Monday, February 19, 2018

Book of the Week: Baby Monkey, Private Eye

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

by Brian Selznick and David Serlin
Illustrated by Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic Press, 2018
191 pages
ISBN: 978-1-338-18061-9
Age 3 and older

Marvelous visual storytelling and spare, lively word choice make this winsome novel a success for preschoolers. (Yes, you read that right.) Baby Monkey, Private Eye is on the case, or rather, five cases, each unfolding in a similar pattern: A client arrives (opera singer, pizza chef, clown, astronaut, mystery woman) with a problem (stolen jewels, stolen pizza, stolen nose, stolen spaceship, missing baby). Baby Monkey looks for clues, writes notes, eats a healthy snack, puts on his pants, and solves the mystery. The humor reaches its peak in each chapter over three almost wordless double-page spreads in which Baby Monkey, always expressive, struggles to put on a pair of jeans (so many holes to figure out!). The discovery of the culprit in each of the first four cases would be anticlimactic were it not so silly, while the fifth case reaches a resolution worthy of the best warmly reassuring stories. The patterned narrative and engaging storyline will delight young children, while the overall design and layout also makes this a great choice for beginning readers. Appealing black-and-white illustrations feature an abundance of laughs for older kids, too, including visual references to many famous figures and works of art identified in a key at book’s end. The end matter also includes a hilarious index (“Coat, trench,” “Nose, red rubber”) and faux bibliography. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book of the Week: The Funeral

The Funeral

by Matt James
Published by Groundwood Books /
House of Anansi Press, 2018
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-908-9

Ages 4-8

“Norma was practicing her sad face in front of her parents’ mirror.” Going to the funeral of her great-uncle Frank isn’t sad for young Norma: She gets to miss a day of school and see her younger cousin, Ray. The story’s wonderful details, as when Norma explores the contents of her mother’s purse at church, are so authentic they feel familiar. So, too, is the fact that Norma finds the service boring (“And oh, how looong they sat on those hard seats, with all that talk about God and souls, and not very much talk about Uncle Frank.”). Ray asks, “Is Uncle Frank still a person?” Norma has no answer. The wonderful mixed-media art, a blend of full-page and sequential images, shows adults around Norma often somber-faced, sometimes hugging or crying. It also exquisitely conveys the sense of release Norma feels when she and Ray are able to escape the sober atmosphere to play outside. Norma is not grief-stricken and that’s perfectly fine in this remarkably honest picture book. Still, she is not unaffected. After pausing to consider a photo of great-uncle Frank, Norma tells her mom, “I think Uncle Frank would have liked his funeral.” ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, February 5, 2018

Book of the Week: Betty Before X

Betty Before X

by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renée Watson
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018
256 pages
ISBN: 978-0-374-30610-6
Ages 8-12

Ilyasah Shabazz’s fictionalized account of her mother’s childhood, written with Renée Watson, emphasizes Betty’s resilience and compassion, showing signs of the remarkable woman she would become, as the wife of Malcolm X and in her own right. Abused and unwanted by her biological mother, young Betty spends the first six years of her life in the loving care of her aunt Fannie Mae in Georgia. Following Fannie Mae’s death, Betty joins her mother, Ollie Mae, and Ollie Mae’s husband and children in Detroit. In the late 1940s, Betty is a young teenager who loves and is loved by her younger sisters but mistreated by Ollie Mae. Betty eventually finds a home with Mrs. and Mr. Malloy, members of her church. Mrs. Malloy is active in the Housewives’ League, an organization that encourages African Americans to boycott businesses that refuse to hire them. When Betty joins the League as a junior member, her identity as an activist begins to emerge, and she gains a sharper—and painful—understanding of racism and oppression, as well as of the diversity of opinions within her community. Some, like Betty’s friend Phyllis, strongly oppose the League’s methods of effecting change. Through it all, Betty delights in friendship and chosen family, while her relationship with Ollie Mae is contentious yet slowly evolving. Notes about 1940s Detroit, the characters, and the supportive Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church community are included. (MCT)  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, January 29, 2018

Book of the Week: Saints and Misfits

Saints and Misfits

by Ali S. K.
Published by Salaam Reads / Atheneum, 2017
328 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-9924-8
Age 13 and older

Teenager Janna Yusuf loves photography, the stories of Flannery O’Connor, and hanging out with friends. She willingly helps her Uncle Ali, the Imam at her mosque, with his thoughtful, engaging advice column. She’s less enthused about giving up her room when her older brother, Muhammad, moves back into the small apartment she shares with their mother. He’s courting “Saint Sarah,” who seems to embody the perfect Muslim woman Janna does not aspire to be. Janna’s only dared to tell her best friend about her own crush, classmate Jeremy, who isn’t Muslim. Meanwhile, she’s told no one about Farooq, a boy who recently tried to assault her. Farooq is good at fooling adults, and when his harassment of Janna intensifies, Janna finds a surprising ally in Sausun, a girl she’s never particularly cared for. Sausun is a niquabi, choosing to cover her face in public. She uses the anonymity to defy stereotypes and battle misogyny, and together Sausun and Janna work out a plan to expose Farooq’s predatory behavior. Janna moves from fear to determination to speak out in a novel that is funny and fierce by turns. It’s immensely satisfying to be immersed in the singular yet relatable complexities of her life, which include recently divorced parents, changing friendships, and new relationships that inspire her. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book of the Week: This Is Just a Test

This Is Just a Test

by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
256 pages
ISBN: 9781338037722
Ages 9-12

A late Cold War, made-for-television movie called The Day After, which imagines what happens in a small U.S. town after a nuclear bomb is dropped, leaves 7th grader David Horowitzw upset and unsettled the fall of 1983. Until the movie, his greatest worry was his upcoming bar mitzvah. Now it’s the end of the world. Then again, he’s sometimes just as worried about things exploding in his own home, where his Chinese maternal grandmother, Wai Po, who lives with his family, and his Jewish paternal grandmother, who moved from New Jersey to around the corner after Wai Po moved in, are often at odds in quietly cutting ways. David’s also trying to navigate a new friendship with Scott, a boy who teamed up with David and David’s longtime best friend, Hector, for a trivia contest. They won. Now Scott, who also saw The Day After, has invited David to help him dig a fall-out shelter, and has made it patently clear Hector, who is far from being a cool kid, is not included. Authentic characters, genuine relationships (for better and worse), tension, and humor all combine to make this story about family and friendship and David’s struggle for peace in his own life pleasurable, poignant, and immensely satisfying. ©2018 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bao Phi Wins 2018 Charlotte Zolotow Award

A Different Pond, written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui, published by Capstone Young Readers, is the winner of the twenty-first annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. 

 A graceful accounting of details shapes Bao Phi’s exquisitely crafted text in which a Vietnamese American boy goes on a predawn fishing outing with his dad. The beautifully weighted sentences (“I feel the bag of minnows move. They swim like silver arrows in my hand.”) describe their time together and also the experience of an immigrant child (“A kid at my school says my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”); a hard-working family’s economic hardship (“‘If you got another job why do we still have to fish for food?’ I ask.”); and bittersweet memory as the boy’s dad recalls fishing at a similar pond as a child in Vietnam with his brother, who died during the war. Running through it all is the boy’s contentment spending time with his dad, a pleasure that extends to feelings about his entire family when they gather at day’s end. Illustrations masterfully and movingly reveal details of character, setting, and action while superbly reflecting the warmth and intimacy of the story.

The 2018 Zolotow Award committee named five Honor Books:

  • Baby Goes to Market written by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank (Candlewick Press)
  • Buster and the Baby written by Amy Hest, illustrated by Polly Dunbar (Candlewick Press) 
  •  Herbert’s First Halloween written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Steven Henry (Chronicle Books)
  • Jabari Jumps written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick Press
  •  Niko Draws a Feeling written by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Simone Shin (Carolrhoda Books).
            The 2018 Zolotow Award committee also cited eight highly commended titles:

  • All the Way to Havana written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato (Godwin Books / Henry Holt) 
  • Before She Was Harriet written by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome (Holiday House) 
  • Big Cat, Little Cat written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper (Roaring Brook Press)
  • In the Middle of Fall written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins) 
  • Little Wolf’s First Howling written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee (Candlewick Press) 
  • The One Day House written by Julia Durango, illustrated by Bianca Diaz (Charlesbridge) 
  • Round written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 
  • When’s My Birthday? written by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson (A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press).
The award is sponsored by the CCBC and the Friends of the CCBC. An award ceremony will take place at a date to be determined.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Books of the Week: Jasmine Toguchi


Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

by Debbie Michiko Florence.
Illustrated by Elizabet Vuković. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017
103 pages. ISBN: (978-0-374-30410-2)

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth

by Debbie Michiko Florence
Illustrated by Elizabet Vuković. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017
108 pages. ISBN: 978-0-374-30413-3

Ages 6-9

Eight-year-old Japanese American Jasmine Toguchi makes her debut in two engaging and lively books for newly independent readers. In Jamsmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen, Jasmine is determined to help make mochi for the New Year, even though she’s only eight and family tradition says girls start when they’re 10. Tradition also says girls and women form the rice into balls after it’s been pounded by the men and boys. When she can’t convince her mom or Obaachan to let her help form the mochi, Jasmine appeals to her dad to help pound it, only to discover it’s a lot harder than she realized. After everything will she fail? In Jasmine Toguchi: Super Sleuth, Jasmine is excited to have her best friend Lizzie joining her family’s Girls’ Day celebration, although it can’t make up for the fact that her big sister Sophie, at 10, doesn’t want to participate. When Jasmine and Lizzie have a fight, Jasmine uses her sleuthing skills to figure out how to make it right, and in the process realizes Sophie isn’t as ready to let go of observing Girls’ Day as she pretends. Jasmine’s terrific first-person voice is so believably 8. So is her behavior. Her reactions to others are rooted in her emotions of the moment, leaving room for her to be surprised when people behave in unexpected ways, and room for her to consider what that means. Both books feature occasional black-and-white spot illustrations. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center