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norman speak

Norman, Speak! by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Qin Leng

A boy and his family adopt a dog from the animal shelter.  The boy has a hard time choosing a dog and finally decides to take Norman, because he’s been there the longest.  Norman was a stray and doesn’t really have a tail, more of a stump, but he can wag it along with his entire backside.  Once they got home, they discovered that Norman did not follow basic dog commands at all.  He just tilted his head sideways and didn’t do anything.  The family realized that Norman was just not smart, but at least he was funny and friendly.  Then one day in the park, a man was playing with his dog and Norman started to follow the commands!  But the boy couldn’t understand a word of what the man was saying, he was speaking in Chinese.  Norman spoke Chinese!  Now it was up to the family to figure out how to communicate with their Chinese-speaking dog.

Adderson’s gently humorous text leads readers to simply believe that this is the story of a rather slow dog being adopted into a family.  The twist of the language appears abruptly, changing the course of the book and the reader’s opinion of Norman in an instant.  It works tremendously well thanks to the set up in the text before that.  Perhaps the best part of the book is the family’s attempt to learn Chinese so they can speak to their dog.  I love that the solution is changing themselves instead of changing Norman.

Leng’s illustrations have the same quiet humor as the text.  They feel like glimpses of real life moments, unstaged and candid.  Done in simple lines and quiet colors, they support the story and help tell it.

A celebration of diversity and differences in doggie form, this picture book is just as clever as Norman.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

not my girl

Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Continue the story of When I Was Eight with this second picture book by the authors.  The picture book versions follow two highly acclaimed novels for elementary-aged children that tell the same story at a different level.  In this book, Margaret returns home to her native family from the outsiders’ school.  Her hair has been cut short, she has trouble speaking the language of her people, and her skills are more suited to school than life in the Arctic.  When her mother sees her for the first time, she exclaims “Not my girl!” and rejects her daughter.  Slowly, Margaret begins to rebuild her old life and relearn the ways of her family and their traditional life.  But it takes time to be accepted by her mother and to find her way around her newly reunited family.

The Fenton family writes all of their books from the heart, clearly creating a case for the damage of the white people and their schools on the lives of Native people and their children.  This book serves as the other side of the story from When I Was Eight, demonstrating that even when children were returned to their families it was not easy to integrate once again into that society because of the changes wrought by the schooling system.

Grimard’s illustrations show the Arctic landscape, the way Margaret doesn’t fit in with her clothing or her ways.  It also shows the love of her father, his patience and understanding and the slow thaw of her mother and her anger.  Grimard captures these emotions with a delicacy and understanding of all of them.

Another impressive entry into the story of Margaret and her childhood, this book should be paired with the first picture book to best understand Margaret’s story.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

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

jon j. muth- illustrator

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

5 Stereotypes Positive Aging Picture Books Avoid | Lindsey McDivitt http://buff.ly/1zmZLk9 #kidlit

6 Folktales from 6 Continents to Read to Your Kids | BOOK RIOT http://buff.ly/1jgszWB #kidlit

18 Picture Books Guaranteed To Make You Laugh Out Loud Or At Least Smile by Margie Culver | Nerdy Book Club http://buff.ly/1zrxvwX #kidlit

The Best Illustrations from 150 Years of Alice in Wonderland | Brain Pickings http://buff.ly/1srwgsR #kidlit

Get On Board: SLJ Selects A Bevy of Board Books | School Library Journal http://buff.ly/1ogE6BD #kidlit

Harry Potter Reconnects With Old Pals to Watch the World Cup in New JK Rowling Piece – GalleyCat http://buff.ly/1rMKZ3Z #kidlit #rowling

Julia Donaldson: I’m like the mouse in the Gruffalo | Books | The Observer http://buff.ly/1r3Elnj #kidlit

Mac Barnett Talks to Phil & Erin Stead – http://buff.ly/1qPLWIA #kidlit

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Blog Archive » Finding the Right Illustrations with Melissa Sweet http://buff.ly/1qfBBlB #kidlit

EBOOKS

Amazon Wants to Bury Hachette by Offering 100% of E-Book Sales to Authors http://buff.ly/1k6u04Y #ebooks

With eBooks Still Pricey, Illinois Libraries Flex Their Marketing Muscle http://buff.ly/TOs8H9 #ebooks #libraries

A great quote on #literacy and the importance of libraries to our world!

