Monday, August 19, 2019

Book of the Week: Genesis Begins Again



by Alicia D. Williams


A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2019
364 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-6580-9


Ages 11-14


Genesis’s family gets a deal on a rental in a suburb outside Detroit through a coworker of her dad’s. She loves the house but doesn’t know how long they’ll be able to stay given her dad’s history of gambling and losing the rent in his effort to get ahead: They’ve been evicted four times. At her new, predominantly white middle school, Genesis is wary that not even the Black kids will be nice given the darkness of her skin—she’s been called names like “Charcoal” in the past. Even Genesis’s dad, dark-skinned like she is, has made clear when he drinks that he wishes Genesis was light-skinned like her mother, a rejection that’s searing. Genesis finds release in singing, and the African American choir teacher tells Genesis she has a gift. But putting that gift on display in front of the entire school? Genesis, whose lack of self-worth is itemized in her ongoing list of all the things she hates about herself, can’t image doing so, until doing so becomes the only way she can see to move forward. An unflinching, candid exploration of the pain and impact of colorism on an African American family builds to a moment of triumph, and hope for healing and change for both Genesis and her family. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 12, 2019

Book of the Week: The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs



by Fiona Robinson


Abrams, 2019
42 pages
ISBN: 9781419725517


Ages 6-9


Growing up in early 19th-century England, Anna Atkins was fascinated by seashells, plants, and insects. Her father nurtured her curiosity, taking her on outings and teaching her the scientific names and classifications of the natural world. Anna also drew what she saw, making precise images she labeled with their Latin names. She grew up to become a botanist, following her passion in the world of science dominated by men. She was already experimenting with photography when she learned about cyanotypes—images created from chemicals and sunlight on paper. Excited by the possibility of perfectly capturing nature, she created cyanotypes of her entire seaweed collection, more than 10,000 images. Their publication in three volumes beginning in 1843 became the first book of photographs. Cyanotypes are always blue because of the chemical compounds used, and the mixed-media illustrations, all in hues of blue, incorporate some of Anna’s cyanotype images as well as some the author/illustrator created in this inspired, inspiring tribute that includes an informative note on Anna’s life, as well as “how to make cyanotypes.” ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 5, 2019

Book of the Week: Pie in the Sky



by Remy Lai


Henry Holt, 2019
380 pages
ISBN: pbk. 9781250314109

Ages 8-13


Jingwen, his little brother Yanghao, and their mother are recent immigrants to Australia (probably from China, although it’s never specified). Their father was killed in a car accident two years earlier. Jingwen misses baking with his father, who dreamed of opening a bakery in Australia called Pie in the Sky. Frustrated with his inability to learn English, and struggling to make friends at school, Jingwen focuses instead on secretly recreating the cakes he and his dad used to bake together, one each evening with Yanghao when their mother is away at work. Although Yanghao is happy to devour as much cake as possible each night, he eventually shares some with a neighbor, an act that leads to the unraveling of their secret baking sessions and the revelation that Jingwen is harboring guilt over his belittlement of the humble cakes his father made in their bakery back home. A graphic/fiction hybrid, this is a compelling and emotionally complex story about starting over in a new country. At its heart lies Jingwen’s relationship with Yanghao, who provides both comic relief and a stable (if annoying) presence in his life when everything else feels foreign. (MCT) ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 29, 2019

Book of the Week: The Home Builders



by Varsha Bajaj
Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani 


Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019
32 pages
ISBN: (978-0-399-166685-3)

 

Ages 2-5


A cozy natural world book for young children shows a variety of animals moving through the seasons. Terrific word choice in the rhyming text follows beavers, bees, deer, eagles, foxes, owls, and turtles as they construct their homes (“shovel and plow / Construct and flit, / Rummage and roam, / Gather and knit), shelter from storms, and care for young, who make their first ventures out into the world (“Hatchlings go forth / fox cubs nuzzle, / Beaver kits swim, / Owlets huddle.”). The final nighttime scene echoes the comforting sense conveyed throughout the mixed-media illustrations, which feature a soft palette and circular shapes throughout. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 22, 2019

Book of the Week: When the Ground Is Hard

by Malla Nunn


Published by Putnam, 2019
257 pages
ISBN: 978-0-525-51557-9


Age 14 and older


In 1965, 16-year-old Adele attends a boarding school for mixed-race students in the British protectorate of Swaziland. Her white father lives with his white wife and children, but calls and visits and pays for Adele’s schooling. Her mother, like Adele herself, is biracial (Black/white). At Adele’s school class matters most; students whose parents are able to pay tuition enjoy better treatment from staff and teachers, and are the most popular. When Adele is booted from her friend group after a new, wealthy student arrives, she is forced to room with Lottie, who is part Zulu and very poor. Adele despises Lottie’s poor manners, outspokenness, and penchant for fighting anyone who snubs her. But Adele grows to appreciate Lottie’s fearlessness. She also admires Lottie’s friendship with Darnell, who has a developmental disability, and whose disappearance becomes increasingly more central as the plot progresses. So, too, does Adele’s desire to learn more about her mother’s decision to leave the nearby village she grew up in. Although the complexities of this story are embedded in a specific time and place, the social dynamics are universal, as is Adele’s curiosity about her family’s past, and longing for reassurance she is loved. At times shocking in its depictions of racism and ableism, Adele’s story is compelling, personal, and ultimately empowering. (MCT) ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 15, 2019

Book of the Week: The Line Tender



by Kate Allen


Published by Dutton, 2019
384 pages
ISBN: 978-0735231603

 

Ages 9-13


When a dead great white shark is brought to the dock of their small Cape Cod town, Lucy, 12, and her best friend, Fred, are inspired to find out more about the work of Lucy’s late mom, a shark researcher who died five years before. Unlike Fred, Lucy is more interested in drawing the natural world than studying it, but she’s mildly intrigued by her mom’s last research proposal to tag and track sharks. The increased number of shark sightings is just one of many changes for Lucy that summer of 1996. She’s also noticing the way her body buzzes sometimes when Fred is near. It’s also clear that the dead shark has brought up a lot of feelings about her mom for both Lucy and her dad. Then a sudden, shocking accident stuns Lucy and the town, and Lucy is navigating new grief on top of the old. In this novel of change and love and loss, small conversations and moments are as vivid and important as big events and decisions. There is no magic antidote to grief, but the days keep coming, and people keep caring, and all of it is part of healing. Science, art, and music are all important in this beautifully realized story and the lives of its tender, true-to-life characters. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 8, 2019

Book of the Week: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People



by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese

Published by Beacon Press, 2019
270 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8070-4939-6

Age 12 and older

Imagine that everything we know about U.S. history has been filtered through a kaleidoscope stuck on the lens of American exceptionalism. Now imagine the kaleidoscope comes unstuck, or breaks altogether. This history of the place, people, and politics of this land from an Indigenous perspective will offer a provocative shift for the majority of readers. It emphasizes Indigenous agency, resistance, and resilience while providing an understanding of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny rooted in European colonialism that was fueled by the Catholic Church’s Doctrine of Discovery. It traces the origins of white supremacy to these mindsets, and shows how it has played out through centuries of racist, rationalized violence against Native peoples, whose cultures and identities are numerous and complex. This adaption by Mendoza and Reese of Dunbar-Ortiz’s adult book strikes a tone remarkable for its invitation to consider rather than desire to lecture, even as it definitively challenges the way middle and high schoolers are typically taught to understand the conquest of this land. A final chapter looks at the 21st-century Standing Rock resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which underscores that this history is still playing out today. End matter includes a recommended reading list of Native-authored books for children and teens, as well as acknowledgement that the recorded history of native peoples includes the names of too few women. “That imbalance is the result of history being written by men who chose to write about men.” This is followed by a list of Native women to learn about, and an invitation for readers to consider other names they would add. Source notes and index are included in this exceptional challenge to the dominant narrative of U.S. history. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 1, 2019

Book of the Week: B Is for Baby



by  Atinuke

Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank 


Published by Candlewick Press, 2019
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0166-6


Ages 2-5


B is for baby. It’s also for beads, basket, banana, brother, bicycle and more in this un-alphabet book that features the letter B with bountiful delight. Each page spread features a single “B is for…” statement paired with warm, bright mixed-media illustrations following the aforementioned baby on an unintended adventure after she crawls into the basket. Her brother, unaware, takes the basket, full of bananas, on his bike, crossing a bridge and passing a baboon, butterfly, and bird before they arrive at Baba’s. Surprise! A penultimate spread offers a review of the words accompanied by three panels showing Baby and brother’s return home. “B is for Baby” safe in Mama’s arms. Young readers and listeners will enjoy finding other “B” words in the art of this circular story. The author grew up in Nigeria, and the illustrations accompanying set the action in an unnamed, rural African setting. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 24, 2019

Book of the Week: Dig




by A. S.  King

Published by Dutton, 2019

392 pages

ISBN: 978-1-101-99491-7


Age 14 and older


In this taut, mesmerizing work, the Shoveler’s mom is adept at survival but has never told him anything about his dad, and their recent move to Pennsylvania has him wondering yet again. In the meantime, he gets a painting job. CanIHelpYou? rebels against her wealthy family with a drive-thru job at Arby’s; she also runs a thriving business selling weed. CanIHelpYou?, whose best friend, Ian, is Black, is sure she’s nothing like her unapologetically racist mother. Loretta lives in a trailer with her mom and abusive father. She copes by seeing herself as Ringmaster of the circus that is her life. While staying with his emotionally distant grandparents, Malcolm worries about his terminally ill, single-parent dad, and thinks about Eleanor, a local girl he met in Jamaica. Marla and Gottfried are having their house painted and hosting their grandson, unaware of the ways their choices and ideas have shaped generations. Teenage Jake seems to idolize his older brother, Bill. Jake is terrified of Bill. The Freak flickers in and out of all their lives as connections among these characters gradually unfold into a shape of disturbing certainty. The story fearlessly navigates intellectually and emotionally challenging terrain—racism and whiteness, abuse and assault, misogyny, and other violence—as the  teens consider and confront painful truths. Their willingness to do so, and their resilience, makes it more than bearable; it offers hope. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 17, 2019

