Review: Lilah Tov Good Night by Ben Gundersheimer

Lilah Tov Good Night by Ben Gundersheimer

Lilah Tov Good Night by Ben Gundersheimer, illustrated by Noar Lee Naggan (9781524740665)

After a long day on their farm, the small family eats dinner together and then pack their belongings. The moon rises as they say goodbye to the hens and chicks they are leaving behind. The family stops to take shelter in a cave on their journey, wishing the bats that fly around them lilah tov, good night. They say good night to the beach as they climb aboard a small boat. Lilah Tov to the stars and the clouds. Good night to the mountains they walk into and to all the animals along the way, until they arrive at their new home. 

Gundersheimer based this picture book on a Hebrew lullaby and weaves in a story of a refugee family leaving their home and heading to a new one. The book is quiet and full of grace, just right for a bedtime story. It weaves together saying goodnight all along the way, embracing the silence of the night. 

Naggan’s illustrations are filled with hope. The little girl experiences the entire journey as one of wonder and excitement. The worry on the adult faces though creates somber moments throughout. The illustrations capture that this is a Jewish family as they carry their menorah with them. The pages are illuminated by the light of the moon and the stars.

A graceful and powerful lullaby entwined with the story of a refugee family. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Review: Cezanne’s Parrot by Amy Guglielmo

Cezanne’s Parrot by Amy Guglielmo

Cezanne’s Parrot by Amy Guglielmo, illustrated by Brett Helquist (9780525515081)

Cezanne was a French painter who longed to be told that he’s a great artist, so he tried to train his parrot to say that to him. Cezanne’s focus on ordinary events and people as well as his unique style of thick paint and heavy lines did not speak to the professors at the famous Academie des Beaux-Arts where he longed to study. Monet advised Cezanne to head into the French countryside for inspiration. But Monet painted quickly and Cezanne painted very slowly, sometimes taking over 100 visits to a site before his painting was complete. He continued to submit his art for consideration by the Academie, but continued to be rebuffed. The Impressionists emerged as a group that broke the rules of art, but Cezanne didn’t fit in, even with them. He continued to paint the way that only he could, eventually becoming a huge success. 

Cezanne’s continued disappointments in gaining attention for his art flavor this picture book biography with rejection and sorrow. They also give readers a chance to see someone who never gave up even as people mocked him. This incredible resilience is also captured in the humor of teaching his parrot to compliment him, something that finally happens in the picture book towards the end. 

Helquist’s illustrations are saturated with color, rich and vibrant. He reproduces several of Cezanne’s masterpieces on the page while the majority of the illustrations are filled with images of Cezanne’s hard work, using speech bubbles and humor when appropriate.

A look at one of the greatest painters of all time and what it took to be a success. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

2019 Cybils Winners

The winners of the 2019 Cybils were announced on Friday. Here they are:

BOARD BOOKS

Jump by  Tatsuhide Matsuoka

 

EARLY CHAPTER BOOKS

Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet by Megan Frazer Blakemore, illustrated by Nadja Sarell

 

EASY READERS

Yasmin the Superhero by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly

 

ELEMENTARY NONFICTION

Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

 

ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE GRADE GRAPHIC NOVELS

New Kid by Jerry Craft

 

ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE GRADE SPECULATIVE FICTION

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

 

FICTION PICTURE BOOKS

One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller by Kate Read

 

JUNIOR HIGH NON-FICTION

The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth by Ian Lendler

 

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

 

MIDDLE GRADE NON-FICTION

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

 

POETRY

Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond

 

SENIOR HIGH NON-FICTION

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes, illustrated by Martin O’Neill

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

 

YOUNG ADULT GRAPHIC NOVELS

This Place: 150 Years Retold by David A. Robertson, Jen Storm, Katherena Vermette, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, Richard Van Camp, Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Sonny Assu

 

YOUNG ADULT SPECULATIVE FICTION

Fireborne by Rosaria Munda

Review: Chirp by Kate Messner

Chirp by Kate Messner

Chirp by Kate Messner (9781547602810)

Mia is moving to Vermont where her grandmother has a cricket farm. Her arm is still recovering from being broken after a fall from a balance beam, but her mother insists that she go to summer camps. Mia chooses to attend a maker camp and also a warrior camp that will have her climbing rock walls and swinging from rings. As Mia makes new friends and finds new fans for her grandmother’s cricket treats, she is also helping by making a business plan for her grandmother’s farm. There are strange things happening at the farm though as disaster after disaster befalls the delicate crickets. Her grandmother insists that she is being sabotaged, but could her grandmother actually be losing her memory? Mia and her friends tackle the mystery, build up the business, and learn to speak out along the way too. 

Messner writes a middle grade novel that neatly embeds sexual harassment and abuse information into the story. In fact, that is at the heart of Mia’s injury and also at the heart of many women and girls that are in the book too. This book is deeply about survival as a girl, a woman and as a cricket. It’s about finding your voice, using your power and finding ways to get justice. It is also about the incredible bravery it takes to be a survivor, whether you have spoken out yet or not. 

Messner has written a compelling mystery to solve alongside the social justice. There are great suspects, more than one potential reason for the problems, and finally a dramatic resolution as well. Add in a science competition and you have one amazing Vermont summer filled with the crunch of crickets.

