Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Farewell to CCBC-Net

When CCBC-Net began in April, 1995, we wanted to offer an exciting new way to engage in discussion of books for children and teens. Our first topical discussion was held in July of that year. We’ve been exploring individual books, topics and issues in the world of literature for children and teens on a monthly basis ever since.
The original welcome message on CCBC-Net included 8 pages of directions

Across CCBC-Net's twenty year history, there have been thousands of posts as members of the CCBC-Net community have shared their insights, observations, perspectives, experiences, and enthusiasm around books for youth.  At the time we launched CCBC-Net, listservs were on the cutting edge, and ours allowed for a vibrant, lively discussion of subjects near and dear to our hearts and our professions. We have had over 2,000 subscribers from all over the world and from many walks of life, and the listserv has seen some great discussions.

Today, while listservs still have a place, they have been joined by blogs, Facebook, Twitter feeds, Pinterest posts, and other forms of social media that offer different ways to connect and engage.  Listservs are no longer the go-to form of social media for discussion and, as a result, we have observed a sharp decline in activity on CCBC-Net over the past few years.  Our attempt to revitalize CCBC-Net in 2014 with changes that included book discussions and Q&A with authors and illustrators – while illuminating -- did little to increase participation.

For this reason, after much consideration and discussion, we have decided to bring the CCBC-Net listserv to a close at the end of 2014.  

We’ll still be talking about books for children and teens, publishing trends, and essential issues in the world of children's and young adult literature, in person as always at the CCBC, as well as here on this blog. Look for more author and illustrator interviews, too, like this one with Eric Gansworth from earlier this year. That’s one thing we look forward to carrying forward in this new forum.  And as with CCBC-Net, we welcome your suggestions of topics for discussion.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book of the Week

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

by Katheryn

Published by Lee and Low, 2014
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8
Ages 6-10

“From as far back as her memory would go, Melba loved the sounds of music. Blues, jazz, and gospel rhythms danced in her head.” An energetic, entertaining picture book introduces self-taught jazz trombonist and composer Melba Liston. In childhood, “notes stirred and rhythms bubbled all through Melba’s home.” As an adult, Melba “composed and arranged music, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs. And when Melba played the trombone, her bold notes and one-of-a-kind sound mesmerized the crowd.” Exceptional and unafraid to be herself, Melba more than held her own among other greats of jazz whose names are better known. A two-page afterword further informs this inspired picture book that deftly touches on the sexism and racism Melba faced while showcasing her extraordinary talent. A variety of intriguing perspectives distinguish Frank Morrison’s movement-filled illustrations that accompany Katheryn Russell-Brown’s spirited narrative.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book of the Week

Gabi: A Girl in Pieces

by Isabel Quintero

Published by Cinco Puntos Press, 2014
284 pages
ISBN: 978-1-935955-95-5

Age 14 and older

As her senior year begins, Gabi Hernandez learns her best friend Cindy is pregnant. In a narrative told primarily through diary entries, Gabi moves between revelations like this one, her preoccupation with both weight and boys, observations about her Mexican American family and community, and the mundane (just how hot is the food at Pepe’s House of Wings?). Gabi’s voice is funny, foul-mouthed, and, early on, unfocused: she’s just as likely as not to be trivial. This makes the transformation over the course of the school year all the more powerful. In Gabi’s own house and in the halls at school, she’s constantly reminded that girls are labeled “good” or “bad” based on sexual behavior—rumored or real—and that she’s too heavy to be considered beautiful. It all undeniably affects her. But as she responds to things happening to her and around her, including the revelation that Cindy was raped, she begins to reject pervasive ideas in her family, culture, and society that devalue and demonize girls and women. In the writing she does for a poetry class, Gabi explores her father’s addiction and other family issues, as well as body image, with linguistic precision initially lacking in her diary entries. In poems and in her diary, she eventually emerges as a passionate, articulate advocate for herself and others, tackling sexism and sexual violence and the connection between them with keen and sometimes raging honesty. Gabi never loses a funny edge—in fact, the humor becomes sharper as she does—but her voice is also unapologetically fierce. Family and friendships all inform Gabi’s understanding of and response to what it means to be a young woman and young Latina in this bold, welcome work.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Considering the Young Adult Memoir