LIBRARIES

9 Striking Library Posters from the Great Depression | BOOK RIOT http://buff.ly/1jgeYP3 #libraries

Why We Need "Ugly" Heroines

READING

Confessions Of A Binge Reader (Or, How I Read So Much) | Thought Catalog http://buff.ly/1mj3jPk #reading

FingerReader ring can read printed text to blind people | Chips http://buff.ly/1k2yZDW #reading

New Jane Austen waxwork uses forensic science to model ‘the real Jane’ | Books http://buff.ly/1jqvEnp

Which are the most unread books of 2014? http://buff.ly/1jtv0FV #reading

Why "old book smell" has hints of vanilla – Vox http://buff.ly/1oFJJuA #reading

In His Own Words: Walter Dean Myers

TEEN READS

25 YA Books For GAME OF THRONES Fans | Blog | Epic Reads http://buff.ly/1j2MN66 #yalitCould reading dark literature harm your teenage children? http://buff.ly/1oCHUP5 #yalit

Great Reads for Video Gamers | School Library Journal http://buff.ly/1qntSC3 #yalit

In His Own Words: Walter Dean Myers | BOOK RIOT http://buff.ly/1k2ymu9 #yalit

Maggie Stiefvater: I steal a real human heart for each of my characters | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1jlHAqB #yalit

Mary E. Pearson on The Kiss of Deception & Writing YA Books| Lisa Parkin | http://buff.ly/1zpZAoa #yalit

curiosity

Curiosity by Gary Blackwood

The author of The Shakespeare Stealer returns with another historical novel for children.  In 1835 Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Rufus has lived a sheltered life, kept inside by the curve of his spine and his small stature.  Then his father is thrown into debtor’s prison and his life changes dramatically.  Taken into a home for orphans, Rufus is rescued by his skill at chess and taken to live with Maelzel, a sinister man who owns a collection of automatons as well as The Turk, a chess-playing machine.  Rufus is forced to hide inside the cabinet below The Turk and play chess against ticket-paying customers.  He is promised a small salary with which he hopes to help his father get out of prison.  But Rufus’ life is not just playing chess.  He must remain hidden at all times to avoid the secret of The Turk being discovered.  He can’t ever go out, making this a twisted version of his earlier sheltered life.  Now he struggles to get enough to eat, to not be beaten and to find a way to not meet the dark same end as a previous Turk controller. 

Blackstone’s historical fiction is rich and detailed.  He offers just the right amount of information so that young readers will understand the difference in society and the way of life, but not so much to slow down the story.  And what a story this is!  The Turk hoax is revealed in all of its twisted, waxy glory through the eyes of a disabled young boy whose entire world has been turned upside down.  Yet Rufus is always looking on the bright side, scheming himself to try to survive as best he can and yet also having a child-like wonder at things too. 

Blackstone brings early 19th century America to life on the page.  He populates his story with real people like Edgar Allan Poe and P. T. Barnum, adding to the already strong sense of reality in his tale.  At the end of the book, the author does speak about the liberties he took with these historical figures, including making the sinister Maelzel much more evil than he seemed to be in real life. 

Strong writing, a compelling story and a shining hero all make this work of historical fiction a dark delight.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

edward hopper paints his world

Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor

Released August 19, 2014.

Even as a child, Edward Hopper lived as an artist.  He spent his days drawing as much as he could, preferring drawing to playing baseball with the other boys.  After high school, he headed off to New York City to study art.  Then Hopper went to Paris to learn even more, spending time painting outside.  When he returned to the US, he got a job as an illustrator for magazines, but wanted to spend time painting what he wanted to, not for others.  He started painting old houses in his work and after getting married he spent time wandering the countryside on Cape Cod, finding scenes that moved him and they weren’t the typical images of gardens and farms.  He also painted things in the city that spoke to him.  Eventually the critics and galleries discovered Hopper and he gained attention, but it didn’t change him, even his final work speaks to his unique vision and approach.

Burleigh has written a book about an important American painter but even more than that, he has captured the small things that made him great.  The book speaks to the importance of allowing yourself time to learn a craft and getting an education.  It also speaks to staying true to yourself and your vision whether it is accepted at the time or not.  And then there is the importance of perseverance and following your dream even if it doesn’t make a lot of money.  Hopper teaches all of this in his quiet way.

Minor’s artwork shines in this picture book.  He brilliantly captures the feel of Hopper’s work without copying it directly but these images are also clearly Minor’s own as well.  Pictures of some of Hopper’s most famous work is shared at the end of the book and it is there that one realizes what a profound mix of two artists’ work has happened here.

