Higgledy-Piggledy Chicks

Higgledy-Piggledy Chicks by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Rick Chrustowski

Banty Hen lays seven beautiful brown eggs that hatch into seven chicks.  Only a few days later, the chicks leave the safety of the nest to explore, but they don’t have any idea what is dangerous and what is safe.  So Mama and the Auntie hens must keep a close eye on them.  They encounter a cat, a snake, and a raccoon.  Luckily, they have the shelter of Mama’s wings and the bravery of the Aunties to protect them throughout the day and into the night.

Joosse’s text is great fun to read aloud.  While it doesn’t rhyme, it has a great cadence.  The book is sprinkled with sounds too, so get ready to make plenty of chicken noises to warn the chicks.  It would be great fun to have children at a storytime help Mama call to warn the chicks when they spot danger.  Chrustowski’s collage art is perfect for using with a group.  He uses bright colors and clear images.  The various animals all have distinct personalities, including the winning chicks. 

Recommended for your next chicken story time, this book will fit right in with the flock.  It will also be a welcome addition to springtime units, no yolk.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Nothing

Nothing by Janne Teller

Before you open this book, make sure your schedule for the next few hours in clear.  Seriously.

Pierre Anthon left school abruptly after announcing, “Nothing matters.” Instead of going to school, he climbed into a plum tree and called to the other teens in his class, mocking them for still trying to conform to a world where nothing actually matters.  After awhile, the others in his class decided that they must prove him wrong and demonstrate that there are things in life that matter.  So they built a heap of meaning, filled with items that meant a lot to them.  At first they volunteered to put items onto the pile, but when that stopped working, it was decided that the last person to put something on the  pile would decide what the next person must add.  As this progresses, the tension mounts as one student must decide for the next just how far this will go and just how much meaning their effort will have.

Written in stark, haunting prose, this novel starts with a slow buildup and then becomes impossible to put down as one character after the other makes horrific decisions.  It is a story about what matters in life, but also about the meaningless that becomes imbued with too much meaning as well.  The book is heartbreaking, strange and completely riveting. 

Translated from Danish, this book is markedly not set in America and keeps its Danish place names and other touches.  The translation is done with great skill, allowing readers to realize that it is set elsewhere but also keeping the all-important connection with the characters alive. 

The novel is told from the point of view of Agnes, a girl who only has to give her new sandals to the pile.  This perspective is perfectly rendered as Agnes is witness to the horror, completely involved, but remains apart and an observer because it does not affect her as deeply as some of the other students.  Teller creates characters that we all recognize, but they surprise us with their reactions, their strength, and their fragility.  She puts the characters in a mix of peer pressure, violence and existential crisis, revealing much about each of them.

Highly recommended, this is one of the deepest, cruelest, most remarkable books I have read recently.  It is filled with beauty, tragedy and horror but offers meaning and plenty of fodder for discussion.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalists

The finalists for the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes have been announced.  They have finalists in a variety of categories.  Here are the ones for Young Adult and Graphic Novel.

Young Adult Literature Finalists

The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy by James Cross Giblin

The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge

Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

 

Graphic Novel Finalists

Luba (A Love and Rockets Book) by Gilbert Hernandez

GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco