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Every Monday (save for the Mondays where I don’t) I’ll try my hand at giving each and every Newbery Medal-winning book a new cover, beginning from the beginning. Today’s installment of Covering the Newbery bring the 20s to a close. Is it with a bang – or with a whimper? Let’s find out…
Dang, just when I feel like I’m easing into this 2011 thing, 2012 pops up on the radar. The excellent Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog has the lowdown on a batch of books that may be contenders for the 2012 award. Click the image below to check them out.
The concept of a small protagonist making a mark on the big world is a children’s lit mainstay. It makes sense – there are few situations children can better relate to than being surrounded by those that are older and bigger and wanting to do something conspicuous. Tom Lichtenheld’s charming Cloudette ably enters this territory, and will likely garner fans big and small. But mostly small.
As her name suggests, Cloudette is a cloud of the most diminutive proportions. Clearly, there are perks to being small, but Cloudette reaches a point where she wants to do important things, like make rivers flow and waterfalls fall. She tries to help the fire department, garden center, and car wash, but is turned away at every stop. When a storm drops Cloudette in an unfamiliar place, she finally finds where her modest services can make a difference – a small, dried-up pond.
While third-person narration guides the narrative, dialog intermittently appears in smaller font, sometimes adding comic relief and other times filling out the story.
For a book about a cloud, these illustrations are certainly sunny. Ink, pastel, colored pencil, and watercolor are used to create bright, clean artwork. There are some two page spreads here that absolutely stand out as some of Lichtenheld’s best work. For example:
And when the story reaches its climax and our heroine finally lets the rain fall, the view shifts, requiring the reader to turn the book to the side (think Tops & Bottoms) to get the full effect – a nice touch.
It isn’t cloying, it isn’t didactic – it’s just a little book about self determination that works. In the end, Cloudette is perfectly pleasant, and that’s not a bad thing to be.
Few author interviews go deeper than the typical “tell us about your book” surface. Teacher, reviewer, and ALSC Notable Books committee member Ed Spicer routinely cuts through the standard chatter in his author interviews, which he posts at his website, Spicy Reads. Ed recently sat down with Gary Paulsen (as Paulsen was in the midst of recording audio versions of some of his books), and the results give rare insight into the iconic author’s life and work.
Really, who doesn’t want to know if Paulsen has ever peed on an electric fence?
Through books likeLights Out and Hogwash Geisert often puts his porcine characters in the position of trying to solve real world problems through staggeringly creative means. The results are almost always must-read. Add Ice to this group. Originally published in France, Ice follows 2010’s excellent The Chicken Thief in Enchanted Lion’s Stories Without Words series. An excellent entry in a series that is becoming one to watch.
The book opens with a two page spread of a tiny island dotted with small A-frame huts, massive sun looming in the sky. A small band of Geisert’s familiar human-like pigs are doing their best to beat the heat – seeking shade and cooling themselves with fans – with lackluster results. Their huge well, which provides water to the entire island, is running low. After gathering to plan a voyage, the pigs spring into action, lifting off in their frigate-meets-hot-air-balloon vessel. They journey north, hitch an iceberg, and pull it back to their home, where it provides much needed relief.
The creativity is off the charts here. Geisert’s detailed illustrations run the show, creating a pleasing mix of nuts and bolts reality and island fantasy. I think the magic comes from the fact that everything seems as if it could almost happen. The civilization looks like something humans would build. The island’s well system seems plausible. Heck, even the cover brings to mind an old photograph of remote real-life island-dwellers, discovered by the outside world for the first time.
A simple, pitch-perfect story that will serve to get the imaginative juices flowing. The year is young, but Ice will likely be a 2011 standout.
Review copy from publisher.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
Some of the entries into the Cover Curiosities file are clearly the doing of the Intentional Bogeyman (holding stuff, I’m talking about you), others I chalk up to the Ghost of Random Chance. I am very superstitious about about my cover similarities. Today’s submission strikes me as a member of the latter camp, but I can’t help but see some common ground in these two appealing covers. Up first…
Bunny Days by Tao Nyeu
Calvin Can’t Fly by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Keith Bendis
And, just for kicks, lets try a new way to compare the two:
The composition, the white space, the text locations – certainly similar. Not that I’m complaining.
Last week it was Newbery, this week it’s Caldecott. Next week I’m hoping the folks at ACPL conduct a mock chocolate-covered pretzel contest. I would also like in on such a contest. Anyway, ACPL has gone and posted their third list of Caldecott contenders. List #1List #2List #3
HOW A COVER IS BORN
I sometimes tinker with covers. The results? Not so hot. If you want a taste of how the pros do it, you’ll enjoy the cover evolution series at ABRAMS Art Director (and former 100 Scope Notes interviewee) Chad W. Beckerman’s blog Mishaps and Adventures. To see the entire cover art process, from initial sketches to finished product and all the stops in between for Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes by Lisa Greenwald, click here.
FAMILY GREED SEPARATES CHARLOTTE FROM WILBUR
This is a real headline alert, folks. Remember the recent auction of original Charlotte’s Web artwork? Well there is more to the story, as Rocco Staino explains in this Huffington Post piece. There’s even a video of the auction. Click here to read.
Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama. Currently #1 on the New York Times and Indie Bound picture book bestseller lists.
The first week of sales for President Obama’s picture book was, to paraphrase Joe Biden, “a big deal”. Of Thee I Sing topped both the New York Times and Indie Bound bestseller lists.
You have to love a list with some quirk. Guardian makes some less traditional picks for their 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books. Click the image above to read.
*Disclaimer* The process described below is one method for informing Cybils evaluating. It is not, I repeat, not how the Cybils shortlists are created.
I’m honored to be a panelist on the fiction picture book committee of the 2010 Cybils awards. Since “kid appeal” is part of the award criteria, I though it wise to hit up honest-to-goodness youngsters for their opinions. While I can make predictions on what will float kids’ boats, you can never know for sure until you see the boats actually floatin’.
Here’s my plan:
A book battle of epic proportions. Two schools, eight classrooms, one winner. Well, actually, two winners (but that last sentence sounded so much better with “one winner”). I’ll add these two final student choices to the list of books I’ll be fighting for when our committee gathers to create a shortlist.
Week 1 is a straight-up battle. Each classroom gets two books, they read both and pick their favorite. Scientific? Nay. But a way to gather some useful information.
I feel like it would be slightly unfair to show which books lost, as all have been nominated and are still under consideration. So let’s take a look at the winning books for week one. Each and every title has been classroom approved:
Sneaky Sheep by Chris Monroe
The illustrations in Sneaky Sheep were a high point for students. The humorous story was also a winner.
Hot Rod Hamster Cynthia Lord & Derek Anderson
Students enjoyed the rhyming text and humor of Hot Rod Hamster.
Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer & Scott Magoon
Students noted the artwork in Mostly Monsterly as excellent. They also enjoyed the original story.
Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown
Humor takes the cake. Children love the absurdity of this story and the fact that the boy’s only communication is “squeak”.
Spork by Kyo Maclear & Isabelle Arsenault
Students like Spork‘s unusual illustrations and loved the originality on display. They use sporks at lunch, so they can relate the utensil. The giant baby featured in the climax was also a big hit.
My Garden by Kevin Henkes
My Garden won the day for two reasons: the creativity of the story and the outstanding illustrations.
0 Comments on Epic Cybils Book Battle: Week I as of 1/1/1900
Over four days, fellow school librarian John Schumacher and I will bring you our Top 20 children’s books of the year. The list contains books for the Kindergarten through sixth grade reader, but other than that, anything goes. You’ll see picture books mingling with graphic novels and chapter books elbowing nonfiction. Five titles a day, presented in countdown fashion.
These are our favorite books of 2010.
20. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger [Amulet]
Few 2010 releases made as memorable a first impression as The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. The cover, featuring the iconic Star Wars character in paper form, brandishing his lightsaber is the definition of shelf appeal. But what makes this book truly stand out as one of the year’s best is its uniquely authentic portrayal of the humor, awkwardness, and first crushes of 6th grade life. –Travis Jonker ___________________________________________________________________
19. Art & Max by David Wiesner [Clarion]
Am I Beezus or Ramona? Frog or Toad? Mary Richards or Lou Grant? Now, thanks to three-time Caldecott Medal winner David Wiesner, you’ll ask yourself: Am I Art or Max?
