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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. Starred reviews, March/April 2016 Horn Book Magazine

thunderboyjr

The following books will receive starred reviews in the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie; illus. by Yuyi Morales (Little, Brown)

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes; illus. by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow)

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex; illus. by Christian Robinson (Porter/Roaring Brook)

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; illus. by Lauren Castillo (Two Lions)

Booked by Kwame Alexander (Houghton)

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry (Viking)

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick)

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Candlewick)

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty (Levine/Scholastic)

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill; illus. by Francis Vallejo (Candlewick)

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2. Review of The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton

vernick_kid from diamond streetThe Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton
by Audrey Vernick; 
illus. by Steven Salerno
Primary   Clarion   40 pp.
3/16   978-0-544-61163-4   $17.99   g

Edith Houghton was “magic on the field,” a baseball legend of the 1920s. Playing starting shortstop for the 
all-women’s professional team the Philadelphia Bobbies, she drew fans to the ballpark with her impressive offensive and defensive talent. Besides that, Edith was just ten years old; her uniform was too big, her pants kept falling down, and her too-long sleeves encumbered her play. But she was good, and the older players took “The Kid” under their wing. And that’s the real story here, told through Vernick’s conversational text. It’s not so much about the baseball action but the team — barnstorming through the Northwest U.S. playing against male teams; experiencing ship life aboard the President Jefferson on the way to Japan; playing baseball in Japan; and learning about Japanese culture. Salerno’s appealing charcoal, ink, and gouache illustrations evoke a bygone era of baseball with smudgy-looking uniforms, sepia tones, and double-page spreads for a touch of ballpark grandeur. An informative author’s note tells more of Houghton’s story — the other women’s teams she played for, her job as a major league scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, and being honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. An engaging story that reminds readers that “baseball isn’t just numbers and statistics, men and boys. Baseball is also ten-year-old girls, marching across a city to try out for a team intended for players twice their age.”

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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3. Audrey Vernick on The Kid from Diamond Street

vernick_kid from diamond streetIn our January/February 2016 issue, reviewer Dean Schneider talked with author Audrey Vernick about her clear love of America’s favorite pastime. Read the full review of The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton here.

Dean Schneider: You’ve written a few books about baseball. Have you always been a fan? Or did you become one after you started writing about the sport?

Audrey Vernick: One of my favorite things about being a grownup is no one can make me write about explorers. I write about baseball because I truly love it and have for decades. While I am a devoted fan of a team I’ll not mention by name in a Boston-based publication, I also love the game’s rich, textured history and the individual stories folded within it.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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4. From the Editor – February 2016

Roger_EdBriant_191x300In honor of Black History Month, we are daily posting key articles from the Horn Book archives about the African American experience in children’s and young adult literature. Up today: Augusta Baker’s “The Changing Image of the Black in Children’s Literature,” a speech she gave in 1974 in honor of the Horn Book’s fiftieth anniversary, and an excellent summation of how far African American children’s literature had come since she compiled her first bibliography on the topic in 1938. I hope you enjoy Baker’s astute survey and all the valuable contributions website editors Elissa Gershowitz and Katie Bircher are uncovering, each tagged HBBlackHistoryMonth16.

roger_signature
Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

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5. Of magic and moxie

These books take place in fantastical worlds, but the protagonists’ pluck may feel familiar to many intermediate and middle-school readers.

anderson_my diary from the edge of the worldTwelve-year-old Gracie Lockwood, the high-spirited heroine of Jodi Lynn Anderson‘s My Diary from the Edge of the World, lives in a world that’s like ours but with a few key differences (involving dragons and poltergeists, for example). When an ominous Dark Cloud seems to portend her brother’s death, Gracie, her family, and a classmate set off on a cross-country Winnebago trip in search of a guardian angel and a ship that will help them escape. Anderson lets the intricate details of Gracie’s world emerge gradually through her protagonist’s sharp, sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant diary entries. (Simon/Aladdin, 9–12 years)

nesbet_wrinkled crownIn the village in Anne Nesbet’s The Wrinkled Crown, girls mustn’t touch the traditional stringed instrument, the lourka, before they’re twelve for fear of death. Linny, full of “music fire,” has secretly built a lourka and expects to die, but instead, it’s her friend Sayra who begins to fade into the unreachable realm called Away. Nesbet’s fable explores the relationship of science, logic, and imagination; a cozy, personable narrative voice punctuates the drama with light humor. (HarperCollins/Harper, 9–12 years)

jinks_last boglerIn Catherine Jinks’s The Last Bogler, bogling is now respectable, and Ned Roach has signed on as Alfred Bunce’s apprentice. Ned must lure child-eating bogles with song so Alfred can dispatch them—and that’s only one of the dangers, for Alfred has drawn the attention of London’s criminal underworld. Fans of How to Catch a Bogle and A Plague of Bogles will appreciate Jinks’s accessible prose, colorful with Victorian slang; her inventive, briskly paced plot; and the gloom and charm of this trilogy-ender’s quasi-Victorian setting. (Houghton, 9–12 years)

deutsch_hereville how mirka caught a fishMirka, star of Barry Deutsch‘s humorous, fantastical, Orthodox-Jewish-themed Hereville graphic novel series is back in Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish. Her stepmother, Fruma, warns her to stay out of the woods while babysitting her half-sister Layele; so of course, curious Mirka drags Layele right in there with her. The girls encounter a wishing fish who once lost a battle of wits with a young Fruma and who now has a wicked plan to gain power through Layele. Expressive, often amusing comic-style illustrations do much to convey each scene’s tone and highlight important characters and objects. The eventual solution requires verbal gymnastics as much as heroics and compassion from Mirka. (Abrams/Amulet, 9–14 years)

