Monday, March 28, 2016

Book of the Week: The House That Zack Built

The House That Zack Built

by Alison Murray
Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2016
28 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7844-9
Ages 2-5

The traditional patterned story is given fresh, original treatment in a lively picture book that begins with a little boy named Zack building a house of blocks beneath a tree. Enter a fly, which “buzzes on by” and is stalked by the cat, who knocks over the cream, which “roused the dog” who was “deep in a dream.” There are also lambs “calm and serene” (not for long), a cow named Daisy (the source of the cream), and one big mess for Zack. Luckily, Zack is up to the task of restoring order. Rich and surprising word choice adds to the delight of this account that turns toward a satisfying conclusion before things go on too long, making this a wonderfully paced read-aloud for older toddlers and preschoolers. Brightly hued digital illustrations on matte paper show the entire escapade taking place in a winsome farmyard.©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 21, 2016

Book of the Week: The Land of Forgotten Girls

The Land of Forgotten Girls

by Erin Entrada Kelly
Published by Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2016
304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-223864-1
Ages 9-12

Sol and her little sister, Ming, live with their abusive stepmother, Vea, in a small Louisiana town. They emigrated with the girls’ father, but their dad returned to the Philippines and hasn’t come back. Sol once believed the stories spun by their late mother about their adventurous Auntie Jove. She now knows Auntie Jove is a fantasy, but she tells the stories to Ming and Ming becomes convinced that Auntie Jove is coming to rescue them. A book that vividly depicts realities of emotional abuse and economic hardship is ultimately not about either of these things. Instead it’s a deep exploration of the importance of trust and hope and imagination and emotional security in the lives of children. Sol’s impulse to apologize to a girl she once teased, which is the start of a new friendship, brief glimpses of Vea before she was bitter, new stories Sol spins for Ming, and small kindnesses so essential to survival, all unfold through interactions of complex and nuanced characters. When Mrs. Yeung, a Chinese woman living in their building, knocks on their door in the middle of one of Vea’s tirades, Sol realizes the older woman is letting Vea know she is watching and listening, and letting the girls to know they aren’t alone. On the one hand, little in the reality of Sol and Ming’s lives has changed by story’s end. On the other hand, everything has. 2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, March 14, 2016

Book of the Week: My Heart Fills with Happiness

My Heart Fills with Happiness

by Monique Gray Smith
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Published by Orca, 2016
22 pages
ISBN: (978-1-4598-0957-4
Ages 1-4

“My heart fills with happiness when … ” A comforting board book offers young children the opportunity for reflection, and for affirmation, too. Moments of happiness tucked into each and every day celebrated here include time with family (“I see the face of someone I love”), self-expression (“I sing”), and the natural world (“I walk barefoot in the grass”). Author Monique Gray Smith (Cree/Lakota) has written a narrative lovingly grounded in First/Native Nations culture, community, and traditions (“I smell bannock in the oven … I drum”). Illustrator Julie Flett (Cree/M├ętis) invites children into the book’s warm embrace with intimate and expressive gouache and digital collage illustrations of First/Native Nations children, or children and adults together in a book that invites all children to consider, “What fills YOUR heart with happiness?” ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 7, 2016

Book of the Week: Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man

by Gavriel Savit
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2016
232 pages
ISBN: 978-0-553-51334-9
price: $
Age 13 and older

Seven-year-old Anna is captivated by the tall stranger she meets on the streets of Krakow. Maybe it’s because he is kind to her; maybe it’s that he speaks many languages, like she does; maybe it’s the way he charms a small bird. On her own since the Germans took her father, Anna follows him and the two become unlikely traveling companions. The Swallow Man, as Anna calls him, rarely stops walking and reveals little about his life, but he does teach Anna about Wolves (Germans) and Bears (Russians), the natural world, and to speak the language of Road. From all this Anna constructs a story to explain their constant travels. When a Jewish man named Reb Hirschl joins them, he brings laughter and music into Anna’s life again. Reb and the Swallow Man have nothing in common except Anna. Their shared desire to protect her is enough to bind them for a while as the trio travels across Poland, into the Soviet Union, and back again to avoid the warring armies. Set during World War II, a story that movingly explores love, loss, survival, and sacrifice features an intellectually precocious child whose innocence slowly erodes in a world gone mad. The Swallow Man’s secrets are never fully revealed, but there are clues as he himself enters the wilds of madness and, with Anna’s help, finds his way back and then gifts her the chance for a future. Sophisticated language and ideas, often lyrically expressed, make this novel solidly young adult. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center