Monday, April 23, 2018

Book of the Week: The Parker Inheritance

The Parker Inheritance

by Varian Johnson
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2018
331 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-94617-9

Ages 8-11




At her late grandmother’s house in Lambert, South Carolina, for the summer, African American Candice discovers an old letter referencing a hidden treasure in town. Her grandmother tried to find it to benefit the community years before. Instead, she left town in disgrace after losing her job as city administrator. Candice, who loves puzzles, teams with neighbor Brandon, who has research skills (and internet access at home), in hopes of finding the money and redeeming her grandmother’s name. Candice and Brandon’s emerging friendship slowly solidifies as details about their lives unfold (Candice’s parents are separated; Brandon is dealing with a bully and a disapproving grandfather) along with the mystery. Clues in the letter from the mysterious benefactor reference Lambert’s mid-twentieth century history, when Siobhan, the talented, forthright daughter of the tennis coach at the Black high school, was in love with Reggie, the best player on the team, despite her father’s disapproval. Chapters set in the past expand on the story Candice and Brandon are uncovering: When a secret 1957 match between the white and Black boys’ tennis teams triggers violent racist attacks after the Black high school team wins, Siobhan’s family and Reggie must flee town for their own safety. The teens’ resulting separation is at the heart of the mystery in this entertaining homage to The Westing Game that deftly yet meaningfully incorporates social justice issues from the past and the present (e.g., ongoing racism, homophobia).  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 16, 2018

Book of the Week: I Got a Chicken for My Birthday


I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

 

by Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Sarah Horne

Published by Carolrhoda, 2018
32 pages
ISBN: 978-11-5124-3130-8

Ages 4-8


A girl who wants tickets to an amusement park for her birthday gets a chicken from her Abuela Lola instead. A chicken that isn’t interested in eating and doesn’t have time to lay eggs. It does, however, have a list. At the top of the list: 100 steel girders. At the bottom: a partridge in a pear tree. In between is everything from a winch, cement, a horse, and firewood to a bird, a cat (to catch the bird), a dog (to catch the cat) and poms poms. The chicken also has a plan. It involves complicated construction, which the chicken oversees as it puts the various animals to work. When the chicken arranges for Abuela Lola to visit it puts her to work too. “I got a chicken for my birthday,” says the young narrator with each turn of the page before describing the latest developments in a spare, droll accounting paired with colorful India ink illustrations that spare no details in documenting the absurdity (the chicken in a hardhat is priceless). The end result? A fully functioning amusement park. “I got a chicken for my birthday. And the chicken is a genius … Next year, I’m asking Abuela Lola for a trip to the moon.” ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book of the Week: Snow Lane


 

Snow Lane

by Josie Angelini
Published by Feiwel and Friends, 2018
197 pages pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-15092-9
Ages 10-13


Ten-year-old Annie Bianchi is the youngest of 9 kids in a Catholic family in mid-1980s Massachusetts. Exceptionally bright and creative, Annie’s in a class for gifted students despite struggling with dyslexia. Although Annie doesn’t always follow the nuances of social interactions, she looks for the good in people and has a wonderful friend at school in her lab partner, Jordan. At home, she doesn’t think of her family as poor, or even unusual, although Annie knows her teenage sister Fay’s physical abuse and cruelty, usually directed at her sister Nora, is wrong, just as she knows her mother is often overwhelmed. A narrative grounded in Annie’s perspective, told in her engaging, ingenuous voice, offers a masterful slow reveal of the larger truths hinted at in small details and occasional dramatic moments that are part of Annie’s daily life. It’s not that Annie’s an unreliable narrator; it’s that she only begins to fully comprehend that things at home are not typical when she gets a glimpse of her family through the perspective of outsiders after Nora runs away. Everything and everyone is more complicated, and more poignant, than at first revealed in this moving, captivating work about family, and resilience, and survival, and the love, in spite of everything, that is never in doubt. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Friday, April 6, 2018

CCBC 2017 Statistics on LGBTQ+ Literature for Children & Teens

In 2017 we expanded our CCBC diversity statistics to include books with LGBTQ+ content and/or characters, and the results have been both fascinating and eye-opening.

Of the approximately 3,700 books we received at the CCBC in 2017, we counted:

  • 134 (3.62%) with significant LGBTQ+ content.
    • Of these, 21 (15.67%) were #OwnVoices (written by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+). However, this does not necessarily mean that the author's identity aligns with that of the character, e.g. a cisgender bisexual woman could create a transgender lesbian character.

This number (134) includes books with LGBTQ+ primary or significant secondary characters, LGBTQ+ families, nonfiction about LGBTQ+ people or topics, and what we've been calling "LGBTQ+ metaphor" books (more on that in a moment). Here's the breakdown:
  • 61 books (45.52%) feature an LGBTQ+ primary character
  • 36 books (26.87%) include an LGBTQ+ secondary character without an LGBTQ+ primary character
  • 25 books (18.66%) include an LGBTQ+ family
  • 9 books (5.22%) are nonfiction (not including graphic novels)
  • 3 books (2.24%) are anthologies with significant LGBTQ+ content
  • 2 books (1.5%) are LGBTQ+ metaphors

The two books we consider "metaphor" books are Bunnybear, written by Andrea J. Loney and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña, and Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima. Both books can easily be interpreted as metaphors for coming out to one's self and/or others and finding community.

We also took a closer look at the identities of primary characters. We used widely recognized identities in an effort to be consistent in our counting, as terminology within the LGBTQ+ community evolves and changes regularly. We counted queer (but not explicitly bisexual) cisgender women as lesbians, and queer (but not bi) cisgender men as gay. We had a category for transgender characters, and one for the non-binary umbrella (genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, etc.). In a separate category, we counted books in which a character questions their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

That being said, of the 61 books featuring an LGBTQ+ primary character, we counted:
  • 16 (26.23%) lesbian
  • 14 (22.95%) gay
  • 15 (24.59%) bisexual
  • 2 (3.28%) transgender
  • 5 (8.2%) questioning
  • 8 (13.11%) non-binary
  • 1 (1.64%) asexual
Little Pig has two grandpas.

Finally, our total count includes fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. There are very few picture books with LGBTQ+ characters or content. Of those we received, most were about families in general or had secondary or tertiary LGBTQ+ parents. Picture books with gender-expansive characters most often feature a child who was assigned male at birth and likes to wear skirts, dresses, or other clothing traditionally considered to be "feminine." Within the fiction category, few are middle grade titles; the majority are YA.

Of the 134 books with LGBTQ+ content or characters:
  • 13 (9.77%) are picture books
  • 17 (12.78%) are nonfiction, including graphic novels
  • 104 (77.61%) are fiction

Although it is a slow improvement, there are books being published that better represent the vast diversity of identities and experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. In the months and years ahead, we hope to see even more, especially books with LGBTQ+ characters of color and gender-expansive characters, as well as more #OwnVoices stories. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Book of the Week: Martin Rising



Martin Rising: Requiem for a King

by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Published by Scholastic Press, 2018
127 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-70253-9

Age 9 and older


In early April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., returned to Memphis to stand again with striking sanitation workers. Fevered and tired, he wanted to skip the April 3 evening rally at Mason Temple, but went and roused the crowd with his oratory and his faith in the path of nonviolence and the promise of the future he knew he may not live to see. Late afternoon April 4, he participated in a gleeful pillow fight in his room at the Lorraine Motel before dressing for dinner. These and other moments illuminated in poems detailing King’s life, and especially his final days, his death, and the grief that followed, are full of poignancy, power, and tension. Divided into three sections—Daylight, Darkness, Dawn—the poems’ language and cadence don’t just invite but almost insist on being spoken aloud. Impeccably researched and documented, the poems, paired with expressive mixed-media illustrations, conclude with a brief photo essay about the Memphis strike and King’s assassination, along with a timeline, sources, and an essential author’s note. “Can a dream ever die? / A burst of sun replies: / His life well lived for peace and good, / Martin’s spirit—still alive! / And with love, / we all shall rise.” The pain of King’s loss feels immediate and shocking, the hope of his legacy lasting. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 26, 2018

Book of the Week: Captain Starfish



Captain Starfish

by Davina Bell
Illustrated by Allison Colpoys
U.S. edition: Abrams, 2018
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4197-2837-2

Ages 3-6


“The day before the Underwater Dress-Up Parade, Alfie got that feeling.” It’s a familiar feeling, and not a nice one. He had it before a race once, and when he worried about playing musical chairs. Alfie tells himself he’s brave enough to be Captain Starfish in the parade, but that night he dreams of sea monsters. In the morning his tummy hurts and he doesn’t go. His parents take him to the aquarium instead. During their visit, Alfie notices a small clown fish who swims to the glass for just a second before darting away to hide in the coral. Inspired by that brief encounter, Alfie realizes it’s okay not being Captain Starfish this year, but decides that next year he’ll be a clown fish in the parade. Alfie’s fear will be relatable for many children with social anxiety. His parents’ calm acceptance means they don’t try to push Alfie, or treat him like there’s something wrong that needs fixing. It makes the final page spread showing clown fish Aflie one year later all the more satisfying: Alfie decided he’s ready. A limited, unusual color palette with soothing blues and punctuations of bright coral adds further distinction to this welcome picture book. (MVL) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 19, 2018

Book of the Week: Boots on the Ground



Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam

by Elizabeth Partridge
Published by Viking, 2018
224 pages
ISBN: 978-0-670-78506-3
Age 12 and older


Chapters detailing the experiences of diverse individuals in Vietnam during the war—soldiers, a military advisor, a military nurse, a young Vietnamese woman trying to flee the country with her family after the fall of Saigon—alternate with chapters focusing on the political front in the United States in this arresting account of the Vietnam War. Each individual story illuminates how the perspectives of those with “boots on the ground” differed vastly from the official government narrative, as well as how far removed political and military decisions are from the lives of those whom they impact, often devastatingly. The chapters set in the United States illuminate the thoughts and actions of presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford) and protesters (Martin Luther King, Jr., who was criticized within and beyond the Civil Rights Movement for his decision to speak out against the war, and Country Joe MacDonald, who wrote one of the most popular anti-war anthems). The narrative turns toward healing as it documents efforts to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including initial backlash against architect Maya Lin’s design, and the Memorial’s cathartic impact (built as she envisioned it). Photographs throughout, detailed notes, a comprehensive bibliography, and brief updates on the lives of those Partridge interviewed to show us the war through their eyes round out a forceful work. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 12, 2018

Book of the Week: Harriet Gets Carried Away



Harriet Gets Carried Away

by Jessie Sima
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2018
42 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-6911-1
Ages 3-6


Harriet wears costumes everywhere, from the laundromat to the park to the dentist. When her dads take her shopping for her birthday party snacks, she’s dressed as a penguin and waddles off in search of party hats. “… don’t get carried away,” they tell her, knowing their daughter. Harriet does get carried away—literally—by a passel of penguins she meets in the frozen food aisle. “Where are we going?” It turns out the penguins are going back home, in hot air balloons. “I don’t think I belong here,” Harriet says when they arrive. One penguin suggests she get rid of her red bow tie in order to fit in. “But Harriet didn’t care about fitting in—she cared about getting back to the store.” She negotiates a ride from an orca, and her dads are still in the snack aisle when she soars back into the store with the help of a flock of gulls. Wonderful illustrations chronicle biracial Harriet’s unusual journey and warm, funny, realistic details of her life in the city with her dads (one Black, one white) in an affirming story that celebrates imagination. (MS) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 5, 2018

Book of the Week: The Poet X



The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo
Published by HarperTeen, 2018
368 pages
ISBN: 978-0062662804
Age 12 and older


Fifteen-year-old Xiomara is a Dominican American teen living in Harlem. Her twin brother, Xavier, a smart, gentle boy, can do no wrong in their mother’s eyes. Xiomara can do no right. She often feels unseen and misunderstood, even by Xavier despite their closeness and despite the fact she has always defended him, whether from bullies or from their mother’s judgment—thei mother doesn’t know he’s gay. Xiomara is intrigued by the new poetry club started by her English teacher, and by Aman, a boy she meets in biology class. But her mother forbids dating, and insists Xiomara attend Catholic confirmation classes, which take place the same afternoon as the club. Xiomara and Aman connect over music. He sees her, not her developing body which often draws unwanted attention, and he becomes the first person she shares one of her poems with as their secret, out-of-school friendship blossoms into romance. There is an intense emotional arc to this electrifying novel in poems showcasing the emergence of a gifted writer in fictional Xiomara, and in author Acevedo. As Xiomara faces her mother’s scorn, questions her faith, and deals with complications of friendship and romance, her journey is heart-wrenching. Her triumph comes in daring and then demanding to be seen as she triumphantly asserts her voice within and beyond her family and claims her identity as a poet. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 26, 2018

Book of the Week: Voices in the Air



Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners

by Naomi Shihab Nye
Published by Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2018
190 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-269184-2
Age 11 and older


