BCCB 2020 Blue Ribbons

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books has announced their 2020 Blue Ribbons, the best books of that year. Here is the list:

PICTURE BOOKS

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood

Ducks! by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by T. L. McBeth

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Julie Morstad

Home Base by Nikki Tate, illustrated by Katie Kath

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby

The Paper Boat by Thao Lam

The Three Brothers by Marie-Louise Gay

Up on Bob by Mary Sullivan

FICTION

All He Knew by Helen Frost

Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown

Cat Ears on Elizabeth by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Paige Keiser

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

Thieves of Weirdwood by William Shivering and Christian McKay Heidicker

Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Tigers Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten

NONFICTION

Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

Chance by Uri Shulevitz

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

The Lights and Types of Ships at Night by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Annie Dills

The Racers: How an Outcast Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Challenged Hitler’s Best by Neal Bascomb

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming

Snow Birds by Kirsten Hall

Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang

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Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Billy Thao (9781517907983)

In the Ban Vinai refugee camp, there is a group of young warriors who train together. They run drills, balance rocks on their heads, meditate and wield branches as sacred swords. They are led by Master Me, a ten-year-old who teaches them. One day, Master Me meditated and decided that the warriors must leave camp and forage for greens. But no Hmong person was allowed to leave the camp without permission. People had been beaten for doing it and some had even disappeared. But Master Me was set on carrying out the mission. The narrator of the story is a young girl whose older sister was in the warrior group. She was 7 years old, scared but determined to carry out the mission. That day, the warriors stealthily left camp and returned carrying morning glory greens. Many were injured on the mission, but that day they became more than children playing at being warriors and became true heroes to everyone in the camp.

Yang tells the story of life in a Hmong refugee camp through the eyes of her childhood self. The hardships, violence and rules of being in such a camp are foundational to the overall story, though not the direct focus. The tale really is about the power of children to be heroes for their families, the determination and courage to take action in the face of injustice, and the way that real life heroes are so much more important than those with capes.

The illustrations by Thao are unique and interesting. He makes each of the children recognizable even though they move as a group of warriors. He uses interesting frames throughout the images, showing the children through doorways or from the fire itself as danger increases. The illustrations are stirring and also show just how young these children were.

A tale of child heroes in a Hmong refugee camp that is worth cheering for. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by University of Minnesota Press.

May/June 2021 Kids Indie Next List

The Kids Indie Next List has been announced for May and June 2021. The books are selected by independent book stores across the country as the top books of the season. Here are the chosen titles:

AGES 4-8

Are You a Cheeseburger? by Monica Arnaldo

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder

Brave As a Mouse by Nicolo Carozzi

Dino-Gro by Matt Myers

Dogs at Work by Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley, illustrated by Tara Audibert

What If, Pig? by Linzie Hunter

What Will You Be? by Yamile Saied Mendez, illustrated by Kate Alizadeh

AGES 9-12

Both Can Be True by Jules Machias

Da Vinci’s Cat by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young

Little Kid, Big City! London by Beth Beckman, illustrated by Holley Maher

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner

Long Lost by Jacqueline West

Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly

Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga

TEEN READERS

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

A Sitting in St. James by Rita Garcia-Williams

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

The Witch King by H. E. Edgmon

Force of Fire by Sayantani DasGupta

Cover image for Force of Fire

Force of Fire by Sayantani DasGupta (9781338636642)

The author of the Kingdom Beyond books returns with a stand alone novel set in the same universe. Pinki is the daughter of two of the most renowned rakkhosh members of the resistance to the take over of the Kingdom Beyond by the snakes. But Pinki resolutely refuses to join the resistance, focusing on herself instead. She is a rakkhosh who has fire magic but can’t control it at all. So when a handsome snake prince offers her a way to learn to control her fire, she agrees to find the hidden moonbeams for him. But the moonbeams are not what Pinki had thought they were. As she follows the trail to find the moonbeams, she finds herself learning about what the snakes are doing to people and children in particular, including one of Pinki’s own little cousins, who has lost the ability to speak. But can Pinki forgive her neglectful parents and find a way to embrace her fire and her heritage?

The world building here is marvelous, full of beings from Bengali folktales and stories. As they journey through cave complexes, into ornate palaces and beneath the sea, the entire landscape not only is revealed but becomes a large part of the story as it is impacted by the snake magic and decrees. Readers will also see ties to the Indian Revolution against British rule throughout the story, something that is mentioned in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. This use of a real tyranny as a basis offers a strong foundation for this fantasy to rest upon.

The characters are well drawn. Pinki in particular is a delight of a female character, full of pride in her largess, her horns and her talons, she also struggles to make friends and to rely on others for help. This is all made understandable as her personal story is revealed. She is a character who starts out as surprisingly selfish and steadily proves that she is not, again and again. With funny characters who add charm, like the egg-gifting little cousin, the book also has a lot of humor throughout to offset the darkness.

Fiery, fun and fabulous. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.