Book of the Week: The Little Red Stroller



by Joshua Furst

Illustrated by Katy Wu 


Published by Dial, 2019
40 pages
ISBN: 978-0-735-22880-1


Ages 3-6


When Luna is a baby, her mommy gives her a red stroller. When Luna is bigger, she and her mommy encounter baby Ernie and his mommy and daddy. “We wish we had a little red stroller like yours,” they tell her. Luna, declaring herself too big for her stroller, gives it to them. Ernie eventually gives it to Gigi and her family, Gigi to Callie, Callie to Taj, Taj to Kavi, Kavi to Sula, and Sula to Selah. Selah and his family are sad when the now worn stroller falls apart outside a museum, but Ben and his mommy are passing by with a yellow stroller that Ben declares he has outgrown. This satisfying story is full of details wonderfully conveyed and embellished in illustrations showing diverse families and family structures, and marvelous scenes of each family’s outing, whether to a neighborhood park, a grandpa’s house, or a trip to the shore. And when Selah’s family meets Luna, now with her own baby, Isaiah, the story comes full circle as the yellow stroller gets a new home. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 10, 2019

Book of the Week: The Promise of Change



This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality

by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Published by Bloomsbury, 2019
310 pages
ISBN: 978-1-68119-852-1


Age 11 and older


A compelling, present-tense narrative combines poems in teenage Jo Ann Allen’s voice with clippings from news stories and other contemporaneous documents from the 1956-57 school year, when she was one of the Clinton 12 who integrated the high school in Clinton, Tennessee. Clinton’s white leaders didn’t necessarily agree with integration but believed in upholding the law. The early days for Jo Ann and her classmates were tense but quiet, until outsiders arrived, fomenting protests and violence that racist whites in the community latched onto. The 12 Black students soon faced daily harassment; threats spilled over to the Black community in general. Soldiers arrived to keep the peace, but Jo Ann’s family and others faced difficult decisions as they weighed safety against the fight for equal education. Jo Ann’s voice in the poems is magnetic in its honesty. An afterword briefly documents what happened to each of the 12 students, and theorizes why the story of Clinton, the first school in the south to integrate, is not as famous as what happened in Little Rock the following year. A scrapbook of photographs, source information, notes on poetic forms, and authors’ notes round out this accessible, affecting work. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 3, 2019

Book of the Week: Heroine



by Mindy McGinnis


Published by Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins, 2019

432 pages

ISBN: 978-0-06-284719-5


Age 14 and older
Mickey, a talented catcher, finds her softball dreams derailed after a car accident puts her and her best friend, pitcher Carolina, in the hospital months before their senior season. When the OxyContin Mickey is prescribed runs out sooner than it should, she stumbles upon another source: Edith, who snags Oxy from the senior citizens she drives to doctors’ appointments. At Edith’s house, Mickey befriends Jodie, a brilliant high school student who uses Oxy recreationally. When Mickey and Jodie “graduate” to heroin, Mickey struggles to keep it a secret from her family, even as she steals from her mom and stepmom to buy the drugs, and even as her performance behind the plate slides. There is never a moment in this harrowing but compassionate account that feels either unbelievable or melodramatic as it illuminates the terrifying ease with which people from all walks of life can fall victim to opioid addiction. (MCT) ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Book of the Week: My Papi Has a Motorcycle



by Isabel Quintero

Illustrated by Zeke Peña


Published by Kokila, 2019
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-525-55341-0


Ages 4-8


As Daisy rides with Papi on his motorcycle, she describes her neighborhood and city in a delightful, loving ode to present and past, family and community, joyfully evoking place and people and connections. They pass Abuelita’s church; Tortilleria la Estrella, where they “stop for stray cats crossing in front of us,” Joy’s Market, and Abuelito and Abuelita’s old yellow house, “the one with the lemon tree that grew from the seeds of the lemons Abuelito used to pick not far from here.” There is constancy but also change: their favorite place to stop for shaved ice has closed; they visit the place where Papi works building houses that are “replacing the last of the citrus groves.” The mixed-media art features a warmly colored palette on matte paper, cartoon-like energy, and singular details mined from a superbly crafted narrative that also quietly affirms the important (and often unacknowledged) contributions of immigrants past and present, including Daisy’s father, to their community. This English-language edition (it is also available in Spanish) incorporates Spanish dialogue in speech bubbles that are part of the art. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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