Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Astrid and Nicole have been best friends for years, but something is changing. When Astrid’s mother takes them to see roller derby, Astrid immediately wants to do it. Nicole is more interested in doing her ballet camp. Without telling her mother that Nicole won’t be helping with carpooling, Astrid starts at roller derby camp. There she discovers that there is a lot to learn about roller skating, hitting and friendship. As Astrid struggles to keep up with the more advanced skaters at the camp, she finds herself dreaming of of being the star of the roller derby. As junior high and the roller derby show near, Astrid has to figure out how to handle her new budding friendship without losing it to jealousy and how to be a strong teammate.
Jamieson is a roller derby girl herself, so the skills and hard work depicted in this graphic novel offer plenty of detail and reality. The result is a book that shows how hard you have to work to be successful and the determination it takes to stand up over and over again after you fall down. At the same time, the tone is realistic, and does not overdramatize learning new skills and being part of a rough sport. The tone is always realistic and honest.
That same tone continues in the depiction of the friendships that Astrid has. The two friendships, one that Astrid is growing out of and one that is just beginning, are shown in all of their fragility. Astrid’s own responses are honest and depict the difficulties of a young girl trying to find her own voice and her own place in the world. Many readers will see themselves on the page, whether or not they are derby girls.
Get this one into the hands of fans of Raina Telgemeier! It’s another graphic novel with a strong and funny female protagonist. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Little Bird Takes a Bath by Marisabina Russo
Little Bird hates the rain and it was raining on his nest high above the city. The next morning though, the rain was gone and it was a lovely day. It was the perfect day for a bath! But the trouble was finding the right puddle. Some puddles were too big, some too small, and others were too crowded with other bathers. Then Little Bird found just the right puddle on a path in the park. But over and over again he got interrupted during his bathing. There was a bouncing ball, a little girl in flip flops, and a dog. By the time they had all gone through his puddle, it was far too small to bathe in. Little Bird flew up above the city, then spotted a fountain that looked like it was just the right size for a little bird.
Russo’s picture book is gentle and echoes traditional stories. She incorporates repetition and the mirroring of Goldilocks finding things that were “just right” adds much to the story. As the different things interrupt Little Bird’s bath, they are shown by the noise they make and then the reader turns the page to see what is making that noise. This little touch makes the book more dynamic and interactive for young listeners.
Russo’s art is just as inviting as the story she weaves. She makes sure that readers know that this is a city bird both in the text and the illustrations. Her images move from close ups of Little Bird to most distant images of the cityscape and how Little Bird flies across it. This change of scale makes the book interesting and children will enjoy seeing the path of Little Bird as he locates puddles and fountains in the city.
A great pick for rainy read alouds, this book will be welcome at toddler and preschool story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
83% of Kids Love Being Read Aloud To: Scholastic http://buff.ly/1G8p4YX
The Best Feminist Books for Younger Readers http://buff.ly/1Gqy13d
City Lights publishing its first children’s book » MobyLives http://buff.ly/1Bt9Rkn
Glenda Millard’s top 10 Australian children’s books http://buff.ly/1EfmUa9
How to get kids to read independently http://buff.ly/1wXA5gf
Newsmaker: Jacqueline Woodson | American Libraries Magazine http://buff.ly/17Y0D5c
When Boys Can’t Like ‘Girl Books’ http://buff.ly/1GqxUVf
Women’s History Month 2015 – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1E3wz0K
Cinderella Retellings http://buff.ly/1Fez1Ga
YA Books Come To Grips With Teen Suicide — Head-On http://buff.ly/1BqruT4
The finalists for the 2015 Lammys have been announced. There are many categories to this award, and one of them is LGBT Children’s/Young Adult books. Here are the finalists in that category:
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall
Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Pukawiss the Outcast by Jay Jordan Hawke
This Is Not a Love Story by Suki Fleet
When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Gordon Parks had a rough beginning to his life from being born almost stillborn to losing his mother at age 14. He was told by his white teacher that he and the rest of his all-black class would end up as either porters or waiters. Parks did do those jobs, but then he purchased a used camera and everything changed. He started photographing models and then turned his camera towards the struggling families in Chicago and Washington DC. He is pointed towards one specific subject who will create his most famous image, American Gothic, the picture of an African-American cleaning woman standing in front of the American flag with her mop in hand. Parks managed to show racism with a clarity thanks to just picking up a camera at first.