From the February 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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6. Winning sports picture books

Cheating marathoners; a trailblazing sports reporter; a girl shortstop; and an illegal integrated b-ball game. Here are some nonfiction sports picture books that capture the dramatic action both on and off the track/field/court.

mccarthy_wildest race everMeghan McCarthy’s The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon describes America’s first Olympic marathon, which took place in St. Louis during the World’s Fair. It was a zany one, with cheating runners (one caught a ride in a car), contaminated water, pilfered peaches, and strychnine poisoning. McCarthy’s chatty text focuses on a few of the frontrunners and other colorful characters, shown in her recognizable cartoonlike acrylic illustrations. A well-paced — and winning — nonfiction picture book. (Simon/Wiseman, 5–8 years)

vernick_kid from diamond streetEdith Houghton was “magic on the field,” a baseball legend of the 1920s. Playing starting shortstop for the all-women’s professional team the Philadelphia Bobbies, she drew fans to the ballpark with her impressive talent. Besides that, Edith — “The Kid” — was just ten years old. The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick relates, in conversational text, Houghton’s life on the team. Appealing digitally colored charcoal, ink, and gouache illustrations by Steven Salerno evoke a bygone era of baseball. (Clarion, 5–8 years)

macy_miss mary reporting“It seemed that Mary was born loving sports,” writes Sue Macy in her affectionate portrait of a pioneering journalist, Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber. It was during WWII that Garber “got her big break” running the sports page of Winston-Salem’s Twin City Sentinel while the (male) sportswriters were fighting in the war. For much of the next six decades, she worked in sports reporting, blazing trails for female journalists. Macy’s succinct text is informative and engaging, her regard for her subject obvious. C. F. Payne’s soft, sepia-toned, mixed-media illustrations — part Norman Rockwell, part caricature — provide the right touch of nostalgia. (Simon/Wiseman, 5–8 years)

coy_game changerJohn Coy’s Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game (based on a 1996 New York Times article by Scott Ellsworth) tells the dramatic story of an illegal college basketball game planned and played in secret in Jim Crow–era North Carolina. On a Sunday morning in 1944, the (white) members of the Duke University Medical School basketball team (considered “the best in the state”) slipped into the gym at the North Carolina College of Negroes to play the Eagles, a close-to-undefeated black team coached by future Hall of Famer John McClendon. Coy’s succinct narrative is well paced, compelling, and multilayered, focusing on the remarkable game but also placing it in societal and historical context. Illustrations by Randy DuBurke nicely capture the story’s atmosphere and its basketball action. (Carolrhoda, 6–9 years)

From the February 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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7. Apps for morning, noon, and night

Whether following friendly characters through a day of fun or settling users down for sweet dreams, these apps make perfect additions to preschoolers’ own busy days.

fiete day at the farmIn Fiete: A Day on the Farm, children help sailor Fiete and his farmer friends, Hein and Hinnerk, throughout their busy day. Users wake the snoring men in the quiet early morning, then assist them as they gather eggs, shear sheep, pick apples, milk a cow, and, finally, load each item into a delivery truck before settling in around a campfire. It’s all very low-key and low-stress; the sound effects are quiet nature noises, and background movement is generally of the gentle swaying-in-the-breeze variety. The visuals are all rounded shapes and subdued colors (until the glorious pink sunset). (Ahoiii, 3–6 years)

goldilocks and little bearGoldilocks and Little Bear gives Little Bear a plot of his own, parallel to Goldilocks’s: he wanders off and finds himself at Goldilocks’s house, where he samples her family’s pancakes, wardrobes, and reading material. Hold the device one way for a scene in Goldilocks’s tale, then flip it upside down for a complementary scene in Little Bear’s. The stories converge when Goldilocks and Little Bear, fleeing each other’s parents, run smack into each other and strike up a friendship. Engaging narration, dialogue by child voice actors, plenty of visual and textual humor, and upbeat music round out the app. (Nosy Crow, 3–6 years)

sago mini fairy talesSago Mini Fairy Tales invites users to guide a fairy-winged kitty horizontally and vertically through a nighttime fairyland scene, discovering fairy-tale and folklore–related surprises along the way. These interactive moments occasionally mash up fairy-tale tropes, with very funny results (e.g., an ogre tries on Cinderella’s glass slipper). While full of preschool-perfect humor, this not-too-rambunctious app is a great choice for bedtime: the landscape is all purples, blues, and greens, and the screen dims a bit at the edges; subtle cricket chirping provides the background sound. (Sago Mini, 3–6 years)

steam train dream trainSherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site fame, chug along with the digital book app edition of their goodnight-train picture book Steam Train, Dream Train. Just as with the Construction Site digital book app, this one includes soothing narration that can be turned on or off; you can also record your own. There’s some dynamic motion and zooming in and out of the scenes, but it’s all fairly subdued, as befitting a bedtime book for lovers of: trains, monkeys, other zoo animals, dinosaurs, ice cream, hula hoops, balls, and most other kid-friendly items. (Oceanhouse Media, 3–6 years)

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8. Not your average problem novel

Facing illness, sexuality, family issues, and life-and-death situations, the following teen protagonists maturely and deeply explore the world around them while also looking within themselves.

downham_unbecomingUntil the hospital called, asking her mother to pick up elderly Mary, seventeen-year-old Katie — star of Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming — didn’t even know she had a grandmother. Katie, her brother, and their mum bring home Mary, who is suffering from dementia. As Katie learns more about her grandmother’s and mother’s pasts, she struggles with her own secret: she is pretty certain she is gay. Told from a limited third-person perspective, the book offers implicit commentary on the historical and contemporary constraints on young women’s lives and their freedom to love freely. (Scholastic/Fickling, 14 years and up)

mcgovern_rules for 50-50 chancesIn Kate McGovern’s Rules for 50/50 Chances, Rose’s mom has advanced Huntington’s disease and Caleb’s mom and little sisters have sickle cell disease. The teens meet at the annual Walk for Rare Genes fundraiser, and their immediate attraction soon develops into something more meaningful. Rose spends much of the novel locked in indecision about whether or not to be tested for the Huntington’s gene, and what the results will mean for her future plans: college, a dance career, a relationship with Caleb. Rose’s realistically confused and complex anger and grief about her mother’s decline adds poignancy to the teen’s dilemma. (Farrar, 14 years and up)

kain_instructions for the end of the worldIn Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain, Nicole’s father is a survivalist who believes wilderness skills are the surest protection from a dangerous world. When Dad decides to leave the grid altogether, moving the family to a ramshackle forest homestead, Mom balks and runs off. Dad goes after her, leaving Nicole and her younger sister, Izzy, behind. Nicole worries about Izzy’s involvement with teens living at a nearby commune; at the same time a brooding resident there named Wolf stirs up her own rebellious yearnings. Most chapters feature multiple narrators (Nicole, Izzy, Wolf, and others), but Nicole’s voice provides a steady through line to follow her genuine and compelling struggle. (St. Martin’s Griffin, 14 years and up)

hitchcock_smell of other people's housesSensory details (especially scents) evoke the physical and emotional landscape — 1970s Birch Park, Alaska — in Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses. Four distinct first-person narrative voices breathe life into the adolescent protagonists. Escaping her alcoholic father’s abuse, Dora finds a welcome haven in Dumpling’s family’s fish camp. A few stolen nights with handsome Ray Stevens leaves sixteen-year-old Ruth pregnant and alone. The characters’ engaging individual stories, thematically linked by loss and yearning, are enriched by the tales’ intersections, and are grounded in emotional honesty. (Random/Lamb, 14 years and up)

From the February 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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9. Books mentioned in the February 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Five questions for Tanita Davis
Peas and Carrots by Tanita S. Davis, Knopf, 13–16 years.
Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, Knopf, 13–16 years.

Not your average problem novel
Unbecoming by Jenny Downham, Scholastic, 14 years and up.
Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern, Farrar, 14 years and up.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, Random/Lamb, 14 years and up.
Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain, St. Martin’s Griffin, 14 years and up.

Apps for morning, noon, and night
Fiete: A Day on the Farm, Ahoiii, 3–6 years.
Goldilocks and Little Bear, Nosy Crow, 3–6 years.Sago Mini Fairy Tales, Sago Mini, 3–6 years.
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld, Oceanhouse Media, 3–6 years.
Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld, Oceanhouse Media, 3–6 years.

Winning sports picture books
The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon by Megan McCarthy, Simon/Wiseman, 5–8 years.
The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton written by Audrey Vernick, illus. by Steven Salerno, Clarion, 5–8 years.
Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber written by Sue Macy, illus. by C. F. Payne, Simon/Wiseman, 5–8 years.
Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game written by John Coy, illus. by Randy DuBurke, Carolrhoda, 6–9 years.

Of magic and mettle
My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Simon/Aladdin, 9–12 years.
The Wrinkled Crown by Anne Nesbet, HarperCollins/Harper, 9–12 years.
The Last Bogler written by Catherine Jinks, illus. by Sarah Watts, Houghton, 9–12 years.
Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish by Barry Deutsch, Abrams/Amulet, 9–14 years.

These titles were featured in the February 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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10. Happy Year of the Monkey!

We’re a day late (blame atrocious Boston weather) but we’re wishing a happy Year of the Monkey to all who celebrate Lunar New Year! Eat some dumplings and share a book from this list of titles featuring the holiday, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide.

Picture books

compestine_runaway wokSet in long-ago China, Ying Chang Compestine’s The Runaway Wok tells of Ming Zhang and his poor but deserving family. On New Year’s Eve, Ming buys a magical wok, which promptly sets out to transfer riches from the greedy Li family to the Zhangs, who share it with others. The detailed, vigorous illustrations by Sebastià Serra reflect the mischievous wok’s energy. A recipe and Chinese New Year festival facts are appended. (Dutton, 2011)

compestine_crouching tigerAlso by Ying Chang Compestine, Crouching Tiger stars Vinson, whose grandfather, visiting from China, calls him by his Chinese name, Ming Da. Grandpa teaches his impatient grandson the slow, careful exercises of tai chi, and eventually he and Ming Da play a pivotal role in the Chinese New Year parade. Yan Nascimbene’s realistic, luminous watercolor illustrations show the family’s balance of the traditional and the modern. (Candlewick, 2011)

li-qiong_new year's reunionIn Yu Li-Qiong’s A New Year’s Reunion, Little Maomao and her mother prepare both for Chinese New Year and for her father’s annual return home (he works far away). Zhu Cheng-Liang’s harmonious gouache paintings use lots of red and bright colors. This award-winning import is an excellent introduction to Chinese New Year in China and a poignant, thoughtful examination of the joys and sorrows of families living apart. (Candlewick, 2011)

T175 SC AW AW-1In Bringing in the New Year by author/illustrator Grace Lin, a Chinese American girl describes her  family’s preparations for the Lunar New Year. Her impatience for the big moment moves the story along until the dragon dance, depicted on a long foldout page, finally ushers in the new year. Illustrations featuring Lin’s signature clean, bright gouache patterns accompany the tale. An appended spread supplies additional information about the holiday. A board book edition was published in December 2013. (Knopf, 2008)

shea_ten mice for tetCounting book Ten Mice for Tet by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill offers a simple description of the activities surrounding the celebration of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year (“1 mouse plans a party / 2 mice go to market”). A section at the back provides facts about the holiday and explains the importance of the details in Tô Ngọc Trang and Phạm Viết Ðinh’s vibrantly colored embroidered art. This playful look at a cultural tradition can be used with a wide age range. (Chronicle, 2003)

wade_no year of the catMary Dodson Wade’s humorous folktale adaptation No Year of the Cat explains why the Chinese calendar uses specific animal names for the twelve years. The emperor, bemoaning that “we cannot recall the years,” devises a race — the first twelve animals to finish will have a year named after them. Both text and the ornate illustrations by Nicole Wong give personalities to each of the animals, the emperor, and his devoted advisors. (Sleeping Bear, 2012)

wang_race for the chinese zodiac2In The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, the ancient Jade Emperor tells thirteen animals that they will race; the “first twelve animals to cross the river” will have a year named after them. The animals line up and, each in its own unique fashion, cross the river. Sally Rippin’s Chinese-ink, linocut, and digital-media illustrations are exuberant and fluid, evoking mood and furthering the whimsical tone of this retelling. (Candlewick, 2013)

wong_this next new yearIn Janet S. Wong’s This Next New Year, a spare narrative enhanced by Yangsook Choi’s festive, richly colored illustrations relates a Chinese-Korean boy’s reflection on what Chinese New Year means to him. By sweeping last year’s mistakes and bad luck out of the house, he hopes to make room for “a fresh start, my second chance.” Concepts of renewal, starting over, and luck will resonate with young readers in this imaginative appreciation of the emotional aspects of the holiday. (Farrar/Foster, 2000)

yim_goldy luck and the three pandas2Natasha Yim’s entertaining Goldilocks takeoff Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas is set during the Chinese New Year celebration, when Goldy Luck takes a gift to her panda neighbors. Familiar incidents follow — featuring (rice) porridge, a broken chair, and a nap — all portrayed with zest in the illustrations by Grace Zong. In an ending that suits the setting, Goldy has second thoughts and returns to apologize. New Year facts and a turnip cake recipe are included. (Charlesbridge, 2014)

 

Intermediate fiction

lin_year of the dogFor Taiwanese-American Pacy, sorting out her ethnic identity is important, and she wonders what she should be when she grows up. Writing and illustrating a book for a national contest makes her think that perhaps she can become an author of a “real Chinese person book.” In The Year of the Dog, author/illustrator Grace Lin offers both authentic Taiwanese-American and universal childhood experiences, told from a genuine child perspective. (Little, Brown, 2006)

lin_year of the ratSequel The Year of the Rat brings major change for Pacy, as her best friend moves away. Pacy also starts doubting her resolution to become a writer/illustrator. Lin deftly handles Pacy’s dilemmas and internal struggles with sensitivity and tenderness, keeping a hopeful and childlike tone that will inspire empathy. Appealing line drawings appear throughout. (Little, Brown, 2008)

yep_star makerArtie brags to his tough cousin Petey about providing all the fireworks for Chinese New Year in The Star Maker. With time running out before the celebration, Artie’s uncle Chester makes a gracious sacrifice to help his nephew save face. The easy-to-follow story introduces readers to Chinese New Year traditions. Author Laurence Yep’s preface explains that the 1950s-set tale is based on his own childhood memories. (HarperCollins/Harper, 2011)

 

 

Nonfiction

compestine_d is for dragon danceIn Ying Chang Compestine’s alphabet book D Is for Dragon Dance, each letter is accompanied by one or two sentences very briefly introducing an aspect of the Chinese New Year celebration — I for incense, J for jade, K for kites. Chinese characters in various calligraphy styles make an eye-catching background for the attractive textured illustrations by YongSheng Xuan. An author’s note offers a few more facts as well as a dumpling recipe. (Holiday, 2006)

otto_celebrate chinese new yearWith colorful photographs and simple, informative text, Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto details the traditions and rituals of Chinese New Year, including travel, family, gifts, plentiful food, and decorations. The use of “we” throughout feels welcoming and inclusive. Appended are instructions for making a Chinese lantern, a recipe for fortune cookies, and information on the Chinese calendar. (National Geographic, 2008)

simonds_moonbeams dumplings & dragon boatsA suitable addition to any multicultural holiday collection, Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz’s collection Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities and Recipes includes folktales, recipes, and activities for celebrating Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming and the Cold Foods Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Accompanying the stories and activities are Meilo So’s stylized watercolors, some of which evoke the brushwork of Chinese calligraphy. (Harcourt/Gulliver, 2002)

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11. Review of The Smell of Other People’s Houses

hitchcock_smell of other people's housesThe Smell of Other People’s Houses
by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Middle School, High School   Lamb/Random   228 pp.
2/16   978-0-553-49778-6   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-49779-3   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-553-49780-9   $10.99

Through sensory details that viscerally evoke the story’s physical and emotional landscapes, readers are transported to 1970s Birch Park, Alaska, where hunting and fishing are both livelihood and way of life for most families. As the book’s title suggests, richly described scents are pervasive. Sixteen-year-old Ruth associates the smell of freshly cut deer meat with her happy early-childhood home, in sharp contrast to the clinical, Lemon Pledge–clean of Gran’s house, where she and her sister have been raised in rigid austerity since their father’s death. A wealthy family’s lake house smells of cedar, while the heavily trafficked Goodwill “smells like everyone’s mud room in spring…moldy and sweaty.” Four distinct first-person narrative voices — no small feat — breathe life into the adolescent protagonists, whose engaging individual stories, thematically linked by loss and yearning throughout the seasons, are enriched by their intersections. Escaping her alcoholic father’s abuse and mother’s neglect, Dora finds a welcome haven in the bustling energy of Dumpling’s family’s fish camp. A few stolen nights with handsome Ray Stevens lands Ruth scared, alone, and pregnant on a bus to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, an abbey with unexpected ties to her family. While some character crossings strain credulity, all the story lines are grounded in emotional honesty.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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12. Review of Here Comes Valentine Cat

underwood_here comes valentine catHere Comes Valentine Cat
by Deborah Underwood; 
illus. by Claudia Rueda
Preschool   Dial   88 pp.
12/16   978-0-525-42915-9   $16.99   g

Valentine’s Day has its haters, and Cat (Here Comes the Easter Cat, rev. 3/14, and sequels) is one of them. Cat can’t think of anyone to grace with a Valentine, and new neighbor Dog doesn’t seem a likely candidate, what with all the bones he annoyingly keeps lobbing over the fence. Using this series’ trademark format — offstage narrator addresses nonverbal Cat, who responds with humorous placards and body language — the book shows Cat’s escalating plans against Dog (starting, but not ending, with a few not-so-sweet Valentines), and then shows that Dog may not deserve such poor treatment. Rueda’s ink and colored-pencil illustrations, surrounded by white space, once again convey lots of information via Cat’s facial expressions and other simple cues. Young listeners should enjoy the simply delivered misunderstandings, as well as the opportunities to yell emphatically at the main character (“You can’t send Dog to the moon!”).

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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13. Week in Review, February 1st-5th: Black History Month Week 1

Week in Review

This week on hbook.com…

Black History Month

For Black History Month, we’ve selected articles by and/or about African American children’s book luminaries — one a day throughout February, with a roundup on Fridays. This week’s selections:

Preview the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

Reviews of the Week:

Read Roger: HB NB February

Out of the Box: 

Lolly’s Classroom: The past made present | Class #3, 2016: Two historical fiction books and Three nonfiction books

Events calendar

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14. DC Super Heroes Origami

dc super hero origamiIt’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…origami?

On a scale of 1 to 3 stars, the “Daily Planet Building” project is a 1, meaning it is the simplest level of the paper-folding projects in John Montroll’s DC Super Heroes Origami (Capstone, September 2015). As an origami novice, I decided to start with the easiest possible project, thinking “Buildings are rectangles; you’ve totally got this.”

Daily Planet Pic 1

what the Daily Planet Building project is intended to look like

But I will forever claim that I was doomed from the beginning: the origami paper specifically designed to be the Daily Planet building was not a square. I feel like that should have been a prerequisite for the production of this book:

“We’re creating a book on how to do origami projects. Origami paper is square. Should we make sure our paper is square?”

“Nah, no one will notice if the paper is rectangular. Just print it. What? No, no, just print. We’re good.”

Uneven paper pic 2

And I began.

Following the step-by-step instructions, I found myself repeatedly flipping back to the handy key in the front which explains different folds and how to do them. I did not master the “squash fold.” I imagine mastering the squash fold is not in the cards for me. But the “pleat-fold”? I’ve definitely got that one down:

awesome pleat fold pic 3

The squash fold, for your viewing pleasure:

Squash fold pic 4

At this point, my windows aren’t matching up and, for some reason, the base of my building has an extra side. There are lots of little steps left between “extra-sided-base” and “finished” and all of them are pleat-folds with mountain-folds along the crease and squash folds to make things…pointy? I’m not even done and it already looks like the Crooked Man built the Daily Planet. Or like something from A Serious of Unfortunate Events happened in Metropolis (that’s where Superman is from, right?).

I squash and pleat and create ART. Because I am an ARTIST. Then, the final step is to bend slightly so the building is 3D and can stand. I turn it over. This is what I have:

Complete laying down pic 5  Complete standing up pic 6
It does stand…when supported by my water bottle. To prove to myself that I am capable of folding paper, I cut my own origami paper and started over. I still have not mastered the squash folds. But look! Look at the difference when the paper is square!

MINE pic 7

That is a Daily Planet! A Daily Planet built by a not-very-imaginative Metropolis-ian (Metropolian? Metropolitan?) architect. Look at the detail! And that flat base. People could totally work in that thing. Tiny, two-dimensional, imaginary people.

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15. LumiKids Snow app review

lumikids snow title screenIt’s rainy, not snowy, in Boston right now, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to explore the winter wonderland that is LumiKids Snow (Lumosity Labs, December 2015).

Opening the app, you’re taken to a landscape of white and icy teals, where a friendly seal waits on a small ice floe. Tap to access a game starring the seal, or swipe either direction to play any of five other winter-themed activities alongside cute kids and critters. Three of these — ice fishing, toasting and sharing marshmallows, and having a snowball fight — are more silly winter fun than educational activities. But the other three are the type of “brain training” game found in Lumosity’s app for adults. (It’s challenging and fun; I recommend it for grownups!)

In the first of these brain games, the seal and his friends play hide-and-seek. The challenge? To remember where each seal is hiding, even when their ice floes start to move.

lumikids snow seals

Another game invites you to create increasingly complex systems of ramps, bouncy castles, and catapults for penguins to reach floating balloons (so they can fly, natch).

lumikids snow penguin

Both of these start off simple, but get incrementally more difficult as you proceed through them and return for subsequent visits. In the last brain game, you practice writing capital letters (letter names and sounds provided) by directing kids’ sleds. There is no text to read or directions of any sort, but figuring out what to do is part of the process. A locked parents’ section offers some usage tips.

Bright colors against the wintry background, cheerful music and silly sound effects, and visual humor (for instance, the ski-jumping penguins wear safety goggles) make this an engaging way to practice a variety of skills. Fun for an indoor snow day activity. There are several other LumiKids apps — Park, Beach, and Backyard — and I’m looking forward to giving them a spin as well.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 7.0 or later) and Android devices; free. Recommended for preschool users.

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16. Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem

viorst_what are you glad aboutWhat Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst; illus. by Lee White
Primary, Intermediate   Dlouhy/Atheneum   102 pp.
2/16   978-1-4814-2355-7   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-2355-1   $10.99

Viorst’s most famous book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and this collection of over fifty poems expresses the same wry humor and sharp observation about the range of feelings children experience in their everyday lives. Viorst plays with school subjects such as reading, writing, and “arithmetrick” (in the “School Stuff” section), and there are poems about competition with friends (the “Friends and Other People” section), bossy moms (“About the Family”), and the mystery of time sometimes seeming fast and sometimes slow. But the strongest poems go to the heart of feelings, such as worrying: “I like the sun hot on my back. / If killer sharks did not attack, / I’d like beaches.” One especially poignant piece deals with breaking up with a best friend: “We’ve never had an argument, or even a small fuss, / But I’m not my best friend’s best friend anymore.” White’s illustrations bring zany humor to the poems, and even sometimes add their own little twist, as in “Whoops,” where a poem about trying to reach something high up is pictured with someone reaching for a treasure chest on the back of a dragon. From a riff on The Sound of Music (“My Least Favorite Things”) to a clever poem pondering the purpose of toes, this collection will delight kids and the adults who read it aloud, too.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem appeared first on The Horn Book.

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What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem as of 1/1/1900
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17. Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem

viorst_what are you glad aboutWhat Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst; illus. by Lee White
Primary, Intermediate   Dlouhy/Atheneum   102 pp.
2/16   978-1-4814-2355-7   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-2355-1   $10.99

Viorst’s most famous book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and this collection of over fifty poems expresses the same wry humor and sharp observation about the range of feelings children experience in their everyday lives. Viorst plays with school subjects such as reading, writing, and “arithmetrick” (in the “School Stuff” section), and there are poems about competition with friends (the “Friends and Other People” section), bossy moms (“About the Family”), and the mystery of time sometimes seeming fast and sometimes slow. But the strongest poems go to the heart of feelings, such as worrying: “I like the sun hot on my back. / If killer sharks did not attack, / I’d like beaches.” One especially poignant piece deals with breaking up with a best friend: “We’ve never had an argument, or even a small fuss, / But I’m not my best friend’s best friend anymore.” White’s illustrations bring zany humor to the poems, and even sometimes add their own little twist, as in “Whoops,” where a poem about trying to reach something high up is pictured with someone reaching for a treasure chest on the back of a dragon. From a riff on The Sound of Music (“My Least Favorite Things”) to a clever poem pondering the purpose of toes, this collection will delight kids and the adults who read it aloud, too.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem appeared first on The Horn Book.

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What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem as of 1/1/1900
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18. The past made present | Class #3, 2016

class3books2016_500x444

Next Tuesday (February 9), 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:

  • Two historical fiction books:
    • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
    • No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
  • Three nonfiction books:
    • Bomb: the Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
    • Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose
    • Marching For Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge

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19. Whips AND chains

story-of-oI’d really like to ban the term “self-censorship” from discourse, given that we already have a spectrum of words–from “prudence” to “cowardice”–that say more precisely what we mean, and because it causes us to be confused about what censorship actually is.

As Megan Schliesman at Reading While White posted last week, the discussion about A Birthday Cake for George Washington is not about censorship. People talking about what’s wrong with the book are not censors; people saying it will damage children are not censors; Scholastic deciding to cease the book’s distribution is not censorship. Hell, somebody buying a copy of the book only in order to consign it to a bonfire is not censorship. (I think I told you guys I did this once, with a Sidney Sheldon book whose utter disregard for logical plot construction and consistent characterization caused me to pitch it into the fireplace by which I was reading. It felt naughty.)

Censorship happens when the government–and this includes public libraries–gets into the business of restricting access to information. As far as A Birthday Cake for George Washington is concerned, it would be censorship if a library that held a copy decided to restrict readership to adults, for example, or removed it from the collection on the basis of its being “offensive” or “harmful to children.” It is also censorship if a public library decided not to purchase the book on the grounds that it is offensive or harmful, or if the library thinks it will get into trouble with those who find it so. This is of course very tricky–libraries don’t purchase more books than they do, and it’s rarely one criterion that guides that decision. Here is where we have to trust in the librarian’s integrity and the library’s book selection policy and adherence to ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. I know I’ve told the story here before about the librarian I knew who didn’t purchase a sex ed book for children on the grounds that it didn’t have an index. Yes, it did not have an index–but that wasn’t the reason she didn’t buy it.

I bring all this up because of an interesting exchange I had on Twitter last week with YA novelist Daniel José Older. Reacting in a subtweet to my post about A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake, Older wrote “Ah here’s the Horn/Sutton tut tutting on why Scholastic should’ve let kids read that book,” with a screenshot of part of the post. I replied–or barged in, depending on your views about subtweeting–that I and the Horn believe kids should be allowed to read any book they wish. Then he asked me if I was cool with kids reading Little Black Sambo, Mein Kampf and The Story of O. (I think he dated us both with that last example.) Although I’m aware that this was intended as a sort of gotcha rhetorical question, it made me realize that Mr. Older is probably not familiar with the way librarians think. I said I was perfectly fine with kids reading any or all of those three books.

A bias toward believing that people, kids included, should be able to read whatever they want is so ingrained in librarianship that we can forget that it seems like a radical stance to civilians. And as discussions about children’s books have moved, via social media, beyond the usual suspects of teachers, librarians, and publishers, it would be good for all concerned to remember that our assumptions are not necessarily shared.

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20. Say Hello to Your Friends*…in full color

In the heyday of Livejournal, several friends and I joined one of its fan communities: babysittersclub. For a while, it was quite an active community (and it still sees some activity). Its members, most of them probably ‘90s kids like myself who’d grown just old enough to be nostalgic, posted detailed questions and answers about Ann M. Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club series, announced books they were interested in buying or selling, shared excitement when they happened to see a street with one of the characters’ names…in short, fangirling and fanboying (yes, both) occurred in spades. I rarely posted myself, but commented regularly on others’ posts, and generally felt validated by this space that acknowledged how thoroughly cool it was to love the BSC.

telgemeier_kristy's great ideaIn 2006, the community was abuzz with the news that some of the books would be adapted into graphic novels. And then an FAQ post appeared from a Livejournal user with the handle “goraina.” Cheery, friendly Raina Telgemeier subsequently posted often enough to feel like part of the community, and other members embraced her four graphic novel adaptations. She made some changes, skipping some of the books so she could get to the meatiest possible story about each of the original four baby-sitters. (For instance, book #6, Claudia and Mean Janine, gives more insight into Claudia’s character than book #2, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, so Raina skipped ahead and adapted #6.) Raina wasn’t some outsider brought in to create these graphic novels. She was a BSC fan, and she got it. She captured the characters’ enthusiasm. Kristy’s confidence. Mary-Anne’s naivete. Claudia’s famous crazy outfits.

Fast-forward a few years, and a familiar style popped up among the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, specifically in 2010 Nonfiction Honor Book Smile. I, of course, had a copy signed for a friend who was also a babysittersclub community member on LJ. Raina recognized my friend’s username. Fandom is a wonderful thing.

If you’ve followed kids’ graphica, you know what happened next. Raina’s work grew more and more popular with Drama and Sisters, both of which I would’ve loved with or without the BSC connection, though I might not have discovered them as quickly. The phrase “graphic novel” used to only conjure up images of superheroes and adventure stories; Raina’s funny realism is much more my thing — I mean, I did grow up reading The Baby-Sitters Club — so her work was a perfectly-tailored way into graphica.

martin_claudia and mean janinePresumably because of her later books’ popularity (there’s another one coming, you guys!), the BSC graphic novels are being re-released in full color (with color by Braden Lamb, who was also the colorist for Sisters). The first one, Kristy’s Great Idea, came out in April of last year, soon followed by The Truth About Stacy and Mary Anne Saves the Day. And today, Claudia and Mean Janine, the fourth and final entry in the graphic series, hits bookstore shelves in its full-color incarnation. Check out Raina’s blog post for a look back at her process — and some BSC fanart from her childhood!

Realistic graphic novels, especially middle-grade ones about girls, are more common these days, and though I don’t know enough to say for sure that Raina started the trend, she definitely played a role in its popularity. And as any BSC fan will tell you, that’s dibbly fresh.

*Who remembers this theme song?

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21. Review of Dylan the Villain

campbell_dylan the villainDylan the Villain
by K. G. Campbell; illus. by the author
Primary   Viking   40 pp.
2/16   978-0-451-47642-5   $17.99   g

“‘Congratulations,’ said the doctor. ‘It’s a healthy little super-villain!’” Sweet, unsuspecting new parents Mr. and Mrs. Snivels are surprised by this development (and by the fact that they just “happened to have a baby”), but not disappointed. They tell their son Dylan, born wearing a purple mask and a fiendish expression, that he’s “the very best and cleverest super-villain in the whole wide world!” Dylan thinks so, too, until he goes to school and meets Addison Van Malice (sporting blue Princess Leia–style hair and a swashbuckling eye patch), who out-evils Dylan at every turn. Campbell’s soft-focus illustrations — rendered in watercolor and colored pencil on tea-stained paper — give all the characters personality, even those without speaking roles. The classroom of small villains is a hoot, and there are lots of dastardly details in the not-at-all-villainous art. The well-paced narrative’s comedic timing reinforces the absurdity of the premise. When a “most diabolical robot”–building contest is announced, Dylan seizes the chance to prove he’s more fiendish than Addison: “That hideous trophy…will be mine! All MINE!” And it is, after Dylan accidentally-on-purpose sends Addison and her menacing robot into space. And that’s that…or is it? In a satisfying twist, the final pages give Addison the last “MU-HA-HA-HA!!”

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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22. Preview March/April 2016 Horn Book Magazine

March/April 2016 Horn Book MagazneBeverly Cleary’s 100th birthday: To mark the occasion, publisher David Reuther; authors Elaine Scott, Varian Johnson, Kurtis Scaletta, Kate Messner, and Tony DiTerlizzi; and librarian Julie Roach reflect on Beverly Cleary’s work.

Ibi Zoboi on building a “Fine Bookshelf” of mirror books. Plus, her interview with authors Edwidge Danticat and Rita Williams-Garcia.

The Writer’s Page: Marc Aronson discusses writing narrative nonfiction (versus informational nonfiction) with his wife Marina Budhos.

Field Notes: Betty Carter wonders what new chapter-book readers miss from the picture-book section.

Spring 2016 Publishers’ Previews.

From The Guide: Narrative Nonfiction.

Audiobook reviews.

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23. Dream, dream, dream

The Horn Book GuideThe cover of the Fall 2015 Horn Book Guide is a beautiful Rafael López illustration from Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle (which, by the way, just won the Charlotte Zolotow Award). In this story, saturated acrylic-on-wood illustrations capture the island’s musicality and the surreal dream-images that inspire young Millo — a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s taboo against female drummers. It’s a stunning cover, and I’m proud and excited that the Fall 2015 Horn Book Guide bears it.

In the book, “dream” is used in the sense of a will or desire — Millo aspires to be a drummer.

In this issue of the Guide you’ll find more dreams-as-desire-and-will: Ira’s Shakespeare Dream by Glenda Armand tells the story of Ira Aldridge, an African American man who aspired to be an actor in 1824; Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson shows how Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah grew up to be a national hero and disabilities activist; and Henry Aaron’s journey to the major-leagues is described in Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares.

But this cover has me thinking about actual dreams. I’m not the only one who finds the topic intriguing:

First, BBC Magazine wonders why people don’t talk about their dreams.

Which is, perhaps, answered by Sarah’s mother, Mrs. Matthiessen, on WBEZ’s This American Life. (Never talk about “your dreams. Nobody cares about your dreams.”)

RadioLab does what they’re oh so good at and delves into the science of dreaming.

This Guide issue also has dreams as I’ve been considering them: that space one inhabits in sleep. Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals! by Eileen R. Meyer highlights the sleeping habits of fourteen animals. The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien follows a protagonist who enters a new boarding school but discovers the school is a cover for a nefarious experiment. In Kit Alloway’s Dreamfire, teen prodigy Joshlyn Weaver must teach her apprentice, Will Kansas, about dream-walking.

And Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream, which is, coincidentally enough, also what I do.

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24. Two historical fiction books | Class #3, 2016

One Crazy Summer     No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Supplemental readings:

  • Rita Williams-Garcia’s profile in July/August 2007 Horn Book Magazine
  • No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Historical fiction is a balancing act of storytelling and character development with real-world events. How do these different aspects interact in each of these works? How do the authors engage readers in both the lives of the characters and their time and place in history?

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25. Three nonfiction books | Class #3, 2016

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin    Claudette Colvin    marching for freedom

Bomb: the Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steven Shenkin

Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose

Marching For Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge

Good nonfiction shares many of the qualities of good fiction; the best writers pay as much attention to narrative, style, and characterization as to careful research of the facts. Design is another important feature of much nonfiction. Which literary elements are most notable in the works for this week?

 

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