2019 NCTA Freeman Book Awards

The National Consortium for Teaching about Asia has announced the winners of the 2019 Freeman Book Awards. The awards honor East and Southeast Asian titles for children and young adults. The award is sponsored by the NCTA, the Committee on Teaching about Asia of the Association for Asian Studies, and Asia for Educators at Columbia University. Here are the winners:

WINNER CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden by Heather Smith, illustrated by Rachel Wada

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

The Moose of Ewenki

The Moose of Ewenki by Gerelchimeg Blackcrane, illustrated by Jiu Er

When Spring Comes to the DMZ

When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee

 

WINNERS YOUNG ADULT/MIDDLE SCHOOL LITERATURE

All the Ways Home

All the Ways Home by Elsie Chapman

A Place to Belong

A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Girl of the Southern Sea

Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman

 

WINNERS YOUNG ADULT/HIGH SCHOOL LITERATURE

The Weight of Our Sky

The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

Patron Saints of Nothing

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Indigo Girl

Indigo Girl by Suzanne Kermit

News to Wake Your Brain Cells January 24

CHILDREN’S BOOK

9 books to help calm an anxious toddler – NY Times

Charles Yu loves reading with his children. Don’t tell them. – NY Times

‘Fairies are for white girls’: Zetta Elliot and her journey on making children’s literature inclusive – The Daily of the University of Washington

In the 2010s, Jewish children’s books diversified but emphasized classic values – The Jewish News of Northern California

Surprising brain scans show what reading and screen time can do to the brain – The Hill

LIBRARIES

Beyond books: Minnesota’s rural libraries find playful ways to remain relevant – StarTribune

Cleveland Public Library employees plan to strike, officials say move will disrupt children’s programs – Cleveland 19

Missouri lawmaker proposes bill criminalizing public libraries’ drag queen story hours – NBC News

The world’s most beautiful libraries: Wiblingen and Schussenried Abbeys – Daily Beast

YA LIT

San Diego author channels Vietnamese culture in latest ‘Green Lantern’ novel – Times of San Deigo

Review: Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez

Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez

Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez (9780823437542)

Inspired by her grandson’s picture of Super Octo, his grandmother decides to make octopus stew. So the two set off for the fish market where she gets the biggest octopus in the store. The boy gets a warning about octopi on his phone, but she won’t listen to him. She starts the water and gets out the biggest pot when they get home. As the two sit together in the living room, a strange noise comes from the kitchen. The octopus is now so big that it has blown the lid off the pot! It grabs grandmother and holds on to her. Now it’s up to her grandson to figure out how to get an octopus to let go!

Velasquez has won both a Pura Belpre and a Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award. Here, he writes a layered story that has a gatefold in the middle where the entire story is revealed to be just that, a tale being told. Cleverly, the book can be read both ways either as a story being shared aloud or as a full-on monster tale. However you choose to read it, the book has brisk pacing and plenty of action. It features a Latinx family with Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the text.

The illustrations offer a dynamic superhero feel that works well, since the main character is a superhero fan. The action is captured with plenty of drama and the size of the octopus is enough to pose quite the threat.

Grab this picture book and squeeze it tight! Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.

 

 

 

We Need Diverse Books Award Winners

We Need Diverse Books has announced the winners of the 2020 Walter Dean Myers Award. These are the fifth annual awards given to diverse authors whose work “”diverse main characters and address diversity in a meaningful way.” Here are the winners and the honor books:

TEEN WINNER

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

 

TEEN HONOR BOOKS

Pet

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

With the Fire on High

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

YOUNGER READERS WINNER

The Bridge Home

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

 

YOUNGER READERS HONOR BOOKS

A Good Kind of Trouble

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

Other Words for Home

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Review: The Hike by Alison Farrell

The Hike by Alison Farrell

The Hike by Alison Farrell (9781452174617)

Three girls head out on a hike together. It’s their favorite thing to do. They bring along a notebook, a flag and some feathers. At the beginning, they run as fast as they can, stopping only to eat some thimbleberries. They make leaf baskets to try to bring some berries along with them, but end up eating too much. They get lost, pull out maps and find their way again. They get tired, get carried, and eventually make it all the way to the peak. That’s where they let the feathers go on the wind. Then they head back down and back home.

Farrell captures all of the stages of a hike from the initial burst of energy at being in nature to the discovery of things in the forest to startling deer to making it to your destination after being quite tired by the walk. She adds all sorts of details into her book, offering images and names of some of the most common items children will find on their own hikes. The book ends with images from the notebook brought along on the hike, that show even more information about what the characters have seen and experienced.

The illustrations serve as a merry invitation to join the three friends on their hike. Filled with labels and details, they are worth taking the time to pore over with a child and have discussions about what you may have seen before and what is new. Various animals, plants and birds are labeled on the pages which are also filled with the exuberance and friendship of the three girls as they all take turns leading and solving issues.

Any day is a grand day to take this hike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles (9780062349217)

When Del’s mother starts going to church, she drags him along with her. The only thing that gets Del through those dull sermons is watching Kiera Westing, a girl he’s had a crush on since kindergarten. Even better, for the first time ever, Kiera is single! Now it’s up to Del to figure out a way to get close to her. When he sees Kiera joining a group of other students up at the front of the church, Del joins them, not realizing that he’s agreed to be part of the Purity Pledge, not to have sex until marriage. But maybe this is the key to get Kiera’s attention. He knows that his reputation makes him an unlikely participant, since everyone’s heard about the orgy that happened Freshman year. Del, with the help of a new friend, decides to play the long game and prove his pure intent. Along the way, he becomes friends with the other kids doing the Pledge and finds himself taking their sex-related questions to the sex-ed teacher at school, a class none of the other Pledge kids are allowed to attend. Del is sure he has Kiera just where he wants her, but he has yet to realize that Kiera has to be just where she wants to be too.

I am so pleased to see a book about toxic masculinity with a male protagonist who wakes up to the flaws in his intricate plans just a bit too late. Del is a marvelous hero of the book, filled with personal flaws, intelligent but also conniving. He sees himself as a good guy, but others don’t see him that way and readers will recognize that he’s not being honest with anyone, not even himself. Readers will root for Del even as he is manipulating Kiera and others around him. That is one of the best twists of the book, as readers nod along with Del, they too will realize the way they are seeing women and girls, and the changes they need to make to not be toxic themselves. 

The clear writing and varied characters make this a great choice. It is the nuanced way that Giles writes about the church and being a male African-American teenager that adds a rich depth to the book. He offers readers opportunities to learn, to grow and to realize things about themselves without ever being preachy about it. 

A frank look at sex, lies and toxic masculinity with a main character to cheer for, despite it all. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperTeen.

Review: In a Jar by Deborah Marcero

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero (9780525514596)

Llewellyn was a rabbit who loved to collect things in jars. He collected small things from his days like bright yellow leaves in the autumn which would remind him of what he had done and seen. One night when the sunset turned the sky “the color of tart cherry syrup,” Llewellyn went down to the shore with a lot of jars. He gathered the light of the night into his jars and gave one to a girl who came by. Evelyn was amazed to find that the in the jar glowed all night long the color of sunsets. Soon the two of them were gathering all sorts of things in jars like rainbows, the sound of the ocean, and even entire seasons. Their collection got very large, until one day Evelyn’s family moved away. For some time, Llewellyn felt like an empty jar but then he had an idea. He went out one night and collected a meteor shower in a jar and sent it to Evelyn. In turn, she collected the sounds and lights of the big city she now lived in and sent it to Llewellyn. Llewellyn set out on an autumn day to gather a jar for Evelyn and that’s when he met Max, and Llewellyn happened to have a jar for him too. 

Marcero sets the tone for this book right from the first page. You simply know that something amazing and magical is about to happen. She does this with simple words that children will easily follow and then also throws in lines like the sky the color of “tart cherry syrup” and “the wind just before snow falls.” Each of these lines creates a beautiful image and moment for the reader, indicating that something special is happening. This continues through the book, reminding readers that it is these moments that make life magical, whether you can bottle them or not. 

The art here is tremendously gorgeous. Marcero creates pages of meteor showers, sunsets filled with birds soaring, and entire seasons on two pages that are filled with moments of wonder and amazement, and yet that are also moments we could all have and share. There’s a beautiful tension between the beauty on the page and also the normalcy of it all. 

A picture book that shows everyone that these magical moments are there for us all to collect and share. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

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

Review: Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter

Our House Is on Fire Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter

Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter (9781534467781)

Greta was a quiet girl living in Stockholm until she learned about climate change. Once she heard a little bit about it at school, she started reading and watching films to learn even more. Greta soon realized that the world was in serious danger of fires, floods, droughts and catastrophic environmental change. She was sad and depressed for a long time, then she decided to go on strike from her school to protest the lack of action on climate. She protested outside the Parliament building every Friday, at first alone and then with other students. Soon children around the world were joining the protests. The quiet girl from Stockholm has become one of the leading young voices for climate change in the world.

Winter makes this book not only about Greta but also about climate change itself. As Greta finds her passion for working on climate, readers learn alongside her about the dangers that climate change brings to the world. As with all of her nonfiction picture book, Winter distills the story of Greta into something digestible by small children. Her pages are full of illustrations with words that explain but never become narrative or overwhelming. Her illustrations are bold and fresh, depicting climate disasters in images on the wall, the dangers to wildlife in Greta’s thoughts, and also the resilience and determination it took for Greta to continue to protest when no one seemed to be listening.

A timely and strong biography about one of the most important people working in climate today. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

2019 National Jewish Book Awards

 

The winners of the 2019 National Jewish Book Awards have been announced. The awards cover a variety of ages and categories. Here are the winners of the youth categories:

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story

Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story by Lesléa New­man and illus­trat­ed by Amy June Bates

 

YOUNG ADULT

Someday We Will Fly

Someday We Will Fly by Rachel DeWoskin