“Can we go outside and listen?” Naomi Nye ponders in her introduction. Or stay in. Reflect. Pay. Attention. If we do we’ll find there is no such thing as a too-small moment or memory. The poems here range topically from the treatment of Palestinians (grief), to Ferguson, where Nye grew up (more grief), to the way genuine connection uplifts her. Many poets and writers are introduced across the poems—some in dedications, some in the poems themselves—and further illuminated in Nye’s brief, personal comments at volume’s end. Nye is, above all, a poet of hope and heartening. In “Mountains,” she writes about Jesse, a young man of 21 who was once a 6-year-old child in one of her poetry workshops. “It was my Best Day!” he tells her, and wonders how he can get back to that feeling. “... You knew the truth / when you were six that your street was magical / and full of mountains / though it was utterly flat. / You wrote about the rooster’s songs / and the dog’s barkingful wonder. / You wrote Who do you think I am am am? / And knew instinctively it was more powerful to say / “am” / three times than one— / You are still that person.” Go Jesse. Thank you, Naomi. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Thursday, February 22, 2018

CCBC 2017 Multicultural Statistics

This post is adapted from  "Publishing in 2017: A Few Observations," an essay that will appear in the forthcoming CCBC Choices 2018 publication.


Brown-skinned characters
Diversity and representation are on the minds of many in publishing for youth. One of the things that stood out for us in 2017 books, especially picture books, was the presence of the brown-skinned child. Although we noted this last year, in 2017 it was even more pronounced. We are referring not to books that are specifically and authentically African American, or Asian/Pacific, or American Indian/First Nations, or Latinx, but rather books in which a character has brown skin and is of unspecified race or ethnicity, with no visible cultural markers in either the story or the art.

Is this a good thing? A bad thing? It's hard to make a broad statement either way. What we will say is that visibility is critical, and so, too, is authenticity. The question of whether books with ethnically ambiguous, brown-skinned characters offer children what scholar Rudine Sims Bishop refers to as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors is one we would love to see studied. In the meantime, when we're feeling optimistic, we hope that these brown-skinned characters are publishing's short-term response to the need for greater diversity in the books they publish, one that will eventually be replaced by more culturally specific and authentic works by an ever-growing number of diverse authors and illustrators.


CCBC 2017 Statistics on Multicultural Literature

We continue to document the number of books by and about people of color and from First/Native Nations that we receive each year. To do so, we examine every book that we receive at the library, doing additional research when needed to try to determine whether a book, and/or its creator, should be counted in our annual statistics.

Of the approximately 3,700 books we received at the CCBC in 2017, most from U.S. publishers, here's the breakdown:

  • 340 had significant African or African American content/characters.
    • 100 of these were by Black authors and/or illustrators. (29.41% #OwnVoices)
  • 72 had significant American Indian/First Nations content/characters.
    • 38 of these were by American Indian/First Nations authors and/or illustrators. (52.78% #OwnVoices)
  • 310 had significant Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content/characters.
    • 122 of these were by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage. (39.35% #OwnVoices)
  • 216 had significant Latinx content/characters.
    • 73 of these were by Latinx authors and/or illustrators. (33.8% #OwnVoices)

(The numbers will change slightly as we continue to receive a stray title or two. Check our website for up-to-date statistics, including the numbers for books from U.S. publishers only, and more on what and how we count.)

As always, these numbers are solely a reflection of how many books we received and have nothing to do with quality or authenticity of representation, which varies widely. It should also be noted that the number of book creators in each category does not represent that many individuals, as many authors and illustrators were involved in the creation of two or more books.

In addition, many book creators of color are writing and/or illustrating books without cultural content that reflects their own backgrounds. Among the 3,700 books we received in 2017, we counted 22 books by Black authors and illustrators; 0 books by American Indian/First Nations authors; 152 books by authors and illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage; and 43 books by Latinx authors and illustrators that did not reflect the cultural origins of their creators.

The unspecified brown-skinned characters we noted across many picture books are not included in the numbers of books "about," although we have tracked these books separately. All book creators we were able to identify are included in the number of books "by."

In 2016 we began what we are calling a "deep dive" into picture books, and we continued that work with the 2017 publishing year (excluding books that are classified as nonfiction). The deep dive analysis also looks at other dimensions of representation, including gender, religion, (dis)ability, and LGBTQ. The results have made for some stunning--and unsettling--comparisons.