Art and Max are lizards. Arthur is serious, while Max is impulsive and bubbling with energy. The opening spread shows Art painting a portrait while listening to Pink Floyd. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would say Art is experiencing “flow”.) Max charges into the story, nearly crashes into Art’s easel, announcing, “I can paint too, Arthur!” While Art finds this news ridiculous, he eventually concedes and lets Max join, so long as he doesn’t get in the way. This decision takes readers on a colorful journey through watercolor, acrylic, pastel, and India ink. Kids will gasp at Wiesner’s bold illustrations. An eight-year-old responded, “It felt like Art was going to leap from the page. I was afraid my clothes would get covered in paint.” –John Schumacher ___________________________________________________________________
18. How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page [Houghton Mifflin]
Rarely do children’s literature team-ups generate the amount of success enjoyed by the duo of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. It’s become so common for this pair to create outstanding work, that their excellence sometimes slips by without much fanfare. Well, it’s Vuvuzela time, folks, because How to Clean a Hippopotamus ranks among the year’s best. An eye-catching informational powerhouse examining unexpected animal alliances that deserves to be nonfiction section standard-issue. –Travis Jonker _____________________________________________________
After a holidays and ALA Midwinter induced hiatus, Covering the Newbery is back up and running. The basics? I’m redoing the cover of every Newbery Medal-winning book, beginning with The Story of Mankind and working up to today. Uh, this little project is going to take a while. My rules are these:
The image I use must be Creative Commons-licensed for editing from the website Flickrcc.
Today I was checking out upcoming releases using Edelweiss (a great place to go for publisher catalogs y’all) when I came across a book that was released back in September – the paperback edition of Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston. If you remember, the original cover made an impression on me.
But this new design? It may just be a world’s first.
How is it unique? Take a look:
That’s right, the awards it has won (E.B. White Read Aloud Honor, Silver Birch) have been incorporated into the cover illustration as balloons held by the main character, Katrina Katrell. Very cool.
Now a question for the masses (this includes, of course Peter from Collecting Children’s Books) – is this the first book you’ve seen do such a thing?
Quality low-level series don’t grow on trees. Well actually, Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud doesn’t either – it hails from the UK – but I think you get where I’m going here. Light fun for kids who are a step above easy readers, yet are still in the early stages of chapter books, Extraordinary Ernie is the first book in a series that will charm scores of youngsters.
Ernie is not extraordinary. Remove the “extra” part and you’re getting closer to the truth. When the local branch of the Superhero Society holds a tryout for some new blood, Ernie is the only applicant, so he’s welcomed into the group and given a talking sheep sidekick named Maud. With the help of the other heroes our unlikely duo learns the ropes of becoming super, before striking out on their own local adventure. Ernie and Maud realize they may not have superpowers, but they work pretty well as a team.
Watts does a good job of bringing the concept of superheroes down to earth, an approach that brings out humor as these invincible men and women talk and act like everyday Joes and Josephines. Through it all Ernie is likeable as a kid who wants to be more, but isn’t quite sure how to get there.
Really, this book had me within the first couple pages. You have to love a setup like this:
The idea of a child being chosen for a life as a superhero will delight many a young reader. And the comedy of “winning” a sheep as your sidekick will make them laugh.
Sketchy pen and ink illustrations add a nice touch, guiding the reader through key moments. Watts tells a story that humanizes superheroes, and Watson’s illustrations reflect that – there are no superman-esque physiques to be seen here.
A nice start to a series that is easy to love, Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud will make a solid addition to the ranks of your early chapter book fare.
Review copy from publisher.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
What you are about to see is real. These are the books that actual, honest-to-goodness children are putting on hold at the school libraries where I work. The photo below (of books on hold at my 3rd and 4th grade school) has not been altered in any way.
Wait, let’s make this easier on ourselves:
Much better. Okay, since it’s a fairly crowed shelf this month, let’s put these books in categories.
