Monday, October 24, 2016

Book of the Week: The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

by Katrina Goldsaito
Illustrated by Julia Kuo
Published by Little, Brown, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-316-20337-1
Ages 4-8

On the busy streets of Tokyo, Yoshio asks a koto player her favorite sound. She replies that the most beautiful sound to her is ma, the sound of silence. Yoshio tries to hear the sound of silence, but can’t find it. Noise seems to be everywhere: kids at school, traffic on the street, his family’s chopsticks and chewing during dinner. It’s not until Yoshi is engrossed in reading a book in an empty classroom that he realizes he’s hearing a moment of ma. “It had been there between the thumps of his boots when he ran; when the wind stopped for just a moment in the bamboo grove; at the end of his family’s meal, when everyone was happy and full; after the water finished draining from his bath; before the koto’s player music began—and hovering in the air, right after it ended. It was between and underneath every sound.” A picture book set in Tokyo is illustrated with detailed pen and digitally colored scenes that are both expansive and intimate, much like the story is full of both activity and quiet. An Afterword gives additional information about the Japanese concept of ma. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book of the Week: Lucy and Linh

Lucy and Linh

by Alice Pung
U.S. edition: Knopf, 2016
340 pages
ISBN: 978-0-399-55048-5
Age 13 and older

Fifteen-year-old Lucy, whose immigrant Chinese family lives in a poor neighborhood of Melbourne, is recipient of the first Equal Access scholarship offered by Laurinda, an upscale, private girls school. The economic and racial disparity between Lucy and her Laurinda classmates, most of who are white and wealthy, is glaring. For them, Lucy realizes, “money is just numerical and not frustratingly finite and concrete,” while the ways her race and culture are exoticized (e.g., a parent compliments Lucy’s “nimble” Asian fingers) or demeaned are countless. She resents it but also can’t help judging her own family and community harshly by comparison. When Lucy is invited into the circle surrounding “The Cabinet,” the ruling trio of girls at the school whose cruelty is sometimes astonishing, she knows there must be a reason. She discovers it’s to make sure she upholds the exact image of the Equal Access scholarship the school has in mind. Her anger at the revelation helps her heal the split she felt moving between two worlds: She’ll accept what Laurinda has to offer, but on her own terms. There’s a surprise reveal near this novel’s end but it doesn’t overpower the beautiful, sharp, perceptive writing throughout a novel full of observations that are sometimes funny, always scathing. Finely developed characters, including Lucy’s parents, two individuals with different natures but the same work ethnic and love for their family, and relationships, and burgeoning new and genuine friendships are another part of what makes this a satisfying work. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, October 10, 2016

Book of the Week: The Airport Book

The Airport Book

by Lisa Brown
Published by A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, 2016
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-091-6
Ages 3-7

Endpapers showing a block of city apartments in the rain with a small boy and even smaller girl in two windows begin this account of their family’s airplane trip. The little girl packs her beloved stuffed animal monkey herself, resulting in a not-quite-securely-fastened suitcase. The family arrives at the airport, checks in, goes through security, and gets settled on the plane. The flight includes safety instructions, snacking, and cloud-watching. After landing they must wait for their luggage before going outside and into the arms of the children’s grandparents. Engagingly detailed page spreads offer intriguing and whimsical elements, from the family’s interactions, to fellow travelers, some of who can be followed or found again at journey’s end, to airport signs and scenes. Meanwhile, monkey’s parallel journey in the suitcase includes a surprising and sweet encounter with a live dog in the cargo hold. (Horizontally split pages show the progress of the luggage—and monkey—at the bottom.) Speech bubble dialogue adds additional humor to an inviting and informative primary narrative (“Inside the airport you stand in lines. You stand in lines to get your ticket. You stand in lines to check your bags. There are lines for the restrooms. There are lines to go through security.”) Closing endpapers show the mixed-race (Black/white) family on a sunny beach in a book that will delight young children, travelers or not. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, October 3, 2016

Book of the Week:
One Half from the East

One Half from the East

by Nadia Hashimi
Published by HarperCollins, 2016
272 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-242190-6
Ages 9-13

After Obayda’s family moves from Kabul to the village where her father grew up, the 10-year-old's aunt suggests she become a bacha posh—a girl who passes as a boy—to give her family the advantage of a son. Obayda's parents reluctantly agree. Obayda, now Obayd, likes being a girl, and doesn’t know how to move through the world with a boy’s swagger and certainty. Befriended by Rashid, an older bacha posh, Obayd soon is relishing the freedoms and privilege her older sisters do not enjoy, even in their progressive family. Obayd does things as a boy she never would have considered before, discovering a different kind of action and agency as she tries to help her father recover from injuries he suffered in a Kabul explosion. But there is nothing she can do to help Rashid(a) when her friend’s time as a bacha posh abruptly ends when she’s married off to the village war lord. A fascinating, swiftly paced, story firmly grounded in Obayd(a)’s perspective and experience makes clear gender has nothing to do with her physical or intellectual ability, only with how those abilities are perceived in a society where males are privileged. The book is not about gender identity (although Rashid references women she knows of who remained bacha posh or continued to pose as men their entire lives) but about how power is proscribed based on gender. These are big ideas, yet Obayda’s voice feels childlike and true. An author’s note provides additional information about bacha posh and context for the story. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 26, 2016

Book of the Week:
A Hungry Lion or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals

A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Published by Atheneum, 2016
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4889-5
Ages 4-8

“Once upon a time there was a hungry lion, a penguin, a turtle, a little calico kitten, a brown mouse, a bunny with floppy ears, and a bunny with un-floppy ears….” The list goes on. But with each turn of the page, some of the animals disappear, until finally the narrator notes, “Umm…I guess Once upon a time there was just a HUNGRY LION and a dwindling assortment of other animals.” Just when children will think they’ve got it all figured out—that lion, whistling innocently, is clearly eating the others—Surprise! Here they all are, at a party. For the lion. With cake (“enormous, lovely four-tiered cake with buttercream frosting”). Whew! But then…who turned off the lights? Oh! There’s never a dull moment in this picture book, with its alternating cascade of language and sparely stated moments, its perfect pacing, and its constant unsettling of readers’ and listeners’ understanding and expectations. Child-like illustrations offset the sophisticated text, adding to the overall effect of being deliciously undermined at every turn. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book of the Week: The Hole Story of the Doughnut

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

by Pat Miller
Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-544-31961-5
Ages 6-10

Prior to 1847, little round cakes fried in lard were a dietary staple for sailors aboard ships. They were easy to prepare and easy to eat. But Hanson Gregory, a 16-year-old cook’s assistant aboard a schooner, listened to his fellow sailor’s complaints about the cakes, which they called “sinkers” because the centers were so heavy with grease, and he came up with a way to improve them: He took the top of a pepper shaker and cut the centers out of the cakes before he fried them. They were such a hit that Hanson shared the idea with his mother when he got back home, and she began to cook up dozens of “holey cakes” to sell on the docks to the sailors, and pretty soon, all the ships’ cooks began to adopt the practice, thereby spreading doughnuts far and wide. Gregory later became a ship’s captain, and tall tales began to develop about how he came to invent the doughnut, some of which are included in this book. A great deal of primary and secondary research went into recounting the doughnut’s—or, more accurately, the doughnut hole’s--entertaining history. Each whimsical watercolor illustration is framed within a circle, echoing the importance of the doughnut hole. (KTH) ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book of the Week:
A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids

A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids

by Shelley Tougas
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2016
272 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-403-7
Ages 9-12

“There’s no Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids. How is that possible?” Mary’s invitation to be in her older cousin’s wedding launches a laugh-out-loud story genuine in its depth and warmth. Mary’s family is about to move to North Dakota to join her dad, who’s been there for a job since their small-town family hardware store failed. Middle school-aged Mary and her younger brother, Luke, are staying with their grandmother and bride-to-be Edie’s family in St. Paul for the summer while their mom, exhausted from holding things together at home alone, joins their dad to find a place they all can live. Mary’s been charged with keeping her mom’s big secret: The past year has been so economically and emotionally challenging that Luke hasn’t had his First Communion. It makes for some artful dodging on Sundays. Mary also wants to help unassertive Edie, who struggles with social anxiety, have the wedding she wants. And she keeps thinking about Brent, the boy she punched just before the end of the school year. He’s a bully. She hates him. What’s harder to acknowledge is that she was cruel to him, too. Through it all, including a hint of romance with Nick, the boy next door, Mary offers earnest and amusing prayers to various saints for help dealing with immediate predicaments and long-terms worries. Her Catholic family and other characters are drawn with realism and affection in an entertaining, insightful novel about family, friends, enemies, faith, and compassion. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center