The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods
Violet feels like she just doesn’t fit into her family. Whenever she goes anywhere with her mother and sister, people are surprised to hear that she is related to them. They are both white and blonde while she has brown skin and brown hair. Violet’s father died before she was born, and while her sister knows her other grandparents, Violet has never met hers. But now Violet takes things into her own hands and starts researching her African-American grandmother who happens to be a well-known artist. Violet convinces her mother to allow her to go to her grandmother’s new gallery show but things do not go as Violet had dreamed. Violet just wants to put the pieces of her family into a whole where she fits seamlessly, but it may be too late for that.
It is a joy to have such a charming and positive book that speaks to biracial issues. Woods does a great job of focusing on both the positive and negative aspects of being bi-racial and having two distinct sides of the family. I was particularly pleased that all of the adults in the book were supportive and loving towards Violet as she explores her African-American heritage. Woods also addresses the differences in religions in the book, something that children who come from two religious heritages will appreciate.
Violet herself is a particularly radiant protagonist. Though she worries about fitting into her family and seeking out the other side of her family, at heart she is an optimist and approaches each event with a sense of adventure and openness. This is a book that cheers children on to explore their own families and discover others in their world who will adore them too.
Positive, cheery and yet addressing difficult situations, this book is a pleasure to read. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.
Nest by Jorey Hurley
This simple and elegant picture book takes a look at a year in the life of a robin. It begins with an egg in a nest and two proud parents. By the next page, the egg has hatched into one very hungry baby bird. As the tree flowers, the little bird is fed by its parents. Then comes the first flight as a speckled robin chick. There are berries on the tree to feast on and when autumn comes the green leaves have turned orange and yellow and started to fall. The last of the berries are eaten while snow flies in the sky. As spring returns, the young robin meets another young robin and they build their own nest together. All of this is told in images since the text of the book is simple single words on each double-spread picture. This is a beautiful and impressive book for the youngest children.
Hurley’s illustrations are strong and clear. Done in PhotoShop, the illustrations have the feel of cut-paper collage in their simplicity. They will project well to a group of children. The storyline is far more than the words on the page, and children will want to discuss what is happening throughout the book.
A wonderful pick for spring units, this book is a celebration of nature and seasons. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I hope you find interesting:
Children’s Books: A Shifting Market http://buff.ly/1cQkXVp
Classic children’s book ‘Harriet the Spy’ turns 50 – The Washington Post http://buff.ly/1ewXfde
Fall 2014 Children’s Sneak Previews http://buff.ly/1gzT17l
Getting the right books into every young child’s hands | Dallas Morning News http://buff.ly/OzdFgt
Just Enjoy the Pictures: Hand-Crafted Versus Digital Art – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/OzbcTl
Kids Are Never Too Old to Be Read to by Parents| Joe Paradise | http://buff.ly/OzdsK3
The Official SCBWI Conference Blog: Marla Frazee: Art of the Picture Book Panel http://buff.ly/OzelCp
Passport to a World of Reading: USBBY’s 2014 Outstanding International Books List | SLJ – http://buff.ly/OzbwBs
READER’S CHIT | Nurturing the creative spark http://buff.ly/OzdAJB
Seven Islamic-themed children’s books | The National http://buff.ly/1cQl2IO
Books for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014 – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/Mv9Kzb
An Epic Chart of 162 Young Adult Retellings | Blog | Epic Reads http://buff.ly/1cQ811S
Markus Zusak: The Book Thief film’s biggest hurdle was Death | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1cQ7WeG