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whale trails

Whale Trails: Before and Now by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Released January 20, 2015.

A little girl and her father run a whale boat that takes people out onto the water to view the whales in the sea.  Her family has worked the sea there for generations, so she explains how different their search for whales is from those in the past where the whalers were hunting whales.  Each pair of pages shows modern day and then turns in sepia tones to the past.  From changes to the pier and the businesses along it to the design of the boats themselves to the routes and tools used, each pair of pages show how things have changed.  Yet at night as they head home, the bay is the same and so are the whales that live there.

Cline-Ransome has cleverly combined history with always-popular whale watching, creating a book that invites exploration.  Not only is this a look at the changes of the boats over time and what they do with the whales in the bay, but more subtly and importantly, it also looks at the changes in attitudes towards wildlife.  Throughout it is a hopeful book, examining the past with a frank and factual approach. 

Karas’ illustrations clearly show the modern and the historical side-by-side.  His sepia tones spread all the way to edges of the page while the illustrations themselves are framed by lines.  The more colorful modern pages have illustrations that take up the entire page and are less formal feeling thanks to the lack of framing.  These cues will help children keep the two time periods clear.

Clever, smart and engaging, this mix of modern and historical whaling is a superb addition to any library collection.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.

leontyne price

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Raul Colon

This picture book biography looks at the life of Leontyne Price, an African-American opera singer who burst through the color barrier.  Born in Mississippi in 1927, Leontyne grew up poor in money but rich in music from both her parents.  They also taught her that she was just as good as anyone else, no matter what their color.  Leontyne was inspired when she saw Marian Anderson perform and then got to sing in the church choir when Anderson performed in 1939 after being barred from a whites-only concert hall.  Leontyne headed to Ohio to college where she planned to be a teacher, but when her voice was discovered she changed her major to voice.  She then went to Julliard and on to the world stage where she sang on Broadway in Porgy and Bess.  She became the first black singer to star at La Scala and broke wide the door that Marian Anderson had first opened. 

Weatherford writes in prose that reads like poetry, broken into stanzas and offering celebrations of this inspiring woman on the page.  From the pride and power of her upbringing by her parents to the final pages that show how far she has come, the book captures the strength and determination that it took to take a natural gift and break down barriers with it.   Weatherford’s words are filled with moments that are inspiring, times that are amazing, but she also keeps things down to earth, showing even on the final page that Price is entirely human even as she reaches incredible heights in her career.

Colon’s illustrations are beautiful.  Filled with his trademark scratches and lines, they have a beautiful flowing texture that carries from one image to the next.  He uses sweeping colors to show the beauty of the music coming from both Price and Anderson, filling the world with the colors of music. 

A beautiful and powerful testament to one of the ground breaking artists of our time.  Appropriate for ages 7-9. 

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

there will be lies

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

Shelby is about to be hit by a car, in four hours.  She lives an isolated life with her mother, one where she is homeschooled and doesn’t really know anyone else outside of the online forums she visits without her mother knowing.  Every Friday they have a day out, one with ice cream for dinner, batting in the batting cage, and a visit to the library.  There’s a cute boy there that Shelby has seen, another thing that her mother doesn’t know about.  But the car is coming, and Shelby’s quiet life is about to change.  After she is hit by the car, a coyote appears to her, warning her that she will be told two lies and then she will know the truth.  Immediately after she is released from the hospital, her mother takes her away in a car, fleeing from dangers that only her mother understands.  As Shelby begins to see her mother in a new light, she also starts leaving real life and spending time with Coyote in The Dreaming, a place where she is responsible for saving the world.  And soon she will have to deal with the truth and that may be a lot harder than dealing with the lies along the way.

Lake has written a book that is a real page turner.  Readers will know immediately upon meeting Shelby that something is wrong with her living situation, though it is vague enough to be almost anything.  I don’t want to ruin at all that exploration of the lies and truth, because it is a large reason the book is so compelling to read.   Lake has also constructed the book so it’s a count down.  First readers know that the car accident is coming.  Then readers will see that the chapter numbers are counting down, one after another towards another impact, one that readers know is coming but can’t avoid or quite understand yet. 

One of the revelations that comes early in the book is Shelby’s deafness.  Written in the first chapters without any acknowledgement, readers will be stunned by the news that Shelby is 90% deaf.  Then they piece together the clues of it, the many gestures used as she communicates with her mother, the subtitles, the way her mother tells her to be careful because she is special.  I appreciated this treatment so much because Shelby is a person first and then her disability is revealed.  Exactly the way it should be. 

Strongly written, compellingly structured, with one strong and very human heroine, this book of family, lies and truths is a riveting read.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Bloomsbury and Edelweiss.

This is my last list for 2014, but I saved the biggie for last.  There are many more that could have been on the list, but this is where I could bear to cut it off.  Enjoy!

Baby Bear Big Bug

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson

Big Bug by Henry Cole

Blizzard Blue on Blue

Blizzard by John Rocco

Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes

The Book with No Pictures Cat Says Meow: and other animalopoeia

The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak

Cat Says Meow by Michael Arndt

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream Draw!

A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Draw! By Raul Colon

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas The Farmer and the Clown

Elizabeth Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

Firebird Flashlight

Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

The Fox and the Crow 21413862 

The Fox and the Crow by Manasi Subramaniam

Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

Hannah's Night 19156005

Hannah’s Night by Komoko Sakai

Hunters of the Great Forest by Dennis Nolan

Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea in 3-D Vision It's an Orange Aardvark!

Jim Curious by Matthias Picard

It’s an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall

Jacob's New Dress The Lion and the Bird

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

May the Stars Drip Down Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters

May the Stars Drip Down by Jeremy Chatelain, illustrated by Nikki McClure

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

The Promise Remy and Lulu

The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

Remy and Lulu by Kevin Hawkes

The River Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

The River by Alessandro Sanna

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Shh! We Have a Plan The Storm Whale

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

Take Away the A Telephone

Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace

This Is a Moose Three Bears in a Boat

This Is a Moose by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

Viva Frida What If...?

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographs by Tom O’Meara

What If…? By Anthony Browne

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

a fine dessert

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Released January 27, 2015.

Follow one recipe through the centuries in this exceptional picture book!  Starting over 300 years ago in England, the book starts with a mother and daughter out picking blackberries.  Once home, the mother skims cream from the milk from their cow and whips it with a bundle of twigs for 15 minutes until she has whipped cream.  That is combined with squashed and strained blackberries mixed with sugar to create blackberry fool.  The fool then needs to be cooled, so they head to the hillside to chill it with sheets of winter ice that they store there.  Then the family enjoys it and the little girl licks the bowl clean.  As readers turn to the next family in Charleston, South Carolina about 200 years ago, they will notice so many changes just not in the recipe itself.  The method of refrigeration changes, the method of whisking the cream and the time it takes, the way they get the ingredients, and the family setting.  Next comes even more changes as the setting turns to a century ago in Boston and then the final family, a modern San Diego father and son.  Each family brings updates to the methods but enjoys the delicious dessert exactly the same way, with gusto!

Jenkins has an author’s note at the end of the book that further explains and points out the changes from one century to the next in the way food is procured and prepared.  Even the use of actual recipes only appears in the final family.  Written in a jolly way, this picture book uses repetition and patterns to make sure that children will see the differences in the way the food is prepared as the time passes.  It is a fascinating look at how food preparation has progressed but also in how very much has stayed the same.

Blackall’s illustrations are playful and clever.  She too uses repetition in her illustrations, showing the joy of licking the whisk or spatula and the final head dive into the bowl after the meal is complete.  There is a simplicity to her art as well, allowing the settings she conveys on the page to speak clearly.  One knows even without the words that you are in a different time and place thanks just to the illustrations.

A joy to read and share, this book has all the delight of a great dessert but is also packed full of historical information and detail.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

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

poem in your pocket

A Poem in Your Pocket by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

The third in the Mr. Tiffin’s Classroom series, this book focuses on Elinor, a girl who just wants everything to be perfect.  Unfortunately though, poetry and perfection really don’t work together no matter whether you are talking haikus, concrete poems or rhyming stanzas.  A poet is going to be visiting their school and Elinor desperately wants to impress her with her poetry.  But as the time goes by, the pressure builds and Elinor becomes less and less able to write poetry.  When she finally does start writing, she’s not happy with any of the poems she has written.  Can the kind teacher Mr. Tiffin find a way to let Elinor know that it’s OK to make mistakes?  Maybe this is a job for a poet!

This is a wonderful addition to an already strong series.  McNamara “perfectly” captures the trap of perfectionism for students and the pressure that it builds in a person.  Tying it to poetry was inspired, something that doesn’t work with tension or pressure but instead relies on inspiration and creativity.  Elementary students will see themselves in both Elinor and her classmates who are more relaxed about the entire thing.  Watch for the poem that ties to How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? for fans of the series. 

Karas’ illustrations continue in his signature style that is playful and friendly.  His drawings add to the accessibility of the entire book and the series as a whole. 

