Loving Hands by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Amy June Bates (9780763679934)
This tender and moving picture book looks at the connection between parent and child from babyhood all the way through adulthood and old age. The book begins with pregnancy and birth, then moves on to the activities of toddlers and childhood like pat-a-cake and skinned knees. The book moves on to baking together, star gazing, and gardening. Full of simple pleasures, the child becomes an adult who visits home now and again. Until he returns to care for his mother and they watch the stars once again together.
First, I must tell you that the mother does not die at the end of the book. So the book stays hopeful and filled with warmth all the way through. The focus on hands is lovely, connecting the two of them through their activities and their loving touches. Johnston’s writing is superb, lifting the book up to something splendid and special. The verse in the book has a repeating rhythm and near rhymes that create beautiful moments on each page.
The artwork by Bates exudes warmth on the page. The characters are lit from within by their connection and love for one another. Each image captures that connection through body language and expressions.
A lovely book for mothers and children alike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord (9780545914246)
Emma is about to start public school for the first time as a fifth grader after being home schooled. On the evening before her first day of school, her father, a game warden, gets a call about a rabbit stuck in someone’s fence. Emma goes with her father on the call and discovers that it’s not a wild rabbit after all, but a domesticated bunny. Emma and her father take the bunny home and plan to turn it over to a shelter the next day. Then Emma must start school where she has plans to find the perfect best friend. However, things don’t go as planned and Emma is paired on a school project with Jack. Jack has problems paying attention in class, speaks when it isn’t his turn, and loves to talk about animal facts. Jack isn’t the friend that Emma is looking for. As Emma struggles to distance herself from Jack and get closer to the girls in her class, she is also learning more about herself along the way.
Lord once again has created a very readable book for older elementary readers. She perfectly captures the stress of going from a home-school environment to a public school classroom as well as the high expectations to find a best friend. As Emma works to manage her high expectations, she discovers that she is also being bullied by a girl in her class who is also mean to Jack. Still, it is not that simple to accept Jack as a friend, because he is different and has troubles, and yet, he may be the exact friend that Emma needs.
Emma is a complex character, which is very impressive given the short length of this novel. As she moves to a public school, she shows her gentleness with her rabbit, her love of family, and her deep longing for a true friend. She grapples with being pushed to work with Jack, being lied to by a classmate, and then finding herself being mean to Jack behind his back. Friendship is not simple!
An appealing read that will hop right into your heart. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic Press.
Here are the items I shared on Twitter this week:
How Author Kwame Alexander Writes Children’s Literature That Everyone Can Read
Michelle Obama Revealed Her Favorite Children’s Books of All Time
The Oldest American Picture Book Still in Print is Obviously About Cats – https://t.co/YYflyHg361
9 Unexpected Benefits That Come with Having a Library Card
Read Like a Child, Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Competitive Reading
‘I want stories about gays in space’: How LGBTQ young adult literature is changing
Menstruate? Celebrate! New Novel Urges Girls To Embrace ‘The Moon Within’ – NPR –
‘My Brother’s Husband’: Young adult literature from Japan attracts a new global audience | The Japan Times
Dragon Night by J. R. Krause (9780525514244)
A boy who is scared of the dark night meets a dragon out of one of his story books who is scared of the knight too. The two set off on a flying journey to explore their fears together, thinking they are talking about the same thing. They find a carnival where night has been driven away but it has a castle. There is a city street with bright lights and no night, but there is a big king. The stadium even has a knight mascot. When the two realize they are talking about different fears, they work together to face them. The dragon helps the boy realize that dark brings the stars out. The boy then creates a new story for the dragon where the knight doesn’t try to hurt him at all.
Krause tells an empowering story of facing one’s fears with a friend in this picture book. His use of a homophone to start the misunderstanding adds to the fun of the story with an element of grammar and a reason for two unlikely beings to connect. Readers may expect the story to end when the boy begins to accept the night, but it continues with a more complicated solution for the dragon. The fact that the child thinks of the solution and creates it himself is a key to the success of this story.
Krause is an animator of shows like The Simpsons, so it is no surprise that the art in this book is compelling. Done in thick lines and limited colors, it has a vintage feel that makes for a great bedtime story. The art is deftly done, the illumination of the boy and the dragon throughout is skillfully and dramatically done.
Let your bedtime take flight with this winning read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Good Boy by Sergio Ruzzier (9781481499064)
This is a story of a boy and his dog. It starts simply enough with the boy issuing commands and the dog obeying. He sits, rolls over, jumps, fetches and… juggles! Then the dog makes them a meal and cleans the house. The two of them head outside where the commands become more like requests to have fun together and the pair head off on an adventure. It leads them to build a boat, find an island, build a rocket and then leave earth. They come to a lovely planet where they make new friends but soon miss home. Returning back, the two get ready for bed together and finally fall asleep side-by-side.
Ruzzier cleverly turns the relationship of owner and pet on its head in the book. He begins the book with the more traditional roles and then steadily makes their relationship one of equals and friends. By the end, the tone is entirely different from the beginning, something that is very impressive given that there are only one or two words on each page of the book. It is a beautifully structured book and very intelligently designed.
Ruzzier’s illustrations have his unique feel with surreal landscapes filled with sherbet-colored hills and a green ocean. The illustrations have a friendly cartoon style but also a sophistication that one expects from a book by Ruzzier.
A smart look at a boy and his dog and their adventures together. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Sebastia Serra (9781580897969)
This is a companion book to the award-winning The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred. This second book is by the same author but a different illustrator. Here a girl sets off to do some errands while the rest of the farm gets ready for a celebration. The farm maiden creates a piñata by hand with the help of a boy, horse, goose, cat and sheep. The farmer carves figures from wood and everyone prepares for a party. Told in a cumulative folktale style, the book uses Spanish words and phrases to create a book that sings with festivities.
The writing by Vamos is skilled as she weaves together English and Spanish into rhymes and a repeating and cumulative structure. Children who don’t know Spanish will easily be able to decode the words in the text since Vamos replaces the English word on a previous page with the Spanish word. The book also includes a glossary of Spanish words as well as directions for making your own piñata. The illustrations by Serra are colorful and bright. They are filled with the action of making the piñata and every animal and person is happy while doing their work. There is a sense of anticipation throughout the book as the celebration nears.
A great bilingual choice for Spanish-language learners. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Charlesbridge.
The Mathical Book Prize is given annually to the outstanding fiction and nonfiction for youth ages 2-18. The prize is selected by a committee of PreK-12 teachers, librarians, mathematicians, and early childhood experts. Here are the 2019 winners and honor books for each age category:
Crash! Boom! A Math Tale by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Chatterton
WINNER GRADES K-2
Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
WINNER GRADES 3-5
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
WINNER GRADES 6-8
To the Moon! The True Story of the American Heroes on the Apollo 8 Spaceship by Jeffrey Kluger and Ruby Shamir
HONOR BOOKS PRE-K
Press Here by Hervé Tullet
100 Bugs! A Counting Book by Kate Narita
HONOR BOOKS GRADES K-2
3×4 by Ivan Brunetti
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker
The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca
When Sophie Thinks She Can’t by Molly Bang
HONOR BOOKS GRADES 3-5
Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins
Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race by Rebecca Rissman
HONOR BOOK GRADES 6-8
If You Find This by Matthew Baker
HONOR BOOK GRADES 9-12
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (9780698195264)
On the 20th anniversary year of her ground-breaking teen novel Speak, Anderson has written a searing book of poetry that chronicles her own journey to having a voice and speaking out. Thanks to the subject matter of Speak, Anderson is trusted by many of the teens she speaks before to hear their own stories of abuse and rape. Surely over the decades, something has changed. Has it? In this nonfiction work of verse, Anderson opens up about her own childhood and parents, her own experience with sexual assault and rape, the sexual harassment of college campuses from students and professors alike, and so much more. Her book is a call to action, to rage alongside her, and to not be silent.
Anderson’s poetry slams into you like a freight train. She does have some poems that are subtle and more introspective, but the ones that rush and insist are the best here. Her anger fuels this entire book, her call to be better, to raise sons who do right, to speak and shout and yell. She is so honest on these pages, allowing the teens and others who have spoken to her to have space in the book too. In a book that could have felt like too much pain, it is instead action oriented and forceful.
Anderson’s verse is incredibly skilled. She tells poignant stories, both her own and other people’s. She shares insights, yells at those she evaded once, demands changes and shows how very vital one angry voice can be for change. This is a book that every woman should read, teens and adults. It’s one to return to for fuel to fight on when you are spent.
Brilliant, courageous and heart breaking, this book is one that belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 14-adult.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Penguin Young Readers.
Another by Christian Robinson (9781534421677)
In his first solo picture book, award-winning illustrator Robinson creates a wordless experience for young book lovers. A little girl is in bed with her cat sleeping at her feet, when a portal opens in the wall. Through the portal comes a cat who is just the same as her cat except that it wears a blue collar rather than a red one. The portal cat steals the girl’s cat’s red mouse toy and heads back through the portal with it. What ensues is a literal cat and mouse game through a series of portals that lead to Escher-like rooms, reversal of gravity, and much more. Finally, the girl meets another version of herself and retrieves the red mouse, returning home. The adventure is over, or is it?
Cleverly designed, this wordless picture book is a joy to experience. Readers will love figuring out that gravity is different, or that stairs don’t actually look like stairs, or that there are other worlds out there much like our own. The use of portals adds a delightful science-fiction quality to the book too. As always, Robinson’s illustrations are exceptional. His use of repeating polka dots is used on the end-pages and under the book jacket as well as throughout the story. From the girl’s hair to entire landscapes of dots, the book is a cohesive whole even as it journeys through other worlds.
An exceptional picture book made all the more impressive by being wordless. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.