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Results 1 - 25 of 258
1. Review of Playful Pigs from A to Z

lobel_playful pigsstar2 Playful Pigs from A to Z
by Anita Lobel; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary     Knopf     40 pp.
7/15     978-0-553-50832-1     $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-50833-8     $19.99
e-book ed. 978-0-553-50834-5     $10.99

Twenty-six pigs wake up in their pen and decide to explore the countryside, running down the road and finding a field of “magical surprises”: brightly colored, freestanding letters of the alphabet. Lobel’s soft early-morning watercolors give way to bolder pages on which each pig is now clothed and standing upright. The entire alphabet, set in a distinctive condensed typeface, runs along the top and bottom borders while each pig interacts happily with a single tall, thin letterform (all are upper-case but i). Lobel uses a name-verb-letter structure (“Amanda Pig admired an A. Billy Pig balanced on a B”), with rolling hills below and plenty of white space behind the pig and letter. Repeat readers will spot an extra object beginning with the letter in question tucked into a lower corner. Gender roles are satisfyingly relaxed: Greta, a female soldier, guards the G, while on the  opposite page Hugo tenderly hugs an H. By the time Yolanda yawns and Zeke zzzs, evening has arrived and the pigs return to their pen in a mirror image of the opening spreads, once again unclothed and running on all fours. Dinner is followed by bedtime, with all twenty-six snuggled together cozily. This playful treatment creates a humorous, easygoing book that should relieve any anxiety about learning the alphabet.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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2. Review of The Skunk

barnett_skunkstar2 The Skunk
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Patrick McDonnell
Primary     Roaring Brook     32 pp.
4/15     978-1-59643-966-5     $17.99

A skunk shows up on the narrator’s doorstep and begins to tail him. Try as he might, our narrator just can’t seem to shake the skunk — “When I sped up, the skunk sped up. When I slowed, the skunk slowed” — despite dodging in and out of an opera house, a graveyard, and a carnival. Ultimately, however, our narrator does lose his unwelcome shadow, crawling down a manhole in an alley and establishing a new life in a new house in a new part of the city (the heretofore low-toned palette now bursting with blue and yellow). It’s not long, though, before he realizes everything’s not what it’s cracked up to be, and he leaves his own party to go off in search of the skunk, vowing to keep an eye on him to “make sure he does not follow me again.” McDonnell’s graceful and simple cartoonlike illustrations mitigate the notes of paranoia and obsession in Barnett’s deadpan text, particularly in their rendering of the posture, gestures, and expressions of the main characters. Barnett has had the good fortune to collaborate with illustrators — Rex, Santat, Klassen — who share his oftentimes offbeat sense of humor; his pairing with McDonnell seems as natural as any of them.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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3. Review of Salsa

argueta_salsaSalsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem
by Jorge Argueta; illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh; trans. from the Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary     Groundwood     32 pp.
3/15     978-1-55498-442-8     $18.95
e-book ed. 978-1-55498-443-5     $16.95

In this latest addition to his series of bilingual cooking poems (Arroz con leche / Rice Pudding; Guacamole), Argueta plays on the multiple meanings of salsa to create a mouth-watering musical recipe. The poem begins with a young boy telling the history of the molcajete and tejolote, the mortar and pestle traditionally made from the volcanic rock that forms from cooled lava and used to grind vegetables and spices. As the boy and his family prepare their weekly salsa roja, the child’s imagination runs wild. Ingredients become instruments — an onion is a maraca, tomatoes are bongos and kettledrums. Argueta’s use of onomatopoeia (prac-presh-rrick-rrick is the sound of the ingredients being ground in the molcajete) and detailed description of ingredients play on the various senses to convey the sounds, flavors, and feelings coming together as the boy’s family dances, sings, and cooks. Tonatiuh’s illustrations, rendered primarily in greens and reds, complement the two types of salsa mentioned in the poem. The earthy tones and Mesoamerican-inspired drawings suit the poem’s combination of the traditional elements of salsa-making with the modern scenes of a family cooking and celebrating. The lack of measurements may leave some readers perplexed (exactly how many tomatoes are needed?), but the more important message of love and family gathering to create something special shines through.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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4. From the Guide: YA Memoirs

andrews_some assembly requiredAdolescence is a time of transition that for many teens is characterized by hurdles big and small. These new memoirs, written by and/or for young adults, and all recommended by The Horn Book Guide, offer teenage readers real-life stories of hardship and hard-won triumph.

—Katrina Hedeen
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Andrews, Arin  Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen
248 pp.     Simon     2014     ISBN 978-1-4814-1675-7
ebook isbn 978-1-4814-1677-1

YA With Joshua Lyon. The author, born female, suffered profound body dysmorphia until transitioning to male at age fourteen. Now seventeen, Andrews frankly discusses the physical and emotional challenges of his transition, activism, and very visible relationship with another transgender teen (Katie Rain Hill, author of Rethinking Normal, reviewed below). A “How to Talk to Your New  Transgender Friend” guide is appended. Reading list, websites.

Burcaw, Shane  Laughing at My Nightmare
250 pp.     Roaring Brook     2014     ISBN 978-1-62672-007-7

YA With brutal honesty, snarky humor, and a profound sense of absurdity, twenty-one-year-old wise-guy blogger Burcaw recounts the trials and tribulations of growing up with spinal muscular atrophy, with which he was diagnosed at age two. The conversational tone mixes information and personal anecdotes, putting a human face on a rare disability. An engaging, life-affirming memoir for teens.

DePrince, Michaela Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina
249 pp.     Knopf     2014     ISBN 978-0-385-75511-5
ebook ISBN 978-0-385-75513-9

YA With Elaine DePrince. This inspirational memoir traces Michaela’s journey from an orphanage in war-ravaged Sierra Leone through her adoption by an American couple to her rising ballet stardom (appearing in the documentary First Position; joining the Dutch National Ballet). Throughout, the daughter-and-mother writing team emphasizes how important optimism, love, and perseverance were to Michaela’s success. Striking textual imagery heightens the immediacy of Michaela’s experiences, whether tragic or triumphant.

Earl, Esther  This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life & Words of Esther Grace Earl
240 pp.     Dutton     2014     ISBN 978-0-525-42636-3

YA With Lori and Wayne Earl. John Green dedicated The Fault in Our Stars to Esther Earl, who, in her own words, “went through a life changing experience known as Thyroid Cancer.” This posthumous collection (with a moving introduction by Green) gathers her musings and drawings, which span her illness. Reflections by family and friends written both before and after her death at sixteen are also included. An ultimately hopeful offering.

Hill, Katie Rain  Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition
264 pp.     Simon     2014     ISBN 978-1-4814-1823-2
ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-1825-6

YA With Ariel Schrag. The author lived as a male — suicidally depressed due to body dysmorphia — until transitioning to female at age fifteen. This candid, touching memoir relates her transition, activism, public relationship with another transgender teen (Arin Andrews, Some Assembly Required, reviewed above) and hopes for the future. “Tips for Talking to Transgender People” are appended. Reading list, websites.

