Review: The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (9780399246531)

An award-winning author is joined by an award-winning illustrator for this picture book that celebrates diversity and acceptance. There are many ways for children to feel different from others, particularly when starting a new school. Perhaps it’s their skin, their hair, their clothes or the language they speak. There are school activities that will show them they live differently than other children, like not traveling during summer vacation. Lunches brought from home can be too different for other children to accept. Children can feel excluded from games on the playground too. So what is the answer? Finding your own voice, your own courage and telling your stories to the others without apology.

As always, Woodson prose impresses with its accessibility and depth. She manages to keep to a picture book length but speak about differences and resilience in a way that encourages children to be proud of where they come from and their life experience. Beautifully, children of all backgrounds will find themselves on these pages too, because everyone in different in some way. Woodson manages to be inclusive without minimizing the impact of racial differences, which is quite a feat!

The illustrations by Lopez are exceptional. They glow on the page, showing children of diverse backgrounds illuminated by the light of the world. The illustrations move from realism to more imaginative and playful moments as children grow into self-acceptance right in front of the reader.

A marvelous pick to speak about diversity and acceptance with children. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Review: The House in Poplar Wood by K.E. Ormsbee

The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee

The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee (9781452149868)

Released August 28, 2018

After their parents made an Agreement with Death, the Vickery twins had to live with it. It meant that Felix had to serve Death alongside his father, witnessing healing and dying every day. Felix was not allowed to go to school and could not ever see his mother. His father could not see his brother Lee or his mother ever again. Lee in turn lived with his mother on the other side of the house serving Memory. He took bottled memories, labeled them and placed them on shelves. Both brothers had errands in Poplar Wood, Lee to dispense of the memories and Felix to gather herbs. Their life was terrible but steady until Gretchen entered it, determined to figure out how Essie was killed. From a family of Summoners, Gretchen is second born and unable to conduct the Rites. Still, she insists on untangling what is happening in their small town as Death, Memory and Passion let their rivalry get out of hand.

Just writing that summary demonstrates how unique this book is, yet it also plays with existing myths about shades and summoning. The book makes Death, Memory and Passion into figures that are non-human but still have human desires like revenge and dominance. The book is constructed so that the reader learns more about this fictional world alongside the characters. Each brother knows separate elements and Gretchen brings her own understanding of the other part of the relationships with Shades to the book. The organic way that it plays out via the story itself makes it immensely satisfying.

The characters are definitely worth noting as well. Gretchen is the most compelling character. She is wonderfully curious, prickly and determined. There is no way to tell her no that she will accept and her tenacity drives the story forward. The two brothers are unique from one another as well, one who goes to public school and the other who doesn’t. Their lives are as different as can be, each raised by not only one parent but also influenced deeply by the Shade too. These factors play out in their personalities in a way that is subtle but also clear.

A great fantasy Gothic novel with a mystery at its heart. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Chronicle Books.

 

This Week’s Tweets

Here are some cool links from my Twitter feed this week:

CHILDREN’S LIT

13 new titles for emergent readers.

2019 Heavy Medal: Mock Newbery Suggestions to Date – March to August

Enchanting offerings for your fairy-tale fans

Writing and Illustrating Muslim Characters in Children’s Literature – https://t.co/HGIMtJsH7E

LIBRARIES

The Crack Squad of Librarians Who Track Down Half-Forgotten Books

LGBTQ Displays not allowed in any Washington County Libraries, says Library Director

Need accessories for a formal event like a job interview, wedding, audition, or graduation? ‘s new NYPL Grow Up program can help! – https://t.co/xsGfZ0WSHm

Not Just Teachers, School Librarians Spend Their Own Money on Supplies

Review: Pass Go and Collect $200 by Tanya Lee Stone

Pass Go and Collect 200 by Tanya Lee Stone

Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Steven Salerno (9781627791687)

Explore the story of how the popular board game Monopoly was invented in this nonfiction picture book. Lizzie Magie was a talented woman, someone who was very concerned with fairness in the late 1800s. During that time, wealthy people bought up property in cities and charged high rents for them. Maggie invented the Landlord’s Game, an early version of what would become Monopoly, with two ways to play. One was buying up and owning lots of land and the other was working together and demonstrating how fairness worked better. The game was complicated but popular with different versions being created across the country. When Charles Darrow, a man down on his luck during the Great Depression, was introduced to the game, he worked to improve it. Then he started selling it rather than sharing it the way it had been done. Soon Parker Brothers was interested in selling it. But what of Lizzie?

Stone tells the poignant story of a woman with a real concern for society and the way it was headed. She created a complex game, shared it with others and was taken advantage of by the system that she was working against. Paid a nominal fee to give up her claim to the game, Darrow went on to become a millionaire in contrast. Make sure to read the author’s note at the end that shows how this book was originally about Darrow until Lizzie’s story emerged.

The illustrations have a wonderful vintage quality to them, suiting the period of setting of the book. It is very interesting to see close ups of the different boards of the Landlord’s Game and eventually the very familiar Monopoly board. Even those who don’t enjoy Monopoly, like me, will be fascinated by the complex tale behind the game.

