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1. Children’s Book Author Django Wexler Combines Computer Science and Creative Writing

Django Wexler is a self-proclaimed computer/fantasy/sci fi geek. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked in artificial intelligence research.

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2. Updated Earth Day reading

The books recommended below were reviewed by The Horn Book Magazine. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

 

Picture books

Suggested grade level listed with each entry

The Promise written by Nicola Davies, illus. by Laura Carlin (Candlewick)
A girl, “mean and hard” as the city she lives in, survives by stealing. When one of her targets says she may keep the bag she’s taken if she promises to plant what’s in it, the girl commits herself to a lifetime of planting to transform bleak city landscapes. Grade level: 1–3. 48 pages.

Two Little Birds by Mary Newell DePalma (Eerdmans)
Two adorable bird siblings (based on the orchard oriole of North and Central America) hatch and begin their first year of life. Simple sentences explain the birds’ actions and underscore the instincts that drive each behavior. Grade level: PS. 40 pages.

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester (Houghton)
On an Antarctic adventure with her boat captain father, Sophie spots penguins, seals, and whales; one night she’s dazzled by the southern lights. Sophie’s scrapbook-style journal is written in a conversational style with appealing childlike art. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid (Whitman)
“There is more than one way to picture a tree.” A series of vibrant Plasticine compositions focus readers’ attention on the shapes, colors, and textures of trees; parallel to these tree portraits are interlinked human stories. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach (Knopf)
Retired subway car Jessie is dismantled and dumped into the ocean, where she happily resides as an artificial reef, home to myriad sea animals. The theme of reuse and recycling emerges naturally from a fine tale. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

 

Younger fiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 1–3

Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan (Greenwillow)
The mayor of Neatasapin bullies everyone into inordinate tidiness and forbids all things wild. After lonely Emmaline befriends a wild bunny, she enlists her parents to invite wildlife back into the community. 101 pages.

Just Grace Goes Green by Charise Mericle Harper (Houghton)
In Grace’s fourth book, the third grader and her classmates are passionate about going green. While sneaking in information about recycling and reusing, Harper knows how to keep the story moving: amusing lists and sketches will keep her fans entertained. 178 pages.

 

Intermediate fiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 4–6

The One and Only Ivan written by Katherine Applegate; illus. by Patricia Castelao (HarperCollins/Harper)
In this 2013 Newbery Award winner, Ivan is a gorilla who lives in a circus mall. When a new baby elephant arrives, Ivan taps into his creative side to help them both escape their restrictive environment. 307 pages.

Crunch by Leslie Connor (HarperCollins/Tegen)
When a severe fuel shortage strands their parents, the five Marriss children hold down the fort — and the family’s bike business. With fewer cars on the highway, the now-growing shop is about to overrun the kids’ abilities. Connor’s narrative ambles pleasantly along. 330 pages.

Toby Alone written by Timothée de Fombelle; illus. by François Place (Candlewick)
The world of the Tree, a society of miniature people, is threatened when a gangland boss/evil property developer grabs power. It’s up to thirteen-year-old Toby to save his parents, the Tree, and the day. 384 pages.

Blue Mountain by Martine Leavitt (Farrar/Ferguson)
Mankind encroaches upon the bighorn sheep’s habitat; wolf and puma feed on their dwindling herd. Biggest lamb Tuk must save the herd by finding a way west to “blue mountain,” a place he sees in visions and may not be real. 163 pages.

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French (Abrams/Amulet)
Julian caught up in the conflict between his uncle and Robin, who is trying to protect a redwood forest from Uncle Sibley’s voracious investment company. French works in many facts about redwoods without losing the story’s focus on its characters. 355 pages.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf)
Wahoo Cray’s pop, a well-known South Florida animal wrangler, can’t work after an injury, so a lucrative offer seems like a godsend. Expedition Survival!, a TV program featuring a bumbling, egomaniacal star, wants to use their backyard zoo and faux Everglades pond. 290 pages.

 

Older fiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 7 and up

H2O by Virginia Bergin (Sourcebooks/Fire)
Years after an asteroid almost collides with Earth, dust from the asteroid infects water molecules with an alien virus that kills humans on contact. Alone and thirsty, teen Ruby Morris holds tightly to the unlikely hope that her father is still alive. 331 pages.

Breathe by Sarah Crossan (Greenwillow)
In an environmentally ravaged world with four percent oxygen in the air, people live inside glass domes (and pay for air) or struggle to survive outside. Privileged Quinn, his poorer friend Bea, and rebel Alina travel outside of the dome and are stranded there. 373 pages.

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (Feiwel)
Environmental disasters including a devastating hailstorm, an earthquake, and a chemical spill lead to a school bus of kids (teens and younger) seeking refuge in a superstore — with abundant resources and no adult supervision. Sequel: Monument 14: Sky on Fire. 296 pages.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd (Holiday)
London teen Laura chronicles in biting journal entries the first year of Britain’s new, stringent carbon rationing points system. She balances big-picture fears (blackouts, riots) with everyday issues of crushes and friends, and her punk band. Sequel: The Carbon Diaries 2017. 330 pages.

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (Scholastic)
When Sophie, fourteen, visits her Congolese mother’s animal sanctuary, she becomes attached to a baby bonobo. When the political situation destabilizes dangerously and she’s scheduled to be airlifted back to Miami, she can’t bear to leave him behind. Companion book: Threatened. 264 pages.

My Chemical Mountain by Corina Vacco (Delacorte)
Jason and his friends roam the industrial zone near their neighborhood, swim in the toxic creek, and ride their dirt bikes around a landfill they call Chemical Mountain. This thought-provoking modern-day dystopian novel is plausible and action-packed. 186 pages.

 

Nonfiction

Suggested grade level listed with each entry

It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden written by George Ancona; photos by the author (Candlewick)
Full-color photographs and no-nonsense prose (perfect for new readers) chronicle a year in the life of an elementary school garden; students compost soil, water plants, raise butterflies, and sample edible delights. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm; illus. by Molly Bang (Scholastic/Blue Sky)
Bang and Chisholm explain the production and consumption of fossil fuels, along with the consequences: climate change. The sun narrates the relationship between photosynthesis/respiration and energy; a slight imbalance produces fossil fuels. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.

Beetle Busters: A Rogue Insect and the People Who Track It [Scientists in the Field] by Loree Griffin Burns; photos by Ellen Harasimowicz (Houghton)
The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), an invasive species, threatens “the entire northeastern hardwood forest.” In Worcester, Massachusetts, scientists hypothesize that destroying all of Worcester’s infected trees — i.e., the ALB habitat — will eradicate the beetle. Grade level: 4–6. 64 pages.

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard written by Loree Griffin Burns; photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz (Holt)
Detailed accounts and handsome color photography introduce four scientific projects — studying monarch butterflies, birds, ladybugs, and frogs — which enlist regular people in data collection. Grade level: 4–6. 80 pages.

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick)
In this introduction to birdwatching, the author/illustrator and birds (portrayed in cartoons with speech balloons) poke fun at themselves and one another while teaching basic bird identification: color, shapes, behaviors, songs, habitat, range, and migration. Grade level: 4–6. 64 pages.

The Bat Scientists [Scientists in the Field series] written by Mary Kay Carson; photographs by Tom Uhlman (Houghton)
With deft description and careful explanation, Carson profiles Bat Conservation International (BCI) as it researches the misunderstood title creatures. Clear text debunks “Batty Myths” while highlighting BCI’s conservation efforts. Grade level: 4–6. 80 pages.

Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook/Porter)
Witness the six-million-year evolution of the Galápagos, from “birth” through “childhood” to “old age” and beyond. Gorgeous illustrations include sweeping double-page spreads and panels arranged to show dynamic changes. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Redwoods by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook/Flash Point/Porter)
In a fantastical visual narrative paired with a straightforward nonfiction text, a young boy waiting for the subway finds an abandoned book about redwood trees. He finds himself in a redwood forest, learning all manner of things about them. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge [Magic School Bus series] written by Joanna Cole; illus. by Bruce Degen (Scholastic)
Ms. Frizzle’s class gathers information for a play about climate change. Cole and Degen are straightforward about the seriousness of global warming but focusing on day-to-day changes individuals can make. Throughout, humor keeps readers engaged. Grade level K–3. 40 pages.

Earth in the Hot Seat: Bulletins from a Warming World by Marfé Ferguson Delano (National Geographic)
Beginning with examples of changes seen by scientists, this well-written narrative then moves to thorough explanations of the underlying science and explores the ecological consequences of climate change. Grade level: 4–6. 64 pages.

In the Rainforest [Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science] by Kate Duke (Harper)
This tour through the rainforest describes the special features of the area and defines unfamiliar vocabulary. Cheerful mixed-media illustrations show visiting children climbing trees (with ropes and clamps), journaling, and exploring the ecosystem. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleishman (Candlewick)
A wake-up call about the environmental crisis, this book homes in on five “key fronts” — population, consumption, energy, food, and climate — and explores historical and sociological contexts. A refreshingly opinionated approach to informed action. Grade level: 7 and up. 204 pages.

Wild Horse Scientists [Scientists in the Field series] by Kay Frydenborg (Houghton)
Researchers are attempting to control the horse population on Assateague Island by developing a contraceptive vaccine that limits mares to a single foal per lifetime. Relevant and clear color photographs show both horses and scientists in situ. Grade level: 4–6. 80 pages.

The Buffalo Are Back by Jean Craighead George; illus. by Wendell Minor (Dutton)
This compact ecodrama documents the buffalo’s slaughter to decimate the Native Americans and open the prairie to settlers, then turns to the reversal: the discovery, instigated by President Theodore Roosevelt, of three hundred remaining wild buffalo. Grade level K–3. 32 pages.

Galápagos George by Jean Craighead George; illus. by Wendell Minor (HarperCollins/Harper)
The life cycle of a single female Galápagos tortoise, Giantess George, is extrapolated to the development of the entire species. She and other tortoises are transported to different islands in a storm; over thousands of years, they evolve into different subspecies. Grade level K–3. 40 pages.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose (Farrar)
One rufa red knot known as “Moonbird” has flown some 325,000 miles in his lifetime. Lucid, graceful prose (with glorious photographs) details the birds’ characteristics, profiles scientists and activist kids, and explores long-term prospects for survival. Grade level: 4–6. 148 pages.

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever written by H. Joseph Hopkins; illus. by Jill McElmurry (Simon/Beach Lane)
Kate Sessions, the first woman to graduate from Berkeley with a science degree, was responsible for populating San Diego’s Balboa Park with lush, green trees, just in time for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. Grade level K–3. 32 pages.

Can We Save the Tiger? written by Martin Jenkins; illus. by Vicky White (Candlewick)
This volume provides a gracefully organized overview of several endangered species. Jenkins’s narrative voice is engagingly informal. White’s pencil and oil paint illustrations fill the large pages. A stunningly beautiful book as well as an eloquent appeal. Grade level K–3. 56 pages.

The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest — and Most Surprising — Animals on Earth by Steve Jenkins (Houghton)
This thoughtful book begins with a survey of the animal kingdom, then covers “Family,” “Senses,” “Predators,” and “Defenses.” The paper-collage art is taken from Jenkins’s previous work, each image recontextualized to serve the book’s purpose. Grade level: 4–6. 208 pages.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World written by Laurie Lawlor; illus. by Laura Beingessner (Holiday)
From the naturalist’s early fascination with wildlife to her determination to finish her landmark work, Silent Spring, before her death, this accessible account folds a commendable amount of significant information into picture book format. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin (Lee & Low)
On Iceland’s Heimaey island, children take part in a generations-old fledgling puffin search-and-rescue tradition. As they tour the island with researchers, the Lewins capture the beauty of the landscape and the awkwardly amusing appeal of the birds. Grade level: K–3. 56 pages.

The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species [Scientists in the Field series] by Peter Lourie (Houghton)
Scientists Fernando Rosas (Brazil), John Reynolds (Florida), and Lucy Keith (West Africa) investigate manatees in the wild and in captivity. The text and photographs capture the science and politics of animal conservation and the scientists’ dedication. Grade level: 4–6. 80 pages.

The Polar Bear Scientists [Scientists in the Field series] by Peter Lourie (Houghton)
Lourie takes us to Alaska to observe biologists researching a subpopulation of polar bears, then to the lab where the data is processed and stored. Crisp photographs capture the animals and the equipment needed to do research in such extreme conditions. Grade level: 4–6. 80 pages.