Rawl, Paige  Positive: Surviving My Bullies, Finding Hope, and Living to Change the World
272 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2014     ISBN 978-0-06-234251-5

YA With Ali Benjamin. HIV-positive teen Rawl recounts her journey through discovery, bullying, suicidal despair, and activism, tying her story into larger messages about difference, acceptance, healing, and courage, with additional focus on her anti-bullying platform. Rawl is frank and likable; her memoir’s strong narrative arc and relatable emotional reference points make it a highly readable conduit to multiple timely issues. Abundant resources are appended.

Rose, Mary  Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose
329 pp.     Sourcebooks/Fire     2014     ISBN 978-1-4022-8758-9

YA Edited by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil. A posthumously published diary (supplemented by occasional letters and drawings) chronicles a troubled teen’s experiments with sex, drugs, and alcohol in the late 1990s; her conflicted relationship with her single mother; and her eventual decline and death from cystic fibrosis. A series of impressions rather than a shaped narrative, the book’s rawness and angst will nevertheless resonate with many teens.

Sundquist, Josh  We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story
290 pp.     Little, Brown     2015     ISBN 978-0-316-25102-0
ebook isbn 978-0-316-25101-3

YA Paralympian skier, motivational speaker, and video blogger Sundquist’s funny and endearing memoir chronicles his attempt to examine his romantic encounters after he realizes, at age twenty-five, that he’s never actually had a girlfriend. The resulting investigation — presented in a report-like format with footnotes, charts, and graphs — covers ten years of would-be relationships cut short by uncertainty, awkwardness, and misunderstandings.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.

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5. 2015 Mind the Gap Awards: The books that didn’t win at ALA

mindthegap2015__237x203

Mad, man! The Madman of Piney Woods
by Christopher Paul Curtis
No Printz for the princes The Children of the King
by Sonya Hartnett
#WWBYD
(What Would Baba Yaga Do?)
Egg & Spoon
by Gregory Maguire
Slow and steady didn’t win the race The Turtle of Oman
by Naomi Shihab Nye,
illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt
Locked out The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza
by Jack Gantos
Eclipsed West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Not its day in the sun Buried Sunlight
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm,
illustrated by Molly Bang
Stalled My Bus by Byron Barton
Drat! Draw! by Raúl Colón
There. Are. No. Words. The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee

 

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.

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6. Book & Me | Comic #20

bm20

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7. Preview July/August 2015 Horn Book Magazine

July/August 2015 Horn Book MagazineSpecial Issue: Awards

Original cover art by 2015 Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat.

Deborah Taylor, 2015 recipient of the Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, examines the winners and honorees of this year’s CSK Awards.

Jacqueline Woodson’s CSK Author Award acceptance speech.

Editor Nancy Paulsen’s profile of Jacqueline Woodson.

Christopher Myers’s CSK Illustrator Award acceptance speech.

Author Jason Reynolds’s profile of Christopher Myers.

Thom Barthelmess notices trends within the 2015 Newbery and Caldecott winners and honorees.

Dan Santat’s Caldecott Medal acceptance speech.

Editor Connie Hsu’s profile of Dan Santat.

Sight Reading: Leonard Marcus on This One Summer, honored by both the Caldecott and Printz committees.

Kwame Alexander’s Newbery Medal acceptance speech.

Poet Nikki Giovanni’s profile of Kwame Alexander.

A Second Look: Kathleen T. Horning rereads 1964 Newbery winner It’s Like This, Cat.

Donald Crews’s Wilder Medal Acceptance speech.

Nina Crews’s profile of her dad, Donald Crews.

Books in the Home by Megan Lambert: #WeGotDiverseAwardBooks.

2015 Mind the Gap Awards.

From The Guide: Young Adult Memoirs.

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8. Transformers: Reimagining the World

lo_ashBack in my late twenties, when I decided to finally, earnestly try to be a novelist, I chose to start with something I thought would be easy: a fairy-tale retelling. I figured that since I already knew the plot, I wouldn’t get stuck. (All seasoned writers who are reading this are probably laughing.) I settled on retelling “Cinderella” and immediately began to reshape some of the key elements. I turned the fairy godmother into a male fairy based on the Sidhe, a race of supernatural people who lived in the hills of Ireland. My fairy was even named Sidhean as a nod to that inspiration.

Initially, I thought that Sidhean was the major twist in my retelling, but I was wrong. It turned out that the main character, Ash, had no interest in Prince Charming; instead, she insisted on falling in love with a woman. This was difficult for me to accept at first. Even though I am a lesbian, the idea of transforming the Cinderella tale so radically seemed impossible. I tried to make Prince Charming more charming, but it was no use: Ash just wasn’t that into him. Eventually, I gave in to the demands of the story, and my novel Ash found its footing.

Part of the reason I had been hesitant to transform Cinderella into a lesbian was because I did not want to write a coming-out story. I wanted to write a fairy tale. Thankfully, during the course of editing out the failed heterosexual romance, I realized that I didn’t need to write a coming-out story. Ash was set in a fantasy world, and there was no need for same-sex love to be taboo there. I made the creative decision to let it be entirely normal, and Ash got to have her happily-ever-after.

The normalization of lesbian and bisexual identities has continued to be a theme in my books since Ash; it is probably the defining theme of my work.

In my fantasy novel Huntress, I took the story structure of the hero’s quest and wrote both within and against its confines. Instead of an orphan boy chosen to save the world, I imagined the daughter of a powerful noble joining forces with the magically gifted daughter of a poor farmer. I also wanted to flip the script on valorizing a lone hero; in Huntress, the world is saved through cooperation. And rather than having love be the reward for the lone hero, love is the reason the two heroines of Huntress are able to succeed. Their love for each other makes them stronger. It does not make them deviant.

In my science-fiction duology Adaptation and Inheritance, the stories I transformed came from contemporary myths about UFOs and conspiracy theories — the folklore of today. I also wanted to push the boundaries of identity and sexual orientation through the metaphor of the love triangle, one of young adult fiction’s most loved and hated tropes. That metaphor allowed me to continue my project of normalizing identities that are often depicted as deviant in mainstream fiction.

Over the last couple of years I’ve come to realize that this is the central project I’m engaged in: transformation of deviance into normalcy. My goal — subconscious at first, increasingly conscious today — has been to take story types that have traditionally excluded lesbians and bisexual women and change them into narratives where being queer is natural, universal. This metamorphosis is about reimagining the world to include people like me. I suspect this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.

From the May/June 2015 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Transformations.

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9. Review of Unusual Chickens for the 
Exceptional Poultry Farmer

jones_unusual chickens for the exceptional poultry farmerUnusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
by Kelly Jones; illus. by Katie Kath
Intermediate   Knopf   213 pp.
5/15   978-0-385-75552-8   $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-385-75553-5   $19.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-385-75554-2   $10.99

Moving to a farm inherited from her great-uncle may not be city-girl Sophie’s first choice for improving her family’s financial situation, but she’s determined to make the best of it. Chickens would make the farm more interesting, so when she finds a flier in the barn advertising the titular fowl, she writes in. Responses from “Agnes” at Redwood Farm come in the form of an extensive correspondence course in chicken-raising, and in the meantime decidedly unusual chickens find their way to the farm: Henrietta has telekinetic powers, and Chameleon is aptly named. Sophie quickly becomes devoted to her flock, but so does Ms. Griegson, a neighbor with her own interest in chickens with superpowers. It’s new-girl Sophie’s word against Ms. Griegson’s in a town unused to new people, especially new families with one white and one Mexican American parent; to the townspeople’s credit, they ultimately give Sophie the benefit of the doubt. The epistolary format consists mostly of letters in Sophie’s earnest voice; often the addressee is either her late abuelita or her great-uncle Jim in various iterations of the afterlife (“Mictlan”; “Heaven’s Dance Party”; “Valhalla, maybe?”). Sophie’s unique way of figuring life out on her own makes her easy to root for and provides entertainment beyond the inherent humor of chickens. Black-and-white illustrations match the mostly light feel of the text.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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10. Transformers: Ready or Not…

Lee_beauty and the beastTranslating Madame Villeneuve’s and Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s eighteenth-century French into contemporary American 
English for our picture book Beauty and the Beast was indeed a transformative event. In addition to the dramatic change in language, there were other differences, surprises brought on by time and the filter of many others before me. The process taught me (a former journalist who stumbled into the realm of children’s literature) which themes had survived over the 275-year written history of “La Belle et la Bête” and which had become “refined” or sweetened for easier consumption.

In this tale (in our version, told in the first person by Beauty), three main themes survive: love, magic, and the power of a promise. These were illustrated again and again. Love makes Beauty sacrifice her life for her father (love will make you do right; love will make you do wrong). Magic makes the prince into a beast. And promises make everyone behave.

It has been said many times that the only thing permanent is change. If done with enough imagination and purpose, change can be transformative, even magical. Sometimes it’s physical, beyond the control of ordinary people: what really controls the climate? Other times it’s mental, metaphysical, due to a new perspective or new information. In all cases it seems that change is going to happen, ready or not.

It seems to me that high on the list of things with the power to transform is hope. The belief that things will change for the better if only faith and purposeful acts are applied.

Our version of “Beauty” is an act of hope, the belief that when given a new and different perspective on an accepted story with universal themes of love, magic, and promises made, we can transcend the notion that only some people are equipped for change. That universal feelings like love, fear, and hope are in fact found in all people. And that the story is just as powerful no matter what the cultural setting. Most audiences appreciate and even cheer at the idea that someone would sacrifice her own safety in the hope of protecting someone she loves. And that kindness and love can magically transform a beast into a prince.

–H. Chuku Lee

* * *

Fairy tales, like folktales, are continually transformed by the folks who tell them. So the dicey bits have been cut from “Rapunzel”: thorns don’t gouge out the prince’s eyes, Rapunzel doesn’t get pregnant. And Cinderella’s stepsisters don’t carve up their feet in order to cram them into the glass slipper.

The timeless appeal of “Beauty and the Beast” may stem from our desire to believe that pure goodness can conquer the most terrifying of beasts. After seeing Jean Cocteau’s film La Belle et la Bête, I realized there was more to the story I thought I knew well. In the reference section at the library, I found a dusty version of the tale, written by Madame Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. The text was beyond my translating abilities, but Chuku’s former incarnation as a diplomat in Paris helped him unravel the archaic French.

His version, told from Beauty’s point of view, seemed elegant and contemporary. And I wanted to update Beauty as well, to show her as a young woman of color whose world clearly evokes Africa. The Beast’s scarifications even suggest a particular tribe. But although classics transcend time, trends, and cultures, some elements of the story seemed etched in stone: it had to be a rose, and the Beast had to be part animal. “Beauty and the Beast” has more than its share of classic themes: love conquers all, true beauty lies within, appearances can be misleading, magic can save the day…But Chuku hit upon one I hadn’t considered before, one that resonated with me while illustrating the story. For me, it has become the new timeless theme at the heart of the story: the power of a promise.

–Pat Cummings

From the May/June 2015 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Transformations.

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11. Review of Tad and Dad

stein_tad and dadTad and Dad
by David Ezra Stein; 
illus. by the author
Preschool   Paulsen/Penguin   40 pp.
4/15   978-0-399-25671-4   $16.99   g

Poor Dad. Poor Tad. Neither frog is getting any sleep in his (lily)pad. Tad loves his dad so much that he can hardly bear to be away from him, even at night. Whether Tad is a wiggling tadpole, swimming everywhere with his dad, or a jumping frog with legs, he doesn’t want to sleep alone. “‘Why are you in my bed?’ said Dad. ‘So you won’t miss me,’ I said.” Parents everywhere, especially those with night-wandering, bed-sharing toddlers, will laugh with grim identification when Tad starts to swim and grow and jump and catch his own breakfast, just like Dad, but still crowds onto Dad’s lilypad at bedtime. And, when night comes and the growing froglet dreams and practices his new skills in his sleep (“So that’s what was kicking me…”), little ones will chuckle at Tad’s enthusiasm and Dad’s growing exhaustion. Relaxed circular and rectangular frames signal Dad’s more mature bearing, while Tad’s energy is uncontained, often filling the whole spread. Stein uses color to great effect to show the lap-listener that this little gem is both a celebration of the father-child relationship and a good-night book. See Tad and Dad snoring together on the last page? The world is blue and black, lit only by the moon. ’Night, Tad. ’Night, Dad. Like every good go-to-sleep book, this one will hold up to many repeat readings.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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12. Horn Book Magazine – July/August 2015

July/August 2015 Horn Book Magazine

Table of Contents


Features

“Coretta Scott King Awards 2015″ by Deborah Taylor
“A group of established creators and some very intriguing newcomers.”

“Coretta Scott King Author Award Acceptance” by Jacqueline Woodson

“A profile of Jacqueline Woodson” by Nancy Paulsen

“Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Acceptance” by Christopher Myers

“A profile of Christopher Myers” by Jason Reynolds

“Caldecott and Newbery 2015″ by Thom Barthelmess
“Some meaningful, curious, and thought-provoking juxtapositions.”

“Caldecott Medal Acceptance” by Dan Santat

“A profile of Dan Santat” by Connie Hsu

“Newbery Medal Acceptance” by Kwame Alexander

“A profile of Kwame Alexander” by Nikki Giovanni

“Wilder Medal Acceptance” by Donald Crews

“A profile of Donald Crews” by Nina Crews

“2015 Mind the Gap Awards”
The books that didn’t win.


Columns

Editorial
“What the Survey Doesn’t Say” by Roger Sutton
Diversity by the numbers.

Sight Reading
“Some Vacation: This One Summer” by Leonard S. Marcus
Thoughts on this one book, honored by both the Caldecott and Printz committees.

A Second Look
It’s Like This, Cat” by Kathleen T. Horning
“The 1964 Newbery winner was difficult to select” — ah, do tell!

Books in the Home
“#WeGotDiverseAwardBooks” by Megan Dowd Lambert
Reflections on awards and allies.

From The Guide
“YA Memoirs”
A selection of reviews from The Horn Book Guide.


Reviews

Book Reviews


Departments

On the Web
July/August Starred Books
Impromptu
Index to Advertisers
Index to Books Reviewed


Cover © 2015 by Dan Santat. Page 2 art from Firebird. Illustration © 2014 by Christopher Myers.


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13. Dream Keepers: 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award Acceptance

woodson_brown girl dreamingIt is Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in a restaurant in Vancouver, B.C. In an hour, I will give my final talk of a two-day visit. In these two days, I’ve visited a number of schools in Vancouver — both independent and public. As I stood in front of each crowd, I was astonished by a thing I’ve not encountered for many years now — being the only African American in an otherwise incredibly diverse room. I kept thinking to myself — “We are all almost here.”

Almost.

At the Hudson Children’s Book Festival in May, a young white reporter asked me, How has the award changed your life? I looked at her a moment, then said, Which award? She fell silent, looking confused. I was not inclined to fill the silence. In Brown Girl Dreaming I write, “Even the silence has a story to tell you. Just listen. Listen.” So I listened to the space grow between us — knowing the answer she would give was not the answer I wanted to hear. I knew her answer was going to come from her own sense of what is important in the world as she knew it. I held up the book and pointed to the CSK seal on it, letting more silence sit between us before I began in (as my partner likes to refer to it) my Joho Manner, to calmly and quietly break things down for her.

The Coretta Scott King Honor Award was given to me for the first time in 1995 for my book I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This, a story of two girls growing up in Chauncey, Ohio — one wealthy and black, the other poor and white. Both being raised by their fathers. Because the book dealt with issues of, among other things, a deeply flawed health care system, friendship across lines of economic class, and sexual abuse, I was stunned and so pleased that the committee had awarded this book. But in 1996, when my novel From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun was given an Honor, while I was still young and nervous and new to the world of young people’s literature, I just thought, “Wow!” I had never dreamed that a book with a gay mom would even get published, let alone win a CSK Honor Award. I realized then that there were some people in this world who had my back — some people letting me know: “We got you.” Both of these moments changed my life.

And again my life was changed when the CSK committee gave the Author Award to my book Miracle’s Boys in 2001. That year, we learned that employees at the hotel where the awards ceremony was to be held were picketing. When the CSK members refused to cross the picket lines and, instead, canceled the ceremony, I knew I had found my people. In the way of our people always finding a way to make a way out of no way, my publisher and other publishers came together and organized the CSK Tea that Bryan Collier, the CSK Award winner for illustration, and I spoke at. The morning before that tea, I learned I was pregnant with our daughter, Toshi. To stand in that room and be among new family and old family, a generation coming, kindred spirits and people who deeply, deeply believed in me, was life-altering. And the years after these awards, when the CSK committee chose Locomotion and Each Kindness as Honor Books — launching those books into the world with their blessing, believing deeply…in me — these events have forever changed my life.

The first time I read Rudine Sims Bishop’s writing and understood the work I was brought here to do, my life was changed forever. The first time Deb Taylor brought me to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, my life was changed forever. The first time I hugged Walter Dean Myers, sat beside Virginia Hamilton and basked in the warmth of her smile, snapped a photo with Tom Feelings, read Stevie by John Steptoe — my life was changed forever. Every time I get to be in a room with Dr. Henrietta Smith, my life is changed.

So while there are some who will try to find ways to erase the magnitude of this award, the amazingness of us and our work — there are many more who know the importance of our stories in the world. So to the Coretta Scott King committee who chose Brown Girl Dreaming as this year’s award winner, I say Thank You — you have, once again, changed my life. To my editor, Nancy Paulsen, who dug so deeply into the pages of this story and helped me to believe that there was some sense to this journey, and a purpose,  I say Thank You — you continue to change my life. And to my Penguin Random House family, whose passion comes through with every email and phone call and visit to the office and dinner and champagne toast — I say Thank You. To my past editor, Wendy Lamb, who said “Write what you want,” and my past agent, Charlotte Sheedy, who said “We need to find you a home” and found me Nancy Paulsen — I say Thank You. To my present agent, Kathleen Nishimoto, whose energy and dedication and joy just…just makes me smile — I say Thank You. To my single mom, who, during the Great Migration, somehow got four kids from Greenville to Brooklyn and made sure we were all educated — in memory, I say Thank You. To the Woodsons and the Irbys who are still on this planet and the ones who have moved to the next place, I say Thank You. And to my family — my amazing partner, my glorious children, the aunts and uncles (two of whom are on this stage with me—Chris and Jason!—and Kwame, when you come to Brooklyn, we’re gonna rope you in, too!), and to the rest of our village who change our lives by being here to help us through every single day — I say Thank You!

manyauthors_adjusted_550x550

From left to right: Christopher Myers, Kwame Alexander, Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Rita Williams-Garcia. Photo courtesy of Jason Reynolds.

I am deeply honored. We are here because of our ancestors and elders and the people who hold us up every day — thanks for helping all of us never forget them or the way each of us finds a way to make a way out of no way — every single day. Thank you so much, all of you who believe in Diverse Books, who believe in keeping young brown children — and all children — dreaming.

Jacqueline Woodson is the 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner for Brown Girl Dreaming (Paulsen/Penguin). Her acceptance speech was delivered at the annual American Library Association Conference in San Francisco on June 28, 2015. From the July/August 2015 Special Awards issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read editor Nancy Paulsen’s profile of Jacqueline Woodson. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015

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14. Profile of 2015 CSK Author winner Jacqueline Woodson

Photo: Marty Umans

Photo: Marty Umans

One of the greatest joys of my career has been seeing Brown Girl Dreaming come to life and reverberate as it has been handed from reader to reader.

I have been lucky enough to work with Jacqueline Woodson for almost twenty years. She was the very first author I signed up when I became the publisher of G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Her lyrical writing sang to me. Her voice was so strong and clear and evocative. I also loved her spare style, how she could make magic happen with an economy of words. Since then I’ve edited six of her amazing picture books; Brown Girl Dreaming is the tenth novel we’ve worked on together.

