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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. Sam & Dean Dig a Hole

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s latest, Sam & Dave Dig a Hole (Candlewick, October 2014), has been getting quite a bit of buzz (including Caldecott buzz) and has appeared on several best-of-year lists (including Horn Book’s own Fanfare).

barnett_samanddave

With all that talk, I can’t be the only person to accidentally call it “Sam & Dean Dig a Hole.” Right?

sam and dean winchester dig a hole

The Winchesters at work

Especially given that “Sam & Dean Dig a Hole” is a major plot point in a significant number of Supernatural episodes.

Any illustrators out there want to draw me a mash-up? ;)

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2. Review of A Fine Dessert

jenkins_fine dessertA Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
by Emily Jenkins; illus. by Sophie Blackall
Primary   Schwartz & Wade/Random   40 pp.
1/15   978-0-375-86832-0   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-96832-7   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-375-98771-7   $10.99

In four vignettes, set a hundred years apart from each other, parents and children make delicious blackberry fool from blackberries, cream, and sugar: quintessentially simple. Still, the cream must be whipped, with a different tool each time — a laborious twenty minutes with a bunch of twigs in 1710 Lyme, England; just two minutes with an electric mixer in 2010 San Diego. Early cooks pick berries; now, they may come packaged from afar — but the work of sieving them hasn’t changed much. Each setting has its kitchen practices, cooks, and meals: in 1810 Charleston, South Carolina, an enslaved woman and her daughter get only bowl lickings, while the master and his family are served the dessert; the San Diego dad and his son host a potluck for a diverse group of friends. Blackall’s art, as decorative as it is informative, features lovely (if unrealistic) calligraphic berry bush tendrils to counterpoint her cheery, wholesome figures; a subdued palette of historical tans is warmed with spots of green and pink, blossoming into brighter hues in the California present. It all adds up to a thought-provoking sample of how the techniques involved in a simple task have changed over time; and how people, and food, have stayed much the same, making this an effective introduction to the very idea of history. Recipe, sources, and historical notes from both author (pointing up such changes as following recipes and pasteurization) and illustrator (searching questions on the lives of slaves, her careful decisions on dress, and the engaging information that the mottled endpapers were colored with actual blackberry juice) are appended.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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3. Calling Caldecott 2015 second ballot is open

Here it is: Monday. In exactly a week, all of our Mock Caldecott awards will be a memory, and children’s book chatter will turn to the Real Committee’s books. So, while each real committee member is organizing notes, putting together last-minute arguments, and imagining that the books she or he nominated will wear medals for the rest of their lives, we continue to find out what YOU like. So, whether the books you voted for last week are still on the list or not, we hope you will vote your heart and got back to the voting booth one more time. Will you vote for The Farmer and the Clown and other front runners, or will you boost a book with less support? Check back on Tuesday around noon to see when happens!

For now, I am returning to the discussions with my second graders, who are full of love for their favorites…until someone points out a dreaded concern.

GO VOTE!!

Here’s a link to the second ballot

castyourballot_button_201x51

and here, again, is the list of books under discussion:

2015_ballot2_jackets

The Adventures of Beekle (Dan Santat)
Blizzard (John Rocco)
Draw! (Raúl Colón)
The Farmer and the Clown (Marla Frazee)
Gaston (Christian Robinson)
The Iridescence of Birds (Hadley Hooper)
Josephine (Christian Robinson)
A Letter for Leo (Sergio Ruzzier)
The Right Word (Melissa Sweet)
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole (Jon Klassen)
Viva Frida (Yuyi Morales)

 

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4. Books and stuff

It’s that time of year again. Book fair time.

“Miss Hewes! Look at the figurines I bought! Aren’t the polar bear and the penguin so cute?”

I’ll be honest – yes, little rubberized figurines in the likenesses of polar bears are cute. I understand the appeal of such items to young children. However, I am less sure that these proclamations should follow a trip to our school’s book fair.

Without fail, however, my students bound into my room following their trip to the library (home base of our commercial book fair) eager to show off their novelty erasers, pencils, figurines, and posters.

“Those are nice,” I always reply. “But what books did you see that excited you? What book did you choose to take home with you?”

Then, my students usually get quiet. “Well, I couldn’t get this eraser shaped like a cell phone and a book. I ran out of money.”

And there’s the rub. At the school where I teach, the bi-annual book fair is a big deal. My students get all jazzed up when they see the rolling metal carts and book boxes start to accumulate in our hallway prior to one of the sales. Their parents, many of whom feel a financial crunch, work hard to ensure that their children have a small amount of money to spend at the book fair. And yet, despite this excitement and noble intentions, too many students are leaving my school’s book fair with nothing but cell phone erasers and penguin figurines.

Despite the potential arguments that could be raised about school-sanctioned consumerism and the stress that this event may cause for already cash-strapped families, I am generally in favor of the book fair. I teach in a very rural area and the book fair is one of the only affordable alternatives to purchasing books at Walmart or the grocery store — and the titles available there are likely not the ones receiving rave reviews from The Horn Book.

This is not to say, however, that the offerings at the book fair are necessarily any better than those at Walmart. Publishers like Scholastic do publish extraordinarily rich, engaging, and substantial titles. But often, at our school’s book fair, even if kids look beyond the staggering assortment of novelties, their eyes land on a book about the latest pre-teen celebrity icon or the latest series that has more to do with the economics of churning out multiple volumes than about substance or quality.

I don’t think it has to be this way. Yes, commercial book fairs do raise money for schools, and yes, molded plastic does sell. But I think kids would still nag their parents to buy them things even if the book fair didn’t have the novelty items spilling over near the register. As educators, parents, and community members, we should demand more — particularly in communities where the budget for and access to books can restrict the quality of reading materials that kids have to explore.

I optimistically imagine a day when the engrossing and constructive books aren’t lurking in the shadows of a book fair and when the opportunities these events could provide are more fully leveraged to benefit children and their positive reading development.

 

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5. Books mentioned in the January 2015 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book

Black History Month

Story of the Civil Rights Movement in Photographs series

Aretha, David The Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Photographs
Gr. 46     48 pp.    Enslow     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-4234-6

Aretha, David The Story of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement in Photographs
Gr. 46     48 pp.    Enslow     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-4237-7

Aretha, David The Story of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides in Photographs
Gr. 46     48 pp.    Enslow     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-4236-0

Aretha, David The Story of the Civil Rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Photographs
Gr. 46     48 pp.    Enslow     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-4238-4

Aretha, David The Story of the Little Rock Nine and School Desegregation in Photographs
Gr. 46     48 pp.    Enslow     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-4235-3

Aretha, David The Story of the Selma Voting Rights Marches in Photographs
Gr. 46     48 pp.    Enslow     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-4239-1

Lewis, J. Patrick, and Lyon, George Ella Voices from the March on Washington
Gr. 4–6   114 pp.   Boyds/Wordsong   2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-62091-785-5

Murphy, Claire Rudolf My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Gr. K–3     48 pp.     Holt     2014
ISBN 978-0-8050-8226-5

Smith, Charles R., Jr. 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Gr. K–3     56 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2015
ISBN 978-1-59643-820-0

Spilsbury, Richard Who Marched for Civil Rights? [Primary Source Detectives series]
Middle school, high school     64 pp.    Heinemann   2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4329-9604-8
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4329-9611-6

 

Presidents and their families

Gherman, Beverly First Mothers
Illustrated by Julie Downing
Gr. K–3     64 pp.    Clarion    2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-22301-8

Gourley, Robbin First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew
Gr. K–3     48 pp.    Clarion    2011
ISBN 978-0-547-48224-8

Kimmelman, Leslie Hot Dog!: Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic
Illustrated by Victor Juhasz
Gr. K–3     40 pp.   Sleeping Bear   2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-58536-830-3

Meacham, Jon Thomas Jefferson: President & Philosopher
Middle school, high school     322 pp.     Crown     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-38749-1

Rhatigan, Joe White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, Problems, and Pratfalls of the Presidents’ Children
Illustrated by Jay Shin
Gr. 4–6     96 pp.     Charlesbridge/Imagine     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-936140-80-0

 

Archaeology

Athans, Sandra K. Secrets of the Sky Caves: Danger and Discovery on Nepal’s Mustang Cliffs
Gr. 4–6     64 pp.     Millbrook     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-0016-0

Aveni, Anthony Buried Beneath Us: Discovering the Ancient Cities of the Americas
Illustrated by Katherine Roy
Gr. 4–6     90 pp.     Roaring Brook     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-567-1

Deem, James M. Faces from the Past: Forgotten People of North America
Middle school, high school     151 pp.     Houghton     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-37024-8

Liu-Perkins, Christine At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui
Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Gr. 4–6     80 pp.     Charlesbridge     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-58089-370-1

Walker, Sally M. and Owsley, Douglas W. Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World
Middle school, high school
    136 pp.     Carolrhoda     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-7613-7457-2

 

Language and literature

Becker, Helaine AlphaBest: The Zany, Zanier, Zaniest Book About Comparatives and Superlatives
Illustrated by Dave Whamond
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Kids Can     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-55453-715-0

Isabella, Jude Chitchat: Celebrating the World’s Languages
Illustrated by Kathy Boake
Gr. 4–6     44 pp.     Kids Can     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-55453-787-7

Levine, Gail Carson Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink
Gr. 4–6
     295 pp.     Harper Collins/Harper     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-227530-1;
Paperback ISBN 978-0-06-227529-5

Essential Critiques series

Llanas, Sheila How to Analyze the Works of Suzanne Collins
Middle school, high school  
112 pp.     ABDO     2012
Library binding ISBN     978-1-61783-456-1

Van Zee, Amy How to Analyze the Works of C. S. Lewis
Middle school, high school        
112 pp.     ABDO     2012.
Library binding ISBN 978-1-61783-455-4

Bryant, Jen. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Gr. K–3     48 pp.   Eerdmans   2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-8028-5385-1

 

Physics and chemistry

Adams, Tom Super Science: Matter Matters!
Illustrated by Thomas Flintham
Gr. 4–6    18 pp.    Candlewick/Templar    2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6096-3

Pfeffer, Wendy Light Is All Around Us
Illustrated by Paul Meisel
Gr. K–3     40 pp.    HarperCollins/Harper    2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-029121-1
Paperback ISBN 978-0-06-440924-7

Exploring Sound series

Spilsbury, Louise and Spilsbury, Richard Making Noise!: Making Sounds
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Heinemann     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4109-5999-7
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4109-6004-7

Spilsbury, Louise and Spilsbury, Richard Why Can’t I Hear That?: Pitch and Frequency
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Heinemann     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4109-6000-9
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4109-6005-4

Walton, Ruth Let’s Go to the Playground [Let’s Find Out series]
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Sea to Sea     2013
Library binding ISBN 978-1-59771-388-7

Mysteries of the Universe series

Whiting, Jim Energy
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education     2012
Library binding ISBN 978-1-60818-187-2

Whiting, Jim Gravity
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education     2012
Library binding ISBN 978-1-60818-189-6

Whiting, Jim Light
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education     2012
Library binding ISBN 978-1-60818-190-2

Whiting, Jim Mass & Matter
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education     2012
Library binding ISBN 978-1-60818-191-9

Whiting, Jim Space & Time
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education     2012
Library binding ISBN 978-1-60818-192-6

These titles were featured in the January issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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6. Physics and chemistry

adam_super science matter mattersAdams, Tom Super Science: Matter Matters!
Gr. 4–6    18 pp.    Candlewick/Templar

Illustrated by Thomas Flintham. In this chemistry overview on eight double-page pop-up spreads, readers can explore topics ranging from atoms and elements to water, air, and radioactivity. Some of the movable features creatively present content, such as mini-booklets for scientist profiles and flaps that allow comparisons of molecular structures, while others are somewhat gimmicky. Cartoonlike illustrations and experiment ideas round out the pages.
Subjects: Physics and Chemistry; Matter; Experiments; Scientists; Toy and movable books

pfeffer_light is all around usPfeffer, Wendy Light Is All Around Us
Gr. K–3     40 pp.    HarperCollins/Harper

