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The Horn Book editor's rants and raves. Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996
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1. Week in Review, November 17th-21st

banner weekinreview 550x100 Week in Review, November 17th 21st

This week on hbook.com…

Jim Arnosky’s “Remembering Trina Schart Hyman” on the 10th anniversary of her death

Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson on her National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming! Here’s our starred review.

Reviews of the Week:

Read Roger:Being a White Guy in Children’s Books

Out of the Box:

Calling Caldecott:

Lolly’s Classroom: 

Events calendar

See overviews of previous weeks by clicking the tag week in review. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on our articles!

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2. Being a White Guy in Children’s Books

BadBeginning Being a White Guy in Children’s BooksDon’t get me wrong. White guys working in children’s books have it good. In fact, it would be fair to say we have it pretty much made. But in the wake of host Daniel Handler’s remarks at Wednesday’s National Book Awards, I find myself thinking about the privileged but peculiar position white guys have in this field. (Some of what I have to say applies to the non-white guys, too, but I am not going to generalize that far.)

I wasn’t at the event and can’t bring myself to watch the video because I know it would have me writhing in empathetic embarrassment. So all of my information is from the transcript and subsequent internet outrage. And what I’m left with—even more than my happiness at Jackie Woodson’s win—is how sorry I feel for Handler, and how easily I could have fallen into the same trap. (I confess to some impatience with all the talk of him stealing Her Moment because Woodson is getting a way longer moment than any children’s National Book Award winner has ever gotten before. Quickly, who won last year?)

The main thing about being a white guy in children’s books is that you get a lot more attention—not to mention Caldecott Medals!—than you would otherwise, and than is really good for you. Award committees want you as a member. Conferences want you to speak. People look to you for a “male point of view”—especially when they are seeking to solve the perennial problem of The Boy Reader, attention to whose needs getting far more ink than the needs of his sister. If you’re good-looking—and here I speak from observation—you are really set. Molly Ivins would have said that you were born on third base, and, professionally speaking, she would have been right.

It’s a nice life that’s easy to get used to. But as Handler learned, it can bite you in the ass. There he was in the spotlight, doing what he’s been amply rewarded for doing for years, and he overreached. He was trying to show us that he was as cool as we’ve long been saying he was: I am so cool I can get away with a racist-not-racist watermelon joke. He couldn’t, and I’m sorry there was no one to tell him he wouldn’t. Or maybe he didn’t think to ask? It’s the least a guy can do.

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3. OMG

Here are two new YA books about the Rapture, starring teen girls.

“It’s the end of the world as we know it / And Vivian Apple and Abigail feel fiiiine.”

coyle vivianapple OMG   bliss noparking OMG

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4. Jump See Farm app review

 Jump See Farm app reviewNew educational app Jump See Farm (JUMPSEEWOW, October 2014) introduces preschool and primary-age kids to life on several independent rural farms as well as an urban apiary (Best Bees, right here in Boston!).

From the main menu, tap on an icon to explore one of six subjects: pig, sheep, dairy cow, chicken, tractor, and bees. Each subject has its own “landing page” featuring a friendly, naive-style illustration with a couple of interactive animations.

 Jump See Farm app review

Tap on select objects or animals in the illustration to access brief documentary videos (up to four on each subject, for a total of more than 30 minutes), narrated by a mix of farm-working adults, kids, and teen 4-H members. These videos detail the animals’ jobs on the farm, their care and feeding, attributes of the specific breeds being raised, and how milk, cheese, honey, etc., are produced, all with cheery bluegrass music (composed for the app by Tomas Murmis) in the background.  Jump See Farm app review

The videos also highlight the different species’ personalities. According to one teen girl, Tamworth pigs (a “heritage” breed) “act like dogs. My pig last year would come up to me and she would sleep on me. I just like them because they’re really social and they’re really loving.” Dairy cows, apparently, are curious but “mellow creatures.”

While it’s obvious that these are working animals valuable for their usefulness, their human caretakers clearly do feel plenty of affection for them. One young girl says, “I have a lot of favorite things about chickens, but one of my favorite things is when they take dirt baths.” A teen gives her pig a pat and tells him she loves him. Occasionally the narration gets a little cutesy — as when a beekeeper points out a brand-new bee emerging from her cell in the honeycomb and exclaims, “It’s her birthday!… How special is this?” But kids likely won’t mind, and the information communicated with this warmth and enthusiasm will intrigue them. A list of recommended resources on farm animals and farm living is available at JUMPSEEWOW’s website.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 6.0 or later) and for the Kindle Fire; $2.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

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5. The Hug Machine: a guest post by Thom Barthelmess

hug machine1 The Hug Machine: a guest post by Thom BarthelmessMy choice for Caldecott 2015 consideration is Scott Campbell’s delightful, infectious, and secretly sophisticated Hug Machine. This is the kind of book that is easy to miss because it is disguised as a romp. It doesn’t pretend to be serious, and so doesn’t signal our serious attention. It’s up to us to apply that attention. So apply it we shall.

Ready? Here is a list of my award-worthiness enthusiasms:

1) The faces. Campbell does some good faces. His style is particularly loose and sketchy, but boy howdy, can he capture emotion and attitude in a few watercolor gestures. From the resolute purpose of the hugger, expressed in his firm mouth and closed eyes, to the variety of surprise among those being hugged (catch the look on his dad’s face, and that turtle!), the priceless range of emotion adds meaning and depth to what might have been one-note mawkish.

2) The composition. Some spreads are open, and some are crowded. But whether it’s the ominous space between the hug machine and his intended porcupine, or the busy, serial hugging along the dotted line (a la “Family Circus”), the composition is never accidental and always effective.

3) The font. Everything is hand painted, with the same easy watercolors as the pictures, reinforcing the child-perspective and adding to the insouciance. I think the committee would need to wrestle with the degree to which typeface is an element of illustration, but with hand lettering like this, with such an arguably big role to play in the experience, I’d be advocating for its consideration.

4) The arc. It’s not uncommon to happen upon a picture book whose words and images match its listeners. But I can’t remember the last time I encountered a book whose story arc was so well calibrated to its audience. The pagination, the pacing, the implicit pauses and inflections. Here is a book that will blossom when read aloud, over and over (and over). Pacing is another element not directly invoked by the Caldecott terms and criteria, but it is a critical element in picture book success. And with the imagery here playing such a big role in the pacing (see #2, above) I’d put it on the table.

5) The details. They got everything right here. The heavy buff stock feels delicious under your fingertips. The endpapers, with their empty and completed checklists, even the author flap of the dust jacket (with our hero hugging a fire hydrant while a curious dog looks on) — all of it contributes to a cohesive, thorough, and endlessly appealing experience.

6) The edge. I’m not exactly allergic to sincerity, but I do like my earnest cut with a healthy dose of dry. This is an undeniably sweet outing, but between the bodacious humor and the appreciable astringency, it is anything but cloying. And the irreverence and irony embodied in the illustrations (is that a snake?!) are the heart of the edge.

7) The gender expression. This is a book all about warmth, doused in pink and glowing with ardor, and the bearer of all of that fervent affection is a little boy. Boom. Here’s a place where we’d need to work pretty hard to tie this appreciation to the award. The last time I checked, “Thom is so happy this book exists” is not articulated among the Caldecott terms and criteria. Yet. But let’s think about it. I’d argue that the success here is the artist’s use of color and composition (among other things) to explore being a sensitive boy, in a particularly subtle and sophisticated way. Even if the function itself doesn’t count, we’re allowed — even called — to consider its artistic achievement.

That’s what I think about Hug Machine. What do you think?

 

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6. Review of Brown Girl Dreaming

woodson brown girl dreaming Review of Brown Girl Dreamingstar2 Review of Brown Girl Dreaming Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Intermediate, Middle School    Paulsen/Penguin
328 pp.    8/14    978-0-399-25251-8    $16.99    g

Here is a memoir-in-verse so immediate that readers will feel they are experiencing the author’s childhood right along with her. It starts out somewhat slowly, with Woodson relying on others’ memories to relate her (1963) birth and infancy in Ohio, but that just serves to underscore the vividness of the material once she begins to share her own memories; once her family arrives in Greenville, South Carolina, where they live with her maternal grandparents. Woodson describes a South where the whites-only signs may have been removed but where her grandmother still can’t get waited on in Woolworth’s, where young people are sitting at lunch counters and standing up for civil rights; and Woodson expertly weaves that history into her own. However, we see young Jackie grow up not just in historical context but also—and equally—in the context of extended family, community (Greenville and, later, Brooklyn), and religion (she was raised Jehovah’s Witness). Most notably of all, perhaps, we trace her development as a nascent writer, from her early, overarching love of stories through her struggles to learn to read through the thrill of her first blank composition book to her realization that “words are [her] brilliance.” The poetry here sings: specific, lyrical, and full of imagery: “So the first time my mother goes to New York City / we don’t know to be sad, the weight / of our grandparents’ love like a blanket / with us beneath it, / safe and warm.” An extraordinary—indeed brilliant—portrait of a writer as a young girl. martha v. parravano

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Brown Girl Dreaming is the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

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7. Using comics in your classroom

marekbennett intelligences 300x478 Using comics in your classroom

One of the panels from Marek Bennet’s “Multiple Intelligences” sequence. http://marekbennett.com/2011/02/28/multiple-intelligences-comics-education/

Last month, I was fortunate to be able to attend several sessions at the Comics and the Classroom symposium offered as part of the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) on October 5th. The symposium, which was the first of what they hope will become an annual event as part of MICE, brought together a number of comics artists and educators to discuss how comics can be incorporated into the classroom at various levels.

The day started off with a session by Marek Bennett, the creator of Slovakia: Fall in the Heart of Europe, an educator who offers comics workshops for students of all ages, and is one of the Applied Cartooning Program Advisors at the Center for Cartoon Studies. The program teaches students to use cartoons and visual communications techniques in realms outside of comic books or graphic novels. He talked about the way that the styles and techniques of comics can be brought to education in all fields to make subjects more memorable, engaging, and understandable. While the program Bennett works with is aimed at graduate students pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree, he explained how the techniques can be brought to any age group by adapting assignments to incorporate visual elements where there previously may have been only text and walked us through the Applied Cartooning Manifesto. He also displayed this approach in the form of his own visual article on Multiple Intelligences and placed the approach in a historical context that includes Trajan’s Column and the Bayeux Tapestry. A discussion afterwards with the attendees brought up several ways teachers could use these ideas to help students express emotions and advocate for social change.

The second session of the symposium was presented by Michael Gianfrancesco and covered how he teaches close reading techniques using graphic novels. He talked about how, inspired by the work of Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher, he created a curriculum that uses graphic novels, and particularly wordless graphic novels, such as segments of Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the City, to teach students to identify what is obvious, implied and assumed in their reading of a work. Taking text out of the process helps to simplify it by paring it down to its basics but also engages students, many of whom already enjoy comics and manga. After students have worked out what is obvious, implied, and assumed in each comic, they are also prompted to think more about their assumptions, sometimes even writing stories based on what they assumed when first reading the comic. Since he teaches in Rhode Island, a state that has adopted the Common Core, Gianfrancesco has tied his curriculum in to specific sections of the Common Core and uses it with students in multiple tracks at his school. He recommended New York: Life in the City, Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld, and Stitches by David Small as works that could be used to teach close reading in high school classes.

I also attended a panel discussion between three artists who create educational comics. Two of the artists, Jason Rodriguez and Joel Gill, have written graphic novels on historical topics that aim to educate readers and have been incorporated into classrooms. The final panelist, Cathy Leamy, works on comics that foster health literacy. Leamy discussed the field of graphic medicine which includes both comics aimed at improving health literacy by explaining complicated medical topics through visuals and comics by healthcare professionals and patients as a way of expressing their emotions. One of the highlights of this last panel was a debate between the panelists (and some members of the audience) about how to balance facts and storytelling in their works. This discussion highlighted both the difficulties that authors face in ensuring that their works are accurate, engaging, and clear and the importance that educators place on using materials in the classroom that portray facts correctly.

I found each of the sessions very interesting and useful. If you have an opportunity to attend MICE or the Comics and the Classroom symposium next year, I would highly recommend it.

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8. Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

gail brookline parasol Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Tea time! Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Gail Carriger introduced readers to her alternate Victorian London — chock-full of steampunk technology and supernatural characters — in 2009 with Soulless, the first volume of her five-book adult series The Parasol Protectorate. The Finishing School series, a YA prequel series set in the same world, soon followed, beginning with Curtsies & Conspiracies. Espionage lessons, a dirigible boarding school, a girl inventor, vampires and werewolves, witty banter: what more could a steampunk fantasy fan ask for? Gail is currently working on another companion YA series, The Custard Protocol, which will kick off with Prudence in spring 2015.

brooklineinvite Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

You’re invited… Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

My beloved local Brookline Public Library (hi Robin!) hosted Gail on November 10th for a lovely evening tea party — cucumber sandwiches and all! — and Q&A event to celebrate the release of Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third book in the Finishing School series. I spoke with her over tea just before the event. In addition to being a prolific and (ahem) fantastic author, Gail is also an archaeologist by training, Elissa’s college roomie (Oberlin represent!), and a very stylish lady — she told me she had a different Waistcoats & Weaponry–cover coordinated ensemble for each stop on the book tour.

The Parasol Protectorate books are adult books and The Finishing School series is YA — although there’s been a lot of crossover, with the YA books being read by adults and the adult books being read by teens. Have you found that there are things you can do in adult books that you can’t do in YA, or vice versa?

For me, YA has to be — and this is what I like about it — it has to be very clean and sharp. As a writer, it requires me to do a lot more editing because it needs to be very sparse. You don’t sacrifice details, but you sacrifice a certain amount of waffling. In adult books you’re allowed to put in extra little bits and distract the readers with pretty description for a while. In young adult, you just can’t do that. You have to be very structured and paced. Pacing is always really important to me, but I think in YA it’s even more important. That’s one of the biggest differences. And I allow myself to be a little more racy when I’m writing the adult stuff.

carriger waistcoats and weaponry Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail CarrigerYour Finishing School protagonist Sophoronia Temminnick has quite the name. Do you have other favorite Victorian-era names that you’ve come across in your research (or that you’ve come up with yourself)?

I tend to use them if I come across them. I love the name “Euphrenia”; I don’t know if I’ve leaked it into the books yet, but it’s one of my favorite ultra-Victorian names. I really like first names that are traditionally Victorian but are not used anymore. That’s one of the reasons I chose “Sophronia.” It’s still a pretty name, and sort of like “Sophia,” but just old-fashioned enough for you to know immediately, the minute that you read her name, that she’s not of our time. “Dimity” was another actual name from the time period. Alexia [from the Parasol Protectorate books] only got named “Alexia” because she was one of those characters that announced herself as being named that. Sometimes characters just enter your head and they’re like, “This is my name!” “Soap” is one of those as well. “Pillover” is another one — it’s not a real name; I just made that one up completely. But “Sophronia” and “Dimity” I picked.

Is there a mythological creature that you’ve been wanting to introduce into this world that you haven’t gotten to yet?

I’m pretty strict with myself with world-building. I’m sticking to motifs of vampires, shape-shifters, and ghosts, probably because almost every ancient culture has some version of them, like the kitsune in Japan. But I excavated in Peru for a while and there is a legend in the Peruvian highlands of a creature called a pishtaco (which is fantastically ridiculous-sounding, first of all). It’s essentially a fat-sucking vampire rather than a blood-sucking vampire — which is comedy gold. I’m dying to get [Custard Protocol protagonist] Prudence to the New World at some point so that she can meet one of these creatures and I can write all about them.

gail standing brookline Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Ensemble #1 at the Brookline Public Library. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Are we going to see more mechanimals like Bumbersnoot in the Finishing School books? (Or do you say “mech-animals”?)

I say “mechanimals,” like “mechanicals” but with an “animal” at the end. You will see more of them, but you’re not going to see a named little friend like Bumbersnoot. There’s quite a few in the last book but that’s all I’m going to say.

If you were going to have a mechanimal pet yourself, what kind of animal would you pick?

Probably something like a hedgehog. I would like a round, roly-poly, friendly sort of critter. I have a very demanding cat who’s svelte and overdramatic, so I think I’d like a calm, rodentia-style, chubby little creature. Something in the porcupine, hedgehog arena. The cat would probably be very upset with it.

What would your dream teatime guest list and menu look like?

Oh, goodness. Do I get to pick fantastic characters? Or historical people?

Sure. Living, dead, fictional — anyone you want.

There’s part of me that has to be true to my archaeological roots and pick Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, Boadicea… I’m attracted to super-powerful female historical figures, the queens and mistresses, so I’d probably concoct a party that was all these fantastic women from history. The problem, of course, would be interpretation, but it’s my fantasy so everyone would speak English. I’m an adventurous eater, and I’d like to cater to the guests, so I’d have foods from all of the different places and times they came from. One of my favorite things is cooking ancient food, sourcing the ingredients and re-creating it myself. I think if you can taste the flavor of the past, you can get a better impression of it. I’d try to do that so everybody got to try everybody else’s dishes.

What’s your specialty, your pet era as an archaeologist?

I’m not an area specialist; I’m a materials specialist. My focus was on ceramics. To this day I have a propensity to pick up a piece of pottery and flip it over to look at the back side — which can be terribly embarrassing if I’ve forgotten that there’s food on the front side — to look for the maker’s mark.

gail cambridge Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Ensemble #2 at Cambridge’s Pandemonium Books and Games store. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Are there other historical eras that you’d like to write about?

The series I’m writing now [The Custard Protocol] is set in the 1890s, which is basically the dawn of female emancipation. Mostly because of trousers — women gained a great deal of autonomy due to education and to the bicycle. The two combined started the New Woman movement, these educated young ladies with self-motivation and autonomy. I’m excited to move closer to the turn of the twentieth century and to have a bit more realism behind my super-strong female characters, because they’re not quite realistic to their time. There’s certainly other time periods I’d love to write in. I’d love to set an ancient story in some of the places I’ve visited.

What would be the most useful gadget for a Finishing School student to have on her person in the case of an espionage emergency? (This is a very difficultly worded question!)

It sounds like something I’ve written! The voice-acting talent [for my audiobooks] is always calling and complaining because I love tongue-twisters. I don’t even realize I’ve written them until somebody’s like, “Why did you write that?!” “I didn’t think about you guys reading it out loud.”

“Handiest gadget?” is the short version!

I love Sophronia’s fan, but I think it’s really handy for her. She becomes comfortable with it and adapts to it, but it’s not necessarily something that would be useful for everybody. In the final book, the chatelaine really comes to the fore. The girls keep going to balls, and they keep having to have chatelaines on them. A chatelaine is like the base for a Swiss Army Knife; it hangs off your belt and there’s a bunch of little chains and clips so you can hang multiple little things off it. Customarily you’d have a bit of perfume and a dance card, maybe keys or a little sewing kit. But of course Geraldine’s girls have a whole different set of things dangling! I love the idea that you could just attach something that has everything useful hanging off of it. Why can’t we still do that?

More fabulous photos at the Brookline Public Library Teen Room Tumblr.

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9. From the Editor – November 2014

Roger EdBriant 191x300 From the Editor   November 2014Please permit me to highlight two of the titles reviewed in this issue of Notes from the Horn Book, alike only in their consideration of the friendship possible between the old and the young, and — refreshingly — their resistance of current splashy publishing trends. That The Farmer and the Clown is wordless is the only on-trend thing about Marla Frazee’s latest picture book, and unlike so many of that ilk it is not about solving a puzzle or decrypting a mind-bending meta-plot. It is instead about caring and connection between human beings, with powerful emotions evoked, through posture and gesture alone, on every page. In contrast, Naomi Shihab Nye’s The Turtle of Oman could, I suppose, be called wordful, and like Nye’s wonderful poetry, this novel sneaks up on you. Its story and characters are soft-spoken, and there’s no grand galloping plot, just the unconditional friendship between a boy and his grandfather as they prepare to say goodbye for a while. As with The Farmer and Clown, you finish the book knowing that even when the characters part, each will keep the other in his heart — and you won’t forget them, either.

roger signature From the Editor   November 2014

Roger Sutton,
Editor in Chief

From the November 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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10. Around the world

