The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come by Sue Macy, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (9781481472203)
Aaron Lansky’s grandmother came to America from Eastern Europe. She brought with her precious books in Yiddish, which her brother threw into the sea along with her other possessions as a sign they must break with the past. Aaron grew up firmly American in Massachusetts. When he went to college he began to study Jewish scholars and had to learn to read Yiddish to be able to read what he needed to. But Yiddish books and the language were in serious trouble in the 1960s after the impact of World War II. Aaron found himself rescuing Yiddish books from destruction. He filled his apartment with books and asked the leaders of Jewish organizations across the country to help save the books. But they believed that Yiddish was no longer worth saving. So Aaron created his own space in an old factory building that he named the Yiddish Book Center. As word spread, he continued to save books from destruction and meet with people who handed their beloved books over to him. The Center continues its work to this day, having saved Yiddish books from destruction for decades.
Macy writes with a wonderful tone in this nonfiction picture book. She shares the importance of what Lansky accomplished with his work but also has a playful approach that works particularly well. The insertion of Yiddish words in the text adds to this effect. The story of Aaron Lansky’s work is one of finding a personal passion and getting swept up in it. It is a story of hard work, resilience and determination in the face of even those who should care not finding your work valuable at first.
The illustrations by Innerst move from playful in depicting things like running in pajamas at night to save books to dramatic when looking back at the Holocaust. They are done in acrylic and gouache with textures added digitally. The images suit the subject well with a feel of modern design combined with connections to the past.
A fascinating biography of a little-known man who saved a written history of his people. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
This Place: 150 Years Retold (9781553797586)
In a graphic novel format, this book tells the story of 150 years of indigenous history in Canada. The book begins with the story of Annie Bannatyne, the daughter of a wealthy store owner and a Metis-Saulteaux woman. Angered by racist comments published by Charles Mair, Annie literally horsewhips him in public, inspiring a young Louis Riel. There are stories of First Nation chiefs continuing their tribes’ traditional ways, despite them being forbidden by Canadian law. Other stories tell of the damage of residential schools. There is the story of Francis Pegahmagabow, the best sniper in North American history, and how his heroism in World War I was not enough to get the Canadian government to treat him as a human being. There are stories of children taken away, of families broken, of great heroism and deep connection to traditions and to the land itself. The book ends with a science fiction look at native people in space and a message of hope for change.
Told by various First Nation authors and illustrators, this book is simply incredible. At the beginning of each story, the author speaks about their inspiration and then a timeline is given that shows how little progress was made in Canada. Information is shared in the timeline that allows the stories to be more focused but for readers to learn about more historical points. As the history grows shockingly modern, the events remain just as searingly racist as those before the turn of the century. Still, the message here is one of strength, resilience and resistance. It is about standing up, insisting on being seen, and demanding to be heard. There is hope here in each of these heroes.
One of the top graphic novels of the year, this may be Canadian focused, but it speaks to everyone in all nations. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from library copy.
Super Manny Cleans Up! by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (9781481459624)
Manny and Gertie love to pretend to be superheroes in this second Manny picture book. Every weekend they save the planet from danger. It might be stampeding dinosaurs at the museum, lions in the library, or veggie monsters at the farmer’s market. But when they are battling giant turtles from outer space in the park, Manny notices something. The entire park is covered in garbage and litter and it’s hurting the turtles in the pond. The park is swarming with litterbugs! The two decide to do something about it. All afternoon they tidy up the park, joined by their imaginary foes and then by real people who are using the park. Soon everyone realized that they could be heroes too, just like Manny and Gertie.
As with the first in the series, there is a strong example shown here that children can make a difference in their worlds, that they can be heroes too. In this book, the focus is on being a superhero and then that element is brought into the real world through hard work. Manny and Gertie make a daunting task seem doable through their enthusiasm and example. Even better, the book avoids being didactic by continuing to be playful and light in its approach.
The art by Graegin is cleverly done, clearly making the imaginary foes that Manny and Gertie battle different from reality. Done in different bright single colors, the foes are playfully drawn complete with appropriate costumes for their roles. Finely detailed, the illustrations are bright and friendly.
A great second win for Manny and Gertie! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.
Super Manny Stands Up by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (9781481459600, Amazon)
Manny has a collection of superhero capes that he wears to fight different foes. He wears his blue cape to fight sea creatures, his red cape to battle zombie bears, and his yellow cape to bring down cloud monsters. Manny always wore his top secret cape to school. It was invisible and he wore it on the playground to fight the monsters there. When a big kid starts to pick on a smaller child in the lunchroom though, Manny didn’t do anything at first. Then he remembered that he was wearing his invisible cape and stood up. It let all of the other children in the room also remember that they could be heroes too!
As always, DiPucchio writes with the ease of a master storyteller. Manny is a delightful new character whose imaginary world also bridges into the real world in tangible ways. His capes are an inventive way of showing this, including his invisible one for school. The scene with the bully is powerful as is the way that the other children stand up once Manny does. It is with one simple protest that bullies are stopped, something we all need to remember.
Graegin’s illustrations create a visible imaginary world for readers to share. The villains that Manny battles in his capes match color with each cape. Manny as a raccoon is a very friendly protagonist and one that children will relate to easily. Make sure to check out the end pages too for even more Manny (and friend).
A heroic new book that will fly off library shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books.
The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey
This Australian import is the first in a fresh new illustrated chapter book series. Wolf has decided that he’s tired of being a bad guy so he recruits three fellow baddies to his new gang where they do good deeds. But it’s not so easy for Shark, Piranha and Snake to give up their own ways, like eating meat and people. Their first mission for good is to rescue a kitten stuck in a tree, but what kitten wants to climb down if they see those big teeth smiling at them? Their next job is to rescue 200 dogs from the dog pound. It involves Shark dressing up as a little girl, Wolf making a great shot, and Piranha and Snake showing the dogs the way out. But the plan doesn’t quite work out they way they want it too either.
This book has the pep and feel of a comic book, filled with large fonts that add attitude to the pages and lots of illustrations. In fact, because of its many illustrations it will be a welcome early book for new chapter book readers who will love the humor as well as the pictures that nicely break up the text. There is a great zany energy to the entire book with one joke leading nicely to the next. The pacing is cleverly done with just enough time to catch your breath from laughing before the action starts again.
Blabey’s illustrations are a large part of that manic charm. They are hugely funny. Emotions are shown broadly and wildly on characters’ faces. The shark barely fits into the car and not without a bump out for the dome of his head. There are incidents of eating one another and being bashed against walls. Each one is hilarious and children will love the slapstick comedy of it all.
A funny delight, this illustrated chapter book will have young readers begging for the next in the series. I know I can’t wait! Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.
The number of books written with amazing heroines makes it daunting to pick 10. May your life be filled with too many heroines as well on this Inauguration Day. Let’s get inspired!
Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
You Can’t See the Elephants by Susan Kreller, translated by Elizabeth Gaffney
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
On the eve of inauguration day, I hope that we all have the courage to be the heroes and heroines that our nation needs right now. Here are 10 picture books to inspire young ones and you too!
Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey Fern, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo
How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Chruck Groenink
Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi
Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith
Luna & Me: The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Malala, Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan by Jeanette Winter
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery by Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Chruck Groenink (InfoSoup)
Gideon is a boy who knows exactly what he wants and that is to be a hero. So he reads a lot about heroes and looks forward to having his picture in the newspaper. At first he thinks that in order to be a hero you need to be strong, brave and clever. But then as he reads more stories, he realizes that a lot of heroes just happen to be in the right place at the right time. So Gideon starts walking around looking for opportunities to simply step in and be the hero. One day at the grocery store, Gideon is shopping for candy when something happens. Will Gideon be the hero he hopes to be?
There is something delightfully irreverent about this picture book. It shows glimpses of fairy tale heroes and princes who all become heroes via no skills of their own. Then there is Gideon, a boy in search of fame and acclaim. He is not driven at all by hopes of helping someone, making his search for heroism all the more cynical. As readers watch the opportunity for real heroism literally pass Gideon by, they will realize that it is those who are not searching for fame who are the real heroes. Still, Gideon gets his own taste of fame in the end.
Groenink’s illustrations add to the story. He has small touches in the book that add real life and dimension. While the real life images are more muted, the heroes in the stories are boldly colored and fill the page. That same feel is echoed again in real life when heroism happens at the grocery store. Breaking that moment into steps allows the readers to mistake what is happening at first, deepening the truth about heroism.
A mix of fairy tale heroes, one hero in waiting and one true hero, this picture book is impressive for its tone and attitude, setting it apart on the crowded library shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, illustrated by John Parra
Cornelius worked in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He was a garbage man who loved his job. He greeted everyone in the neighborhoods and made sure that the streets were clean of even a single wrapper. He had amazing calls he used with his driver, shouting “Woo! Woo!” when it was time to stop and “Rat-a-tat-tat!” when it was time to drive on. He didn’t just carry bags from the curve, he tossed and juggled them, adding dance steps to his routine job. He could launch bags through the air one after another and they landed in a perfect pyramid on the truck. But then Hurricane Katrina came to New Orleans and the city streets filled with mud and muck and piles of garbage. At first Cornelius was overwhelmed by the work to be done, but he started the same way he did every day and soon others started helping too.
This picture book is based on the true story of Cornelius Washington who was a sanitation worker in New Orleans. The Author’s Note speaks to his connection with Cornelius’ family and a reporter who had gotten to know him before the storm. In this book, Cornelius’ story is told in folklore style, offering him and his amazing spirit that he displayed every day a space to be honored and appreciated.
Parra’s illustrations play to the heroic feeling of the book, Often showing Cornelius with stars behind his head or rays of the sun. The painted illustrations have a gorgeous roughness to them in texture that also connects the subject to history and makes the entire book feel timeless and sturdy.
An homage to a man who did a humble job with style and energy, this book is also about survival and what it takes to be an everyday hero. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.