Monday, March 30, 2020

Book of the Week: Not So Pure and Simple

by Lamar Giles

Henry Holt, 2020

400 pages

ISBN: 978-0-06-234919-4

Age 13 and older

Del has had a crush on Kiera since grade school, and she’s finally boyfriend-free. He volunteers to join a youth group at church in which Kiera is involved as a way to impress her, only to discover that he’s unwittingly committed to a Purity Pledge: No sex until marriage. At Del’s high school, a rash of recent pregnancies has been perceived by some, including the media, as being the result of a pact among the teen moms to get pregnant (in truth it was the coincidental outcome of an unscheduled week of cancelled school and boredom). While the new moms, including Del’s friend Shianne, are often shamed, the fathers remain largely unscathed in public opinion; meanwhile, sex education in the curriculum is under fire. Del’s voice and situation are laugh-out-loud funny as he is drawn into the Purity Pledge group despite himself (it turns out they’re all hungry for accurate information about sex). Del, African American, is hopeful he has a chance with Kiera based on their exchanges; then she starts dating a guy Del can’t stand. After all he’s done to impress her, Del wonders, how could Kiera reject a nice guy like him? A novel that never loses its sense of humor asks essential questions about the sense of male entitlement that permeates Del’s perspective, and the damaging impact of toxic masculinity in our culture on both girls and women and boys and men. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 9, 2020

Book of the Week: A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

by Evie Robillard

Illustrated by Rachel Katstaller

Kids Can Press, 2020

48 pages

ISBN: 976-1-5253-0056-1

Ages 5-9

A pitch-perfect picture book about Gertrude Stein’s life in Paris focuses on her art collection, her writing, her famous Salon, and her relationship with Alice B. Toklas. Not a word is wasted in this engaging, masterful account. Robillard’s well-rounded portrait of Stein (and Toklas, too) includes just the right excerpts from Stein’s writing to give readers a sense of her singular style, her wit, her Steiny-ness. The gouache and colored pencil illustrations flawlessly echo the tone of the poems that comprise the text—both playful and profound, rather like Stein and Toklas themselves. They also extend the sense of place that was so important to Stein and her kindred spirits: Paris, specifically 27 rue de Fleurus “…a place that was once filled with paintings— / bright, bold, wild, impossible paintings. / And in that place lived a woman named Gertrude Stein / and her brother Leo. / And later on, her partner, Alice.” ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 2, 2020

Book of the Week: Women Artists A to Z

by Melanie LBarge

Illustrated by Caroline Corrigan

Published by Dial, 2020

56 pages

ISBN: 978-0-593-10872-7

Ages 6-11

In this accessible and arresting alphabet book for older readers, the alphabetical elements highlight artistic themes, media, and techniques as a way to engagingly introduce racially and culturally diverse women artists. “A is for Angel” in the paintings of Mirka Mora. “H is for Horse” in the art of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. “I is for Ink” in the work of Elizabeth Catlett. “P is for Pottery” in clay pieces by Maria Martinez. “V is for Veil” in the paintings of Helen Zughaib. Each page spread focuses on a single artist or, in one case, group of artists (“Q is for Quilt” features the Gees Bend Collective) and provides a brief introduction to their work. Short biographical sketches of the artists appear at volume’s end. (Most but not all lived during the 19th and 20th centuries). Matte, digitally rendered illustrations provide a unifying visual sense across the volume even as they also emphasize distinctive elements called out in the artists’ work. A framing visual story shows a girl and woman viewing a “Women Artists A to Z” exhibit. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 24, 2020

