The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (9781524740740)
So many picture books about starting kindergarten focus on the stress and worries of the child. Here is a picture book that looks at a confident child who manages to start his time at school without stressing out. The little boy at the center of this book thinks of himself as a king and using at confidence to face his first day at school. He gets dressed himself, eats a big breakfast, and takes his royal carriage (the bus) to school. Once he is there, he holds his head high and smiles at everyone, just like his Mommy told him. He introduces himself to his new teacher and to the other children at his table. He likes his teacher, plays with the other kids, and has a great time. At the end of the day, he can’t wait to tell his parents about what happened and looks forward to the next day of school too.
This book is entirely refreshing in its approach to the first day of school. Barnes doesn’t just feature a confident young man but he also shows that the parents have been instrumental is getting this child to feel empowered. There is a focus too on joining a community of learners and being a good friend. The book is written in second person, which clearly invites readers to feel this confident themselves.
The illustrations are colorful with deep and bright backgrounds that show the different scenes. The class is made up of diverse children and exudes a wonderful inclusive warmth on the page. There is a sense of discovery about the wonders of school as the book continues.
One of the most positive books about kindergarten I’ve ever read. This one is a must buy! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.
A Normal Pig by K-Fai Steele (9780062748577)
Pip is a pig who loves to make art, cook with her family and dream about what she is going to be when she grows up. But then one day, a new kid at school teases her about the lunch she brought saying that it stinks. The new pig also doesn’t like Pip’s art projects either. They even ask if her mother is her babysitter, since they aren’t the same color. Pip is furious when she goes home and she demands that they make her a normal lunch. Instead, they travel as a family into the city to explore a bit. In the city, Pip hears all sorts of different languages being spoken. The pigs are all different colors and patterns. When Pip asks for normal food, she is told that the food isn’t weird at all. Pip feels a lot better when they get home. Her parents offer a normal lunch, but Pip decides to take her same one. At school, she is teased again but this time offers tastes to everyone and they like it!
Steele explores what it means to be different in a sea of pink pigs. She also looks at what being targeted by a bully feels like when you are a small child and how it can shake your confidence in yourself and your family. Pip’s desire to be more normal is something that children will be able to relate to. The look at an urban setting as a place where people with differences are celebrated is done with a clarity that is very welcome.
Steel’s art is crisp and colorful. She has created pigs of all different stripes and patterns as well as colors. Pip is the only polka-dotted pig in her class and her mother is the only black pig in the neighborhood. The strong patterns and clear differences will help young readers understand that everyone is unique and that differences are worth celebrating.
Just right for kids who aren’t normal, this book celebrates diversity. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright (9781624146916)
In South Africa on June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson was killed in what was supposed to be a peaceful student protest. The photograph of him being carried from the scene helped lead to the end of apartheid. The book is told from three perspectives: Hector’s, his older sister, and the photographer who took the image. A new law had gone into effect that all South Africans had to have half of their subjects taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white ruling class. The book shows Hector trying to remember to count in Afrikaans at home. On the fateful day, Hector gets ready for school but when he gets there, the students aren’t attending school but are protesting instead. He gets caught in the protest and then a bullet is fired. After the crowds disperse, Hector is on the ground.
Done in a graphic novel style, this nonfiction book is based on interviews with Hector’s family to see what sort of boy he was. The book shows his playful side and the tough choices his family made to have their children in school. The book also shows touches of what life was like during apartheid with separate entrances for black and white and oppressive laws. The art is done in sandy tones and deftly shows the dominance of apartheid in everyday life.
An important book that speaks to one boy and the way his death helped transform a country. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hum and Swish by Matt Myers (9780823442867)
Jamie spends her time at the edge of the quiet beach near the waves. She is hard at work making something, but she isn’t sure what quite yet. People walk past and ask her pesky questions, but Jamie just wants to be alone with the swish of the waves and her own humming as she works. Then someone else comes to the edge of the water. She has a lot of things along with her and sets up an easel to paint. She starts to work, and Jamie asks her what she is making but the painter isn’t sure yet. Jamie agrees. The two work side-by-side silently with only the hum and swish of their work making noise. Still, they are clearly friends. Finally, Jamie is done with her sandcastle, bridge and creatures made of rocks and objects. The painter is done too and they share their work with one another.
Myers captures the intensity of a young artist who just wants to be left alone to quietly work on their project. The importance of silence and space to think and be creative is emphasized here, along with the need to not explain during the creative process. The simple and limited text in the book is used very successfully to show Jamie’s brisk responses to those who ask her questions and also her connection to the ocean and her kindred spirit.
Myers, who has illustrated several picture books previously, shows great skill in his illustrations here. From the images of Jamie and the ocean together in their isolation to the lovely connection she forms with the painter. There is a strong sense of place, of art and of introversion on the page that is very welcome.
A lovely look at creating art and finding space to be quiet. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (9780062307811)
What a treat to have a picture book from a Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Honoree! This is a picture book about how to read a book told through poetry and imagery. The book begins with finding the right place to read, like under a tree or on a stoop. The book should be peeled open like a bright orange clementine. The scent will be of morning air and butterfly kisses. Read it page by page, plump orange section by section. Inside you will find new friends, places to wander, drops of magic created by the words. No need to rush, just let it create new dreams and hopes that you may never reach.
Alexander doesn’t shy away from writing a real poem for young readers. It’s one that will stretch them, using a lot more imagery than they may be used to. He plays with colors, turning moons purple and zinging orange throughout. He also speaks to what books can do to us and for us in our lives without getting narrative or preachy about it. Instead his own book embodies this, taking us on a new journey of exploration.
Sweet’s illustrations are incredible. She works Alexander’s words into her art, forming them out of zinging bright neon colors, or quiet steady blues. She creates smaller pages at times, pages that are special and make you slow down and really feel the words and the illustrations.
An incredible work of poetry and art, this one should win awards. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Eisner Awards, which celebrate the comic book industry, were announced at Comic-Con. Here are the winners in the categories for children and teens as well as other winners that are books for younger ages:
BEST CONTINUING SERIES and BEST HUMOR PUBLICATION
Giant Days by John Allison and Max Sarin
Jen Wang for The Prince and the Dressmaker
BEST PUBLICATION FOR EARLY READERS (up to age 8)
Johnny Boo and the Ice Cream Computer by James Kochalka
BEST PUBLICATION FOR KIDS (ages 9-12)
The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks
BEST PUBLICATION FOR TEENS
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
BEST U.S. EDITION OF INTERNATIONAL MATERIAL
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu, translated by Montana Kane
We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett (9780316417273)
The war has been going on for years, the Union of the North now scrambling to keep ahead of the flying machines that are being used by the Elda. When her city is firebombed, Revna barely escapes death as she leaves her factory job in her wheelchair. The only reason she survives is that she uses illegal Weave magic to save herself; yet by doing so she reveals her powers. Her father is already in prison, so Revna expects the worst. She is saved by a new program that will teach female pilots to fly using Weave magic. That same program is where Linne finds herself after being discovered to be female while she served in the Union military. The daughter of a Union general, she desperately wants to fight rather than fly. Linne doesn’t trust Revna to be more than a liability thanks to her prosthetic limbs. Still, the two of them form a team in the air, neither of them willing to give up their one chance to fight and fly.
Bartlett weaves fantasy with a military story line that really creates something special on the page. Coming into a war that has been ongoing for years gives the book an immediate fatigue and desperation. It is that backdrop that allows the entire premise of the book to work, and one that is immediately believable. The world building is sound and interesting, based on the Soviet Night Witches who flew in World War II. The naming conventions in the book reflect that Soviet influence as well.
The story is told from the point of view of both main characters. Revna is a young woman who has been scarred by an accident, saved by her father, and then has suffered losses. She makes friends easily, yet is angered when people treat her as if she needs coddling. Linne meanwhile is pure steel, fighting to be taken seriously and always managing to anger the other female pilots along the way. She takes honor very seriously, clinging to the military structure to keep her world aright. Their interactions are difficult and angry, exactly what this book need to set it on fire.
A dramatic and magical look at war, resilience and respect. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from library copy.
A breathtaking trailer for the new HBO series coming this fall:
Here are the items I shared on Twitter this week:
10 of the Best Books for Newborn and Baby Showers – Book Riot – https://t.co/0Y0TNMT9t1
17 Children’s Books To Prep Your Kid For A Visit To The Dentist — Dun Dun Dun buff.ly/2JOP4Cq#kidlit
Cressida Cowell: ‘Books are better than films at teaching children creativity and intelligence’ – https://t.co/KWU83JwgyT
A Debut Middle-Grade Author’s Life-Changing Tweet buff.ly/32ovdlK#kidlit
Free Book Vending Machines Launched Across All NYC Boroughs buff.ly/2jKmbOu#kidlit #yalit
Recent children’s and young adult books on immigration buff.ly/2lnApFy#kidlit #yalit
States Are Ratcheting Up Reading Expectations For 3rd-Graders buff.ly/2NXetPq#reading
We Live in a Diverse World. The Books Kids Read Should Reflect That. – EdSurge News buff.ly/2LrjXzZ#kidlit #Diversity
These 2 Men Are On A Mission To Visit Every Public Library In Massachusetts buff.ly/2lz6bQ9#libraries
Write Now: Library Is An Essential Tool In Writer’s Kit | News, Sports, Jobs – Post Journal buff.ly/2xRW63L#libraries
Your Local Library May Have A New Offering In Stock: A Resident Social Worker – NPR – buff.ly/2XOSy1u#libraries