A winning addition to a popular series, this third book will delight during poetry units and may inspire a more relaxed approach to writing too.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

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

terrible two

The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Miles is moving to Yawnee Valley along with his parents, a place with larger spaces, bigger lawns, and lots of cows.  He had been known in his last school as the prankster, but upon arrival at his first day of school Miles discovers that there is another prankster already at work.  That prankster has put the principal’s car at the top of the stairs to the entrance to the school, blocking it so that no one can enter.  So Principal Barkin is forced to have each and every kid at school climb through his car to enter the building.  Of course, he could also have had them use the back door…  Miles is introduced to Niles, a model student who is assigned as his buddy.  Niles is immensely annoying, perfect in class, kissing up to the teacher.  But NIles is also the prankster who pulled off the car stunt.  As the two become rivals, a pranking war begins, one that involves insects, pie, forgeries, and lots of cake.  Who will reign supreme at the school and will Principal Barkin survive it?

This book, which I assume is the beginning of a new series, will be adored by kids.  It has exactly the right tone and sense of humor.  The two rival boys are a delightful contrast to one another, yet equally likeable and one isn’t quite sure who to root for so you end up rooting for the prank to be great.   And what pranks they are.  Principals may not enjoy the humor here, but it is much more about this one school and a principal who loses his cool regularly than about any real prank being pulled in a real school setting.  The pranks are elaborate enough that no one is going to be taking real cues from this book.

Cornell’s illustrations add to the humor.  I particularly enjoy the cows, the cow facts done as a list, and the rubber chickens.  The book has a wonderful wildness to it, an edginess of a prank about to go wrong, that is also reflected in the zany art.  Reluctant readers will enjoy the breaking up of the text into manageable chunks. 

Get this into the hands of fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and those who are outgrowing Captain Underpants.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from ARC received from Abrams Books.

Here are my picks for the best nonfiction titles for children from this past year.  The list includes books of poetry and nursery rhymes along with more factual forms of nonfiction.  Enjoy!

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents 17320985

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge

A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz

Brown Girl Dreaming 21892530

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza by J. L. Powers

The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud

The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sounds of Joy Is Enlightening by Chris Raschka

Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey E. Fern, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Edward Hopper Paints His World Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World

Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

17870871 Firefly July A Year of Very Short Poems

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems by Paul B. Janeczko

Goodnight Songs Grandfather Gandhi

Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk

Hi, Koo! A Home for Mr. Emerson

Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons By Jon J. Muth

A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

How I Discovered Poetry The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan

20388100 Little Poems for Tiny Ears

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Little Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre

Not My Girl Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems

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

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus The Scraps Book

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jennifer Fisher Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert

Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America by Tonya Bolden

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen

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

A list of diverse and empowering books for girls.


Celebrating EMMANUEL’S DREAM: An Interview with @sean_qualls …

Keren David’s top 10 books about adopted and fostered children | The Guardian #kidlit

Morris Gleitzman: Some of my books are serious & some are funny but to me they are not so very different – #kidlit

The Official SCBWI Blog: Spend Some Time With Brian Selznick on Reading Rockets #kidlit

Thinking about school as a privilege – The Horn Book #kidlit

Watership Down author Richard Adams: I just can’t do humans | The Guardian #kidlit

Which All-of-a-Kind Family Sibling Are You #kidlit – No surprise here, I got Sarah!


Finding a Balance at the New York Public Library – WSJ #libraries

The Future of Libraries Has Nothing to Do with Books #libraries

Ohio libraries fear more state cuts #libraries

Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools| Yohuru Williams | #librarians

Siobhan A. Reardon: LJ’s 2015 Librarian of the Year #libraries

Wagons Ho! in Downingtown help with move to new library #libraries

Wayne County Library system future uncertain #libraries

What is a library? – The Week #libraries

"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere." Jean Rhys #reading


5 Tips for Helping a Student Find the Right Book | Edutopia #kidlit #reading

audioBoom / Podcast Special: Neil Gaiman talks to Index on Censorship #censorship


3 On A YA Theme: Trans* Experiences and Identities – BOOK RIOT #yalit

Interview: Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon on their YA Novel About Teenage Malcolm X | School Library Journal #yalit

Jennifer Niven’s top 10 teen books to save your life | Children’s books | The Guardian #yalit

Scholastic logo

Scholastic has released the results of their 5th national survey on children and reading.  The entire report is available online.  Their key findings are:

  • Half of all children ages 6-17 are currently reading a book for fun and another in five, just finished one.
  • 86% of parents say reading books for fun is extremely or very important, but only 46% of children agree.
  • 75% of parents agree that they want their children to read more books for fun and 71% would like to see their children do less screen time.

There’s lots more data to read and encouragement for families to continue reading aloud at home, sharing books with even the youngest of children, and finding books that inspire children to read for fun.


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