Reading can take children on journeys outside of their everyday realms. The following stories — some humorous, some tender — allow independent readers to spend time with characters from all over the globe.

nye turtle of oman Around the worldWhen Naomi Shihab Nye’s The Turtle of Oman opens, Aref and his mother are preparing to leave their home in Muscat, Oman, to join his father in Michigan, where they’ll live temporarily while Aref’s parents attend graduate school. Though unhappy about the move, Aref is thrilled to spend his last few days in Oman going on adventures with Sidi, his grandfather. The setting is so affectionately portrayed, with descriptions of colorful sights, mouth-watering tastes, and friendly interactions with fellow countrymen, that even when Aref is ready to say goodbye, readers may not be. Nye’s story, with spot art by Betsy Peterschmidt, is both quiet and exhilarating. (Greenwillow, 7–10 years)

tak mikis and the donkey Around the worldPhilip Hopman’s illustrations set the stage on the island of Corfu in Bibi Dumon Tak’s Mikis and the Donkey (translated from the Dutch). Mikis befriends Tsaki, his grandfather’s new donkey, and advocates successfully for Tsaki’s welfare. There’s a lovely simplicity to this affecting portrait of a close-knit Greek community, where a teacher’s boyfriend can give her class motorbike rides to general contentment. The generous number of loosely drawn illustrations capture windswept landscapes and village life with equal aplomb. (Eerdmans, 6–8 years)

lagercrantz my heart is laughing Around the worldFirst grader Dani, of My Happy Life, returns in Rose Lagercrantz’s My Heart is Laughing (translated from the Swedish). Classmates Mickey and Vicky both like the same boy, Cushion, and they ostracize Dani because Cushion likes her. When they start sneakily pinching Dani’s arm at the lunch table, she fights back, inadvertently causing a food fight and getting herself into trouble. Eva Eriksson’s line drawings brilliantly portray facial expressions and body language — Cushion’s tentative approach to Dani; her teacher’s big, solid, comforting hand enclosing her shoulder. Salty and sweet, this is umami for the emerging reader. (Gecko, 6–8 years)

lloyd murilla gorilla and the hammock problem Around the worldThe titular primate in Jennifer Lloyd’s Murilla Gorilla and the Hammock Problem lives in the rainforest of an unnamed African country. Okapi (an indigenous central African mammal) hires Murilla to figure out who put a hole in the hammock she’s selling. This accessible book is easy to read without looking babyish, and the mystery is easy to solve without being too obvious. Jacqui Lee draws with muted tones, highlighting Murilla’s pink cheeks and prehensile feet and Okapi’s gray-striped legs and arms. (Simply Read, 6–8 years)

From the November 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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11. Five questions for Sharon G. Flake

Flake Sharon © Richard Kelly Photography Five questions for Sharon G. Flake

Photo: Richard Kelly

Is Mr. Davenport a vampire, as Octobia May insists? The answer is not so cut-and-dried in Sharon G. Flake’s Unstoppable Octobia May, a historical-fiction-cum-mystery-novel with more than a dash of social commentary (Scholastic, 9–12 years). From the 1950s boarding house setting to the vivid characters — some plucky, some humorous, some downright sinister — the story is thoroughly, enthrallingly unique.

1. Were you a mystery reader as a kid?

SGF: Oh my goodness, no. When I was young, I was afraid of my own shadow. I preferred stories with few surprises, where nothing out of the ordinary happened. Since childhood, however, I’ve become more emboldened. I like to tour graveyards, for instance, something my protagonist Octobia May also enjoys. I imagine who the people buried there were, how they may have lived, and what might have caused their deaths. It’s a hobby that gives some people the creeps, I know.

2. Why did you decide to set the book in 1953?

SGF: I’ve always wanted to write a book set in the fifties. It was, I think, the best of times and, simultaneously, the worst of times for many African Americans. As a nation we were feeling optimistic about a lot of things, and our music, dances, modes of dress, and outlooks often reflected that. Blacks were no different from whites in that respect. Yet so much injustice still plagued the nation — much of it around race, gender, equity, and access to power.

I wanted to capture both the optimism of the times as well as the complex nature of race relations in our country — along with the promise, and challenge, America still held for both African Americans and women. A tall order, but one I believe I’ve accomplished.

flake unstoppable octobia may Five questions for Sharon G. Flake3. What kind of historical research did you do?

SGF: I spent months at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh (where I live) poring through newspapers, the Courier especially. The black press played a critical role in dismantling Jim Crow; galvanizing the black vote; exposing the inequity of segregated schools; reporting on the valiant role black soldiers played during War World II; and pushing America to end segregation in the military. Because of the black press, America is a better nation — I never understood that more fully than I did while researching this book.

Next I came across an exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History (in Philadelphia) about Jewish professors who taught at historically black colleges during and after WWII. I created the character of Mrs. Loewenthal’s husband, who fled Germany and became a professor at Lincoln University. An expert in the field of Jewish studies helped ensure the accuracy of what I’d written — from Mrs. Loewenthal’s name, to what she ate, to her experiences in Germany.

Finally there was my family. My parents often recalled the fifties with both fondness and frustration. From what people wore, to the jobs African Americans could and couldn’t get, they remembered it all and shared eagerly. My mom has since passed, and the time I spent talking to her, my sister, and my dad about this era means even more to me.

4. Aunt Shuma is such a great character. Is she based on someone you know?

SGF: No, she isn’t. But as I was writing Unstoppable Octobia May, what became clear to me was how determined Aunt Shuma was to be her own woman, and to raise a girl with similar values. It’s the fifties, so women were expected to be polite, have children, obey their husbands, and take care of the home. Aunt Shuma makes it clear that this sort of life is not for her. When she tells her entrepreneurial dreams to women who hold more traditional values, she is met with opposition and dismay. Nonetheless, she is bent on changing the face of acceptable womanhood by enhancing the opportunities for her niece, Octobia May. It was a radical idea for many women in 1953.

5. Just how unstoppable is Octobia May? Will there more be books about her?

SGF: I am already hearing from readers who love Octobia and are very excited about reading more of her adventures. I have also come up with Aunt Shuma’s rules for raising unstoppable girls (of any age) and will share them with folks who message me at my website, sharongflake.com.

From the November 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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12. Susan Bonners storytime this Saturday

bonners silver balloon Susan Bonners storytime this SaturdayAuthor/illustrator Susan Bonners and friends will read from Bonners’s books in a special storytime this Saturday, November 8th, from 10 am to noon. As Ms. Bonners is a Roslindale resident, the event will take place in the Community Room of the Roslindale Public Library.

Ms. Bonners’s many books include A Penguin Year (1982 National Book Award: Nonfiction Children’s Book winner), The Silver Balloon (1997 Christopher Award winner), Edwina Victorious, Making Music, The Wooden Doll, and Why Does the Cat Do That?

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13. Girls in Towers

lengle camilla Girls in TowersMadeline L’Engle’s novel Camilla (titled Camilla Dickinson when first published in 1951 and recently reissued) features a bright and passionate fifteen-year-old who presents us with the essential question of the YA genre — how will this girl survive the emotional chaos of adolescence? In fairy tales, this same question is more logistical — how will the princess escape supervision long enough to exit the tower, descend into the forest, and head for the village?

Camilla is narrated by just such a princess, one who lives with her parents in a New York City penthouse. The novel was published long before there was a young adult genre as we know it today, but it contains all the elements of the classic YAs of the late twentieth century — a journey out of childhood, a hypersensitive girl, a pace providing ample time for deep reflection. The reader participates in a clean, well-documented metamorphosis, wisely told by a girl who embodies the most cherished aspects of twentieth-century female adolescence — at least in literature: hope, compassion, and a fearless, unflinching honesty.

These qualities were true of the protagonists in many of the forbears of the genre — Frankie in Carson McCuller’s Member of the Wedding, Molly in Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion, Cecil in Rumer Godden’s Greengage Summer — but there is a profound difference between these early coming-of-age novels and Camilla, and I believe that it stems from L’Engle’s technique of tracking Camilla day-by-day, hour-by-hour, as she struggles to understand what is happening to her. Her journey is both epic and microscopic. The novel covers just a few weeks in Camilla’s interior life and is intensely focused on the minutiae of her days — a concentrated, claustrophobic time of adolescent upheaval. This original technique prefigured the YA genre that would begin to flourish in the next decade.

Another element that connects Camilla to the modern YA genre is L’Engle’s obvious love for her protagonist. Camilla narrates as someone relaying the events in her life to a listener with deep affection for her. This makes her exquisitely reliable. She is both admittedly vulnerable and unapologetically passionate, sometimes on the very same page. She is also a girl scientist! Her fascination with the heavens creates a wonderful juxtaposition — the discipline of astronomy; the importance of identifying and naming things as a way of feeling part of the universe — coupled with her more spiritual quest for a guiding star. With both perspectives in full operation, she searches for the deeper meaning of her life. She wants to be around people who are more fully alive than her parents — boys her own age who talk passionately about war and death and what it means to have a soul. She purposefully connects herself to new events and situations. She wants to feel everything, even — what is surely coming soon — the heartbreak and disappointment of first love. She is fearless about being hurt. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She is fully alive in her emotions.

*    *    *

Such a bittersweet read! As I reread the book, Camilla’s voice took me back to some of my own girl narrators, young sages who decades ago responded to their parents’ ineptitude with more sadness than anger, more compassion than contempt. And much like Camilla, these fictional girls still believed that a proper romance could soften the cruelties of adolescence; they trusted that the right boy would come along if they were patient and careful. They were hopeful. Camilla is open to the possibility of becoming a finer, more self-aware person, now that she is no longer a child. She believes in her inner beauty. She values her own transcendent girl-ness, trusting its power. I remember that perspective. I believed in it and rode it like a wave after the publication of my first YA novel, The Bigger Book of Lydia (1983). It fueled my writer’s voice for two decades.

But the world of teenagers has changed. Thirty years after the publication of The Bigger Book of Lydia, the girls have come out of their towers. They may still be the smartest and the most forthright people in the village, but they are not happy. They often hide their disappointment and anger. If they are unusually sensitive, or especially perceptive, if they feel too keenly the messages of the culture, they will find relief in all manner of self-abuse, including cutting and starving themselves. These girls are skeptical of romance as an antidote, or a way to become more whole. They are wary, as they should be. They are confused, as they must be. They will not be overprotected or restricted. But the forest is a dangerous place, and the village beyond is not much better, not if a girl is complicated, opinionated, unconventional. Not if she has a chip on her shoulder. Not if she has a few tattoos or visible piercings. Not if she is loud. Not if her hair is blue.

*    *    *

In Camilla, the author describes the blossoming of Camilla’s sexuality, her intense longing for something deeper than friendship, and her curiosity about both romantic love and physical attachment. In this state, she falls in love with Frank, the brother of her best friend, a complicated boy, deeply philosophical and equally searching—just the sort of boy a girl like Camilla would be drawn to. Her feelings are returned, and the resulting relationship is very intense and sensual without ever becoming sexual. Not that Camilla doesn’t know about sex or understand its power; her own family has been torn apart by an affair her mother has had with a younger man. Despite this, Camilla savors the preliminaries of a real romance. She loves Frank’s voice, his seriousness; she is thrilled to hold hands with him. Their conversation is electric, full of mystery. Why did he say that? What did he mean? When will I see him again? What does he think of me? L’Engle captures the way time stands still between two young people who are kindred spirits, equally attracted to each other.

Camilla’s attraction to Frank leads to a more radical movement away from her parents, and this movement echoes the fairy tale motif — the girl who must leave a place of safety and isolation (tower, cellar, locked room), sometimes boldly, sometimes in stealth, in order to become a woman. This element in Camilla is not surprising given L’Engle’s deep appreciation for fairy tales and her extended use of their patterns in her eventual books for children, but it is especially strong and apropos in this novel of the 1950s. The reader can quietly cheer for Camilla in escape mode, wearing her red beret (a symbol of sexual adventure) and leaving her ineffective parents behind.

There is no sense, no underlying message, that the author feels that sex between these two young people would be morally wrong. Rather, like many writers of the 1940s and 1950s, L’Engle is more interested in the challenges to identity that leaving a sheltered state bring. The novel moves in and out of the realm of myth and fairy tale, where explicit sex is unnecessary. In fact, Frank disappears without ever having kissed Camilla. Yet they have shared a remarkably powerful connection—Camilla as the star gazer; Frank as her brooding, wandering prince.

*    *    *

I remember a long-ago conversation with my sister while we were still young women, and before I had written a novel of adolescence. We swore that we would not forget, if and when we had our own daughters, the power of first love. And I did not so much forget it as I was uneasy writing about it — the mother in me perhaps. I did not want to encourage my readers to enter that place of obsession and treachery and, yes, sometimes ecstasy, without having a clear way out. And I did not know yet, as a writer and an adult woman, how to faithfully re-create the misery and confusion of my own early sexual experiences. For these reasons, I was very well-suited for the phase of young adult literature that I came up in, an era of sensitive and articulate girl narrators who wanted romantic connection without the complications of having sexual intercourse. In love with love, yes. Sexually curious, perhaps. But sexually active, never.

Such a sensible approach! In my novels of yore, I could comfortably celebrate the innocence of these trysts. I could create girls, and also boys, who were longing for a partner, something beyond friendship, certainly, but also with the understanding that they were not ready for sex and did not need it.

Imagine. Young women who are strong in their innocence and unwaveringly hopeful about what is coming — their unfolding sexual lives.