I never know what I am going to get next from Jacqueline, and I am always happily surprised. The muse strikes her, and then she sends her stories to me at various stages in the creative process. Some of the picture books, such as Show Way and Each Kindness, were practically perfect and complete when I received them. The main challenge for those titles was finding the right illustrator. The early drafts of the novels usually come in with much of the story in place, but lots of holes to fill in. So I start by asking questions. I love every character and always want to know more. With Brown Girl Dreaming — a memoir in verse — boy, did I want to know more about a character I loved!

When I received the first draft of Brown Girl Dreaming in 2012, I knew I was holding something special in my hands. Many of the poems from the first section were already there, including the opening one, which begins:

I am born on a Tuesday at University
Hospital
Columbus, Ohio,
USA—
a country caught

between Black and White.

Right from the beginning, we know we are going to get a story that is deeply personal but also one that tells of a shared history—the racial divide that is part of America—and readers will experience it from the eyes of a child who has lived in the North and the South. And because of the book’s title, we know we are in the hands of a dreamer, a young girl who has hope and aspirations. She is an observant student of the world around her. I love how she contemplates who she might become in the future by her admiration of those who have come before her:

I do not know if these hands will become
Malcolm’s—raised and fisted
or Martin’s—open and asking
or James’s—curled around a pen.

Through Jacqueline’s eyes we see, and then feel, the terrible injustice that a dignified black woman, her beloved grandmother, had to live through on a daily basis:

We walk straight past Woolworth’s
without even looking in the windows
because the one time my grandmother
went inside
they made her wait and wait. Acted like
I wasn’t even there. It’s hard not to see the
moment—
my grandmother in her Sunday clothes,
a hat
with a flower pinned to it
neatly on her head, her patent-leather
purse,
perfectly clasped
between her gloved hands—waiting
quietly
long past her turn.

As we witness her grandmother’s ordeal, our hearts are broken by something we cannot fix. But we gain such insight into how families like Jacqueline’s figured out ways to fight back, ways to bring about the change the world so desperately needed:

This is the way brown people have to fight,
my grandfather says.
You can’t just put your fist up. You have to
     insist
on something
gently. Walk toward a thing
slowly.

But be ready to die,
my grandfather says,
for what is right.

woodson_brown girl dreaming_170x258As I read each draft of Brown Girl Dreaming — and, as Jacqueline says, there were so dang many of them! — I wanted more and more answers. I wanted to know about the love she felt for both her Southern and Northern roots and what it felt like to have a special place in her heart for each of them. I wanted to know what it was like when her mother bravely went off alone to search for a place to bring up her four children, a place that would offer them the most freedom and opportunity.

Looking for her next place.
Our next place.
Right now, our mother says,
we’re only halfway home.

And I imagine her standing
in the middle of a road, her arms out
fingers pointing North and South.

I want to ask:
Will there always be a road?
Will there always be a bus?
Will we always have to choose
between home

and home?

The book grew from three parts to five, as it became clear that more ground needed to be covered for the many facets of Jacqueline’s life. Please tell me more about your religion, I asked. What was it like to go door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witness and have to introduce yourself to strangers? And in the telling, more stories emerged. Jacqueline’s grandfather (called “Daddy”), as it turned out, did not embrace organized religion. Her uncle, while in jail, converted to Islam. And in living through all this, Jacqueline
grew more open and empathetic to other people’s beliefs:

But I want the world where my daddy is
and don’t know why
anybody’s God would make me
have to choose.

One of the best parts of editing this memoir was learning about how storytelling was a part of young Jacqueline’s life. How she could hold her classmates rapt by repeating stories even before she learned to read. How she knew, early on, that there was enormous power in words:

I want to catch words one day. I want to
hold them
then blow gently,
watch them float
right out of my hands.

And so she has. Jacqueline’s words in Brown Girl Dreaming float off the page; they first linger and then stay even longer with the reader. When the thirty drafts were done, and Jacqueline and I both agreed at the same time that the story was complete, we had advance reading copies made. I gave out the first ones to librarians and educators at the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio in early 2014. John Schumacher and Colby Sharp shared their copies with Paul Hankins and with Donalyn Miller, who wrote in a Nerdy Book Club blog post about reading the galley on her way home from the convention:

As I read, a silver thread flowed out of Brown Girl Dreaming, and twined up my wrist to my chest — connecting Jackie’s family to me and making them part of me. Following Colby’s scribbled brackets around lines and folded page corners like messages for me to find, he was with me in the book, too. That thread connects me to Jackie now, but it also connects me to Colby, Jillian [Heise], and everyone who will ever read Brown Girl Dreaming.

I love that Jacqueline’s writing has the power to connect us. It reminds us of so many universal parts of growing up: competing with siblings, feeling content in the heart of your family, being confused by a million messages coming at you, struggling to make sense of the senseless, and ultimately finding the power of your own voice. Reading a memoir like Brown Girl Dreaming reminds us that each of us has a voice and needs to find it in our own time; that everyone’s story is important; that we become stronger by dreaming our dreams and sharing our stories; and that books have the power to make the world a better place.

And so I thank Jacqueline Woodson, as well as all the librarians and teachers and booksellers who have worked to get this book into the hands of so many readers. You are all changing the world.

Profile of 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Jacqueline Woodson. From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read Jacqueline Woodson’s Coretta Scott King Author Award acceptance speech for Brown Girl Dreaming. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.

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15. Profile of 2015 Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat

bigbook

Dan Santat is one of the hardest-working people in publishing. This is widely known among his followers on Twitter and Facebook, who often see him burning the midnight oil, and the editors and art directors at the several publishing houses with which he’s worked.

This is obvious in the number of books that bear his dynamic illustrations, in everything from picture books and chapter books to graphic novels. This is undeniable, because last year he created over five hundred pages of four-color illustrations.

This is unheard of.

bikechickenBut what Dan does isn’t just hard work. It takes a lot of guts too, a blind leap of faith that gave him the drive to sleep for only four hours a night for ten years, so that he could, time and again, turn in consistently great work — all while raising two young sons, Alek and Kyle, with his wife Leah, and taking care of a menagerie of pets.

Like Beekle, Dan Santat has been on a journey.

He was born in Brooklyn in 1975 to Adam and Nancy Santat, a Thai couple who immigrated to the United States in 1968. When he turned three, his parents moved the family to California, where they both eagerly awaited the day their only child would become a doctor.

When Dan graduated from the University of California, San Diego in microbiology, he found himself pulled by a calling that he’d had for many years but had never acted on. Rather than going on to dental school, he instead enrolled at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. There he saw something familiar — other students just like him who dreamed of a life filled with art. This is also where he met one of his closest friends, illustrator Peter Brown.

He then sailed through unknown waters and took on many different jobs, from texture artist and 3D modeler to concept art designer for video games, until he reached the children’s book world. In 2002, he met Scholastic editor Arthur Levine at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference, which led to his first book, The Guild of Geniuses. Aside from developing a Disney animated television series, The Replacements, it was all books from there on.

Children’s book publishing is a strange place. The process is slow. It takes a lot of work. And most people don’t get paid very much.

In 2010, Dan was offered what most people would call a dream job. Google approached him, wanting him to become one of their Google Doodlers. Taking that job meant financial stability for his family. It would prove art school wasn’t a mistake. It would change his life.

He turned the job down.

It was not an easy decision, but he loved creating children’s books, and deep down, he knew he would look back and wonder “What if?” He also thought about the example he was setting for his sons and how he wanted them to also follow their dreams no matter how difficult. Determined to have no regrets, Dan became a work machine.

surlyasian2He took on as many projects as he could, always pushing himself to make the next book better. He woke up every morning at 6:30 to help his boys get to school and worked until 2 a.m. He illustrated over sixty books, and in 2014 alone, he had thirteen books published that featured his art. He drank so much coffee that he began roasting his own beans, even creating his own brand he called “Surly Asian Guy,” which he shared with friends, family, and colleagues. The coffee is bold, strong, and a touch bitter, but still quite pleasing — a little like Dan himself.

This grueling routine went on for years, and Dan assumed he could do it for more, but 2014 was rough. Family health emergencies led to hospitalizations, and multiple deadlines for big books left him with as few as twelve hours of sleep in an entire week. He was exhausted, and on his birthday last October he shared the following in a blog post: “I want and expect far too much than what I may be capable of. I’m thirty-nine and I feel tired.”

A few weeks later, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend began to appear on year-end “best of ” lists. Minh Le at The Huffington Post blog named it the Best Overall picture book of the year, and in his review he wrote, “As with all great books, Beekle has an air of inevitability about it. As if somewhere out there is an island of perfect stories just waiting for the right person to come along and imagine it into being.”

Up until then, Dan was known for his action-packed illustrations, full of humor and high energy, as seen in books such as Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World, The Three Ninja Pigs, and Chicken Dance. Beekle’sstory reflected his softer side and was inspired by Dan’s first child, his son Alek. Like Beekle imagining his real friend, Dan had wondered, before Alek’s birth, what his child would look and be like. A few years later, on Alek’s first day of school, Dan eased his son’s worries about making friends. “All it takes is one,” he’d said, just as when Alice finally meets Beekle and his friendship opens up for her the possibility for more.

santatfamilyThe name “Beekle” itself comes from Alek’s first word, an early attempt at “bicycle.” There’s a video of one-year-old Alek pedaling a tricycle at Christmas, cheerfully exclaiming, “Beekle!” At the time, Dan’s wife Leah said the name would make a great picture book character. Years later, “Beekle” became an unimaginary friend.

The book began as a very short script, a few black-and-white sketches, and one full-color sample. Beekle had one eye, a hat and scarf, and a story that hinted at journey and adventure. Since he’d written only one picture-book text, and that over ten years earlier, writing did not come quickly to Dan. He took an ambitious approach at first. At one point, the story was a metaphor for the creative process, a tale of how
an author and illustrator come together on a picture book. But then he took a step back and adhered to the old adage of “speaking from the heart.” The minute you meet Dan you can tell he’s a captivating storyteller and speaker, and he soon realized that all he had to do was take those words out of his mouth and put them onto paper.

santat_adventures of beekleThroughout the process, Beekle and his story changed. Dan believes that in character design, every single element must serve a purpose. So Beekle got two eyes, because there was no reason for him to have just one. Beekle became even more amorphous, an ambiguous blob, because he was meant to be dreamed up by a shy young girl who thought she didn’t deserve any imaginary friend, much less an awesome one. Like a white sheet of paper, Beekle represented possibility and imagination.

He was also bestowed with a crown; while Beekle was simple and indistinct, he was always a king in Alice’s mind. He got one of the cutest butts in picture books, because creative director Dave Caplan would exclaim, “Look at that tuchus!” every time he saw it, and Dan, ever a professional with publishers, aimed to please.

While Dan took out some of the layers of the story, he added much to the overall design and illustration. The endpapers feature various children with their imaginary friends, each one specifically paired with the child’s interests. In the front endpapers Beekle stands alone, and in the back, there he is with Alice. The case cover reveals a cruder Beekle, as though he were hand-drawn by a child — in this case, we imagine it was done by Alice. On the front cover and in the book we see that while adults never pay attention to Beekle, animals do. The colors embark on a journey too, from the psychedelic rainbow palette of the imaginary world to the dark grays and blues of the real world. As the sun sets, Beekle sits perched atop a bare tree waiting for his friend, the sepia tones in the background matching his melancholy, and when he meets Alice at last, the world blooms with bright color.

Though the story itself took a step away from being about the creative process, the message is still there, on the pages where Alice shares her drawings with Beekle — each one echoing the previous pages in the story. So he got that in there after all. Touché, Dan.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend is the culmination of hard work and hard-earned experience. With this book Dan felt he had finally reached his destination, which is why, for the first time in his career, he allowed himself a little hope. He thought that if all the stars were aligned, he might be in the running for a Caldecott Honor. That was all he could imagine.

When his cover appeared on that last Caldecott slide at the ALA Youth Media Awards, cheers erupted, and everyone, from the publishers he’s worked with to the large and loving community of authors and illustrators who’ve had his back for years, knew.

Dan Santat had done the unimaginable.

Dan Santat is the winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend (Little, Brown). From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.

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16. Marcia Brown

by Janet A. Loranger

Thirty-seven years ago, Marcia Brown published her first picture book for children: The Little Carousel.* On June 28, 1983, she received her third Caldecott Medal for Shadow. Those years from 1946 to 1983 have encompassed one of the most distinguished careers in American children’s books. That her latest book has received such a signal honor and that she is the first illustrator to be awarded the medal three times are evidences of the undiminished vitality and richness of her contribution to the field. It is an uncommon achievement.

The nourishment of such a gift and such an achievement comes from many sources. Marcia grew up in several small towns in upstate New York, one of three daughters in a minister’s family. Everyone in the household loved music and reading, and her father also passed along to her, especially, his joy in using his hands. From childhood Marcia was allowed to use his tools and learned to respect and care for them. And from her own workbench and tools, in later years, have come the wood blocks and linoleum cuts that illustrate such handsome books as Once a Mouse… (1961), How, Hippo! (1969), All Butterflies (1974), and Backbone of the King (1966). Marcia feels that the most important legacy her parents gave her was a deep pleasure in using her eyes — for seeing, rather than merely for looking. Her keen delight in the details of nature and her acute observation of them are evident in all her books — most dramatically, perhaps, in the beautiful photographic nature books Walk with Your Eyes, Listen to a Shape, and Touch Will Tell (all Watts, 1979).

As a college student, Marcia was interested in botany, biology, art, and literature. During summer vacations she worked in Woodstock, New York, at a resort hotel and studied painting with Judson Smith, whose criticism and inspiration have remained an important influence in her life and art. After graduation she taught high school English, directed dramatic productions for a few years, and worked in summer stock. Some years later, she became a puppeteer in New York City and also taught puppetry for the extra-mural department of the University of the West Indies.

When Marcia moved to New York City, her interest in children’s book illustration drew her to work in the Central Children’s Room of The New York Public Library, where she gained invaluable experience in storytelling and an exposure to the library’s large international and historical collections. Here, too, she received encouragement from such outstanding children’s librarians as Anne Carroll Moore, Helen A. Masten, and Maria Cimino.

Marcia’s particular interest in folklore and fairy tales is apparent to anyone familiar with her books. Marcia believes strongly that the classic tales give children images and insights that will stay with them all their lives. To each of these stories she has brought her own special vision, her integrity, and a vitality that speaks powerfully and directly to children.

A very important influence in her life and in her books has been the stimulus of travel — that mind- and eye-stretching jolt out of the usual. Marcia has traveled widely in Europe, Great Britain, Russia, East Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East, including China. If she has a “home away from home,” it is Italy, the country with which she has felt most profoundly in tune. She lived in Italy, off and on, for four years, spending much of her time painting. Felice (1958) and Tamarindo! (1960) are books that grew out of her love for that country and her friendships with Italians. Marcia still writes to friends there, in Italian, and is able to converse with them in the language when she calls them on special occasions. France, too, has a special place in her life, and she spent over a year there; while living in Paris, she studied the flute with a member of the Paris Conservatory Orchestra. On a speaking trip to Hawaii she was so overwhelmed by the incredible beauty of the islands that she returned to spend many months and to do the research that was the basis for one of her most powerful books, Backbone of the King, a retelling of a great Hawaiian hero legend.

In the late 1960s Marcia gave up her long-time residence in New York City and moved to a small town in southeastern Connecticut. For the first time she was able to design and build a studio to fit her needs. It is a large room with a balcony at one end, a high ceiling with two skylights, and areas for doing painting, woodcuts, drawing, photography, sewing, and flute playing. The house is surrounded by hemlocks, and the woods nearby are filled with possums, raccoons, deer, squirrels, and birds. Not far from her property is the small river that provided the inspiration and the evocative winter photographs for her only filmstrip, The Crystal Cavern, published by Lyceum Productions in 1974. The plants, trees, wildflowers, and animals — and the changing seasons — are a constant source of stimulus and delight. Her greatest problem is finding time for all the interests she wants to pursue at home and also for going to New York to attend operas, ballets, concerts, and museums — and for traveling.

Most days, Marcia gets up early and spends some time reading while she has her breakfast. Just now, she is interested in the recently published book about a journey through the byways of America, Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon (Atlantic-Little). She finds many of the conversations the author had with residents of small, out-of-the-way villages the stuff of living folklore. Later, she might go to her studio and practice Chinese brush painting, a technique which first interested her in 1977 and which she began to study seriously, with a teacher, two years ago. Her paintings of lotuses, bamboo, plum blossoms, birds, and dramatic landscapes fill the walls of her living room and studio. She has begun to exhibit, along with other artists practicing the technique, and has sold several paintings.

If she has a sewing project, as she often does, Marcia will spend time on the studio balcony, where she has set up a sewing area. And each day, she faithfully practices her flute. She feels very fortunate to be studying with John Solum, a much-esteemed concert flutist, who lives in a nearby town. When she sews or paints, or works on illustrations, there is always music — as necessary to her as food. Her love of music and the dance and her deep understanding of them perhaps account, in part, for the grace, rhythm, and strength of her writing and illustration. Most certainly they are profound influences. Because her work requires solitude and long stretches of concentration, she often does not see as much of her friends as she would like to, but she accepts this fact as a price that must be paid.

Marcia Brown’s books have unquestionably stood the test of time. Nearly all of them are still in print — a certain proof of their enduring hold on generations of children. Never has Marcia been interested in passing fashions in children’s book illustration. She has worked in many media but not for the sake of variety; rather, she has always let the story and her feeling for it determine the medium and the style. Her particular vision and her uncompromising integrity have been rewarded in the past: two Caldecott Medals (for Cinderella in 1955 and for Once a Mouse… in 1962), six Caldecott Honor books, two nominations for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for Distinguished Service to Children’s Literature, and the Regina Medal. Now, after so many years of creating memorable children’s books, Marcia stands in a unique position — one abundantly deserved. It is gratifying that the children’s librarians of America, the dedicated people who bring children and books together, have honored her in so special a way.


 

*Except where another publisher is indicated, all books mentioned are published by Scribner.

From the August 1983 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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17. Book & Me | Comic #7

Book & Me #7 by Charise Mericle Harper

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18. Review of Tricky Vic

pizzoli_tricky vicTricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
by Greg Pizzoli; illus. by the author
Intermediate   Viking   48 pp.
3/15   978-0-670-01652-5   $17.99

Amidst the current plethora of picture-book biography role models, it’s nice to see a book about a con artist. “Ah, yes. But an artist all the same.” “Count Victor Lustig” (born Robert Miller) fleeced his way as a card shark back and forth across the Atlantic until WWI put an end to that; after obtaining the blessing of Al Capone, Lustig went into a “money box” counterfeit-counterfeiting scam in Chicago before returning to Europe and his greatest trick of all — convincing a Parisian businessman that the Eiffel Tower was about to be dismantled and taking his cash bid for the salvage. Lustig’s exploits did not end there, but they did end eventually, with the apparently nine-lived (and forty-five-pseudonymed) con man finishing his days on Alcatraz Island. With a sophisticated, genially sinister design incorporating cartoons and photographs into a low-toned red and mustard palette, the book signals the right kind of reader: one for whom venality is no obstacle to a good time. There’s no moral here, except perhaps for the one that closes the excellent author’s note: “Stay sharp.” Sidebars throughout provide historical context, and a glossary and thorough source list will give young crooks cover for school reports.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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19. Publisher Anita Eerdmans on Roger Is Reading a Book

roger is reading a bookIn our May/June 2015 issue, we asked publisher Anita Eerdmans about the bespectacled, bowtied — and strangely familiar-looking — protagonist of Roger Is Reading a Book. Read the review here.

Horn Book Editors: We’d like to know: Is that Roger our Roger?

Anita Eerdmans: Yes and no. In the original Dutch, the main character is called simply Neighbor (Buurman). One of our acquisitions team members objected to the impersonal nature of it and suggested we give Neighbor a name — maybe something alliterative with the title. Something like… “Roger.” Those of us who know Roger Sutton were immediately struck by the character’s uncanny likeness (bowtie and all). And so to our great delight, “Neighbor” became “Roger” (with thanks to the Belgian publisher, De Eenhoorn, who allowed the change).

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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20. Review of Roger Is Reading a Book

van biesen_roger is reading a bookRoger Is Reading a Book
by Koen Van Biesen; illus. by the author; trans. from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson
Primary   Eerdmans   40 pp.
3/15   978-0-8028-5442-1   $16.00

The rainy-night endpapers of this 
Belgian import draw readers into the cozy lamplight of Roger’s apartment. “Shhhh! Quiet. Roger is reading. Roger is reading a book.” The page turn reveals that peacefulness can be fleeting. A disturbing “BOING BOING” emanates from the other side of the wall, cleverly defined by the book’s gutter, as next-door-neighbor-girl Emily bounces her ball. Roger retaliates by banging on the wall, and noise amps up while neighborliness dissipates. Showcased on white or off-white backgrounds, the illustrations feature small bursts of patchy color and abstract linework that artistically depict sound. When Emily bangs her drum, thin colored lines show a slow-motion time lapse of Roger startling — shoe, hat, 
book, and glasses flying. In the end Roger gives Emily her own book to read. His peace offering brings quiet until his ignored dog’s hints to go out finally erupt into a cacophony of “WOOF WOOF”s sending everyone into the rain for a walk. Visually stimulating, this well-designed package of noises, books, and human nature is like an offbeat piece of chamber music. Any resemblance to The Horn Book’s editor in chief is entirely coincidental (or not).

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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21. Review of March: Book Two

lewis_march bk 2star2 March: Book Two
by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illus. by Nate Powell
Middle School, High School   Top Shelf Productions   192 pp.
1/15   978-1-60309-400-9   $19.95   g

Lewis and Aydin begin this second volume of the graphic memoir trilogy in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2009 (President Obama’s first inauguration), then they move back in time to 1960 to pick up where March: Book One (rev. 1/14) left off. Dramatic descriptions and vivid black-and-white illustrations of SNCC’s direct action campaigns in Nashville (sit-ins at fast-food restaurants and cafeterias, “stand-ins” at a segregated movie theater) are followed by accounts of the Freedom Rides into the “heart of the beast” in the Deep South, and on through the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, where Lewis spoke alongside Dr. King. (Back matter includes the original draft of Lewis’s speech, a more fiery, radical version of the speech he delivered, a debate about which took place up to the moment he stepped onstage.) Since this is Lewis’s personal story, the account has the authority of a passionate participant, and the pacing ramps up tension and historical import. Events and personalities aren’t romanticized in the text or the illustrations, which themselves don’t flinch from violence; in addition to exploring the dream that drove the civil rights movement, the story also portrays its divisions. Flash-forwards to Barack Obama’s inauguration appear judiciously throughout, an effective reminder to readers about the effects of the movement. Among the many excellent volumes available on the subject of civil rights this is a standout, the graphic format a perfect vehicle for delivering the one-two punch of powerful words and images.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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22. Review of Float

miyares_floatstar2 Float
by Daniel Miyares; illus. by the author
Primary   Simon   40 pp.
6/15   978-1-4814-1524-8   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-1525-5   $12.99

The joys, fears, and frustrations of exploration — as well as the safety, support, and love of home — are examined in this wordless story. Using inspiration from the newspaper, a boy and his caregiver (the only two characters in the narrative) together fold a paper boat. When the boy takes it outside to play, he pretends to sail the boat around the neighborhood. After a downpour, it floats for real — first in a puddle and then out of the boy’s grasp into a sewer grate. Bereft, he returns home to find care and coziness: a loving hug, dry clothes, and a warm mug of cocoa. Soon after, our hero ventures out again into a bright yellow day, with a freshly folded paper airplane. This time, he embraces the moment when he can set his creation free. With a limited color palette of mostly grays and yellows, each scene is full of reflection, shadow, and texture. The characters are composed of distinct planes of color and appear layered, as if folded out of paper, reinforcing the tactile topic and theme. Miyares’s strong command of perspective and line produces a comfortable suspense between panels and delivers a visual tale of a small moment made spectacular in the eyes of a child. Endpapers supply directions for readers to make their own paper boats and airplanes.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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23. Book & Me | Comic #19

bm19

Previous | Next (June 2)

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24. Review of X: A Novel

shabazz_xstar2 X: A Novel
by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
High School   Candlewick   375 pp.
1/15   978-0-7636-6967-6   $16.99
e-book ed. 978-0-7636-7425-0   $16.99

Shabazz, Malcolm X’s third daughter, and YA author Magoon (Fire in the Streets, rev. 9/12; How It Went Down, rev. 11/14) team up to present a vivid, immediate fictionalized portrait of the civil rights activist and the forces that shaped him. Readers are immersed in young Malcolm’s world, from his fractured and tragic Depression-era childhood in Lansing, Michigan (father killed, mother committed to an asylum, siblings placed in separate foster homes), through his heady teen years in Boston and Harlem (where “everything’s a hustle, and I got my own hustle now”), through his conviction and imprisonment for larceny, ending with his conversion to Islam in his mid-twenties. Thanks to the strength of the intimate first-person voice, readers experience right along with the adolescent Malcolm his thirst for excitement, the seductive “siren call” of 1940s Roxbury and Harlem street life, his increasingly risky and dangerous choices, and finally his growing awareness of the impact of racism on his and his family’s past and on his present and future. In prison: “The guard who knocks me down and puts his foot on my face…he didn’t build these walls. He didn’t invent the word nigger, however well he’s learned to throw it. It’s all so much bigger, and so built-in.” The direct cause-and-effect connection between Malcolm’s epiphany that he doesn’t need to “fight Papa” anymore and his acceptance of Islam feels imposed, but there’s very little else that doesn’t ring true in this powerful, compelling work of historical fiction. Extensive back matter includes a bibliography that steers young people toward further reading about Malcolm X and black history.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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25. Ilyasah Shabazz on X

shabazz_xIn our May/June 2015 issue, reviewer Martha V. Parravano talks to author Ilyasah Shabazz about her approach to writing a novel about her father, Malcolm X. Read the starred review of X here.

Martha V. Parravano: Why did you choose to present the story of Malcolm X’s formative years as fiction, rather than nonfiction — and told in the first person, at that?

Ilyasah Shabazz: I wanted to write a book that portrays my father in the light my family remembers him. I chose fiction to illuminate the true spirit of Malcolm that a straight biography couldn’t possibly capture. I wrote X to show teens who may share my father’s feeling of rejection by society that circumstance does not determine destiny. Through passion and hard work, any young person can rise up and make a difference. Writing in the first person enabled me to take the reader inside Malcolm’s head to experience his journey from lost adolescent to human-rights icon as he did — through his own eyes.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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