Archive for May 6, 2011


ifineverforever

If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade

Capturing the tension of a fledgling about to leave the nest, this picture book celebrates taking chances and testing your wings.  A small yellow bird muses on what would happen if they just stay in the safety of their nest, because though there would be new things to see, there is also plenty to fear.  Of course, if they stay, then there is no flying, no soaring, and no making a new friend to share the air with.  This book will speak to anyone looking to make a change, try something new, or just test the wind a bit.

Meade’s writing her is a poem that is spare yet gentle, a poem that stirs, lifts and soars.  She does not shy away from words like “endeavor” or “scallop” which I really appreciate.  This is a book that will have children and their vocabulary reaching forward too. 

Her art is done in collage, combining watercolor painting with linoleum block printing.  The result is a book that has strong patterns and lines yet also the softness of a watercolor sky to play against.  The play of the graphic against the soft adds a very dynamic feel to the book.

Ideal for the end of the school year as teachers send their students on to the next grade, it would also make a lovely graduation gift.  I’m keeping it in mind for any children’s librarian heading to a new job.  What a treat to have it tucked under one wing.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick.

Also reviewed by Classroom Connections and Kiss the Book.

akatawitch

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny is a 12-year-old who lives in Nigeria.  She was born in the United States, but that isn’t what makes her so different from her classmates.  Her albino skin and hair does that.  Sunny is also a great athlete, but she can’t play because her sun reacts so strongly to the sun.  She only gets to play when her brothers agree to play with her in the evening.  Sunny isn’t sure she will ever fit in, but after meeting Orlu and ChiChi, the three of them figure out why Sunny is so special.  She’s a free agent, a member of the Leopard People, allowing her to do juju or magic.  Happily, Orlu and ChiChi are also Leopard People, though not free agents.  Suddenly Sunny is immersed in a new dual life.  Her old life of school and family and her new life learning about juju.  But there is also darkness in her life, as a serial killer preys upon children in Nigeria: a killer who has a special connection to Sunny.

This book is incredible.  Okorafor has created a completely unique and entirely formed world within a world.  She brings modern Nigeria to life and then within it creates an entire society that makes sense, wields magic, and continually surprises and delights.  The construct of the magical society doesn’t linger on the how, rather it is presented as a fully-formed world complete with its own laws, own priorities, and a matter-of-fact relationship to death.

The characters of the four young people in the book are well written and play nicely off of one another.  I particularly enjoyed when they would depart from roles that could have been stereotypical and instead revealed themselves to be very well-rounded characters.  Sunny serves as an ideal person for the readers to learn about the magical world alongside.  She is interested, questioning and frank.  She is a very strong female protagonist who can play soccer better than the boys. 

If you have teens or tweens looking for magical reads that break into a whole new territory, this book is for them.   It celebrates Nigeria, magic and learning.  Appropriate for ages 11-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking Publishing.

Also reviewed by:

I don’t think that any children’s librarian is going to be surprised by the findings of a recent study of children’s books.  The most comprehensive study of 20th century children’s literature ever done, it revealed a bias towards books that feature boys and men.  Intriguingly, the bias was also present when the characters are animals.

Now, if you has asked me if more books featured boys or girls, I would have automatically answered boys.  I am surprised by the extent of the bias as well as the fact that it had not gotten any better towards the end of the 20th century.  In other words, we aren’t making much progress with gender in children’s books!

Science Daily has some bulleted points in their article about the study that I find particularly interesting:

  • Males are central characters in 57 percent of children’s books published per year, while only 31 percent have female central characters.
  • On average, 36.5 percent of books in each year studied include a male in the title, compared to 17.5 percent that include a female.

While I find the information interesting and important, even more important to me is what we do about it.  It seems to me that it is the same issue we have with all sorts of diversity in children’s books:  races, colors, sexual orientation.  So the question is universal about featuring children and adults in children’s books that speak to all levels of diversity.

What do we do as librarians who are cultivating collections for children? What do we do as book creators to get more girls and even women into our books?  How do we all take responsibility for what children in our world are reading and therefore learning about how society works?

Big thanks to Hedgehog Librarian for the link.

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