Outside In by Deborah Underwood

Outside In by Deborah Underwood

Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby (9781328866820)

This book calls readers back to be outside rather than staying inside. It reminds us that we used to simply be part of outside, and that at times now even when we are outside we keep ourselves separate. Outside though uses a few tricks to remind us that it is there, peeking in windows, sending sunsets and shadows, tapping on roofs and projecting bird song. The outside is also all around us inside in our sweaters, chairs, and food. Our pets remind us too as do the little insects that get inside. Outside waits for us, until we answer.

Underwood’s simple poetic lines soar in this picture book, creating moments of real beauty with her words. Using “outside” and “inside” again and again, she paints connection and demands that we all see the outside entering our inside. It’s a book that insists that we not only look outside, but acknowledge our connection to nature and the outdoors and get outside!

Derby’s illustrations are awash in watercolor that plays the bright aliveness of the outdoors against the gray of the interior areas. She uses yellows, orange, peach, purples and greens to beckon us all to look out the windows and connect.

Beautifully written and illustrated, this is an exemplary picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai

Cover image of Fly on the Wall

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai (9781250314116)

The author of Pie in the Sky returns with the story of a twelve-year-old who wants to prove his maturity to his helicopter family. Henry’s family monitors what he is doing all the time, packing his backpack for him, making sure he has eaten, and hovering all the time. But Henry knows he can do a lot more than they think. That’s how he came up with a very exact plan to prove his independence: he will fly from where he lives in Australia to Singapore where his father lives. He’s also running from being exposed as the author of a nasty gossip comic at his school, something he is both proud of and terrified by. He just needs his ex-best friend to follow through on the plan, or he will definitely get caught!

The entire adventure that Henry experiences is a delight to experience by his side. His sense of humor both in his gossip comics and on the page is broad and very funny. Throughout the book, he is a disciple hoping to find a shifu to teach him what to do next in his quest. When he meets a girl on the plane, he soon discovers that she might just be the shifu he is looking for, if he can keep from making her so mad that she stops talking to him.

With the text broken up with illustrations done in neon green washes and black ink, this book will appeal to readers of Wimpy Kid. The illustrations range from single illustrations to panels in series to examples from Henry’s own blog done in a completely different style.

Funny, insightful and proof that everyone worth knowing is a little strange. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt and Co.

Catch That Chicken! by Atinuke

Catch That Chicken by Atinuke

Catch That Chicken! by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank (9781536212686)

Lami is the best chicken catcher in her small Nigerian compound. Happily, the compound is full of all kinds of chickens and she helps out by catching them for everyone. She may not be fast at spelling like her sister or fast at braiding hair like her friend, but she is the fastest at catching chickens! But one day, Lami moves too fast to catch a chicken, ignoring everyone telling her to slow down. She chases the chicken right up a baobab tree, toppling from a branch and falling. Her ankles swells up, and now she can’t catch any chickens at all. But her Nana Nadia sits down with her and gets Lami thinking of a new way to catch chickens without the wild chase.

Atinuke is the author of the Anna Hibiscus series and several picture books set in her native Nigeria. Her skill as an oral storyteller always shines in her picture books. This one also reads aloud beautifully, building in pace to a great crescendo before the literal fall. Atinuke uses repeating phrases and sentence structures to create a warm energy throughout the book.

The illustrations will work well for sharing the book with a group. Done in mixed media, the move from long distance images of the compound to being right in the mix of the action with Lami as she dashes after chickens. These are energetic illustrations that perfectly suit the story.

Clever and fun, head on a wild chicken chase with this picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – Sept. 25

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

15 children’s books that celebrate the beauty of black hair – PopSugar

Announcing the 2020 CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award winners – The Children’s Book Council

Authors hope 2020 turns the page in push for diverse children’s books – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The best books featuring Black children in the outdoors – Outside

Sam McBratney, author of popular children’s book ‘Guess How Much I Love You,’ dies at 77 – USA Today

LIBRARIES

The fog of implicit bias – Library Journal

How libraries are writing a new chapter during the pandemic – National Geographic

YA LIT

10 atmospheric YA novels to curl up with this fall – Book Riot

20 young-adult books that are perfect for fans of romantic comedies – Insider

Identity policing in YA: Becky Albertalli’s heartfelt coming out essay opens up an important conversation – The Mary Sue

NYPL’s new reading list “125 Books We Love for Teens” is a YA dream – Time Out

Young adult books round-up – The Guardian

Respect: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford

Respect Aretha Franklin The Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford

Respect: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison (9781534452282)

Told in a similar format to her signature song R-E-S-P-E-C-T, each double-page spread explores another important word in Franklin’s life. The book begins with her family’s move to Detroit and Aretha being raised in the middle of gospel and church. She is incredibly gifted musically, cutting her first gospel record at age 14. She becomes an R&B superstar, rising to the tops of the charts. She supports the civil rights movement with her voice, offering free concerts. She is there to sing President Obama into office. The book ends with plenty of RESPECT for all she has accomplished.

Weatherford’s clever use of single words, spelled out like the song, really forms a strong structure for this picture book. She keeps the book tightly focused and her words to a minimum, allowing the pace of Franklin’s own life and fame to propel the book forward.

The illustrations are gorgeous, the paintings singing with pinks and golds. Morrison uses interesting perspectives in his images, allowing Aretha to be the center of each, showing her changing style and the beauty of her powerful voice.

A fitting tribute for a queen. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Ty’s Travels: All Aboard! by Kelly Starling Lyons

Ty's Travels All Aboard by Kelly Starling Lyons

Ty’s Travels: All Aboard! by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Nina Mata (9780062951120)

Ty loves adventures and most of all he wishes his family would play with him. But his father is busy making dinner, his mother is folding the laundry, and his big brother is doing his homework. Ty spots an empty box and knows just what to do with it. Soon he has built a train engine and begins a journey down the tracks. At the first stop, someone is waiting! It’s Daddy, who climbs aboard. At the next stop, it’s Momma who comes aboard in time to see the city go by. The next stop has his big brother join in. The last stop comes eventually and they are back home just in time for dinner.

There is real challenge in writing a good easy reader and Lyons meets that challenge head on here. With her story of a supportive and playful family, she has a story that can be told simply. It has plenty of action and motion to keep the story moving forward in a way that is paced perfectly for new readers.

The illustrations by Mata are friendly and use the white space on the page nicely. They support the text on the page, offering new readers just the right amount of support visually. She also shows the imaginary journey clearly using crayon and simpler graphics that are done in a childlike style.

This series is a great pick for new readers. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins. 

 

Lights on Wonder Rock by David Litchfield

Lights on Wonder Rock by David Litchfield

Lights on Wonder Rock by David Litchfield (9780358359531)

Heather has read all kinds of information about outer space and aliens. She longs to leave earth and head into the stars. So out in the woods, she picks a large rock, sits on it and shines her flashlight into the night sky, turning it on and off. She waits in the quiet darkness, until suddenly dazzling light surrounds her. A flying saucer in rainbow lights lands nearby and a friendly alien invites her on board. But when she hears her parents searching for her, Heather leaves the spaceship and returns home. Heater continued to return to the rock for years, growing up and sharing her dreams with her own children. More time passed and Heather came to the rock less often, but occasionally went with a flashlight to shine it into the sky. Then one day, it happened again. Will Heather go with the alien this time?

This picture book uses only the barest of text to support its incredible illustrations. Told primarily in a graphic novel format, the text shares information and back story with the reader. It is particularly effective to ensure that readers see the passage of time as Heather returns to the rock over the years. A handful of sentences sprinkled like stars across the black page.

The illustrations are marvelous, filled with hope and light. The rock anchors many of the images, large and unchanging despite the passage of time. Heather changes over the years, subtly putting on weight around her middle, her hair graying slightly. The light also changes, moving through seasons, streaming through the trees, remaining stubbornly non-rainbow and non-glittery until the dazzling time the spaceship returns.

Satisfying and engaging science fiction for preschoolers. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Clarion Books. 

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner (9781534457003)

Lou loves to sing, but she hates to perform. Truly hates it, complete with panic attacks. A large part of it is that she doesn’t deal well with loud noises, so applause causes her real distress. But Lou’s mother insists that Lou is their way out of the financial problems they are in. Currently living in their truck, Lou and her mother look for her big break when Lou performs at a local coffee shop. Just as things seem to be going their way though, an accident leads to social services discovering how Lou and her mother have been living. Soon Lou is being sent across the country to stay with an aunt and uncle she hasn’t seen since she was a young child. Enrolled in a fancy school, Lou misses her mother horribly even though she now has her own room, plenty to eat and adults who love her. With a new friend who insists she joins theater, Lou starts to see a new future for herself, though she’s not sure where her mother fits in.

The author of Roll with It returns with another story about a child with special needs. Lou’s sensory processing disorder plays a large role in the story and in the way that she feels about herself, too. From riding on planes to appearing on stage to letting her voice be heard, it is all more difficult for Lou. Lou’s special need is portrayed with empathy as is the homelessness that Lou and her mother experience and the other struggles that her mother faces.

Throughout the book there is a sense of hope, a feeling that there are adults around to help. Whether it is social workers, school counselors, teachers or relatives, Lou is surrounded by adults willing and able to help her move forward and make big decisions about her life. Still, while they lend a supportive hand, it is Lou who makes her own decisions, challenges herself, and finds her own unique path.

A deep look at a child with a disability, poverty and community. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki (9781419746550)

Every Wednesday, a group of people come together in a little kitchen to cook together. They put on aprons, roll up their sleeves, heat up the oven. Then they start to look for ingredients, things they have grown or kept or purchased. Day-old bread from the bakery is given a little time in the oven and comes out new. Apples with bruises are still good and make an amazing apple crumble. Beans and vegetables mix and stew into a chili. Soon the dining room is filling up and time is running out. The food hits the table and is served to those waiting in line, neighbors in need. Conversations happen around the room, second helpings are offered and everyone leaves warm and full. Then it’s clean up time!

Based on her own work in a community kitchen, where there is sometimes plenty of ingredients and other times just enough to scrape into a meal. This picture book shows the hard work and dedication of a group of volunteers working to feed their neighbors with food and with kindness. The pace is brisk and busy, each person working on their own dish that comes together as a harmonious meal at the end. There is no chef bossing people around, but instead a shared effort that is so uplifting.

Tamaki’s art fills the pages with a diverse group of neighbors who work together. Young readers will enjoy watching a little boy who comes along with his mother to help. The busy kitchen moves across the pages with energy. Beans, bread, apples and more stream across the pages, sometimes lifting the workers right off their feet. The end pages contain visual recipes for vegetable soup and apple crumble.

Positive and kind, this is a community kitchen that everyone will want to join. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.