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What a year for teen graphic novels!

The 2015 Eisner Award Winnes have been announced and some of my favorite teen graphic novels of the year won in categories that are not limited to younger ages! Here are the winners that are either specifically for books for children and teens or that were won by those books:

BEST NEW SERIES

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke A. Allen

 

BEST PUBLICATION FOR EARLY READERS (up to age 7)

20518978

The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke

 

BEST PUBLICATION FOR KIDS (ages 8-12)

El Deafo

El Deafo by Cece Bell

 

BEST PUBLICATION FOR TEENS (ages 13-17)

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke A. Allen

 

BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM – NEW

This One Summer

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

 

BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM – REPRINT

Through the Woods

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

 

BEST WRITER

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow, Part 1 (Smoke and Shadow, #1) The Shadow Hero

Gene Luen Yang for Avatar the Last Airbender and The Shadow Hero

 

BEST WRITER/ARTIST

Sisters

Raina Telgemeier for Sisters

George by Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino

Released August 25, 2015.

George was born with the body of a boy but knows that she is really a girl. Her fourth grade classroom is doing a production of Charlotte’s Web and George wants to be Charlotte more than anything. But when she tries out for Charlotte instead of a boy’s part, George’s teacher stops her. George is offered the role of Wilbur, but that is not the character she wants to be since she’s not a boy! As George struggles with the bullies in her class, she also finds allies who embrace her gender. Once her best friend knows about her being transgender, she and George come up with a plan that will let George appear on stage as Charlotte after all. It will also let everyone know exactly who she is.

This book is so crucial. As the mother of a transgender teen, I know that she considered herself a girl from a very young age. Books like this will help young transgender children start to figure out what they are feeling inside and realize that they are not alone. The book focuses on a fourth grader, but trans children of all elementary ages will love this look at their struggles. I also must admit that I cried on page one. Gino does something I have not seen in other books about trans kids. He uses George’s given name combined with the gender pronouns she identifies with. That alone is so powerful and so important and so poignant. Another important moment comes later in the book when George’s best friend is helping her dress as a girl for the first time in public. Gino changes George’s name to her chosen female one once that happens. Another subtle but powerful statement about identity.

George herself is a beautiful protagonist. She represents so much of the struggle of trans kids and yet her own youth doesn’t get lost in the message. George is resilient, funny, and strong. I love the process of George’s mother in coming to terms with her daughter being transgender. It is so real, the denial, the rejection, and eventually the acceptance and importantly, looking for additional help. I also appreciated the school principal being the one who understands trans issues and offers a haven for George in the future. Another important piece in supporting trans kids in our communities.

Important and life-saving for some children, this book demonstrates the acceptance that trans kids need and the power of family and friendship. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi

The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi

Released August 1, 2015.

Snow has fallen and Kikko wants to help her father clear her grandmother’s walk. He has already left but forgot to take the pie for her grandmother, so Kikko follows his footprints through the snow. She can see him ahead of her when she falls and crushes the pie. Still, she picks it all back up and continues on her way. But her father is heading into a huge building that Kikko has never seen before. As she approaches, she looks in the window and sees that the man she has been following is actually a bear in a coat. A little lamb comes up to her and asks her inside to join the tea party. Kikko is the only human there in a room filled with forest creatures. She quickly is welcomed to their tea party and spends a splendid time with them. When the time comes to continue on her way to her grandmother’s house, the animals replace the crushed pie with one made from different pieces of their own pies. Kikko is soon at her grandmother’s house where they are clearly delighted with the unusual pie.

Miyakoshi has created a story that is pure magic. She takes the traditional Little Riding Hood story of a girl heading through the woods to her grandmother’s house and turns it upside down in a most pleasant and unusual way. Once readers see that she is with wild animals, they will expect the story to take a darker turn. Instead they will discover a book that gets ever friendlier and more welcoming, a book filled with the warmth of new-found friends.