The No Surprises Group:
39 Clues, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Calvin and Hobbes, Goosebumps, Scholastic Book of World Records, Batman/Superman
You didn’t know these were popular? I’d like to welcome you to 2010, because it is very likely you are a time traveler from the past.
The Seasonal Sensations:
Halloween, Mostly Ghostly
There’s something I love about the annual renewal of interest in seasonal books. It’s like they become famous again every year.
The Perennial Classic:
Where the Sidewalk Ends
This book just continues to get love – as you can probably tell by the condition it’s in. It has the pesky top o’ the spine tear going on.
The High Interest Nonfiction Contingent:
The Loch Ness Monster, Buck Wilder’s Small Fry Fishing Guide, The Golden Retriever
Lovers of facts make their presence felt on the hold shelf with this trio of titles.
The “I Didn’t Realize that was Popular Until I Realized It” Crew:
The English Roses series by Madonna, The Young Dancer by Darcy Bussel, The Scary States of America by Michael Teitelbaum
English Roses has been a unquestionable smash hit at my schools. As a result, my tongue-biting strength has never been better. The popularity of The Young Dancer once again re-affirms that one can never underestimate books on this topic. Scary States, a collection of 50 scary short stories is almost always on hold. If I can recommend you purchase one lesser-known title on this list, this crowd-pleaser would be it.
The Fiction Creeper:
Peak by Roland Smith
This book has been getting a bunch of checkouts recently – I’m chalking this one up to positive student word-of-mouth, which is always welcome.
Look for more books On Hold @ the Library next month.
Are you in the process of writing a book called “Neil Gaiman is a Cool Guy“? Oh, good – you’ll want to use this recent Twitter conversation between Gaiman and a confused Neil Patrick Harris fan. Click here (or the image below) to head over to BuzzFeed and read the whole thing.
After scouring the children’s lit landscape, what follows are the 10 titles set to release in December, January, and February that most caught my eye as a K-6 school librarian. It’s a subjective list, to be sure, and not a collection of surefire winners – just some promising prospects. Here we go…
Middle Grade Fiction
No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko
Feb. 8, 2011 | Dial
The Newbery-honor winning author of Al Capone Does My Shirts offers up a departure that I’m looking forward to. A fantasy about three siblings and their journey to Colorado to visit their uncle. Good author, interesting premise – consider my curiosity piqued.
What’s Bugging Bailey Blecker? by Gail Donovan
Feb. 17, 2011 | Dutton
Do we share a similar sense of humor? Let’s find out. I think this story about a 5th grader growing out her hair to donate while dealing with a classroom outbreak of head lice sounds like a comedy gem in the making. What do you think? From the author of In Memory of Gorfman T. Frog.
Nonfiction Picture Books
Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Sarah McMenemy
Jan. 25, 2011 | Random House
While biographies of well known historical figures are eye-catching, it is often the lesser-known stories that have the biggest impact. The author behind the wonderfully odd Doughnuthead takes on pioneering female cyclist Tillie Anderson. I’m looking forward to the results.
A Nation’s Hope: the Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Jan. 20, 2011 | Dial
Speaking of well-known figures, Joe Louis is one of America’s most famous boxers. Last I checked, however, there wasn’t a solid Louis bio for younger readers. With Kadir Nelson handing illustration duties, this one might fit the bill.
Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage
A wordless story about a zookeeper’s attempts to capture an escaped walrus, illustrated with about as much charm as you can fit between two covers.
Feb. 1, 2011 | Scholastic Press
Except If by Jim Averbeck
Jan. 25, 2011 | Atheneum
First came the egg, then the chicken. Except if it becomes a dino. Jim Averbeck (In a Blue Room) brings us a story full of possibilities.
0 Comments on 10 to Note: Winter Preview 2010-11 as of 1/1/1900
If you’re a librarian, a children’s lit fan, or just some dude who has a thing for best-of lists, you’ll be well served to check out the 2010 edition of School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year. So many great picks. Click the image below to read:
On the more commercial side of things, Amazon has also named their favorite children’s books of the year in two categories: picture books and middle readers. Worth a look. Click the images below to read: