Monday, August 14, 2017

Book of the Week: Midnight at the Electric



Midnight at the Electric

by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published by HarperTeen, 2017
257 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-239354-8
Age 12 and older


In 2065, Adri moves in with her newly discovered cousin, Lily, while she trains for her future life as a settler on Mars. Loner Adri worries living with elderly, open-hearted Lily will be hard, but Lily is respectful of Adri’s privacy and Galapagos, a giant tortoise on Lily’s Kansas farm, is a peaceful companion. In 1934 Catherine lives with her mother, little sister, and a tortoise named Galapagos on their Kansas farm, where the dust storms ravaging the Plains threaten her little sister’s health. Learning the boy she loves also loves her is bittersweet when Catherine, debating something drastic to save her sister, discovers a secret about the past that raises huge questions about her family. In 1919, Lenore lives in England, mourning the loss of a beloved brother in the Great War. Lenore wants to visit her best friend Beth in America. In the meantime, she forges a friendship with James, a disfigured young man who tests her understanding of compassion and acceptance while spinning impossible stories about his life. For Adri, who’s never relied on anyone but herself and is struggling to connect with others on her team, the old letters and journals in Lily’s house leading her to Catherine’s and Lenore’s stories hold surprising fascination. Family, friendship, and the family that friendship are the gifts Catherine, Lenore and especially Lily give Adri as she prepares for her journey in this singular novel graced by complex, poignant characters and relationships. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 7, 2017

Book of the Week: The First Rule of Punk



The First Rule of Punk

by Celia C. Pérez
Published by Viking, 2017
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-29040-8
Ages 9-12


Malú and her mom have moved from New York to Chicago for her mom’s 2-year visiting professorship. Mixed-race (Mexican/white) Malú, whose parents are amicably divorced, is unhappy about leaving her dad, who nurtured her interest in punk. She also feels like her mom, whom she calls SuperMexican, wants her to be a perfect señorita, which couldn’t be further from Malú’s understanding of herself (or, it turns out, the truth). Expressing her punk identity with heavy make-up the first day at José Guadalupe Posada Middle School doesn’t just raise her mom’s eyebrows, however: Malú’s in violation of school rules. After the mom of Malú’s new friend Joe introduces Malú to Mexican American punk musicians—something Malú didn’t know existed—and other Mexican singers. Malú recruits Joe and two other kids to form a punk band and try out for the school talent show. When the principal rejects their act, Malú and her bandmates organize an alternate talent show in the spirt of their school’s namesake while reworking a classic Mexican song into a punk performance that brings together the parts of Malú’s identity she thought were disparate, but prove not to be. Malú’s zines exploring aspects of her personal history and culture add a rich visual dimension to a spirited, engaging story about a creative, irrepressible girl navigating uncertainties and making new connections and discoveries. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book of the Week: That Neighbor Kid



That Neighbor Kid

by Daniel Miyares
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4979-3
Ages 4-8


Two neighboring houses. A moving truck. A fence and a tree. A girl and a boy. As the story opens, she’s peeking out the window of one house, he’s sitting in the yard of the other. She watches as he pulls down some fence boards. Some of these become steps up the tree. The girl, now outside, watches him, peering over the fence, then from behind a bush. Finally she picks up the hammer he dropped and follows him up the tree. He’s surrounded by boards, pouring over plans, and clearly confused. There’s a tentative exchange of greetings before he hands her a bucket of nails. She reads the plans, clearly in her element. And then they get to work, holding boards and hammering, painting and playing, building a tree house and closing the distance between stranger and friend. Miyares’s illustrations are predominantly black-and-white with small accents and occasional washes of celebratory color as this wordless story progresses in a book that feels both nostalgic and timeless. And while the narrative arc is clear, it also leaves plenty of room for discussion, whether about details of this story or the ways strangers can become friends. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 24, 2017

Book of the Week: The Leaf Reader



The Leaf Reader

by Emily Arsenault
Published by Soho Teen, 2017
240 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61695-782-7
Age 13 and older


Marnie Wells has taught herself tasseomancy, divination with tea leaves. Now, months after the disappearance of a girl named Andrea, Andrea’s best friend, Matt, seeks Marnie out. Matt’s been receiving cryptic emails from someone claiming to be Andrea and doesn’t know whether to believe it’s her. Marnie finds herself drawn to Matt and colliding with the wider circle of friends Andrea was part of, all of them wealthy kids at the upscale high school that Marnie attends only because her grandmother teaches there. Although Andrea’s never been found, the police believe the emails are a cruel hoax. Marnie isn’t sure. She also isn’t sure if Matt can be trusted and the images in the leaves, although open to interpretation, are unsettling. Then Marnie discovers Andrea knew Jimmie, a former friend of Marnie’s brother. Everyone has always considered Jimmie troubled but Marnie remembers him from her childhood because of his surprising if misguided attempts to please her. She wants to ask Jimmie about Andrea but the search for him proves frustrating as she knocks on doors, then terrifying when images and insight from the tea leaves lead to a chilling discovery that illuminates a deep and callous class prejudice and disregard for human life. A tense, compelling work that veers into the metaphysical as Marnie comes to terms with a family gift she isn’t sure she wants also fits solidly into the genres of mystery and contemporary realistic fiction. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book of the Week: Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!




Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!

by  Atinuke

Illustrated by Lauren Tobia (Anna Hibiscus Book 5) Published by U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 110 pages. (pbk. 978-1-61067-678-6)

Ages 4-8


Also reviewed:


Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 6) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 93 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-679-3)


Love from Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 7) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 95 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-680-9)

 
You're Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 8) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 95 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-681-6)


The return of Anna Hibiscus is cause to rejoice with these four new paperbacks for newly independent readers or reading aloud. In Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna has returned from visiting Granny Canada, her maternal grandmother. Her new experiences make her feel uncertain—does her family think she’s changed too much? But the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents with whom she lives along with her parents and younger brothers in “amazing Africa” soon reassure her with their welcome and warmth, while a newly hatched chick bonded to Anna leads to amusing antics. In Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! and Love from Anna Hibiscus!, Anna visits the village her grandparents left years before for the city where they all live now. Anna is unsure about making friends with the village kids, and aware how different—and in some ways more fortunate—her life is by comparison (she never goes hungry). But she realizes she and they all have things to learn and things to share with one another. When Anna meets Sunny Belafonte after he steals from her, she’s angry until she understands he did it because he was hungry and is living on his own, sparking Anna’s determination. In You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna and her family are navigating grief and loss with the death of beloved grandfather, who, Anna comes to understand, lives on in memories and stories. Atinuke is exceptionally attuned to the emotional life of young children. Respect, compassion, and understanding are all things Anna is taught by example and through gentle conversation with adults in her life. They are values she easily, innately embraces in the context of stories that are joyful even as they address difficult realities. Anna is biracial (Black/white), while the intentionally unspecified settings, both city and village, underscore that across Africa there is urban and rural; poverty, wealth, and middle class life like that of Anna’s family.  © 2017 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book of the Week: Where's Rodney?



Where's Rodney

by Carmen Bogan
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Published by Yosemite Conservancy, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-930238-73-2
Ages 4-8


Rodney likes moving, not sitting in a desk at school; he likes the freedom of outside, not the constraints of inside. But Rodney isn’t excited about an upcoming field trip to the park—he knows the little, triangle-shaped space with yellow grass in his city neighborhood. “It had one large cardboard trash can and two benches where some grownups sat all day long.” The day of the trip, however, the bus rumbles right by that park, out of the city, past farm fields, and through a mountain tunnel. At the other end, it emerges into bright sunshine and a park unlike any Rodney has known. It’s a place where he can climb high on a cliff, or down low into a canyon; he can run and shout, or discover small things of great beauty with quiet observation. “Rodney was outside—more outside than he had ever been before.” Rodney, a Black child in a diverse, contemporary classroom, is experiencing nature on a scale both grand and intimate at the center of this buoyant yet contemplative picture book with illustrations that reflect both the changing physical landscape and emotional range of the story as Rodney discovers that “outdoors” can not only be “majestic,” but peaceful, too. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 3, 2017

Book of the Week: Flying Lessons & Other Stories



Flying Lessons & Other Stories

by Ellen Oh, editor
Published by Crown, 2017
218 pages
ISBN: 978-1-101-93459-3
Age 11 and older


“Blame my Uncle Kenneth. Everybody else does.” (Tim Tingle) “It’s a lot of pressure to pick a good elf name.” (Tim Federle) “Nani wears a fur coat to the beach.” (Soman Chainani) Whether starting with irresistible opening lines like these, or easing more quietly into the lives of their characters, the ten short stories in this anthology are wonderfully crafted slices of life. Whether funny or poignant, painful or hopeful (and most are a combination, because life is like that), these stories featuring mostly contemporary older children and teens are widely varied in style and setting. The unifying theme is this: everyone’s voice matters, everyone has a story. What the stories also have in common are vividly realized characters whose lives feel genuine and are exceptional to the extent that every child and young adult is exceptional—singular and needing to be seen. Inclusion itself should not be exceptional, however. It should be deep and genuine and meaningful as it is within and across these pages featuring diverse writers—something foundational to the vision of this work that models how any anthology, regardless of theme, should be conceived. The result is a collection of stories that will spark recognition, and connection, and enjoyment for all readers in a multitude of ways. Additional contributors include Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Matt de la Peña, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, and Jacqueline Woodson. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center