Pablo by Rascal

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Pablo by Rascal (9781776573240)

Highly stylized, this picture book focuses on Pablo, a baby bird who is ready to leave the egg. But Pablo is going to do it in his own unique way. After a breakfast of croissant and hot chocolate, he gathers his strength. He is too big for his egg now, so he must break out. First, he creates one hole, just the right size for his eye. He looks all around and then creates a second eye hole so he can really see out. He pecks two holes, one on each side of the shell so that he can hear what is happening around him. Then one hole for his beak so he can smell soil and flowers. The sixth and seventh holes are for his legs so he can wander. Then holes eight and nine are just right for his wings to come out. Pablo is entirely free of the shell, but he saves a piece just in case.

Visually arresting, this Belgian picture book features a pure black egg on a white background. Subtle shading and clouds move past, but the focus and each page center around Pablo himself as he steadily frees himself from the egg shell. The book steadily counts the number of holes that Pablo makes and is marvelously absurd has he continues far longer than most readers might think, staying in the shell and creating holes.

The art is simple and very funny. Perhaps most delightful is the final reveal of Pablo freed from the black egg, looking nothing like what one might have expected.

For the toddler, preschooler or parent who appreciates a bit of the surreal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – May 7

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

24 beautiful kids’ books that reflect that Asian American experience – Today

25 wonderful picture book biographies for readers of all ages – Bored Teachers

31 picture books to celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month – Mutually Inclusive

65 Canadian picture books to check out in spring 2021 – CBC

Ramadan must-have books for kids – Muslim Matters

What adults can learn from reading children’s books – Wisconsin Public Radio

LIBRARIES

AASL tackles labeling practices in school libraries – Intellectual Freedom Blog

Gaining patron cooperation on mask wearing – Public Libraries

A joy of reading, sparked by a special librarian determined to ‘make a difference’ – NPR

YA LIT

The 13 best YA books of May include dreamy romances and epic adventures – PopSugar

Five debut YA authors make readers feel something – SLJ

Julia Torres and #DisruptTexts – National Writing Project

New young adult speculative fiction May 2021 – Punk-Ass Book Jockey

Peachtree teen imprint to debut next year – Publishers Weekly

Spin a Scarf of Sunshine by Dawn Casey

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Spin a Scarf of Sunshine by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Stila Lim (9781782506584)

On her family’s small farm full of sheep, bees and chickens, Nari had a lamb of her own. All year, the lamb grew and got more wool. In spring, it was time to shear the sheep and Nari’s sheep was sheared too. Nari washed the wool, carded it, and spun it into yarn. She gathered marigolds from the garden and they dyed the yarn sunshine yellow. Nari knitted the yarn into a scarf just in time to wear it in the winter. Eventually, her scarf got tattered and worn, so Nari put it in the compost bin where the worms would break it down into rich earth. She returned the compost to the ground to help the green grass grow, just in time to feed a new lamb.

Casey’s picture book focuses on the beauty of a quiet cottage life full of farming and animals. She shows how clothing is created from sheep to wool to yarn to cloth in a way that shows how long it takes and how much dedication as well. The book celebrates the cycle of farm goods from animal to item and back to the soil. It also celebrates traditional crafting and a slow, full life in touch with the seasons. Her writing is simple and also offers the sounds of that activity or season.

This is Lim’s first picture book. She shows the beauty of cottage life and the countryside. Her watercolors fill the pages with rich outdoor colors, from early spring green grass to the bounty of autumn to snowball fights in winter. Each season is celebrated for its colors, its feel and its beauty.

A good beginning look at how clothing is made and what a sustainable life looks like. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Floris Books.

Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore

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Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore (9781547605309)

Carey has always been a singer, loving spending time with their grandmother belting out songs together. But being attacked by a homophobic bully made Carey quit voice lessons. Plus as their grandmother’s dementia worsens, Carey doesn’t have much reason to sing. Luckily, Carey has a very supportive mother and a good therapist to help them navigate being genderqueer in a binary world. Carey also knows that they messed up big time with one of their best friends, half of a pair of twins who have been friends forever. As Carey continues to face bigoted hatred from a teacher at school and a classmate, they also meet Cris, a boy who is very interested in Carey, their voice and becoming more than friends. Cris convinces Carey to try out for the school musical and to audition to be Elphaba in Wicked. As Carey grows in confidence, the voices of hate around them get louder and more intense, forcing them to find a way through the hatred to a place of self empowerment where Carey is allowed to sing and to fully be themselves.

Salvatore, who identifies as genderqueer themselves, has written a gripping story of homophobia and the power and activism it takes to regain control of our schools and communities from bigots. Added in are marvelous depictions of first love with all of the feels on the page. There are also strong depictions of what an ally looks like, how to be a great friend, and the importance of giving people a chance to change.

Throughout this entire novel, Carey is in the spotlight. Their emotions around being genderqueer, being targeted by hate, and also being in love are captured with care and real empathy. They are on a journey to self-acceptance even as they seek out the spotlight for their voice. It’s a fascinating look at performance, theater and the performer themselves.

This one will have you righteously angry and applauding by turns. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury.

9 May YA Titles to Wake Your Brain Cells

Here are some of the new YA books coming out in May that have starred reviews and are getting lots of buzz. Enjoy!

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

Incredible Doom by Matthew Bogart and Jesse Holden

Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee

Off the Record by Camryn Garrett

On the Hook by Francisco X. Stork

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean