Monday, January 22, 2018

Book of the Week: This Is Just a Test



This Is Just a Test

by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
256 pages
ISBN: 9781338037722
Ages 9-12


A late Cold War, made-for-television movie called The Day After, which imagines what happens in a small U.S. town after a nuclear bomb is dropped, leaves 7th grader David Horowitzw upset and unsettled the fall of 1983. Until the movie, his greatest worry was his upcoming bar mitzvah. Now it’s the end of the world. Then again, he’s sometimes just as worried about things exploding in his own home, where his Chinese maternal grandmother, Wai Po, who lives with his family, and his Jewish paternal grandmother, who moved from New Jersey to around the corner after Wai Po moved in, are often at odds in quietly cutting ways. David’s also trying to navigate a new friendship with Scott, a boy who teamed up with David and David’s longtime best friend, Hector, for a trivia contest. They won. Now Scott, who also saw The Day After, has invited David to help him dig a fall-out shelter, and has made it patently clear Hector, who is far from being a cool kid, is not included. Authentic characters, genuine relationships (for better and worse), tension, and humor all combine to make this story about family and friendship and David’s struggle for peace in his own life pleasurable, poignant, and immensely satisfying. ©2018 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bao Phi Wins 2018 Charlotte Zolotow Award



A Different Pond, written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui, published by Capstone Young Readers, is the winner of the twenty-first annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. 

 A graceful accounting of details shapes Bao Phi’s exquisitely crafted text in which a Vietnamese American boy goes on a predawn fishing outing with his dad. The beautifully weighted sentences (“I feel the bag of minnows move. They swim like silver arrows in my hand.”) describe their time together and also the experience of an immigrant child (“A kid at my school says my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”); a hard-working family’s economic hardship (“‘If you got another job why do we still have to fish for food?’ I ask.”); and bittersweet memory as the boy’s dad recalls fishing at a similar pond as a child in Vietnam with his brother, who died during the war. Running through it all is the boy’s contentment spending time with his dad, a pleasure that extends to feelings about his entire family when they gather at day’s end. Illustrations masterfully and movingly reveal details of character, setting, and action while superbly reflecting the warmth and intimacy of the story.

The 2018 Zolotow Award committee named five Honor Books:



  • Baby Goes to Market written by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank (Candlewick Press)
  • Buster and the Baby written by Amy Hest, illustrated by Polly Dunbar (Candlewick Press) 
  •  Herbert’s First Halloween written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Steven Henry (Chronicle Books)
  • Jabari Jumps written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick Press
  •  Niko Draws a Feeling written by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Simone Shin (Carolrhoda Books).
            The 2018 Zolotow Award committee also cited eight highly commended titles:

  • All the Way to Havana written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato (Godwin Books / Henry Holt) 
  • Before She Was Harriet written by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome (Holiday House) 
  • Big Cat, Little Cat written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper (Roaring Brook Press)
  • In the Middle of Fall written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins) 
  • Little Wolf’s First Howling written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee (Candlewick Press) 
  • The One Day House written by Julia Durango, illustrated by Bianca Diaz (Charlesbridge) 
  • Round written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 
  • When’s My Birthday? written by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson (A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press).
The award is sponsored by the CCBC and the Friends of the CCBC. An award ceremony will take place at a date to be determined.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Books of the Week: Jasmine Toguchi

 

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

by Debbie Michiko Florence.
Illustrated by Elizabet Vuković. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017
103 pages. ISBN: (978-0-374-30410-2)

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth

by Debbie Michiko Florence
Illustrated by Elizabet Vuković. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017
108 pages. ISBN: 978-0-374-30413-3

Ages 6-9

Eight-year-old Japanese American Jasmine Toguchi makes her debut in two engaging and lively books for newly independent readers. In Jamsmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen, Jasmine is determined to help make mochi for the New Year, even though she’s only eight and family tradition says girls start when they’re 10. Tradition also says girls and women form the rice into balls after it’s been pounded by the men and boys. When she can’t convince her mom or Obaachan to let her help form the mochi, Jasmine appeals to her dad to help pound it, only to discover it’s a lot harder than she realized. After everything will she fail? In Jasmine Toguchi: Super Sleuth, Jasmine is excited to have her best friend Lizzie joining her family’s Girls’ Day celebration, although it can’t make up for the fact that her big sister Sophie, at 10, doesn’t want to participate. When Jasmine and Lizzie have a fight, Jasmine uses her sleuthing skills to figure out how to make it right, and in the process realizes Sophie isn’t as ready to let go of observing Girls’ Day as she pretends. Jasmine’s terrific first-person voice is so believably 8. So is her behavior. Her reactions to others are rooted in her emotions of the moment, leaving room for her to be surprised when people behave in unexpected ways, and room for her to consider what that means. Both books feature occasional black-and-white spot illustrations. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Book of the Week: Alfie



Alfie

by Thyra Heder
Published by Abrams, 2017
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4197-2529-6
Ages 4-8


On her sixth birthday, Nia welcomes her new pet turtle, Alfie, into her home. She introduces him to her stuffed animals, sings songs she wrote just for him, and tells him stories each night about her school day. Alfie, though, is not the most enthusiastic companion, and Nia gradually loses interest in him—until he disappears as her seventh birthday approaches. A switch in perspective offers Alfie’s side of the story: despite his demure personality, he adores Nia and deeply appreciates everything she does for him. In search of a present for her birthday, he explores the nooks and crannies of their apartment before venturing outdoors. Tired after his long journey, he slips into the backyard pond for a nap. Beautifully detailed ink-and-watercolor illustrations show both Alfie’s perspective (scavenging behind the couch, crossing the sandbox “desert”) and African American Nia’s (building a snow turtle in the winter, planting seeds beside the pond in the spring unaware of Alfie’s presence nearby). Alfie’s obliviousness to the passage of time makes the ending all the more delightful when he emerges triumphantly from the pond, gift in hand (or rather, on shell), ready to celebrate Nia’s seventh birthday, never realizing that she is now celebrating her eighth. (MCT) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, December 18, 2017

Book of the Week: Wolf in the Snow

Wolf in the Snow

by Matthew Cordell
Published by Feiwel and Friends, 2017
44 pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-07636-6
Ages 4-8


The snow is falling lightly as a red-hooded girl leaves her home and heads to school, walking across a winter-brown landscape. Elsewhere, there are wolves howling as the first flakes descend. When school lets out, the girl, in her pointy, slightly comical red parka, heads toward home in the thickening white, moving left to right across the landscape of the page. Elsewhere, the wolves are on the move, ominous and wild, moving right to left. But one small wolf pup falls behind. Girl (“huff huff”). Wolf pup (“whine whine.”). When the two meet, the girl picks up the small pup and bravely carries him toward the howling as the snow deepens. She comes face to face with a yellow-eyed adult wolf (!), reuniting the pup with its pack. The girl trudges on until she falls and can go no farther. Will she be eaten by those wild wolves heading back her way? The drama is genuine, and breathtaking, and unexpectedly moving in this magical story brilliantly told. Masterful pacing, a mix of expansive page spreads and spot images, and the blending of stylized (the girl in her triangular jacket) and realistic (those sinuous wolves) pen-and-ink and watercolor images make for an exceptional (almost) wordless picture book. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, December 11, 2017

Book of the Week: The Marrow Thieves



The Marrow Thieves

by Cherie Dimalene
Published by Dancing Cat Books (DCB)/Cormorant, 2017
234 pages
ISBN: 978-1-7086-486-3
Age 12 and older


“It began as a rumor, that they had found a way to siphon dreams right out of our bones.” In a not-too-distant future when environmental devastation has killed millions, many people no longer dream when they sleep. At the Canadian government’s new residential “schools,” the dreams of Indigenous people are distilled from their marrow for later use by the wealthy and privileged. Sixteen-year-old Frenchie escaped school Recruiters at 11 and has been with his found family ever since. One elder, one middle-aged adult, four teens, and four children from several Nations, they are constantly on the move evading Recruiters as new schools are built further and further north. Although skilled at survival, safety is an unknown destination, and when tragedy strikes at the heart of their group Frenchie decides it’s time to stop running and take a stand. This riveting work confronts the reality of genocide but never loses sight of hope. It’s the breath of those who survive.  It’s the love, the solidarity with others, cultural traditions, and the power of languages kept alive. Métis author Dimalene’s plot is fast-paced and unyielding while her finely drawn main characters, although marked by pain, are full of intelligence, compassion, and grace. Dimalene’s exquisite writing offers beautiful turns of phrase and lines that sting with their sharpness and honesty, while Frenchie’s teen voice and feelings, often surprisingly funny, are, like the story itself, at once of his time and our own. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book of the Week: A Different Pond



A Different Pond

by Bao Phi
Illustrated by Thi Bui
Published by Capstone, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1623708030
Ages 6-9


A Vietnamese American boy’s predawn fishing outing with his dad is the subject of a narrative shaped by an exquisite accounting of details. So much beyond the action is conveyed through beautifully weighted sentences (“I feel the bag of minnows move. They swim like silver arrows in my hand.”): The specific experience of this immigrant child (“A kid at my school says my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”); a hard-working family’s economic hardship (“‘If you got another job why do we still have to fish for food?’ I ask. ‘Everything in America costs a lot of money,’ he explains. I feel callouses on his hand when he squeezes mine.”); bittersweet memory as the boy’s dad recalls fishing at a similar pond as a child in Vietnam with his brother, who died during the war. And running through it all is the boy’s happiness in their time together, a pleasure that extends feelings about his entire family when they gather at day’s end. The evocative art masterfully and movingly conveys details of character, setting, and action while superbly reflecting the warmth and intimacy of the story. At volume’s end, both the author and illustrator share memories of growing up in Vietnamese families that came to the United States when they were children. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center