Monday, July 30, 2018

Book of the Week: The Field

The Field

by Baptiste Paul
Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara
Published by NorthSouth, 2018
28 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7358-4312-7

Ages 5-8

A game of futbol on the island of Saint Lucia isn’t going to be stopped by anything. Not cows on the field (“Shoo!”) or the arrival of rain (“Dash. Splash. Slip-slide. Belly flop!”) or the calls of mamas that it’s time to come home as the sun begins to set (“Vini, abwezan! Come now!”). Only when the game is finally over do the children disperse, racing off to their homes in the dusk. “We dream about futbol. We dream about friends. Until the field calls again.” A spare, energetic narrative that weaves in words from the author’s native Creole language expresses a joyful sense of childhood and community that is extended by marvelous illustrations full of energy, color and movement. An author’s note about his childhood playing futbol on Saint Lucia, and a glossary of Creole terms, is provided at story’s end. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 23, 2018

Book of the Week: The Place Between Breaths

The Place Between Breaths

by An Na
Published by A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2018
181 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-2225-3

Age 13 and older

Grace is a high school senior with a coveted intern position at the genetics lab where her dad recruits scientific researchers. Grace’s schizophrenic mother left them when she was a small child, a loss that echoes continuously. But Grace finds her dad’s obsession with the lab’s work trying to isolate a gene for schizophrenia frustrating. It’s not like isolating a gene will lead automatically to a cure, and it’s not like her mom will benefit regardless—they have no idea what happened to her. Grace wishes her dad devoted more of his time and attention to her. A beautifully written narrative moves between Korean American Grace in the present day—her lonely life at home, her work at the lab, where she meets graduate student Will; her early childhood memories in which her parents’ love and her mom’s increasingly unpredictable behavior and growing sense of her desperation filters through; and second-person chapters in which an unknown speaker addresses an unknown “you.” Locating oneself in the story becomes more and more challenging in a novel that parallels Grace’s own experience as it becomes clear she has schizophrenia, too. Like Grace, we aren’t quite sure what is real. But beyond the fear, pain and sense of loss in this aching, deeply resonant novel, are glimmers of hope, too. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book of the Week: Champion

Champion: The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree

by Sally M. Walker
Published by Henry Holt, 2018
144 pages
ISBN: 978-1-260-12623-1

Age 11 and older

A fungus wiped out the majority of the majestic American chestnut trees in the first part of the 20th century. This fascinating account documents how the fungus was identified and three scientific programs to bring the American chestnut back from the brink. An inoculation program injects a weaker form of the fungus, found in Japanese and Chinese chestnuts, into infected trees. If it spreads it turns the deadly fungus into a milder form of blight the trees can survive. (A stand of trees near West Salem, Wisconsin, is one of the test sites). In the backcross breeding program, healthy American chestnuts are bred with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts. Resistant offspring are crossed with another American chestnut until there is a blight-resistant sixth-generation tree that is mostly American chestnut. The first of these were planted in forests in 2009. The third effort is a high-tech: wheat genes that produce oxalate oxidase (OxO), which breaks down the oxalic acid that the killer fungus produces, are injected into American chestnut embryos in hopes the resulting trees will be healthy. Science is accessible and engaging in this real-world, problem-solving mystery. There is outstanding documentation and a treasure trove of intriguing back matter, from research into a Longfellow program to an account an American chestnut classroom science project to research involving squirrels. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 9, 2018

Book of the Week: Give Me Some Truth

Give Me Some Truth

by Eric Gansworth
Published by Arthur A. Levine / Scholastic, 2018
432 pages
ISBN: 978-1-338-14354-6

Age 13 and older

In 1980, Carson Mastick and his best friend, Lewis Blake, are high school seniors living on the Tuscarora Reservation in upstate New York. Maggi Bokoni, 15, has just moved back to the reservation with her older sister, Marie. Former honor student Lewis paid a heavy price at school for standing up to a white bully years before. His future uncertain, he works cleaning buses for the school district. Maggi also gets a job there and meets Jim, a white grounds supervisor in his early 30s, who seems to understand her desire to make art beyond traditional beadwork. Hopeful musician Carson forms a band with reluctant Lewis on bass and Maggi on water drum, intent on winning a competition that could lead to New York. And Marie is in love with one of her former high school teachers from the city. Their stories, individual, intertwined, unpredictable, play out over a series of months in which Carson also mounts a protest against “Custard’s Last Stand,” a restaurant glorifying General Custer that blatantly posts a “No Indians” sign. Though most from the Rez avoid the place, Carson, who can pass as white, wants to confront the racism directly. The nuances and intricacies of these smart, tender characters and their lives unfold in a novel that is consistently funny and righteous and illuminating. Songs of the Beatles and John Lennon and Yoko Ono provide chapter titles and touchpoints as the teens find solace and inspiration in both music and art. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 2, 2018

Book of the Week: Libba

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten

by Laura Veirs
Illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh 

Published by Chronicle, 2018
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4521-4857-1

Ages 5-9

As a child in rural North Carolina in the early 20th century, Libba Cotten “heard music everywhere.” She borrowed her brother’s guitar when he wasn’t home and played it upside-down and backwards, because she was left-handed. “Nobody else played that way, but it was the way that felt right to Libba.” Libba composed the song “Freight Train” around age 11, inspired by the sounds of trains on nearby railroad tracks. “But even trains get derailed.” Libba stopped playing to work and raise her daughter. She was a grandmother working at a department store in Washington, D.C., when she met musician Ruth Crawford Seeger. Ruth hired Libba as a housekeeper, and Libba was immersed in music in the Seeger home. When she picked up a guitar again, she impressed the Seegers and their musician friends. The Seeger family helped promote Libba’s music, “[b]ut it was Libba’s perseverance, her love of music, and her belief in herself that gave the world her voice.” An understated, concise yet lyrical text is followed by a concluding note, which touches more on the realities of Libba’s experience as an African American woman, and sources. Libba’s story is warmly illustrated in softly-shaded graphite art with digital color. (MVL) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center