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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.

turtle island

Turtle Island by Kevin Sherry

The author of I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean returns with a picture book all about friendship.  Turtle is very big but Turtle is also all alone and getting lonely.  Then one day, a ship wrecked near him and he rescued a bear, an owl, a cat and a frog from the ocean waters.  They climbed aboard his shell and Turtle supplied them with fish to eat.  Happily, Owl could knit, Bear could build, Frog could cook, and Cat could draw.  The four quickly went to work and created a home aboard Turtle.  Turtle wasn’t lonely any more.  One might think the book would end there, but instead the four smaller animals got very homesick and missed their families.  They had to return home, leaving Turtle all alone in the big ocean again.  What is a big lonely turtle to do, especially now that he realizes the importance of having good friends?

Sherry has a way with simple storytelling.  He manages to convey complicated emotions using a combination of his storyline and his illustrations.  Here the impact of having friends is looked at with humor and through a unique relationship of a huge turtle and characters riding on his back.  It’s a very nice metaphor for needing to support friends in different ways.

As with all of Sherry’s books, his cartoony illustrations are child friendly and add to the humor.  They keep this story from becoming overly sweet, showing goggle-eyed animals in different colors and always clearly showing that Turtle is simply huge.

Gently funny, simple and honest, this picture book is a friend to any story time on friendship or turtles.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

half life of molly pierce

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno

Molly has memory problems, she will awaken driving her car on the highway miles from home.  She will find herself on the couch watching a show on TV with her little sister when she had just moments earlier been at school.  She wakes up with her homework half finished and she doesn’t remember even starting it.  So when an unknown boy crashes his motorcycle in front of her and then calls her by name, Molly knows that there is more to her blackouts than she might have thought and that it is time to come clean about them with her parents and therapist.  As she starts to sort out what happens to her when she isn’t there, Molly meets Sayer, the brother of the boy who crashed and someone who seems to know more about Molly than she does.  Molly has to figure out not only what is happening to her but how she is connected to Sayer and his brother.

In this debut novel, Leno skillfully crafts a book of psychological suspense and mystery.  Cleverly, it all takes place in a single person who can’t remember it at all.  The result is a riveting read, one that is emotional and raw.  Molly is a great example of the unreliable narrator, one who knows that she doesn’t have the facts but also one who is incapable of putting it all together.  Readers may guess what is happening in the novel before Molly realizes it herself, but the book won’t let you go until it is revealed in its entirety.

Leno’s writing is noteworthy too.  She beautifully captures falling in love through physical, tangible reactions and poetic language.  She also gracefully shows the physical reactions of Molly as she struggles to live a normal life, such as this passage from the beginning of Chapter 8:

The next day at school I move through the hallways like they’re flooded.  Like I’m swimming through them, coming up every so often for air and clawing my way through seaweed that would hold me down, choke me, suffocate me.  My lungs burn with the effort of breathing.  What I wouldn’t do for gills.

This startling puzzle of a psychological thriller will have readers riveted from the very beginning.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and HarperTeen.

Author and blogger extraordinaire Mitali Perkins has the announcement of the South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  Here are the honorees:

 

2014 WINNERS

A Moment Comes Razia's Ray of Hope: One Girl's Dream of an Education

A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury

Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby

 

2014 HONOR BOOKS

Bye, Bye, Motabhai! 16290039

Bye, Bye, Motabhai! by Kala Sambasivan, illustrated by Ambika Sambasivan

Gandhi: A March to the Sea by Alice B. McGinty

The Garden of My Imaan Mother Teresa: Saint of the Slums: Campfire Biography-Heroes Line

The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia

Mother Teresa: Angel of the Slums by Lewis Helfand, art by Sachin Nagar

 

2014 HIGHLY COMMENDED BOOKS

The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna Gobble You Up! In Andal's House

The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna written and illustrated by Demi

Gobble You Up! by Gita Wolf, art by Sunita

In Andal’s House by Gloria Whelan, illustrations by Amanda Hall

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah Torn

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J Freedman

Torn by David Massey

thickety

The Thickety by J. A. White

Kara saw her mother killed for being a witch when she was just six years old.  Ever since then, she and her sickly little brother have been treated horribly by the village they live near.  Her father played a role in accusing her mother of witchcraft, and now he cannot function well at all, spending his days writing the same thing over and over again in a notebook.  So Kara at age 12 takes care of her brother and tries to keep their small farm functioning and her family fed.  The entire village lives in fear of the Thickety, a deep woods nearby.  So when a strange crow leads Kara deep into the woods right to the heart of the Thickety, she almost doesn’t follow.  There she discovers a book of spells that seems to promise great power, a book that will mark Kara as a witch in everyone’s eyes.  What is a witch’s daughter to do?

White creates a book that is just as dark and tangled as the Thickety itself.  Her writing is a treat to read, focused on creating characters that are complicated in their motivations in a world that is lush and vivid.  She doesn’t shirk away from truly frightening scenes in the book, including the opening scene of the mother’s death and Kara being accused as a small child of witchcraft.  That scene alone warns you of the horrors to come, horrors that are scary in a deep, dark way but ones that are also appropriate for the middle grade readers.

Kara is a strong heroine.  She is an outsider from a young age, shunned by her peers, beloved by her younger brother.  Even the adults in the community have abandoned their family, leaving them to fend for themselves.  Speaking of the community, it is another strength in this novel, a tight-knit and fanatical community on an isolated island that shuns magic.  White manages to stay away from any sort of Salem-type setting while still maintaining clear links to that puritanical rage. 

