Monday, March 26, 2018

Book of the Week: Captain Starfish

Captain Starfish

by Davina Bell
Illustrated by Allison Colpoys
U.S. edition: Abrams, 2018
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4197-2837-2

Ages 3-6

“The day before the Underwater Dress-Up Parade, Alfie got that feeling.” It’s a familiar feeling, and not a nice one. He had it before a race once, and when he worried about playing musical chairs. Alfie tells himself he’s brave enough to be Captain Starfish in the parade, but that night he dreams of sea monsters. In the morning his tummy hurts and he doesn’t go. His parents take him to the aquarium instead. During their visit, Alfie notices a small clown fish who swims to the glass for just a second before darting away to hide in the coral. Inspired by that brief encounter, Alfie realizes it’s okay not being Captain Starfish this year, but decides that next year he’ll be a clown fish in the parade. Alfie’s fear will be relatable for many children with social anxiety. His parents’ calm acceptance means they don’t try to push Alfie, or treat him like there’s something wrong that needs fixing. It makes the final page spread showing clown fish Aflie one year later all the more satisfying: Alfie decided he’s ready. A limited, unusual color palette with soothing blues and punctuations of bright coral adds further distinction to this welcome picture book. (MVL) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 19, 2018

Book of the Week: Boots on the Ground

Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam

by Elizabeth Partridge
Published by Viking, 2018
224 pages
ISBN: 978-0-670-78506-3
Age 12 and older

Chapters detailing the experiences of diverse individuals in Vietnam during the war—soldiers, a military advisor, a military nurse, a young Vietnamese woman trying to flee the country with her family after the fall of Saigon—alternate with chapters focusing on the political front in the United States in this arresting account of the Vietnam War. Each individual story illuminates how the perspectives of those with “boots on the ground” differed vastly from the official government narrative, as well as how far removed political and military decisions are from the lives of those whom they impact, often devastatingly. The chapters set in the United States illuminate the thoughts and actions of presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford) and protesters (Martin Luther King, Jr., who was criticized within and beyond the Civil Rights Movement for his decision to speak out against the war, and Country Joe MacDonald, who wrote one of the most popular anti-war anthems). The narrative turns toward healing as it documents efforts to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including initial backlash against architect Maya Lin’s design, and the Memorial’s cathartic impact (built as she envisioned it). Photographs throughout, detailed notes, a comprehensive bibliography, and brief updates on the lives of those Partridge interviewed to show us the war through their eyes round out a forceful work. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 12, 2018

Book of the Week: Harriet Gets Carried Away

Harriet Gets Carried Away

by Jessie Sima
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2018
42 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-6911-1
Ages 3-6

Harriet wears costumes everywhere, from the laundromat to the park to the dentist. When her dads take her shopping for her birthday party snacks, she’s dressed as a penguin and waddles off in search of party hats. “… don’t get carried away,” they tell her, knowing their daughter. Harriet does get carried away—literally—by a passel of penguins she meets in the frozen food aisle. “Where are we going?” It turns out the penguins are going back home, in hot air balloons. “I don’t think I belong here,” Harriet says when they arrive. One penguin suggests she get rid of her red bow tie in order to fit in. “But Harriet didn’t care about fitting in—she cared about getting back to the store.” She negotiates a ride from an orca, and her dads are still in the snack aisle when she soars back into the store with the help of a flock of gulls. Wonderful illustrations chronicle biracial Harriet’s unusual journey and warm, funny, realistic details of her life in the city with her dads (one Black, one white) in an affirming story that celebrates imagination. (MS) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 5, 2018

Book of the Week: The Poet X

The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo
Published by HarperTeen, 2018
368 pages
ISBN: 978-0062662804
Age 12 and older

Fifteen-year-old Xiomara is a Dominican American teen living in Harlem. Her twin brother, Xavier, a smart, gentle boy, can do no wrong in their mother’s eyes. Xiomara can do no right. She often feels unseen and misunderstood, even by Xavier despite their closeness and despite the fact she has always defended him, whether from bullies or from their mother’s judgment—thei mother doesn’t know he’s gay. Xiomara is intrigued by the new poetry club started by her English teacher, and by Aman, a boy she meets in biology class. But her mother forbids dating, and insists Xiomara attend Catholic confirmation classes, which take place the same afternoon as the club. Xiomara and Aman connect over music. He sees her, not her developing body which often draws unwanted attention, and he becomes the first person she shares one of her poems with as their secret, out-of-school friendship blossoms into romance. There is an intense emotional arc to this electrifying novel in poems showcasing the emergence of a gifted writer in fictional Xiomara, and in author Acevedo. As Xiomara faces her mother’s scorn, questions her faith, and deals with complications of friendship and romance, her journey is heart-wrenching. Her triumph comes in daring and then demanding to be seen as she asserts her voice within and beyond her family and claims her identity as a poet. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center