Review: Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee (9780525518150)

When a summer breeze tickles a little mouse’s ear early one morning, an entire cacophony follows. With one loud squeak, the mouse starts the world waking up. The chipmunks wake up, sending a pine cone into the river. The trout jump. The elk bonks into a tree launching the eagle off. The sound of her huge wings wakes the bears, whose growls wake the wolves. The wolves howl waking the bighorn lamb who leaps high. Finally, the bison bellows and all of the other creatures in the area awaken too. Except for one little mouse, who is now asleep.

The author plays with sounds in this book as they ripple across an ecosystem in this nature-focused read. From the small mouse squeak to the huge bison bellow, all of the sounds are unique and interesting. Children listening to the story will love the chance to howl like wolves, leap like trouts, or fly like eagles along the way. The book is filled with a sense of joy and wonder as the series of noises awaken all of the animals.

The art is done in two steps by the two creators, one who did the black lines and the other who colored them in digitally. The result is almost like stained glass. The sense of the glow of morning light carries through all of the illustrations. They are united by a strong feeling of being in a shared place too.

A great read aloud for a group, expect lots of participation. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells Jan 17

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

How one librarian tried to squash Goodnight Moon – Slate

Jason Reynolds named new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature – Publisher’s Weekly

Newbery Medalist Meg Medina Changes Gears – Publisher’s Weekly

LIBRARIES

The 10 most checked-out books in N.Y. Public Library history – NY Times

Men plead guilty in thefts of rare books from Carnegie Library – Trib Live

Neil Gaiman leads Hampshire writers protesting library cuts – The Guardian

Public library ebook and audiobook use rocketed up 20% in 2019 – Forbes

READING

Charging for the right to read: who really pays? – Intellectual Freedom Blog

YA LIT

2020 YA book covers bring disability representation to the forefront – Book Riot

Art Attack! The ‘Plain Janes’ deliver a shot of creative optimism – NPR

Best Picture Books of 2019

Another by Christian Robinson

Another by Christian Robinson

Cleverly designed, this wordless picture book is a joy to experience.

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

A wild ride of a book that is really all about shared fun and community.

the bell rang by james e. ransome

The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome

A harrowing look at slavery and freedom, this picture book reveals the truth of our American history.

Between Us and Abuela by Mitali Perkins

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios

A strong and purposeful look at walls, immigration and family.

Birdsong by Julie Flett

Birdsong by Julie Flett 

The entire book has a gorgeous quiet to it that allows space for creativity to thrive.

The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer

The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer, illustrated by Simon Bailly   

The art and book design here are fantastic. The nested books even feel right inside the larger images that form a frame around them.

Camp Tiger by Susan Choi

Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, illustrated by John Rocco 

I am trying not to simply gush in superlatives about this book.

Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

This picture book is about far more than a delicious family treat. Maillard looks at its connection to our nation’s history, the damage caused by the European invasion, and what fry bread means today.
   

Inside Outside by Anne-Margot Ramstein

Inside Outside by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui

So gorgeously designed, the modern illustrations in this book have a harmonious feel to them as readers progress through boats caught in storms, ocean life, and even pounding hearts.

Just in Case You Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano

Just in Case You Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson

This book is exhilarating and filled with dreams of journeys large and small.

Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman

Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Heather Fox

Funny, scientific and zany, this picture book is so much fun.

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egneus

Showing a more universal experience of refugees fleeing a war-torn country, the book really allows readers to deeply feel the loneliness and fright of a young child caught in this situation.

A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang

A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Seo Kim

There is a beautiful delicacy to this entire book from the fine-lined illustrations to the skillful balancing of seasons changing, new babies and someone passing.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Pena

A summer treat of a book, this one is worth the ride.

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe

Unique and lovely, this is one to beat the drum for!

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Laced with quotes and insights from their mother, the book offers wells of strength, confidence and self-esteem to the girls that they carry with them.

River by Elisha Cooper

River by Elisha Cooper

There is something so invigorating and inspiring about this glimpse of someone making a journey of a lifetime.

Saturday by Oge Mora

Saturday by Oge Mora

Another winner from a gifted artist and storyteller.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

A stellar picture book that reveals the heart of the city and the heart of a child.

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

This is a book willing to be slow and thoughtful. It takes its own time and asks the reader or listener to do the same. It is grounded in the most wonderful of ways.

Stormy by Guojing

Stormy by Guojing

A great wordless picture book about building trust and finding a home.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Dramatic and important, this picture book deals directly in self-esteem and racism.

Vamos Let's Go to the Market by Raul the Third

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third

A top pick for this year, every library should have this rich and vibrant book.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

I love that this book can be read on two levels. There is the simple story of a wall in a book and then there is the political climate about walls right now in America. Agee shows that making the opposite side dangerous and “othering” them is unsafe for everyone.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

As the parent of a transgender person, this is exactly the sort of picture book our families need and other families must read.

