Monday, May 14, 2018

Book of the Week: The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker

by Jen Wang
Published by First Second, 2018
290 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-363-4

Age 11 and older

When an unconventional dress design (“‘Make me look like the devil’s wench,’” says the client) costs Frances her job, it attracts the attention of a wealthy new patron in search of a personal seamstress. Whisked away to the palace, Frances discovers she’s been summoned by Prince Sebastian, heir to the Belgian throne. After a brief, half-hearted attempt to conceal his identity, Sebastian confesses that it is he who would like to wear her dresses. Although sometimes comfortable as Sebastian, the prince has an alter ego: the confident and charming Lady Crystallia. Soon, transformed by gown and wig, Lady Crystallia invites Frances to accompany her to a beauty pageant after dark. Under pressure from his loving but clueless parents to find a bride, Sebastian finds respite in several clandestine outings with Frances, dancing and meeting new people—one of who happens to be Frances’s idol, the famous designer Madame Aurelia, who offers Frances a spot in an upcoming fashion show. Frances jumps at the opportunity, but Sebastian is terrified it will lead to the discovery of his secret. This clearly and brightly illustrated graphic novel offers a wonderfully affirming message of acceptance of gender-expansive identities. (MCT)  ©2018 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, May 7, 2018

Book of the Week: The Little Red Fort

The Little Red Fort

by Brenda Maier
Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez
Published by Scholastic Press, 2018
40 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-85919-6

Ages 3-7

When Ruby decides to build a fort, her brothers Oscar Lee, Rodrigo, and José, tell her, “You don’t know how to build anything.” Ruby simply shrugs and says she’ll learn. “And she did.” When she asks who wants to help draw plans, the boys say no. Ruby says she’ll draw them herself. “And she did.” So it goes as industrious young Ruby is undeterred by her brothers’ laughter and disinterest, which lasts until the fort is finished. When Ruby asks who wants to play inside, all three boys are eager. “Not so fast,” says Ruby, who invites them in only after they’ve shown their willingness to lend a hand. A fresh, original take on The Little Red Hen features a self-possessed young Latinx girl and her family. While the dialogue features only Ruby and her brothers, the equally energizing mixed-media illustrations show Ruby’s adult family members, who look to be her mom, dad, and grandmother, helping her get the job done. The author shares her enthusiasm for The Little Red Hen variations in a note following this captivating new version. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 30, 2018

Book of the Week: Hurricane Child

Hurricane Child

by Kheryn Callender
Published by Scholastic Press, 2018
214 pages
ISBN: 978-1-338-12930-4

Ages 10-13

Every morning Caroline Murphy hops on a speedboat and makes the short trip from her home on Water Island to her Catholic school on St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Caroline’s thick hair and skin “darker than even the paintings of African queens hanging in tourist shops” make her an easy target for bullies and contemptuous light-skinned teachers. Home isn’t much better: Her mother left Caroline and her father about a year ago, but the tenacious twelve-year-old is determined to find out what happened to her. When a new girl, Kalinda, transfers to Caroline’s school from Barbados, Caroline is immediately drawn to her and determined to make Kalinda her first friend—and possibly more. She suspects that Kalinda, like Caroline herself, can see spirits, and she enlists Kalinda’s help in communicating with them in the hopes that they will lead her to her mother. This emotionally complex novel thoughtfully explores the anguish that occurs when a mother’s survival comes at the cost of her daughter’s happiness. A vivid Caribbean setting and a tentatively hopeful ending will bring readers some relief on behalf of this determined and aching young girl. (MCT) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 23, 2018

Book of the Week: The Parker Inheritance

The Parker Inheritance

by Varian Johnson
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2018
331 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-94617-9

Ages 8-11

At her late grandmother’s house in Lambert, South Carolina, for the summer, African American Candice discovers an old letter referencing a hidden treasure in town. Her grandmother tried to find it to benefit the community years before. Instead, she left town in disgrace after losing her job as city administrator. Candice, who loves puzzles, teams with neighbor Brandon, who has research skills (and internet access at home), in hopes of finding the money and redeeming her grandmother’s name. Candice and Brandon’s emerging friendship slowly solidifies as details about their lives unfold (Candice’s parents are separated; Brandon is dealing with a bully and a disapproving grandfather) along with the mystery. Clues in the letter from the mysterious benefactor reference Lambert’s mid-twentieth century history, when Siobhan, the talented, forthright daughter of the tennis coach at the Black high school, was in love with Reggie, the best player on the team, despite her father’s disapproval. Chapters set in the past expand on the story Candice and Brandon are uncovering: When a secret 1957 match between the white and Black boys’ tennis teams triggers violent racist attacks after the Black high school team wins, Siobhan’s family and Reggie must flee town for their own safety. The teens’ resulting separation is at the heart of the mystery in this entertaining homage to The Westing Game that deftly yet meaningfully incorporates social justice issues from the past and the present (e.g., ongoing racism, homophobia).  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 16, 2018

Book of the Week: I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday


by Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Sarah Horne

Published by Carolrhoda, 2018
32 pages
ISBN: 978-11-5124-3130-8

Ages 4-8

A girl who wants tickets to an amusement park for her birthday gets a chicken from her Abuela Lola instead. A chicken that isn’t interested in eating and doesn’t have time to lay eggs. It does, however, have a list. At the top of the list: 100 steel girders. At the bottom: a partridge in a pear tree. In between is everything from a winch, cement, a horse, and firewood to a bird, a cat (to catch the bird), a dog (to catch the cat) and poms poms. The chicken also has a plan. It involves complicated construction, which the chicken oversees as it puts the various animals to work. When the chicken arranges for Abuela Lola to visit it puts her to work too. “I got a chicken for my birthday,” says the young narrator with each turn of the page before describing the latest developments in a spare, droll accounting paired with colorful India ink illustrations that spare no details in documenting the absurdity (the chicken in a hardhat is priceless). The end result? A fully functioning amusement park. “I got a chicken for my birthday. And the chicken is a genius … Next year, I’m asking Abuela Lola for a trip to the moon.” ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book of the Week: Snow Lane


Snow Lane

by Josie Angelini
Published by Feiwel and Friends, 2018
197 pages pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-15092-9
Ages 10-13

Ten-year-old Annie Bianchi is the youngest of 9 kids in a Catholic family in mid-1980s Massachusetts. Exceptionally bright and creative, Annie’s in a class for gifted students despite struggling with dyslexia. Although Annie doesn’t always follow the nuances of social interactions, she looks for the good in people and has a wonderful friend at school in her lab partner, Jordan. At home, she doesn’t think of her family as poor, or even unusual, although Annie knows her teenage sister Fay’s physical abuse and cruelty, usually directed at her sister Nora, is wrong, just as she knows her mother is often overwhelmed. A narrative grounded in Annie’s perspective, told in her engaging, ingenuous voice, offers a masterful slow reveal of the larger truths hinted at in small details and occasional dramatic moments that are part of Annie’s daily life. It’s not that Annie’s an unreliable narrator; it’s that she only begins to fully comprehend that things at home are not typical when she gets a glimpse of her family through the perspective of outsiders after Nora runs away. Everything and everyone is more complicated, and more poignant, than at first revealed in this moving, captivating work about family, and resilience, and survival, and the love, in spite of everything, that is never in doubt. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Friday, April 6, 2018

CCBC 2017 Statistics on LGBTQ+ Literature for Children & Teens

In 2017 we expanded our CCBC diversity statistics to include books with LGBTQ+ content and/or characters, and the results have been both fascinating and eye-opening.

Of the approximately 3,700 books we received at the CCBC in 2017, we counted:

  • 134 (3.62%) with significant LGBTQ+ content.
    • Of these, 21 (15.67%) were #OwnVoices (written by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+). However, this does not necessarily mean that the author's identity aligns with that of the character, e.g. a cisgender bisexual woman could create a transgender lesbian character.

This number (134) includes books with LGBTQ+ primary or significant secondary characters, LGBTQ+ families, nonfiction about LGBTQ+ people or topics, and what we've been calling "LGBTQ+ metaphor" books (more on that in a moment). Here's the breakdown:
  • 61 books (45.52%) feature an LGBTQ+ primary character
  • 36 books (26.87%) include an LGBTQ+ secondary character without an LGBTQ+ primary character
  • 25 books (18.66%) include an LGBTQ+ family
  • 9 books (5.22%) are nonfiction (not including graphic novels)
  • 3 books (2.24%) are anthologies with significant LGBTQ+ content
  • 2 books (1.5%) are LGBTQ+ metaphors

The two books we consider "metaphor" books are Bunnybear, written by Andrea J. Loney and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña, and Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima. Both books can easily be interpreted as metaphors for coming out to one's self and/or others and finding community.

We also took a closer look at the identities of primary characters. We used widely recognized identities in an effort to be consistent in our counting, as terminology within the LGBTQ+ community evolves and changes regularly. We counted queer (but not explicitly bisexual) cisgender women as lesbians, and queer (but not bi) cisgender men as gay. We had a category for transgender characters, and one for the non-binary umbrella (genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, etc.). In a separate category, we counted books in which a character questions their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

That being said, of the 61 books featuring an LGBTQ+ primary character, we counted:
  • 16 (26.23%) lesbian
  • 14 (22.95%) gay
  • 15 (24.59%) bisexual
  • 2 (3.28%) transgender
  • 5 (8.2%) questioning
  • 8 (13.11%) non-binary
  • 1 (1.64%) asexual
Little Pig has two grandpas.

Finally, our total count includes fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. There are very few picture books with LGBTQ+ characters or content. Of those we received, most were about families in general or had secondary or tertiary LGBTQ+ parents. Picture books with gender-expansive characters most often feature a child who was assigned male at birth and likes to wear skirts, dresses, or other clothing traditionally considered to be "feminine." Within the fiction category, few are middle grade titles; the majority are YA.

Of the 134 books with LGBTQ+ content or characters:
  • 13 (9.77%) are picture books
  • 17 (12.78%) are nonfiction, including graphic novels
  • 104 (77.61%) are fiction

Although it is a slow improvement, there are books being published that better represent the vast diversity of identities and experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. In the months and years ahead, we hope to see even more, especially books with LGBTQ+ characters of color and gender-expansive characters, as well as more #OwnVoices stories.