Review: Rain by Anders Holmer

Rain by Anders Holmer

Rain by Anders Holmer (9780802855077)

Haiku tells the story of different types of rain in this poetry picture book. The haiku are all about nature, some about rain directly and others about other things like falling newspapers or cascading petals. The poems form a series of vignettes that show different parts of the world and various environments from the arctic to the Himalayas to the desert. They are bound together with the rhythms of the poems and the journey together to explore rain and our world.

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. The illustrations themselves are large and have the feel of traditional tales mixed with a modern edge. They show different parts of the world and take readers on a fascinating journey as rain descends on each page and yet each type of rain is different from the others.

A skilled book of haiku that explores our wide world and the nature we find there. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

2018 Best Poetry Books!

I didn’t manage to read a lot of poetry in 2018, unfortunately. The ones on my list of the Best of 2018 though are worth treasuring:

Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (9781512404425)

In this book, there is a feeling of safety to explore difficult subjects that the poetry itself creates. – My Review

For Every One by Jason Reynolds (9781481486248)

It is a book about perseverance and resilience, a poem about life, hard knocks and getting up and continuing onward. – My Review

The Horse_s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

The Horse’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows (9780763689162)

A stellar book of focused haiku. – My Review

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (9780763690526)

Rich, memorable and timely, this picture book is something special. – My Review

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright, illustrated by Nina Crews (9781512498622)

A dynamic look at one of the top African-American poets of the 21st century, this book of poetry is a celebration. – My Review

Review: Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter

Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter

Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio (9780399554704)

This picture book biography features a perfect match-up of author and illustrator. It tells the story of Elvis’ life from a young boy singing in church and in talent shows to him becoming a star. It is the story of a boy growing up poor with a father in jail and discovering many of life’s joys like gospel music and hamburgers. When the family moves to Memphis, Elvis needs to work to make money to keep them housed and fed. As a teenager, he turns himself into something new, coloring his hair black and adding his trademark hair wax. He falls in love, discovers blues music, and decides to be the biggest star in music. The speed of his journey into stardom is incredible, as he gets more inspiration for his unique music style.

Winter writes with a focused poetic style here, each page a short poem about Elvis’ life. Winter captures the poverty that Elvis is born into without romanticizing it at all. His story is particularly captivating because of how quickly he went from being entirely unknown to being a star. Another fascinating piece of the story is how Elvis realized that he needed to move and shake his hips to be able to sing the way he did.

Red Nose Studio has put their signature style in this book, elevating it into something really special that children will love to explore. There are certain page turns that are particularly effective, like the one where in a single turn of the page Elvis emerges with his well-known look. Red Nose completely captures the way that Elvis moves in their clay figures, something entirely remarkable for a still photograph.

A great pick for libraries, I’d recommend sharing some of Elvis’ music alongside the book. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.

 

2018 Best Youth Nonfiction!

What a year for nonfiction! It was filled with looks at math, science, art, music and much more. Here are my picks for the best nonfiction for children and teens in 2018:

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome Carlos Santana Sound of the Heart, Song of the World by Gary Golio

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James R. Ransome (9780823420476)

An important and lovely book about Harriet Tubman that belongs in all libraries. – My Review

Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World by Gary Golio (9781627795128)

A great pick for libraries looking for quality biographies of musicians. – My Review

Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade Do Not Lick This Book by Idan Ben-Barak

Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez (9781682630136)

A glorious look at the Apollo missions. This belongs in every library. – My Review

Do Not Lick This Book by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost (9781250175366)

A smart choice for libraries looking for great STEM reads. – My Review

Drawn from Nature by Helen Ahpornsiri Life Inside My Mind

Drawn from Nature by Helen Ahpornsiri (9780763698980)

Throughout there is a grace of line and delight. An organic look at nature in all of its beauty. – My Review

Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles edited by Jessica Burkhart (9781481494649)

Reading this book is an exercise in opening your heart. It belongs in every public library serving teens. It will save lives. Period. – My Review

Lovely Beasts by Kate Gardner Nothing Stopped Sophie The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner, illustrated by Heidi Smith (9780062741615)

A beautiful and fresh look at some of the most misunderstood animals in the world.  – My Review

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock (9780316278201)

The book shows again and again the resilience and determination that it took for Sophie to succeed. – My Review

One Day a Dot by Ian Lendler Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock

One Day a Dot by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb (9781626722446)

A great look at the science of the Big Bang and evolution for small children, this is a cleverly designed book. – My Review

Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Katherine Roy (9780316393829)

A winner of a science read. – My Review

Pass Go and Collect 200 by Tanya Lee Stone So Tall Within Sojourner Truth's Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt

Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Steven Salerno (9781627791687)

A very intriguing tale that is a mix of women’s rights, ingenuity and economics. – My Review

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Daniel Minter (9781626728721)

This book aches with pain, loss, and grief. – My Review

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw_ms Gyetxw Water Land Land and Water Forms around the World by Christy Hale

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett David Huson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (9781553791395)

The book is deep and lovely, the tone unique and lush. – My Review

Water Land: Land and Water Forms around the World by Christy Hale (9781250152442)

A brilliant book that will have young readers looking at water and land in a new way with plenty of terms to name what they are seeing. – My Review

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson (9780525580423)

A call to action for young people, this book is an anthology that belongs in every library in our country. – My Review

Review: The Secret Kingdom by Barb Rosenstock

The Secret Kingdom by Barb Rosenstock

The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola (9780763674755)

A nonfiction picture book look at the incredible Rock Garden of Chandigarh. Chand grew up happily in a small village in the Punjab region of India. He grew up there, hearing stories and building palaces on the sand near the river. As an adult, he became a farmer but everything changed when the partition of India happened in 1947. Forced from his home and into a city, Chand struggled to find the beauty he had grown up with. He finally discovered it in the jungle along the city’s edge. There he cut back the vegetation and built himself a hut. He started gathering items and bringing them into the jungle. Then he started building a secret kingdom, one that was undiscovered by anyone else for fifteen years. When the officials wanted it destroyed, the local community rose up to protect this outsider’s art.

Rosenstock manages to keep the complicated story of the partition of India to a scale that allows young readers to understand its impact on Chand, but also not get caught in the political details. She cleverly uses repetition of themes in the book, creating a feel of a traditional tale that suits this subject perfectly. She also shows the care and attention to detail that Chand demonstrated in his quiet work. There is a sense of awe around both his skill and his dedication to his vision.

Nivola’s art is fine-lined and marvelously detailed. From the lush jungle setting to the various figures he created. It is impressive that when the pages unfold to show photographs of the actual Rock Garden, there is no jarring moving from illustration to image. It flows naturally and yet allows the full images to amaze too.

A look at an outsider artist who created a world all his own. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists

YALSA has announced their finalists for their 2019 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. The award is for the best nonfiction book published for ages 12-18 during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.  Here are the finalists: 

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor

Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler Hey, Kiddo

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown

Review: Lights! Camera! Alice! by Mara Rockliff

Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff

Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Thrilling Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Simona Ciraolo (9781452141343)

Alice Guy-Blache was the first woman film-maker in the world. When motion pictures were first invented, they were used to show dull things like people boarding a train. Alice saw an opportunity to use them to tell stories, like the stories she had loved since she was a child. Alice figured out how to run film backward to show people flying upwards among other clever tricks. She made colored films by hand and created the first movies with sound. Alice moved to America with her new husband and discovered that no one had ever heard of her there! So she set out to create more films and eventually opened her own studio in New York State. Unfortunately, everything changed when Hollywood became the place for movies and Alice had to return to France without even a movie camera. Still, she had one last story to tell, her own.

This eye-opening picture book biography will introduce readers to an amazing woman whose vision of what movies could be led the way to new developments and implementations. Most importantly, Alice realized that film could be used to tell stories and set out to do just that. Throughout her life and this book, Alice shows a fierce determination, artistic eye, and a desire to share her imagination with others.

The art by Ciraolo is bright and full of action. It shows vintage images of ads as well as the brightness of Alice’s ideas. Some of the images take an entire page while others are small vignettes of big moments in Alice’s life. The variety makes for a dynamic book visually.

An introduction to a woman that we should all know. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.

 

Review: Lovely Beasts by Kate Gardner

Lovely Beasts by Kate Gardner

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner, illustrated by Heidi Smith (9780062741615)

This nonfiction picture book takes a brief look at a series of different animals and shows an unexpected side to each of them. Fierce gorillas are actually wonderful parents caring deeply and well for their offspring. Fanged wolves when looked at more closely are all about being friends with one another and connecting through their howls. The feared shark is an important part of its ecosystem and food cycle. The porcupine is less about throwing quills and much more about being a shy herbivore. Each animal is labeled with a false impression and then with a turn of the page the more detailed truth of the animal is shared.

Gardner has carefully selected animals that are perceived as something they are not. She wisely shares a mix of features of the animal and corrective facts that offset the false perception. The text is brief enough to make this book a great read aloud to share when exploring animal life. The book ends with a group of female pack leaders of different types and then shows all of the animals in the book together.

The illustrations are particularly lovely. Done in subtle colors and fine lines, the fur of the animals is almost touchable. Each animal is shown both singly on a simple blank background and then again in their habitat.

A beautiful and fresh look at some of the most misunderstood animals in the world. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt

So Tall Within Sojourner Truth's Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Daniel Minter (9781626728721)

Isabella grew up in slavery, sold away from her mother when she was nine. She did hard labor for years, sometimes with no shoes in the winter and other times with no sleep at night because of the work expected of her. One year after she had been forced to marry a man and had five children, she was promised her freedom. But freedom didn’t come and so she escaped with her baby. She arrived at the home of two kind people, who stood by her in her escape and paid for the freedom of Isabella and her baby. When her son was sold away by her old master, Isabella went to court to have him returned to her. As time went by, she took the name Sojourner Truth and started to speak publicly against slavery. She fought many battles for equality, standing tall and speaking the truth.

This book aches with pain, loss, and grief. The book is broken into sections, each starting with an evocative phrase about slavery, that shows what is ahead. These poetic phrases add so much to Sojourner Truth’s biography, pulling readers directly into the right place in their hearts to hear her story. Schmidt’s writing doesn’t flinch from the damage of slavery and its evil. He instead makes sure that every reader understands the impact of slavery on those who lived and died under it.

Minter’s art is so powerful. He has created tender moments of connection, impactful images of slavery, and also inspiring moments of standing up for what is right. The images that accompany Schmidt’s poetic phrases are particularly special, each one staring right at the reader and asking them to connect.

A riveting biography of one of the most amazing Americans in our history. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.