Illustrated by Paul Meisel. Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series. This strong series entry introduces youngsters to light: where it comes from, how fast it travels, and how it enables us to see. The prose is generally lively, but Pfeffer is all business when it comes to scientific explanations. Lighthearted paintings, outlined in pen and ink, add humor but never distract from the text. Three simple experiments are appended.
Subjects: Physics and Chemistry; Light

spilsbury_making soundsSpilsbury, Louise and Spilsbury, Richard Making Noise!: Making Sounds
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Heinemann

Spilsbury, Louise and Spilsbury, Richard Why Can’t I Hear That?: Pitch and Frequency
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Heinemann

Exploring Sound series. The physics of sound, including pitch, frequency, vibration, and speed, are clearly and cleanly explained. The texts are aided by many color photos, diagrams, sidebars, and captions, though some of the spreads are overly busy. Activities (e.g., making a trumpet from a bottle, tube, and paper) are varyingly feasible for a child. Accessibility and an encouraging tone strengthen the presentation. Reading list. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Physics and Chemistry; Sound

walton_let's go to the playgroundWalton, Ruth Let’s Go to the Playground
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Sea to Sea

Let’s Find Out series. This wide-ranging overview uses common playground equipment (swings, slide, merry-go-round) to explore principles such as gravity and centrifugal force. Illustrations that resemble cut-paper and photo collage are accompanied by captioned photos and sidebars, which extend the generally judicious though randomly presented coverage (including the now almost-extinct teeter-totter). A “Design a Playground!” activity is appended. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Physics and Chemistry; Playgrounds

whiting_energyWhiting, Jim Energy
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education

Whiting, Jim Gravity
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education

Whiting, Jim Light
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education

Whiting, Jim Mass & Matter
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education

Whiting, Jim Space & Time
Middle school, high school     48 pp.     Creative Education

Mysteries of the Universe series. Intermediate- to advanced-level explanations of physics concepts are described in chronological formats that roughly follow historical advancements scientists contributed to their fields. The numerous full-page illustrations are mainly decorative; diagrams would have been helpful with more complicated content. Text boxes consider science in films, literature, and technological applications. The tiny type can be frustrating. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Physics and Chemistry; Energy; Gravity; Light; Mass (Physics); Matter; Space and time

From the January 2015 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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7. Language and literature

becker_alphabestBecker, Helaine AlphaBest: The Zany, Zanier, Zaniest Book About Comparatives and Superlatives
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Kids Can

Illustrated by Dave Whamond. Adjectival comparatives and superlatives from angry, angrier, angriest to zany, zanier, zaniest are presented alongside energetic cartoons of carnival scenes. Some pages require a careful look to discern the connection between word and picture. There’s no narrative sequence to this visual feast, but the whole is connected by the alphabetical sequence and patterned wordplay; teaching tips are appended.
Subjects: General Language; Concept books—Alphabet books; Carnivals

isabella_chitchatIsabella, Jude Chitchat: Celebrating the World’s Languages
Gr.
4–6     44 pp.     Kids Can

Illustrated by Kathy Boake. Language evolution, language acquisition, and endangered languages are just a few of the topics explored in this thorough introduction to linguistics. The casual tone and humorous examples make the impressively informative text approachable, as does the bright, appealing layout. Though slick (and sometimes even creepy-looking), the caricatures in Boake’s Photoshop art are diverse, comical, and unique. Glos., ind.
Subjects: General Language

levine_writer to writerLevine, Gail Carson Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink
Gr. 4–6
     295 pp.     Harper Collins/Harper

Ella Enchanted author Levine offers writing advice and prompts, primarily for fiction writers. The chapters, mostly expanded from her blog, look at aspects of writing including large-scale character and plot concerns and more specific matters of style. A lengthy section focuses on poetry and its role in fiction. Levine’s second book on writing (Writing Magic) takes budding authors’ craft questions seriously. Ind.
Subjects: General Literature

llanas_how to analyze the works of suzanne collinsLlanas, Sheila How to Analyze the Works of Suzanne Collins
Middle school, high school  
112 pp.     ABDO

Van Zee, Amy How to Analyze the Works of C. S. Lewis
Middle school, high school        
112 pp.     ABDO

Essential Critiques series. These volumes introduce literary criticism, provide summaries of the authors’ famous works, and offer lightly annotated essays modeling the application of criticism through different approaches. Each book leads readers through key steps of analysis and encourages readers’ own critiques. Featuring the work of contemporarily popular Collins and beloved Lewis enlivens these suitable overviews of literary interpretation and essay construction. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects:
General Literature; Collins, Suzanne; Writing

bryant_right wordBryant, Jen. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Gr. K–3
     48 pp.   Eerdmans

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Apt language and ingenious imagery combine to tell the life story of Peter Mark Roget, creator of the thesaurus. Bryant’s linear telling follows Peter closely, expressing his curiosity, sensitivity, and populist spirit in language both decorous and warm. Clever book design and visionary illustration add layers of meaning. Sweet embellishes her own gentle watercolors with all manner of clippings and realia. Reading list, timeline. Bib.
Subjects: Language—Vocabulary; Great Britain; Roget, Peter Mark; Books and reading

From the January 2015 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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8. Archaeology

athans_secrets of the sky cavesAthans, Sandra K. Secrets of the Sky Caves: Danger and Discovery on Nepal’s Mustang Cliffs
Gr. 4–6     64 pp.     Millbrook

The “sky caves” were dug into cliff faces in Nepal’s Mustang region roughly one-thousand years ago. Variously used as living and burial spaces, the caves remained unexplored and unused for centuries until they were unearthed during a 2007 Mustang mountaineering expedition. The author, sister of expedition leader Pete Athans, offers a wealth of information about this little-known archaeological wonder. Color photographs provide stunning visuals. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Ancient and Medieval History; Nepal; Caves; Archaeology; Mountaineers

aveni_buried beneath usAveni, Anthony Buried Beneath Us: Discovering the Ancient Cities of the Americas
Gr. 4–6     90 pp.     Roaring Brook

Illustrated by Katherine Roy. This book explores ancient metropolises revealed by archaeological evidence. Focusing on specific cities in North, Central, and South America, the book allows the reader to compare and contrast daily life in the different regions and understand the sites’ development and decline. Black-and-white illustrations with sharp lines accompany the narrative, which imparts extensive information while remaining engaging and easy to read. Ind.
Subjects: Ancient and Medieval History; City and town life; Archaeology

deem_faces from the pastDeem, James M. Faces from the Past: Forgotten People of North America
Middle school, high school     151 pp.     Houghton

Deem recounts the lives of people whose remains have been located across North America—from “Spirit Cave Man” to the unnamed inhabitants of an early twentieth-century almshouse. The profiles detail the work of archaeologists to preserve skeletal remains, as well as the science behind the reconstructions. Copious illustrations include portraits of the sculptors at work, the facial reconstructions, and historical and modern-day sites. Reading list, websites. Bib., ind.
Subjects: North America; Anthropology; Forensic science; Archaeology; Prehistoric life

liu-perkins_at home in her tombLiu-Perkins, Christine At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui
Gr. 4–6     80 pp.     Charlesbridge

Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. In 1971, the tomb of “Lady Dai” was discovered, virtually intact and of enormous archaeological significance. Here, buried in 158 BCE, was her still-soft body and more than a thousand artifacts. Liu-Perkins describes the discovery in fascinating detail; brief imagined scenes supplement the evidence. Illustrative materials include maps and well-captioned photos as well as Brannen’s watercolors of the fictionalized scenes. Timeline. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Ancient and Medieval History; China, Ancient; Treasure; Archaeology; Burial customs

Their Skeletons SpeakWalker, Sally M. and Owsley, Douglas W. Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World
Middle school, high school
    136 pp.     Carolrhoda

Walker and Owsley (an anthropologist involved in the research) present a solidly written and documented account of Kennewick Man, a Paleoamerican whose nearly ten-thousand-year-old remains were found in Washington State. The authors build the narrative clue by clue, first in determination of the 1996 find’s importance, then through a richly detailed overview of the field of anthropology. Excellent photographs show the actual evidence and technologies used. Reading list. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Prehistoric Life; Native Americans—North America; Anthropology; Washington (State); Archaeology

From the January 2015 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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9. Presidents and their families

gherman_first mothersGherman, Beverly First Mothers
Gr. K–3     64 pp.    Clarion

Illustrated by Julie Downing. This book provides a fascinating perspective on U.S. presidents by focusing on the personalities and influences of their mothers. Each mom has her own section, descriptive epithet (e.g., Barbara Pierce Bush, “The Outspoken Mother”), amusing anecdote, and cartoonlike portrait; sidebars in varying formats contain important dates and facts. Gherman’s engaging text offers vivid characterization of these historic women and their powerful sons. Bib.
Subjects: Collective Biographies; Presidents—United States; Women—History; Women—Biographies; Family—Mother and son

gourley_first gardenGourley, Robbin First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew
Gr. K–3     48 pp.    Clarion

Gourley’s discussion of Michelle Obama’s creation of a vegetable garden on the White House lawn is framed by a brief history of other gardens at the White House. Loose-handed watercolor illustrations depict a place that’s full of life. A foreword by chef Alice Waters and a series of recipes are included. Reading list, websites.
Subjects: Farm Life, Husbandry, and Gardening; White House; Obama, Michelle; First ladies; Presidents’ spouses; Women—Presidents’ spouses

kimmelman_hot dog eleanor roosevelt throws a picnicKimmelman, Leslie Hot Dog!: Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic
Gr. K–3
     40 pp.   Sleeping Bear

Illustrated by Victor Juhasz. When the King and Queen of England visit the United States in June 1939, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt decides to introduce them to an American picnic staple: the hot dog. Juhasz’s caricature figures range from giggle-worthy (the Queen eats hers with a fork and knife) to unflattering (poor Eleanor). Kimmelman’s amusing historical story delicately explains the Great Depression and touches on soon-to-follow WWII.
Subjects: North America; Presidents—United States; George VI, King of Great Britain; Picnics; History, Modern—World War II; Depression (Economic); Roosevelt, Franklin D.; Roosevelt, Eleanor; Elizabeth II, Queen of England; Presidents’ spouses; First ladies

meacham_thomas jefferson president and philosopherMeacham, Jon Thomas Jefferson: President & Philosopher
Middle school, high school     322 pp.     Crown

This adaptation of Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power follows Jefferson from privileged youth to presidency, showing how intelligence and curiosity led to his penning of the Declaration of Independence, interest in exploring the American West, and skill in manipulating the political system. Acknowledgment of Jefferson’s less admirable actions modulates the adulatory tone. Handsome and engaging. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Jefferson, Thomas; Presidents—United States

rhatigan_white house kidsRhatigan, Joe White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, Problems, and Pratfalls of the Presidents’ Children
Gr. 4–6     96 pp.     Charlesbridge/Imagine

Illustrated by Jay Shin. Primary sources and anecdotal sidebars combine with an engaging text to present a thorough discussion of what it’s like to be a child or teenager living in the White House. The awkward pastel illustrations detract from the presentation, but plentiful photographs augment the scrapbook-like design. This is an inviting, fact-filled look at the pros and cons of being a member of the First Family. Bib., ind.
Subjects: North America; Presidents—United States; White House; Children of Presidents—United States

From the January 2015 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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10. Review of Draw What You See

benson_draw what you seeDraw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews
by Kathleen Benson; illus. with paintings by Benny Andrews
Primary, Intermediate   Clarion   32 pp.
1/15   978-0-544-10487-7   $16.99

Benson opens in New Orleans in 2005, where Benny Andrews traveled after Hurricane Katrina to teach children “to use art to express their feelings about what they had been through…he knew that sometimes it was easier to tell a story with pictures than with words.” And this is an excellent way to begin a biography of an artist dedicated to the craft of narrative- and experience-based art, and also to the ongoing social concerns of African Americans and other minority groups. Then it’s back to 1933 Plainview, Georgia, where three-year-old Benny drew his first picture. In clear prose, Benson moves through the years, during which Andrews defied social expectations by leaving the farm, attending high school, earning a bachelor of fine arts degree, and eventually becoming a renowned painter in an art world that was still unwelcoming to artists of color. The narrative is expertly crafted around original Andrews paintings (identified in the back matter), which are notable for their focus on autobiographical elements and people’s experiences of prejudice as well as for the expressionistic stylization of figures: elongated subjects work in a field, attend church, dance at a jazz club, sell newspapers in Harlem. Appended are an author’s note, sources and resources, and an ultra-detailed timeline that makes clear the breadth and heft of Andrews’s accomplishments.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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11. The year in review

What a difference a year makes. Last year’s picture book crop included such a strong group of front runners that it was possible to…no, not predict, but at least anticipate some of the Caldecott choices. This year, it seems to me, the field is WIDE OPEN. And this year’s committee has quite a job in front of them.

What are some of the challenges they’re facing? (Obviously this is not a comprehensive list. Not even close. Tip of the iceberg. Hang in there, actual Caldecott committee.) Let’s review.

  • They may be considering a whole slew of sequels (or at least second, similar books) by some of the big names of 2013: Molly Idle’s Flora and the Penguin; Aaron Becker’s Quest; Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight; Paul O. Zelinsky’s Circle Square Moose. How will the committee handle the temptation not to compare these with their predecessors?
  • In good news for the field, we’ve seen several excellent science nonfiction picture books, including: Katherine Roy’s Neighborhood Sharks; Molly Bang’s Buried Sunlight; Jason Chin’s Gravity. These must all be considered long shots for the Caldecott, since there is not much precedence for nonfiction winning the Caldecott, let along SCIENCE nonfiction. But we all know that just because picture books look like Sibert contenders doesn’t rule them out for the Caldecott, right?
  • The rise in popularity and prevalence of picture-book biographies means that quite a few biographies (or picture books based on real people or events) may make an appearance on the Caldecott table this year: perhaps Melissa Sweet’s The Right Word; Christian Robinson’s Josephine; Yuyi Morales’s Viva Frida; Hadley Hooper’s The Iridescence of Birds; Peter Sis’s Pilot and the Little Prince; E.B. Lewis’s All Different Now… Such different treatments for such a variety of subjects: how will the committee navigate amongst them?
  • And after last year’s wordless-book Caldecott triumph (all three Honor books were virtually wordless, you remember: Flora and the Flamingo, Mr. Wuffles!, and Journey), the committee will surely be paying attention to the wordless 2014 picture books, which are numerous, and include: Raul Colon’s Draw!; Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and the Clown; Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash’s Bow-wow’s Nightmare Neighbors; Mark Pett’s The Girl and the Bicycle; and the previously mentioned Flashlight, Flora and the Penguin; and Quest. A herculean task, indeed, to decide how these compare to one another, let alone to all the other picture books with texts. 
  • There’s also the conundrum of “picture book” versus “illustrated book.” How will the committee categorize the poetry books that might be under consideration — Sweet’s Firefly July; or Rick Allen’s Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold; or Gary Kelley’s Harlem Hellfighters? Because each poem, and thus each page or spread, is complete unto itself, is there an implied page turn in these books? Is there enough cohesion in the pictures and enough tension in the trajectory to consider each a picture book?
  • Once again, there are a number of artists with multiple “entries”: Melissa Sweet, Christian Robinson, Barbara McClintock, Sergio Ruzzier, Sophie Blackall, and Lauren Castillo, to name a few. How does that affect the committee? Do they feel they need to choose between an artist’s books? Or does each book stand alone?

And speaking of standing alone: in fact, of course, the Real Committee’s job is to NOT pigeonhole books the way I’ve done here — instead, to look at each book individually and to judge each one on its own merits. But I can’t imagine it will be easy. (Is that the understatement of the year?) Our own mock ballot goes up this Thursday; Robin will introduce it tomorrow. So you will need to face some of these same challenges as you make your own choices and vote for your top three picture books of the year. Good luck, one and all.

 

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12. Review of Storm

napoli_stormStorm
by Donna Jo Napoli
High School    Wiseman/Simon    357 pp.
2/14    978-1-4814-0302-3    $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-0304-7    $10.99

Sixteen-year-old Sebah, a Canaanite girl, survives a massive flood that kills her family. As the rains continue for weeks on end, she and another survivor, Aban, are forced to build a raft to escape the rising waters. Barely alive, they encounter a giant boat — Noah’s ark, as it turns out — but only Sebah is strong enough to climb the rope someone has let down from a porthole. Exhausted and grief-stricken, Sebah finds herself in a cage with a pair of bonobos, with whom she soon bonds and names Queen and The Male. Bonobos, readers learn, are capable of compassion and empathy (hence the rescue and their decision to keep Sebah hidden from Noah). Bonobos are also known to be very, very sexually active; thankfully, Queen decides she is Sebah’s protector and that the girl is off-limits for The Male. (Phew!) Napoli’s story thoroughly humanizes Noah and his family — loyal to God but traumatized by the human devastation and frustrated with their fate. Readers witness the emotional and physical toll, on both humans and animals, of weeks of darkness and rain, then months of captivity, and will admire resourceful Sebah’s ability to make the best of an oppressive situation. The characters (including the loyal bonobos — and another human stowaway) that Napoli creates to flesh out her retelling of the classic story of survival and faith add both veracity and depth.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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13. Review of Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust

Dauvillier_HiddenHidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust
by Loïc Dauvillier; illus. by Marc Lizano; color by Greg Salsedo; trans. from the French by Alexis Siegel
Primary, Intermediate    First Second/Roaring Brook    78 pp.
4/14    978-1-59643-873-6    $16.99

In this graphic novel for younger readers, Elsa wakes up in the night and discovers her grandmother sitting in the dark, feeling sad. When Elsa asks why, she hears for the first time the story of her grandmother’s childhood in Nazi-occupied France. Young Dounia’s parents try to explain away the yellow star she must wear by calling it a sheriff’s star, but she quickly realizes its true meaning when she begins to be treated very differently at school and in town. When the Nazis come to their apartment, her parents hide Dounia but are themselves taken away, and the terrified little girl is saved by a neighbor. A chain of people help her escape to the country, where she lives as a Catholic girl, with a new name. The graphic novel format helps reinforce the contrast between the dark, scary moments and the happier times in the countryside. The artists use small panels to tell most of the story, with words in the bottom right corners emphasizing Dounia’s inner thoughts; large panels occasionally punctuate the big moments. While not disguising the ugliness of the events, the art also helps focus attention on the loving moments between Dounia and her parents, Dounia and the people who help her, and Dounia, Elsa, and her father (who also hears the story for the first time) all hugging one another at the end.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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14. Review of Stella by Starlight

draper_stella by starlightStella by Starlight
by Sharon M. Draper
Intermediate   Atheneum   324 pp.
1/15   978-1-4424-9497-8   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-9499-2   $10.99

Eleven-year-old Stella Mills may have trouble getting words on paper for school, but she’s a deep thinker, “a gemstone hiding inside a rock,” her mother tells her. Even on the coldest of nights, she sneaks out of the house and writes under the starlight. Writing helps her makes sense of her world; the novel’s third-person point of view provides readers with a perspective wider than young Stella’s, as much of life in segregated 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, is beyond her understanding. There’s plenty of action — cross burnings, house burnings, a snakebite, a near-drowning, and a beating. But at its core this story is one of a supportive African American community facing tough times, a community acting as an “unseen river of communication that forever flows — dark and powerful,” keeping an eye on its children as they walk to school, knowing who is sneaking out at night, bringing cakes and pies when folks are ill, and attending the (unexpectedly hilarious) Christmas pageant at school. If times are bad, the community makes them better, and Stella grows in its warmth and love. Even her writing gets better as she writes about things that matter — Mama, snakes, truth, hate, even the Klan. Readers will close the book knowing that Stella will turn out just fine: “Roosters never look beyond the fence. I doubt if they ever think about flying. But I do.”

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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15. Sharon Draper on Stella by Starlight

sharon m. draper

In the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine, editor Martha Parravano talked to Sharon M. Draper about her new intermediate novel Stella by Starlight. Read the full review here.

Martha V. Parravano: Have you ever tried to write by starlight?

Sharon M. Draper: I’ve marveled at the moon — the phases intrigue me — but I’ve never written anything while outside on a starry night. But I’m sure that those images eventually evolved into words in a story. All natural events inspire me — freshly fallen snow and thunderstorms and the changing of leaves in the fall — but the starlight and the moon I left to Stella. They belong to her.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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16. 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Awards

The winners of the 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Awards are:

My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth; illus. by Barbara McClintock (younger); *wipes away a happy tear*

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loïc Dauvillier; illus. by Marc Lizano; color by Greg Salsedo (older)

Storm by Donna Jo Napoli (teen)

In each category two Honor Books were named, along with a handful of Notables. Find the complete list here, on the Association of Jewish Libraries blog.

This was my first year on the committee (of a four-year term), and what a great experience. Thoughtful discussion, vigorous debate… and lots of fun. Thanks again to Horn Book Magazine editorial assistant Shoshana Flax for her invaluable help with our Buzzfeed quiz: Which All-of-a-Kind Family Sibling Are You? (Haven’t taken it yet? By all means do, then tell us who you are. I’m Ella!)

aylesworth_my grandfather's coatDauvillier_Hiddennapoli_storm

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17. Metacognitive books: How early should they be introduced?

During the last few months I’ve encountered a number of children’s picture books with a self-reflective or metacognitive approach. The texts encourage readers not just to reflect or think (cognitive) but to think about their thinking (metacognitive). Since the books’ illustrations were eye-catching and the topics were relatable, I read them to some three-year old children. Some really enjoyed them while others got lost and disengaged easily.

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't FitAll of these books are creative. In Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn’t Fit by Catherine Rayner, the reader follows a moose who doesn’t fit onto the page as he tries to squeeze different body parts into view, leaving others out. Finally, his nameless squirrel friend has an idea. Take masking tape and extra sheets of paper and build out a page so the reader can fold out the final sheet, quadrupling its size to show all of Ernest. The children, silent, seemed mesmerized by Ernest on every page.

Open Very CarefullyAnother favorite is Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. The story begins as that of the Ugly Duckling and is narrated by one of the ducklings. The expected story is quickly interrupted by a crocodile who climbs into the book and eats letters and words. Later, the narrator asks the reader to shake the book and rock it from side to side so the crocodile will leave the pages. The rocking just puts the crocodile to sleep, but this allows the duckling to draw on him. Waking suddenly, the crocodile tries to run out of the page and hits his head. Finally, he chews a hole — literally — in the back cover and climbs out.

monster end of bookOther examples include David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs, the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of this Book, and the new social media sensation by B. J. Novak, The Book with No Pictures.

These texts demand more active thinking from readers while they listen to the stories. I was a bit hesitant to read these books to small children, but after doing so have come to the conclusion that they in fact help to “wire” their reading habits and other skills such as problem solving and perspective thinking.

What do you think?

 

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18. Bad Bye, Good Bye

badbyegoodbyecoveruseYou know that feeling that you’ve missed something? Well, I had that feeling last week when I pulled out the titles for my class’s mock Caldecott. I blithely grabbed Bad Bye, Good Bye and thought, “Uh-oh. I never wrote about this one, did I?” In true Robin Smith fashion (ask any of my editors what a procrastinator I am), here I am, just under the wire, to chat about this fine book.

I first read about this book months and months ago when Jules Danielson interviewed the illustrator, Jonathan Bean, here on her blog. Go and read the link, because his explanation of color separation (old school!) is interesting and clear. In the comments are technical questions about brayers and Prismacolors and friskets. I got lost there for a little bit.

Here’s the skinny:

  1. I love the emotional intensity of the illustrations — even the endpapers start with a very dark blue-black and end with a sunny yellow. The title page shows one angry boy glaring at the moving man. Even his dog is furious. The stripes on the boy’s shirt are parallel with the spine of the dog, leaving no question about how these two are feeling about their family’s move to a new town and new house. The background shows the movers moving at full speed, rendered only in pencil. The title is placed on the page a little wonky, implying movement. The page turn shows the boy redder even than before—all the way to his scarlet scalp! We all know that feeling.
  2. That anger has to abate, of course, and the long nap in the car and dip in the motel pool seem to be a turning point for everyone. By the time the family arrives in the new town, after mom and dad take turns behind the wheel, everyone seems ready for the new house. Even the movers seem to have happy energy.
  3. The illustrations deftly extend the spare, rhyming couplets. I especially appreciate the “Road games /We’re here” page. It’s a brilliant interpretation of the alphabet game we always played in the car to pass the time. Bean draws a variety of signs with just about every letter of the alphabet shown, including q in antique. Another spread (“New house/New wall/New room/New wall”) shows that creepy feeling when you walk into an empty house or apartment for the first time. Everything is still in boxes and the illustrations are layered with the details that add to that strange feeling: the lone light hanging from the ceiling in the hall, other people’s wallpaper, stacks of chairs and boxes marked “pots” and “sheets.” Seeing the boy cautiously opening all the doors, one at a time, brings me right back to all my Army brat moves.
  4. The happy resolution is just right, too: this is a book for the very young reader, and it needs to be comforting. It is — right down to the fireflies, a neighbor boy who will clearly be a friend, and a climbing tree.

There is a lot going on in these illustrations, inviting the reader to slow down and explore every inch of the page. That also allows committee members lots to talk about: artistic technique, satisfying page-turns, and emotional punch. It would also make a dandy book for new readers. Geisel and Caldecott committees, pay attention to this one!

 

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19. Review of Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

lowery_turning 15 on the road to freedomTurning 15 on the Road to Freedom:
My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March

by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley; illus. by PJ Loughran
Middle School, High School   Dial   128 pp.
1/15   978-0-8037-4123-2   $19.99   g

Lowery offers a revealing look at a childhood spent in the midst of the civil rights movement. As a teenager, the Selma, Alabama, native was there to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak out for black voting rights; she was tear-gassed and beaten on “Bloody Sunday” (as Lowery writes, in perhaps the understatement of the century, “It was not a good day to be around white people”); and she was among the three hundred people who marched from Selma to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery in 1965. Lowery’s voice is consistently engaging (“After that first time [in jail], I wasn’t so afraid, because I was with my buddies and we knew we had each other’s back. What we could do with each other’s backs, I don’t know. Those white policemen had billy clubs and guns”) and casual even as she parcels out often-harrowing memories (such as her time spent in the jail’s “sweatbox”: “There was no air…There was no toilet…There was nothing but heat in an iron box”). Period photos are incorporated seamlessly into the book design, and Loughran captures the emotions of the times with boldly colored illustrations. An epilogue of sorts — “Why Voting Rights?” — gives an excellent explanation of the significance of the right to vote for African Americans while making mention of the Supreme Court’s controversial 2013 changes to the Voting Rights Act. A strong addition to the canon of civil rights books for young people.

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20. The first Notes of the year

In January’s issue of Notes from the Horn Book, Jennifer Brabander asks Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future author A. S. King about that bat and lots more. You’ll also find:

  • more fierce female YA protagonists
  • snowy-day picture books
  • intermediate series
  • graphic-novel memoirs

notes jan 2015

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter — and its supplement Nonfiction Notes — in your inbox. For more recommended books and interviews, check out the newsletter archives.

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21. Behind the book

Back on October 10th, I had the privilege of attending the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award ceremony. During the celebration, honorees and winners came to the podium to receive their awards and address the audience. Needless to say, I was star struck to be in the room with the likes of Steve Jenkins, Gene Luen Yang, Peter Brown, and Steve Sheinkin, among others.

Once I managed to regain my composure, I listened carefully to the content of their speeches. Patricia Hruby Powell, spoke to the power of dance in her own life as one of the connections that led her to craft the beautiful Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Andrew Smith shocked us all when he told us that Grasshopper Jungle was written the summer he decided to “quit being a writer.” Nevertheless, he completed it because the manuscript helped him strengthen his connection to his son who had recently left for college. Peter Brown made us laugh as he joked about managing to slip nudity into a picture book (see the centerfold page where Mr. Tiger returns to his birthday suit!) in partial protest of the fact that Babar the elephant, a favorite character from childhood, walks naked into a department store only to emerge one page later inexplicably dressed in a suit walking upright!

Port ChicagoBut the speech that resonated most profoundly with me was the one given by Steve Sheinkin who talked about his book, The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights. He told us that his brother-in-law (I believe) piqued his interest by mentioning the Port Chicago disaster several years earlier. Once he heard about it, Sheinkin simply could not let it go. His desire to understand what had happened to the 50 African American navy sailors charged with mutiny for refusing to work under extraordinarily dangerous conditions became an exciting mystery he had to unravel. He spoke of the thrill of meeting the only other author who had ever written about the incident and sharing his source material. He described the exhilaration of traveling to interview those sailors who were still living and ready to share their story five decades later. You could not sit in the audience that night and not feel Sheinkin’s excitement. It was clear that the pursuit of this mystery, the unlocking of the clues one by one, moved him deeply.

As I listened to Sheinkin and the other authors speak that night, I was reminded how exciting it can be to consider the writer behind the text. There is no doubt that the texts alone merit attention. But understanding that authors are driven by the same goals, hopes and humor as regular humans is a really powerful lesson for kids.

In my years as a teacher and a coach, I have often spoken of author study — where we read multiple texts by a single author in an effort to understand craft, theme, style, etc. We generally supplement our author study with biographical information about the author. I would never want to give that up as teacher.

But imagine highlighting for our students the writers’ stories behind the stories. What an amazing way to draw kids into their own writing. These authors’ stories went beyond simple topics of interest. They revealed how essential elements of who they were as people drove them into and through their writing — Brown’s humor, Sheinkin’s need to uncover, Smith’s desire for connection. I want all my students to know that who they are can propel their writing.

As an educator, I am eager to explore authentic ways to let my students listen behind the book. But, I’m not sure entirely how. Any thoughts about how to bring writer’s voices regularly into our writing workshops?

 

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22. Nana in the City

nana in the cityThis is a JUST RIGHT kind of book. Just the right size; just the right tone; just the right scope of experience/adventure for the audience.

How does Lauren Castillo accomplish this just-rightness in the art?

1) Through the use of color. In the beginning she communicates the noise and smells and sheer overwhelming-ness of the big city through dark colors: watercolor washes of browns and black charcoal-like shading. Bright yellow and greens communicate bustle and action. The lack of color (on the page where Nana and the boy first approach Nana’s apartment building) communicates sterility and the intimidating feeling of those tall looming buildings. And of course the use of red throughout the book is absolutely perfect. From the start, touches of red focus our attention: the numeral 1 on the subway; the policeman’s stop sign; the teapot and teacup. Nana knits the boy a red cape to make him brave, but observers will note that Nana is also outfitted in red, from her hatband to her handbag to her boots. There’s a natural and built-in connection forged between adult and child here. And there’s a point of discussion: is there an implication that Nana might need help being brave as well?

2) Through her ability to convey the sense of a large city in a book with quite a small trim size. (Which I love, by the way. The small size and square shape of the book communicates safety, harmony, manageability. The story would have been dwarfed in one of those oversize celebrate-the-city kind of picture books.) Castillo’s story is a small one, but it doesn’t happen in isolation. The presence of the city is always there in the background, in black-and-white sketched-in cityscapes (that look almost like coloring-books pages before they’re colored in) or less-detailed blocked-out buildings; she gives us the whole city without taking our focus off the characters and the main action. (She uses the same technique in other places in the book as well: note Nana sitting on her coach as she begins to knit the boy his red cape. The sofa is only sketched in, like the cityscapes, keeping our attention solely on Nana and her knitting.)

3) Through the tactile quality of the art. The combination of the watercolor and what looks to be some kind of charcoal rubbing (but might be something entirely different; I’m just guessing!) gives the art such texture and immediacy.

I have to admit I’m a leetle disappointed in the endpapers. I thought they might have changed from green (in the beginning) to red (at the end), just like Nana’s two knitting projects. But I am sure the illustrator and publisher gave much thought to it. So please help me with this (admittedly) tiny little quibble.

This book is not a shouter. It’s a small domestic story, with a quiet narrative arc, for very young children. Therefore, given the history of this award, it doesn’t scream Caldecott. What will be its chances on the table at the end of this month?

 

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23. Nighty Night! app review

nighty night cover As Fox and Sheep‘s bedtime app Nighty Night! (2012) opens, the screen pans across a view of a little town. One by one the lights in houses’ windows go out, but the farmhouse’s lights still blaze. Tap them to explore inside and around the house, along the way discovering friendly animals: a duck, a hen and her chicks, a sheep, a dog, a pig, a cow, and a pond with three fish. (Sets of three additional animals — pony, cat, and rabbit or goat, spider, and stork — are available as unobtrusive in-app purchases from the main menu.)

Tap the animals for a few brief animations, then turn out the lights by tapping subtly highlighted switches to help the animals get ready for bed. Each animal stretches or yawns and settles down as the narrator (Alistair Findlay) bids it good night.

Nighty Night sheep

“Good night, dear sheep.”

The mixed-media collage illustrations and animations (both created by animator Heidi Wittlinger) are warm, cozy, and sprinkled with a few delightful surprises, e.g., the duck beds down in the bathtub, the three fish glow in the dark.

During this process, you can revisit the animals to see them sleeping (strangely mesmerizing) or to wake them. Once all of the lights are off and the animals are gently snoring, the narrator realizes, “Wait a minute! Someone is still awake!” and prompts you, the user, to head off to bed as well.

Turn the narration on or off, choose from twelve language options, or select autoplay mode from the main menu. There’s also an extra-soothing “snow” option. The low-key British-accented narration, instrumental lullaby soundtrack, and reassuring pattern make for a sweet bedtime experience.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 7.0 or later), $2.99, and Android devices, $3.99. Recommended for preschool users. Companion app Nighty Night Circus was released in November 2014.

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24. Week in Review, January 12th-15th

Week in Review

This week on hbook.com…

January’s Notes from the Horn Book newsletter: 5Q for A. S. King, fierce females, snowy days, series for the elementary set, and graphic-novel memoirs

Reviews of the Week:

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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25. Review of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

sarcone-roach_bear ate your sandwichstar2 The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
by Julia Sarcone-Roach; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Knopf   40 pp.
1/15   978-0-375-85860-4   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-98242-1   $10.99

“By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich. But you may not know how it happened.” An offstage narrator spins this entertaining tale about the fate of a missing sandwich. The narrator’s creative version of events begins with a hungry bear, a berry-eating binge, a postprandial nap in the back of a pickup truck, and an unexpected road trip to the big city. All the while, we see words at entertaining odds with the pictures: those “high cliffs” the bear notices are the skyscrapers in the big-city landscape to which the truck has inadvertently transported him. Sarcone-Roach uses a vibrant color palette in her impressionistic paintings, gleefully depicting the bear exploring unfamiliar terrain. To her credit, the question of the narrator’s identity — and reliability — may not come up for readers until book’s end. If they do wonder, the diverting story and illustrations help to keep it a surprise. After the bear returns to the forest, the silver-tongued narrator’s subterfuge quickly falls apart, and the truth is unleashed (“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”). The book stands up to repeat readings; the illustrations (and endpapers) beg for more attention.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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