Monday, October 16, 2017

Book of the Week: I Want to Be in a Scary Story



I Want to Be in a Scary Story

by Sean Taylor
Illustrated by Jean Jullien
Published by Candlewick Press, 2017
48 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-8953-7
Ages 3-7


Little Monster is ready to be in a scary story. The narrator begins with a dark and scary forest. “Oh my golly gosh!” says Little Monster, not quite ready for something quite that scary. The narrator changes the scene to a spooky house. “Oh my goodness me! … Oh yikes and crikes!” Finally Little Monster admits it would be better to do the scaring. Anticipation builds as Little Monster walks towards a room to scare whoever is inside … “can we maybe change this book so it’s a FUNNY story?” The back-and-forth dialogue between Little Monster, who is small and purple and wide-eyed and whose dialogue is in purple, and the unseen narrator, whose words are shown in black, is always easy to follow. So, too, are Little Monster’s emotions: sometimes what you think you want changes once you actually get it. The gentle tension shifts to the comically absurd and then back again in this begs-to-be-read-aloud picture book when Little Monster suddenly disappears and the narrator becomes increasingly worried. “Boo!” Digitally colored ink illustrations show Little Monster against white pages when talking with the narrator, and in full-color, bold, slightly comical (and maybe a teensy bit scary) scenes when part of the various stories being told. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book of the Week: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground



Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

by Rita Williams-Garcia
Published by Amistad / HarperCollins, 2017
176 pages
ISBN: 978-0062215918
Ages 8-12


Clayton Byrd loves playing the blues harp (harmonica) with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and other blues musicians in the park. Clayton is eagerly looking forward to the day he’ll finally get the nod from his grandfather to take a solo during one of their performances. When his grandfather dies suddenly, Clatyon’s mother is too wrapped up in her own complicated feelings to be sensitive to her son’s grief and sells Cool Papa’s belongings. Struggling in the days that follow—he keeps falling asleep in class—Clayton finally skips school to go in search of the bluesmen in the park. On the subway, he’s mesmerized by a group of kids who beatbox and dance for money. Clayton can’t help but join in on his harmonica, and the boys net their biggest take of the day when they pass the hat. While Clayton likes the younger kids in the group, the oldest teen snatches the hat Clayton is wearing, the last thing Clayton has left from Cool Papa. Determined to get it back, Clayton sticks with the group, bending notes to create a melody matched to their hip-hop beat. A marvelous author’s note on the musical origins of blues and hip-hip and her appreciation for both concludes a story about love  and grief and music and family and the importance of being heard.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Charlotte Zolotow Lecture Featuring Jason Reynolds: November 2

20th Annual Charlotte Zolotow Lecture
Featuring Jason Reynolds
Thursday, November 2, 2017
photo of Jason ReynoldsJason Reynolds burst onto the writing scene in 2014 with the publication of When I Was the Greatest, which won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. Since then he has written seven highly acclaimed novels for children and teens, including The Boy in the Black Suit (2015), All American Boys (with Brendan Kiely) (2015), As Brave as You (2016), Ghost(2016), Miles Morales: Spider-Man (2017), Patina(2017), and Long Way Down (2017). A dynamic and compelling writer and speaker, in just four years he has become one of the brightest stars in the field of children’s and young adult literature.

The annual Charlotte Zolotow Lecture is sponsored by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with support from the Friends of the CCBC. This event is part of the 2017 Wisconsin Book Festival and is free and open to the public.
Varsity Hall, Union South, 1308 W. Dayton Street, Madison
7:30 p.m.
A 20th Anniversary Charlotte Zolotow Lecture Reception will be held prior to the lecture, beginning at 5:30, in space adjacent to the lecture hall.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book of the Week: Town Is by the Sea



Town Is by the Sea

by Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Illustrated by Sydney Smith Published by Groundwood, 2017
48 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-871-6
Ages 6-9


A boy describes his day in the town by the sea where he lives, an accounting made extraordinary by its lyricism and its visual accompaniment. “It goes like this…” is the repeated refrain as he details each part of his day. Morning includes butterflies in his stomach when he swings up high; lunch is a baloney sandwich and carrots; in the afternoon he notices the salt-smell of the air when he stops at the graveyard overlooking the sea. Most of the ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations have a muted palette but feel full of light and movement and convey an exceptional sense of place along with the narrative. But there is another repeated refrain: Two consecutive double-page spreads between each part of the day in which the boy takes note of how the sea looks (paintings show its expansiveness and the play of light on water), and thinks of his father at work in the coal mine beneath the sea (paintings dominated by heavy, oppressive dark bearing down on the working men). The boy notes matter-of-factly that his future will be the mine, just like his father and grandfather. But for now readers see he is simply and beautifully secure in the warmth of family and familiarity, and also the light. An author’s note explains more about the setting of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in the 1950s. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 25, 2017

Book of the Week: All's Faire in Middle School



All’s Faire in Middle School

by Victoria Jamieson
Published by Dial, 2017
248 pages
ISBN: 978-0-5254-2998-2
Ages 8-13


Imogene has been home-schooled her entire life. Additionally, she’s grown up as part of the Renaissance Faire that takes place over 8 weeks every year in her Florida community. Now she’s finally getting the chance to participate in the Faire with a small role as a squire to her dad’s villainous knight. She’s also starting public school--her own choice--for the first time. Imogene’s trials and tribulations as she navigates middle school is framed in terms of a Medieval drama at the start of every chapter. (“Our heroine’s journey through the halls of middle school winds through unknown lands and unchartered territories.”) Figuring out what to wear is only the first challenge, and easy compared to the trials and tribulations of friendship. Imogene experiences the false face and slings and arrows of one popular girl in particular while also learning she, herself, is not above treachery as she tries to position herself in the social strata. Her behavior isn’t very noble at home, either. Luckily her family is marvelously grounded, not to mention wonderfully realistic. Life isn’t all Faires and fun, after all: her dad sells pools and spas as his day job while everyone pitches in at home, whether helping make crafts for the shop her mom runs at the Faire, or watching her little brother. Imogene’s dad is brown-skinned, her mom white in this entertaining and highly relatable quest in which Imogene emerges the hero of her own story—-what every kid can be. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book of the Week: The One Day House

The One Day House

by Julia Durango
Illustrated by Bianca Diaz
Published by Charlesbridge, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1580897099
Ages 4-8


Young Wilson is full of ideas for ways to help fix his elderly neighbor Gigi’s house: paint it orange and yellow “like the sun,” fix the windows so they’ll open, build a fence so she can have a dog, repair the steps and the chimney and the roof, plant a garden. He’d even like to fix her piano, “so you can play music again.” Across summer, fall, and winter, he shares his ideas with Gigi and others, from the ice cream man to the librarian to his classroom teacher. Gigi always makes sure Wilson knows he is already gifting her with his presence, and she clearly is not expecting young Wilson’s many ideas to come to anything, but when spring arrives, they do! Wilson’s agency is presented realistically in an engaging picture book showcasing a dreamer and do-ers. The satisfying patterned text is set again vibrant multi-media collage illustrations featuring a brown-skinned boy and his diverse, multigenerational neighborhood. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book of the Week: Moxie



Moxie

by Jennifer Mathieu
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2017
336 pages
ISBN: 978-1626726352
Age 13 and older


Vivvy loves the Riot Grrrl bands and zines of her mother’s youth, but unlike her mom at 16, Vivvy is not a wave-maker or rule-breaker in their small east Texas town, until anger at the rampant sexism at her school spurs her to action. Vivvy creates an anonymous zine, Moxie, calling it out. Some of the sexist behavior is verbal, some of it physical, some of it psychological, all of it is some form of assault. New student Lucy, an avowed feminist, loves Moxie, while Vivvy’s best friend Claudia finds the word “feminist” too much and the Moxie calls to action pointless. Neither of them know Vivvy is behind the zine. New boy Seth, on whom Vivvy has a crush, sees Vivvy placing copies of Moxie in the bathrooms but he keeps her secret and romance blossoms. Moxie begins to illuminate and then bridge divides of race and class as many different girls embrace the anonymous zine and the Moxie movement slowly grows. The sexism at Vivvy’s school—insidious and infuriating—is both believable in the context of this story and also symbolic of the sexism in our society as a whole: It is systemic in scope; takes myriad forms; is too rarely acknowledged or challenged; has an impact that is achingly personal; those who fight back face repercussions; and every additional voice adds power to the call for change. Mathieu’s narrative is fierce and inspiring, while her nuanced characters and the complexity of their relationships ground the story and add to the satisfaction. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book of the Week: Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh



Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh

by Uma Krishnaswami
Published by Tu Books, 2017
288 pages
ISBN: 978-1600602610
Ages 8-12


Maria loves softball and is thrilled to discover a woman teacher at her small-town school in California is starting a team for girls. The only problem: she’s not sure her Sikh father will let her join. When he reluctantly agrees, her next goal is to convince him to let her wear shorts rather than a dress when she plays. As the girls begin to practice, they are sometimes jeered by boys in town, and sometimes at odds with one another, with coveted positions and racial tensions both coming into play. Maria and several other girls have fathers from India who came to the United States via Mexico because of U.S. anti-Indian immigrant laws. Many of the men married women who are Mexican American, like Maria’s mother. Many others in town, including the man from whom Maria’s father rents the land he farms and whose daughter is her rival on the team, are white. The same anti-immigrant laws also prevent Maria’s father from purchasing the land he’s been farming for years when the owner decides to sell. A story set during World War II deftly balances substantial information with an engaging character and story line. Less lighthearted than the cover suggests but still hopeful, this novel showcases family, culture, community and even politics, from the keen interest of Maria’s father to the end of British rule in India to the impact of the war on families in town. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 28, 2017

Book of the Week: ¡El gallo que no se callaba! / The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!



¡El gallo que no se callaba! / The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!

by Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
48 pages
ISBN: 978-1-338-11414-0
Ages 6-10


The village of La Paz is noisy. “Dogs bayed, mothers crooned, engines hummed, fountains warbled, and everybody sang in the shower.” In fact it’s so noisy the mayor is fired and an election is held to choose a new one. “Only Don Pepe promised peace and quiet. He won by a landslide.” First Don Pepe bans loud singing, then he bans singing altogether. Seven quiet years pass until a “saucy gallito” moves into town and does what roosters do: “Kee-kee-ree KEE!” Furious, Don Pepe cuts down the tree where the rooster sits. When that doesn’t silence the rooster, Don Pepe throws him in a cage alone, then takes away his corn, and blankets him in darkness. Still the rooster crows. “I sing for those who dare not sing—or have forgotten how,” he tells Don Pepe. Even under threat of being turned into soup, the rooster is defiant, stating a song “will never die—so long as there is someone to sing it.” And the townspeople, their memories stirred, pick up his call. A delightfully told story is an entertaining and accessible allegory about the importance of speaking up, and sometimes resisting authority. Colorful mixed media illustrations with a comic edge provide a vibrant backdrop for the language- and idea-rich story, here in a bilingual edition. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book of the Week: The Lost Kitten



The Lost Kitten

by  Lee
Illustrated by Komako Sakai
Translated by Cathy Hirano from the Japanese
Published by U.S. edition: Gecko Press, 2017
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-77657-126-0
Ages 3-6


When Hina and her mother take in a kitten they find outside their front door, Hina is initially a little reluctant—it’s not as clean and cute as a pet shop kitten. In a short time, however, she is caught up in thinking about names. “Maybe Bluey for its eyes. Or Twiggy because it was so skinny…Just thinking about the kitten made her happy.” While her mother is out buying cat food and her grandmother is napping, Hina realizes she can’t find the kitten. Is it frightened? Did it run outside when her mother left? Is it lost? Hina remembers how she felt once when she was lost in a store and couldn’t find her mother, and wonders if the kitten feels the same way. A story at once understated and dramatic pairs muted illustrations that marvelously capture the physical posture and movements of a small child (and kitten) with a finely paced, emotionally charged text that takes place in a short timeframe and conveys the immediacy of a young child’s emotions and reasoning, and the powerful force of empathy. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book of the Week: Midnight at the Electric



Midnight at the Electric

by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published by HarperTeen, 2017
257 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-239354-8
Age 12 and older


In 2065, Adri moves in with her newly discovered cousin, Lily, while she trains for her future life as a settler on Mars. Loner Adri worries living with elderly, open-hearted Lily will be hard, but Lily is respectful of Adri’s privacy and Galapagos, a giant tortoise on Lily’s Kansas farm, is a peaceful companion. In 1934 Catherine lives with her mother, little sister, and a tortoise named Galapagos on their Kansas farm, where the dust storms ravaging the Plains threaten her little sister’s health. Learning the boy she loves also loves her is bittersweet when Catherine, debating something drastic to save her sister, discovers a secret about the past that raises huge questions about her family. In 1919, Lenore lives in England, mourning the loss of a beloved brother in the Great War. Lenore wants to visit her best friend Beth in America. In the meantime, she forges a friendship with James, a disfigured young man who tests her understanding of compassion and acceptance while spinning impossible stories about his life. For Adri, who’s never relied on anyone but herself and is struggling to connect with others on her team, the old letters and journals in Lily’s house leading her to Catherine’s and Lenore’s stories hold surprising fascination. Family, friendship, and the family that friendship are the gifts Catherine, Lenore and especially Lily give Adri as she prepares for her journey in this singular novel graced by complex, poignant characters and relationships. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 7, 2017

Book of the Week: The First Rule of Punk



The First Rule of Punk

by Celia C. Pérez
Published by Viking, 2017
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-29040-8
Ages 9-12


Malú and her mom have moved from New York to Chicago for her mom’s 2-year visiting professorship. Mixed-race (Mexican/white) Malú, whose parents are amicably divorced, is unhappy about leaving her dad, who nurtured her interest in punk. She also feels like her mom, whom she calls SuperMexican, wants her to be a perfect señorita, which couldn’t be further from Malú’s understanding of herself (or, it turns out, the truth). Expressing her punk identity with heavy make-up the first day at José Guadalupe Posada Middle School doesn’t just raise her mom’s eyebrows, however: Malú’s in violation of school rules. After the mom of Malú’s new friend Joe introduces Malú to Mexican American punk musicians—something Malú didn’t know existed—and other Mexican singers. Malú recruits Joe and two other kids to form a punk band and try out for the school talent show. When the principal rejects their act, Malú and her bandmates organize an alternate talent show in the spirt of their school’s namesake while reworking a classic Mexican song into a punk performance that brings together the parts of Malú’s identity she thought were disparate, but prove not to be. Malú’s zines exploring aspects of her personal history and culture add a rich visual dimension to a spirited, engaging story about a creative, irrepressible girl navigating uncertainties and making new connections and discoveries. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book of the Week: That Neighbor Kid



That Neighbor Kid

by Daniel Miyares
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4979-3
Ages 4-8


Two neighboring houses. A moving truck. A fence and a tree. A girl and a boy. As the story opens, she’s peeking out the window of one house, he’s sitting in the yard of the other. She watches as he pulls down some fence boards. Some of these become steps up the tree. The girl, now outside, watches him, peering over the fence, then from behind a bush. Finally she picks up the hammer he dropped and follows him up the tree. He’s surrounded by boards, pouring over plans, and clearly confused. There’s a tentative exchange of greetings before he hands her a bucket of nails. She reads the plans, clearly in her element. And then they get to work, holding boards and hammering, painting and playing, building a tree house and closing the distance between stranger and friend. Miyares’s illustrations are predominantly black-and-white with small accents and occasional washes of celebratory color as this wordless story progresses in a book that feels both nostalgic and timeless. And while the narrative arc is clear, it also leaves plenty of room for discussion, whether about details of this story or the ways strangers can become friends. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 24, 2017

Book of the Week: The Leaf Reader



The Leaf Reader

by Emily Arsenault
Published by Soho Teen, 2017
240 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61695-782-7
Age 13 and older


Marnie Wells has taught herself tasseomancy, divination with tea leaves. Now, months after the disappearance of a girl named Andrea, Andrea’s best friend, Matt, seeks Marnie out. Matt’s been receiving cryptic emails from someone claiming to be Andrea and doesn’t know whether to believe it’s her. Marnie finds herself drawn to Matt and colliding with the wider circle of friends Andrea was part of, all of them wealthy kids at the upscale high school that Marnie attends only because her grandmother teaches there. Although Andrea’s never been found, the police believe the emails are a cruel hoax. Marnie isn’t sure. She also isn’t sure if Matt can be trusted and the images in the leaves, although open to interpretation, are unsettling. Then Marnie discovers Andrea knew Jimmie, a former friend of Marnie’s brother. Everyone has always considered Jimmie troubled but Marnie remembers him from her childhood because of his surprising if misguided attempts to please her. She wants to ask Jimmie about Andrea but the search for him proves frustrating as she knocks on doors, then terrifying when images and insight from the tea leaves lead to a chilling discovery that illuminates a deep and callous class prejudice and disregard for human life. A tense, compelling work that veers into the metaphysical as Marnie comes to terms with a family gift she isn’t sure she wants also fits solidly into the genres of mystery and contemporary realistic fiction. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book of the Week: Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!




Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!

by  Atinuke

Illustrated by Lauren Tobia (Anna Hibiscus Book 5) Published by U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 110 pages. (pbk. 978-1-61067-678-6)

Ages 4-8


Also reviewed:


Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 6) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 93 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-679-3)


Love from Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 7) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 95 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-680-9)

 
You're Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 8) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 95 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-681-6)


The return of Anna Hibiscus is cause to rejoice with these four new paperbacks for newly independent readers or reading aloud. In Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna has returned from visiting Granny Canada, her maternal grandmother. Her new experiences make her feel uncertain—does her family think she’s changed too much? But the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents with whom she lives along with her parents and younger brothers in “amazing Africa” soon reassure her with their welcome and warmth, while a newly hatched chick bonded to Anna leads to amusing antics. In Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! and Love from Anna Hibiscus!, Anna visits the village her grandparents left years before for the city where they all live now. Anna is unsure about making friends with the village kids, and aware how different—and in some ways more fortunate—her life is by comparison (she never goes hungry). But she realizes she and they all have things to learn and things to share with one another. When Anna meets Sunny Belafonte after he steals from her, she’s angry until she understands he did it because he was hungry and is living on his own, sparking Anna’s determination. In You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna and her family are navigating grief and loss with the death of beloved grandfather, who, Anna comes to understand, lives on in memories and stories. Atinuke is exceptionally attuned to the emotional life of young children. Respect, compassion, and understanding are all things Anna is taught by example and through gentle conversation with adults in her life. They are values she easily, innately embraces in the context of stories that are joyful even as they address difficult realities. Anna is biracial (Black/white), while the intentionally unspecified settings, both city and village, underscore that across Africa there is urban and rural; poverty, wealth, and middle class life like that of Anna’s family.  © 2017 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book of the Week: Where's Rodney?



Where's Rodney

by Carmen Bogan
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Published by Yosemite Conservancy, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-930238-73-2
Ages 4-8


Rodney likes moving, not sitting in a desk at school; he likes the freedom of outside, not the constraints of inside. But Rodney isn’t excited about an upcoming field trip to the park—he knows the little, triangle-shaped space with yellow grass in his city neighborhood. “It had one large cardboard trash can and two benches where some grownups sat all day long.” The day of the trip, however, the bus rumbles right by that park, out of the city, past farm fields, and through a mountain tunnel. At the other end, it emerges into bright sunshine and a park unlike any Rodney has known. It’s a place where he can climb high on a cliff, or down low into a canyon; he can run and shout, or discover small things of great beauty with quiet observation. “Rodney was outside—more outside than he had ever been before.” Rodney, a Black child in a diverse, contemporary classroom, is experiencing nature on a scale both grand and intimate at the center of this buoyant yet contemplative picture book with illustrations that reflect both the changing physical landscape and emotional range of the story as Rodney discovers that “outdoors” can not only be “majestic,” but peaceful, too. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 3, 2017

Book of the Week: Flying Lessons & Other Stories



Flying Lessons & Other Stories

by Ellen Oh, editor
Published by Crown, 2017
218 pages
ISBN: 978-1-101-93459-3
Age 11 and older


“Blame my Uncle Kenneth. Everybody else does.” (Tim Tingle) “It’s a lot of pressure to pick a good elf name.” (Tim Federle) “Nani wears a fur coat to the beach.” (Soman Chainani) Whether starting with irresistible opening lines like these, or easing more quietly into the lives of their characters, the ten short stories in this anthology are wonderfully crafted slices of life. Whether funny or poignant, painful or hopeful (and most are a combination, because life is like that), these stories featuring mostly contemporary older children and teens are widely varied in style and setting. The unifying theme is this: everyone’s voice matters, everyone has a story. What the stories also have in common are vividly realized characters whose lives feel genuine and are exceptional to the extent that every child and young adult is exceptional—singular and needing to be seen. Inclusion itself should not be exceptional, however. It should be deep and genuine and meaningful as it is within and across these pages featuring diverse writers—something foundational to the vision of this work that models how any anthology, regardless of theme, should be conceived. The result is a collection of stories that will spark recognition, and connection, and enjoyment for all readers in a multitude of ways. Additional contributors include Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Matt de la Peña, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, and Jacqueline Woodson. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book of the Week: Our Very Own Dog



Our Very Own Dog

by Amanda McCardie

Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino 

Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2017

24 pages

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8948-3

Ages 4-8

“A dog came to live with us when I was four.” An engaging picture book in the voice of a girl whose family adopts a dog from the shelter works as a terrific informational narrative, too. The little girl’s dog, named Sophie, “was nervous around my father at first, so he was careful not to look into her eyes or pet her or get to close.” How-to’s like this are seamlessly integrated into a narrative that also incorporates related facts in a smaller font on each page (“A shy or nervous dog may feel threatened if you look too closely into her face.”) The child narrator talks about the specific behavior of Sophie—playing, eating, socializing and more--and in doing so shares helpful information for any child or family hoping or dreaming or planning for a dog, or simply interested in reading about them. Breezy mixed-media illustrations add to the blithe, upbeat feel of a volume that concludes with a final page of advice and an index. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book of the Week: The Harlem Charade

The Harlem Charade

by Natasha Tarpley
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
297 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-78387-3
Ages 9-12



The rich past and present of Harlem is central to this lively, Balliett-esque mystery featuring three diverse young detectives. When Korean American Jin first pairs with African American Alex for a school assignment to explore some dimension of Harlem history, she’s challenged by Alex’s brusque and secretive manner. The two unite over shared interest in the recent discovery of a painting by a Black woman activist artist of the 1960s. African American Elvin, who’s been living on his own after his grandfather’s recent attack and hospitalization, is drawn into their search for the woman’s other paintings—whereabouts unknown. The three 7th graders begin to unravel the intersecting paths of the recovered painting, the missing art, the attack on Elvin’s grandfather, and the plans of a shady councilman who wants to create Harlem World, a cultural amusement park that will severely impact the lives and livelihoods of many Harlem residents. Their connection deepens as they reveal private concerns: Alex is ashamed of her family’s wealth, Jin fears her grandparents’ bodega is threatened by the proposed amusement park, and Elvin worries about his ill mother. This satisfying mystery also illuminates controversy surrounding an actual Museum of Modern Art Exhibit on Harlem in the late 1960s and spotlights the timeless and timely question at the intersection of cultural identity and art: “who gets to tell our stories?” (MVL)  ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 12, 2017

Book of the Week: Away



Away

by Emil Sher
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Published by Groundwood, 2017
24 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-483-1
Ages 5-8


Skip does not want to go to sleep-away camp, and in the busy days before she leaves she maintains her stance of resistance through a series of sticky notes left for her mom, even as she resignedly proceeds with getting ready. Meanwhile, Skip’s mom is a gentle, steady front of consistency in notes of her own as she shepherds Skip through the necessary preparations and packing. The notes comprise a spare written narrative that reveals satisfying details of their lives and relationship (“I bought you bug spray. Bring math homework to laundromat. I quiz, you fold.” “Bigfoot last seen under your bed.”), while expressive ink and watercolor illustrations show brown-skinned Skip and her white mom navigating the days leading up to their separation. Skip’s mom reassures Skip that Lester the cat will be alright without her, and that her own memories of sleepaway camp are “warm as biscuits” in spite of an old picture showing her in tears on the day she left. As for Skip, by story’s end she’s ready to admit, in a (sticky note) letter home, that “Next year’s goodbye will be easier!” ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book of the Week: Exo



Exo

by Fonda Lee
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
384 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-93343-8
Age 12 and older

 

Teenage Donovan is a member of the security forces keeping the peace after years of war that followed the invasion of Earth by the Mur zhree. Although the war has ended, an active human resistance remains. “Hardened” with zhree biotechnology as a child, Donovan can activate a protective exoskeleton, but it can’t prevent him being kidnapped by the Sapience resistance when a raid goes awry. When the resistance learns Donovan is the son of the Prime Liaison—his father is the highest ranking human in their district and works closely with zhree leaders—he’s taken to a Sapience hideout as a pawn. Although Donovan has personal issues with his demanding father he’s loyal to the zhree and, especially, his fellow security officers. But the identity of the principal Sapience propaganda writer turns everything upside down: It’s turns out to be his mother, who left when he was six. She couldn’t save Donovan from the Hardening his father volunteered him for and she believes it means Donovan isn’t really human anymore, even as Donovan knows it’s his humanity that makes him feel so conflicted upon seeing her—both hungry for and resistant to her love. A fast-paced, compelling work of science fiction with strong world-building deftly addresses the logistical and emotional complexities of political conflict and change through intriguing characters—human and nonhuman alike.©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 29, 2017

Book of the Week: Baby's First Words

Baby's First Words

by Stella Blackstone and Sunny Scribens
Illustrated by Christiane Engel
Published by Barefoot Books, 2017
20 pages
ISBN: 978-1-78285321-3
Ages 6 months - 3 years

 

A toddler’s day provides the story arc of a board book that offers engagement, affirmation, and delight, showing a mixed-race, gay-parented family. “Good morning!” reads the primary text on the opening page spread. The colorful scene includes word labels for “baby” (the girl), “bed,” “blocks,” “clock,” “laugh” (she’s all smiles as she greets one of her dads), “woolly mammoth” (a stuffed animal), and more. Objects, actions and emotions are labeled throughout as the little girl gets dressed, plays outside, eats lunch, plays inside, and, over the course of the day, experiencing a range of emotions, engages with a variety of vehicles, and encounters an array of animal toys before being given a bath and going to bed. The pleasing illustrations are punctuated by humor (e.g., the woolly mammoth is often shown doing something funny for a woolly mammoth—coloring with a crayon, brushing its teeth) and full of warmth. One dad, home with her throughout the day, is Black, the other is light-skinned, like the little girl.  “Night night!”  ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book of the Week: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora



The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

by Pablo Cartaya
Published by Viking, 2017
236 pages
ISBN: 978-1-101-99723-9
10-13 years


Arturo lives in an apartment complex in Miami along with most of the rest of his extended, close, chaotic Cuban American family. At the center of their lives are Abuela and La Cocina de la Isla, the restaurant she began with Arturo’s late grandfather. With Abuela’s health in question, no one wants to tell her about the threat to the proposed expansion of the restaurant into the empty lot next door: a new, buffoonish developer in town has plans for an upscale high-rise. At the heart of this lively story are important questions: How do communities shape and value individuals; how do individuals shape communities? How do differing ideas of what constitutes “progress,” including gentrification, impact community, and the family that community can be? They are explored in a blithe narrative featuring a slightly lovesick middle schooler (Arturo is trying to figure out if visiting Carmen likes him the same way he likes her) trying to help his family convince the city council to vote in favor of their restaurant’s proposal. Arturo finds inspiration for both his ideals and love in the poetry of Jose Marti, the Cuban poet and activist whom, he learns, his late grandfather loved (and Carmen does, too).  © 2017 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book of the Week: Not Quite Narwhal



Not Quite Narwhal

by Jessie Sima
Published by Simon & Schuster , 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8
Ages 3-8


Kelp knew early on that he’s different from other narwhals. His tusk is short, he doesn’t like typical narwhal food, and he isn’t a very good swimmer. When Kelp is caught in a current and swept far from home, he sees land for the first time. High on a cliff he spots “a mysterious, sparkling creature” and feels an immediate affinity. Kelp swims ashore, finds his land legs, and sets out in pursuit. “Land narwhals!” Kemp cries in delight when he spots an entire group of them. “Actually, we’re unicorns. And, by the looks of it, so are you!” Kelp learns his tusk is a horn (complete with cascading rainbows) and the legs with which he couldn’t swim well are excellent for galloping. He loves every minute of his life with the unicorns, until he remembers his narwhal friends. Will the narwhals still love him once they learn he’s a unicorn? It turns out they knew it all along. Will he have to choose between narwhals and unicorns? Never. Rainbows and unicorns and sparkles (and narwhals) serve a genuine purpose in this winsome tale of identity, self-discovery, and acceptance. Clever humor in the appealing art, created in Photoshop and incorporating cartoon elements, punctuates a story overflowing with warmth. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book of the Week: Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together

by Renée Watson
Published by Bloomsbury, 207
264 pages
ISBN: 978-1-68119-105-8
Age 13 and older


A scholarship student at a private high school, Jade misses having her neighborhood friends at school but the private school offers an international volunteer opportunity. This year she hopes to be chosen. In the meantime, Jade’s school counselor encourages her to participate in Woman to Woman, a community-based mentoring program for African American girls. Jade is paired with Maxine, an African American alum of her school. Jade also become friends with Sam. Like Jade, Sam rides the bus to school—a rarity. But Sam, who is white, has never stepped foot in Jade’s neighborhood. It all has Jade thinking about how people perceive her, and her community. Then she is not chosen for the volunteer trip to Costa Rica, despite tutoring fellow students in Spanish. The reason? Jade already participates in the mentoring program and her teacher feels other students deserve opportunities, too. Jade’s frustration is further fueled by the assault of a young Black woman by police in a nearby community. For Jade, the beating is too close, too personal, intensifying her sense of disquiet and disconnect with her school community, including Sam. Why, she finally challenges her teacher and her mentor, does everyone assume that because she's young and Black and poor she only needs help and "opportunities" but has nothing to offer, anything to give? Jade knows she has plenty to give in this vivid, poignant novel featuring a cast of singular characters; complex, authentic relationships; and a young woman voicing a critical truth. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Book of the Week: A Perfect Day



A Perfect Day

 

by Lane Smith
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-536-2
Ages 2-6


Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel are all relishing a perfect day, although the perfection differs for each of them: The warm sun in a flowerbed (Cat), a cool pool (Dog), birdseed (Chickadee), and a corncob (Squirrel). Enter Bear, who disrupts everyone’s moment of bliss. Each of the animals hastily abandons their prized spot or snack when Bear lumbers near. It turns out Bear, whose massive presence can barely be contained on the page, is having a perfect day too. His is comprised of a composite of comforts: “The warmth of the sun. The cool of the water. A belly full of corn and seed. A flower bed for a nap.” A simple text showcases repetition and predictability, while the dynamic mixed-media illustrations command attention with changes of scale and perspective. (MVL) ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book of the Week: Star-Crossed



Star-Crossed

by Barbara Dee
Published by Aladdin, 2017
277 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-7848-9
Ages 9-12


There’s drama on and off the stage in this middle-school romance in which shy 8th grader Mattie decides to try out for Romeo and Juliet. She’s thrilled to be cast as Paris. Although it’s a small part, it allows her to swoon over her secret crush, Gemma, who is playing Juliet. At 12, Mattie is just beginning to figure out her own sexuality and Barbara Dee perfectly captures the awkward passions of a first crush, made all the more challenging by Mattie’s uncertainty about how any advances she might make will be received, not just by Gemma but by all the other kids at school. The director, Mr. Torres, notices Mattie has an affinity for Shakespeare and asks her to run lines with dreamy Liam, the reluctant Romeo, who needs extra help. When Liam suddenly drops out of the play due to a hockey injury, Mattie is tapped to take his place since she already knows the part so well. Now she gets a rare chance to act on her feelings, at least on stage, playing Romeo to Gemma’s Juliet. The chance to kiss Gemma/Juliet? Excruciatingly thrilling, and it fills Mattie with so much anxiety that it’s all she can do to remember her lines. And will she ever be able to tell Gemma how she really feels? It all adds up to a surprisingly tender coming out story with subtle parallels to the original star-crossed lovers. (KTH)  ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center