Review: I Want a Dog by Jon Agee

I Want a Dog by Jon Agee

I Want a Dog by Jon Agee (9780525555469)

A little girl heads to the Happydale Animal Shelter to get a dog. The man there agrees that a dog makes an excellent pet, but keeps on offering the girl different animals. Perhaps an awesome anteater? A python? A baboon? Maybe a frog that barks and hides bones? Except frogs can’t do that. How about a lizard dressed up as a dog? It turns out that Happydale Animal Shelter doesn’t have a dog, so the man asks the girl why she wants a dog. Based on her list, he offers her a seal. And you know what? It’s just the right pet for her.

Agee has such a great way of incorporating the surreal with the normal in his books. In this one, we have the normal process of adopting a pet entirely sidetracked with wild animals that would make horrible pets. Readers will love seeing each of the interesting animals and not knowing what is coming next. Agee merrily breaks his series of animals with a dead goldfish and then with the final twist of the seal as the right pet. Agee’s art is his signature watercolor with thick black lines and subdued colors.

A great pick for dog storytimes, even if it doesn’t actually have a dog. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Review: Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle (9781324003601)

Rex is starting sixth grade hungry and with a black eye. At school, he has an English teacher who dislikes him on sight. He isn’t in any classes with his best friends either, since he is in high level ones that they make fun of. He also is on free lunch, which he has to announce to a school worker every day. His home life though is even worse. Living with almost no furniture, no bed, and with a mother who is verbally and physically abusive, Rex struggles to find any moments of safety. His mother’s boyfriend beats her up regularly, something that Rex feels responsible for as well as helpless to stop. Still, this book does have hope that things can improve and change, but there is no magic bullet out of poverty and abuse.

Ogle writes of his own childhood in this very personal book. He doesn’t shrink away from any of the tough subjects, showing the layers of anger and abuse that a family can have, the variety of triggers and the inability to make it stop. He writes of a grandmother who served as a place of hope and refuge, but also was a person who angered his mother. Ogle tells of hunger in a way that only someone who has experienced it can speak of it, hunger for food but also hunger for love and understanding in his family.

There is a rawness to Ogle’s writing, an honesty that shines on the page. His weaving in of hope makes reading this book possible, not leaving the reader to languish in the haunting and horrible world he writes of. That hope is vital for the character of Rex too, it keeps him making new friends, finding a way forward, and being willing to change himself to make his family better.

Profoundly honest and full of heart, this book is one that all teachers and librarians need to read to understand the children they serve. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Norton Young Readers.

Looking for Alaska – Trailer

An impressive trailer for Hulu’s upcoming mini-series of Looking for Alaska:

National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature

The National Book Foundation has announced their longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Five finalists will be announced on October 8th with the winner announced on November 20th. Here are the books on the list:

1919 The Year That Changed America Kiss Number 8

1919: The Year that Changed America by Martin W. Sandler

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw

Look Both Ways Out of Salem

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve

Patron Saints of Nothing Pet

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

A Place to Belong Shout

A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All The Undefeated

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

 

Review: Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9780823441730)

A little white rabbit is full of questions for a bear who valiantly tries to answer them all. After each “why?” comes a wise answer about wind, gravity, honey, stars, plants and much more. Finally though, the bear has had enough and heads off home. The little rabbit asks him not to go and now it is Bear’s turn to ask “why” of the rabbit. Rabbit rises to the question and answers it with the same wisdom and patience that Bear has shown all along.

Seeger takes the questions of a toddler and turns it into an engaging picture book. Parents and children alike will recognize the endless questions and the patience it takes to answer them. The turn around at the end of the book adds exactly the right ending to the story. Throughout the book has a pitch perfect tone that makes rabbit’s questions interesting rather than bothersome.

Seeger’s art is lush and lovely. One can almost sink into her greens and blues, they are so deeply colored. She manages to create a friendship from two animals without anthropomorphizing them along the way.

Simple and just right for toddlers and their questions. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.

Review: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (9780525647072)

Jam lives in Lucille, a place cleansed of monsters by the angels who still live among them. There are no monsters in Lucille any more. But just as Jam is learning about the original angels, who looked more like monsters than humans, she accidentally releases a creature from her mother’s painting. The creature is Pet, who has crossed dimensions to hunt a monster. Pet reveals that the monster is living in Jam’s best friend, Redemption’s house. Now Jam must figure out how to enlist Redemption’s help without accusing his family of doing something terrible and harboring a monster. Or perhaps Pet is the real monster as he hunts without remorse? Jam must learn the truth and then get others to believe her.

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. Then you have the amazement of Pet, the nightmare creature who hunts for monsters but also explains the importance of not hiding from the truth. Surround it all with families who love and care and are wonderfully different from one another.

Emezi leads readers through this wonder of a book, filled with LGBTQIA+ moments that are so normal they become something very special. They insist that you understand what is meant by a monster and by an angel, that one can be disguised as another, that monsters are normal people, but must not be tolerated. It’s a book about abuse, about standing up, about angels and demons, and about humans.

An incredible middle-grade fantasy full of power, monsters and beauty. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Make Me a World.

Review: What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Linda Davick (9781481472609)

Riley loves to dress for every occasion. Riley wore a bunny costume on the first day of school, even though no one else worse a costume. At the dentist’s office Riley wore a superhero outfit for bravery. Riley wore a ballgown to dinner with Oma and Otto because they went to a fancy restaurant. Space pajamas were just right for Universe Day at school. A hard hat was ideal for a visit to the hardware store. Some days at home were perfect not to wear anything at all. When Riley wore a complicated outfit to the park, Riley was asked if they were a boy or a girl. Riley answered by talking about her outfit’s roles and joined in playing with everyone.

