Monday, June 20, 2016

Book of the Week: Excellent Ed



Excellent Ed

by Stacy McAnulty
Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2016
24 pages
ISBN: (978-0-553-51023-2
Ages 4-7



“All of the Ellis children were allowed to eat at the table and ride in the van and sit on the couch and use the indoor bathroom. Except Ed.” Ed is prohibited from these activities because he’s a dog, not that Ed himself makes any distinction between himself and his human family. But because each of the other Ellis children excels at something—Elaine at soccer, Emily and Elmer at math, Edith at ballet, and Ernie at baking cupcakes—Ed goes in search of what he’s best at. The search leads to answers that are satisfying for Ed and for readers and listeners, too. It’s hard to say which is more appealing in this sparkling picture book, Ed or the entire lively Ellis family, of which Ed is clearly a much-loved member. The wonderful narrative makes judicious use of repetition while the vivacious illustrations are full of humor and warmth. The Ellis family is Black, with children ranging from early-elementary-age to their teens, something typical for many families but not for many picture books. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 13, 2016

Book of the Week: It Ain't So Awful, Falafel



It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

by Firoozeh Dumas
Published by Clarion, 2016
378 pages
ISBN: 978-0-544-61231-0
Ages 9-13



Zomorod and her parents are in the United States for her dad’s job as an engineer working at a California oil company. Zomorod, who has chosen the Brady Bunch-inspired name “Cindy” at school, narrates an often funny and always insightful account of her life as an Iranian immigrant in the late 1970s (an era that is vividly and often delightfully realized here). Her father is openhearted and upbeat but her mother finds it difficult acclimating to their life in America. Struggling with English, she rarely leaves the house. Zomorod, like her dad, is happy. Despite often being mistaken as Latina by strangers (no one has heard of Iran), she also has good friends. Then the Shah of Iran is overthrown and Ayatollah Khomeni comes into power. The hostage crisis horrifies Zomorod’s family. So, to, do the oppressive religious restrictions under Khomeni’s rule. Meanwhile, everyone in America suddenly wants to know or has something to say about Iran. Zomorod’s mother finds purpose in helping other Iranians in their community feel less alone, but her dad loses his job and when he can’t find another he begins to lose hope as the family faces returning to their radically changed homeland. Dumas’s “semi-autobiographical” novel doesn’t shy away from the racism Zomorod and her family experiences. Yet her story is buoyed by this honesty, as well as the warmth of family, and the essential kindness of friendship. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 6, 2016

Book of the Week: Snail and Worm



Snail & Worm

by Tina Kügler
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-544-49412-1
Ages 3-7



Three short stories in chapter format describe the initial meeting of Snail and Worm and two episodes in their friendship in a droll offering with a delightfully deadpan quality in the humorous interplay between the straightforward dialogue and the offbeat illustrations. In the opening chapter, “Meet My Friend,” Snail and Worm meet while playing with their respective friends Bob the rock and Ann the stick. In “Snail’s Adventure,” Worm provides support and encouragement as Snail scales a tall flower, although neither he nor Snail notes the flower has bent low to the ground under Snail’s weight. (“Wow! They look like ants down there!” exclaims Snail from no more than an inch off the ground as several large ants march by.) “Meet My Pet” has Worm looking for his lost pet, whom he describes as brown and furry with sharp teeth. Terrified Snail is convinced it’s a spider, even after Worm’s lost pet, Sam, shows up and is clearly a dog. Meanwhile Rex, Snail’s dog, is clearly a spider. Playful contradictions give readers and listeners a lot to notice and to laugh about in a book perfect for beginning readers or as a read-aloud. The deceptively simple and expressive art shows great thought and sophistication in its design and execution. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book of the Week: American Girls



American Girls

by Alison Umminger
Published by Flatiron Books / Macmillan, 2016
304 pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-07502-4
Age 14 and older

Anna, 15, ran away to her older sister Delia’s in Los Angeles using her stepmother’s credit card to buy a plane ticket, a cost Anna’s now expected to repay. Delia’s boyfriend, Dex, writes for a Disneyesque series called Chips Ahoy! Anna spends days with Dex while Delia goes to auditions and appears in her former boyfriend Roger’s independent movie. Meanwhile, Roger has hired Anna to research Charles Manson for his film. The inanity of Chips Ahoy! is stark contrast to the Manson murders, not to mention the uneasy life of beautiful Delia, whom Anna fears is being stalked. Anna can’t understand why the young women following Manson were willing to commit such atrocities. With one exception, most of them grew up in imperfect but not unloving families. How and why did they fall under Manson’s thrall? Anna’s own mother is incredibly self-centered; her sister supportive but worrisome and frustrating; her stepmother annoying yet stable. In a startling, original, complex debut novel, Anna’s voice is sharp, witty, and also honest. She is unrepentant about cyberbullying a girl back home, for example (it wasn’t even her idea, she notes), although she gradually comes to regret it. The brilliantly realized Los Angeles setting also works as a means to magnify the ways women and girls everywhere are too often objectified, invisible, exploited, and sometimes abused. It’s among the many things Anna ponders with increasing clarity that is poignant, and at times profound. “Los Angeles … is not really so different from the rest of America.” ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 23, 2016

CCBC Book of the Week: Fabulous Frogs


Fabulous Frogs
by Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Tim Hopgood

U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2016
28 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-8100-5
Ages 5-9

“This frog is huge (for a frog).” Indeed, the goliath frog found in western African that is pictured on the opening pages of this dynamic informational picture book barely fits on the two-page spread. A turn of the page reveals a scattering of diminutive, fingernail-sized frogs found in Papua, New Guinea. Author Martin Jenkins and Illustrator Tim Hopgood share their appreciation and enthusiasm for frogs of many types (and sizes and colors and other varied traits) in this gathering of fascinating frog facts. The clean, simple page design, conversational narrative and arresting mixed media illustrations work together to create an inviting book of information for younger children. The primary narrative is accompanied by additional facts in a smaller font on most pages, telling more about the specific creatures. An index and suggested web sites for more exploration are included.

Monday, May 16, 2016

CCBC Book of the Week: The Quickest Kid in Clarksville



The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

by Pat Zietlow Miller
Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Published by Chronicle, 2016
40 pages
ISBN: 9781452129365
Ages 5-8

Alta prides herself on being the fastest runner in Clarksville, Tennessee, hometown of Olympic star Wilma Rudolph. But Charmaine, of the new-shoes-just-like-Wilma’s, is fast, too. She may be even faster than Alta, although it’s hard to say: Alta is sure Charmaine tripped her when she won the race between them. Alta ended up with a hole in her sneaker. “Oh, baby girl,” says Mama. “Those shoes have to last.” On the day of a parade for Wilma Rudolph, Alta and her friends Dee-Dee and Little Mo make a huge banner, but getting the banner all the way to the parade isn’t easy, and time is running out. Then Charmaine shows up and suggests they take turns carrying it--a relay, just like Wilma ran for one of her medals. “Three people ran it with her, you know,” Charmaine says. “I hate to admit it, but she’s right.” A spirited story set in 1960 ends with an author’s note featuring a photograph of Wilma Rudolph at the real parade held in her honor in Clarksville. The energetic illustrations are full of movement and feeling. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 9, 2016

Book of the Week: My New Mom and Me



My New Mom & Me

by Renata Galindo
Published by Schwartz & Wade, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-55352-134-4
Ages 3-8



“When I first came to live with my new mom, I was nervous.” The speaker in this picture book is a puppy, and the new mom a striped cat. Despite being animals, their strong feelings and realistic interactions are a spot-on portrayal of the emotional landscape of a young child entering a new family. The young narrator’s observations range from the novel (“I’d never had my own room before”), to the reassuring (“she takes care of me”), to the universal (“She does all the things that moms do--even the things that make me mad!”). When the puppy worries about looking different from the mom and paints on stripes to “fix it,” Mom gently washes them off and says she likes that the two of them are different. Acknowledging dark moments along with brighter times and recognizing that both child and parent are navigating new ground sets the stage for honest conversations in all kinds of families in this comforting, reassuring picture book. (MVL)  ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center