Woodpecker Wham! by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
In brief stanzas of rhyme, this nonfiction picture book looks at the habitats and lives of a variety of different species of woodpecker. Starting with finding food, the book explores woodpeckers eating insects and sap. Then woodpeckers bathe and preen. They create homes by digging holes in the bark of trees. They hide from hawks. They lay eggs and the chicks hatch, forcing the adult birds to scrounge for food for them. The fledglings start trying to fly and then fall comes and once again woodpeckers are searching for food and shelter to get them through the winter.
Sayre and Jenkins continue their partnership that started with Eat Like a Bear in this new book. Sayre writes with a light hand, creating a sense of exploration and wonder around these backyard birds. Children will learn some things from the brief poetic text and there is a lot more information to be found on the back pages where individual species are identified and all of the subjects are expanded upon.
Jenkins continues to create illustrations that amaze. With his cut paper collages, the illustrations pop on the page as the birds fly, hide, peck, eat and reproduce. I love that the color of the sky changes from one page to the next, creating moments in time rather than one continuous time period. The result are illustrations that stand on their own in terms of beauty and the incredible detail that they offer readers.
Beautiful and informative, this nonfiction picture book will have children gazing out of their windows to try to see the birds in their neighborhood. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.
School Library Journal has the news of the winners of the 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Here are the winners:
PICTURE BOOK AWARD WINNER
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
PICTURE BOOK HONORS
It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
FICTION AWARD WINNER
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell
Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
NONFICTION AWARD WINNER
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Josh Schneider
Every type of animals has to sleep whether on the farm or in the jungle or underwater, but not Fred. Fred has far too much to do to sleep at all. Fred has to do his important jumping. He has to break the world shouting record. He has to test his horn collection. He has so much to do, much to the chagrin of the sleepy animals around him who keep getting startled from his activities. It isn’t until parents start to read poetry to get children to fall asleep that Fred too succumbs to slumber. Now it’s up to young readers to be quiet enough to keep from waking Fred up and starting it all over again.
Schneider writes in rhyme, jaunty and confident. He invites readers to see different habitats for the animals as they snore and snooze. The pacing is deftly done in this book, allowing a slow build up to each activity that then becomes zany and silly. It’s that dichotomy of pace that makes for a book that is a joy to share aloud and one that will make any bedtime a lot more fun.
Also adding to the fun are the impeccable illustrations. They are complete irreverent and silly, with sleeping pigs with tattooed bottoms, monsters who brush their teeth, monkeys in tutus, and a toucan who appears throughout in unexpected places. The illustrations are worth spending lots of time with since they are filled with small details. Many of the animals continue to subsequent pages along with Fred, joining in his adventures.
Smart, funny and a great bedtime story, this picture book will amuse even the most resistant sleepyhead. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Released June 9, 2015.
The bestselling author of the Shopaholic series has released her first novel for teens. Audrey stays at home all of the time wearing dark glasses and unable to look into anyone’s eyes except for her four-year-old brother’s. After a horrible bullying incident, Audrey has had to put her life slowly back together. Now her therapist wants her to start making a documentary film about her family and also to get out of the house and meet people. But how can Audrey do that when just the sight of one of her older brother’s friends in the house is enough to send her running away? As Audrey makes slow progress with her anxiety disorder, her family is struggling too. Her mother is obsessed with getting her brother off of computer games even though he’s prepping for a gaming tournament. Her father is focused on his Blackberry and work all of the time. Audrey begins to realize the impact of her disorder on her family, but could she push herself to get better too quickly?
Firmly set in Britain, this book will appeal to Anglophile readers. Audrey’s anxiety disorder is shown with great humanity but also with humor. The book has a natural cadence to it, a pacing that is slow but steady and where readers will realize the progress that Audrey is making before she does. This natural feel works very well for a book about recovery and even when Audrey starts to push things too fast, the results feel organic and honest. I must also mention how well this also works for the romantic piece of the book. That too feels real and it makes the connection between the two characters all the more believable and lovely.
The characters here are particularly well done. From Audrey who is the voice of the novel and who is struggling to her entire family who all deal with the stress in their own way. Each person is unique and it is their mix of family warmth and striking out at one another that makes this book work so well. Filled with humor, the book is very funny making it one of the lightest and easiest to read books about anxiety that I’ve ever read. Teens who enjoy books about issues will be surprised to see how well a lighter tone works when dealing with very serious issues.
