Monday, May 29, 2017

Book of the Week: Baby's First Words

Baby's First Words

by Stella Blackstone and Sunny Scribens
Illustrated by Christiane Engel
Published by Barefoot Books, 2017
20 pages
ISBN: 978-1-78285321-3
Ages 6 months - 3 years


A toddler’s day provides the story arc of a board book that offers engagement, affirmation, and delight, showing a mixed-race, gay-parented family. “Good morning!” reads the primary text on the opening page spread. The colorful scene includes word labels for “baby” (the girl), “bed,” “blocks,” “clock,” “laugh” (she’s all smiles as she greets one of her dads), “woolly mammoth” (a stuffed animal), and more. Objects, actions and emotions are labeled throughout as the little girl gets dressed, plays outside, eats lunch, plays inside, and, over the course of the day, experiencing a range of emotions, engages with a variety of vehicles, and encounters an array of animal toys before being given a bath and going to bed. The pleasing illustrations are punctuated by humor (e.g., the woolly mammoth is often shown doing something funny for a woolly mammoth—coloring with a crayon, brushing its teeth) and full of warmth. One dad, home with her throughout the day, is Black, the other is light-skinned, like the little girl.  “Night night!”  ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book of the Week: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

by Pablo Cartaya
Published by Viking, 2017
236 pages
ISBN: 978-1-101-99723-9
10-13 years

Arturo lives in an apartment complex in Miami along with most of the rest of his extended, close, chaotic Cuban American family. At the center of their lives are Abuela and La Cocina de la Isla, the restaurant she began with Arturo’s late grandfather. With Abuela’s health in question, no one wants to tell her about the threat to the proposed expansion of the restaurant into the empty lot next door: a new, buffoonish developer in town has plans for an upscale high-rise. At the heart of this lively story are important questions: How do communities shape and value individuals; how do individuals shape communities? How do differing ideas of what constitutes “progress,” including gentrification, impact community, and the family that community can be? They are explored in a blithe narrative featuring a slightly lovesick middle schooler (Arturo is trying to figure out if visiting Carmen likes him the same way he likes her) trying to help his family convince the city council to vote in favor of their restaurant’s proposal. Arturo finds inspiration for both his ideals and love in the poetry of Jose Marti, the Cuban poet and activist whom, he learns, his late grandfather loved (and Carmen does, too).  © 2017 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book of the Week: Not Quite Narwhal

Not Quite Narwhal

by Jessie Sima
Published by Simon & Schuster , 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8
Ages 3-8

Kelp knew early on that he’s different from other narwhals. His tusk is short, he doesn’t like typical narwhal food, and he isn’t a very good swimmer. When Kelp is caught in a current and swept far from home, he sees land for the first time. High on a cliff he spots “a mysterious, sparkling creature” and feels an immediate affinity. Kelp swims ashore, finds his land legs, and sets out in pursuit. “Land narwhals!” Kemp cries in delight when he spots an entire group of them. “Actually, we’re unicorns. And, by the looks of it, so are you!” Kelp learns his tusk is a horn (complete with cascading rainbows) and the legs with which he couldn’t swim well are excellent for galloping. He loves every minute of his life with the unicorns, until he remembers his narwhal friends. Will the narwhals still love him once they learn he’s a unicorn? It turns out they knew it all along. Will he have to choose between narwhals and unicorns? Never. Rainbows and unicorns and sparkles (and narwhals) serve a genuine purpose in this winsome tale of identity, self-discovery, and acceptance. Clever humor in the appealing art, created in Photoshop and incorporating cartoon elements, punctuates a story overflowing with warmth. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book of the Week: Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together

by RenĂ©e Watson
Published by Bloomsbury, 207
264 pages
ISBN: 978-1-68119-105-8
Age 13 and older

A scholarship student at a private high school, Jade misses having her neighborhood friends at school but the private school offers an international volunteer opportunity. This year she hopes to be chosen. In the meantime, Jade’s school counselor encourages her to participate in Woman to Woman, a community-based mentoring program for African American girls. Jade is paired with Maxine, an African American alum of her school. Jade also become friends with Sam. Like Jade, Sam rides the bus to school—a rarity. But Sam, who is white, has never stepped foot in Jade’s neighborhood. It all has Jade thinking about how people perceive her, and her community. Then she is not chosen for the volunteer trip to Costa Rica, despite tutoring fellow students in Spanish. The reason? Jade already participates in the mentoring program and her teacher feels other students deserve opportunities, too. Jade’s frustration is further fueled by the assault of a young Black woman by police in a nearby community. For Jade, the beating is too close, too personal, intensifying her sense of disquiet and disconnect with her school community, including Sam. Why, she finally challenges her teacher and her mentor, does everyone assume that because she's young and Black and poor she only needs help and "opportunities" but has nothing to offer, anything to give? Jade knows she has plenty to give in this vivid, poignant novel featuring a cast of singular characters; complex, authentic relationships; and a young woman voicing a critical truth. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Book of the Week: A Perfect Day

A Perfect Day


by Lane Smith
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-536-2
Ages 2-6

Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel are all relishing a perfect day, although the perfection differs for each of them: The warm sun in a flowerbed (Cat), a cool pool (Dog), birdseed (Chickadee), and a corncob (Squirrel). Enter Bear, who disrupts everyone’s moment of bliss. Each of the animals hastily abandons their prized spot or snack when Bear lumbers near. It turns out Bear, whose massive presence can barely be contained on the page, is having a perfect day too. His is comprised of a composite of comforts: “The warmth of the sun. The cool of the water. A belly full of corn and seed. A flower bed for a nap.” A simple text showcases repetition and predictability, while the dynamic mixed-media illustrations command attention with changes of scale and perspective. (MVL) ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center