The American Association for the Advancement of Science and Subaru presented the winners of the 2016 prizes for Excellence in Science Books. The prizes “recognize recently published works that are scientifically sound and foster an understanding and appreciation of science in readers of all ages.”
Here are the winners:
CHILDREN’S SCIENCE PICTURE BOOK
MIDDLE GRADES SCIENCE BOOK
The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk by Sy Montgomery
YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE BOOK
How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction by Beth Shapiro
HANDS-ON SCIENCE BOOK
A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens by Melissa Caughey
This nonfiction picture book invites young readers to explore the world of bioluminescence. Set against black backgrounds these glowing creatures pop on the page. The book not only shows different organisms that glow, but also explains why they glow too. Children will learn the terms for the chemicals that allow the light to be created and also see that there are some creatures who glow but no one knows quite why. Filled with dazzling photographs, this is a book that will fly off the shelves of public libraries as kids are hooked by the fish on the cover.
Beck has the book written at two levels. The larger font offers a less specific look at the organisms themselves and therefore a simpler experience. The smaller font allows readers to learn more about each creature. More information on each is also found at the end of the book where size, Latin name, and the depth they live at is given for each. This is a book that is engaging and fascinating. The text is restrained and focused, offering enough information to appeal but never standing in the way of the dazzling creatures themselves.
The photographs in the book are exceptional. Each shows the light of the creature against a black background, allowing that creature attention by the reader. The photos were taken by several different photographers, yet they make for a cohesive book thanks to their similar nature and the beauty they depict. I particularly enjoyed the firefly photo and the glowing shoreline.
An awesome book that is sure to appeal to children who enjoy nature and bizarre creatures, this is a winning science book for public libraries. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from HMH Books for Young Readers.
Frances Hardinge has won not only the 2015 Costa Children’s Book Award, but has now won the overall award for The Lie Tree. Hers is the first children’s book to win the overall award since 2001 when Philip Pullman won it for The Amber Spyglass.
Check out the awesome article in The Telegraph to learn more about Hardinge and her novel that I can’t wait to get my hands on!
This picture book has been cancelled. The crayons in the story are saddened that the picture book won’t be happening. After all, they have costumes and were going to tell an amazing story. But now that someone is actually reading the cancelled story, they may as well tell the reader exactly why the picture book has ended. It is all because of the horrible scribble that suddenly interrupted the story. They tried to clean the page, but the scribble just got larger and larger. It was out of control and everyone was so disturbed by it that they forgot to tell Frankencrayon that something was wrong. So when the crayons playing him entered on Page 22, they ran right into the scribble. It would take some quick thinking and fast action to save the story.
Hall has such a playful approach to picture books that one never quite knows what sort of story they are heading into. This book is great fun from the set up of the “cancellation” to the crayons in costumes. It is clever and humorous with exactly the sort of humor that preschoolers adore. Children will not be scared by anything here thanks to the use of crayons and the horror being a scribble on the page. This one reads aloud beautifully, filled with voices of the pencil, the crayons, and even one evil scribbler.
The cut paper collage pops on each page, the crayons bright with their colors and delightful in their different sizes after clearly having been merrily colored with for some time. The pointy pencil too somehow has its own personality. The solution that Frankencrayon comes up with is exactly what children would think of and adds to the visual appeal of the book.
This funny picture book is perfect to share aloud with a group of preschoolers who may love to do their own transformations of scribbles into something more friendly. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.
Friday has long known the power of being invisible to everyone else. Her parents rarely pay any attention to her and she got herself moved from kindergarten to first grade without anyone noticing. When she solves a bank robbery, the award money lets her pay tuition to Highcrest Academy, a very exclusive private school. Friday hopes to continue to be invisible, but her brown sweaters and jeans don’t serve as camouflage among the trendy and expensive clothes. Anyway, Friday soon discovers that what Highcrest Academy needs is a detective since there is crime everywhere! As Friday steps into that role, she tries to solve a series of cases from missing homework to who exactly is the yeti in the swamp. This funny and clever book is the first in a new series that is sure to delight.
Friday is a great female protagonist. She is highly intelligent and never apologizes for it. She is also socially awkward but manages to find a great friend at school, another girl who is her perfect foil, a daydreamer who can read emotions well. Friday has no interest in being popular, another breath of fresh air. The unlikely pair make a great team in solving mysteries and are joined by others including a doltish brother who does what he is told very well and a principal who also needs Friday’s help.
The entire book is smart and humorous. Friday solves crimes in ways that make sense and the crimes themselves are small enough to fit into a middle school campus but large enough to be fascinating. While there is some bullying, many of the boarding school tropes of mean girls are minimized in favor of the mysteries themselves. The closed-in setting of the boarding school is used to great effect as the suspects must often be right in the vicinity.
A dazzling new series, this book has tons of appeal for mystery fans and features a unique new protagonist to love. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Roaring Brook Press and Edelweiss.
My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome (InfoSoup)
Starting from his birth through his rise to Artistic Director at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, this picture book celebrates Robert Battle’s life. Born with bowed legs, he was taken in by his aunt and uncle and then raised by his cousin Dessie. It was with Dessie that he discovered a love of music and words. He sang in the church choir and after he got his leg braces off, he began to take karate. At age 13, he started dance late in life for a dancer. Soon Robert was noticed by his high school dance instructor and then auditioned for The New World School of Arts. As he grew, he got to see the Alvin Ailey dance troupe perform and was awed by them. Moving to New York City to attend Julliard, his dancing reached another level and progressively he moved to work with Alvin Ailey. This story of talent and determination celebrates dance and the power it has to communicate.
The prose by Cline-Ransome is spry and fast moving. She shows the importance of family in Robert’s upbringing, even if his mother was not in the picture. The theme of the warmth of family plays throughout the book, from the early pages to the very end where Robert Battle is speaking to the Alvin Ailey audience. The author makes sure to not only talk about the facts of Battle’s life but also shows how his early disability and his willingness to work exceedingly hard played into his later success.
Ransome has done the illustrations in this picture book biography in pastels. The rich colors are gorgeous on the page. He uses them to show the richness of Battle’s life and then when the book shows the movement of dance, he uses them to create the moves from one position to another fluidly across the page in a rainbow of sketches.
A lovely biography on a contemporary figure in American and African-American dance, this picture book is rich and powerful. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Henry is a very busy toddler who just can’t get enough of all he loves in life. He wants to be lifted up high more, have his favorite song sung more than ten times, play even more games with his sister and be pulled back and forth by his brother even more. As bedtime nears, Henry is in his pajamas but still wide awake. His mother promises two bedtime books, but reads four. Then, shh, Henry is fast asleep. It’s his mother who wants a little more time with Henry at the end.
Ashman uses rhyme to great effect here. Her stanzas feel free and unbound by structure so the rhyming really works well. Read aloud, the rhymes fall into place with Henry himself filling in many of the rhymes with demands for “more” and “again!” Ashman captures the life of a toddler and a family who clearly adores him. Though Henry’s demands may sound harsh in my description, they are done with constant joy and never petulance so the tone of the book is positive throughout.
Hughes’ illustrations show a multiracial family with a grandmother too. The family includes pets and the entire book is filled with warmth and a cheery love. Henry’s own personality is captured in the illustrations with their bright colors and details.
Just right for toddlers, this picture book will be enjoyed by little ones who area also spending their days merrily demanding even more from their families. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Penguin Random House.
The Mystery Writers of American have chosen the nominees for the 2016 Edgar Awards. Winners will be announced on April 28. Below are the nominees in the youth categories:
Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught
BEST YOUNG ADULT
Ask the Dark by Henry Turner