To-date in 2014 at the CCBC, we've read five memoirs by young adults (usually in collaboration with other writers): 
  • I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick (Young Reader's Edition: Little, Brown)
  • Laughing At My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw (Roaring Brook)
  • Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill with Ariel Schrag (Simon & Schuster)
  • Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews with Joshua Lyon (Simon & Schuster)
  • Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela de Prince with Elaine De Prince (Random House)

I found each of these young adults' stories compelling in one or more ways and think many teen readers will, too. The young reader's edition of Malala Yousafzai's life to-date is, as she has said, her story, whereas the adult book has greater emphasis on her father. The Katie Rain Hill and Arin Andrews titles are an intriguing pair of books, because the two transgender teens are friends (and were girlfriend/boyfriend) and so have a number of intersecting characters and events seen from their two different points of view. Shane Burcaw's perspective on his life--he has spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative muscular disease that has made him wheelchair bound--is frank and often funny. Dancer Michaela De Prince's tells how she lost her family in Sierra Leone during brutal war and was eventually adopted by a family in the United States, which is where she began to pursue her interest in dance: a life of striking contrasts.

But I also found myself asking questions as I read them.

I would imagine one of the challenges, when taking on a project like this, from an editorial perspective, is trying to balance the teen's voice with the adult collaborator's (when there is a collaborator).  My guess is that the ones that are less well written from a literary perspective are the most authentic in terms of letting the young adults' voice come through unfiltered. Is that a good thing or a bad thing in terms of evaluating the books?  I don't know. 

Occasionally, what I think of as the less-filtered voice gave me pause.  There were moments in some of the books when I thought--Oh, how are you going to feel about having said/written this in five or ten years?

They are so young, really, to be reflecting on their lives. They all have stories worthy of sharing, but at moments like that I wondered if it wouldn't have been better for their stories to be something other than first-person.

Then again, I think the first-person is also part of where the power of their narratives resides. And those occasional moments that made me wince in some of the books are also, perhaps, the very things that teen readers might find most genuine.

So, no answers, just questions, none of which detract from my overall appreciation for the existence of these works.

Monday, December 8, 2014

You Think You Know Children's Books?

Babe the Blue Ox
Last month the Friends of the CCBC hosted our first annual children's literature trivia contest, CCBC Bowl. Over a hundred children's literature aficionados participated, competing in teams of ten to win the coveted Babe the Blue Ox trophy. (Our University of Wisconsin football team competes each year against the University of Minnesota for Paul Bunyan's axe, so we thought it would be appropriate for our teams to compete for Paul Bunyan's ox.)

Quiz Master Kevin Henkes went through three rounds of ten questions. By the end of the evening the team that called themselves Wild Things were the victors, answering 22 of 30 questions correctly.

Kevin Henkes hands the trophy to the Wild Things team
The CCBC librarians made up the questions, and they were challenging. There were two questions that flummoxed everyone. Do you know the answers to either of these?

Round Two, Question Six:

What is unusual about this picture from Song and Dance Man, the 1989 Caldecott winner by Stephen Gammell?

Round Two, Question Nine:
 What was Lois Ehlert's first published picture book that she both wrote and illustrated? 
 Do you know the answer to either of these questions without looking them up?   Let us know! (And remember, you have 90 seconds.)

CCBC librarian Emily Townsend, Timekeeper

All photos (c) J. Matzner

Book of the Week

The Noisy Paint Box:   The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art

by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Mary Grandpré

Alfred A Knopf, 2014    32 pages     
ISBN: 978-0-307-97848-6    Ages 5-8

In young Vasya’s world everything is staid and proper, until the day he opens the paint box his aunt gives him. “The swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a magical symphony.” Vasya paints what he hears—the clinking of a bright lemon sun, the low vibrations of a navy blue. But no one in his family hears what he hears or understands what he’s painted. They do, however, think lessons would be a good idea. “So Vasya went to art class and learned to draw houses and flowers—just like everyone else.” Vasya grew up and became a lawyer, but a trip to the opera reawakened his urge to paint the colors of sound. “Art should make you feel….like music,” he said. Playful, lyrical language propels this picture book account of Vasily Kandinsky, who started the abstract art movement. An author’s note tells more about Kandinsky and abstract art and includes photographs of four of his paintings. The acrylic and collage illustrations wonderfully express the rigidity of Kandisky’s life and the colorful wilds of his imagination.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book of the Week