The illustrations are done with touches of color brightening the charcoal and pencil illustrations. Kikko is set apart immediately with her bright yellow hair and red hat and mittens. She is a burst of color against the white and the darkness. The illustrations of the animals are particularly effective. They are realistic and yet the animals are dressed in human attire, making it a lovely and whimsical book.

Gentle and friendly, this twist on Little Red Riding Hood is enchanting. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Judith St. George Has Died

So You Want to Be President? The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr

Judith St. George was an author who wrote about American history. She celebrated history in almost all of the 40 books she wrote. Subjects ranged from the Revolutionary War to Native Americans to feminists. Ms. St. George was 84.

Wren and the Sparrow by J Patrick Lewis

The Wren and the Sparrow by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg (InfoSoup)

This Holocaust story tells of an old man who weaved carpets on a loom and spent his evening singing to a hurdy-gurdy. His student, the Sparrow, learned at his side. The town in Poland was dark and dismal, all of its trees harvested for kindling. Food and clothes were rationed and even the music was starting to disappear. One day music was removed from the village as soldiers arrived to gather all of the musical instruments and take them away. Everyone had to give up their instruments, but the old man sang one final song before he put his hurdy-gurdy on the pile. And he would not stop singing, even as he was dragged away. That night, the Sparrow returned and took the hurdy-gurdy from the pile and hid it away. Then she too disappeared. It was found years later with a note that spoke of the bravery of both the Wren and the Sparrow and the importance of music in keeping spirits alive in dark times.

Based on the musicians who played in the Lodz Ghetto, a place that housed 230,000 Jewish people in 1940. Only 1000 survived the Holocaust that followed. Music was a part of their life and that celebration of music as a way of expressing feelings that could not be voiced is very clear in this picture book. Lewis writes with intense beauty in this book, the strong feelings showing in his sentences such as “The town shriveled up like a rose without rain.” And the image of “the gift of music soon dwindled to a sigh.” The entire book sings with prose like this, adding its own music to the story.

The illustrations by Nayberg, a native of Ukraine, show the darkness of the times. The illustrations swim with the colors of war, khaki ground and the gray of despair. When the instrument and music are present though, there is a glow and a warmth that shines in the illustration visually capturing the impact of the music on people around.

This allegorical tale captures the impact of the Nazi regime in Poland and elsewhere, offering a lesson about the power of music to carry hope in the darkest of times. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Kar-Ben.

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

http://sunnydaypublishing.com/

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

12 fantastic children’s books to help talk about prejudice http://buff.ly/1CrOFiF #kidlit

The Best Feminist Books for Younger Readers http://buff.ly/1H5sE5Y #kidlit #feminism

‘Children’s books are one of the most important forms of writing we have’ http://buff.ly/1HMKe45 #kidlitOne Weird Trick Any Children’s Book Can Use to Make Parents Cry http://buff.ly/1D1fXXV #kidlit

Summer reads: The kid edition http://buff.ly/1CrXetB #kidlit #yalit

Why Diversity in Children’s Literature Really Matters http://buff.ly/1HMOwZf #kidlit #diversity

EBOOKS

Everything Science Knows About Reading On Screens http://buff.ly/1KT5aFT #ebooks #reading

LIBRARIES

Audit Details $310,000 in Prohibited Expenses by Queens Library’s Leaders http://buff.ly/1CrWWDc #libraries

Caught In The Middle: Librarians On The Debate Over LGBT Children’s Books http://buff.ly/1J53rZE #libraries #kidlit #lgbt

Designs for new Wichita central library nearly finished http://buff.ly/1CizsAr #libraries

Fifty Challenges Filed Against LGBTQ Children’s Books in Rural Texas County http://ow.ly/P8x6j #libraries

Future of libraries: No more shushing teens at the library http://buff.ly/1TlMuBy #libraries

How The New York Public Library Is Bridging The Digital Divide http://buff.ly/1D0MT2V #libraries

