Monday, August 29, 2016

Book of the Week: As Brave As You

As Brave As You

by Jason Reynolds
A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2016
410 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-1590-3
Ages 8-12

Eleven-year-old Genie and his older brother, Ernie, are staying with their Virginia grandparents while their parents go on vacation. It’s Genie’s first time meeting his grandfather, who’s never visited Brooklyn. Genie is fascinated to discover the older man is blind, although so capable in the house that Genie doesn’t realize it at first. A story full of small dramatic arcs and ongoing mysteries—of the door the boys aren’t supposed to open but that Genie does only to find a room full of swallows; of the yellow house in the woods; of the unexplained tension between his father and grandfather; of the effect of the girl down the hill on his brother—has an essential, understated storyline as Genie, a quiet, curious observer, deepens his understanding of himself, his grandfather, and the joy and pain and love that is family. Genie, so keen in his wondering, with a notebook full of questions; his grandfather, full of poignant regret, fierce pride, and barely acknowledged fear of moving beyond the predictable world contained within the four walls of the house; his grandmother, all bustling efficiency and loving control; Ernie’s alternating confidence and caution are exquisite characterizations gracing a story both funny and tender (poop patrol in the yard; their grandfather and a friend teaching Ernie to shoot; Ernie not wanting to fire a gun). It also beautifully captures the way summer days can feel shapeless, while forming themselves into a season of growth and discovery through living and loving, hurting and healing. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book of the Week: The Secret Subway

The Secret Subway

by Shana Corey
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published by Schwartz & Wade, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2
Ages 7-11

Alfred Ely Beach was a genius who was ahead of his time. In the mid-19th century, he came up with an idea that would help to solve New York City’s congested streets: an underground train. His vision was of a train powered by an enormous fan, but he knew the idea was unlikely to be approved by Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, so instead he proposed building a system of tubes underground to carry mail. After getting permission to proceed, he rented the basement of a clothing store to use as his headquarters and hired workers to come in each day to start digging a tunnel. They loaded wagon after wagon with dirt to carry off under the cover of darkness each night. After almost two months, they had a tunnel that was eight feet across and 294 feet long, and then Beach hired more workers to come in to paint and decorate the interior. When the work was completed, Beach invited local dignitaries and the general public to come and experience the “train of the future.” Although it was a sensation, Beach was ultimately refused permission to expand, and before too long the secret subway lay dormant – forgotten and neglected – until forty years later when it was discovered by other workers digging a tunnel for what is today the New York City subway system. Shana Corey used primary source documents to uncover this buried bit of fascinating history, and she tells the story in an engaging manner that will draw readers in. Artist Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio constructed intricate three-dimensional illustrations which aptly convey the depth of the subterranean world in which Beach labored, using characters made from wire and foam, and painted scenery as backdrops. The back of the book’s dust jacket provides an illustrated guide to how the book’s artwork was created from the initial photo research and sketches to the final lighting and photography, a story almost as interesting as the subway itself.  © 2016 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book of the Week: Where's the Party?

Where’s the Party?

by Ruth Chan
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2016
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-269-9
Ages 3-7

Georgie loves throwing parties for his friends, but on this particular day his spontaneous plans fall apart when no one can come. Feta has to make pickles. Lester has lightbulbs to change. Shy Ferdinand would rather stay home. Every other friend has a reason, too (“My ears are itchy.” “I need to fold my socks.” “My shorts are too bright.”), and Georgie, who starts the day full of optimism, is eventually drooping with dejection. The humor and heartbreak of this story extends to the visual. George is a sweet-faced gray cat. His friends include a dog, a giraffe, a hippo, a mouse, and a star-nosed mole. All of the animals are wide-eyed and full of expression, from sheepish to sly to sad. Poor Georgie. The playful illustrations are a skillful blend of full-scene and spots incorporating speech bubbles, and include a double-page spread tracing Georgie’s journey through his city neighborhood before he arrives back home to … Surprise! “We love you, Georgie!” Friendship and kindness—and, ok, cake—are all any party really needs. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 8, 2016

Book of the Week: The Passion of Dolssa

The Passion of Dolssa

by Julie Berry
Published by Viking, 2016
496 pages
ISBN: 978-0451469922
Age 14 and older

In 13th-century western Europe, the Inquisition is control through terror, as those whose beliefs or behaviors offend Church authorities face persecution as heretics. Dolssa is a young woman in Tolosa whose says Christ is her true love. Even the threat of death cannot make her deny that he speaks to her. But it is her mother who is burned by Inquisitors as Dolssa watches. When her bonds are cut and a voice tells her to run, Dolssa flees. Spirited Botille and her two equally confident, gifted sisters run an inn in the village of Bajas. When Botille discovers a dying young woman by a river, instinct or intuition or perhaps something else tells her to lie when a passing friar asks about a missing girl. Botille smuggles the woman—Dolssa—back to her village, where the sisters secretly nurse her back to health. Dolssa remains hidden until a crisis forces her to call on her divine gift for healing. Word about her miracles spreads and the determined friar tracks Dolssa down. A taut narrative arc in this work of historical fiction is richly embellished with vivid period details and a cast of vibrant, singular, complex, contradictory characters. The story is tragic, funny, satisfying, and scathingly critical. It also leaves space for genuine faith and miracles and mystery and devotion, however one chooses to define it (earthbound romance included). A detailed author’s note about the historical period concludes this intricate and astonishing work. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 1, 2016

Book of the Week: Outrun the Moon

Outrun the Moon

by Stacey Lee
Published by Putnam, 2016
391 pages
ISBN: 978-0-399-17541-1
Ages 11-15

Living in San Francisco Chinatown in 1906, teenage Mercy Wong wants to become a business woman to support her family. Smart and spirited, she negotiates her way into a prestigious, whites-only girls’ school for the educational advantage she’s sure it will provide. The racism Mercy and her Chinatown community experience is an essential part of an insightful and engaging work that is part boarding school story, with Mercy navigating relationships as a social and cultural outsider, and part riveting account of the San Francisco earthquake. Prior to the earthquake, Mercy facilitates a meeting between the leaders of the Chinese Benevolent Association and a white-owned business that wants Chinatown customers—agreeing to do so was how she leveraged the business owner’s support of her entry to the school (his daughter becomes Mercy’s prickly roommate). In the quake’s aftermath, Mercy struggles with devastating losses to her family, her community, and the city a whole. But social and racial barriers break down as she and her classmates cooperate to survive. Sheltering in a city park along with thousands of others, real friendships begin to form as the young women extend kindness across lines of race and class to one another and other refugees, reaching out with intentionality. Author Lee notes that cross-cultural goodwill like this, common after the quake, sadly did not last. She also explains where she took liberties, especially regarding the gender and racial boundaries she allowed herself to imagine Mercy was able to cross in that time. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center