2019 Burr/Worzalla Award

The Wisconsin Library Association has announced the winner and honor books for the 2019 Burr/Worzalla Award given to the most distinguished work in literature written and/or illustrated by a Wisconsin book creator.


The Cardboard Kingdom

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell



The Button War Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster

The Button War by Avi

Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster by Patricia Sutton

Hooper Lowriders Blast from the Past

Hooper by Geoff Herbach

Lowriders Blast from the Past by Cathy Camper

Margot and Mateo Save the World

Margot and Mateo Save the World by Darcy Miller


A Twitter Break


I’ll be taking a hiatus from Twitter, which is the last social media platform I actively use since I stopped using Facebook for personal things over six months ago. The Man Blueprint has a great article that nicely summarizes why I’m taking a break. A few months ago I really pruned back on the people I followed on Twitter, trying to get out of the political cesspool I had been swimming in there. It didn’t help, I still get news that made me livid over and over again as if playing on repeat.

So it’s time for a break. Next week I’ll do a new version of what used to be “what I shared on Twitter this week” and I’ll hopefully have found new ways to keep up with children’s lit news. Let me know if you have any tips for me!

Also, are you changing your usage of social media? I’d love to hear your experiences too.

P.S. – I’m also no longer having Waking Brain Cells post directly to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn when I post something, so feel free to subscribe via email or check in personally to find out what I’m up to in my little blogging world.

Review: Ghost Cat by Kevan Atteberry

Ghost Cat by Kevan Atteberry

Ghost Cat by Kevan Atteberry (9780823442836)

A little boy thinks that he sees a ghost cat out of the corner of his eye. It reminds him of the cat he used to have but the boy can never get a good look at this ghost cat. The ghost cat seems to sleep on his bed at night, curled up and purring. It plays with cat toys on the stairs. It meows outside of the boy’s door and knocks things off of shelves. But the boy is always too late to see anything more than a blur moving quickly. Then one day, the boy really sees the ghost cat clearly. He chases after it and the cat leads him to something new and very special right outside.

Atteberry tells a wonderfully gentle story here about the loss of a pet and the gap that it leaves. It is also a great ghost story with no scariness at all, just a playful cat ghost doing cat-like things all over the house. The tone is delightfully breathless and wondering, just right for a ghost story. The dashing nature of the bulk of the book slows at the end to allow readers to bask in the new discovery.

The illustrations, done digitally, are filled with warm tones that allow the ghostly form of the cat to really pop. Readers will enjoy seeing the cat fleetingly on the page, moving just away from the boy and the reader.

Comforting and understanding, this book takes ghosts and grief and turns them into something very special. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Neal Porter Books.

2019 CBCA Book Awards

The Children’s Book Council of Australia has announced their 2019 winners and honor books for the CBCA Book of Year Awards. Here they are:


Between Us

Between Us by Clare Atkins


Lenny's Book of Everything Small Spaces

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein



His Name Was Walter

His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda


Black Cockatoo The Peacock Detectives

Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison & Hakea Hustler

The Peacock Detectives by Carly Nugent



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Tricky’s Bad Day by Alison Lester


42389699. sx318 Here Comes Stinkbug!

Heads and Tails: Insects by John Canty

Here Comes Stinkbug! by Tohby Riddle




Cicada by Shaun Tan


39997158. sx318 The Mediterranean

The All New Must Have Orange 430 by Michael Speechley

The Mediterranean by Armin Greder



Sorry Day

Sorry Day by Coral Vass, illustrated by Dub Leffler


The Happiness Box Make Believe: M.C. Escher for Kids

The Happiness Box: A Wartime Book of Hope by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Andrew McLean

Make Believe: M. C. Escher for Kids by Kate Ryan, illustrated by Cally Bennett



Grandma Z

Grandma Z by Daniel Gray-Barnett

Review: One Shoe, Two Shoes by Caryl Hart

One Shoe, Two Shoes by Caryl Hart

One Shoe, Two Shoes by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Edward Underwood (9781547600946)

With a clear nod to Dr. Seuss and his iconic Red Fish, Blue Fish, this picture book celebrates rhymes, colors and footwear. The book begins with the dog having one shoe and the human having one shoe, then the two shoes are worn for a walk. There are different colored shoes, knotted laces, cowboy boots, and much more. Then a little mouse makes an appearance near the shoes. Could it be that the shoe is a house for a mouse? How many mice? The counting begins and eventually ends at ten. The dog investigates the mice for awhile but then heads out on another walk after fetching some shoes.

Hart’s text is simple with a bouncy rhyme that keeps the book merry. The pace is fast and jaunty, with plenty of action words along the way to make the book wonderfully playful. The concepts of colors and counting are nicely woven into the story. The circular feel of the book beginning and ending with shoes and walks makes for a book that feels complete.

The illustrations are done in a modern flat style in pencil, ink and collage done with computer assistance. The images are large enough to use with a group and guessing games could be played along the way, matching the shoes with their names, counting the mice (who tend to hide) and finding colors.

A happy book about counting and colors. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Review: A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff

Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff

A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (9780823439553)

This verse novel tells the story of a girl surviving the Irish Land Wars between the English landowners and the Irish tenant farmers. Anna has grown up on their family farm, but their family struggles to make the required payments to stay. Around her, she sees other families being forced from their homes, the houses themselves knocked down to prevent them from staying. After her mother dies, Anna and her father sometimes have to poach fish to keep the family fed. Their potatoes are not thriving either due to too much rain. When an encounter with the English Lord’s rent collector turns violent, Anna and her father are arrested. Anna manages to escape, taking her baby sister with her to find her aunt in a distant town. Anna must draw on her own resilience and courage to save her entire family.

Giff’s verse is well-written and evocative. She brings the world of Ireland after the Great Famine to life. Giff stresses the dire problems facing the Irish farmers as they struggle to make enough from their farms to feed their families much less pay the landlord. By showing Anna as a member of a larger community, Giff is also able to show the various results of not paying rent. The use of historical photos is key, because one can hardly believe that they would use a battering ram to decimate a home rather than let it stand. The brutality of that act among others shows the merciless nature of the situation in rural Ireland in the 1890’s.

Anna herself is a dynamic heroine. Desperate to learn to read, she meets with the local school teacher in the evenings, reading the book she found outside as well as his books. She never sits idly by, always helping her family and trying to improve their lot. She even joins in with the Irish protests to secure their own land, another act of bravery and defiance.

A strong historical verse novel with a great Irish heroine. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.

2019 Harvey Awards Nominees

The Harvey Awards have announced their nominees for the 2019 awards. Voted on by comic book professionals, the awards celebrate individual works. There is one category specifically for books for youth:


Hey, Kiddo Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Also nominated for Book of the Year)

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell  (Also nominated for Book of the Year)

Mystery Club (Mr. Wolf's Class, #2) New Kid

Mr. Wolf’s Class #2: Mystery Club by Aron Nels Steinke

New Kid by Jerry Craft

On a Sunbeam

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden



Review: The Spacesuit by Alison Donald

The Spacesuit How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon by Alison Donald

The Spacesuit: How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon by Alison Donald, illustrated by Ariel Landy (9781848864245)

A fascinating glimpse at a woman behind the success of the first moon landing. Eleanor Foraker loved to sew even as a young girl. As an adult, she worked for Playtex, sewing clothing for children and women. When a contest opened to design a spacesuit to go to the moon, Ellie entered it at the last minute. Ellie worked tirelessly with a team of seamstresses and engineers, trying to make a spacesuit that was softer and more comfortable than previous designs. The design was made of 21 layers of fabrics, and they used huge sewing machines to get that much fabric under the needle. The precision sewing meant that they had to be within 1/64 of an inch to be successful. The suit was sent off to Texas with a major problem with a broken zipper that they got a chance to fix. In the end, Ellie’s design won the day and made it to the moon.

This nonfiction picture book tells the very interesting story of how the spacesuits for the moon landing were invented and designed. The interplay of engineers and seamstresses where everyone’s ideas were valid is an important piece. The focus on comfort as well as functionality made their suit the winner as well as a willingness to work very hard to get it finished in time.

The art in the book pays homage to sewing by incorporating pins, images that look sewn on, and even a timeline made of thread. The illustrations are bright with throwbacks to the 1960’s too. The combination is bright and hopeful.

Based on the true story, this picture book is “sew” good. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

YALSA’S Teens’ Top Ten

The voting for YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten is now open and will stay open through October 12th. Winners will be announced the following week. Here are the nominees along with the official video announcement:


#Murdertrending (MurderTrending, #1) An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, #1)

#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game, #1) American Panda

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

American Panda by Gloria Chao

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy, #1)

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons, #2) The Belles (The Belles #1)

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Blood Water Paint Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1) Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, #1)

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Darius the Great Is Not Okay Frat Girl

Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Frat Girl by Kiley Roache

Girl Made of Stars Isle of Blood and Stone (Tower of Winds, #1)

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier

Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer, #2) Picture Us in the Light

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

The Poet X The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Speak: The Graphic Novel Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, Emily Carroll

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

To Kill a Kingdom The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown

Wildcard (Warcross, #2)

Wildcard by Marie Lu