Vancouver Public Library is the best library system in the world http://buff.ly/1HIwLdB #libraries

Where are the books? Libraries under fire as they shift from print to digital. http://buff.ly/1RkP7Gd #libraries

TEEN READS

"Author Jenny Han Discusses The Successes And Shortcomings Of The Young Adult Genre" http://buff.ly/1LWnfEx #yalit

Michelle Knudsen On Winning The 2015 Sid Fleischman Award (For Humor) For Her YA Novel "Evil Librarian" http://buff.ly/1G9IKtx #yalit

Night World by Mordicai Gerstein

The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein (InfoSoup)

In the middle of the night darkness, a boy is woken by his cat who clearly wants to go outside. She leads him out of his room, through the dark house where everyone is asleep, even the fish. Then the cat speaks, saying that it is coming and it’s almost here. The two go outside where the grass is dewy, the air is warm, and the sky is filled stars. He can only see shadows everywhere. Some seem to be flowers and others seem to be animals who are also out at night, a deer, an owl, a porcupine and more. The birds start to call about it almost being here and slowly through the trees comes a glow. Dawn arrives. The animals depart off to sleep. And color floods away the shadows as the day shines into a glorious morning.

Gerstein has written a radiant picture book. He combines a mystery of what the cat is talking about that lengthens and deepens as the story unfolds. As the boy stands outside in the summer moments before dawn, there is a feeling of safety thanks to the animals gathered around him to witness the dawn too. There is immense pleasure is seeing the sun rise and that is captured vividly on these pages. From the hush and quiet splendor of the darkness to the dazzle of the day, this picture book is a perfect way to celebrate nature and each new start.

The illustrations are paramount here and they are immensely lovely. The dark pages in particular which are lit by the barest of lights, the deep blacks and greys of night are allowed to show their richness. The eyes of boy and cat light the darkness alone until outside where the stars in the sky join them as well, shining high above them. And the dawn that breaks so slowly over the horizon, first a glow and then becoming a full day with clouds, pastel colors and light.

A celebration of dawn, this picture book may just have early birds waking up to see the light break over their own dewy yards. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram

Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (InfoSoup)

Released July 14, 2015.

One summer Rufus decides not to have his regular lemonade stand. Instead he will do a story stand! So he gets all set up wtih plenty of paper, pencils, pens and markers. When Millie and her little brother Walter stop at the stand, Rufus agrees to write them a story in exchange for a special shell from the beach. The story is about Walter’s favorite color. Sandy stops by with a box of kittens and even though they are free, Rufus writes a story in exchange for the black kitten, a story about cats. Rufus is reminded that his little sister’s birthday is tomorrow and he knows that a story will be the best present. Sara stops by and asks for a story about buttons, so Rufus agrees in exchange for whatever Sara thinks it should be worth. All of his customers pick up their stories at the same time and sit right down to read and enjoy them.

This smart blend of lemonade stand and creativity makes for a book premise that is very engaging and fun. Particularly pleasant is the lack of focus on money as payment and instead allowing a warm and friendly bartering system in exchange for Rufus’ stories. The values make sense, paid in kittens, shells and flowers. Also great is the way that Rufus’ stories are each designed specifically for that reader, with their favorite color or via the subject matter. The stories are engaging and fun, just brief enough to give a flavor and not slow the main storyline down.

Groenink’s illustrations are done in gouache, acrylics and pencils with Adobe Photoshop. They are warm and bright, showing a friendly neighborhood with plenty of ethnic diversity in Rufus’ customers. They have a playful feel with the trees around Rufus’ stand done in a whimsical way and various woods animals peeking at what is going on. The illustrations in Rufus’ stories are drawn with fine details and show the coloring lines. They have the same quality and feel of the other pictures but also have a distinct style of their own.

A celebration of creativity and writing, this book may inspire children to find their own variations on lemonade stands or even try their hand at writing and illustrating their own stories. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.

Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (InfoSoup)

Callie returns in triumphant fashion in this second Calpurnia Tate book following the Newbery Honor-winning first novel. Calpurnia continues to study science and nature at her grandfather’s side. Together they begin to dissect worms and insects, moving upwards towards vertebrates. Callie develops several scientific devices to measure latitude and barometric pressure. When the barometric pressure drops seriously low and an unusual gull shows up in the yard, Granddaddy heads to the telegraph office to sound the alarm for coastal areas, but there is little to do in places like Galveston Texas where tens of thousands of lives are lost. Meanwhile, Callie’s brother Travis is continuing to bring home stray animals like armadillos and raccoon, leaving Callie to help hide the evidence. Their cousin who survived the hurricane in Galveston comes to live with them, moving into Callie’s room and bearing secrets of her own. Through it all, Callie struggles with the expectations for girls around the turn of the century, trying to find a way forward towards education rather than marriage.

Kelly writes of science in a way that will have any reader eager to start looking at the writings of Charles Darwin, reading about health issues of cows and horses, dissecting their own grasshoppers, and heading outside to find the North Star. She turns it all into an adventure, filled with outdoor excursions, smelly animals, and rivers to explore. At the same time, it is also a look at the expectations of a girl from a good family and the difference between her future and that of her brothers. Callie’s struggle with this inequity speaks to her courage and her tenacity, two parts of her character that are evident throughout the book. This dual nature of the novel adds lots of depth to the story, allowing fans of nature and fans or strong heroines a shared novel to rejoice about.

Kelly’s characters are wonderfully well rounded. Callie is not perfect and is far more interesting and human for that. She is not patient, hates to play the piano and sew, and speaks up at times that would be unseemly. At the same time she is wonderfully wild, brazen at times, and heroic at others. She stands by those who support her and thwarts those who oppose her. She cunningly uses people’s self interests to promote her own and is constantly learning from those around her. Even the secondary characters are well drawn and have depth. From Granddaddy to Callie’s mother to her cousin Aggie, all can surprise because they are crafted as full human beings.

This romping novel is a fitting and fabulous follow-up to the first. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.

Lillians Right to Vote by Jonah Winter

Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (InfoSoup)

This picture book celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Lillian is a 100-year-old African-American woman who has lived through all of the problems with African Americans voting in the United States. As she climbs the steep hill to her polling place, she remembers all of the steps that led from slavery to being able to openly vote today. She thinks about her great-grandfather who labored as a slave but also lived to see the Civil War come and allow him to vote for the first time.  She remembers her grandfather being charged a poll tax and her uncle being asked unanswerable questions before would be allowed to vote. She remembers running from an angry mob of neighbors who didn’t want women voting. She will never forget the cross burning in their yard. She remembers the people who fought for civil rights, who died for civil rights, who marched for everyone’s rights. She climbs that hill, slowly and steadily, until she reaches her polling place where she can vote without fear of being attacked or turned away.

Winter’s prose is musical and passionate. He draws us all close together and then speaks to us of history and voting and America. He tells us of shameful things that must not be forgotten, of heroes who fell and those who were able to keep marching. He tells us all of our duty in subtle ways that are stirring and moving; that we must vote each and every time, even when it is difficult or there is a steep hill to climb. Winter tells a personal story of voting history in the United States, giving us rich robust story telling rather than dry facts. It is a stirring and noteworthy tale.

Evans’ illustrations are superb. His fine lined illustrations show the determination of Lillian, the horrors of slavery, the dangers of voting, and the courage of many to make changes for the better. His pages swirl with color and texture, fill with sunlight, and dazzle with blue sky. The golden page of the cross burning is disturbing in its vividness, the wash of gold not allowing anywhere to hide.

A gorgeous story accompanied by equally lovely illustrations, this historical picture book is one that should be embraced by elementary teachers during any national election. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.

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