For example, an early-November analysis of the 698 picture books we'd received so far in 2017 from U.S. publishers revealed:
  • A character in a picture book was 4 times more likely to be a dinosaur than an American Indian child.
  • A character in a picture book was 2 times more likely to be a rabbit than an Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American child.
  • A female character in a picture book was highly likely to be wearing pink and/or a bow, even if she is a hippopotamus, an ostrich, or a dinosaur.
  • A child with a disability appeared in only 21 picture books, and only 2 of those were main characters. Most others appeared in background illustrations.
We will continue to evaluate the data for the 2017 publishing year in the coming weeks and will post additional information on this blog. At the same time, we are expanding our diversity analysis in 2018 to include a deep dive into all of the books we receive: picture books, fiction, and nonfiction.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Book of the Week: Baby Monkey, Private Eye



Baby Monkey, Private Eye

by Brian Selznick and David Serlin
Illustrated by Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic Press, 2018
191 pages
ISBN: 978-1-338-18061-9
Age 3 and older


Marvelous visual storytelling and spare, lively word choice make this winsome novel a success for preschoolers. (Yes, you read that right.) Baby Monkey, Private Eye is on the case, or rather, five cases, each unfolding in a similar pattern: A client arrives (opera singer, pizza chef, clown, astronaut, mystery woman) with a problem (stolen jewels, stolen pizza, stolen nose, stolen spaceship, missing baby). Baby Monkey looks for clues, writes notes, eats a healthy snack, puts on his pants, and solves the mystery. The humor reaches its peak in each chapter over three almost wordless double-page spreads in which Baby Monkey, always expressive, struggles to put on a pair of jeans (so many holes to figure out!). The discovery of the culprit in each of the first four cases would be anticlimactic were it not so silly, while the fifth case reaches a resolution worthy of the best warmly reassuring stories. The patterned narrative and engaging storyline will delight young children, while the overall design and layout also makes this a great choice for beginning readers. Appealing black-and-white illustrations feature an abundance of laughs for older kids, too, including visual references to many famous figures and works of art identified in a key at book’s end. The end matter also includes a hilarious index (“Coat, trench,” “Nose, red rubber”) and faux bibliography. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book of the Week: The Funeral



The Funeral

by Matt James
Published by Groundwood Books /
House of Anansi Press, 2018
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-908-9

Ages 4-8


“Norma was practicing her sad face in front of her parents’ mirror.” Going to the funeral of her great-uncle Frank isn’t sad for young Norma: She gets to miss a day of school and see her younger cousin, Ray. The story’s wonderful details, as when Norma explores the contents of her mother’s purse at church, are so authentic they feel familiar. So, too, is the fact that Norma finds the service boring (“And oh, how looong they sat on those hard seats, with all that talk about God and souls, and not very much talk about Uncle Frank.”). Ray asks, “Is Uncle Frank still a person?” Norma has no answer. The wonderful mixed-media art, a blend of full-page and sequential images, shows adults around Norma often somber-faced, sometimes hugging or crying. It also exquisitely conveys the sense of release Norma feels when she and Ray are able to escape the sober atmosphere to play outside. Norma is not grief-stricken and that’s perfectly fine in this remarkably honest picture book. Still, she is not unaffected. After pausing to consider a photo of great-uncle Frank, Norma tells her mom, “I think Uncle Frank would have liked his funeral.” ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 5, 2018

Book of the Week: Betty Before X



Betty Before X

by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renée Watson
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018
256 pages
ISBN: 978-0-374-30610-6
Ages 8-12


Ilyasah Shabazz’s fictionalized account of her mother’s childhood, written with Renée Watson, emphasizes Betty’s resilience and compassion, showing signs of the remarkable woman she would become, as the wife of Malcolm X and in her own right. Abused and unwanted by her biological mother, young Betty spends the first six years of her life in the loving care of her aunt Fannie Mae in Georgia. Following Fannie Mae’s death, Betty joins her mother, Ollie Mae, and Ollie Mae’s husband and children in Detroit. In the late 1940s, Betty is a young teenager who loves and is loved by her younger sisters but mistreated by Ollie Mae. Betty eventually finds a home with Mrs. and Mr. Malloy, members of her church. Mrs. Malloy is active in the Housewives’ League, an organization that encourages African Americans to boycott businesses that refuse to hire them. When Betty joins the League as a junior member, her identity as an activist begins to emerge, and she gains a sharper—and painful—understanding of racism and oppression, as well as of the diversity of opinions within her community. Some, like Betty’s friend Phyllis, strongly oppose the League’s methods of effecting change. Through it all, Betty delights in friendship and chosen family, while her relationship with Ollie Mae is contentious yet slowly evolving. Notes about 1940s Detroit, the characters, and the supportive Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church community are included. (MCT)  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, January 29, 2018

Book of the Week: Saints and Misfits



Saints and Misfits

by Ali S. K.
Published by Salaam Reads / Atheneum, 2017
328 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-9924-8
Age 13 and older


Teenager Janna Yusuf loves photography, the stories of Flannery O’Connor, and hanging out with friends. She willingly helps her Uncle Ali, the Imam at her mosque, with his thoughtful, engaging advice column. She’s less enthused about giving up her room when her older brother, Muhammad, moves back into the small apartment she shares with their mother. He’s courting “Saint Sarah,” who seems to embody the perfect Muslim woman Janna does not aspire to be. Janna’s only dared to tell her best friend about her own crush, classmate Jeremy, who isn’t Muslim. Meanwhile, she’s told no one about Farooq, a boy who recently tried to assault her. Farooq is good at fooling adults, and when his harassment of Janna intensifies, Janna finds a surprising ally in Sausun, a girl she’s never particularly cared for. Sausun is a niquabi, choosing to cover her face in public. She uses the anonymity to defy stereotypes and battle misogyny, and together Sausun and Janna work out a plan to expose Farooq’s predatory behavior. Janna moves from fear to determination to speak out in a novel that is funny and fierce by turns. It’s immensely satisfying to be immersed in the singular yet relatable complexities of her life, which include recently divorced parents, changing friendships, and new relationships that inspire her. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book of the Week: This Is Just a Test



This Is Just a Test

by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
256 pages
ISBN: 9781338037722
Ages 9-12


A late Cold War, made-for-television movie called The Day After, which imagines what happens in a small U.S. town after a nuclear bomb is dropped, leaves 7th grader David Horowitzw upset and unsettled the fall of 1983. Until the movie, his greatest worry was his upcoming bar mitzvah. Now it’s the end of the world. Then again, he’s sometimes just as worried about things exploding in his own home, where his Chinese maternal grandmother, Wai Po, who lives with his family, and his Jewish paternal grandmother, who moved from New Jersey to around the corner after Wai Po moved in, are often at odds in quietly cutting ways. David’s also trying to navigate a new friendship with Scott, a boy who teamed up with David and David’s longtime best friend, Hector, for a trivia contest. They won. Now Scott, who also saw The Day After, has invited David to help him dig a fall-out shelter, and has made it patently clear Hector, who is far from being a cool kid, is not included. Authentic characters, genuine relationships (for better and worse), tension, and humor all combine to make this story about family and friendship and David’s struggle for peace in his own life pleasurable, poignant, and immensely satisfying. ©2018 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bao Phi Wins 2018 Charlotte Zolotow Award



A Different Pond, written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui, published by Capstone Young Readers, is the winner of the twenty-first annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. 

 A graceful accounting of details shapes Bao Phi’s exquisitely crafted text in which a Vietnamese American boy goes on a predawn fishing outing with his dad. The beautifully weighted sentences (“I feel the bag of minnows move. They swim like silver arrows in my hand.”) describe their time together and also the experience of an immigrant child (“A kid at my school says my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”); a hard-working family’s economic hardship (“‘If you got another job why do we still have to fish for food?’ I ask.”); and bittersweet memory as the boy’s dad recalls fishing at a similar pond as a child in Vietnam with his brother, who died during the war. Running through it all is the boy’s contentment spending time with his dad, a pleasure that extends to feelings about his entire family when they gather at day’s end. Illustrations masterfully and movingly reveal details of character, setting, and action while superbly reflecting the warmth and intimacy of the story.

The 2018 Zolotow Award committee named five Honor Books:



  • Baby Goes to Market written by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank (Candlewick Press)
  • Buster and the Baby written by Amy Hest, illustrated by Polly Dunbar (Candlewick Press) 
  •  Herbert’s First Halloween written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Steven Henry (Chronicle Books)
  • Jabari Jumps written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick Press
  •  Niko Draws a Feeling written by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Simone Shin (Carolrhoda Books).
            The 2018 Zolotow Award committee also cited eight highly commended titles:

  • All the Way to Havana written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato (Godwin Books / Henry Holt) 
  • Before She Was Harriet written by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome (Holiday House) 
  • Big Cat, Little Cat written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper (Roaring Brook Press)
  • In the Middle of Fall written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins) 
  • Little Wolf’s First Howling written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee (Candlewick Press) 
  • The One Day House written by Julia Durango, illustrated by Bianca Diaz (Charlesbridge) 
  • Round written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 
  • When’s My Birthday? written by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson (A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press).
The award is sponsored by the CCBC and the Friends of the CCBC. An award ceremony will take place at a date to be determined.