A very strong addition to the growing collection of picture book biographies about artists, this book has much to offer budding young artists as well as art classes.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from ARC received from Wendell Minor.

queen victorias bathing machine

Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Queen Victoria longs to get out of the heat of the summer as well as her itchy clothes and tight corset and just be able to swim in the sea.  But her lady-in-waiting collapses even considering the scandal that could take place if someone were to see the queen before she reached the water!  The queen gives up the idea, realizing that there is no way that she could be properly dressed and still able to swim.  Prince Albert though wants to try to figure out a way to get his beloved wife into the water.  Albert came up with many ideas, but none of them worked.  Then he struck upon a wonderful idea, a wheeled wooden cart that could be pulled right into the water.  This true story of a queen who wanted a touch of freedom ends with an image of the restored bathing machine that is now on the Isle of Wight in England. 

Whelan takes a wonderfully playful look at solving the queen’s swimming problems.  She makes sure that at the base of the entire story is the adoration between Albert and Victoria, a rich love story even though they were monarchs and parents.  Cleverly having a fainting lady-in-waiting who is the voice of propriety in the book helps children understand the expectations of decorum in a previous day.  Whelan writes in a free rhyming verse here, the looseness of the poems feel simple by belie that skill that it takes to write in this style.

Carpenter’s illustrations also have a sprightly humor to them.  They also celebrate the love of the two historical figures.  Perhaps the most joyful images are Victoria finally able to swim and cavort in the water.  Or maybe it is the final illustration where Victoria is happily held in Albert’s arms dripping and happy. 

This piece of historical fiction is based on a true story and shows creativity and problem solving galore.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Mockingjay Trailer – Part 2

The second half of President Snow’s Panem Address is now available.

Thanks to GalleyCat for the link!

b is for box

B Is for Box by David A. Carter

With the happy little box on the cover smiling at you, this book is impossible not to want to open and explore.  It is made all the more enticing by being a David Carter pop-up book.  Happily this alphabet pop-up does not disappoint.  Done in a simple style, the pop-up features are mostly about pulling tabs or turning wheels.  There is a small finale at the end, but don’t expect large elaborate pop-ups in this little book.  Instead they are just right for small hands to explore and not damage.  Built of heavy paper stock, this pop-up would make a good one to start small children on the wonders of books that turn into 3D.

Carter’s text is has a lively lilt to it and carries nicely throughout the alphabet.  There are no huge surprises here in the text, the delight mainly comes from the pop-ups, the tabs and the levers.  Though simple, they have a strong appeal, just as opening the flaps on the pages do too. 

Careful toddlers will enjoy this book that will dance them through the ABCs with ease.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Little Simon.

three bears in a boat

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

The co-creator of the Ladybug Girl series returns with a completely different type of book.  It is the story of three little bears who accidentally break their mother’s favorite blue seashell, so they set off to find her a new one.  Along the way they meet other bears on boats but only one can give them any advice about finding a blue seashell, they need to look for a hat-shaped island and then look in the right place.  As they travel, the bears look and look for a blue seashell, but don’t find one.  Once they give up hope, they start to argue and as they fight a storm blows up around them.  They may be forced to return home to Mama empty handed, and after all, their mother is a bear!

Soman has created an exceptional picture book.  It hearkens back to many classic picture books, particularly ones by Maurice Sendak like Where the Wild Things Are and the Little Bear series.  It also has ties to the three bears, Beatrix Potter and even Melville.  But best of all, it reads like it is a classic already, one that will be shared with children for years, and very rightly so.  The story arc is brilliantly crafted, moving the story forward and also coming full circle, returning the bears in time for a warm supper with Mama.  It is so strongly built that there is a sense of coming home when reading the story, but also one of surprise and delight at discovering it.

Soman’s art is extraordinary:  from the faces of the little bears that show every emotion clearly despite the fur to the landscapes that are like opening a window to the ocean.  There are page turns where you simply sit for a moment and linger, looking at the new vista before you until you are ready to read the words on the page. 

A top Caldecott contender, this picture book feels like returning home to Mama after a long trip at sea.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

of course they do

Of Course They Do!: Boys and Girls Can Do Anything by Marie-Sabine Roger and Anne Sol

This very simple book filled with crisp photographs takes on gender stereotypes and proves them quickly wrong.  The book starts with things that boys don’t do, like “Boys don’t cook.”  Turn the page and the counter to the stereotype is given with a photograph of a chef and the words “Are you sure?”  The book then moves on to stereotypes about girls, like them not playing sports. 

The format is engaging and fresh.  Having the more traditional gender role on one page and then the correction on next works particularly well, since it gives children a chance to realize that they themselves may think some of these things.  I also like that the format asks questions on the pages where the stereotype is being disputed.  This too lets children have the ability to change their mind rather than be defensive about what they had been thinking. 

The illustrations are all photographs and are bright and clear.  Many of them are close ups of faces that prove the point that girls and boys can do so many things.  Throughout the book there is clear diversity as well.

Clear and intelligently designed, this book will be welcome for units about gender.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

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