In the final page of Camilla, our star gazer is back in her New York bedroom, studying Betelgeuse, a star in the constellation of Orion. Frank is gone, and she has turned to astronomy in her grief. She has learned many things. She has endured many disappointments. She is back in the tower, but no longer a child. She is looking up at the stars, intact and unharmed. It is a good place for her. She will stay there a little while longer, preparing for whatever comes next without regret or shame. Then she will resume the journey out.

I wish her well. I miss her.

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14. Review of The Iridescence of Birds

 maclachlan iridescence of birds Review of The Iridescence of BirdsThe Iridescence of Birds:
A Book About Henri Matisse

by Patricia MacLachlan; 
illus. by Hadley Hooper
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    40 pp.
10/14    978-1-59643-948-1    $17.99

“If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived / in a dreary town…” Thus begins this speculative exploration of the painter’s early encounters with color, worded as a book-length query. It’s his mother who brightens Henri’s gray surroundings (“Painted plates to hang on the walls…she let you mix the colors”), brings him fruits and flowers to arrange, and swathes a room in red rugs. Most inspiring are the changeable colors of pigeons (given to Henri by his father). The brief text culminates with a second question: “Would it be a surprise that you became / A fine painter who painted / Light / and / Movement / And the iridescence of birds?” While MacLachlan addresses these mind-opening thoughts to the reader, Hooper visualizes what might have influenced the artist-to-be. Using relief prints and digital techniques with a decisive and economical rough-edged black line and colors that echo Matisse’s evolving palette, Hooper sets the happily involved small boy amongst images that become bolder and brighter as the book progresses while fluidly incorporating the painter’s own imagery. It’s a spacious and beautiful book, as much a lesson for adults on visual enrichment and nurturing a creative spirit as an introductory biography for children. Back matter comprises notes by both author and illustrator and a list of four biographies for children.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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15. Grandfather Gandhi

gandhi grandfather gandhi Grandfather GandhiLet’s get the hard stuff out of the way at the beginning: I am not 100% sure this book is eligible for Caldecott. Yes, it’s published by an American press in the United States, and the illustrator is American. One of the authors (Bethany Hegedus) is American, and the other (Arun Gandhi) lives in Rochester, NY, according to  the flap copy. I cannot find a reference to his citizenship on his website or on other websites. That means the book is most likely eligible. I think.

Here are the most common questions that crop up when members of the committee are checking eligibility: actual publication date vs. copyright  date (especially confusing if a book comes out late in December or early in January); residency or nationality of the creator; whether some of the book has been previously published in another format. If there is any question, the chair asks ALSC to vet the book. Books are vetted through ALSC, and (AS FAR AS I KNOW) a book is either deemed eligible or it is not. That information becomes part of the confidentiality agreement of the committee. I think that’s how it works. (People who know better, chime in!)

That means, when random folks state that a book is or is not eligible, folks might be right. Or wrong. For all we know, we could be yakking about books that are not even eligible. Or we might think a book is not eligible when it actually is. The committee will not be talking.

But, back to Grandfather Gandhi: because the book was published in the United States and the illustrator is American, I assume the book is eligible for Caldecott consideration. I was pretty excited when I read KT Horning’s Horn Book review way back in the spring. Her description of the art made my fibers-loving heart beat faster. She wrote, “The graceful narrative is nearly outdone by the vivid mixed-media illustrations, rendered in watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, cotton yarn, gouache, pencil, tea and tinfoil.” Even the yarn is spun on an Indian book charkha (one of the earliest types of spinning wheels). Yup. Yarn. I love yarn.

Spinning wheels fill the endpapers, and that handspun cotton is on the first page, resting in Bapu’s (Gandhi’s) knobby hands. And that cotton, in various forms, shows up on many pages — in a large bale of cotton, on Gandhi’s own charkha, in cloth, growing in fields, even as Bapu’s mustache. In other places, other string makes an appearance, the most memorable being black string in a ragged tangle to symbolize Arun’s frustrated fidgeting at early morning prayers and during a soccer game where he feels wronged and grabs a rock in frustration. (And later, those black tangles show up as Arun’s written schoolwork.)

Shadows play into many of the spreads, forcing the reader’s eye to slow down and consider the whole composition. Imagine that a child is thumbing through the book. She or he will just have to stop, read the words, and figure out why the shadow of a cowboy is growing out of Arun’s back. It’s a provocative illustration, but it is exactly the right image for daydreaming Arun. I love the cover image where Arun is walking on the road toward the sun with his grandfather, each with an arm or two behind his back, shadows engulfing much of the path. Interesting shadows of workers, animals, folks in the market, and people meditating draw the eye to the whole page and encourage close inspection of each spread.

Beyond the repeated shadow motif, Turk includes spindles in many of the spreads as a symbol of both the grandfather and for balance in life. So, whether Grandfather is spinning a tale comparing electricity to anger or is actually spinning cotton into thread, the reader has those spinning images to hold onto. Cut-paper abstract images further deepen the emotional pull of the illustrations.

This is a story that holds true to the child’s perspective — a child who is jealous of other people’s pull on his grandfather’s attention, frustrated with his schoolwork, and embarrassed at his inability to control his anger. It’s also a heartfelt introduction to the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

Even if this one does not end up with a shiny sticker on it — and I know it’s a long shot — I hope you will take a second look at it and let us know what you think.

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16. Historical fiction and nonfiction

histfic nf 2014 550x384 Historical fiction and nonfiction

Next Monday (November 10), Lauren’s class will be discussing several books. The theme for the day is “The past made present” so they will look at both historical fiction and nonfiction — including one book that’s a hybrid of the two.

Everyone will be reading One Crazy Summer; they will choose to read either No Crystal Stair or Bomb; and they are being asked to explore (but not necessarily read in full) either Claudette Colvin or Marching to Freedom.

We welcome all of you to join the discussion on these posts:

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17. One Crazy Summer

williamsgarcia onecrazysummer 198x300 One Crazy SummerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
In the “crazy summer” of 1968, three black sisters set out from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to reconnect with their estranged mother, an active member of the Black Panther political movement. How does Williams-Garcia balance historical events with the girls’ personal journeys? How do both these aspects of the historical novel interact?

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18. No Crystal Stair

Nelson Crystal Stair 212x300 No Crystal StairNo Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Documents, photos, fictionalized and true accounts of historical figures and events are woven together in this portrait of Nelson’s larger-than-life great uncle Lewis Michaux. What to you make of the blending of elements and genres in this work (which I described as “defying categorization” when presenting the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction in 2012)?

