Month: December 2014

Review: Before After by Matthias Aregui

before after

Before After by Matthias Aregui and Anne-Margot Ramstein

The passage of time is captured beautifully in this wordless book that shows one example after another of before and then after.  The book is a delightful mix of concepts with examples from nature, pop culture and plenty of humor.   An acorn before becomes an oak tree after.  A small ape before becomes King Kong after.  Ingredients become a cake and a few pages later the cake is eaten and left as crumbs.  But what came first, the chicken or the egg.  This book takes a wry and balanced view of that debate by showing both in sequence.  One never knows what the page turn will bring, and that’s part of the appeal in this clever and funny book.

Wordless books are often short, but this book is nice and thick, the entire book offering lots to think about and plenty of chuckles along the way.  While it may seem to be more for preschoolers, older elementary aged children will get more of the references in the book like the chicken and the egg and King Kong.  They will also appreciate the passage of time visually on the page as ice melts to water.  Additionally, some of the images are more complex with a cow becoming milk but also becoming a picture of a cow.  Very meta. 

For children with reading difficulties in elementary school, this would be a great book to start discussions.  It is also a wonderful way to wile away some time looking at an outstanding example of wordless art that delights.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Chimpanzee Children of Gombe by Jane Goodall

chimpanzee children of gombe

Chimpanzee Children of Gombe by Jane Goodall, photos by Michael Neugebauer

Jane Goodall invites young readers to spend some time in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania with the chimpanzee families she has been studying for decades.  Readers are introduced to two chimpanzee families, F-family and G-family, who are all named with that letter as the first in their name.  So there are Ferdinand, Faustino and Fifi and also Gremlin, Galahad and Gaia.  Goodall shows similarities between humans and chimpanzees, including greeting each other with kisses, having mothers who are good and others who are not so good, and children who love to play.  The book celebrates the close family bonds of chimpanzees, the caring mothers who lug children on their fronts and then their backs, siblings who play together, and the way young are taught to use tools.  The result is a book that is a trip to their world and an invitation to learn more about these amazing endangered animals.

Goodall writes with a wonderful inviting tone, explaining facts carefully but also allowing the images of the animals to tell much of the story.  She plays hostess in the book, taking care to make sure that children know the basics about the chimpanzees and then also moving on to include other animals like baboons and monkeys that live in the same area.  The book nicely balances offering just enough information to stay fascinating and not overwhelming children with too many small facts.  Instead it reads as a stroll alongside Goodall through her research center.

The photographs by Neugebauer reinforce what Goodall is explaining in words.  Readers see the close family ties, they witness young chimpanzees at play, and there are gorgeous shots of the habitat itself that show how special and important this place is. 

A strong introduction to Goodall’s work, this book is engaging and inspiring.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Little Red Riding Hood by Sybille Schenker

little red riding hood

Little Red Riding Hood by The Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Sybille Schenker, translated by Anthea Bell

This follow-up to the illustrator’s gorgeous rendition of Hansel and Gretel continues to show her amazing skills with cut paper illustrations.  The cover the book is pure black with cut outs that reveal a red and white pattern behind.  It’s rather like opening a door into another world.  The story is the traditional one, told in a simple way that highlights the more dramatic moments.  Be prepared for the traditional ending with the wolf killed, his body cut open and then refilled with stones so that he dies.  This is not a modernized and gentle version at all.  Yet that works particularly well with these incredible illustrations and the wonder they evoke. 

Schenker plays with her cut paper throughout.  There are times when the page is entirely cut through, into patterns.  Other times the illustrations are cut paper but the page is whole.  You will find yourself running your hands over the page to see if the cuts are actual or simply visual.  She shows such skill throughout creating moments that change as you turn the page and they become even more dazzling as you look back through the cuts.  My favorite page turn is when the wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood, it’s an astonishing change that works oh so well.

Wundergarden has some illustrations online from Schenker.  Here are ones from this book:

If you are looking for a version of Little Red Riding Hood to treasure, this is it.  It may not last for long on public library shelves, but it is a book that will be loved by those who discover it.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Week’s Tweets, Pins & Tumbls

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:

#DarthVader #starwars #reading

CHILDREN’S LIT

Author/Illustrator Cousins Win Canada’s Top Literary Award | School Library Journal http://buff.ly/1uUuxfy #kidlit

Author Kate DiCamillo connects with young readers – The Washington Post http://buff.ly/1szZXqM #kidlit

Author Sandra Boynton won’t play down to kids | The Columbus Dispatch http://buff.ly/1Aj2rhR #kidlit

If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie – A Zine That I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was A Little Kid http://buff.ly/1wIx6aM #kidlit

Madeleine L’Engle on Creativity, Hope, Getting Unstuck & How Studying Science Enriches Art | Brain Pickings http://buff.ly/1z0NVcn #kidlit

Naomi Shihab Nye Talks with Roger – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1z1hF8M #kidlit

Neil Gaiman recites Jabberwocky – YouTube http://buff.ly/1qEHIot #kidlit

The Nonfiction Detectives: The Best Nonfiction Books of 2014 http://buff.ly/13bPTxn #kidlit

SLJ’s Top 10 Latino Books of 2014 | School Library Journal http://buff.ly/1AhSBwC #kidlit #weneeddiversebooks

Top 10 fictional feasts in children’s books | The Guardian http://buff.ly/1wma8EM #kidlit

New Halifax Central Library, Halifax, 2014 by @shlarchitects #LibraryArchitecture #LibraryBuildings #LibraryDesign

LIBRARIES

Experts demand urgent overhaul of England’s public library service | The Guardian http://buff.ly/1x3taSg #libraries

Guitar Lending Collection at Licking County Library | Library as Incubator Project http://buff.ly/1C4Z7Id #libraries

How many pizzas can you get for $1.5 billion? http://buff.ly/1sDRz9K #libraries

Libraries Face Off Against Publishers and the European Union at WIPO | Electronic Frontier Foundation http://buff.ly/1zATO41 #libraries

One of Shakespeare’s Rare First Folios Discovered in French Library — History in the Headlines http://buff.ly/1Bpv3GZ #libraries

Salt Lake City Public Library Proposes 24/7 Operations http://buff.ly/1DHEUNk #libraries

WI Libraries: Library of the Month: Cedarburg Public Library http://buff.ly/1v0oF4t #libraries

READING

2014 was a great year for books – and for book covers! Behold these beauties: http://on.nypl.org/1zBCqeZ

AbeBooks’ 50 Most Expensive Sales of 2014 http://buff.ly/1ApLemP #books #reading

TEEN READS

Bestselling Middle Grade and YA Authors Share Must-Read 2014 Picks! http://buff.ly/1szZxpW #yalit

How To Get Your Teenager To Read For Pleasure| Christine Stock | http://buff.ly/1DHtsRz #yalit

John Green Celebrates 10 Years of ‘Looking for Alaska’ http://buff.ly/1sExyQr #yalit

Teens prefer the printed page to ebooks | The Guardian http://buff.ly/1DGzKBb #yalit #ebooks

YA Trilogies That Ended in 2014 (That You Should Read in 2015)| EricSmith | http://buff.ly/1zYDLL6 #yalit

Review: My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins

my true love gave to me

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins

Twelve bestselling young adult authors come together to create an amazing collection of holiday stories for teens.  Each story in this collection is a delectable treat, contrasting with the others yet each is just as romantic, snowy and filled with holiday spirit as the one before.  The twelve authors are Holly Black, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White.  Each brings their own unique voice to the collection, each celebrates the holidays with their own twist.  Some are pure holiday bliss, Christmas centered and lovely, while others are gorgeously twisted and wild yet also speak to the real spirit of the season.  You never quite know where the next story will take you, and that is a large part of this collection’s appeal.

Perkins has done an amazing job of creating a holiday collection with plenty of diversity.  There are Jewish characters, characters of different races, pagan characters, those who believe in holidays, those who are jaded as can be.  There is magic in some of the stories, tangible magic that you can feel and touch, while other stories have that indefinable magic of love and connection. 

You are guaranteed to have your favorites among the stories.  For me, one of them hit my heart so hard that I wept, but it may not be the one you’d expect it to be.  Each one connects deeply with the characters, making them real people even such a short span of pages.   Each one offers up the author’s voice with a clarity that is incredible.  One could pick many of the authors out even with the stories mixed up and unnamed. 

An outstanding collection of holiday stories, these stories focus on the new adult rather than teens in high school, which makes it even more rare and lovely.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Creature Features by Steve Jenkins

creature features

Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Look right into the eyes of 25 animals as they answer a question about why they look the way that they do.  The animals range from sun bears to various birds to giraffes to frogs and fish.  With each turn of the page there is a new animal looking straight at you, ready to explain the feature that is their most unusual.  That explanation is filled with just enough scientific information to be fascinating and to inspire more exploration of the animal.  The paragraphs are short enough to be shared with even quite young children who are fascinated by animals.  This is a great addition to even the most crowded of animal shelves.

Filled with Jenkins’ trademark cut paper art, this is an exquisite look at each animal, some of which you may never have seen straight on from the front like the mole rat or the shoebill stork. The unique point of view makes for unusual images of these animals that make you look at them in a different way.  Wonderfully, Jenkins manages to make each meet your eyes in a distinct way that matches their species.  See how long you can lock gazes with the ferocious ones!

One that will be read again and again by young animal lovers, this book deserves a spot in every public library.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.