A very intriguing tale that is a mix of women’s rights, ingenuity and economics. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Teen’s Top Ten Voting Open

teens' top ten

The nominees for the Teen’s Top Ten have been announced by YALSA. Voting is open today through Teen Read Week, October 7-13. Here are the nominees:

All Rights Reserved (Word$, #1) The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles, #1)

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

Book of Lies Caraval (Caraval, #1)

Book of Lies by Teri Terry

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Defy the Stars (Constellation, #1) The Disappearances

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

How to Make a Wish I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Invictus

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

The Last Magician (The Last Magician, #1) Long Way Down

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Mask of Shadows (Mask of Shadows #1) Moxie

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Once and for All One of Us Is Lying

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Paper Hearts (The Heartbreaker Chronicles, #2) Remember Me Always

Paper Hearts by Ali Novak

Remember Me Always by Renee Collins

Rosemarked (Rosemarked #1) Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)

Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Turtles All the Way Down Warcross (Warcross, #1)

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Warcross by Marie Lu

Waste of Space Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1)

Waste of Space by Gina Damico

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Words in Deep Blue

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

 

Or watch the video:

Review: What Do They Do with All That Poo? By Jane Kurtz

What Do They Do with All That Poo By Jane Kurtz

What Do They Do with All That Poo? By Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Allison Black (9781481479868)

Anyone working with children and books knows that the rather naughty subjects of poop, peeing and farting are some of the most popular. In this book, science is mixed in as well, showing what zoos do with all of the animal poop they have. First the book explains what poo is, then moves into showing different types of animal poop like giraffe, panda, hippo and elephant. The book then goes on to explain that most of the poop heads to landfills after being loaded into trucks. Some poop goes to labs for scientists to examine. Some is made into compost for gardens. And interestingly, sometimes paper is made from elephant poo!

Kurtz explains in a matter-of-fact way the various animals and how they poo and then handle their poop. The hippo splattering its poop around is gross but interesting, something that basically sums up this book. Kurtz doesn’t shy away from the grosser parts, but also keeps her focus on facts and science in the book. The illustrations are bright and friendly, despite all of the poop on the pages. Animals are shown in their zoo habitats and then their poop is also shown with them.

An interesting and scientific look at poos in zoos. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.

 

Review: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

We Don_t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (9781368003551)

Penelope Rex is starting school. As a dinosaur, she was very surprised when her classmates turned out to children! Delicious children! Immediately, Penelope ate all of the children. She did spit them out when her teacher told her to though, but it was not a good start to the school year. Penelope noticed that the other children were make friends with one another but not with her. Her father offered the advice that children and dinosaurs are just the same on the inside, but Penelope could still not control her eating. It wasn’t until Walter, the class goldfish, took a bite of Penelope that she realized what it was like to be someone’s snack. Penelope got a lot better after that, though barbecue sauce incidents were still far too tempting to pass up.

Higgins, the author of the Mother Bruce series, has brought his signature humor to new characters in this picture book. The text moves along briskly with splashes of humor, saliva and sauce adding to the zing. The illustrations will work well with a group. They show a class of human children who are very diverse too. Penelope is a dinosaur who is charming, if at times a little chompy. Readers will adore her and her attempts to fix what she has done and make new friends.

A great pick for a new school year. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney Hyperion.

Review: Illegal by Eoin Colfer

Illegal by Eoin Colfer

Illegal by Eoin Colfer (9781492662143)

An honest and profound look at the refugee crisis through the eyes of one young boy, this graphic novel is heartbreaking. Ebo has been left alone by his older brother who is following his older sister to Europe. But Ebo refuses to be left behind, managing to get a ride on a bus to a nearby city. There he must find his brother, something he manages to do only by luck. Together, they work hard labor to get enough money to cross the Sahara Desert to Tripoli. The journey is hazardous and many people die. But the most dangerous part of it lies ahead as they board a small boat to cross the sea to Europe, placing their dreams in the hands of men who lie and cheat for profit.

Colfer works with the same team that created the Artemis Fowl graphic novel series, but this time on a much more harrowing story of humanity and resilience. Colfer does not shy away from depicting the hazards and risks of the journey, including deaths along the way. There is an unrelenting pressure throughout the novel to move forward, make enough money to leave, and then do it all again at the next point. It is daunting, frightening and shows the spirit of the people who are willing to risk their lives for freedom.

This graphic novel puts a face on the refugee crisis. Ebo is a young boy with a singing voice that can soothe babies and make money. His face is that of an angel as well, his eyes shining bright with hope and at times dimmed with illness or grief. Throughout the story, characters come and go as they enter Ebo’s journey along with him. Readers will hope for Ebo to survive but can only watch helplessly.

Smartly written, deftly drawn and plotted to perfection, this graphic novel is a powerhouse. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Sourcebooks.

Review: Vernon Is on His Way by Philip C. Stead

Vernon Is on His Way by Philip C. Stead

Vernon Is on His Way: Small Stories by Philip C. Stead (9781626726550)

Vernon has returned for a second book following A Home for Bird, along with his friends Skunk and Porcupine. In three short stories, readers get to delight in even more time with these characters. The first story is told almost entirely in images since it’s about waiting. Vernon waits and waits until he suddenly realizes that he’s under way already! In the second story, the three of them head out to go fishing. Porcupine though worries that he is ruining the trip for everyone because he’s never been fishing before. As the story goes on it becomes apparent that none of them know what fishing trips actually are, but their version is a huge success for all of them anyway. In the last story, Vernon creates a special garden for himself filled with things he loves and that remind him of Bird. Porcupine and Skunk want to help Vernon feel better about missing Bird, but they struggle to find the right thing to bring him. Along the way they accidentally find exactly what he needs.

As always, Stead hits just the right notes with this book. The three characters are each unique and interesting. Vernon stays as the focal point of the stories but shares the limelight particularly with the worrying Porcupine this time. These books feel like instant classics, the characters will remind readers of Pooh and Eeyore. They are characters you want to spend more time with as they head out on their small adventures together. The illustrations are classic Stead where he uses the white space on the pages very effectively to create space and sometimes longing.

Another winner from Stead that belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.