Monday, March 30, 2020

Book of the Week: Not So Pure and Simple

by Lamar Giles

Henry Holt, 2020

400 pages

ISBN: 978-0-06-234919-4

Age 13 and older

Del has had a crush on Kiera since grade school, and she’s finally boyfriend-free. He volunteers to join a youth group at church in which Kiera is involved as a way to impress her, only to discover that he’s unwittingly committed to a Purity Pledge: No sex until marriage. At Del’s high school, a rash of recent pregnancies has been perceived by some, including the media, as being the result of a pact among the teen moms to get pregnant (in truth it was the coincidental outcome of an unscheduled week of cancelled school and boredom). While the new moms, including Del’s friend Shianne, are often shamed, the fathers remain largely unscathed in public opinion; meanwhile, sex education in the curriculum is under fire. Del’s voice and situation are laugh-out-loud funny as he is drawn into the Purity Pledge group despite himself (it turns out they’re all hungry for accurate information about sex). Del, African American, is hopeful he has a chance with Kiera based on their exchanges; then she starts dating a guy Del can’t stand. After all he’s done to impress her, Del wonders, how could Kiera reject a nice guy like him? A novel that never loses its sense of humor asks essential questions about the sense of male entitlement that permeates Del’s perspective, and the damaging impact of toxic masculinity in our culture on both girls and women and boys and men. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 9, 2020

Book of the Week: A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

by Evie Robillard

Illustrated by Rachel Katstaller

Kids Can Press, 2020

48 pages

ISBN: 976-1-5253-0056-1

Ages 5-9

A pitch-perfect picture book about Gertrude Stein’s life in Paris focuses on her art collection, her writing, her famous Salon, and her relationship with Alice B. Toklas. Not a word is wasted in this engaging, masterful account. Robillard’s well-rounded portrait of Stein (and Toklas, too) includes just the right excerpts from Stein’s writing to give readers a sense of her singular style, her wit, her Steiny-ness. The gouache and colored pencil illustrations flawlessly echo the tone of the poems that comprise the text—both playful and profound, rather like Stein and Toklas themselves. They also extend the sense of place that was so important to Stein and her kindred spirits: Paris, specifically 27 rue de Fleurus “…a place that was once filled with paintings— / bright, bold, wild, impossible paintings. / And in that place lived a woman named Gertrude Stein / and her brother Leo. / And later on, her partner, Alice.” ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 2, 2020

Book of the Week: Women Artists A to Z

by Melanie LBarge

Illustrated by Caroline Corrigan

Published by Dial, 2020

56 pages

ISBN: 978-0-593-10872-7

Ages 6-11

In this accessible and arresting alphabet book for older readers, the alphabetical elements highlight artistic themes, media, and techniques as a way to engagingly introduce racially and culturally diverse women artists. “A is for Angel” in the paintings of Mirka Mora. “H is for Horse” in the art of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. “I is for Ink” in the work of Elizabeth Catlett. “P is for Pottery” in clay pieces by Maria Martinez. “V is for Veil” in the paintings of Helen Zughaib. Each page spread focuses on a single artist or, in one case, group of artists (“Q is for Quilt” features the Gees Bend Collective) and provides a brief introduction to their work. Short biographical sketches of the artists appear at volume’s end. (Most but not all lived during the 19th and 20th centuries). Matte, digitally rendered illustrations provide a unifying visual sense across the volume even as they also emphasize distinctive elements called out in the artists’ work. A framing visual story shows a girl and woman viewing a “Women Artists A to Z” exhibit. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center