Weatherford keeps this book very friendly with a minimal amount of text in the bulk of the book. She does include an author’s note at the end that fills in more of the extensive career of Parks as a film director and Renaissance man. The focus here in this picture book biography is Parks’ photographic work and the impact he had on exposing racism and poverty in the inner city, showing hard working people who were still in poverty. Make sure to turn to the end of the book to see his photographs and their intense message.
Christoph’s illustrations are stellar. Using a subtle color palette, the images echo the photographs that Park took, but not too closely. Instead they build upon them, showing Parks taking the images and embracing the dark beauty of the back streets of urban spaces. He also beautifully captures emotions and the humanity of Parks’ subjects that also shines in his photographs.
An important picture book biography, this book shows how one person can make a difference and have a voice. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
The powerful second book in the March graphic novel series continues the true story of the Civil Rights Movement. Told by John Lewis in the first person, this book captures the dangers and violence faced by the Freedom Riders as they headed into the deep south. The nonviolent campaign for civil rights faced beatings, police brutality, bombs, imprisonment and potential death. Yet they found a way to not only keep going but to continue to press deeper and deeper into the south. This book is a harrowing read that shows how one young man became a leader of in civil rights and politics in America.
Lewis’ personal story allows readers a glimpse of what was happening behind the scenes. Historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X make appearances in the book, and their own personal perspectives on civil rights and nonviolence is shared. The pushback on the nonviolent aspect of the movement is also shown clearly on the page when new people joined the cause. This shift towards more reactionary tactics threatens to undo the progress that had been made to that point.
Thanks to the graphic novel format, there is no turning away from the violence. Beatings are shown up close and will a frenzy that is palpable. The dangers are not minimized nor overly dramatized, they are shown honestly. There are unforgettable moments throughout the novel, some of them small like a boy being encouraged to claw out a civil rights worker’s eyes. Other moments are larger from the mattress protests in the jail to the march of the children and the police brutality that followed.
Immensely strong and powerful, this graphic novel series allows us to see how much progress was made thanks to these civil rights heroes but also inspires young readers to make more progress against the continued racism in our society. Appropriate for ages 13-15.
Reviewed from library copy.
Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
Released March 24, 2015.
In rhythmic rhyme, this picture book celebrates each and every kind of family there is. Starting with families with lots of siblings, the book quickly moves to embrace only children, families with gay and lesbian parents, single parent families, and children who live with extended family. Then the book moves into other differences like step families, adoption, and parents who may or may not be married. Towards the end, the book gains momentum and speed and rushes merrily through silly types of differences in families, that underline how the most important thing in each of these different sorts of families is the love that is there.
The rhyming text has a friendly bounce to it and that ramping up of speed at the end of the book is a great twist and a grand way to reach the loving finale. The book maintains a great sense of humor throughout, both in its words and its illustrations.
The illustrations are done with cartoon cut outs placed on photographic backgrounds and then mounted as pictures in a photo album. The use of both cartoons and photographs gives this book a fresh approach. The illustrations also use animals instead of people, making it all the more friendly and approachable for small children who will enjoy finding their own kind of family on the page, probably more than once!
Funny, friendly and embracing everyone, this picture book is all about the love within families and acceptance for all. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Random House.
The short list for the 25th Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards has been announced. Winners will be announced in May. The books are for all ages and must be written in English or Irish by authors or illustrators born or residing in Ireland. Here is the short list:
When Mr. Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Daideo by Áine Ní Ghlinn
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
Haiku Más é do thoil é! by Gabriel Rosenstock illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald
Primperfect by Deirdre Sullivan
Beyond the Stars compiled by Sarah Webb
Small Elephant’s Bathtime by Tatyana Feeney
While Small Elephant is happy to play in water or drink it, he doesn’t like taking a bath at all. His mother tries all sorts of thing to entice him into the bathtub. She fills it with plenty of toys. She blows bubbles in the air. But nothing works. Small Elephant tries to be too busy to take a bath and gets very mad when his mother insists on a bath. He has a tantrum and then hides from the bath. Then his father gets involved and makes Small Elephant giggle enough to try out the bath after all. But who will be able to get him out when he discovers how much fun he is having?
The author of Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket and other picture books has a winner with this title. Just the right playful tone is set here for toddlers who are also reluctant to stop what they are doing to take baths. The gentle approach of both parents is great to see, offering options towards tantrums and reluctance that are inventive and filled with humor.
As always Feeney’s art has a refreshing looseness about it. Line drawings with splashes of watercolor color, the book has an aesthetic that will appeal to children and adults alike. It uses limited colors to great effect, creating a cohesive and playful feel.
Soapy, sudsy, bubbly fun for small children who will relate to the emotions Small Elephant feels. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.