Category: Elementary School

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (9781481468244, Amazon, GoodReads)

Born into a family of educators and activists, Lena Horne grew to be an African-American star and civil rights activist. As a child, Lena’s parents dreamed of making it big. Her father was a street hustler and her mother was an actress. As a small child, she was left with her grandmother in Brooklyn while her parents sought their fortune. From her grandmother, Lena learned about the value of education, good manners, and black pride. But soon Lena’s mother returned and took Lena on the road with her. During the Great Depression, her mother decided to put Lena on stage. Lena soon outshone her mother, becoming the first African-American actress to get a studio contract. She eventually also found her voice in the civil rights movement.

Weatherford shows Horne as a small child torn between the dreams of her grandmother and her mother. Then in the middle of the book, a transformation happens and Lena takes to the stage, becoming a star. The book beautifully weaves together the two dreams of grandmother and mother, showing how Horne’s life honors them both and how her career evolved to become large enough to encompass everyone’s wishes. Weatherford uses text carefully and deftly, making sure that the book remains readable by younger readers. There is a feeling of verse to her prose that invites readers in.

Zunon’s illustrations are done in oil paint and cut paper collage. The paper collage adds patterns and texture to the images. The paintings provide the people, expressions, and emotions. They show Horne growing and changing, transforming before the reader’s eyes into a star.

This is a gorgeous picture book biography honoring a woman who broke new ground in civil rights using her career and her voice. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

2017 Edgar Award Nominees

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees for their Edgar Awards. Here are the nominees in the juvenile categories:

BEST JUVENILE

The Bad Kid Cover Framed! Cover

The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere

Framed! by James Ponti

Ocdaniel Cover Some Kind of Happiness Cover

OCDaniel by Wesley King

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Summerlost Cover Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry Cover

Summerlost by Ally Condie

Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught

 

YOUNG ADULT

The Girl I Used to Be Cover Girl in the Blue Coat Cover

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

My Sister Rosa Cover Thieving Weasels Cover

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor

Three Truths and a Lie Cover

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue (9780545925815)

Released March 28, 2017.

Sumac lives in a very unusual family in a very large house called the Camelottery. Her family is large, very large, with four parents, a baby, several teenagers, even more children and lots of pets. The four parents are really two couples who are all best friends with one another. All of the children are home schooled and there is always something happening around the busy house. Then something changes, and one of Sumac’s grandfathers moves in with them. He’s not used to the wildness of children, the busyness of the large household and his struggle with dementia isn’t helping. Sumac is appointed as the one to help him better understand their family, but after he makes several comments about the color of their skins and the way they live, Sumac decides that it is up to her to find a different place for her grandfather to live where he will be happier and they will be rid of him. It’s really the perfect solution, isn’t it?

Oh how I adored this novel. The creation of a household where the parents won the lottery and no longer have to work but just care for their ever-growing household and volunteer for causes they believe in is lovely. Make it a family with parents who are gay and lesbian and the book becomes something very special. Add in the character of Brian who at age five is just starting to voice his preferred gender. Then mix in even more diversity with adopted children and biological ones all loving and living together.

Donoghue doesn’t just get the mix of characters right, she then gives them all voices that are so honest and true that they live on the page. The fast-paced conversations of the large family around the dinner table are immensely joyful even as they are sometimes strained. The patter of the conversations all have a natural rhythm and flow, something that is very difficult to get this right. And my goodness, it is exactly right.

A grand new LGBT-friendly book that families will love sharing together no matter how many mothers, fathers or children they have. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Creekfinding: A True Story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Claudia McGehee (9780816698028)

This picture book tells the true story of a lost creek that used to cross a prairie meadow. Then a farmer bulldozed dirt into the creek to create more farm land. Years later, another man purchased the field and heard from a neighbor about the creek that used to be there. He decided to try to find that creek. So he dug a creek bottom after consulting historic photographs of the land. He hoped that the water would return and it did. But a creek is more than running water and now it was up to him to bring more rocks, more plants and eventually trout in his newly rediscovered creek.

This book focuses on a compelling topic. That the land we live and farm on once used to be very different from the way it is now and that we can work to return it to its more natural state. The picture book has wonder at its center, the amazing notion that water once buried will return to a dry creek bed. It also focuses on the hard work that it took and the incredible problem solving that went into rebuilding the creek from literally the bottom up. Slowly it become reality with lots of work and patience.

The illustrations by McGehee are based directly on her visit to the land the book is about. Done on scratchboard, the illustrations have a wonderful weight to them, capturing the deep greens of the prairie, the richness of the biodiversity, and the transformation of the land.

A fascinating topic that is just right for environmental units or Earth Day, this picture book is a celebration of nature and man working together. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel

Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel

Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel (9780062351265)

When Olga discovers an unusual creature, she soon realizes as she researches it that she has potentially discovered a new species. She dubs the species olgamus ridiculus and names her particular specimen “Meh” because of the noise he makes. Olga knows some things about Meh, she knows he has rainbow-colored poop, that he smells bad, that he loves to sleep in buckets, and that he can hold things with his tail. Unfortunately though, Olga doesn’t know what to feed him and he has rejected almost everything she has. Luckily though, Olga has friends in her community to help, even if she personally prefers animals to humans, including a librarian, an owner of an unusual food store, and maybe even a new boy she just met. It will take all of them to figure out the answers to Meh along with some help from unlikely people as well.

Gravel embraces the science of discovering a new creature in this elementary-school novel. The book keeps a light and playful tone as it demonstrates the process of discovery, research and investigation. Olga is a character who embraces her role as a scientist, taking it very seriously that things are documented appropriately as she works through figuring out Meh and his species. Throughout the book, humor and silliness prevail, making it very readable.

The use of plenty of illustrations makes this book all the more approachable for children. The illustrations almost create a graphic novel here, creating even more of the playful tone of the text. The illustrations are colored only with pink and red and drawn in a loose cartoon style that works well.

A welcome addition of a young female scientist as a main character of an elementary graphic novel. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa

yours-sincerely-giraffe-by-megumi-iwasa

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake (9781927271889)

Giraffe is bored and he’s just missing one thing: a best friend. So when he sees Pelican, who is also bored, offering a mail service, he decides to write a letter. He asks Pelican to deliver it to the first animal he sees past the horizon. Pelican sees that the horizon looks very close, so he agrees. Pelican meets a seal who also delivers mail and sends the letter on to the next animal, which happens to be a Penguin. Giraffe and Penguin become pen pals and steadily become good friends. Soon Giraffe is trying to figure out what Penguin looks like from afar, but doesn’t get it quite right.

First published in Japan, this book is a very friendly chapter book with plenty of illustrations to break the text into manageable chunks. There is a warm playfulness throughout the book, inviting readers to see the humor in boredom and the solution of taking some sort of action to break through the tedium. The characters are well drawn and interesting, each with a unique personality that plays through naturally in the book.

The illustrations by Takabatake are done in fine lined black ink. They have a cartoon feel that embraces the light tone of the book. The illustrations work well with the text, creating action on the page that is very appealing.

A light and warm look at boredom and friendship that is a great read aloud. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.

 

My Valley by Claude Ponti

my-valley-by-claude-ponti

My Valley by Claude Ponti (9780914671626)

This imaginative picture book tells the story of the Twims, a type of creature that lives in a specific valley. One Twims narrates the book, explaining life in the valley. He lives in a House Tree up on the cliffs. He has many siblings, a mother and a father and two sets of grandparents. He plays games in the woods, watches all sorts of weather arrive, including once children falling from a house picked up by a hurricane. Twims use theater to get over feeling angry, have a cemetery with grave markers that speak to the interests of the Twims buried there, and enjoy the changes of each season.

First published in France, this book has a gorgeous otherworldly feel to it. It balances the wonder of these little creatures with the small details of their lives. It strongly reminded me of my childhood love for the Gnomes book by Wil Huygen. This new book touches those same emotions, the exploration of something small and clever, the beauty of a simple life and the magic inherent in it as well.

Ponti’s illustrations are lovely. He intersperses the image on the cover of the book throughout the book, focusing on the valley as it changes through different kinds of seasons and weather. The valley almost becomes so familiar that readers will identify with it themselves as each type of event makes it all the more spectacular. There are also the small details of the Twims’ lives, the floors of the House Tree, playing outside, and stories of events that had happened.

This unique picture book invites readers to imagine along with the author and delight in a new creature. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Elsewhere Editions.