West of the Moon

by Margi Preus

Published by Abrams, 2014
224 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0896-1

Age 11 and older

A vivid, shining, artfully told story is set in nineteenth-century Norway, where thirteen-year-old,orphaned Astri is sold to a goat farmer by her aunt. Astri must cook and clean and care for the animals, all the while dodging the farmer’s harsh and eventually groping hand. The night the farmer locks her in the storehouse she discovers a mute girl inside spinning at a wheel. Spinning Girl’s identity is a mystery that Astri interprets through the many stories her mother used to tell her. The folktales have helped make her life bearable as she looks for the opportunity to escape. A breathless, terrifying effort to flee when the farmer is trying to haul her off to the village to marry him is complicated when Astri realizes she cannot leave Spinning Girl behind. Astri’s plan has been to return to her aunt’s and rescue her little sister, Greta, whom she knows her aunt will sell next, then find a boat heading to America. Astri is a girl of great strength, wit, and compassion, all of which she draws on as she devises new plans on the run. Soon all three girls are headed toward the coast on a journey that challenges Astri to rewrite her understanding of the past as she discovers new information that reveals the identity of the mysterious girl. An extraordinary novel about hope and courage, dreams and the power of story pays tribute to the pain and promise of the immigrant story—what was brought along and what was left behind—as it effortlessly blends historical fiction and fantasy.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More Than Numbers

Last week KT Horning tweeted that it would be a great year to be on the Coretta Scott King Award Committee because of all the outstanding novels by African American authors that have been published so far in 2014.  At the time, I'd just finished novelist Teresa E. Harris’s terrific debut book, The Perfect Place (Clarion), and had also been thinking about what a great year it’s been for longer books in general by African American authors.

It’s late November, and we are still waiting for many 2014 books to come into the CCBC (we moved in August, complicating our deliveries), but I've listed below what we’ve documented so far in terms of fiction and longer non-fiction we’ve received by Black authors (yes, we count picture books, too, we just aren’t listing them here):

  • Barber, Tiki & Ronde. Extra Innings. Paula Weisman Book / Simon & Schuster
  • Colbert, Brandy. Pointe. G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  • DePrince, Michaela. Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. Alfred A. Knopf
  • English, Karen. The Carver Chronicles: Skateboard Party. Illus Laura Freeman. Clarion Books
  • Flake, Sharon G. The Unstoppable Octobia May. Scholastic
  •  Freeman, Shannon. The Public Eye: A Port City High Novel. Saddleback
  • Giles, Lamar. Fake ID. Amistad /  HarperCollins
  • Harris, Teresa E. The Perfect Place. Clarion Books
  • Hegamin, Tonya Cherie. Willow. Candlewick Press
  • Johnson, Alaya Dawn. Love Is the Drug. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic
  • Magoon, Kekla. How It Went Down. Hentry Holt
  • Mitchell, Don. The Freedom Summer Murders. Scholastic Press
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. All In / Stand Firm (Grovehill Giants Series). Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. Real Diva/Man Up (Grovehill Giants Series). Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. Scream Loud / Quiet Strength (Grovehill Giants Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry. Make Something of It (The Sharp Sisters). Darby Creek / Lerner
  • Moses, Shelia P. The Sittin’ Up. G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Myers, Walter Dean. On a Clear Day. Crown Books
  • Neri, G. Knock Out Games. Carolrhoda LAB
  • Patrick, Denise Lewis. A Matter of Souls. Carolrhoda LAB
  • Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil. Little, Brown
  • Reynolds, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. Atheneum
  • Stoudemire, Amar’e. Standing Tall And Talented: Most Valuable. Scholastic
  • Woods, Brenda. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin
  • Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin
I haven't read them all, but besides The Perfect Place, some of my favorites from the list above include The Crossover, Kinda Like Brothers, The Madman of Piney Woods, How It Went Down, The Knock-Out Game, Love Is the Drug, How I Discovered Poetry, and Brown Girl Dreaming.  These and several others from the list above are already on our ever-growing compilation of books we’ll be including in CCBC Choices 2015, the most recent edition (still under construction) of our annual best-of-the-year list, which will be finalized by mid-January.

It’s not just the Coretta Scott King Award Committee, but all of us who are charged with reading, evaluating, and recommending books for children and teens, whether it’s through award committees like the King, Newbery, Printz and others;  through best-of-the-year lists; through reviews; or in other ways, who benefit when there are more books to consider by African American authors and all authors of color. If we take our work seriously, we know that finding great stories and great books of information that also, critically, speak to specific cultural experiences and reflect culturally diverse perspectives, is essential to the larger world of kids and books and reading, regardless of the criteria for a specific award or list.

So as we talk about numbers, which is an important dimension of the discussion about diversity and publishing, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the terrific books by people of color that are published each and every year. At the same time, it's important we understand that the more books by people of color that are published, including books by new authors and illustrators like Teresa E. Harris, the better the outcome for everyone—publishers, librarians, teachers, and, of course, young readers.

Do you have a favorite new book by an African American author from the list above? Or are you aware of other 2014 books by African American authors we haven’t yet received that we can look forward to reading?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book of the Week

Shh! We Have a Plan

by Chris Haughton

Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2014
40 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7293-5

Ages 3-7

Four wide-eyed hunters are trying to catch a bird in a net. Make that three hunters; the fourth—and smallest--member of their party just wants to be friendly (“Hello, birdie.”). The group’s comical, not-so-stealthy pursuit of the bird features one failed attempt after another, with a pattern emerging as the youngest one greets the bird, the others shush their small companion (“We have a plan”), and then counting to three before they pounce….on nothing as the bird has already flown away. The spare, droll narrative is set against marvelous visual storytelling. The stylized illustrations are in shades of deep blue with black and white, against which the brightly colored red bird stands out. Young readers and listeners will be reciting along and laughing out loud, with the delight heightened by two big surprises as the story draws to a close.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book of the Week

Kinda Like Brothers

by Coe Booth

Published by Scholastic Press, 2014
256 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-22496-3

Ages 9-13

Eleven-year-old Jarrett and twelve-year-old Kevon are thrown together when Jarrett’s mom becomes a temporary foster parent to Kevon and his two-year-old sister. Jarrett is sometimes resentful of how much time his mom spends taking care of other children, but they’re usually babies and toddlers that he genuinely likes. This is different. Kevon is cool in a way Jarrett isn’t, inviting easy admiration from other kids. In Jarrett’s mind, that makes Kevon a potential threat socially, not to mention someone with whom he has to share his room. Meanwhile Kevon resents the implication that he can’t care for his sister—a responsibility he’s used to--and worries about his mentally ill dad. He has no time for Jarrett’s jealousy. Author Coe Booth’s characters are likable, genuine, and flawed in all the ways that make us human. Adults and kids alike in her story are well-rounded and wonderfully real. The two boys’ have good hearts but their treatment of each other ranges from bright moments of generosity to indifference to cruelty. The larger community—from Jarrett’s mom and her boyfriend to teachers at school and adults at the community center--strives to make a difference in the lives of these boys and other children, preparing them for a world that is not always fair or just. But for Jarrett and Kevon to make peace with one another they must let go of anger and hurt, and acknowledge the bond that has developed between them in spite—or because—of everything.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Friday, November 14, 2014

First Annual CCBC Bowl!

Last Friday was the first annual CCBC Bowl, a trivia contest sponsored by the Friends of the CCBC as a Friend-raiser.  Congratulations to winning team "Wild Things!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book of the Week

Book cover

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold

by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
29 pages
ISBN: 978-0-547-90650-8

Ages 6-10

Tundra swan, snake, snowflake. Bees in their hive, a vole under snow, the fly-high raven and the earth-bound wolf. The lives of these and other creatures in winter are the subject of poems by Joyce Sidman that crackle with cold and sing with warmth. “We scaled a million blooms / to reap the summer’s glow. / Now, in the merciless cold, / we share each morsel of heat, / each honeycombed crumb…. / Deep in the winter hive, / we burn like a golden sun.” (From “Winter Bees”) Sidman’s evocative, lyrical poems are paired with brief factual information written to resonate with an illuminating the imagery by showing how it is drawn from what the poet knew about each of her subjects. Gorgeous, stylized linoblock and digitally rendered art by Rick Allen is an elegant backdrop to a lovely and inspired collection. (MS)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book of the Week

Brother Hugo and the Bear

by Katy Beebe
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Published by Eerdmans, 2014
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5407-0

                                               Ages 5-9

Brother Hugo is a medieval monk with an overdue library book he can’t return: It was eaten by a bear. The Abbott sends him to another monastery to borrow their edition of St. Augustine, and gives him the charge of copying it. It’s a long journey there and back, and an even more laborious process writing the manuscript out by hand, illuminating the letters, and, finally, sewing the pages together. But his fellow monks help him prepare everything he needs: sheepskin, goose quill pen, the ingredients for different colored inks. Finally the task is complete, and he must return the original to the monks at Grand Chartreuse. But who’s that lumbering along behind him? Katy Beebe provides an engaging and fascinating look into the world of medieval manuscripts in a story delightfully imagined and told. S. D. Schindler’s pen-and-ink illustrations are wonderfully detailed and a perfect fit. Terrific notes illuminate the author’s inspiration and research for the story, and the illustrator’s twenty-first century process that in many ways, he notes, is not unlike what Brother Hugo might have done hundreds of years before.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book of the Week

The Cat at the Wall

by Deborah Ellis

Published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2014
144 pages

ISBN: 978-1-55498-491-6

Ages 10-13

Set against Israeli-Palestinian tensions in the city of Bethlehem, Deborah Ellis skillfully connects the personal struggle to be a good person and do the right thing with the larger political conflict in an unusual, nuanced, and intriguing story. A stray cat that was once an American girl from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, named Clare follows two Israeli soldiers into a Palestinian house where they’ve been told to spy on the neighborhood. The house looks like it was suddenly abandoned, but the cat senses a child is present, and eventually directs them to the hiding place of a mute, asthmatic Palestinian boy. As a girl, Clare was often cruel, caught in that spiral in which one unkind act leads to another, in which anything is easier than saying “I’m sorry” and admitting the hurt in her heart. Clare’s sixth grade teacher gave Clare the opportunity to reveal the best parts of herself, but Clare resisted mightily, and then an accident ended her life as a girl. Meanwhile, as Palestinian neighbors realize the Israeli soldiers are inside the house, the situation escalates and Clare the cat, still tinged with disdain, finds she cannot ignore the truths she knows about the people involved, and the chance to make a difference at one moment, in one place. Ellis exposes the tragedy of conflicts large and small while revealing moments of compassion and decency in hearts of characters facing chaos within themselves, and all around them.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, October 20, 2014

Viva Frida

 by Yuyi Morales

Photographed by Tim O'Meara

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014 


40 pages


ISBN: 978-1596436039


Ages 4-9

Yuyi Morales’s playful, lush, elegant, heartfelt picture book about artist Frida Kahlo concludes with an author’s note titled “My Frida Kahlo,” which begins: “When I think of Frida Kahlo, I think of orgullo, pride. Growing up in Mexico, I wanted to know more about this woman with her mustache and unibrow. Who was this artist who had unapologetically filled her paintings with old and new symbols of Mexican culture in order to tell her own story?” The note itself is an informative and loquacious conclusion to a work that is linguistically spare, visually complex, and emotionally rich and stirring. Morales’s illustrations combine photographs of three-dimensional tableaus she created featuring hand-crafted puppets representing factual elements of Kahlo’s life, including the child-friendly details of Kahlo’s pet deer and monkey, and paintings that reference Kahlo's own work, representing elements of her vivid creative life as expressed through her art. The bilingual text is a series of simple statements in Kahlo’s voice, which concludes, “I love / and create / and so / I live!”  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

10-14 at 10:14

Here's what's happening at the CCBC this morning.

Reference Assistant Mary Ostrander is checking in new books. This is the time of year when we get boxes and boxes of books from the publishers. We never get tired of opening these boxes because we all enjoy seeing what's new.

Librarians and teachers are here from Amherst / Tomorrow River for book selection. They are our first book selection group in the new CCBC. And it looks like they have enough room to spread out, for a change.

Gigantic flowers from Lois Ehlert's Planting a Rainbow are being installed on our glass wall.  This is a big undertaking and should take the better part of the day. It's going to be gorgeous!



Librarian Megan Schliesman is testing out the technology in preparation for a presentation of great new books for K-5 and a CCBC introduction she'll give to undergraduates in a Curriculum & Instruction class on Teaching Reading.

KT Horning is working on putting up a display on the history of the life-size Paul Bunyan print by Ed Emberley, which has been on the CCBC's walls (wherever they have been) since 1963.

We hope you'll visit soon!

Update at 2:30 pm:

The installation of the Lois Ehlert flowers is now complete. Here is the first bit you see as you see as you enter the CCBC:

Down the front corridor, there are some leave on the wall next to the display case, and around the corner, a complete burst of color:

The full rainbow of flowers:

¡Viva Yuyi!

There's a short interview with Yuyi Morales on the First Book blog in which she talks about how she got into children's book creation, and about her newest book, Viva Frida!. You can read it in English or in Spanish.

You can also check out her excellent YouTube video, Making Viva Frida.

Meanwhile, Yuyi's book from last year, Niño Wrestles the World, continues to find young fans. A Madison school librarian sent us this photo of her son, playing Niño by wearing his underwear on his head for his lucha mask. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book of the Week

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines

by Paul Fleischman

Published by Candlewick Press, 2014
208 pages
ISBN: 9780763675455

Age 13 and older

An informative and engaging book about the complexity and interconnectedness of environmental issues is also a phenomenal primer on critical thinking, human psychology, and how to become informed about and invested in the future of our planet. What happens when we don’t like what we’re hearing or reading about environmental issues? What happens when we are presented with factual information that challenges what we believe or think we know? How do we respond as individuals, and collectively? The book is divided into sections titled Noticing, Perception, Defense Mechanisms (e.g., denial, projection, regression), Systems (e.g., democracy, capitalism), Attitudes, and Eyes Abroad and Ahead. Using real-world examples, Paul Fleischman challenges readers to think about where information they are looking at or hearing comes from (follow the money), who has a vested interest in it (follow the money), and to learn how what to consider in evaluating what they are seeing, hearing or reading. He acknowledges that it can be hard to be optimistic about our environmental future, but becoming informed and engaged is a critical first step to rising to the challenge and collectively fighting for change.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Note: Paul Flieschman will deliver the Charlotte Zolotow Lecture in Madison on October 15.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book of the Week

El Deafo

by Cece Bell

Published by Amulet, 2014
248 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1020-9,

Ages 8-12

Cece Bell contracted meningitis at age four and lost her hearing. Once she started school she wore a Phonic Ear, a device that amplified her teachers’ voice through a microphone the teachers wore on a cord around the neck. Cece could not only hear what her teachers said in the classroom but also the teachers’ lounge and -- gasp! -- the bathroom. Feeling like she had a superpower, she secretly began to think of herself as a superhero she called “El Deafo” (turning a pejorative term on its ear, so to speak). The experience of not being able to hear (as when her Phonic Ear is sent off for repair after the gym teacher breaks it, or when the lights are turned off at a sleepover and she can’t lipread anymore) is strikingly depicted in the graphic novel format, whether the text is gradually fading, or dialogue bubbles are filled with sounds of gibberish (e.g., “WAH BESS MAH WAWA GAH ANDY! YOO GOOLA FA BERRY GAH BOOLA!” while watching The Andy Griffith Show without amplification). But the novel’s main focus is Cece’s deep desire to have a best friend as she goes through elementary school. She tries to assert herself when bossy Laura claims her; endures passive-aggressive Ginny, who insists on speak-ing slow-ly and loud-ly to Cece; and finally finds a kindred spirit in neighbor Martha. Cece’s friendship struggles are sometimes complicated by her hearing loss but also have a universal dimension that most children will recognize. Bell’s memoir is set against the vividly realized backdrop of 1970s culture (from the TV shows to food and fashion), and told with great humor and honesty. The characters are all drawn as rabbits, giving the book a quirky charm.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, May 12, 2014

Book of the Week

Hope Is a Ferris Wheel

by Robin Herrera

Published by Abrams, 2014
272 pages
ISBN: 978-1419710391
Ages 9-12

Ten-year-old Star is starting a new school in northern California after moving with her mom and teenage sister, Winter, from Oregon. Star starts a Trailer Park Club hoping to make friends, but only a girl named Genny willingly joins. Then Star discovers the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the club gets a new name and focus, and two more members: Eddie, intensely interested in poetry, and his best friend Langston, who prefers drawing bras. Then Winter, at odds with their mom over school, tells Star she wants to visit their long-estranged father back in Oregon. Star has a vague memory of him and imagines all the things she might tell him about herself if she had the chance. After she and Winter make the trip, Star returns home worried about her sister, who has revealed she is pregnant, and furious at their mom, who never told her that she and Winter have different fathers, or anything about her own dad. Robin Herrera’s impressive debut novel has a smart, thoughtful, stubborn girl delving deep into her heart, and trying to understand the hearts and minds of those around her. Star is socially naïve yet deeply perceptive, qualities revealed with both sensitivity and humor. The sentences Star writes for her spelling word assignments, and her ongoing refusal to turn them in, are among the wonderful ways Herrera reveals dimensions of Star’s character and life. Star’s family is living on the economic edge, a reality that is seamlessly woven into a story about the ways we hurt, and the ways we hope. (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 5, 2014

Book of the Week

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

by Susan Kuklin

Published by Candlewick Press, 2014
182 pages ISBN: 978-0-7636-5611-9
Age 12 and older

“My subjects’ willingness to brave bullying and condemnation in order to reveal their individual selves makes it impossible to be nothing less than awestruck.” (Susan Kuklin, from the Introduction) Six transgender teens share their journeys to coming out into the open as their true selves in this gathering of voices in which each offers insight into being transgender as part of their broader identities, and in the context of their families, their communities, and a society not always ready to accept, let alone embrace, the truth about this aspect of who they are. The profile of Christina includes a discussion with her mother, who initially struggled but now celebrates her daughter’s strength and courage. Cameron is full of idealism and looks for ways to challenge perceptions of gender every day. Mariah says, “Transition? Everyone goes through one kind of transition or another….Except mine is maybe a little more extreme.” Nat has battled severe depression but is hopeful about his future. Jessy notes, “I’m embracing my in-between-ness. I’m embracing this whole mix that I have inside myself … So forget the category. Just talk to me. Get to know me.” In the profile of Luke, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, Kuklin shows the important role community and adult mentorship can play as he talks about his work in a local LGBTQ theater company and its impact on his self-understanding: “Portraying a trans person came really, really easily….because I was acting the role of a trans man, I could explore being trans deeper than I could by just thinking about it.” Most of the profiles include wonderful photographs taken by Kuklin of the teens. A glossary, extensive resources, and an interview with the clinical director of a program providing outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens rounds out this groundbreaking, inspired, essential work. (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kids Choose Diversity

We don't normally have groups of first graders at the CCBC (most of our student groups are in college) but this week we made an exception for thirty children from Sugar Creek Elementary School in Verona, Wisconsin. They were on campus to participate in a film their teacher has been making called "If You Want to Be a Reader." He wanted to get footage of his students reading on the University of Wisconsin campus.

They came to the CCBC in two groups of fifteen, ready to read. In preparation, I had set out a few dozen picture books and easy readers. Most of them were selected from CCBC Choices 2014 and from past winners of the Charlotte Zolotow Award.

We do this all the time when we host groups of college students, teachers, and librarians. We surround our visitors with good books, face out, that reflect the diversity we see in the world. It's always interesting to see what books people gravitate toward.

I asked the Sugar Creek first graders to take a look around. Did they see any books they recognized?  "Each Kindness," one girl said. "Our teacher read it to us." Any others? They took a good look around, taking their job seriously. Lots of head shaking.  "No." "I don't think so."

"Do you see any books you want to read?"  Lots of nodding. A few excited children jumped up to point at the books they wanted me to read. Here's what they chose by consensus:

What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla.

Mi familia calaca / My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weill (both groups chose it)

The Dark by Lemony Snicket (both groups chose it)

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (both groups chose it)

Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson ("We already know we like it," explained one boy.)

On this day that saw the launch of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, I saw first hand, in not one group but two, that given choices, young children themselves will choose diversity. And they all find underwear really, really funny, no matter who is wearing it.