Well written with a strong protagonist and impressive world building, this dark fantasy is ideal for middle grade readers.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from library copy.

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

10 Picture Books that Inspire Creativity {undergodsmightyhand.com}

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

14 Children’s Books that Challenge Gender Stereotypes – What Do We Do All Day? http://buff.ly/1iMNVuY #kidlit

19 Of The Most Inappropriately Named Children’s Books. Truly Bizarre http://buff.ly/1pWS4uQ #kidlit #humor

Books on Film: Kate DiCamillo on NBC – a lesson in perseverance – http://buff.ly/1rUMSZy #kidlit

Growing Int’l Latino Book Awards Reflect Booming Market – NBC http://buff.ly/1qrIWSG http://buff.ly/1qrIUKr #latino #kidlit #yalit

How to Build a Bestseller with Non-White Characters | School Library Journal http://buff.ly/1wUyJOW #kidlit

Let’s Go On An Adventure: 20 Books to Inspire Adventurous Mighty Girls / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl http://buff.ly/1pWE4kA #kidlit

Michael Morpurgo tells teachers to cry when reading to children – Telegraph http://buff.ly/1qrJHuZ #kidlit #reading

My hero: William Steig by Jon Klassen | Books | The Guardian http://buff.ly/1pJhqkf #kidlit

A Profile of Rita Williams-Garcia: Being Eleven – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1rULaYb #kidlit

Reflecting on 20 Years of The Giver | Lois Lowry | http://buff.ly/1wFpRMX #kidlit

What are the best first world war books for children? | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1rPpcpD #kidlit

not enough time *

EBOOKS

Go To Hellman: Overdrive is Making My Crazy Dream Come True http://buff.ly/1qmRR7U #ebooks #libraries #bing

LIBRARIES

America’s 10 Most Unique Libraries (PHOTOS) http://buff.ly/1rTy1yJ #libraries

Banned Books Week Announces Comics Focus | ALA 2014 http://buff.ly/1pJoa1m #comics #books #banned #libraries

OCLC Researchers Reorder and Reinterpret Ranganathan’s 5 Laws of Library Science For Today | LJ INFOdocket http://buff.ly/1o4m5Ye #libraries

A well-read woman...

PRIVACY

Does Your State Protect Your Privacy in the Digital Age? | American Civil Liberties Union http://buff.ly/1iQVv7L #privacy

TECHNOLOGY

Preschoolers Outsmart College Students In Figuring Out Gadgets : Shots – Health News : NPR http://buff.ly/1rPoQ28

Watch John Greens interview on The Coilbert Report: http://ow.ly/yotX4

TEEN READS

2014 ALA Guide to ARCs & Signings | School Library Journal http://buff.ly/1rTsJmG #ala #kidlit #yalit

Writing Teen Lives: A YA Roundtable http://pwne.ws/1pUiAFf

The winners of the new Booktrust Best Book Awards have been announced.  The winners were selected by 12,000 schoolchildren in the UK, selecting titles from shortlisted titles in six categories.  Here are the winners in each category:

BEST PICTURE BOOK

Peck, Peck, Peck

Peck Peck Peck by Lucy Cousins

 

BEST STORY FOR AGES 6-8

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

 

BEST STORY FOR AGES 9-11

Hard Luck (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, #8)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney

 

BEST FACT FOR AGES 9-11

Operation Ouch!: Your Brilliant Body

Operation Ouch!: Your Brilliant Body by Doctor Chris and Xand van Tulleken

 

BEST STORY FOR AGES 12-14

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Walter Dean Myers Dies

WalterDeanMyers 318x500 Press Release: Obituary   Walter Dean Myers  (1937 2014) Fallen Angels

According to an announcement from Harper Collins, Walter Dean Myers has died at the age of 76 following a brief illness.  He is the author of more than 100 books for children and teens.  But most of all as we are starting to address diversity in children’s literature, his pioneering voice will be missed.  He wrote about African-American children and teens in a way that honored them deeply.  He will be missed on a vital level.

In library school back in the day, one of our required books in my YA Literature class was a Walter Dean Myers book, Fallen Angels.  It was a book I would never have read on my own because it deals with war and soldiers and I just don’t tend to read that sort of fiction.  But the quality of that writing kept me looking for all Walter Dean Myers books that followed.  He wrote with such humanity that it was impossible to turn away.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the news.

hooray for hat

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

Elephant wakes up very grumpy until he finds a present waiting for him on the doorstep and it has one amazing hat inside.  He puts it on and heads off to show Zebra, but Zebra is grumpy too, so Elephant gives Zebra one of his hats.  Soon they have helped Turtle and Owl be less grumpy too by sharing hats with them as well.  They came to Lion who was feeling sad and giving him a hat didn’t help because he was worried that Giraffe was feeling sick.  So they all came up with a great plan to help Giraffe feel better.  I bet you can guess that it involves…hats!

Won has created an entirely jolly book that shows just how small things can change a person’s mood or emotions.  The book is very simply written and repeats nicely as each animal is introduced.  This makes it a great pick for toddlers who will enjoy the repetition as well as the different animals in the book.  It is also a nice book to talk with the smallest children about feeling grumpy and also how important sharing things can be.

Won’s art focuses on the animals themselves with only touches of backgrounds or even ground around and underneath them.  The colors pop when the hats enter the pages, bright and vibrantly different, they are all a hoot.

Cheery and friendly, this book is a happy look at changing emotions and sharing good fortune.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

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