A great look at friendship, speaking out and taking back power. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Review: The Bug Girl by Sophia Spencer

The Bug Girl by Sophia Spencer

The Bug Girl by Sophia Spencer with Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoet (9780525645931)

This is the true story of a little girl who loves bugs, written by her. She first fell for bugs at two-and-a-half years old when she visited a butterfly conservatory with her mother. She loved books about insects and noticed them everywhere she went. In kindergarten, everyone thought that bugs were cool too. Sophia started a bug hunter club at school and had her own collection of live insects on the porch at home. But in first grade, bugs weren’t cool anymore and the other kids started to call Sophia weird for liking them so much. Sophia was dejected and tried to stop liking bugs, but that didn’t work. So her mother went online and reached out to scientists about their own love of bugs. Stories poured in, supporting Sophia and her passion for insects. Sophia was now making news herself and also got her name on a scientific article, all because of being the bug girl.

Written in Sophia’s own voice, this picture book is entirely engaging. It demonstrates how finding one’s passion in life is a powerful thing, but that the world can also be less than encouraging if you are a girl exploring science and creepy crawlies like insects. The change from kindergarten to first grade is dramatic and impactful, even resulting in one dead bug, killed right in front of Sophia. The end of the book offers an example of the sort of bug book that Sophia would love to write, filled with information on a variety of insects. 

The art is bright and fresh, done in watercolors on white pages. They move from full-page illustrations to smaller ones that capture events in a brisk and friendly way. 

A book about following your bliss, particularly if it’s a trail of ants. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells Feb. 14

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

9 charming facts about E.B. White’s Stuart Little – Mental Floss

13 books for young children that feature protagonists of color – Business Insider

Funny females take center stage in new novels for kids – Publishers Weekly

‘Hair Love’ wins Oscar for Best Animated Short – Publishers Weekly

Planet Omar: Why it’s about time young Muslims saw themselves in children’s literature – The New Arab

Underdogs – Ten books you may have missed in 2019 – ALSC

‘Whitewashing’ Australia and how children’s books are fostering racial bias – WAToday

Who inspired the backstory for ‘The Old Truck’? – MindShift

Why author Jason Reynolds writes for the youngest generation – Essence

LIBRARIES

ALA takes FY 2021 budget cuts seriously, urges members of Congress to visit libraries – ALA

How I came to love Connecticut’s libraries – Hartford Courant

How public libraries can help close America’s digital privacy divide – Inside Sources

On Wikipedia, a fight is raging over coronavirus disinformation – Wired

Pa. requires libraries in prisons. But not in schools. Why? – Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Technology is changing the way Wisconsin public libraries work – WPR

YA READS

7 young adult novels to devour if you loved Netflix’s “You” – BuzzFeed

9 diverse YA romance books to enjoy for Valentine’s Day, and year-round – Teen Vogue

10 books with South Asian characters you should read in 2020 – Teen Vogue

LGBTQIAP+ YA books by black authors – YA Pride

My most anticipated YA fantasy and science fiction of 2020 – Stacked

Top new YA books in February 2020 – Den of Geek

Review: Fix That Clock by Kurt Cyrus

Fix That Clock by Kurt Cyrus

Fix That Clock by Kurt Cyrus (9781328904089)

Full of rhythm and rhyme, this picture book takes a broken down clock and rebuilds it. The clock is teetering and old, with the structure and the clock no longer functional. The only things that live in it are the wild animals who have moved in. So three builders arrive to change all of that. Floor-by-floor, they transform the zigzag of crooked walls into straight new boards and squares. The clock too gets reworked and soon the tower is straight and working once again. But what will happen to the little creatures who lived there? 

This book was made to share aloud. It has such a jolly rhythm to it, with hammers banging, boots tramping, and the clock bonging. Still, Cyrus takes the time to tell a full story here, giving quieter moments where the reader gets to more fully understand the structure itself and the creatures who live there. It’s that contrast that really makes the book work as a read aloud, giving it a heart beyond the rhythm and rhyme. 

Cyrus’ art is great, the old wood grayed and weathered by time contrasts with the fresh gold of the new wood. One can almost smell the sawdust as you turn the pages. The three builders are diverse as far as race and gender, which is very welcome to see. The use of interesting perspectives adds to the appeal visually.

A great choice for reading aloud for any units on construction or clocks. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti 

Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti 

Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti (9780525518181)

Old Rock has sat in the same spot on the edge of a clearing in a pine forest for a very long time. Tall Pine, who stands next to Old Rock, thinks that being a rock must be very boring. Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird agree. Hummingbird talks about flying to different parts of the world. Old Rock then mentions that he flew once when he was erupted from a volcano. Spotted Beetle talks about what he can see from different vantage points. Old Rock then tells about watching dinosaurs walk past and riding a glacier. He even had a vantage point when the glacier left him high on the top of a ridge. Old Rock may never have danced, but he talks about somersaulting down from the ridge and meeting mastodons. And that’s when a very small pine tree started to grow next to him, and he met a beetle and a hummingbird too.

Pilutti pushes back against assumptions that could be made about rocks or others that are content right where they are. As the tree, bird and beetle brag about their own experiences, Old Rock can match them and share his own tales that are far more interesting. Old Rock’s clear contentment and stillness add a wonderful grounding to the book, even as he sometimes teeters on a ridge.

The illustrations are marvelous, filled with the emotions that go across the face of Old Rock. They contrast modern day with the past nicely using different color palettes for different times. Old Rock though stays solid and gray throughout.

A clever book that includes evolution, dinosaurs and a little rock and roll. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

2020 Best Fiction for Young Adults

YALSA, the Young Adult Library Service Association, a Division of the American Library Association, has announced the 2020 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. The list includes titles published for young adults in the last 14 months for ages 12-18. The current list includes a Top Ten, shown below:

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Girls on the Verge

Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller

Heroine

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Like a Love Story

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Lovely War

Lovely War by Julie Berry

On the Come Up

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Patron Saints of Nothing

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Pet

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

The Stars and the Blackness between Them by Junauda Petrus

With the Fire on High

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo