Category: Uncategorized

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzoli (9780670016532, Amazon)

The author of Tricky Vic returns with another rip-roaring nonfiction picture book. It is the true story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who searched for an ancient city hidden in the Amazon rainforest. Fawcett had dreamed his entire life of being an explorer and as an adult took many treks into South America to map the region. They faced many dangers, such as huge snakes and natives with weapons. Many of the men he traveled with perished on the adventures but Fawcett survived. Others thought that the Amazon city was a myth while Fawcett insisted that it existed. If he found it, it would make him one of the most famous explorers of all time and one of the wealthiest too. This book tells his tale as he searched for the lost city.

Pizzoli has a knack for selecting real life stories that most people, adults and children, will not have heard of. This one is a fascinating story of belief and bravery, about a man who left family and country behind in his quest to discover the unknown. Pizzoli tells the story with lots of action and a sense of adventure in his prose. There are moments where Pizzoli allows the action to slow, the wonder of the moment to grow, and the dangers to almost overwhelm. It’s written with skill and knowledge, building to a conclusion that suits the life of Fawcett to a Z.

The book design and illustrations add so much to this nonfiction read. Done in a simple and clever style, just like Pizzoli’s picture books, the images add necessary humor to the book. The design of the book also allows additional information to be added on sidebars. Pizzoli uses his illustrations to also create moments of tension and drama, pausing the action for effect.

Smart, stylish and successful, this nonfiction picture book will take readers on quite an adventure. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

My Daddy Rules the World by Hope Anita Smith

My Daddy Rules the World by Hope Anita Smith

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads by Hope Anita Smith (9780805091892, Amazon)

Coretta Scott King Award winner Smith returns with a new collection of poetry and illustrations that focuses on fathers. The book shows fathers who make breakfast and chat contrasted with others whose work keeps them far away but still in contact. There are fathers who cut hair, others who dance, others who wrestle or play catch. They teach their children to ride bikes or play instruments or read. Each poem is told in the voice of the child of that father and shows how very different dads can be but that they all love their children completely.

Smith writes poetry that is thoughtful and honed. She makes sure that it is appropriate for the young audience, inviting young readers to explore poetry and see themselves in it. The poems are misleadingly simple, not showing the skill that it takes to write at this level and with such apparent ease.

Smith’s illustrations are diverse and inclusive. With her torn paper illustrations, she makes sure to show families of various races and multiracial families. There is a warmth to the illustrations and a folk-art element that underlines the richness of being a father and in a family.

A strong collection of poems for young people, ideal to share with fathers. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

Waterstones Children’s Laureate

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Lauren Child has been announced as the 10th Waterstones Children’s Laureate. She is the author and illustrator of the beloved Charlie and Lola book and television series.

Child said: “I want to inspire children to believe in their own creative potential, to make their own stories and drawings and ignite in them the delight of reading for pleasure. In an increasingly fast paced world, children need the freedom to dream and imagine; to enjoy reading, drawing and telling their own stories without value judgement or restraint”.

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis, illustrated by Jo-Shin Lee (9780807577073, Amazon)

This important picture book shows how a family who is experiencing homelessness continues to foster connections that demonstrate their love for one another. The little girl who narrates the book must stay in one shelter with her mother while her father stays at a different one. They sleep on cots among other people and the little girl must share her doll with the other children there. Sometimes they meet her father in the park to spend time together, though most of the time her parents are out looking for work and taking turns watching her. They have to stand in line to get food and celebrate holidays even though they are apart. It’s hard but they are still a family.

This book offers a gentle way to explain homelessness to children. It shows what life is like living in the shelter, how family members are separated from one another, and how difficult it is to live in this way. This is one of those important books that serves as a window for some children but also as a mirror for those living with homelessness. Throughout the young narrator shares her positive outlook despite the challenges.

The illustrations by Lee are childlike and explore seeing the subject from the point of view of the little girl. They have a rough quality to them and have the feel of being drawn by colored pencils and crayons.

An important book for urban libraries, this picture book fills a need in many of our communities. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley

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The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Lin Wang (9781885008572)

Released March 15, 2017.

Yasuhiro discovered an injured crane caught in a trap and freed it, the crane pressing its red crest to his cheek before flying away. The next night a girl came to his home where he lived with his father. She asked to stay with them and work for them. His father, Ryota, agreed to let her stay though they aren’t rich and have little to share. The girl, Hiroko, noticed the loom in one of the rooms and was told that it belonged to Yasuhiro’s mother who had died. Hiroko offered to weave silk for them to sell as long as they never opened the door while she was working. They agreed. She soon returned with fine silk that Ryota was able to sell for a nice sum, enough to stop him from having to look for work for awhile. Soon though, he needed more silk and then still more, faster and faster each time. As the demands grew, Hiroko was unable to recover between weavings, making each time take longer and longer. When Ryota finally opened the door, there was Hiroko as a crane, weaving on the loom and using her own feathers. Hiroko finished the weaving and then flew off, but it was up to Yasuhiro to decide what life he was going to choose going forward.

This picture book version is based on several versions of the traditional Japanese crane folktales. One theme in these stories is the concept of a debt that needs to be repaid. This version has a father who plays the impatient villain in the story, allowing real love to blossom and grow between the human boy and the crane girl. The writing here is superb. It is simple enough to be shared aloud well and yet rich enough that the story really comes to life. Manley uses haiku inserted throughout to speak the characters’ deepest feelings that they don’t share aloud in the story. This use of brief poetry embraces the Japanese setting of the tales in another way, enriching them further.

The illustrations are enchanting. They have a light to them, one that shines from the silk the girl creates and emanates from her body and feathers. Done in watercolor, they are filled with fine details, small touches of steam rising from a teapot and snow on shoulders draw readers further in.

A rich retelling of the Japanese crane folktale, this version offers great writing combined with wonderful illustrations. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Shen’s Books.