Book of the Week: Black Is a Rainbow Color

by Angela Joy

Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2020

40 pages

ISBN: 9781626726314

Ages 4-10

A distinctive narrative begins with a young girl observing that there is no color black in the rainbow. She then notes things around her that are black—a crayon, her friend’s braid, the tires on a bicycle. As “black” subtly shifts to “Black,” the observations turn into marvelous references to African American culture. “Black is the robe on Thurgood’s back. Black are the trains on the railroad tracks. Black are the eyes on the salted peas. Black are the shadows of ooo-old magnolia trees.” An author's note places each allusion in historical and cultural context while a timeline also at volume’s end documents the use of terms such as “Negro,” “colored,” “Afro-American,” and even Malcolm X’s “so-called Negro,” concluding with “Black is back” and a note under “2020” stressing the importance of capitalizing Black “in the spirit of the W.E.B. DuBois campaign.” Ekua Holmes’ stunning illustrations visually extend this immersive, celebratory look at African American identity. For example, “Black is side-walking in spit-shined shoes” shows a sidewalk composed of historical newspaper headlines and stories, and her paintings echo stained-glass church windows throughout. As richly symbolic as they are, neither art nor text loses sight of the original child, whose final observation, “Black is a rainbow, too,” is set against an illustration showing Black people with a range of variations in their hair and skin. (KTH) ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 17, 2020

Book of the Week: Cast Away: Poems for Our Time

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2020

156 pages

ISBN: 978-0-6-290769-1

Age 9 and older

Lifelong litter picker upper Naomi Shihab Nye documents and reflects on the leavings of our existence in keenly observant, probing, unabashed poems. Nye ruminates on the explosion of trash in our world and on related environmental issues, such as plastics in the ocean; on how so much is designed to be thrown away after one use (plastic straws and bottles, post-it notes …); on the mindset of those who litter, assuming picking up is someone else’s job. She also looks at the concept of “trash” through other lenses: the way something found can be a treasure or a surprise or a brief, mysterious glimpse into another life; how people are sometimes viewed as throw-away; and trash talk, including online: “People finding one another across the miles. / And plenty of trash scattered across the air. / You could disappear in there, / get lost so easily, / hours compressing into clicks.” (from “Lately the Moon”) There is despair, not only because of the trash itself but in references to disregarded lives, especially in today’s political climate, but she finds respite in quiet moments (“It’s fine not to know how to solve everything / It’s still a room to sit in”—from “Pine Cones”) and hope in surprise, and in children and teens today: “Nothing a child / ever does / is trash. / It is / practice.” (“Nothing”) She closes with “Ideas for Writing, Recycling, Reclaiming.” ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 10, 2020

Book of the Week: Honeybee

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

by Candace Fleming

Illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Published by Neal Porter Books / Holiday House, 2020

40 pages

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4285-0

Ages 4-8

Drawing on the innate drama of the natural world, Fleming and Rohmann recreate the life cycle of a single honeybee from the moment she emerges from the egg to her death 35 days later. Before she even flies, there are so many specialized jobs within the hive—cleaning the nursery, nursing larvae, tending the queen, building the comb, handling the food, guarding the hive—before she finally flies off triumphantly on a double fold-out page that shows her over a field of flowers. Fleming perfectly paces the succession of in-hive jobs by concluding the description of each one with a child-friendly pattern: “It is time for her new job. Flying? [page turn] Not yet …” By the time she is ready to gather nectar, the honeybee has lived nearly three-quarters of her life. Rohmann’s larger-than-life watercolor illustrations give a great sense of bee’s perspective and of being right in the hive or atop a flower with them. The back matter includes a clear diagram of a bee, info on how to help honeybees, and more about different kinds of bees, their dances, and additional resources. (KTH) ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 3, 2020

Book of the Week: A Map into the World

by Kao Kalia Yang

Illustrated by Seo Kim

Carolrhoda, 2019

32 pages

ISBN: 978-1-5415-3836-8

Ages 5-9

A quiet, contemplative story in which a Hmong American girl’s year of simple, joyful discoveries culminates with a gift for her grieving neighbor. Paj Ntaub and her family have just moved into a new house with a garden and a swing. Across the street are elderly white neighbors Bob and Ruth, who often sit on a bench in their driveway. The family’s first year in their new home is a busy one. Paj Ntaub has brand-new twin brothers, and she wants to show them everything: the pretty leaf that she finds in autumn, the snowball that she brings inside in the winter, the worm (named Annette) that she plucks off the sidewalk in spring. From her window, she watches as family arrives to comfort Bob when Ruth passes away. When it’s warm enough, she and her mother venture across the street to visit with Bob, who is sitting alone on his bench. With sidewalk chalk, Paj Ntaub draws an elaborate “map into the world” on his driveway. The route wends its way past her garden, Annette smiling on the sidewalk, and her own home before ending at the street, where the world awaits Bob when he is ready for it. Honor Book, 2020 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © 2020 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, January 27, 2020

Book of the Week: For Black Girls Like Me

by Mariama J. Lockington

Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019

321 pages

ISBN: 978-0-374-30804-9

Ages 9-13

Makeda (Kade), 11, and her family have moved across country to New Mexico for her dad’s musical career. Kade knows the adjustment, as always, will be complicated by questions: She is Black, and the rest of her family is white. Sometimes not even her family understands what she must navigate. “We don’t see color,” says her mother, which just makes Kade angry. When one of the popular girls at her new, private school uses the N-word, the school downplays it, focusing on Kade’s angry response. Their mother pulls both Kade and her older sister, Eve, out of school. Her decision to homeschool them is rash, spur-of-the-moment, but their mom’s been doing that a lot lately, causing tension between their parents. When summer comes and their dad leaves on a 6-week trip, Kade and Eve must deal with their mom’s increasingly erratic behavior on their own. Their mom has big ideas and big plans, until she falls hard. In the aftermath of her attempted suicide, she is diagnosed as bipolar and begins getting treatment. But everyone in their family has healing to do. A story that deftly explores big themes—transracial adoption, mental illness, racism—does so without minimizing any, integrating them into a hopeful, wonderfully realized exploration of a family learning how to talk about all of it. The relationship between Kade and Eve is especially compelling as the novel unfolds. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Johnny's Pheasant Is Winner of 2020 Charlotte Zolotow Award

Full Press Release

Johnny’s Pheasant, written by Cheryl Minnema, illustrated by Julie Flett, and published by University of Minnesota Press in 2019, is the winner of the 2020 Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book.

This gorgeous, graceful story about a Native family, written by an Ojibwe author and illustrated by a Cree-Métis artist, is both satisfying and surprising. The drama and wonder unfold in a spare, beautifully crafted text when Johnny and his grandma find “a small feathery hump” near the ditch. It’s a pheasant. Grandma guesses it was hit by a car, but Johnny is certain it’s only sleeping. The perfectly paced narrative is full of humor, warmth, and a deeply child-affirming sensibility. “Hoot! Hoot!”

The 2020 Charlotte Zolotow committee named five honor books: 

  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story written by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan)
  • A Map into the World written by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Seo Kim (Carolrhoda / Lerner) 
  • Pokko and the Drum written and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (A Paula Wiseman Book / Simon & Schuster)
  • Saturday written and illustrated by Oge Mora (Little, Brown)
  • Truman written by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins (Atheneum / Simon & Schuster)

 The committee also named 7 highly commended titles: 

  • Beware of the Crocodile written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura (U.S. edition: Candlewick Press)
  • Daniel’s Good Day written and illustrated by Micha Archer (Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin Random House)
  • Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld (Dial Books / Penguin Random House)
  • My Papi Has a Motorcycle written by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña (Kokila / Penguin Random House)
  • One Fox: A Counting Thriller Book written and illustrated by Kate Read (Peachtree)
  • Small in the City written and illustrated by Sydney Smith (Neal Porter Books / Holiday House) 
  • The Thing about Bees: A Love Letter written and illustrated by Shabazz Larkin (Readers to Eaters)

The award is named for the late Charlotte Zolotow, author of more than 70 books for young children, and a distinguished editor of books for children and teens at Harper.