The NAACP Image Awards include literary categories with one award specifically focused on Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens. Here are the nominees, a nice mix of fiction and nonfiction:
Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr’s Assassin by James L. Swanson
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (9780062691330)
Dani is the best Primera student in her class. As she nears graduation, she knows she will be paired with one of the most powerful men in society along with a Secunda. The Primera helps her husband with business and politics while the Secunda bears and raises their children. Dani has worn a mask for her entire time at school, living under an assumed identity in order to have a life different from her parents who live in poverty near the border of the wall. When her papers are about to be inspected, she is rescued by a man who brings her new ones. But when Dani is asked to spy on her new husband, she realizes she must start to make choices about what world she wants to live in. As time goes by, Dani gets closer with Carmen, the Secunda in their trio. Carmen had bullied Dani at school, but as tensions rise and arrests are made, Dani must find someone to trust. Her heart believes she can trust Carmen, but is that just desire talking?
Mejia has created a magnificent look at our modern society through the lens of a fantasy world. The world has a large wall that marks the border. There is strong rhetoric by the ruling class that those on the other side of the wall are less than human. Beautifully, she uses Latinx elements to create a deep and rich world in which her characters live in constant danger. Dani and the reader have no idea who to trust or who is working with the rebels. The use of the marriage of one man to two women adds a creepy note to the book and says even more about the value of women in a society and the extent of the privilege at play.
Dani is a character I loved from the very first pages. She is immensely flawed in ways that make sense given her traumatic experiences and the secrets she must keep. She remains emotionally connected with her family, thinking about them often even as she keeps a placid face all the time. As she struggles with feeling desire for Carmen, it is not about Carmen being a woman but about her training as a Primera. Their connection is an example of how Mejia takes trust and twists it, making for a book that is a wild and wonderful ride.
Latinx, LGBTQ love, political intrigue, and a vivid fantasy world come together to make an impressive teen read. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.
The winners of the 2019 Lollies (Laugh Out Loud) Book Awards have been announced. The award celebrates the funniest children’s books. The winners are selected from a shortlist and voted on by children in the UK.
BEST PICTURE BOOK
Mr. Bunny’s Chocolate Factory by Elys Dolan
BEST 6-8s BOOK
The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of a Pig by Emer Stamp
BEST 9-13s BOOK
Tom Gates: Epic Adventure (Kind Of) by Liz Pichon
The Gay History of America’s Classic Children’s Books
Loving the winners in the 2018 categories, announced just today!
Tomi Ungerer, puckish artist and award-winning children’s writer, dies at 87
14 Stunning Illustrations That Perfectly Capture the Introvert’s Love of Books
Andover Public Library will keep transgender children’s books in the kids section
Are you promoting a healthy community at your library? Check out the resources in the Health Literacy Toolkit. Registration required, but the tools are free.
Eau Claire library adding staffer to help patrons dealing with poverty, homelessness
Library Systems Embracing Their New Roles As Social Service Hubs
Stop Saying Books Are Dead. They’re More Alive Than Ever
US Public Schools Have Lost Nearly 20% of Their Librarians… https://t.co/L0MxtbXv4b
Recap: Interviewing Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of Hey, Kiddo, 2019 Nonfiction Award Finalist – The Hub
10 2019 Bisexual YA Books to Put on Your TBR Right Now
These Books Are Making It Possible To See All Kinds Of Love Stories In Literature
Why is Young Adult fiction still so afraid of gay sex?
How Do I Love Thee? by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (9780062394446)
Based on the famous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this picture book takes the iconic first lines of that poem and creates something new. “How do I love thee, let me count the ways…” The book shows three friends experiencing each of the ways that love can feel. It can be deep as the ocean, soft like sunlight. It can be quiet or loud, daylight or night time. It can happen in all of the seasons or any time of day.
The text here has a rich echo of the poem it is inspired by, “Sonnet 43.” That poem is also shared at the end of the book, so young readers can hear the original in all of its beauty. This look at love is rich and varied, showing that love can be between friends or family and doesn’t have to be romantic. The illustrations are filled with whimsy, moving from bright light to deep night. The friends in them play together merrily, connect quietly and simply enjoy time with one another.
A lovely book of love. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi, illustrated by Kristyna Litten (9780062574206)
Take a jaunty trip with this picture book that looks at all sorts of animals and vehicles going on grand journeys. The book begins with cows heading to the moon in a rocket ship with the promise that “I will love you till the cows come home.” Then the verse moves on to yaks who eat grass and then take off in a fire truck. The refrain changes to match the yaks and work with the rhyme. The book progresses to sheep setting sail, wolves returning, frogs riding past, deer dancing, geese flapping down, and ants marching in. Until finally, all of the animals end up fast asleep on the final pages, exhausted from their adventures.
What could have been a saccharine rhyming tale turns out to be an active picture book filled with plenty of giggles, lots of animals and all sorts of vehicles. The rhymes are jaunty and fun without being sing-songy. The message of love is present in each of the stories but doesn’t overwhelm the dynamic fun happening on the page.
The illustrations are friendly with animals that smile and often look directly out at the reader. They are also filled with action and activity, with leaping frogs, flying geese, zooming rockets, racing trucks and much more.
A fast-moving and funny picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
My Heart by Corinna Luyken (9780735227934)
The author of The Book of Mistakes returns with another amazing picture book. This time she focuses on empathy and self-awareness as she speaks about the power of your heart. The heart here can be open or closed, small and hidden or ready to grow. It can separate you from others or invite them inside. It can break but also be mended as well. The power of the heart is for its owner to decide.
Written in rhyme that swirls, this picture book invites readers to explore their own hearts. It looks through a poetic lens at the dark side of life, such as isolation, loneliness, fear and anger. These elements are balanced with a strong feeling of hope throughout the book, a tone of mending, care and resilience. This is a book that can start conversations about negative emotions as well as positive ones.
The art carries the simple verse forward. Done in a beautifully limited color palette, this picture book has gray, black and yellow. The yellow is used as sunlight, glimmers of heart on dark pages. It goes from tiny touches of yellow to drowning the page in its light. The illustrations are delicate and show the emotions in the text through images very successfully.
This is one heartfelt picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle (9781408896884)
Fionn has never visited his grandfather on Arranmore Island. His mother left and never returned after his father died in a storm. So Fionn is surprised to find that his grandfather is seen as a very important man on the island. He is the Storm Keeper and it is his job to capture memories and weather in candles that are then released when lit. As Fionn learns of the magic of the island itself, he discovers that another boy from a different island family is planning to use up the single wish given to their entire generation. Now Fionn must race him to find the hidden sea cave and make a wish that could save his family. Fionn grows more and more connected to the island as he spends time and explores, but something dark is also reaching out to him, something that wants Fionn’s very soul.
Doyle weaves a complex and intricate tale in this book for middle-grade readers. The island setting of the book is truly a character in the tale since the island is aware and able to control certain things. The island is rough and rugged, a place filled with opportunities, magic and danger. Fionn is connected to the island in a deep way that is revealed throughout the book. Doyle’s writing is fresh and honest. She gives Fionn and the reader a chance to explore for themselves and discover the layers of magic on Arranmore as the story progresses. There is a lot going on in this book with a magical island, a historic mage battle, family problems, dementia, depression and more. But it written in a way that allows readers to steadily take on the information. The book is a complete world rather than a narrow peek inside.
Fionn is a strongly-written character as is his grandfather. Those two are the most robustly drawn characters in the novel. Fionn is a younger sibling, tormented by his older sister most of the time. He is excluded from being with the others his age and spends much of his time alone with his grandfather or out on the island. His tie to his dead father is a major theme, since the islanders know he looks just like him. Fionn’s grandfather is a man steeped in magic. His candles surround him filled with memories even as his own mind fails him. He exudes warmth and charm, working to make sure the next Storm Keeper will succeed against the darkness that is coming. Their relationship is bittersweet, one of lost opportunities with Fionn’s father and a sense of impending loss due to the grandfather’s worsening memory.
Unique and dynamic, this novel is full of magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury.
I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon by Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (9781512449143)
When Tantoh was young, he visited his grandmother’s farm and tried to plant onions on his own. They shriveled and never grew, but it inspired him to learn more about all sorts of things. As a teen, his father got him his how shovel and gardening supplies even though his father was ill. Tantoh is called Farmer by his classmates and takes pride in it, even writing it on his school uniform. His brother encourages him not to be a farmer, wanting him to get a good job in an office with high scores on his exam. But Tantoh is drawn to be a farmer and deliberately fails his exams. He starts working on the land and someone pays for him to go to college and study agriculture. At college, Tantoh contracts typhoid and it takes seven years for him to fully recover. This shows him the value of clean water. He goes to the United States to study, returning to Cameroon to build gardens that will hold water in the soil and a catchment to capture spring water for a village. One project leads to another and now Farmer Tantoh has many young farmers wanting to learn from him.
This nonfiction picture book offers a close and personal look at an environmental hero who changed the face of Cameroon and brought water conservation and clean drinking water to his country. Farmer was clearly pressured as a young man not to follow his dreams of being a farmer, so this book looks at following one’s dreams and having the ability to live the life you wish to lead. The book also looks at barriers to his success such as his battle with typhoid, which also serves to speak to his strength, courage and resilience.
The illustrations in the book are done in mixed media with paper collage, paint, pen and pencil. The images range from the hills of Cameroon to images of Tantoh as a child, student and adult. The pictures are filled with bright colors, strong shapes and vibrant design.
A look at a man who changed his country by following his dream. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press.