Review: Let’s Hear It for Almigal by Wendy Kupfer

almigal

Let’s Hear It for Almigal by Wendy Kupfer, illustrated by Tammie Lyon

Almigal wears hearing aids in her favorite cotton-candy pink.  She has friends who all different in a variety of ways.  Some wear glasses, others are twins, some speak Spanish, and one of her friends also wears hearing aids, but hers are purple.  Almigal is happy most of the time, until she finds out that she can’t hear everything, things like her friends talking, bird chirps, or songs in ballet class.  Worst of all, when she is ready for bed, she can’t hear her parents say goodnight.  So her doctor recommends that Almigal get a cochlear implant.  She has to have an operation and is able to pick out a bright pink implant just like her hearing aids.  She has to work to learn to hear with the implant and be careful with them, but it works really well.  The best part of all, is that she can hear her parents say goodnight.

Kupfer is the mother of a child born with hearing loss.  She discovered the lack of books with children who have hearing loss and hearing aids and created this picture book.  As a new author, she has managed to create a very readable and focused story.  While it is the story of a girl getting her cochlear implant, it is also about the diversity around us and that everyone has something different about them.  Lyon’s illustrations have a charm to them that adds to the appeal of the book.  They are filled with bright colors and done in a very inviting way. 

An issue-oriented book that will have appeal to children with hearing loss and those without.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Raab Associates, Inc.

Review: Homer by Elisha Cooper

homer

Homer by Elisha Cooper

Homer is out on the porch when the day starts.  Everyone seems to have something that they want to do that day.  The other dogs want to run around and play chase.  Homer doesn’t want to.  He doesn’t want to play in the field either, or walk to the beach, or swim, or go to the market.  He stays on the porch.  One-by-one the others return from their day and everyone tells Homer about it.  The dogs are tired from running. He gets to smell the flowers from the field and even wear one. There are shells to smell, wetness from the beach, and produce from the market.  People finish their days out on the porch with Homer.  At the end of the day, Homer heads inside, eats his dinner, and happily falls asleep in a chair.

Cooper does several things in this very simple picture book.  First, he pays homage to the relationships of dogs and humans, the sort of dog that is quiet, steady and always there.  Homer is the sort of dog everyone wants on their porch too.  Second, Cooper speaks to the importance of simplicity and a life well lived.  This is done quietly as one watches Homer’s day, realizing the bliss that it brings him. 

The setting of the seaside and the summer activities, make this a great book to share when you have sand between your toes.  Even better if a dog is thumping his tail nearby.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Khan

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Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

This color concept book introduces young readers to Islam and the many gorgeous colors of that religion and culture.  So when the red of the prayer rug is talked about, so is praying five times a day.  There is the blue of her mother’s hijab, used to cover her hair.  Orange is the color of henna.  Yellow is the box for Eid gifts for those in need.  Green is the color of the Quran.  In each instance and others, the culture is woven into the colors in a beautiful and effortless way.  This is a look at Islam that is lovely, welcoming and filled with light and color.

Khan’s writing is very simply done.  The colors are natural fits with their objects in Islam, none of them seem forced at all.  She explains each color and object in only a few lines, leaving the bulk of the book for the beauty of the illustrations.  Amini’s work has a wonderful richness to it where she dedicates the entire two-page spread to one specific color, changing the background too.  She also uses textures throughout and a softness that makes it all the more inviting.

A beautiful tribute to Islam, this book will fill a niche in many public libraries.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Georgia in Hawaii by Amy Novesky

georgia in hawaii

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

In 1939, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company commissioned two painting by Georgia O’Keeffe.  This picture book is the story of her trip to Hawaii funded by the company.  O’Keeffe spent time on each of the Hawaiian islands.  Her first stop was Oahu where she saw pineapples in the fields.  She wanted to spend time close to the plants as they grew, but the company did not approve.  They gave her a pineapple that had been picked, but that was not the same for O’Keeffe.  She next went to Maui where she spent time near a rainforest and waterfalls.  She painted what she wanted, when she wanted.  On the island of Hawaii, she saw volcanoes, rare red coral and lots of flowers. Finally, she went to Kauai and visited with the local artists as the air was filled with the scent of burning sugar.  But when she returned to the mainland, she didn’t have a single picture of a pineapple.  The company was upset, and so was O’Keeffe, who hated being told what to paint.  So how could they resolve this?

Novesky brings the Hawaiian island to lush life in this picture book.  Her words tell of the beauty and diversity of the islands.  They also show how the islands impacted the work of Georgia O’Keeffe.  The story is told on a level that children will enjoy, giving examples of what inspired O’Keefe to paint and what did not.  It is a strong story about how creativity and inspiration work.

Morales’ art is so lovely.  As she says in her illustrator’s note at the end of the book, she took inspiration for the illustrations not only from the twenty paintings that O’Keeffe created in Hawaii, but also from works throughout O’Keeffe’s lifetime.  The illustrations have something that I can’t put into words.  It’s a kinship or a closeness with the original work. 

This is a gorgeous and striking picture book about a dynamic, one-of-a-kind artist.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts that you might find interesting:

You can also check out my library-related tweets and pins on my other blog, Sites & Soundbytes.

60 Ways to Make Reading Fun: http://pinterest.com/pin/193021533999853077/

Hunger Games Sequel Bags Philip Seymour Hoffman? http://buff.ly/KQwqbJ #yalit

Paramount Buys ‘The Diviners’ For Fake Empire http://buff.ly/LyFBKZ #yalit

Some Amazing Science Fiction Picture Books For Your Kids (And You)http://buff.ly/MHF3QR #kidlit

Staying Power: Edwards Award winner Susan Cooper has been working her magic for more than 40 years http://buff.ly/L7qXNh #kidlit

Summer Reading Flowchart: http://pinterest.com/pin/193021533999856092/

Top 5 Ways to Prevent Rusty Summer Readers http://buff.ly/LifLZI #reading

Review: Demolition by Sally Sutton

demolition

Demolition by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

There has been a movement recently to create some very original and fresh construction and truck books.  Before that, it was a bit of a desert of naming big trucks, telling how they work, and leaving it at that.  This book is one of the best of those new, fresh books about construction vehicles.  In rhyming lines, it tells the story of the demolition of a building.  It begins with the people getting ready, moves to the wrecking ball, then the excavator and its tearing jaws.  There are stone crushers and wood shredders.  Trucks are loaded and clear the site, then they start to build something.  Something with slides, monkey bars, and plenty of fun.

The rhyme and rhythm of this picture book really make it work.  It has a bouncy rhythm that makes the book ideal for toddlers.  The rhyming lines finish on each set of pages with noisy words that bring the work site to life.  Add to that the appeal of knocking something down and then building something new, and you have brought a toddler dream to life.  The illustrations have a great texture to them that evokes the dust and dirt of demolition.  They avoid being too cartoon-like and instead use different vistas on the project to allow young readers to see more than they could of in real life.

One of the most appealing construction or destruction books around, this belongs in every library collection.  It will also be appreciated by librarians and teachers who have long been looking for construction books worth sharing in a story time setting.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari

my mixed-up berry blue summer

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari

June has lived on Lake Champlain with her mother forever.  They run the marina with its supplies and café.  That’s where June learned to make pies, and she is determined to enter the fair this summer to prove what a great baker she is.  But this summer is going to be very different from other summers.  First, her mother’s girlfriend has moved in with them.  Then there is the pressure from Vermont’s new civil union law that has their small town divided.  There are people who won’t shop at the marina anymore because June’s mother is gay.  It is a summer unlike any other, one where June will have to figure out how she feels about having two mothers, and then whether she has the courage to speak up. 

Gennari’s debut novel courageously takes on not only the issue of gay parents but also the political backlash that can occur to a family in modern America.  Through the eyes of June, we see a strong mother and daughter connection, an understanding that her mother is gay, but then the realization that that will be much more public with a girlfriend or spouse.  Gennari makes this a very human story that embraces the power of community and the complexities as well.  As a special aside, I will mention the great librarian character who shows a lot of support for June and her family.

This book is short and active.  It’s a perfect summer read with plenty of dips in the lake, boats on the water, bike rides in the heat, and ripening berries all around.  Nicely, it is about more relationships than the mother and her girlfriend.  June is faced with losing a friend because of their difference in opinion and then June’s changing feelings toward Luke, a boy who is her best friend. 

Perfect for a summer read while floating on a lake, this book is strong, courageous and radiant.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

2012 Carnegie and Greenaway Medals

Patrick Ness has won a second consecutive Carnegie Medal for A Monster Calls.  He won last year for Monsters of Men, the third book in his Chaos Walking trilogy.  His entire trilogy was prize-winning with the first book winning both the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and the Booktrust Teenage Prize.  The second book in the trilogy won the Costa Book Award.

In a unique twist, A Monster Calls has also won the Kate Greenaway Medal for Illustration.  Jim Kay’s evocative, dark and powerful art added so much to the skilled writing of Ness.  This is the first time that the same book has won both awards.

Review: Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton

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Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton

Indie Lee Chickory is heading to her last day of school where she really doesn’t fit in.  Her older sister Bebe fits in perfectly, dresses like the others, and never seems to smell like rotting fish like Indie does.  That’s what she gets for feeding Monty, her golden lobster, before coming to school.  So whenever Indie does something that draws attention to herself, Bebe is embarrassed.  When Indie accidentally carries Monty to school on that last day, she does a lot more than draw attention, she runs away from school to get Monty into the water he needs.  But when they reach the sea, she loses him and he won’t return to her after the sirens from the police car go off.  Now Indie has to figure out not only how to get Monty back but also how to not be so weird and not embarrass Bebe anymore.  Bebe has a part in a summer musical, so she has a lot at stake.  It’s up to Indie to see how normal she can be.

This is a wonderfully deep and thoughtful book for preteens that explores expectations and sisterhood.  While Indie’s own plans may be to not stick out and not be unusual, readers will be delighted to find out that is not the message of the book.  Instead Indie is clearly her own person and unable to fit into any mold, no matter how much she may want to.  Bebe is actually the sister in crisis, the one desperate to be perfect, the one who would do almost anything to belong.  The book allows readers to figure that out on their own as the book progresses. 

While the book is deep, it is also a great read for summer because it has plenty of humor and action to keep things moving.  The setting is clear and used throughout the story almost as its own character.  The dynamics of a small tourist town, the beauty of the natural setting, and the sea herself all play into the action and the story.  The addition of a theater performance and Bebe being an actor and Indie working on set construction gives the book another element that works particularly well, and also gives the book some of its most interesting characters.

This pre-teen novel about a young girl who is unique in many ways but also wants to fit in will resonate with young readers who will be buoyed by the way the story works out.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel.