National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

The winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature has been announced. First, let me say how very impressed I was with the entire list this year. It was filled with diverse authors and powerful wonderful stories and writing.

I love the winner and am thrilled to see a graphic novel win!

March: Book Three

If you haven’t read this trilogy, you need to right away. It’s incredible.

Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta

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Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano (InfoSoup)

This stunning book of poetry looks at the flood of children from Central America who are making their way to the United States. 100,000 of them have walked to our country, escaping to safety and what they hope is fresh opportunities. The book opens with a few poems that show the beauty of Central America and then swiftly moves to the problems and the gangs that are in control. Then begins the long march north, the trust placed in coyotes that lead them, the dangers they face, the rough conditions and the courage it takes to head towards the unknown. The book ends with poems of Los Angeles and hope.

Written by a Salvadoran poet, this book’s poetry soars and lifts even when speaking of dark and dangerous subjects. Throughout there is a focus on hope and the distant wonder of the United States. There are poems of the journey that are aching with loss. There are poems of strong parents who carry children and others of the children alone and fearful. It is a book that captures the range of immigrants coming to the United States, particularly children from Central America whose story is shared with such poignancy on these pages.

The art by Ruano is startling and beautiful. He has surreal moments in the art that capture a little touch of playfulness at first. That moves quickly to sense of isolation at times, of being alone in a stark landscape. Towards the end, there is one painting of a child afloat in the air on a blue, cloud-like sleeping bag who is finally heading home with his parents. It is a picture of such tenderness and captures the youth and dreams of these children.

An important book that shows the plight of Central American children as they walk to the United States, this is a challenging book of poetry that demands attention. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

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When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (InfoSoup)

Best friends, Miel and Sam each have secrets that they wear both outside and inside themselves. Sam was the first person to approach Miel when she was dumped from the town’s water tower the day it was knocked down. She is a girl whose past is tied to the water, whose skirt hem is always damp. She fears pumpkins and was taken in by Aracely, a woman who can rescue people from their own heartache. Miel also has roses that grow out of one of her wrists, marking her a danger to her family. Sam has lived as a boy, serving as the son his mother never had even though his anatomy is that of a girl. At some point, he was expected to return to being a girl but Sam doesn’t know if he will ever be ready. Meanwhile the four sisters in town seek to control Miel and her roses and restore their power, but first they must discover the secret that will make her do their bidding.

Oh my word, this is a beautiful book. It is written in prose that is wildly lush, almost aromatic, so vivid that it remains in your head after you read it. From descriptions of pumpkins as a world of their own to the beautiful danger of the four redheaded sisters to the delicacy of the eggs and herbs that remove heartbreak from a person, each description is its own painting of magic. It creates a world that is ours and yet not, a world of moons and honey, roses and water, stained glass and blood.

To this beautiful and intense writing you add an understanding of the transgender experience and a willingness to write of sexuality and desire and lust for someone who is deciding how they will transition and what their terms will be. It is a book that captures that in-between moment, allows us to linger there with Miel and Sam as their love is just blooming and they are allowing themselves to explore each other in new ways.

Gorgeous, breathtaking and wise, this is one of the most magical and transcendent books I have ever experienced. Bravo for the courage it took to write this and the love that is expressed on each and every page. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

10 Great Picture Books on Civil Rights

The ACLU has just had its best fund raising month ever, so I know that others are concerned with civil rights being attacked just as much as I am. Happily, there are beautiful picture books on civil rights to share with the children in our lives:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate

The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Tim Ladwig

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko, illustrations by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko

Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down 22747807

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illlustrated by Brian Pinkney

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer:The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Bostone Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

6519593 When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders

We Troubled the Waters by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Rod Brown

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Jim Burke, R. Gregory Christie, Tonya Engel, John Parra, and Meilo So

10 Great Books for Older Children on Bullying

While my “10 Great” series so far has focused only on picture books, I want to share some great books for older children as well. Here are some wonderful books about bullies and bullying to share in classrooms and families:

Better Nate Than Ever Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

Friends for Life Garvey's Choice

Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

Maxi's Secrets: (or what you can learn from a dog) My Heart Is Laughing

Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde

My Heart Is Laughing by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson

Pack of Dorks (Pack of Dorks #1) Wolf Hollow

Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Wonder Words in the Dust

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

 

I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino

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I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino (InfoSoup)

This picture book celebrates stories in all of their forms from the past through to the present. Beginning with oral storytelling around fires, the book then moves to cave paintings, clay tablets and hieroglyphics. Formats change to papyrus and paper, tapestries to printed books. Libraries evolve from private to public and books with their stories travel the world. They are censored sometimes and even burned, but they survive. They are inspiring, portable and immortal.

Yaccarino takes huge concepts and boils them down into a focused tale of the story. He uses simple language, inviting readers to think deeply about the power of story and how it transforms us all. While a lot of the book is about formats and changes as the technology changed, some of it is about the emotional tug of stories and how they move people.

The simple text is accompanied by vivid pictures alive with bright colors that range from tangerine to lemon to deep plums and chocolate browns. The illustrations are stylized and clever, using blocks of color that shout from the pages.

A cheerful picture book about the power and necessity of story. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.