worlds of sparrow and child mash together in a wonderfully sweet way.

Graham has created a story built upon little moments and small decisions.  Happily, the culmination of the story is not about all of those moments building to something monumental, but instead they lead to another small and lovely moment.  In that way, the chain is continued rather than ended and readers can think about what might happen next to either the characters or to themselves. 

As always, Graham has written this book with a gentle touch.  His art reflects that as well with its soft color palette set against white backgrounds blushed with colors.  Graham also uses art to allow moments to linger longer, to show their importance, and to create drama in his story. 

A book of small moments that is certainly worth spending some time of your own reading.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

poisoned apples

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

Released September 23, 2014.

Filled with the stark, violent and frightening truths behind the fairy tales you loved as a child, this book of 50 poems is designed for teens ready to see beyond the beauty of a princess dress.  The poems bring the fairy tales into the modern day, introducing us to the dirty side of the entire princess and beauty myth.  Here are girls who are trapped in the stories society has sold them, girls who cannot eat, girls with no hope, girls who do as they are told, until they don’t.  You will find all of the princesses on the pages here, by they are not who you think they are.  There are poems told in their voices and others that are based on rhymes.  They are all caustic, brave and vary from tragic to hilarious.  I dare you to try to put this one down.

Brilliant.  I read the first poem in this book and knew that I had found something entirely unique and amazing.  Heppermann skewers the princess trope, firmly demanding that girls realize what is happening to them.  That they recognize that it is built on them not for them, that they are all beautiful no matter what the ads say, and that if you listen too much your life becomes a mockery or a tragedy.  This is satire at its very best, paying tribute to the fairy tales but savagely tearing them apart to form a new garment and march onward.

Get this one for your teen collections, hand it directly to girls who don’t like poetry because this will change their minds forever.  This book will speak to every girl, because we have all been sold the same stories.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss.

The National Book Foundation has announced the longlist for the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.  The five finalists will be announced on October 15th with the winner named on November 19th at the National Book Awards ceremony.  Here are the ten titles on the longlist:

100 Sideways Miles brown girl dreaming Girls Like Us

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Greenglass House The Impossible Knife of Memory Noggin

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights Revolution

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steven Sheinkin

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Skink--No Surrender Threatened

Skink – No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

iron trial

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Two masters of the fantasy genre come together to create a strong new series for middle graders.  Call was raised by his father to fear the Magisterium and magic itself.  When he accidentally split the sidewalk wide open with his powers as a child, his father was not pleased.  So when Call is required to go through testing for entering the Magisterium, he makes a plan to fail.  But the tests are not what he expected at all and soon he is entering the dreaded Magisterium, a place where he believes people are imprisoned against their will and killed for the sake of magic.  As Call joins the students, he finds himself making friends for the first time in his life.  But all is not what it seems, even for the nightmares that Call has thought up.  It is the ultimate battle of good and evil, but not in the way you’d ever expect.

Black and Clare play with similarities with the Harry Potter series, since theirs is also set in a school for magic.  But the magic here is different, as is the school itself.  Call too is no Harry, being a prickly and unusual protagonist who is at times quite nicely unlikeable.  This book is also set during a magical war, one that is actively being waged.  There are tests that are literally as dull as dirt, others that have the students battling elementals, and then there is a student who tries to escape the school. 

Black and Clare have great pacing throughout the book.  They have also created a very strong setting with the book, the school has a feeling of eternity about it, though we also know that Call is somehow very special.  It is that specialness that makes the book’s twists work so well.  They are completely surprising, shocking even.  In a genre like this where readers will come to it with a certain jadedness, it is great to read a book with that kind of zapping electrical charge.

Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy both the differences and similarities here, though readers of Percy Jackson will also find themselves right at home.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Scholastic and NetGalley.

i know a bear

I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson

A little girl gets to know a bear who comes from somewhere that he calls The Land of Bears.  Breakfasts there are sweet as honey, the land is vast, and the rivers are lovely for swimming.  Even the naps are better there, they go on for months.  But he can never return there, since he is in a zoo.  So the little girl has an idea, something that will let him feel a connection with the wilderness and something that she can set free.  It’s a powerful idea too.

Johnson tells this story in very short sentences, which one might think would be terse but instead feel slow and Zen-like.  It is a book about a girl who is forging her own connections with animals, making her own decisions too.  There are no adults in the story, just one little girl and one huge hairy bear.  It is a book about small choices making a big difference in the world.  It is simple and luminous.

Johnson’s illustrations have a wonderful light touch to them.  The pages with the huge bear can be dark and filled with fur, but then the book opens to a new page filled with white and lightness.  They are studies in contrast but also create a book that is a joy to read through with changes of feel from one page to the next.

An empowering story about one little girl and her connection with one big bear and the beauty of freedom.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.

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