Review: Up, Up, Up, Down! by Kimberly Gee

Up, Up, Up, Down! by Kimberly Gee

Up, Up, Up, Down! by Kimberly Gee (9780525517337)

A toddler’s day is filled with opposites in this adorable picture book. Being lifted up out of their crib and set down on the ground the play. Saying no to all kinds of breakfast and then yes to blueberries. Clothes go on and then come right back off again. They hurry up and then slow down. There is making and breaking things. Balloons are “yay!” and then “uh-oh!” Sadness becomes better again too.

Filled with all kinds of little kid action, this book will resonate with toddlers and their parents alike. The concept of opposites is nicely woven into the activities of a normal day out and about. The text has a rhythm to it as the words repeat. The illustrations show an African-American father and child who spend their day together. The end of the day shows an exhausted father and a mother home from work.

A concept book ideal for toddlers, this one is a joy. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy provided by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 

This Week’s Tweets

Here are the items I shared on Twitter this week:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

10 Facts about Maurice Sendak You May Not Have Known – https://t.co/7qKppWKJJU

12 books that tell kids the fun and inspirational stories behind the women’s suffrage movement buff.ly/2ZdttJI #kidlit

A Very Happy 50th Birthday to The Very Hungry Caterpillar – NPR – https://t.co/Ln7Epylnje

READING

Unputdownable! The bookshops Amazon couldn’t kill buff.ly/2ETtACy

Review: Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth

Birds of a Feather Bowerbirds and Me by Susan Roth

Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth (9780823442829)

Collage artist Roth takes a look at the amazing bowerbird and how her work and their building process compare with one another. Both she and the bowerbird are collectors of random items. They use those items to create compositions. For the bowerbird, that is a bower for their courtship process. They both like unusual objects that they use to create art, things that no one else might ever combine in that way. They both pay attention to color and both seek out praise for their work in the end.

I was really pleasantly surprised by the content and construct of this picture book. While I knew it would be about bowerbirds and humans, I didn’t expect it to be so directly related to the artistic side of both. Roth beautifully shows the fascinating correlations between her work and that of the bird. She demonstrates both in her collage illustrations and in the text of the book how similar they actually are. The text though is kept wonderfully simple, making this book about art very accessible even for young children. She completes the book with more facts about the birds and about her own work as well as a bibliography of sources.

Roth’s illustrations are fabulous. Bright and filled with objects of all kinds, they fill the page with vibrancy. Most of the pages show the bird and then Roth, each working in a similar way on their art. The result is a book about Roth’s way of making art that is also an example of the art itself. Clever stuff!

A very successful mix of nature, science and art. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Sign Off by Stephen Savage

Sign Off by Stephen Savage

Sign Off by Stephen Savage (9781534412101)

At night, the images on street signs come to life and jump right off their signs! The deer on the sign munches some leaves. The tractor on the caution sign plows up some dirt as he drives past. The wheelchair sign uses the car parked in its spot to zoom down to the street. The worker on the sign makes a sandcastle out of the dirt pile. Road crossing signs become a place for romance. Children at play, actually play. As dawn arrives, all of the animals and people from the signs get together at a street light sign and greet the day in their own special way.

This wordless picture book takes the concept of toys coming to life at night into a different two-dimensional story. Savage cleverly uses them in silhouette to show what is something from a sign. The real life backgrounds are done in full color, so the black silhouettes pop against them. Each sign is interesting and their activity at being freed is unique to them. The story is simple and the presentation fascinating.

A playful and interesting book for a road trip or just staying at home. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

Review: I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib

I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib

I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib (9780525575115)

In this vibrant graphic novel, Malaka tells the story of growing up as a child of an Egyptian father and a Filipino mother in the United States. She learned to meet both families’ expectations though sometimes they contradicted one another and how to carefully switch between the two. There are stories of breaking unwritten rules in Egypt by skateboarding in the streets as well as tales of not being fully accepted by the Filipino kids at school. Malaka considered white culture something to long after, wishing for sandwich lunches and the lifestyles she saw on TV. As she grew up, she began to figure out how to value her own unique cultural background and celebrate it.

Gharib has created a graphic memoir that shows so many elements of being from an immigrant family, being a person of color, and being of mixed race and heritage. She is open and honest about her own struggles with asking the problematic question of where someone is from, of her own code switching, and her own disdain for her heritage as a child even while she loved her family deeply. Her book is a love letter to her families while still being an honest view of the impact of whiteness on children of color.

The art in the book is full of reds and blues, the colors echoing the American flag. The colors are used cleverly to show character’s hair colors and create diverse and inclusive illustrations. The graphic novel is well paced, full of blunt commentary about race and America, and just the right zing of food and culture.

A diverse and funny look at families, race and America. Appropriate for ages 12-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Nine Months by Miranda Paul

Nine Months Before a Baby Is Born by Miranda Paul

Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin (9780823441617)

A mother, father and their daughter come home from a wintry walk with their dog. They curl up together in bed to read a book about having a new baby. On the opposite page, the growth of the baby begins, starting with one cell that divides getting bigger with each turn of the page. Their busy days take them to the doctor for an ultrasound, assembling the crib, and lots of quality time just spent with one another. As the seasons change, so does the size of the mother’s tummy. Growing to match, the images of the baby in the womb get larger and become actual size. Crowded onto the page, the baby finally arrives and enters the light and wonder of their new family.

I haven’t seen another picture book like this, where the illustrations have a friendly story that can be shared, but also show the details of what is happening inside a mother’s womb as the baby develops. The text has a lovely rhythm and rhyme that is hopeful and filled with joy. The final pages add to the information with more details on babies, answers to questions about them, about how animals and humans are different in gestation, and also questions about what if something else happens.

The illustration by Chin are simply lovely. He fills both of the pages on each spread with light, so readers can really take a close look at the developing fetus. The other side offers slanting sun as the days pass by in expectation of the new little one. Throughout the illustrations, there is a sense of wonder and anticipation that will be shared by children soon to be new siblings.

A great book for children who are expecting a new baby in their family, this book is a lovely mix of science and love. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Neal Porter Books.

Review: The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett

The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett

The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9780062393449)

In 42 pages, Mac Barnett celebrates the 42 years of Margaret Wise Brown’s life and writing. This is not a traditional picture book biography, but instead a treasure of glimpses into moments in Brown’s life. Small details like her biting dog and her birth date are shared. Barnett also makes sure to point out unique things that Brown did as a child, like skinning a rabbit and wearing its fur. The rabbit element plays out across Brown’s life and writing, even publishing a book that was first published with a rabbit fur cover. These elements are all loosely woven into a story of a woman who wrote unique and strange books for children, odd enough not to be accepted by the New York Public Library. Still, it didn’t slow Brown down from writing and living her own unique life.

This book is incredible. Written with a conversational tone, inviting readers to see how writing for children needs to be expansive and go beyond cuteness and cuddles. Barnett, who also shares similar elements in his own writing for children, explores fascinating parts of Brown’s life and makes her unique voice the focus of the book. His writing is a study in how to have a strong voice in a children’s book, a narrative point of view, and yet also avoid being didactic at all, insisting that young readers think for themselves.

Jacoby’s illustrations are a great mix of showing Brown’s life, full pages of pastel and flowers, and other moments with bunnies in libraries. The mix is wonderfully odd and so exactly appropriate for a story about Brown herself.

I predict that this one is going to be win awards. It certainly should. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

My Class on Hiring for Diversity!

iSchool

A brief interruption from children’s books to librarianship instead:

Almost two years ago, I was on a panel at the WiLSWorld conference where I casually mentioned that we had managed to build the beginnings of a diverse staff at the Appleton Public Library where I’m Assistant Director.

The iSchool then invited me to do a one-hour presentation about diverse hiring. I went on to do the presentation at the Wisconsin Library Association last fall as well. This winter, iSchool once again approached me, this time to do a continuing education class about diverse hiring and retention.

I do not see myself as an expert on these subjects, more a practitioner who has learned a few things along the way. And I’ve learned even more as I researched the subject enough to fill an entire course.

The class I will teach this summer looks deeply at personal biases and privilege. It explores the deep whiteness of the library profession and how via hiring practices and approaches libraries can address that problem. My hope is that we can have great conversations about the issues and learn a lot together.

Now back to the children’s and teen lit focus!

Review: Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh (9780062447814)

Plum could not be more different than her excitable sister, Ginny. Ginny has a group of friends at their private school, while Plum doesn’t have any at all. She’d much prefer to do advance reading for her classes than engage with others her age. Ginny is about to graduate from high school and longs to get accepted into her university of choice, but it’s not that simple. First, she has to be accepted and then she needs enough financial aid to attend. While they may live in a large home, it’s filled with clutter and day-to-day life rather than being a show piece. Feeling more and more distant from her ever-more-agitated sister, Plum finds herself in a position to help, but only because of a secret romance. Now Plum has her own life, but it may take her away from her family right when they need her.

This is a contemporary tale with a classic heart. Riffing on Sense and Sensibility, this  novel for teens takes one rather old-fashioned young lady and her sister who is her opposite and flings at them the trials of modern life. There are the costs of living when their mother loses her royalty payments, the grueling college application and financial aid process, bullying, and of course, kissing too. It’s a book that offers two great female characters. Plum is introverted, wildly funny and wise. Ginny is anxiety-ridden, loud, dramatic and loving. The two together make an ideal look at sisterhood.

Thornburgh writes with a specific style here. It even more tightly ties the story to classic literature and also reveals Plum’s thoughts and her own way of thinking. The story never drags, instead it is filled with drama and disasters large and small. The writing is a delightful mix of classic and modern with plenty of humor too.

A deep look at sisterhood that is funny and rich. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperTeen.