Monday, July 23, 2018

Book of the Week: The Place Between Breaths



The Place Between Breaths

by An Na
Published by A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2018
181 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-2225-3

Age 13 and older


Grace is a high school senior with a coveted intern position at the genetics lab where her dad recruits scientific researchers. Grace’s schizophrenic mother left them when she was a small child, a loss that echoes continuously. But Grace finds her dad’s obsession with the lab’s work trying to isolate a gene for schizophrenia frustrating. It’s not like isolating a gene will lead automatically to a cure, and it’s not like her mom will benefit regardless—they have no idea what happened to her. Grace wishes her dad devoted more of his time and attention to her. A beautifully written narrative moves between Korean American Grace in the present day—her lonely life at home, her work at the lab, where she meets graduate student Will; her early childhood memories in which her parents’ love and her mom’s increasingly unpredictable behavior and growing sense of her desperation filters through; and second-person chapters in which an unknown speaker addresses an unknown “you.” Locating oneself in the story becomes more and more challenging in a novel that parallels Grace’s own experience as it becomes clear she has schizophrenia, too. Like Grace, we aren’t quite sure what is real. But beyond the fear, pain and sense of loss in this aching, deeply resonant novel, are glimmers of hope, too. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book of the Week: Champion



Champion: The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree

by Sally M. Walker
Published by Henry Holt, 2018
144 pages
ISBN: 978-1-260-12623-1

Age 11 and older


A fungus wiped out the majority of the majestic American chestnut trees in the first part of the 20th century. This fascinating account documents how the fungus was identified and three scientific programs to bring the American chestnut back from the brink. An inoculation program injects a weaker form of the fungus, found in Japanese and Chinese chestnuts, into infected trees. If it spreads it turns the deadly fungus into a milder form of blight the trees can survive. (A stand of trees near West Salem, Wisconsin, is one of the test sites). In the backcross breeding program, healthy American chestnuts are bred with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts. Resistant offspring are crossed with another American chestnut until there is a blight-resistant sixth-generation tree that is mostly American chestnut. The first of these were planted in forests in 2009. The third effort is a high-tech: wheat genes that produce oxalate oxidase (OxO), which breaks down the oxalic acid that the killer fungus produces, are injected into American chestnut embryos in hopes the resulting trees will be healthy. Science is accessible and engaging in this real-world, problem-solving mystery. There is outstanding documentation and a treasure trove of intriguing back matter, from research into a Longfellow program to an account an American chestnut classroom science project to research involving squirrels. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 9, 2018

Book of the Week: Give Me Some Truth



Give Me Some Truth

by Eric Gansworth
Published by Arthur A. Levine / Scholastic, 2018
432 pages
ISBN: 978-1-338-14354-6

Age 13 and older


In 1980, Carson Mastick and his best friend, Lewis Blake, are high school seniors living on the Tuscarora Reservation in upstate New York. Maggi Bokoni, 15, has just moved back to the reservation with her older sister, Marie. Former honor student Lewis paid a heavy price at school for standing up to a white bully years before. His future uncertain, he works cleaning buses for the school district. Maggi also gets a job there and meets Jim, a white grounds supervisor in his early 30s, who seems to understand her desire to make art beyond traditional beadwork. Hopeful musician Carson forms a band with reluctant Lewis on bass and Maggi on water drum, intent on winning a competition that could lead to New York. And Marie is in love with one of her former high school teachers from the city. Their stories, individual, intertwined, unpredictable, play out over a series of months in which Carson also mounts a protest against “Custard’s Last Stand,” a restaurant glorifying General Custer that blatantly posts a “No Indians” sign. Though most from the Rez avoid the place, Carson, who can pass as white, wants to confront the racism directly. The nuances and intricacies of these smart, tender characters and their lives unfold in a novel that is consistently funny and righteous and illuminating. Songs of the Beatles and John Lennon and Yoko Ono provide chapter titles and touchpoints as the teens find solace and inspiration in both music and art. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 2, 2018

Book of the Week: Libba



Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten

by Laura Veirs
Illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh 

Published by Chronicle, 2018
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4521-4857-1

Ages 5-9


As a child in rural North Carolina in the early 20th century, Libba Cotten “heard music everywhere.” She borrowed her brother’s guitar when he wasn’t home and played it upside-down and backwards, because she was left-handed. “Nobody else played that way, but it was the way that felt right to Libba.” Libba composed the song “Freight Train” around age 11, inspired by the sounds of trains on nearby railroad tracks. “But even trains get derailed.” Libba stopped playing to work and raise her daughter. She was a grandmother working at a department store in Washington, D.C., when she met musician Ruth Crawford Seeger. Ruth hired Libba as a housekeeper, and Libba was immersed in music in the Seeger home. When she picked up a guitar again, she impressed the Seegers and their musician friends. The Seeger family helped promote Libba’s music, “[b]ut it was Libba’s perseverance, her love of music, and her belief in herself that gave the world her voice.” An understated, concise yet lyrical text is followed by a concluding note, which touches more on the realities of Libba’s experience as an African American woman, and sources. Libba’s story is warmly illustrated in softly-shaded graphite art with digital color. (MVL) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 25, 2018

Book of the Week: Julián Is a Mermaid



Julián Is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love
Published by Candlewick Press, 2018
40 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-9045-8)

Ages 3-8


Riding the train on their way home from the swimming pool, Julián and his abuela see women clad in elegant, mint-green dresses trailing tail fins: mermaids. Wide-eyed Julián drifts into a fantasy: submerged in water, his hair lengthens as he sheds his tank top and shorts before being swept up in a stream of sea creatures. He discovers a tail where his legs had been, and accepts a coral necklace from a large, blue fish to complete the look. Once they’re home, while Abuela takes a bath Julián removes his clothing, tucks fern leaves and flowers into a headband, and kneels on the vanity to apply lipstick. From the gauzy window curtain he fashions a tail and strikes a pose—only to be discovered by a towel-wrapped Abuela, who promptly walks away. After a moment of apprehension, Julián’s relief is palpable when Abuela, dressed in blue, returns to present him with a beaded coral necklace. Without a word, she takes Julián’s hand and leads him to the mermaid parade, where they join in the celebration. A soft, colorful palette and gorgeous watercolor and ink illustrations on brown paper realistically portray bodies of all different sizes in this touching story of an abuela’s love and acceptance of her gender-creative grandchild. (MCT) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book of the Week: The Book of Pearl



The Book of Pearl

by Timothée de Fombelle
Translated by Sarah Ardizzone and
    Sam Gordon from the French
Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2018
355 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-9126-4

Age 12 and older


A young prince, Ilian, in love with a fairy, is banished to another world--our world, in late 1930s France. A Jewish couple, the Pearls, take in the homeless young man who appears outside their Paris shop. He becomes like a son to them. When French officials don’t believe the Pearl’s late son is dead, the exiled prince takes the place of Joshua Pearl and joins the French army. As time passes and his losses in this world mount, the prince’s/Joshua’s driving passion becomes tracking down relics from the place he came from as proof that the world of stories is real in hopes they will help him find his way back. This astonishing work moves between our world and Prince Ilian’s, and between present and past in both places. It includes the story of Olia, the fairy in love with the prince, also banished to our world but who agreed never to let Ilian know she was there in exchange for his life. And it includes the story of a heartsick French teenager who has a memorable encounter with the eccentric, middle-aged Joshua Pearl and grows up to become the masterful teller of this tale, one he finds it impossible to believe even as he is telling it. This extraordinary account of love and exile, cruelty and kindness, loss and longing honors the power of story to hold it all, and all of us, in place. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book of the Week: Puddin'



Puddin'

by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzar + Bray / HarperCollins, 2018
448 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-241838-8

Age 12 and older


Summer may be months away, but Millie Michalchuk is planning ahead: This year she’s applying for broadcast journalism camp. Millie is fat, and she’s comfortable with it—unlike her mother, who persistently fills the fridge with diet foods and can’t believe Millie doesn’t want to spend another summer at Daisy Ranch Weight Loss Camp; or classmate Callie Reyes, who treats Millie with contempt. Callie is co-assistant captain of the school’s highly accomplished competitive dance team. When a local gym is forced to withdraw funding for the team, Callie and her teammates retaliate by vandalizing the gym, where Millie happens to work. Millie identifies Callie in the security footage, and Callie takes the fall for the team, agreeing to pay off the damages by working at the gym for free. Outgoing and forgiving, Millie befriends a suddenly friendless and dance team-less Callie, even inviting her for weekly sleepovers with her friends, and seeking Callie’s advice on making a move with her crush, Malik. Biracial Callie, who feels alone both at school and at home, where she is the only brown Latina living with her white mom, stepdad, and little sister, begrudgingly finds herself enjoying Millie’s company. This funny and endearing companion novel to Dumplin’ (2015) champions young women in all their glorious flaws and complexities. Fat or thin, bubbly or cynical, asexual or boy crazy, the important thing is to support one another. (MCT) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center