Review: The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

The Oldest Student by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by Oge Mora (9781524768287)

Born a slave in the mid-1800’s, Mary was not allowed to learn to read. Even when emancipation came, she was unable to learn to read because she and all of her time was used in making very little money. When a group of evangelists gave her a Bible, she promised herself that one day she would be able to read it. All three of her sons’ births were recorded in that Bible by other people who could read and write. Mary could only leave her mark by the words. After a lifetime of hard work, Mary became too old to sharecrop any longer and took on other jobs like cleaning and babysitting. At well past ninety years old, Mary’s sons read to her but they each passed away, her oldest son dying at age ninety-four. Mary lived on and learned of reading classes taught in her building. She spent the next year learning to read, and finally could read at age 116. She was awarded the title of the nation’s oldest student by the US Department of Education and went on to receive many gifts, some from Presidents of the United States. 

Hubbard cleverly fills in the details of Mary Walker’s early life since very little is known about it. It is a fact that she had her Bible for over 100 years before she could actually read it. It is also a fact that she learned to read that quickly. Chattanooga, Tennessee gave her the key to the city twice in the 1960’s and has a historical marker in her name. Her life stands for the ability to learn at any age, the resilience of surviving slavery, and the power of the written word to bring opportunity into your life. Beautifully, the book doesn’t need to lecture on any of those values, Mary’s life simply speaks on its own.

Mora’s art is done in mixed media of acrylic paint, marker, pencil, paper and book clippings. She uses a heavily textured and painted background in some images that sweeps the sky across the pages. In others, patterns and words fill the space offering glimpses of her future long before she could actually read.

This picture book based on a true story is inspiring. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Schwartz & Wade.

Best Teen Books 2019

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This novel is pure science fiction joy. The cast is quirky and very funny, the plot is fast moving and cleverly built, and the aliens are believable.

black enough edited by ibi zoboi

Black Enough edited by Ibi Zoboi

Incredible authors come together to create an anthology that is very impressive. The interplay of the stories as edited by Zoboi makes for a fascinating journey through the various facets and aspects of being an African-American teen.

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

Painful and traumatic, this book is filled with sweat, work and more than a little love.

Dig by A. S. King

Dig by A. S. King

A great teen novel full of depth with a strong voice and a definitely point of view.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

A superb historical novel that looks at race, gender and America.

 

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

I approach every retelling of a fairy tale with trepidation. There are few that can really transform the tale into something new and fresh. Kemmerer does exactly that with her retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Skillful and haunting, this look at Spain’s history is vivid and unflinching.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Yoon has created one of the hottest YA titles of the fall. To my delight, it’s popular for a reason.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

This is a complex teen novel filled with engaging characters who all are distinct from one another and enticing to spend time with. She has included all sorts of diversity in her characters, including neurodiversity, bisexuality, and racial diversity.

Gravity by Sarah Deming

Gravity by Sarah Deming

A gripping, feminist sports novel that will grab readers and not let them go.

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

This is a remarkable debut novel. Set in Australia, the book explores mental illness with a tenderness that is haunting.

Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond

Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond

More than a simple collection of short stories, these short stories are beautifully connected to one another.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Beautiful, powerful and full of feeling, this book is amazing.

Lovely War by Julie Berry

Lovely War by Julie Berry

An incredible piece of historical fiction. This is one of the best of the year.

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen 

A great new voice in YA fantasy, this novel is dark, bloody and compelling.

Mike by Andrew Norriss

Mike by Andrew Norriss

A fresh sports novel filled with fish, invisible friends, and frankness.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Wow. What a book! The voice here is what hits you first, unique and strong, it speaks in a Nigerian-laced rhythm that creates its own magic immediately. Add in the power of Jam herself, a black, trans girl who often chooses not to speak aloud but with sign language.

Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt

Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt

I love any LGBTQIA+ book for teens that allows love to win in the end. This book is full of hope, brimming with acceptance even as it explores having family members who don’t understand.

Slay by Brittney Morris

Slay by Brittney Morris 

A brilliant video game book that celebrates being black and the many dimensions that brings.

The Things She's Seen by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Unusual and incredibly powerful and moving, this genre-bending novel is one of a kind.

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Powerful and engaging, this feminist read is written with strength and conviction.

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Bartlett weaves fantasy with a military story line that really creates something special on the page.

wesetthedarkonfirebytehlorkaymejia

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Latinx, LGBTQ love, political intrigue, and a vivid fantasy world come together to make an impressive teen read.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo 

In this novel, Acevedo gifts us with a story in prose where you can see her skill as a poet shining through often, taking words and making them dazzling.

Review: Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico 

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico 

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic HIstory of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico (9780399581793)

Take a trip back through women’s history to discover queens, warriors, suffragettes, and much more! This graphic novel is set in the future and has a computer instructor who takes a group of girls back in time to understand the basis of women’s rights around the world. The book starts by looking deep into human history with the Assyrians, Mesopotamians, Eqyptians, Greeks and much more. The book then shows how the rise of the patriarchy eclipsed early women’s rights and replaced it with much more like what we see still today. The book moves forward in time, taking female rulers and warriors from around the world. There is also an exploration of civil rights as well as LGBTQ rights in the book that increases the representation of diverse experiences even farther. 

Kendall’s writing could have simply become a lengthy list of women from history, but she weaves a deeper narrative throughout. It also helps that she includes history as far back as she does. The supportive nature of those early societies is likely to surprise modern readers. Kendall works with intentionality to offer as diverse a cross-section of women as she can. They come from all over the world and represent many different countries, continents and races. Even more impressive is the way that Kendall is frank about the shortcomings of many of the women, acknowledging openly their open racism or unwillingness to challenge the status quo for others besides themselves. 

The art is great. The number of portraits in the book is daunting in its scope. Those women who are familiar visually are recognizable immediately. The additional information on each woman also offers vibrant images of their lives. The more tragic events are documented in more subtle tones, offering a visual cue that something dire has happened. 

A stellar graphic piece of nonfiction. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

Best Middle Grade Fiction 2019

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker

A fresh mix of mystery, art and secrets, this book is full of vibrant colors and not just Greys.

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy

Pancholy, an Indian-American actor, has written a compelling and heart-wrenching middle grade novel that deserves applause.

The Bridge to Home by Padma Venkatraman

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

Venkatraman has created a tale that doesn’t soften the dangers and difficulties of children living on the streets of India. At the same time though, she doesn’t allow the story to be dismal, instead she shows how the smallest things can give joy.

Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

A heart-wrenching novel of abuse, recovery and learning to fly

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

This book is all about giving people second (and even third) chances, including yourself.

eventown by corey ann haydu

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

It is idyllic and eerie, a Stepford version of childhood. Horror is sidestepped neatly here, instead becoming a book about empowerment and making your own choices while asking important questions.

genesis begins again by alicia d. williams

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

In this debut novel, Williams writes with a strong voice, taking on difficult topics including verbal abuse, racism, skin tone, alcoholism and co-dependency in an unflinching way.

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Inspired by Filipino folklore, this is an amazing novel by a Newbery-award winning author.

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

A brilliant debut that is rich, layered and shows that connection to nature can allow one to weather new storms.

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

This one deserves a medal. Period. It’s one of those books that reads so easily, since it’s written with such skill.

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

A grand adventure of a book full of magic and girl power.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Beautifully written with an amazing Syrian heroine at its center, this book is a great read.

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

Another brilliant read from a gifted author, this one offers an extraordinary perspective on World War II.

pay attention, carter jones by gary d. schmidt

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt 

Schmidt takes the spirit of Nanny McPhee and Mary Poppins and gives us a male version in Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick.

A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata

A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Julia Kuo

Kadohata’s novel for children tells the untold story of Japanese Americans forced to repatriate to their country of origin and renounce their American citizenship. It also gives an unflinching look at the aftermath of World War II in Japan, particularly with its setting near Hiroshima.

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

Kramer’s middle-grade novel is nearly impossible to summarize because it is so layered and has such depth.

Strange Birds A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez.jpg

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez

Perez’s writing is just as marvelous as in her first book. There is a freshness about it, one that allows readers to quickly enter the world that Perez has created for them.

The Year We Fell from Space by Amy Sarig King

The Year We Fell from Space by Amy Sarig King

A powerful look at divorce, grief and coming to terms with life.

2020 Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers

YALSA has announced the 2020 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list. The full list contains 64 titles and includes books “aimed at encouraging reading among teens who dislike to read for any reason.” This list tends to have great recommendations for library collections that may have been missed in review journals.

The panel also selected a Top Ten:

10 Blind Dates

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Belly Up

Belly Up by Eva Darrows

The Haunted (The Haunted, #1)

The Haunted by Danielle Vega

Heroine

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Kiss Number 8

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable

Pumpkinheads

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, art by Faith Erin Hicks

Two Can Keep a Secret

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

The Unfortunates

The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett

Unpregnant (Unpregnant, #1)

UNpregnant by Jenni Hendricks and Ted Caplan

We Are Displaced

We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls around the World by Malala Yousafzai

 

 

Best Poetry Books 2019

Climbing Shadows by Shannon Bramer

Climbing Shadows: Poems for Children by Shannon Bramer, illustrated by Cindy Derby

One of the most original and surprising books of poetry for children, this one is worth exploring.

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

An incredible work of poetry and art, this one should win awards.

I Remember Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins 

The poems and illustrations in this book are very impressive. As they play through the authors’ memories of their childhoods and the variety of emotions those memories evoke, the reader gets the pleasure of visiting each author’s experience.

Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever

Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen

A very successful mix of poetry and science, this one is sure to be preyed upon by hungry readers in classrooms and activities.

Rain by Anders Holmer

Rain by Anders Holmer 

The haiku poems range from solemn to merry, some carrying serious weight and others lighter. They mirror the weather, some with lightning and dark clouds while others fill with pink petals and friendship.

Snowman - Cold = Puddle Spring Equations by Laura Purdie Salas

Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Micha Archer

A winning mix of poetry and science, this is a book that captures the wonder of spring.

Trees by Verlie Hutchens

Trees by Verlie Hutchens, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong

A total of fourteen trees are highlighted here in free verse, each one embracing the unique nature of that tree with clarity and brevity.