3 Fun Fall Picture Books

The Bad Seed by Jory John

The Bad Seed by Jory John, illustrated by Pete Oswald (9780062467768)

He is a very bad seed. He cuts in line, tells pointless lies, never washes his hands (or his feet), and is late to everything. He wasn’t always that way. Once he was happy with his family of seeds on top of a sunflower. But when the flower drooped, he was gathered and put into a bag of seeds. Darkness fell until he was almost eaten by a giant! After that, he was a bad seed. Everyone knew it. But what happens when a bad seed doesn’t want to be bad anymore? Can he become a good seed? This picture book looks at the power of choice and transformation. An interesting read aloud for gardening story times or autumn units. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by HarperCollins.)

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre (9781481479844)

With vibrant photographs, this picture book celebrates the beauty and colors of autumn. Told in rhyme, the book focuses on the changing leaves. Different colors are shown clearly in the images, making this a great book to explore for colors too. The leaves go from bright colors on the trees, to falling down, to heaps on the ground and sinking into the water too. Finally, there is snow. This is a great addition to Sayre’s body of work on nature. It is simple enough to use with very young preschoolers and even toddlers all of whom will enjoy the vivid clarity of the photographs. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illustrated by K. G. Campbell

Wee Sister Strange is a girl who lives by herself by the woods in an old house. She spends time in the woods when others won’t be there. She enjoys the moon and the dark. She talks to the owls and buries the bones from their meals. She rides on the back of a ferocious bear. She climbs trees as wolves prowl below. She dives deep into the water of the bog looking at snail shells. Then a bright window beckons her closer. There is the reader, snug in bed reading this book! And Wee Sister Strange stays there, right outside, listening to the story and snuggling down in her own bed outside.

The poetry of this book immediately tells readers that they are in an odd world, one where a child merrily lives on her own. Wee Sister Strange is a beautiful and wild child; the language in the poem makes sure that children will see her as a welcome and safe part of the woods. Still, the bear is fierce and the wolves are about, so this is a wild woods, one where other may fear to explore. The bog is like that as well, cleverly not described as a lake and with the slime emphasized for good measure too. The art by Campbell is glowing and rich. The leaves on the trees are just about almost fallen entirely with a few stubborn yellow leaves lighting the branches like lanterns. The moon is full and throws shadows. The animals are strong and fanged. It’s a book with shivers and wonder galore. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.)

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (9780316349000)

Suzette has been in New England at boarding school for the last school year. Now she has returned back home to her family in Los Angeles. She has missed the city itself, but even more so she has missed her stepbrother, Lionel. Lionel has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and during the summer decides to stop taking his medication. He starts dating a girl that Suzette also finds compelling and interesting, but Suzette worries that the girl isn’t good for Lionel. Meanwhile, Suzette is dealing with discovering that she is bisexual, having had her first relationship with a girl while at board school that did not end well. Back at home, she begins to date Emil, a longtime friend of her family. Suzette is the only one who knows of Lionel stopping his medication and the secret becomes a problem as Lionel reaches a crisis.

Colbert has created a beautiful novel that speaks to the complexities of mental illness. The reaction of friends is well drawn, showing how people pull away from those diagnosed with mental illness and yet want to talk about them too. Lionel is a great character, someone the reader and Suzette gravitates to and yet someone who is battling a mental illness profoundly and pushes people away. He is in turns riveting and maddening.

Suzette’s character is the center of the novel and she is wonderfully crafted. An African-American protagonist who has converted to Judaism when her mother married Lionel’s father, she is someone who has to make choices about what she shares about herself and what battles she decides to engage in. Suzette is just discovering her bisexuality and even hesitates to label herself that way at first. The depiction of sexuality in the book and sex is handled with honesty and without bias. It’s lovely to see it handled that way with both girls and boys.

A very special book for teens, this book is diverse and filled with moments of triumph and pain. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

This Week’s Tweets, Pins and Tumbls

Here are some cool links I shared on my TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr accounts in the last week:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

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LIBRARIES

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TEEN LIT

10 of the Best New Young Adult Books In September 2017

Since its publication 80 years ago today, THE HOBBIT has inspired some tremendous artwork. Check out our gallery:

2017 Kirkus Prize Finalists

The Kirkus Prize offers a purse of $50,000 to the winner each year. The award is given in three categories: fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. Any book given a star by Kirkus and published between September 1, 2016 and August 31, 2017 are eligible. There are six finalists in the young reader’s category:

Bronze and Sunflower The Hate U Give

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Meilo So

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

It All Comes Down to This The Marrow Thieves

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Me Tall, You Small Walk with Me

Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L’Arronge

Walk with Me by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu (9780399547966)

Warcross is an international obsession, augmented reality and a video game world combined into something that everyone uses every day. Emika though has troubles in the real world making ends meet, paying her rent. She works as a bounty hunter, finding the criminals that the police don’t have time to trace. Then in Warcross, she uses a hacked account to make quick money there. But when her hack accidentally makes her visible in the middle of the Warcross Championships, her life changes. She gains the attention of the enigmatic Hideo, the man who created Warcross. There is someone else hacking into Warcross and threatening the games, Hideo hires Emika to trace the intruder. To gain access to the games, Emika is given a wild card slot and moved to Tokyo. In the middle of comfort and ease for the first time, Emika finds herself on a team for the first time, falling in love and playing an illegal game alongside the legal one. Now she has to race time to find her prey and stop their plot.

Writing novels about video games is difficult. It’s hard to figure out how to make hacking and video game code concrete enough for readers to be able to follow. Cleverly, Lu uses her augmented reality subject to allow readers to visualize hacking, code and the dark web. The video game subject is strengthened by the mystery and bounty hunting in both the virtual and real worlds. It also plays beautifully against the romance that Emika discovers, heightening the pressure she is under and giving her someone to truly care about.

Emika is a great protagonist. Smart and savvy, she is not one to make mistakes that anyone else would make. Still, she is wonderfully flawed in her lack of trust of others and her isolation. As she makes her mark on both the real and online worlds, her fame grows but never really touches Emika. This is not a book about video game fame or even playing video games. Rather it is about the power of virtual worlds, the temptation of technology and how it changes us as humans.

Powerful and timely, this novel will be enjoyed by gamers of all types. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

ARC provided by Putnam.

 

3 Picture Books Filled with Empathy

These three picture books all look at empathy in different ways and all are worth exploring.

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lamaitre (9781524739058)

Seeing the news about anger and hate in the world, a little girl wonders what she can do to help. So each of her parents take the little girl out in their diverse and urban community. They are kind to others on the subway. They greet their neighbors and shop at stores owned by people of different races and faiths. Then the little girl asks to walk the dog on her own. Will her parents be brave enough to let her leave fear behind and head into the world on her own?

Told simply and with great kindness, this picture book shows children and families exactly the small steps they can take to bring love and joy back into their lives during these stressful fear-filled times. The illustrations are simple, showing the diversity of the community with clarity. Families looking for ways to get beyond worry and fear will embrace this picture book. It is exactly what our world and our children need. (ARC received from Penguin.)

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui (9781479597468)

Written and illustrated by two Vietnamese-Americans, this picture book captures the author’s experience as a child accompanying his father to a local fishing pond. The two of them are up early since his father has to head to second job that he just got. They stop at the bait shop and pick up minnows. Then head to the pond, where the boy’s father fishes and the boy builds a fire for them. It’s cool during this Minnesota dawn. The two share sandwiches, a small memory from Vietnam about fishing, and catch fish for dinner. When they return home, the extended family is there and that evening they all feast on the fish together.

Phi’s prose is filled with the skill of a poet. He stitches the past and present together into a richness that is poignant. He welcomes young readers into the life of a refugee family in Minnesota. The illustrations have a modern edge to them, sometimes framed like a graphic novel and other times soaring to the sides of the page. Bui uses her format skillfully and enlivens this quiet tale of fishing and new lives. Told with grace and strength, this picture book is wondrous. (Reviewed from library copy.)

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin (9781406348613)

A boy is now far from his Italian home and only one thing in this new place reminds him of Italy and where he used to live. It is Mr. Evans’s pigeons and their cooing that reminds the boy of Rome. The boy spends time with Mr. Evans and the pigeons. Mr. Evans gives him one as his own, a gray pigeon with a white head that the boy names “King of the Sky.” But the pigeon is slow to return home as the pigeons train, though Mr. Evans insists the bird will be a champion. Finally, the bird gets the perfect long distance race, flying back from Italy. But will he make it or will he stay in Italy like the boy would long to?

Davies is a masterful writer, inviting the reader into the pain of a boy who has left the country he loves and hasn’t found a place that feels right in his new country. It is a book about loneliness and finding your way forward. It’s a book about connection with your neighbors and community to find that way. The illustrations by Carlin are quirky and beautifully layered. They have a dreamlike quality to them, filled with soft edges and even softer light. This is a picture book that invites readers to understand what home really is. Appropriate for ages 5-8. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 Graphic Novels with Girl Power

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All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (9780525429982)

The author of the popular Roller Girl returns with a book about Impy, a girl who has been homeschooled until this year. Impy has grown up with her parents working at the Renaissance Faire and this year she is also starting work as a squire at the faire for the first time. Public school though is different than Impy thought and though she quickly makes friends, they may not be the right group for her. As Impy starts to make bad decisions at school and at home, her life starts to fall apart. Still, Impy is a knight in training and has people around her to help put her back on the path to being a hero! Appropriate for ages 9-12. (ARC provided by Dials Books)

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Spinning by Tillie Walden (9781626727724)

This memoir graphic novel shares a look at a girl’s life in ice skating, moving to a new city and discovering oneself as an artist. It is also a look at knowing that you are gay and finally coming out to those around you. But most of all, it’s about loneliness and the need to connect and find people around you who love and support you. Throughout the book there is an aching loneliness that pervades the story. The memoir is beautifully unstructured, events passing the way that days in a life do. They are filled with moments, some small and some critical. Walden shares them all, showing an incredible skill for storytelling and art as a young author. Get this into the hands of Lucy Knisley fans. Appropriate for ages 12-15. (Review copy provided by First Second)

Swing it, Sunny

Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm (9780545741705)

Sunny is headed for middle school in this graphic novel that shows her returning home after her summer with Gramps in Florida. Her older brother Dale is now at boarding school and Sunny can’t figure out how to connect with him at all even when he comes home to visit. Set in the mid-1970’s, the book is filled with the pop culture of those times like Jiffy Pop popcorn, the Six-Million Dollar Man, Gilligan’s Island and TV dinners. This second book in the Sunny series tells the story of a family struggling with handling drug abuse but also the small moments that make up a life. Appropriate for ages 9-12. (ARC provided by Scholastic.)