 

Note from Lolly: Here is a link to Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s and R. Gregory Christie’s acceptance speeches when this book won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award:

YouTube video
Print version

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19. Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 Edition

This column is part of a series of recommended board book roundups, formerly published twice a year, now published every season. You can find the previous installments here. Don’t miss Viki Ash’s primer “What Makes a Good Board Book?” from the March/April 2010 Horn Book Magazine.

baker 123peas boardbk2 Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 Edition1-2-3 Peas
by Keith Baker
Little Simon     36 pp.
5/14     978-1-4424-9928-7     $7.99
“Five peas painting— / brush, brush, brush, / Six peas traveling— / rush, rush, rush.” In this follow-up to Baker’s LMNO Peas, the peas row, splash, build, nap, and more, on and around large-size numerals from one to ten, then skip counting by tens to one hundred. The rhyming text bounces along as the spring-green peas frolic in the lively illustrations. The smaller trim size means much of the art’s amusing details are harder to see, but the colorful pages and fun-to-read-aloud rhymes will delight small listeners.

horacek time4bed boardbk Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionTime for Bed: Flip-Flap Fun
by Petr Horáček
Candlewick     16 pp.
9/14     978-0-7636-6779-5     $7.99
First it’s “time to play.” Then, after putting “away my toys,” it’s “time for supper.” A little boy’s recognizable end-of-the-day routine plays out in Horáček’s simple, comforting text and boldly colored illustrations. The thick graduated pages make it easy for small hands to interact with the book. After a bath, teeth brushing, and a story, the final page-turn shows the narrator for the first time, tucked into bed and gently reminding listeners that it’s “time to say good night.”

laden peekazoo boardbk Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionPeek-a-Zoo
by Nina Laden
Chronicle     24 pp.
3/14     978-1-4521-1175-9     $6.99
If a board book could be a considered a cult classic, Laden’s Peek-a Who? (2000) would be one. In this animal-themed follow-up (in a small format perfect for little hands), the pattern is the same. “Peek a” on the left-hand page faces what looks like a linocut design; a die-cut hole hints at what’s revealed on the following spread. “Mew!” accompanies a tiger; “Bamboo!” captions an image of a panda munching on its favorite food. A kangaroo and a cockatoo are also featured, as well as the cute creature reflected in the mirror on the final page: “You, too!” For babies and toddlers, this trick never grows old.

carle pandabear boardbk Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionPanda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?
by Bill Martin Jr; illus. by Eric Carle
Holt     28 pp.
8/14     978-08050-9950-8     $12.99
This lap-size board book’s rhyming text follows the familiar pattern of the author/illustrator team’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear. A panda, water buffalo, spider monkey, whooping crane, and six other endangered species parade across the pages; at the end, a dreaming child sees all ten animals “wild and free.” Carle’s striking, brilliantly colored illustrations are as eye-catching as always, making this ideal for use with groups.

mckee elmer boardbkjpg Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionElmer
by David McKee
HarperFestival      32 pp.
8/14     978-0-06-232405-4     $7.99
Available in a board-book edition for the first time, Elmer has been everyone’s favorite patchwork elephant for twenty-five years. Though the other elephants in the herd love his jokes and games, Elmer wonders if they’re laughing at him because he looks different. He tries to blend in by covering up his colorful hide, but he can’t disguise what’s really special about him. The message about accepting yourself and celebrating differences isn’t likely to interest babies; older toddlers, however, will welcome Elmer into their herd.

mcphail babypigpigtalks boardbk Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionBaby Pig Pig Talks
by David McPhail
Charlesbridge     14 pp.
8/14     978-1-58089-597-2     $6.95

 

 

mcphail babypigpigwalks boardbk Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionBaby Pig Pig Walks
by David McPhail
Charlesbridge     14 pp.
8/14      978-1-58089-596-5     $6.95

Baby Pig Pig (Pig Pig Returns) reaches two developmental milestones in these original board books. In Talks, mother pig names everything they see during a stroller walk: “Snake. Taxi. Tricycle.” Baby Pig Pig repeats after her, sort of: “Hissa. Honka. Dinga.” An overly friendly dog gets him talking — “Mama!” In Walks, Baby Pig Pig wants to explore the world beyond his playpen. After some wobbly steps, he climbs out and heads off “…down the hallway…toward the kitchen” and right into his mother’s welcoming arms. The small adventures have just enough tension to keep little walkers and talkers enthralled.

sayre rahrah boardbk Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionRah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant
by April Pulley Sayre
Little Simon      34 pp.
7/14     978-1-4424-9927-0     $7.99
“Oh boy, bok choy! / Brussels sprout. / Broccoli. Cauliflower. / Shout it out!” Kids may not want to eat their greens, but they’ll dig right in to this colorful feast for the eyes and ears. Sayre’s energetic rhymes are accompanied by appetizing photos of a variety of veggies, many of which may be unfamiliar to small children. Bring this book along on your next trip to the farmers’ market and see how many vegetables you can find. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire some taste testing!

stiles todayimgoingtowear boardbk Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionToday I’m Going to Wear…
by Dan Stiles
POW!     18 pp.
10/14     978-1-57687-718-0     $9.95
“Today I think I’m going to wear a yellow ribbon in my hair.” In a pleasantly rhyming text, a little girl describes her hand-picked outfit, which includes a polka-dot cowboy hat, a too-small coat, “in case of sun, a parasol,” mittens, and rain boots. Stiles’s vibrant graphic illustrations are hard to resist; their hip, retro vibe will appeal to grownups and young kids alike.

wells drduck boardbook  Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 EditionA Visit to Dr. Duck
by Rosemary Wells
Candlewick     30 pp.
8/14     978-0-7636-7229-4     7.99
Little guinea pig Felix eats too many “chocolate blimpies” and doesn’t feel well the next day. His mama tries chamomile tea and fresh air; finally, she takes him to see Dr. Duck. Originally published in hardcover as Felix Feels Better (2000), this edition’s title change puts the focus on going to the doctor — and Felix’s nervousness about the experience will resonate with young listeners. Wells’s comforting tone and warm illustrations will reassure toddler and preschool patients.

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20. New York Times Best Illustrated list announced

Here it is! http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2014/10/30/books/review/2014-BEST-8.html?_r=1&

Usually this list matches up pretty well with our Calling Caldecott list with one or two big surprises. This year I am finding more surprises than matches. But you can be sure we will be locating the books that weren’t so much on our radar and will weigh in as we get our hands on them.

This list always seems to be a bit idiosyncratic. The team of three judges is comprised of one critic and two illustrators. This year they were Jennifer Brown (Bank Street College, Shelf Awareness), Brian Floca, and Jerry Pinkney. When Roger was on this committee, he said that rather than discussing the books together, each member added their favorites to the list, pretty much split evenly. I don’t know if this is how it always works, but the result is always an interesting list.

Please let us know in the comments which of these you love (or don’t) and why. Now I have to go look for some books…

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21. Millie’s Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app review

millie tricks and treats menu Millies Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app reviewIntrepid adventurer dog Millie is back in Halloween-themed offering Millie’s Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 (Millie Was Here series; Megapops, 2012).

Knock on each of ten front doors in Millie’s neighborhood to spin a game show–style wheel and receive either a video “trick” (e.g., “Millie Performs an Amazing Yo-Yo Trick,” “Millie Teleports All Over the Place”) or “treat” (spooky-fied bacon treats such as “Frankenbacon”). Judging from the not-too-scary decorations, it seems Millie’s neighborhood includes friendly families of werewolves, mad scientists, aliens, and vampires. A theremin-and-harpsichord waltz continues the Halloween-y mood. Every screen also offers a scratch-off picture of Millie modeling a different costume and a hidden sticker of a creepy-cute creature. Collect badges by finding all of the stickers and reading through the entire app. Each read-through offers slightly different content as the app cycles through a wide range of trick and treat videos and costumed Millie snapshots.

millie tricks and treats mad scientist door Millies Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app review

Trick-or-treat!

millie tricks and treats open door Millies Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app review

a trick: “Millie Knits You a Nice, Warm Sweater”

As in previous Millie Was Here apps, the humor lies in the juxtaposition of the off-screen narrator’s bombastic voice-over and the equally over-the-top title cards with Millie’s mundane doggy activities and interests. In the trick “Millie Turns into a Vicious Werewolf,” for instance, the small, snuggly dog looks up at a projected moon while a horror-movie-worthy wolf howl plays. Many of the videos show hands of human assistants offering treats and helping Millie perform her various tricks; the intentionally low-tech effects are part of the series’ considerable charm.

The navigation is straightforward — just forward and back buttons — and the app requires no reading. Music, narration, text highlighting, touch hints, and sticker hints may be turned on or off and volume may be adjusted (some of these settings are accessible from the navigation bar at the bottom of each screen, others in a parent-locked info section). A “bedtime mode” dims the screen slightly and disables the sticker hunt for a more soothing experience. Tips for keeping pets happy and safe on “Howl-o-ween” are appended.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 6.0 or later); $0.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

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22. Week in Review, October 27th-31st

banner weekinreview 550x100 Week in Review, October 27th 31st

This week on hbook.com…

Preview the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

John Green’s 2014 Sutherland lecture: “Does YA Mean Anything Anymore? Genre in a Digitized World”

Self service“: What self-publishers don’t know about children’s books (Nov./Dec. 2014 editorial)

Board Book Roundup: Fall 2014 Edition

Nonfiction Notes: Unexplained phenomena, memoir, domestic animals, big ideas, and cookery

Reviews of the Week:

  • Picture Book:
  • Fiction: 
  • Nonfiction:
  • App: Millie’s Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2

Read Roger: What’s Going On

Out of the Box:

Calling Caldecott:

Lolly’s Classroom: Science and stereotypes

Events calendar

See overviews of previous weeks by clicking the tag week in review. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on our articles!

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23. Halloween boooOOOoooks roundup

all hallows read 2014 Halloween boooOOOoooks roundupHalloween is here — and so are Halloween books! Here are some recent recommended titles for you to share (perhaps through All Hallow’s Read?) with your little goblins.

Horn BOO! 2014

Baby Horn BOO! 2014: Halloween-y board books

Halloween-themed Notes from the Horn Book: 5Q for Julie Berry, eerie places, off-the-wall picture books, atmospheric audiobooks, and YA supernatural baddies

Millie’s Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app

Click on the tag Halloween books for previous years’ recommendations.

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24. Baby Horn BOO! 2014

In “Horn BOO!” we recommend our favorite new Halloween titles for big(ger) kids; here are some new festive board books for the littlest trick-or-treaters. For more Halloween board books, check out last year’s “Baby Horn BOO!” — and for more great board books to share all year round, see our our fall board book roundup.

rockwell apples and pumpkins Baby Horn BOO! 2014Author Anne Rockwell and illustrator Lizzy Rockwell’s seasonal classic Apples and Pumpkins (1989) follows a pigtailed, rosy-cheeked little girl and her parents on a visit to a local farm, where they pick apples from the orchard and a pumpkin from the patch. On Halloween night, the family puts out their newly carved jack-o’-lantern, the girl’s mother hands out the shiny red apples, and the girl trick-or-treats on their street. As in the original picture book, this new board-book edition showcases the spare text and autumn-hued illustrations with plenty of breathing room. (Little Simon)

dewdney llama llama trick or treat Baby Horn BOO! 2014Anna Dewney’s Llama Llama Trick or Treat is one in a series of six board-book adventures starring the beloved little guy. Here Llama Llama, on a shopping excursion with his llama mama, excitedly scopes out Halloween decorations and other kids’ ensembles. He test-drives costumes (“An astronaut? A bumblebee?”) and picks out the perfect pumpkin. Back at home, he and his friends carve their jack-o’-lanterns and prepare candy to hand out. Llama Llama then goes trick-or-treating in vampire garb and with parents in tow. Dewdney’s brief rhyming text and textured paintings — full of her familiar anthropomorphized animal characters — make for a toddler-friendly introduction to Halloween festivities. (Viking)

fry itsy bitsy pumpkin Baby Horn BOO! 2014In The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin written by Sonali Fry and illustrated by Sanja Rescek, the titular jack-o’-lantern accidentally rolls away from home. A little-girl witch on her broomstick stops to give the pumpkin a ride back to his patch, where the warm-toned illustrations show him reunited with his smiling jack-o’-lantern family and several friendly critters in Halloween attire. The “Itsy-Bitsy Spider”–based verse may be a bit twee for parents, but toddlers will catch on quickly and sing along. (Little Simon)

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25. Review of The Farmer and the Clown

frazee farmer and the clown Review of The Farmer and the Clownstar2 Review of The Farmer and the Clown The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    32 pp.
10/14    978-1-4424-9744-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-9745-0    $10.99

Appearances can be deceiving in this superb wordless book from two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Frazee. At sunset, a grim-faced, pitchfork-wielding farmer comes to the rescue when a circus train hits a bump and ejects a jolly-looking toddler clown. The contrast is almost comical: a tall elderly man wearing a frown and a flat black hat holding hands with a miniature clown wearing a painted-on grin and a pointy red hat. At bedtime, the two wash their faces, and off comes the clown makeup, revealing a scared and vulnerable child and wiping away any hint of humor from our tale — for the moment. In Frazee’s pencil and gouache illustration the characters are arrestingly transformed: the child now clearly unhappy and the farmer’s softened features registering concern. The next morning, the farmer reveals a playful side as he essentially makes a clown of himself to get a real smile from his young guest. When the circus train returns later that day, the body language of the new friends expresses a powerful clash of emotions: the child’s ebullience brings both his feet off the ground, while the farmer, earthbound, stands stock-still and stoic. The two exchange hugs, wave goodbye, and…how the heck can Frazee break readers’ hearts like this? Never fear: as the farmer walks pensively away, viewers see that he’s being followed by a circus monkey, who gestures to us not to tell — surely a tip of the hat to Rathmann’s classic (and also wordless) Good Night, Gorilla (rev. 7/94). Using only pictures, Frazee’s book — both spare and astonishingly rich — offers a riveting narrative, characters to care deeply about, and an impressive range of emotion.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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