Monday, May 20, 2019

Book of the Week: The Storm Keeper's Island




The Storm Keeper's Island


by Catherine Doyle

U.S. edition: Bloomsbury, 2019
308 pages
ISBN: 978-1-68119959-7


Ages 8-12


Fionn and his older sister Tara are spending the summer on the island of Arranmore, just off the coast of western Ireland, while their mother is treated for depression. Fionn’s father drowned before he was born and Fionn is terrified of the sea. But he’s intrigued by the island, which sometimes shimmers and shifts before his eyes, and his grandfather, whose cottage is full of homemade candles, each labeled with a different date. Fionn discovers that each candle, when burned, allows travel to that time on Arranmore, and making them is the job of the Stormkeeper, currently his grandfather, whose health is beginning to fail. Fionn’s grandfather thinks Fionn is destined to be the next Stormkeeper and wants to prepare his grandson for the role. A family feud; an age-old battle between good and evil; a race to find a legendary, hidden cave; and the desire to understand his parents’ past all present complications, temptations, and motivations for Fionn in this captivating tale to be continued. An original premise, vividly realized setting, and well-drawn characters distinguish a story shot through with lively moments of humor in the dialogue. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 13, 2019

Book of the Week: Another



Another

by Christian Robinson

Published by Atheneum, 2019
48 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5344-2167-7


Ages 4-8


A young Black girl is asleep in her bed with her red-collared black cat when a blue-collared black cat appears through a porthole of light. The blue-collared cat absconds with the red-collared cat’s red mouse toy. The red-collared cat follows through the hole, as does the now awake little girl in her red planetary nightgown. She emerges (bottom of page spread) in a bright white space with her beaded hair rising from her head while her upside down cat (top of page spread) disappears through another hole. Her ongoing adventure offers one captivating surprise after another, from an Escher-like staircase to a lively cast of diverse children joyfully engaged in play, with one another and with their doppelgangers, whom they encounter as they move through various holes. The girl, too, discovers her multiverse “twin,” distinguished from her, as are the individual children in the other pairs, by elements of clothing color. What does it all mean? That’s up to readers to decide in this creative wordless outing with much to delight in, discover, and ponder. The mixed-media illustrations use simplified shapes and bright colors against (mostly) white or black backgrounds, with the masterful composition an essential part of how meaning can be made. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 6, 2019

Book of the Week: A Place to Belong



by Cynthia Kadohata


Published by A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2019
416 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4664-8


Ages 9-13


In 1946, Hanako, 12, and her family arrive in Japan with others who, like her parents, refused to sign a loyalty oath while imprisoned in U.S. internment camps during World War II. Their U.S. military ship lands near devastated Hiroshima. Her grandparents live in the country and are overjoyed to see their son and meet their daughter-in-law and grandchildren, but their spare survival is made more tenuous with Hana’s family to feed. Still, it’s hard for Hana to refuse hungry people who knock at the door asking for food, although the adults tell her she must—there is simply not enough to eat. A boy burned in the Hiroshima bombing and his little sister show up regularly. How can she say no to them? How can she deny her little brother, Akira, who remembers imprisonment as a time when there was always enough food? While the adults work long days, Hana begins attending the village school, longing to feel less like an outsider. Then she faces startling news related to efforts to restore the civil rights of deported Japanese Americans. Hana’s deep feelings and probing thoughts, and singular, memorable characters propel a story that seamlessly weaves history and culture into an aching, beautiful tale of family and refugees and survival, one that also reflects realities playing out for so many children today. An author’s note provides additional information about the history surrounding the story’s events. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 29, 2019

Book of the Week: We Set the Dark on Fire



by Tehlor Kay Mejia


Published by Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins, 2019
364 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-269131-6


Age 14 and older


Daniela and her family illegally crossed the border into Medio when she was small. At 12, with forged citizenship papers, she was accepted into the Medio School for Girls, where students are groomed for one of two roles: Primera or Segunda—first or second wife—to the sons of wealthy, politically connected families, roles with origins in their culture’s creation story. Primeras are intellectual confidantes who support their husband’s career; Segundas emotional and romantic companions. Now graduating, Dani has been chosen as Primera to Meteo Garcia, son in a powerful family with Presidential aspirations for him. Dani’s arch enemy at school, Carmen, has been chosen as Mateo’s Segunda. La Voz, a resistance group protesting border regulations and immigrant crackdowns, recently provided Dani with better forged papers, but at a price: They want her to spy for them in Mateo’s household or risk losing all that her parents have sacrificed to give her. Mateo is cold and threatening, while Carmen unexpectedly evolves into a friend, perhaps even someone Dani can trust. As Dani discovers Mateo’s role in increased hostilities against protesters, she struggles to balance protecting her secret against acting as her conscience dictates. She’s also navigating feelings for Carmen that are turning from a tentative bond of trust to strong romantic attraction. Political intrigue set in an unspecified Latinx culture merges with budding romance in a tightly-paced plot that races to its cliff-hanger finale and has strong parallels to tensions in our world today. (MVL) ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 22, 2019

Book of the Week: Ojiichan's Gift

by Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated by Genevieve Simms


Published by Kids Can Press, 2019
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-77138-963-1

Ages 5-8


Mayumi visits her grandfather in Japan for two months every summer, helping him care for the rock garden he made when she was born. “She learned that moss on a rock was a gift of time … And that clipping shrubs to look like clouds was the best of all reasons to prune.” Back home, her small tin of keepsakes—leaves, pinecones, a stone—helps her remember their time together. Then comes a visit when it seems everything has changed—Ojiichan is in a wheelchair, unable to care for the neglected garden. As her parents help pack his things for a move, Mayumi takes her upset and anger out on the garden until an idea blossoms—a way Mayumi can keep herself and Ojiichan connected to the garden and each other. A lyrical narrative of keen detail and emotional grace offers readers and listeners opportunities to relate and reflect as it reveals how Mayumi’s connection to her grandfather and his garden are things she carries inside her, in addition to inside her small, tangible box of memories. Mayumi is biracial (Japanese/white) in this story supported with lovely watercolor illustrations. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 15, 2019

Book of the Week: Nikki on the Line



by Barbara Carroll Roberts


Published by Little, Brown, 2019
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0316521901

Ages 10-13


Eighth grader Nikki has played basketball with her best friend, Adria, since they were young. Now, both are on an elite pre-high school league team. Although she isn’t tall, Nikki’s a great shooter, but as the team gradually gels under their wonderful coach, one of the parents of another player has Nikki doubting her abilities. Nikki’s struggle with her flailing confidence, drastically impacting her play, is one dimension of this story. Her changing friendship with Adria, who is spending a lot of time with new teammate Kate, is another. At school, Nikki is becoming friends with Booker, her table partner in science. Booker is adopted. Nikki’s father was a sperm donor. Neither of them wants to do the science assignment of tracing a family genetic trait (an assignment the understanding teacher admits he didn’t think through). After school, Nikki is caring for her high-energy younger brother Sam—canceling his after school care was the only way Nikki’s mom could afford Nikki’s team fees, although Nikki doesn’t want anyone else, even Adria, to know this. These various subplots are wonderfully balanced in a novel about identity and friendship, family and change that is also an action-packed sports story in which Nikki and her teammates’ passion for the game is palpable. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 8, 2019

Book of the Week: Poetree



by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds

Illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani 


Published by Dial, 2019
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-399-53912-1


Ages 4-7


“Spring is here at last. / I hope it doesn’t end too fast. / Like a bee I’ll sniff each flower, / And I’ll enjoy each springy hour / (So much).” Brown-skinned Sylvia ties her poem about spring to a birch tree. The next day the tree has written back! At school, not even the teasing of a classmate named Walt can dampen Sylvia’s enthusiasm for writing haiku. “White birch on the hill / Speaks out loud through rustling leaves / Great green Poetree.” On the way home, she pushes her haiku into a knothole on her “poetree.” The next day, a poem folded into a star shape falls from the tree’s branches. “… Can a tree and child be friends? / Your words give me hope.” Believable childlike behavior (and writing) along with moments of humor ground an engaging story that avoids preciousness. Clues provided in the lovely graphite pencil and watercolor illustrations mean young readers and listeners will likely already have noticed what Sylvia eventually understands: The identity of the other poet isn’t the tree at all. For Sylvia, it’s a discovery that starts with disappointment and ends with a new and surprising friend. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center