Monday, August 3, 2020

Book of the Week: Summer Song

by Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

Published by Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2020
36 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-286613-4

Ages 3-7

“… summer is green. Green on green on green. Summer is a green song.” It’s a song of leaves, trees, weeds, and grass that can “sound like music” if that grass is tall and the wind is blowing. Other summer things sound like music too: air conditioners and fans, sprinklers and lawn mowers, birds and rain and thunder and bugs. And other colors sing in summer—gray (fog), blue (water and sky). “But the green song is still there.” Eventually the days begin to shorten and the song begins to change, “turning / turning / turning … it’s turning into Fall.” There is such delight and appreciation in this accounting of the sights, sounds, and feel of the season—a sense of the expansiveness and bounty of the natural world, and days that feel wide open and endless. Four diverse children are shown in vibrant full-page and cozy spot illustrations that, along with the text, foreshadow fall’s arrival in the final pages. The transition feels bittersweet, as it often does in real life. Luckily, children and families can turn to the three previously published companion volumes from this author/illustrator duo offering equally observant, playful, appreciative, and surprising accounts of the other seasons. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 27, 2020

Book of the Week: What Lane?

by Torrey Maldonado

Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2020
125 pages
ISBN: 978-0-525-51843-3

Ages 9-13

Sixth grader Stephen and his best friend Dan share a passion for superheroes, live in neighboring apartments, and spend a lot of time together. Stephen thinks they are essentially twins, except that they don’t look alike. Light-skinned Stephen has a Black dad and white mom, while Dan is white. They’ve always had each other’s backs, but lately Stephen is bothered that Dan doesn’t seem concerned by his cousin Chad’s racist jabs. Chad taunts Stephen and tries to get him into trouble, and Stephen finds it hard to stand up to those aggressive tactics. He’s begun noticing how people treat him differently than his white friends, even when they are all doing the same thing. And his Black friends are starting to give him a hard time about abandoning them to hang out with the white kids. His dad is schooling him on the dangers of being a Black man, lecturing him to always be careful in public, while his mom wants to shelter him from what she believes are adult concerns. Stephen wants to occupy all lanes, and resents feeling pushed to choose one over others. Through the course of this short novel, Stephen personal beliefs about tough issues of race, identity, and the complexities of friendship evolve as he transitions between childhood and adolescence. (MVL) ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 20, 2020

Book of the Week: Look

by Zan Romanoff

Published by Dial, 2020
368 pages
ISBN: 978-0-5255-5426-4

Age 14 and older

High school senior Lulu regularly uploads photos and video to a platform called Flash (think Snapchat). Lulu meets down-to-earth Cass at a party. Although Cass is uninterested in social media and stereotypical trappings of moneyed teens in L.A., Cass’s best friend, Ryan Riggs, is the teenage brother of Flash’s founder. Ryan is renovating a formerly grand hotel built by his great-grandfather as his family “project.” Lulu and Cass regularly hang out at the unfinished hotel, which feels like a refuge. Ryan prohibits anyone else from taking photos there but is constantly framing his visitors through the lens of his own camera. As Lulu and Cass fall for each other, the hotel becomes their intimate, private space—until Ryan betrays them. Lulu, white and Jewish, had already begun thinking critically about media’s treatment of women through reading for her cinema studies class and discussions with Cass. Ryan’s unconscionable violation of their trust and privacy intensifies her reflection on the female body, from her own to Ryan’s great-grandmother's, a silent film star whose work seeded the family fortune, as possession and commodity. Lulu's thinking about what she chooses to share on platforms like Flash shifts with her expanding perspective on female exploitation; the relevance and immediacy of these issues in the lives of teens today, along with the complexity and depth of Lulu’s relationships with family and friends, both add to the satisfying substance of this queer romance. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 13, 2020

Book of the Week: We Are Water Protectors

by Carole Lindstrom
Illustrated by Michaela Goade

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2020
40 pages
ISBN: 9781250203557

Ages 5-9

A young girl describes how water is viewed among her people. "Water is the first medicine, Nokomis told me . . . We come from water … The river’s rhythm runs through my veins. Runs through my people’s veins.” Water, Nokomis tells her, has a spirit of its own, and also connects the present generation to the ancestors and the past. The arrival of a black snake whose venom is threatening to poison the water leads the girl and her people to take action, standing together against the snake. They fight for the water, for the earth and its creatures, to defend all those who cannot fight. “We stand / With our songs / and our drums. / We are still here.” A book by an Ojibwe/Métis author and Tlingit artist was inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. In their notes, the author and illustrator tell more about Indigenous views, the Standing Rock Water Protectors, and their belief in the importance of this environmental activism to all. The gorgeous illustrations in overall vibrant hues convey the disruption and menace of the snakelike pipeline as it traverses some pages. The art incorporates details of Ojibwe culture while also representing “a diverse group of Indigenous Nations and allies.” ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 6, 2020

Book of the Week: The Old Truck

by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

Norton Young Readers, 2020
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-324-00519-3

Ages 18 months - 3 years

An old truck is the one constant on a small family farm occupied by a Black family whose only child grows from toddler-hood to girlhood, through her teenage years and into adulthood. As she grows older, so, too, does the truck which eventually falls into disrepair and sits, rusting beside the barn, right where it’s always been. The old truck never moves, remaining in the same position on the page while the action of the family happens all around it. The short declarative sentences focus on the experience of the truck while the equally uncluttered illustrations focus on the girl. Astute observers will note that, from an early age, she’s always working alongside her parents, tinkering with machinery. So it comes as no surprise that, once she inherits the farm, she restores the old truck and gets it running again so that it can VROOOOOOOM off the page in a satisfying conclusion. The retro illustrations and the personification of machinery is reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton (and will appeal to the same audience) but there is a completely modern look to the art, as well, which the brothers created with 250 handmade rubber stamps. This deeply satisfying book is one that young children will want to hear again and again, and adults won’t mind a bit. (KTH)  ©2020 Cooperative Children's Book Center 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Book of the Week: When You Trap a Tiger

by Tae Keller

Published by Random House, 2020
304 pages
ISBN: 9781524715700

    Ages 9-12

When biracial (Korean/white) Lily, her older sister Sam, and their mom move to Washington state to live with Hamoni, who is sick, Lily begins seeing a large tiger, which demands Lily open the jars in Halmoni’s basement and release the stories inside. Like her grandmother, Lily believes in magic. Although she knows tigers are tricksters in Korean tales, Lily says she’ll release the stories if the tiger will make Halmoni better. Lily’s effort to adjust to the move is made more challenging because teenage Sam, with whom she used to be close, seems angry all the time, while their mother is overwhelmed by Halmoni’s illness--revealed to be a brain tumor that impacts Halmoni’s behavior, and only seems to amplify the differences between the two. The small-town library becomes the source of a quirky new friend for Lily, a hopeful new beginning for Sam, and another perspective on Halmoni who, it turns out, has been a central figure in the community for years, known for sharing traditional Korean stories, food, and healing—all things Lily thought might not have a place in the predominantly white small town. The tiger, meanwhile, proves benevolent, not a trickster: The stories it wants released are painful memories Halmoni locked away: of her childhood in Korea, and loss through separation and immigration. In this moving, masterfully paced tale, Lily discovers healing can happen in the heart and mind, even if a body can’t endure. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 22, 2020

Book of the Week: The Henna Wars

by Adiba Jaigirdar

Published by Page Street Books, 2020
389 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62414-968-9

Age 12 and older

Nishat is thrilled to see new student Flávia at her Catholic girls’ school in Dublin. They met at the wedding of Nishat’s cousin, and Nishat was immediately smitten. Like Nishat, Flávia is dark-skinned (her father white, her mother Afro-Brazilian), and the two stand out among their many white Irish classmates. At home, Nishat recently came out to her conservative parents, who emigrated from Bangladesh to Ireland; they don’t want her to bring shame on the family by being gay. At school, Nishat learns Flávia is the cousin of Chyna, who has made Nishat’s life a living hell of micro-aggressions and exclusion. Nishat’s interest in Flávia is further complicated when Nishat starts a Mehndi business for a class project and Flávia and Chyna do the same. For Nishat, the elaborate henna drawings she makes on customers’ hands are an important part of her cultural tradition. She’s upset that Flávia and Chyna think it’s ok to appropriate what they only see as pretty decorations, which Flávia learned about at the Bangladeshi wedding. Nishat and Flávia are fierce competitors even as their attraction intensifies, and Nishat can’t help but question whether Flávia’s feelings are genuine when both are willing to do whatever it takes to win, including sabotage and retribution. This unusual, compelling teen romance draws readers in with fully developed characters navigating queer politics, race, and culture. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center