Gordon and Tapir by Sebastian Meschenmoser (InfoSoup)
Gordon is a very tidy penguin who lives with a very untidy tapir. The two of them simply can’t get along together. Tapir takes all of the toilet paper to make a hammock in his room and a hat to go with it. He doesn’t do the dishes and the living room has started to look like a jungle. Tapir has complaints about Gordon too. Gordon is too orderly and won’t let Tapir join his club of penguins. Finally Gordon has had enough, particularly when Tapir’s friend moves in and lives in the bathroom. So Gordon moves out. Tapir misses him dreadfully, but Gordon soon reaches out and the two discover that sometimes friendships work best when you don’t share the same space.
Shortlisted for the German Children’s Book of the Year, this picture book is entirely delightful. A large part of that comes from the skillful mix of anthropomorphic animals but also keeping them very realistic as well. These are real-feeling animals who just happen to have couches, dishes and bathrooms. The art is beautifully and detailed, allowing the text to fade into the background for much of the book. My favorite pages are actually free of text as the two of them struggle to make living together work.
The use of the odd-couple dynamics in the book doesn’t feel stale at all and is further freshened by the unique animals chosen as the protagonists. Young readers will want to discover more about Tapirs even if they are slovenly. The book has a lovely story arc that gives a satisfying ending to the book, one that young readers will appreciate as they navigate their own friendships whether they are the tidy or messy one.
A clever look at friendships that gives new life to an old trope. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
Children’s Lit Community Launches Auction to Help Refugees in Europe
Fresh Graphic Novel Picks – ALSC Blog
How Amazon Kindle Unlimited Scammers Wring Big Money From Phony Books
Beyond books: Eight things you may not know about libraries
Boulder Public Library aims to empower parents with new early literacy app
Community celebrates Billings Public Library’s recent awards
In praise of the Library of Congress
Is your local library a bestseller? — Mass. circulation rates tell an interesting tale – The Boston Globe
L.A. Public Library unveils new card designed by Shepard Fairey
Lending a Library a Hand in Colorado
Library director reflects on dramatic changes as retirement draws near
The once and future library
Open libraries: Self service libraries – The Danish way.
The Rise of Pirate Libraries
Toronto library workers say they’re heading for strike | Toronto Star
Weeding the Worst Library Books – The New Yorker
The best starter graphic novels for YA readers
Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead (InfoSoup)
Stead captures a day in search of a story to write. He takes a walk with his dog named Wednesday since it’s a sunny day. They greet Frank, a turtle who lives near the bridge. They wave to Barbara a neighbor who owns the home where the author used to live and where he dropped blue paint in the shape of a horse. Ducks float by. Trains rush past. They walk through town and listen to the birds and watch the blue sky. Wednesday chases a squirrel back to Barbara’s house where they have coffee together. And soon a story has been found.
This is a treasure of a picture book. It offers a glimpse into the writing process, into the importance of getting outside and taking a walk. It shows how little things turn into stories and become big ideas. It also shows the author as a product of his personal landscape, whether that is filled with a story based firmly in reality like this one or one that is more fantastical or whimsical.
Stead’s illustrations are a rich mix of media. There are photographs of Wednesday combined with collage, painting and printed words. Some of the paintings have gorgeous textures that remind me of stencils or the roughness of stamping. The entire book sings with invention and inspiration.
A perfect leaping off point for young writers, this book shows that not only can any idea become a story but ideas can become great picture books too. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Science Daily has information about a study of the impact of tablets loaded with literacy apps on children. For the last four years, MIT, Tufts University and Georgia State University have been studying whether tablet computers with literacy apps could improve reading preparedness of young children living in economically disadvantaged communities.
They did three trials of the tablets: one in two rural Ethiopian villages with no schools and no written culture, one in a suburban South African school with a student-teacher ratio of 60 to 1, and one in a rural school in the United States.Students are given the tablets with no coaching from adults, because the plan is to scale this up to a larger level. There was no issue with children using the tablets and most had explored all of the apps by the end of the first day.
In the South African trial, rising second graders who had been issued tablets the year before were able to sound out four times as many words as those who hadn’t, and in the U.S. trial, which involved only 4-year-olds and lasted only four months, half-day preschool students were able to supply the sounds corresponding to nearly six times as many letters as they had been before the trial.
New trials are being run now in Uganda, Bangladesh, India and the US. A total of 2000 children have been part of the study so far.
This is certainly something for libraries and teachers to keep an eye on!
Booked by Kwame Alexander (InfoSoup)
In his follow up to the Newbery-Award-winning The Crossover, Alexander once again blends sports and poetry. Nick loves soccer and is really good at it too. Nick and his best friend are on opposing teams in an upcoming soccer cup and Nick is also getting ready to ask out April, a girl he can’t stop thinking about. Everything is going well except for his father who insists that Nick read the dictionary of large words that he personally created. That’s when Nick finds out that his mother is moving away for a job working with horses, leaving Nick with his father, not a great combination. Nick will have to rely on soccer and his best friend to get him through this rough patch. Because there is more tough road to come.
Alexander is quite simply amazing. He writes verse that is both poetic and beautiful but also accessible and welcoming to young teens who may be far more interested in kicking a ball than reading a book, especially a book of poetry. Alexander also demonstrates throughout the book the power of words both in his poetry itself and through the story line, where Nick is clearly smart and uses words from his father’s collection without even thinking about it. Nicely, definitions are provided in footnotes.
Nick is a protagonist who is easy to relate to. He has several things on his mind: soccer, girls and gaming. It is life though that pulls him outside of those interests and broadens his scope. His father does this in a clumsy way, forcing Nick to learn words. A school librarian also helps, getting books that Nick will clearly love directly into his hands. So as much as this is a book about a smart young teen boy, it is also a book about the power of having adults who care in your life.
A worthy follow-up to his first verse novel, this book is just as beautifully written. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Reviewed from library copy.
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (InfoSoup)
So I admit that I waited for spring to actually come to Wisconsin before I reviewed this and that means that even now I am being optimistic that it has finally arrived even though it was in the 30s here overnight. But even if you are almost headed into summer, this is a great book to share in early, mid and late spring. Written at a level just right for toddlers, this book shares the transformation that spring bring us. Bare trees become covered in blossoms and leaves. Snowmen disappear. Puddles appear. Grass turns from brown to green (with flowers). Gardens grow and soon there is green everywhere, breezes, robins and worms.
Henkes’ writing is made to share aloud with small children. His verse doesn’t rhyme but it has a great natural rhythm to it that makes the book almost sing. The joy here is in the exploration of the changing season, one that brings a certain beauty with it, a freshness. Henkes captures the turning of the season, the aspects of early spring all the way through to almost-summer and he does it in a way that shows small children what they can see and experience themselves.
Dronzek’s illustrations are big and bright and simple. She moves from the lighter colors of early spring through to the bold robustness of near summer. The images change too, moving from small images surrounded by white to double-page spreads that run right to the edge of the pages and seem to spill over with the bounty of late spring.
A gorgeous book for the smallest of children, this is a triumphant toddler look at spring. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins Publishers.
Gorgeous new trailer for A Monster Calls:
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (InfoSoup)
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania in 1943, Annabelle lives a quiet life where she hopes for adventure. She attends a one-room schoolhouse with her two younger brothers, walking there from their family farm each day. That quiet life changes when Betty Glengarry arrives at school. She immediately targets Annabelle, demanding payments in exchange for not hurting Annabelle and her brothers, killing a bird without remorse. Annabelle does not want to worry her family with her troubles, so she keeps them to herself. Soon though things escalate with her youngest brother running into a sharpened wire along the path. After that, Annabelle’s best friend is maimed with a rock that Annabelle knows was thrown by Betty. Betty though blames Toby, a reclusive man who walks the paths all day long with guns slung on his back. Toby has been nothing but kind to Annabelle and her family, but he is considered strange by many. When Betty disappears soon after making the allegation, Annabelle decides that she must rescue Toby from the new accusations being made.
Wolk has created a rich and beautiful world for Annabelle to live in. The hills and valleys of the Pennsylvanian countryside offer not only a rich farming world but also a place where secrets can hide and dangers lurk. The setting of Wolf Hollow itself with its history of trapping wolves in pits is a striking analogy for what happens in the novel. Annabelle herself is brave and clever, a girl who is bullied awfully and then has the power placed in her hands to make a difference for someone she cares about.
This book focuses on the courage it takes to stand up for what is right, for what one knows deep down to be true. It is a book that speaks to all of those who are strange among us and the way that rumors and accusations tend to target them. It is also about the power a child can have in an adult world, the difference one person can make. It is also a book that is dark and complicated: one where girls disappear, where Germans are not welcome, and where hate is fast to develop.
This is a complex and layered novel that is a deep and compelling read focusing on bullying and the impact of war. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dutton Books for Young Readers