Refreshing and funny this book will delight teen readers who will hope that Audrey will return for another book. Appropriate for ages 13-15.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Delacorte Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
The Skunk by Mac Barnett, illustrations by Patrick McDonnell
When a man wearing a tuxedo leaves his home, a skunk is sitting on his doorstep. The man slowly backs away and heads off. But the skunk seems to follow him. Even when he hops into a taxi, the skunk hops into another one and follows him closely. The man escapes to the opera, sure that the skunk will not be able to get in, but suddenly the skunk is right next to him, sitting on a woman’s head. The skunk continues to pursue him across a cemetery and even around and around on a ferris wheel. Finally the man escapes down into the sewers. He finds himself a new house and leaves his old life behind. But even as he celebrates with his new friends, he starts to think about the skunk and why the skunk was following him. It’s up to him to figure it out. Maybe the skunk won’t even notice the man following him!
Barnett and McDonnell are an incredible pairing in this picture book. They feed off of one another, each lifting the other up. Barnett’s writing is just as quirky as ever, creating a zingy dynamic between the two characters of the man and skunk. Full of dry humor, the book has a deadpan quality that makes it ideal for sharing aloud with children. The twist at the end of the man searching for the skunk is really well done and sure to get hoots of laughter. Expect children to read this at different levels and see different things in the story, all the while with them having an equally great time.
McDonnell channels the feel of vintage comics in his illustrations. Done with limited colors of only black, white and red, the illustrations change to full color when the man creates his new and different life only to change back when he returns to his original place. Both the man and the skunk convey emotions and a sense of jaunty determination.
A great read aloud pick, this picture book is one of the best of the year. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
This is a picture book version of the life of Robert Miller, known to law enforcement as Count Victor Lustig, who was one of the greatest con artists of all time. During the early 1900s, Lustig traveled the world doing one con after another. He sailed on ocean liners and befriended wealthy travelers beating them at cards just before they reached their destination. He even conned the legendary Al Capone, pretending to try to double his money while all the time just giving Capone his same money back to appear honest. It worked! His largest con of all time was trying to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal. Amazingly, he did that twice! This incredible story makes for riveting reading and is filled with historical information so young readers will understand concepts like Prohibition.
Pizzoli writes the story of Lustig with great flourish, reveling in the amazing cons that this one man managed to pull off. Pizzoli is known for his simple and clever picture books for younger readers, and in this nonfiction picture book he shows his skills in writing for elementary-aged children. This biography is funny and fascinating, a combination that will have children enthusiastically turning the pages. His writing is filled with the details that make the cons more interesting and using sidebars, he makes sure that children understand the historical context of these cons and how Lustig got away with so much for so long.
Pizzoli’s illustrations add to the appeal. Lustig is shown with only a fingerprint for a head, keeping him a complete enigma throughout the book. At the same time, this bowler-hatted man stands out from the others. The illustrations are an intriguing mix of photographs and drawings, hearkening back to black-and-white photographs even while offering a modern look too.
An impressively compelling subject and cool illustrations combine into a book that is impossible to put down. Appropriate for ages 7-11.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking Books for Young Readers.
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
Trent can’t manage to move on from last year when a tragic accident ended with another boy dead. Trent lost not only all of his friends because of it but also finds himself unable to play the sports he loved, like baseball. At the same time, Trent is unable to control his anger, even if he puts his most disturbing thoughts down on paper in drawings. It helps a bit, but he continues to have problems getting angry at everything and everyone. It all just proves that he is entirely the messed up kid that everyone things he is already. Fallon enters Trent’s live as they head to middle school. She is a girl who loves baseball movies, has a similar sense of humor, and has clearly also survived a tragedy which left her with a scarred face. Fallon becomes Trent’s closest friend, but one burst of anger may end that too, taking away the only good thing he has left.
Graff does such a beautiful job in this middle grade novel. She creates in Trent a truly complex character, one that readers will need time to understand. Trent is at his heart a boy dealing with death and loss and his own role in it, including showing a lot of self-hatred. So in that way, he is an entirely understandable character, one that is sympathetic. Then there is the angry Trent, who loses control, says horrible things, and lashes out. That part of his personality is hard to like, making him at times a character who is far from heroic. At the same time, this is the same person, likable one moment and the next impossible to like at all.
Graff captures the loss of control that comes with flashing red anger, the words that flow out of control, and the way that it feels in the body. Readers will completely understand those zings of anger and the shame that follows if you lash out. Graff also shows a path forward from being isolated and angry, a way to find people to help you even if you have lashed out at them earlier. It is a powerful story of redemption, of learning to return to who you really are, and of self forgiveness.
Beautifully written, this book is an amazing look at powerful emotions and the equal power of watering plants, breathing deeply and playing baseball. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel Books.
Galleycat has the news that a children’s book has won the 2015 Australian Book Industry Awards. The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton won the overall Book of the Year award as well as the Book of the Year for Younger Children. The book is the fourth in the Treehouse series that combines silly illustrations and funny antics into zany comedy for young readers.
Here are the winners of the other 2015 children’s book awards:
BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR OLDER CHILDREN
Withering-by-Sea by Judith Russell
SMALL PUBLISHER’S CHILDREN’S BOOK OF THE YEAR
Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen