Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book of the Week

Rain Reign

by Martin Ann M.

Published by Feiwel & Friends, 2014

226 pages

ISBN: 978-0-312-64300-3

Ages 8-12

“This is how you tell a story: First you introduce the main character. I’m writing this story about me, so I am the main character.” Rose loves homonyms, prime numbers, and order. It’s important to her that everyone follow the rules. She lives with her dad, Wesley, whose name is not a homonym, and her dog, Rain, whose name is. When Rain disappears during a hurricane, Rose channels her worry into a methodical search with the help of her Uncle Weldon. But in finding Rain she learns that her beloved dog, which her dad brought home for her almost a year before, belongs to someone else. There is so much that is wonderful in this novel, starting with the narrative voice. Rose has Asperger’s and Ann M. Martin firmly and beautifully grounds this story in Rose’s point of view. The ways she engages with people is not always easy for others, including her dad, but Rose is always consistent and there is a clear logic to how she behaves. Her dad, meanwhile, is unstable, sometimes drinking too much, sometimes leaving Rose alone for much too long, sometimes losing control of his anger. Overwhelmed by his own past and the current reality, he falls far short of his intent to do well by Rose. Luckily, Weldon not only loves his niece but truly enjoys her, and as the story develops, Rose begins to make connections with a classmate at school, cultivating a friendship for the first time. A novel rich in every way — language, characterization, character development, plotting — is full of tension and small moments of humor, and packs a powerful emotional punch.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sparky! by Jenny Offill Wins 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award

Sparky!, written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans, is the winner of the eighteenth 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, and will be presented in Madison this spring.
                Jenny Offill’s clever twist on the familiar “I Want a Pet” scenario gives an absurd premise masterfully understated treatment. The story begins with a girl's heavy lobbying for an animal companion, followed by a compromise from her mother: “You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed.” A little research in the school library results in a match. “My sloth arrived by Express Mail.” The girl optimistically names him Sparky. “It was two days before I saw him awake.”  The marvelous humor is never overplayed as Offill skillfully maintains a measured, evenhanded tone and perfect pacing. The restrained narrative manages to be both outrageously funny and unexpectedly tender as the girl comes to appreciate Sparky for what he is, rather than what he is not. “I reached over and tagged him on the claw.  ‘You're it, Sparky,’ I said. And for a long, long time, he was.”  The muted illustrations perfectly echo the story’s tone.
Sparky! was edited by Anne Schwartz and published in the United States in 2014 by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.
The 2015 Zolotow Award committee named five Honor Books:  

 Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer, written by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, edited by Howard Reeves, and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers;  

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep, written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg, edited by Kevin Lewis, and published by Disney-Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group.

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, edited by Anne Hoppe, and published by Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tap Tap Boom Boom, written by Elizabeth Bluemle, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, edited by Joan Powers, and published by Candlewick Press.

Water Rolls, Water Rises = El agua rueda, el agua sube, written by Pat Mora, Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez and Pat Mora, illustrated by Meilo So, edited by Louise May, and published by Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books.

 The 2015 Zolotow Award committee also cited nine titles as Highly Commended:  

  •  Beneath the Sun written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Constance R. Bergum (Peachtree)
  • Edgar’s Second Word written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Priscilla Burris (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Go To Sleep, Little Farm written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 
  • Hooray for Hat! written and illustrated by Brian Won (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • The Hula Hoopin’ Queen written by Thelma Lynne Godin and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Lee & Low Books)
  • If You Were a Dog written by Jamie A. Swenson and illustrated by Chris Raschka (Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan Publishing Group)
  • One Big Pair of Underwear written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
  • Water Can Be… written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Violeta Dabija (Millbrook Press, Lerner Publishing Group)
  • What Forest Knows written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by August Hall (A Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum, an imprint of Simon & Schuster).

             Zolotow Award Press Release

Book of the Week

Rock & Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story

by Sebastian Robertson

Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Published by Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt, 2014

40 pages

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9473-2

Ages 9-13

Robbie Robertson’s rise to fame as a founding member of The Band, and writer of some of the iconic songs of the late 1960s and early 1970s, is chronicled by his son Sebastian in a substantial and engaging picture book biography. From the time he was a young child visiting his Mohawk relatives on the Six Nations Reservation in Canada, Robertson was immersed in “rhythm, melodies, and storytelling.” And from the time he got his first guitar, he spent hours practicing. “On the reservation, eleven-year-old Robbie had surpassed the adults as the best guitarist.” He formed his first band at thirteen, and at sixteen was off to Arkansas to join a Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. He continued to practice, refine, and develop his playing style, coming up with a unique sound that drew the attention of Bob Dylan, and helped pave the way for folk music going electric. The narrative creates both a sweeping picture of Robertson’s influence and accomplishments with small moments and details that marked defining moments in his career and, sometimes, rock & roll. The volume is further enriched by a timeline with photographs, and Sebastian’s terrific q-and-a interview with his father.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book of the Week

The Baby Tree

by Sophie Blackall

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2014

32 pages

ISBN: 978-0-399-25718-6

Ages 3-6

A young boy wonders where his family will get the new baby he’s been told will be coming. His neighbor Olive tells him a seed will grow into a baby tree; his teacher says the baby will come from the hospital; Grandpa says a stork will bring the baby; the mailman thinks it has something to do with eggs. Back at home in the evening, he asks his parents, who tell him about the seed from his dad and the egg from his mom, and the baby that will grow inside her until it’s ready to be born, “sometimes at home, but usually at the hospital.” And the little boy realizes almost everyone he talked to was right about part of the answer. “But Grandpa … I’m going to have to tell Grandpa where babies really come from.” A charming, engaging answer to the age-old question “Where do babies come from?” is followed by a single page of additional factual information.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Still Pottered After All These Years

Last Friday, the first business day of 2015, Publishers Weekly released the list of the top-selling books of 2014.  There are the usual number of movie tie-ins and celebrity books in the Top 10 Print Bestsellers, but what is remarkable about the list is that 8 of the 10 are books for young readers. 

Top 3 Books of 2014
Top-Selling Books of 2014
And you have to get down to position number 5 on the list before you even find an adult book -- Killing Patton by professional gadfly Bill O'Reilly, which is the only adult book on the list that sold more than one million copies. Young adult author John Green sold more than twice as many books as O'Reilly with a book that was published back in January 2012.
The print sales statistics Publishers Weekly uses are are kept by Nielsen BookScan, a more reliable and realistic record than the New York Times Best Seller list. Unlike the New York Times, Nielsen BookScan doesn't subcategorize print titles by fiction or nonfiction, hardcover or paperback, adult or children's, series or stand-alone.  (For example, John Green's The Fault in Our Stars appears in the Nielsen Top 10 three times -- in trade paper, movie tie-in, and hardcover.) What you see is a simple, unadulterated list of the ten best-selling books of the year, in sales order.

The New York Times didn't separate out children's fiction from adult fiction until 2000, when they made the controversial decision to do this owing to the popularity of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter.  The first three books in the series had occupied spots 1, 2, and 3, and didn't show any signs of being knocked off or even down the list, except inevitably by the forthcoming volume in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Best-selling adult authors being kept of the list by the young wizard were said to have been "pottered." The New York Times decided to fix that by taking children's books off the best-sellers list all together, no matter how many copies they sold.

Today it's clear that adult authors are still being pottered, but now it's by the likes of John Green, Jeff Kinney, and Veronica Roth. The children's authors on the list have changed in the past decade but what stays the same is that children's books are far outselling adult books, at least in print editions.

Potter on!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Book of the Week

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

by A. S.  King

Published by Little, Brown, 2014
306 pages
ISBN: 978-0-316-22272-3

Age 14 and older

Glory O’Brien is directionless as high school graduation approaches. She’s most comfortable looking at the world through a camera lens, and she views her own life with a certain dispassion, the way she views the people she photographs. But everything changes after she and her best friend, Ellie, drink the remains of a petrified bat. Glory can now see the history and the future of everyone she looks at. And the future Glory sees is far more unsettling than wondering if she will commit suicide in the not-too-distant future, like her photographer mother did when Glory was four. The visions Glory has over and over are of a second U.S. Civil War that erupts around a charismatic, misogynistic leader who strips women of their civil rights. Glory begins penning her own “history of the future,” documenting what she understands will happen even as she remains firmly grounded in the present, with her on-again/off-again tolerance for commune-dwelling, home-schooled Ellie’s self-centered neediness, and her attempts to disrupt the silence that has always existed between her and her loving but still-grieving dad around her mom. Glory delves into the past, too, finally accessing her mother’s darkroom, where photographs and journals reveal her mother’s own struggle with her place and perceptions of women in the world. A. S. King’s singular work is a fearless, smart, and sophisticated multi-layered yet highly accessible novel. King boldly explores cultural and societal misogyny, embracing feminism while affirming the importance of creativity, connection, and the way we sometimes need to be shaken up to see our lives and all that is possible more clearly.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center