2019 Irma Black Award Semi-Finalists

The Center for Children’s Literature at the Bank Street College of Education has announced the semi-finalists for the 2019 Irma Black Award. The award is given annually to “an outstanding book for young children—a book in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing and enlarging on the other to produce a singular whole.” Here are the semi-finalists:

Stumpkin Cover Sun! One in a Billion (Our Universe #2) Cover

Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Sun! One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins


Review: I Am Small by Qin Leng

I Am Small by Qin Leng

I Am Small by Qin Leng (9781525301155)

Mimi is very small for her age. She’s the shortest in her class at school and the shortest in her family too. Mimi thinks about all of the problems with being the shortest, like viewing pastries in the bakery or being unable to write higher on the blackboard. Her friends see it differently. They point out that she wins at hide-and-seek, that she gets to be first in line at lunch and gets the biggest piece of cake. At home there are advantages too. Mimi can fit between Mom and Dad in their bed, she can swim in the bathtub, and she can even ride on the back of their dog! So when someone even small than Mimi joins the family, Mimi knows just what to say.

Leng has illustrated many several books for children and this is her first time authoring a book. She has created an ode to the challenges and beauty of being small that children on the small side will easily relate to. As the book progresses, Mimi’s tone about her size changes to a much more positive one, just in time for her new little brother to appear. There is a focus on self-acceptance in this picture book that will shine no matter what your size.

Leng’s illustrations are whimsical and fresh. In Mimi, she has created a wonderfully androgynous little girl grappling with her size. Leng populates her pages with small touches and details that bring her scenes to life. Just the feel of characters clothing and the play of movement on the page are special.

A book about self-esteem that proves that size doesn’t matter. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Children’s Book Award Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2019 Children’s Book Award in the UK has been announced. The award is done in two stages with the Top 50 voted on by Federation Children’s Book Group members to create a Top Ten List. The books in the top ten are then voted on by children across the UK. Here is the Top Ten:


Mixed: A Colorful Story The Last Chip

Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie

The Wondrous Dinosaurium What Do You Do If Your House Is a Zoo?

The Wondrous Dinosaurium by John Condon, illustrated by Steve Brown

What Do You Do If Your House Is a Zoo? by John Kelly, illustrated by Steph Laberis



Funny Kid Stand Up (Funny Kid, #2) Mr Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets: Book 2

Funny Kid Stand Up by Matt Stanton

Mr. Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets by Alex T. Smith

The Dog Who Lost His Bark

The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer



Armistice Runner The Light Jar

Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

The Storm Keeper's Island (Storm Keeper, #1)

The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

Review: Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan (9781547600083)

Even though they attend a high school focused on social justice, best friends Chelsea and Jasmine are sick and tired of the way that women are treated there. The two decide to start a Women’s Rights Club that focuses on girls, race, and speaking out. They convince a teacher to be their advisor and are given a school club blog to post to. They post all sorts of things online. Chelsea is a poet who loves to perform in front of audiences. Jasmine writes essays and short pieces on intersectionality and being a black girl of size. Their club starts getting attention both in and outside of their school. But the principal has some issues with their approach and the response of other students to their message. When the club is shut down, the two friends continue to raise their voices together.

Watson and Hagan have created an incredible feminist book for teens. They have incorporated the names and stories of feminists whose writing is worth checking out too, so young people inspired by this book can look further and learn more. The writing is exceptional, particularly the poetry and essays attributed to the two main characters. They cry out for justice on so many fronts that it is entirely inspiring to read.

The authors created two inspiring young women. There is Jasmine, who is grappling with being a large black girl and the constant microaggressions she faces for both her race and size. Her father is dying of cancer while she may be falling for her best male friend. Chelsea is a white girl who stands up for others, calls out for justice, but also makes big mistakes along the way. She is struggling with being a feminist but also being attracted to a boy who is paying attention to her while dating another girl officially. The two grapple with the ideals they hold dear and not being able to attain them, allowing readers to see two human teens doing their best.

Powerful and engaging, this feminist read is written with strength and conviction. Appropriate for ages 12-18.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

Review: A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey

A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey

A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song (9781452167916)

In his classroom, Henry is looking to make a new friend. It can’t be the class pet, because Gilly the fish can’t play on the swings. It can’t be his teacher. As Henry considers different children in his class, he realizes that some of them are too colorful even when you try to do something nice for them. Others don’t listen very well, like a friend would. Other kids break the rules or play with worms. Henry found himself watching Gilly in her fishbowl. Katie is watching Gilly too. Henry thinks about Katie. The two play blocks together quietly and Katie listens to Henry and he listens to her. They play together but each in their own way. It’s just right.

Bailey has written a captivating story about a boy with particular needs and wants in a friend. Henry has strong opinions about friends, ones that make him angry when they are dismissed. When Henry gets too frustrated he ends up in a bit of trouble at school. It is great to see a book embrace the deep emotions of children and not label any of them as wrong. Henry doesn’t have to change at all to find a friend, he just needs some patience.

Song’s illustrations are simple and warm. They depict a diverse classroom of children, all possible friends for Henry to consider. Done in ink and watercolor, they show everyone’s emotions throughout the day very clearly through body language and facial expressions.

A lovely look at the emotions of finding a friend. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.

Review: Good Morning, Snowplow! by Deborah Bruss

Good Morning Snowplow by Deborah Bruss

Good Morning, Snowplow! by Deborah Bruss, illlustrated by Lou Rancher and Steve Johnson (9781338089493)

When the snow starts to fall, a snowplow driver and his dog head out into the night to clear the roads. They do safety checks and get the hopper filled with salt and sand. Then they are off into the dark to clear the snow from the roads. Giant drifts are formed as they plow past while branches grow heavy with snow. When a car goes by too fast and ends up in the ditch, the plow calls dispatch for a tow for them. At the railroad tracks, the plow driver also stops, stepping out of the cab of his truck into into the hush of the night. The train goes by, creating a cloud of white. The driver heads home just as others start to wake and falls asleep in bed as the sun rises.

Bruss captures the quiet beauty of a snowstorm as she tells about the night work of clearing the roads. She writes with a poetic touch, creating dramatic moments in the story like the train going past and the car skidding into the ditch, but also embracing the silent work of the plow and the hush of the storm.

The illustrations are wonderful, offering looks at the big truck that will appeal to youngsters who love heavy machinery but also beautifully capturing the storm. One double-spread in particular has just the right light as the truck goes through town. Anyone living in a northern state will recognize that light and the quiet moment before the plow comes through.

Ideal for winter reading, curl up with this one before being plowed out yourself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Scholastic.

2019 Children’s & Teen Choice Book Awards

The finalists for the 2019 Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards have been announced by the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader. These are the only national book awards entirely voted on by children and teens. Young readers can place their votes starting on March 1st. Here are the finalists in each category, many of which will be surprising:


Day at the Beach Grow Up, David!

Day at the Beach by Tom Booth

Grow Up, David! by David Shannon

I say OOH You say AAH Julián Is a Mermaid

I Say Ooh You Say Aah by John Kane

Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

There’s a Dragon in Your Book

There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Greg Abbott


3rd to 4th GRADE

Back to the Future Down by the River: A Family Fly Fishing Story

Back to the Future by Jason Rekulak, illustrated by Kim Smith

Down by the River by Andrew Weiner, illustrated by April Chu

The Mushroom Fan Club Safari Pug (The Adventures of Pug)

The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel

Safari Pug by Laura James, illustrated by Églantine Ceulemans

School People

School People by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Ellen Shih


5th to 6th GRADE

Be the Change!: Creative tips on how to #BeTheChange you want to see in the world Fakers: An Insider's Guide to Cons, Hoaxes, and Scams

Be the Change by Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle

Fakers: An Insider’s Guide to Cons, Hoaxes, and Scams by H.P. Wood, illustrated by David Clark

Ghost Boys Pizzasaurus Rex

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Pizzasaurus Rex by Justin Wagner and Warren Wucinich

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown



The Belles (The Belles #1) Furyborn (Empirium, #1)

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

The Poet X The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Wildcard (Warcross, #2)

Wildcard by Marie Lu

Review: The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu (9780062275097)

The author of The Real Boy and Breadcrumbs returns with a new marvelous read for middle graders. Lark and Iris are twins. It’s the thing that everyone notices about them. They are very different underneath their physical similarities. Iris is rational, protective and always willing to argue. Lark is dreamy, creative and sensitive. When the two girls are separated for the first time into different classrooms at school, Lark retreats into herself. She has several humiliating experiences that Iris can’t find a way to help with. Meanwhile, Iris finds herself being quieter without Lark to speak up for and has difficulty finding her own way. She is drawn to a strange new antiques shop and begins to spend time there reading old books that belonged to a mysterious “Alice.” The man in the shop is extremely odd, talking about magic and collections. Other odd things are happening as well with art disappearing around the city and crows gathering in the trees. When Iris finds herself in real danger, the mysteries begin to make horrible sense, but she isn’t sure that anyone will even care she is gone.

Ursu once again weaves an incredible tale of magic. This one is set in Minneapolis and Ursu beautifully shares elements of the northern Midwest and the Twin Cities in the story. The setting of anchors this tale in reality which works particularly well as the reveal of the magical part of the book is so gradual. The book is nearly impossible to summarize well or concisely because there are so many elements to the story. As you read though, it is a cohesive whole, a world that Ursu builds for the reader with real skill where the elements click together by the end of the book.

While the book is about both Lark and Iris, the focus is primarily on Iris, the more prickly and outspoken sister. Lark is seen through the lens of Iris’ concern for her and Lark’s opinion of her own role with her sister isn’t shared until towards the end of the book. That reveal is one of the most powerful elements of the book, demonstrating how Iris has not been seeing things clearly at all. The narrator voice is just as well done, creating a feeling of a tale within a tale, where magic is real all along.

A grand adventure of a book full of magic and girl power. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Walden Pond Press.



2019 Best Fiction for Young Adults

YALSA has announced their Best Fiction for Young Adults list for 2019, which selects the top fiction titles published for young adults in the past 16 months that are for ages 12-18. The committee also selects a Top Ten List, selected with input from teens:

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1) Darius the Great Is Not Okay

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) Foolish Hearts

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Frankie A Heart in a Body in the World

Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

A Heart in the Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Monday's Not Coming Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

The Poet X What If It's Us

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera