Review: Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang

red kite blue kite

Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang, illustrated by Greg Ruth

Based on the true story of a family friend, this book tells the story of a father and son separated during the Cultural Revolution in China.  Tai Shan and his father, Baba, loved to fly kites together from the roof of their home in their crowded city.  Then bad times come and the schools are closed.  Baba is sent to a labor camp and Tai Shan is sent to life in a small village with Granny Wang.  Both Tai Shan and his father continue to fly their kites, using them as a signal to one another and a way to maintain contact.  Eventually, Baba is taken further away to another labor camp where they cannot communicate with kites.  All that can be done is to wait until Baba is free again and their kites can soar together once more.

This picture book will be best understood by older children.  There is no need to have a background in Chinese history to understand this book because the story is so universal.  The use of kites as imagery of freedom and connection works particularly well, especially in the ending which is particularly uplifting after the tension and sorrow of the rest of the tale.  Jiang writes in prose that is filled with the emotion of the time.  He writes with deep compassion and doesn’t shy away from the pain that fills Tai Shan’s days separated from his father.

Ruth’s illustrations capture the mood of the story very effectively.  He moves from bright golds and oranges in the city to the dull colors of khaki and earth when the two are separated.  The color scheme is only alleviated by the pop of color from their kites.  When the two are together again, the color begins to return to the landscape.

This is a striking and universal look at families that are torn apart by war and the haunted time they spend apart.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

exclamation mark

Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

The creators of Duck! Rabbit! return with another book filled with bold but simple illustrations.  This book is about an exclamation point that is just trying to be like every other very stable period around him.  He tries everything to be the same, but it just doesn’t work.  He meets a question mark who is also very different, but he’s really bothered by all of her questions.  So he yells at her to stop!  Then he tries out other exclamations, realizing that he’s suddenly discovered exactly what he’s made for. 

An immensely simple book, I really appreciated the occasional zing of puns that kept it from becoming stale.  The illustrations are done on lined paper giving the entire book a cheery aspect.  The message is not done heavy-handedly, rather it is delivered in a playful and light-hearted way. 

This will be welcomed in classrooms as a witty and jolly way to discuss punctuation.  Expect the exclamation mark kids in the class to find a kindred spirit!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

Children’s Book Week 2013 Finalists

Childrens Book Week Logo

Children’s Book Week has announced their finalists for 2013.  These finalists will be voted on by children and teens in the 2013 Children’s Choice Book Awards.  You can head to the voting page to take part with teachers, librarians and booksellers able to participate as well.

Here are the finalists:

KINDERGARTEN TO SECOND GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR

Big Mean Mike The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? I'll Save You Bobo!

Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Scott Magoon

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

I’ll Save You Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons Nighttime Ninja

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons created and illustrated by James Dean, story by Eric Litwin

Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta, illustrated by Ed Young

 

THIRD GRADE TO FOURTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR

Bad Kitty for President Get the Scoop on Animal Poop Homer

Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel

Get the Scoop on Animal Poop by Dawn Cusick

Homer by Shelley Rotner, illustrated by Diane deGroat

National Geographic Kids Just Joking: 300 Hilarious Jokes, Tricky Tongue Twisters, and Ridiculous Riddles Pluto Visits Earth!

Just Joking by National Geographic Kids

Pluto Visits Earth! by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Jared Lee

 

FIFTH GRADE TO SIXTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR

Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess (Dork Diaries, #4) Liar & Spy Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School

Dork Diaries 4: Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess by Rachel Renee Russell

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker, illustrated by Tim Probert

Rebel McKenzie Stickman Odyssey 2: An Epic Doodle, Book 2

Rebel McKenzie by Candice Ransom

Stickman Odyssey, Book 2: The Wrath of Zozimos by Christopher Ford

 

TEEN BOOK OF THE YEAR

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1) City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5) The Fault in Our Stars

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Insurgent (Divergent, #2) Rapture (Fallen, #4)

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Rapture by Lauren Kate

 

AUTHOR OF THE YEAR

The Fault in Our Stars The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, #7) Wonder

John Green for The Fault in Our Stars

Jeff Kinney for Diary of a Wimpy Kid 7: The Third Wheel

R. J. Palacio for Wonder

The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, #3) Insurgent (Divergent, #2)

Rick Riordan for The Mark of Athena

Veronica Roth for Insurgent

 

ILLUSTRATOR OF THE YEAR

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons Llama Llama Time to Share Olivia and the Fairy Princesses (Olivia)

James Dean for Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

Anna Dewdney for Llama Llama Time to Share

Ian Falconer for Olivia and the Fairy Princesses

Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?

Robin Preiss Glasser for Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet

Mo Willems for The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?