Author: Tasha

Librarian for over 20 years who loves children's books, blogging and reading.

The Secret Project by Jonah Winter

The Secret Project by Jonah Winter

The Secret Project by Jonah Winter (9781481469135, Amazon)

What an incredible risk to take, creating a picture book about the creation of the atomic bomb. A mother-son team not only take that risk but create a book that is heart pounding, historical and riveting. In a shut-down school in the desert of New Mexico, a very secret project begins. The world’s greatest scientists gather to work on the “Gadget.” They work day and night working to cut an atom in half. After two years of work, the device is ready to be tested. The book ends with a countdown to the test and the resulting mushroom cloud.

Told in the simplest of language, this picture book looks at the process of building the atomic bomb, the secrecy of the project and the skill and time that it took. There is a constant growing foreboding as the project continues, as the science progresses. This book is not about the importance of the weapon and does not glorify it in any way. Instead it brings the science down to nuts and bolts, looks at the damage that it creates, and ends in a way that makes sure to leave readers with their heart in their throats.

The illustrations have a strong sense of formality and control to them. Each is framed in a square box and the rest of the page is white. They are almost tiles that decorate the wall for the reader. That all changes as the test begins and suddenly the strict rules are broken wide open, adding to the drama of the end.

Stunning, powerful and brave, this picture book belongs in all library collections. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg (9780545858267, Amazon)

A follow-up novel to Openly Straight, this second book focuses on Ben. Ben comes from a conservative New Hampshire farming family and is at a prestigious all-boys boarding school on scholarship. His life is filled with pressures of hard work and high achievement. He is told he will be the recipient of the school’s annual college scholarship and that just heaps on more expectations as does his election to be the captain of the school’s baseball team. As school pressures build, Ben is also wrestling with his sexuality. He has met a girl who makes him laugh and is distractingly beautiful, but he can’t get his best friend Rafe out of his mind. Ben is pushed to his limits in this novel that shows the importance of being honest with ourselves most of all.

Konigsberg delights in this second novel about Rafe and Ben. The use of a different perspective is refreshing and smart. The novel takes place after the first in the series, continuing the story and moving it forward. Throughout the book, other aspects of sexuality and gender are explored. Two of Rafe and Ben’s closest friends are asexual and gender fluid. They too are discovering their own identities alongside Ben, making for a rich experience for the reader.

Ben himself is a robust character with so much going on. He’s a history geek, loves to read and enjoys learning. Still, he is struggling in calculus, working late into the night just to stay afloat. Questions about teen drinking and cheating are also woven into the story, alongside the importance of being true to yourself in a myriad of ways, even if that means standing up to those around you. This is one of the best teen books with a bisexual character that I have read, even if Ben himself would not use that label.

A powerful and wildly funny look at sexuality, this novel makes me hope that future books in the series will be told from the perspectives of the other friends in the group. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

2017 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards

CBCA logo

The shortlists for the 2017 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards have been announced. They include two self-published books. Here are the books in the shortlist for the various awards:

BOOK OF THE YEAR: OLDER READERS 

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Waer by Meg Caddy

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Yellow by Megan Jacobson

 

 

BOOK OF THE YEAR: YOUNGER READERS

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by John Foye

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee

Mrs. Whitlam by Bruce Pascoe

Rockhopping by Trace Balla

Within These Walls by Robyn Bavati

 

 

 

BOOK OF THE YEAR: EARLY CHILDHOOD

All I Want For Christmas is Rain by Cori Brooke, illustrated by Megan Forward

Chip by Kylie Howarth

Gary by Leila  Rudge

Go Home, Cheeky Animals! by Johanna Ball, illustrated by Dion Beasley

Nannie Loves by Kylie Dunstan

 

The Snow Wombat by Susannah Chambers, illustrated by Mark Jackson

 

PICTURE BOOK OF THE YEAR

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

Mechanica by Lance Balchin

My Brother by Dee, Oliver and Tiffany Huxley

One Photo by Liz Anelli/Ross Watkins

 

Out by Owen Swan and Angela May George

The Patchwork Bike by Van T Rudd and Maxine Beneba Clarke

 

 

EVE POWNALL AWARD FOR INFORMATION BOOKS

A – Z of Endangered Animals by Jennifer Cossins

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks by Gina M Newton

Fabish, The Horse that Braved a Bushfire by Neridah McMullin, illustrator Andrew McLean

The Gigantic Book of Genes by Lorna Hendry

Spellbound: Making Pictures with the A-B-C by Maree Coote

William Bligh: a stormy story of tempestuous times by Michael Sedundary, illustrated by Bern Emmerichs

 

THE CRICHTON AWARD FOR NEW ILLUSTRATORS 2017

Mechanica – A beginner’s field guide by Lance Balchin

“Melbourne” Word by Word by Michael McMahon

A Patch from Scratch by Megan Forward

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrator Van T Rudd

Small Things by Mel Tregonning

Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy, illustrator Lisa Kennedy

Rivers of Sunlight by Molly Bang

Rivers of Sunlight by Molly Bang

Rivers of Sunlight: How the Sun Moves Water around the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm (9780545805414, Amazon, GoodReads)

This is the fourth picture book collaboration between Bang and Chisholm. All of the picture books done by Bang as author and illustrator and Chisholm, professor of Ecology at MIT have focused on the sun. This picture book is all about how the sun works to move water through the water cycle on earth. The role of the sun as it evaporates water to vapor. The way the sun heats and cools water. The way that water moves around the earth via ocean currents. It’s a book about the power of the sun and the value of water on earth with an emphasis on conservation and care.

Bang and Chisholm have created a group of picture books that celebrate our earth and the wonder of the sun. This book includes water, looking at the small amount of fresh water that actually exists on earth, the way that water cycles through our world, and the power of the sun in all of these systems. The book is told in the voice of the sun, speaking as the source of winds, the power of evaporation, the source of ocean currents.

Bang’s illustrations are lit by the sun. She rims trees in yellow, lights mountains in gold, and swirls lemon through the oceans. She shows the water in the atmosphere as a river of its own, dappled and bright but also subtle against the bolder parts of the illustrations. There is a delicacy to it that emphasizes how humans can damage water on our planet.

Another winner from this collaboration of art and science, this picture book shines. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from The Blue Sky Press.

Rain by Sam Usher

Rain by Sam Usher

Rain by Sam Usher (9781783705467, Amazon)

Sam and his Grandpa are spending a rainy day together. Sam wants to head out into the rain, but Grandpa asks that they wait until the rain stops. Sam spends the time reading books, drinking hot chocolate and dreaming of adventures. Meanwhile, Grandpa writes at the table and eventually has a very important letter ready to put in the mail. The rain ends just in time for them to have the adventure together that Sam has been dreaming of.

Usher has combined the tedium of waiting for the weather to change with the pleasure of escape into imagination. Sam waits reluctantly for the weather to change and yet manages to amuse himself without devices or television during the long wait. Merrily, the imagination and reality merge towards the end of the picture book, as Grandpa and Sam float directly into his dreams.

The illustrations are particularly effective. Usher creates a crispness in the interior images, filled with details done in fine lines and bright colors. Through the windows though, readers can see the weather. Outside the streets are awash in smears of light and color, filled with rain and raindrops. There is a real sense of a wash of water happening in the street and the light plays across the puddles realistically and beautifully.

A rainy day book brightened by a fantastic adventure. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Templar Publishing.

A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson

A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson

A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson (9781776571086)

This is the third and last book in the Detective Gordon mystery series. In this book, Gordon has retired and Buffy is now the only detective in the police station. Buffy starts hearing strange noises in the middle of the night. She’d love to have Gordon back to help solve the mystery of the scrabbling noises in the night. Meanwhile readers discover that Gordon is getting restless in retirement and that at night he heads to the police station to check on Buffy, making the noises that are scaring her. When a new case arrives, the two police officers are soon working together again to figure out what has happened to two little kindergarten animals who have disappeared. Yet Gordon can’t quite tell Buffy that it was him scaring her at night.

This Swedish early chapter book series has been a joy to read and share from the very first. While it is sad to see the series end, it goes out on a high note that finishes the series off with a solid win. Once again Gordon and Buffy are back, their dynamic maturing and growing as they work more together. The mystery here is serious and compelling as the detectives work to piece together where two young animals have gone and whether they are in danger. Readers get to see that the children are playing and safe, but the detectives don’t know that. It’s a smart way to make the mystery appropriate for young children. As with the entire series there is a focus on fairness, kindness and honesty throughout the book.

Spee’s illustrations add to the appeal of the series. The full color images make the book more approachable for children moving into chapter books. They also depict the forest world that the characters live in with lovely details like toadstools, flowers, and insects in the air. The autumnal feel of the book works well as a series closer as well, with sunset coloring throughout.

A wonderful ending to a top notch series, make sure to start from the beginning! And maybe have some cake on hand to munch along. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.