Arnold writes with such skill here that it is only partway through the book that readers may notice that there are no pronouns or genders shared about Riley. Every child can see themselves in Riley and be dazzled by Riley’s costumes and outfits along the way. There is a sense of merriment in all of the things Riley wears and a strong expression of identity as well.

Davick’s illustrations are filled with bright colors and a celebration of Riley’s sense of style. The mixed costumes are complicated and Davick captures them beautifully, showing exactly what Riley was trying to convey.

Ideal for kids of every gender and every way of expressing themselves through clothing. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Catholic School Bans ‘Harry Potter’ – But According to Free Speech Advocates, It’s Nothing New – Forbes

Harry Potter used to be the number one banned book in schools, according to Caldwell-Stone. These days, she said, books with LGBT themes are increasingly being targeted, both with lawsuits and other extreme measures, like public book burnings.

Interview: Mitali Perkins Talks of Between Us and Abuela – Fuse 8

When it comes to our relationship with Mexico, it struck me that children would have an honest response akin to the child in the old “Emperor’s New Clothes” fable (“Why is that man naked, Mama?”)

New York Times book editor shares tips on ‘How to Raise a Reader’ – WTOP

It may sound counterintuitive, but Paul cautions parents not to reward their children for reading, no matter how badly you want them to crack open a book.

Q&A with Chris Raschka – Publisher’s Weekly

Ultimately, I told the legend in a Mother Goose style of my own, incorporating poems of hers that related to her life. Vladimir’s challenge was to design and illustrate the book so as to keep the strings of text separate and understandable. We worked on the book for six or seven years. He was ill for a number of those years, so there were inevitable big gaps when he didn’t have the strength to work.

This Is Home: Renee Watson on the Importance of Setting in Some Places More Than Others – Bookish

In some novels, the setting is far more than just a location, it’s a character within its own right.

Why I Love Kids’ Books in Translation – Publisher’s Weekly

With children’s books in particular, those in translation have an added aura of adventure, even a sense of the hidden being revealed. At least they did for me. I thought of books written in English as like coming across a fortune typed in that special red ink; I thought of books written in another language as that same fortune, but with a cookie around it, a message you got to crack open for yourself.

The Youth Vote: Women’s Suffrage Centennial – Publisher’s Weekly

As publishers anticipate the 2020 women’s suffrage centennial, they remain mindful of how history is presented to children. And just as words matter, so too do pictures, says Susan Van Metre, executive editorial director at Walker Books.

LIBRARIES

10-year-old library changes with the times – WBAY

“A good library today is not your grandma’s library,” library director Kristin Vogel said. “Nothing against grandmas, but that shushing, that quiet, that sense of policing is very different than what a lot of people experienced in their childhood.”

Thriving Together / Best Small Library in America 2019 – Library Journal

The Copper Queen Library in Bisbee, AZ, is the oldest in the state. It’s older than the state itself, having been founded in 1882 and open continuously ever since. But it isn’t resting on its laurels. Once focused on mining, today’s Bisbee is a study in contradictions.

Wisconsin public library adds part-time social worker – Minneapolis StarTribune

The decision to bring in a social worker didn’t happen overnight: The library staff gradually realized how ill-equipped they were to deal with certain situations, particularly those related to homelessness and drug abuse —

YA LIT

7 Young Adult Books Out in Autumn 2019 in the UK That’ll Keep You Busy until Christmas – Bustle

From romantic vampire thrillers to a feminist call to arms, if you’re a fan of YA writing, you’re in luck this autumn.

50 YA Paperback for Fall 2019 – BookRiot

You’ll find something from every genre in this collection of fall YA paperbacks, so prepare to be swept away in a good book.

‘Permanent Record’ Captures the Confusing Moments between Adolescence and Adulthood – NPR

…Mary H.K. Choi is quietly defining new-adult literature with her modern explorations of how relationships help young people figure out who they really are.

The Korean-American Kids in These Books Bust Stereotypes – New York Times

Fast-forward to 2019 — with its bulgogi tacos, K-pop, snail slime masks and Sandra Oh memes — and Koreans are the new purveyors of cool. Korean-Americans are making a mark on American culture, and the Y.A. universe is no exception.

You’re Not Alone: Mental Health Nonfiction Picks for Teens – The Hub

As mental health struggles get more time in the spotlight, mental health nonfiction books have been cropping up aimed a variety of demographics. In fact, many options are now available just for teens. This list looks at great resources for those who are struggling with mental health issues or want to help someone that is.

 

Review: Finding Grandma’s Memories by Jiyeon Pak

Finding Grandma's Memories by Jiyeon Pak

Finding Grandma’s Memories by Jiyeon Pak (9780525581086)

Told from the point of view of the young granddaughter, this picture book explores the issue of having a loved one who is experiencing memory loss. The little girl loves having tea with her grandmother. She gets to pick a teacup from her grandma’s “treasure shelf” and then they share berry tea and cupcakes together as they tell one another about their day. But Grandma is starting to get confused. She has called the little girl by the wrong name, put her teacups on the bookshelf, and forgot to turn off the water. The next time the little girl visited, she and her grandmother looked at old photographs together. Then she had an idea to label things to help her grandmother remember too. Now she is also ready to share their stories with her grandmother if she has problems remembering.

Pak clearly shows the two generation connecting in this story of family love. The story transforms from the grandmother taking such good care of her granddaughter into needing more help to keep things straight. Nicely, there is no sense of panic in this book, just a steady sense of change and need for care. The use of small helpful ideas to implement also returns some ability to help to the young child in the story. The illustrations are bright and friendly, filled with smiles and connections to one another even as things grow more difficult.

An empowering story for young children about memory loss and helping a loved one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf.