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2014 National Book Award Winners

My favorite of the nominees for the Young People’s National Book Award was chosen as the winner

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

dory fantasmagory

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

Dory is the youngest in her family and her older siblings won’t play with her at all.  So she is left to play on her own and thanks to her great imagination, Dory has a lot of fun.  Dory has a best friend, Mary, a monster who sleeps under her bed and is always willing to play.  There are also other monsters all over their house.  When Dory continues to bother her brother and sister, they make up a story about Mrs. Gobble Gracker, a horrible woman who steals baby girls and is looking for Dory!  So when the doorbell rings, Dory knows it is Mrs. Gobble Gracker coming for her.  Hopefully the little man who says he’s her fairy godmother will be able to help defeat her.  In the end though it is Dory’s own creativity and bravery that will save her and maybe even get her siblings to play too.

Hanlon brilliantly captures the wild imagination of a little girl who doesn’t slow down for a minute, zinging from one idea to the next even as those around her groan.  Dory could have been a problematic character, but thanks to the book being told from her point of view, readers will get to see how strong a person she is long before she displays it to her family.

Hanlon’s art makes this a book that younger readers will happily pick up and read.  Her black and white illustrations are more than paragraph breaks, they show the story of Dory and all of the characters she dreams up over the course of the day.  On the page, we see what Dory sees, not what her family doesn’t see and it’s quite a world that she has created.

Fast moving, wild and full of laughs, this book is a dynamic introduction to a fresh new face that will appeal to fans of Junie B, Jones.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

The National Science Teachers Association has announced their choices for Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 from books published in 2014.  Here are the winning books:

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned cub 18319630

Abayomi, the Brazillian Puma by Darcy Pattison

About Habitats: Forests by Cathryn Sill

20729500 jacket image for Amazing Giant Sea Creatures by -  DK Publishing

About Parrots by Cathryn Sill

Amazing Giant Sea Creatures

Animalium Animals That Make Me Say Ouch! (National Wildlife Federation): Fierce Fangs, Stinging Spines, Scary Stares, and More Animals That Make Me Say Wow! (National Wildlife Federation): Secret Hideaways, Infrasonic Hearing, Bubble Gills, and More

Animalium by Jenny Broom

Animals That Make Me Say OUCH! by Dawn Cusick

Animals That Make Me Say WOW! by Dawn Cusick

At Home in Her Tomb A Baby Elephant in the Wild

At Home in Her Tomb by Christine Liu-Perkins

A Baby Elephant in the Wild by Caitlin O’Connell

Batman Science Set 20256559

Batman Science by Tammy Enz and Agnieszka Biskup

Beetle Busters by Loree Griffin Burns

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle Beneath the Sun

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe

Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart

Bone Collection: Skulls Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cat

Bone Collection: Skulls by Rob Scott Colson

Chasing Cheetahs by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

jacket image for Knowledge Encyclopedia Dinosaur! by -  DK Publishing  

Dinosaur!

Drones

Every Turtle Counts Extreme Laboratories

Every Turtle Counts by Sara Hoagland Hunter

Extreme Laboratories by Ann O. Squire

Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines

Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman

17870871 Full Speed Ahead!: How Fast Things Go

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Full Speed Ahead! by Cruschiform

Get the Scoop on Animal Puke!: From Zombie Ants to Vampire Bats, 251 Cool Facts about Vomit, Regurgitation, & More! Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey

Get the Scoop on Animal Puke by Dawn Cusick

Handle with Care by Loree Griffin Burns

20256610 Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands

Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy

 

Next Time You See a Maple Seed by Emily Morgan

Ocean

18222688 Polar Bears and Penguins: A Compare and Contrast Book

Park Scientists by Mary Kay Carson

Polar Bears and Penguins by Katharine Hall

Sally Ride: Life on a Mission 18353949

Sally Ride by Sue Macy

Secrets of the Sky Caves by Sandra K. Athans

Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World 20518974

Sniffer Dogs by Nancy F. Castaldo

Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson

 Super Sniffers: Dog Detectives on the Job 

Super Human Encyclopedia

Super Sniffers by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

The Griffin and the Dinosaur: How Adrienne Mayor Discovered a Fascinating Link Between Myth and Science 20256582

The Griffin and the Dinosaur by Marc Aronson and Adrienne Mayor

The Next Wave by Elizabeth Rusch

 Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes Tooling Around

The Planets

Tiny Creatures by Nicola Davies

Tooling Around by Ellen Jackson

Ultimate Bodypedia: An Amazing Inside-Out Tour of the Human Body 18229546

Ultimate Bodypedia by Patricia Daniels

Wild about Bears by Jeannie Brett

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The 2014 Governor General’s Literary Awards have been announced by the Canada Council for the Arts.  They honor the best in English and French language literature in seven categories.  Here are the children’s winners, both of which are for teen audiences.

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE – TEXT

When Everything Feels like the Movies

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid

 

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE – ILLUSTRATION

This One Summer

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki

here comes santa cat

Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

Cat tries out a new disguise in this follow up to Here Comes the Easter Cat.  Cat is worried that he has not been nice enough to get a present from Santa.  So his solution is to become Santa so that he can give himself a present.  Of course, he has to learn how to climb down chimneys, which doesn’t go well.  He also has to figure out how to fly without Santa’s magic reindeer.  Perhaps a jet pack?  He tries giving gifts to children, but they don’t seem to appreciate the fish.  He even tries to decorate a tree, but it too ends in disaster.  What is one naughty cat to do?

Underwood has created a delightful sequel to her first Cat book.  Once again Cat uses signs to communicate with the reader.  The voice of the narrator is one of an adult, making this an ideal book to be read aloud by a teacher or parent.  The rather disapproving but still encouraging tone of the narrator sets up the humor perfectly and with Underwood’s clear sense of comedic timing, the results are hilarious. 

Rueda’s art adds to the zany humor, often serving as the final funny note to a gag.  She uses gentle colors and delicate lines, supporting the storyline clearly.  Her comedic timing too is wonderfully spot on.

A very funny addition to crowded Christmas picture book shelves, save this one to share aloud on Christmas Eve.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

sebastian and the balloon

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

A little boy named Sebastian is having a very boring day even though he is up on the top of the roof where he’s never supposed to be.  So he decides to head on a journey.  First, he packs everything he needs, then he heads for the hot air balloon he made from his grandmother’s afghans and quilts.  He sets off and meets a bear next to a leafless tree.  He offers the bear a pickle sandwich and the bear joins him on his journey.  Flying in the fog, they hear a loud pop and find that a bird has flown into the balloon.  They land atop a a colorful worn house where three sisters help them knit their balloon together again.  As the three elderly ladies work, they mention the time that they went over the mountain as children and found a rollercoaster.  You can guess where they all headed next!

Stead has created a quiet and lovely book here.  It is an adventure book, but somehow it is imbued with a gentleness and dreaminess.  Perhaps it is the balloon flight, the drifting and silence and quiet of that mode of transportation.  Or it could be the fog, the friendly bear, and the three grandmothers.  It all adds up to a wonderfully whimsical book that dances along dreamily.

Stead’s illustrations are always a treat.  I love that his protagonist is a little boy of color, someone who glows against the background, who is resourceful, smart and creative.  The three grandmothers, each with their own color that is also represented in their home, are drawn with a humor that is gentle and gorgeous.  The entire book sings of whimsy and imagination.

Ideal for bedtime reading, this book is sure to create dreams of hot air balloon rides and an array of friends.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

madman of piney woods

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

This companion novel to Elijah of Buxton continues the story of the town of Buxton and the people who live there.  This book, which takes place forty years after the first book, is the story of two boys, Benji and Red.  Benji, who lives in Buxton, dreams of becoming a newspaper reporter.  He has two pesky younger siblings who also happen to be gifted builders with wood.  That doesn’t mean though that Benji doesn’t try to put them in their place when they need it.  Benji also has a way with the forest, spending hours walking the trails and exploring.  He is one of the first to see the Madman of Piney Woods.  Red is a scientist.  He’s been raised by his father and maternal grandmother, who hates anyone who isn’t Irish like she is.  She is strict with Red, smacking him regularly with her cane hard enough to raise a lump.  When the two boys meet, they immediately become friends even though their backgrounds are so different.  But can their friendship withstand the brimming hatred of some people in their communities?

I loved Elijah of Buxton so much and I started this book rather gingerly, hoping that it would be just as special as the original.  Happily, it certainly is.  It has a wonderful feeling to it, a rich storytelling that hearkens back to Mark Twain and other classic boyhood friendship books.  Curtis makes sure that we know how different these two boys are:  one with a large family, the other small, different races, different points of view.  Yet it feels so right when the two boys are immediate friends, readers will have known all along that they suit one another. 

Curtis explores deep themes in this novel, offering relief in the form of the exploits of the two boys as they figure out ways to mess with their siblings and escape domineering grandmothers.  There are scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny.  Other scenes though are gut-wrenching and powerful.  They explore themes like the damage done to the psyche during wars, racism, ambition, responsibility and family ties.  It is a testament to the writing of Curtis that both the humor and the drama come together into an exquisite mix of laughter and tears.

A great novel worthy of following the award-winning original, this book will be met with cheers by teachers and young readers alike.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:

Gorgeous books that celebrate the fun and beauty of fall! #kidslit #fall #reading

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

12 Picture Books 4 to 8 Year Olds Should Read | Still Advocating http://buff.ly/1EpOL5e #kidlit

BBC News – Quentin Blake: We need more disabled children in picture books http://buff.ly/1GM3ifE #kidlit

Brian Selznick Inks Deal For ‘The Marvels’ – GalleyCat http://buff.ly/1wXZ8wT #kidlit

Five questions for Sharon G. Flake http://buff.ly/1xfVO1I #kidlit

Middle-grade mirth – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1GPkMHV #kidlit

Native American Heritage Month: 10 Children’s Books By Native Writers « the open book http://buff.ly/1zk0PEe #kidlit

Who are the best quirky heroines in children’s books? | The Guardian http://buff.ly/1szsw7p #kidlit

Why Picture Books Are Important by Chris Barton http://buff.ly/10z7Gxc #kidlit

LIBRARIES

Libraries and Buy It Now: A Difficult Decision? | American Libraries Magazine http://buff.ly/1wQpPDJ #ebooks #libraries

One Man’s Diary of a Month-Long Library Closure – BOOK RIOT http://buff.ly/1B39M9A #libraries

READING

New study reveals why it’s impossible to put down a Harry Potter book – ScienceAlert http://buff.ly/1tU0xCa #reading

Reading children’s books has changed my life http://buff.ly/1ExzIbP #kidlit #reading

TECHNOLOGY

Comcast agrees with Obama on net neutrality, except for the legal bit – GigaOM http://buff.ly/1Eujw96 #internet #netneutrality

Dear Senator Ted Cruz, I’m going to explain to you how Net Neutrality ACTUALLY works – The Oatmeal http://buff.ly/1EC7D2V #internet

Present Shock | Dark Rye http://buff.ly/10GI7KN - Using technology to set ourselves free rather than it using us #socialmedia #technology

TEEN READS

Authors of young adult fiction say pitching the content right is a balancing act http://buff.ly/1yjraRG #yalit

Meg Wolitzer: Why are teenage girls drawn to books about mental instability? | The Guardian http://buff.ly/10E6BEs #yalit

YALLFest: Q&A with Rita Williams-Garcia | Charleston City Paper http://buff.ly/1osBfvz #kidlit

pack of dorks

Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel

Lucy just knows that this is the biggest recess of her life, because at recess she will kiss Tom and cement herself as a popular fourth grader along with her best friend Becky.  But after the kiss happens, all she has is a ring that turns her finger green and a sinking feeling about what just happened.  Soon after the kiss, Lucy’s baby sister is born.  Her parents are shocked to have a baby with Downs Syndrome and are caught up in coping with the surprise.  That leaves Lucy alone to cope with the sudden turn of events at school where over the course of a few days she goes from being cool and popular to being one of the lamest kids in the class.  Becky calls Lucy at night to tell her all of the mean things that the other kids are saying about her, claiming that she is still Lucy’s friend but can’t be her friend at school anymore.  In the meantime, Lucy starts to make friends with some of the other kids in her class.  She does a project on wolves with Sam, a very quiet boy who is bullied by the same kids.  Out of that project and her growing group of outcast friends, Lucy decides that the only solution for them is to become their own pack.

Vrabel captures elementary school perfectly with its confusing social pressures that keep people conforming to the norm.  She manages to keep everything at just the right level, never becoming melodramatic about the situation.  At the same time, it is clear how devastating the bullying is to Lucy.  While she has a supportive family, they are distracted by the new baby and rightly so.  Her new little sister helps be a guide for Lucy forward, and is a very smart addition to the story, allowing Lucy her growth and also serving as an example of someone who will also need their own pack to support her.

Lucy is a character who becomes more likeable as the book progresses.  At first with her quests for popularity and kisses, Lucy is shallow but after she becomes shunned by the popular crowd she immediately reveals how smart and strong she actually is.  Vrabel’s brilliant combination of wolf packs and middle school bullies adds strength to the entire novel.

A smart book on bullies, differences and disabilities, this novel is one that will make a great read aloud for elementary classes.  Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Dark Wild

Publisher’s Weekly has the news that Piers Torday has won the 2014 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for the second book in The Last Wild trilogy: The Dark Wild

The Guardian Prize is a UK children’s book prize.  The Dark Wild will be published in the US in January 2015.

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