Monday, March 18, 2019

Book of the Week: Beware of the Crocodile

by Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Sotoshi Kitamura 


Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2019
28 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7538-7


Ages 5-8


Lurking beneath the water, a crocodile waits for an animal to come down for a drink at the shore. “And then? Oh, dear … Let’s just say there’s a lot of twirling and thrashing, and then things go a bit quiet.” That’s just the start of this lively informational picture book which also reveals another side to these fearsome creatures. After laying and caring for their eggs, female crocodiles carry their newborns down to the water in their mouths. A mother watch over its young for months to protect them from predators (including male crocodiles). Many young don’t survive, but those that do grow up to eventually lurk beneath the water, waiting for something to come down for a drink … An engaging, energetic primary text punctuated by droll moments of humor is accompanied by additional facts on various pages (e.g., crocodiles can go for weeks between meals, they typically lay 40 to 60 eggs which take 80-90 days to hatch), as well as information about different types of crocodiles, and related species, at book’s end. The mixed-media illustrations give a wonderful sense of size and drama. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 11, 2019

Book of the Week: A Thousand Sisters



A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of The Soviet Union in World War II

 

by Elizabeth Wein


Published by Balzer + Bray, 2019
388 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-245301-3


Age 13 and older


A substantial and arresting history of Soviet women flying combat missions during World War II begins with the rise of the Communist party in Russia. Its stated commitment to equal opportunities for men and women was not the reality, but a generation of young women grew up with opportunities to learn how to fly in Communist youth clubs. All Soviet citizens were expected to prepare for the (inevitable) Future War. When the Germans invaded in 1941, Marina Raskova, the country’s most famous women pilot, successfully lobbied to create a women’s air force combat unit. Eventually 1,000 young women joined this effort to fight in the Soviet Union’s “Great Patriotic War.” Some were pilots, some navigators, some assigned to ground crew in three regiments: 588th Night Bomber Aviation (in biplanes), 587th Bomber Aviation (larger bombers with a crew of 3), and the 586th Fighter Aviation (solo fighter pilots). A lengthy, compelling narrative describes their training, stress and frustrations, frightening missions, bonds formed (as well as some friction), losses endured, skepticism and sexism faced and overcome (because “equality” in words does not equate equality in action or attitude), and the respect they earned among many male colleagues and commanders. A book that does not glorify war does illuminate the commitment and skill of these women, many of whose individual stories unfold. Notes, an extensive bibliography and index are included. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 4, 2019

Book of the Week: Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré



by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Illustrated by Paola Escobar 


Published by Harper, 2019
34 pages
ISBN: (978-0-06-274863-3

Ages 5-9


When Pura Belpré came from San Juan to Nueva York in 1921, “words traveled with her: stories her abuela taught her. Cuentos folklóricos Pura told in the shade of a tamarind tree in Puerto Rico.” Pura gets a job at the New York Public Library, but there are no stories like the ones her abuela taught her on the shelves. Pura begins telling them herself in bilingual story times, eventually adding puppets, but she knows books are important too, which is why she begins writing the cuentos down. Pérez y Martina is the first of many tales from her homeland written by Pura and published for children everywhere to read and hear, each story a seed she planted that continues to grow and bloom. Illustrations with a vintage mid-20th-century feel in palette and style form the backdrop for a lively narrative perfect for reading aloud, which is just as it should be given Pura Belpré’s storytelling gifts. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 25, 2019

Book of the Week: New Kid


by Jerry Craft

 

Published by Harper, 2019
249 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0


Ages 9-13


In his early weeks at Riverdale Academy Day School (RAD), seventh grader Jordan Banks is so happy when he sees another student of color that small cupids appear around his head. It’s emblematic of the keen social commentary rooted in much of this graphic novel’s humor. Black students (and the few Black faculty) at RAD are often confused for one another; it’s assumed that students of color need financial aid, just as it’s assumed Black kids are athletic and, in one unsettling scene, prone to violence. Conversely, one teacher is so worried about saying something racist that he constantly asks for reassurance. The racism and absurdities at RAD (required athletic participation—Jordan’s on a fifth string soccer team) aren’t the sum of Jordan’s experiences. He makes two good friends who share his love of gaming: Drew, another new, Black student, who also shares Jordan’s frustrations, and Liam, a white student embarrassed by his family’s wealth. And he appreciates academic challenges like the art class that pushes him to try something new. Black-and-white pages from Jordan’s sketchbook illuminate his feelings about RAD and about the daily transformation required to movie back and forth between the worlds of his home (where he feels his parents love and also the weight of their hopes and fears), neighborhood, and school. Genuine characters propel this funny, warm, biting, fearless story. Entertaining and insightful, it will surely offer affirmation for some readers, revelation for others. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 18, 2019

Book of the Week: We Are Here to Stay — Voices of Undocumented Young Adults



by Susan Kuklin

 

Published by Candlewick Press, 2019
182 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7884-5

 

Age 11 and older


Nine young adults with undocumented immigrant status in the United States share their individual, complex stories about how and why they came to this country, and their experiences since arriving. Each has made the decision to speak out, not only in this book but often in other contexts: courageous activism as they both live in and emerge from “the shadows” to share their stories and dreams. The young adults interviewed came originally from Colombia, Ghana, Independent Samoa, Mexico, and South Korea as children or young teens, usually with their parents, in one case because of trafficking. The book, originally slated for publication in 2017, was delayed after presidential action put the status of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in limbo. Changes were made to protect the young people’s identities, which are now indicated only by first initial and a dash (e.g. Y—), while Kuklin’s photographs of her subjects were eliminated—only empty frames remain. Each dash and empty frame is a sobering reminder that visibility is a risk for these young people, who deserve to be seen. Black-and-white photographs do appear in a chapter about the work of Reverend John Fife of Tucson, part of a group providing assistance to immigrants making the difficult desert crossing. End matter includes notes about each interview and resources. Kuklin writes, “These individuals remind me again and again that the American Dream is worth fighting for—and that the American dream is worth sharing.” ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 11, 2019

Book of the Week: Hands Up!



by Breanna J. McDaniel

Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Published by Dial, 2019
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-525-55231-4

Ages 4-9



Sometimes the young Black girl at the center of this story raises one or both of her hands as a simple part of moving through the day (stretching them over her head when she wakes in the morning, holding on to her parents’ arms and swinging, raising her hand in class, reaching for a book on the high shelf). Sometimes she raises her hands in moments of exuberance and assertiveness and living out loud (lifting them high in church as she sings, reaching for the basketball in a game, celebrating a victory, holding up a sign at a march). This celebration of selfhood, family, and community has a powerful subtext, intentionally reclaiming and recasting the phrase “hands up,” so frightening for Black and brown lives when it comes to encounters with police, by affirming the girl’s right to move through and occupy the space around her—and the world itself—without question. The bright mixed-media art has abundance of yellow, amplifying the joyful feel. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 4, 2019

Book of the Week: Dreamers



by Yuyi Morales


Published by Neal Porter Books / Holiday House, 2018

32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8234-4055-9

Ages 4-9


“…when we made it to the other side, thirsty, in awe, unable to go back, we became immigrants.” Yuyi Morales tells the story of her journey with her young son to the United States and what happened next in a picture book that pays tribute to love, resilience, books and reading, and dreamers everywhere. The text, spare and poetic, describes a physical journey but, more important, a journey of discovery when mother and son stumble on a place that was “Suspicious. Improbable. Unbelievable. Surprising.” A place that was full of stories. The books they found at the public library were home, and inspiration, and validation, affirming that their stories, their voices, their dreams, their gifts, matter. The lush, fanciful multimedia illustrations incorporate 48 children’s books that Morales was inspired by during that time. End matter includes more details about Morales’s immigrant journey from Mexico, as well as a bibliography of the books she incorporates into the artwork and a brief note on how she made the book. Highly Commended, 2019 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, January 28, 2019

Book of the Week: Finding Langston



by Lesa Cline-Ransome


Published by Holiday House, 2018
107 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8234-3960-7


Ages 8-11


In the late 1940s, 11-year-old Langston has recently moved to Chicago from Alabama with his father and is having a hard time with the transition. He and his dad are both still grieving the death of Langston’s mother, while Langston is teased at school for being a country boy. On a day he’s evading a bully after school, Langston discovers the George Cleveland Hall branch of the Chicago Public Library. Back in Alabama, his mother had told him that libraries were for white people, but here he sees people that look like him going in. Langston enters and finds a welcoming world. He’s drawn first to the work of a Black poet who has the same name as he does: Langston. Reading Langston Hughes’s poems makes Langston feel like he’s found someone who understands his life, whose words could be his own. Talking more to his dad and reading old letters, Langston realizes that his mom, too, found resonance and hope in the words of Langston Hughes, and that she chose to name him “Langston” because of Langston Hughes. A short, stirring novel that sees Langston making new connections in myriad ways also sees him move from loneliness and isolation to hope. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, January 21, 2019

Book of the Week: We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices



Cheryl and Wade Hudson, editors 

Foreword by Ashley Bryan


Published by Crown, 2018
87 pages
ISBN: 978-0-525-58042-31


Age 8 and older



The intention throughout this volume is clear and focused: It reads like a love letter to Black and brown children. A gathering of poems, essays, short stories, and a wide range of artwork, the pieces include hard truths and hopes and dreams grounded in experience, memory, and imagination. “Kindness Is a Choice,” Jacqueline Woodson writes in a letter to her children. “Stay safe my child …. Come home to me each night,” writes Sharon Draper in “Prayers of the Grandmothers.” Ellen Oh’s childhood memories affirm that words have power—to hurt, yes, but also to change minds. “One day Papí drove me to school,” begins Tony Medina’s short story of the same name, in which the young narrator’s father is arrested by ICE. “There is always a storm,” writes Pat Cummings in her poem assuring young readers and listeners that “We’ve Got You.” Thirty written offerings are paired with 30 visual accompaniments in this collection featuring many authors and illustrators of color and from First/Native Nations. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Marla Frazee Wins 2019 Charlotte Zolotow Award


 (Read the full press release.)

Little Brown cover

Little Brown, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, is the winner of the twenty-second annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. The award is given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Little Brown was edited by Allyn Johnston and published in the United States in 2018 by Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 


Do the other dogs not play with Little Brown because he’s cranky, or is he cranky because the other dogs don’t play with him? It’s a question examined with both humor and pathos in this marvelous picture book. In Frazee’s superb text, supported by equally fine, soft-hued pencil and gouache illustrations, a dramatic narrative crafted with wonderful language and artful pacing is full of hilariously spot-on dog behavior. But Little Brown’s isolation is heartbreaking, while the puzzlement of the other dogs and the “dilemma” they all face when Little Brown steals their toys and refuses to give them back makes for a complex look at social dynamics. All the dogs wonder whether, and how, things might be different, leading to a brilliant open ending. “Maybe tomorrow … they would know what to do.” A story that entertains, it also respects young readers and listeners, asking them to rise to the challenge of thinking about what might happen next, and to reflect on Little Brown’sconnection to their own lives in a picture book that is the antithesis of didactic.
The 2019 Zolotow Award committee named two Honor Books: 

Honey book cover
Honey, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, edited by Nancy Paulsen, and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, is about a young bear in his second year who remembers honey, but must wait for it to be ready, in a narrative where every carefully chosen word impacts the rhythm and flow of a story in which timing (and appreciating each moment) is everything.

Saturday Is Swimming Day Book Cover
Saturday Is Swimming Day, written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum, edited by Kate Fletcher, and published by Candlewick Press, about a small girl’s anxiety over learning how to swim, her experience stated in simple, declarative sentences providing evocative descriptions of her feelings and actions as she gradually overcomes her fear with the help of a patient teacher.

 The 2019 Zolotow Award committee also cited nine titles as Highly Commended: 
  •  A BIG Mooncake for Little Star written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little, Brown)
  • Carmela Full of Wishes written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (G. P. Putnam Son’s / Penguin Random House)
  • The Day You Begin written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López (Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin Random House)
  • Dreamers written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Neal Porter Books / Holiday House)
  • The Patchwork Bike written by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd (U.S. edition: Candlewick Press)
  • The Rough Patch written and illustrated by Brian Lies (Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins)
  • Thank You, Omu! written and illustrated by Oge Mora (Little Brown)
  • We Don’t Eat Our Classmates written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins (Disney / Hyperion)
  • Winter Is Here written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
(Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins).

Congratulations to all!


Monday, January 14, 2019

Book of the Week: Black Bird, Yellow Sun



by Steve Light

Published by Candlewick Press, 2018
16 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-9067-0

(Birth to age 3)

A deceptively simple board book, with just four words per page (two of which are always "black bird") is also quite elegant. From morning to night, a blackbird moves from page to page, each featuring part of the natural world that’s a different color. Logically organized from sun up (“yellow sun") to sundown ("blue moon"), the little black bird is shown from various perspectives throughout the day, sometimes flying, sometimes perched. The lines are clean and the shapes are clear in the textured collage artwork, so that a baby will always be able to find the black bird in its natural setting. It's rare for an eight-page-spread board book to offer such a high level of artistry and such an exquisite aesthetic. (KTH) ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, January 7, 2019

Book of the Week: Learning to Breathe



by Janice Lynn Mather


Published by Simon & Schuster, 2018
328 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5344-0601-8


Age 14 and older


Although she was raised mostly by her loving grandmother, everyone seems to expect 16-year-old, Black Bahamian Indy to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who has a drug addiction and cannot provide a stable home for her daughter. So when Indy moves to Nassau to live with her aunt and is raped by her cousin Gary, she keeps the resulting pregnancy a secret, afraid that her aunt will kick her out of the house. Struggling in school and in agony due to the trauma she has survived—and which she continues, horrifically, to experience at Gary’s hands—Indy spends a lot of time alone on the island. Stumbling upon a yoga retreat one day, she experiences the kindness of a few of its employees and slowly opens herself up to receiving the support that she deserves and so desperately needs. This is a heart-wrenching study of one vulnerable young woman who, with the help of a few others, summons the strength to speak her truth, to regain her footing, and to press on despite the violence she has endured. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center