The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin; illus. by Linda Wingerter (Houghton)
The antelope-like chiru of northern Tibet were hunted nearly to extinction for their soft wool. Wildlife champion George Schaller hoped to save the chiru by protecting their birthing ground — but first he had to find it. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats [Scientists in the Field] by Sy Montgomery; photos by Nic Bishop (Houghton)
Journal-style text and striking photographs introduce Laurie Marker and her team of conservationists at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. Of special interest is Tiger Lily, a cheetah who has spent her life at the CCF as an “ambassador.” Grade level: 4–6. 79 pages.

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot [Scientists in the Field] by Sy Montgomery; photos by Nic Bishop (Houghton)
Montgomery and Bishop trek to Codfish Island off New Zealand’s coast to bring us a marvelous account of the efforts of naturalists to save the kakapo. In-depth descriptions and glorious photographs cover all aspects of the conservation effort. Grade level: 4–6. 74 pages.

The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America’s Largest Mammal [Scientists in the Field] by Sy Montgomery; photos by Nic Bishop (Houghton)
In the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil, scientist Patricia Medici and her team study the lowland tapir. Montgomery’s dramatic account of tracking the elusive animals is interspersed with scientific information about tapir species. Grade level: 4–6. 74 pages.

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola (Farrar/Foster)
Earle’s intimate knowledge of the creatures she’s spent over half a century observing permeates this biography illustrated with exquisite watercolors. An author’s note explains why we all need to help curtail the threats of overfishing, climate change, oil spills, and pollutants. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Leopard & Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups written by Brenda Peterson; photographs by Robin Lindsey (Holt/Ottaviano)
The Seal Sitters is a Pacific Northwest watch group that educates human beachgoers and protects harbor seals when they come ashore to give birth to and care for their young. Newborn seal Leopard is fortunate to have “kid volunteer” Miles on the case. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World written by Margi Preus; illus. by Rebecca Gibbon (Holt/Ottaviano)
This gallery of impressive trees offers substantive information on what makes each specimen unique. Friendly folk art–style paintings bustle with life, including birds and squirrels in the branches and people in the shade. Conservation tips are appended. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie written by Phyllis Root; illus. by Betsy Bowen (University of Minnesota)
There’s not a lot of prairie left in the U.S.; this book encourages readers to reverse this trend by planting native plants in their own backyards and watching what animals are attracted by each plant species. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Parrots over Puerto Rico written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore; illus. by Susan L. Roth (Lee & Low)
This gorgeously illustrated history of the endangered Puerto Rican parrot underscores the consequences of human populations on animal species. With stunning paper-and-fabric artwork, the book is laid out vertically to give a sense of height. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy (Roaring Brook/Macaulay)
This account of great white sharks off the Northern California coast examines fascinating details about the predator. The main narrative describes a shark hunting; information-rich sections tell more about shark biology and about the scientists who study them. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! written by April Pulley Sayre; illus. by Annie Patterson (Charlesbridge)
Very few sea turtles survive to adulthood. This turtle is one of the fortunate ones, thanks to the volunteers who protect turtle nests and hatchlings. Readers will be drawn in by Turtle’s newborn awkwardness, captured by softly colored realistic illustrations. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives by Lola M. Schaefer; illus. by Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle)
The concept of quantity is examined in the context of animal lives. Schaefer presents the number of times an animal “performs one behavior” in its lifetime, from the single egg sac spun by a spider, up to the thousand babies carried by a male seahorse. Grade level: PS, K–3. 40 pages.

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature written by Joyce Sidman; illus. by Beth Krommes (Houghton)
Scratchboard illustrations, vividly depicting spirals in nature, suffuse every page with color, shape, and movement. Each spread offers a treasure trove of details that will captivate the youngest readers. The simple text is powerful and poetic. Grade level: PS. 40 pages.

Dolphins by Seymour Simon (HarperCollins/Collins)
Simon draws readers beyond initial captivation with dolphins’ appearance and intelligence into deeper discussions of species, life cycles, and social organization. Vivid full-page photographs are well-matched to the text. A note on conservation is appended. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Global Warming by Seymour Simon (HarperCollins/Collins)
With straightforward prose, Simon leads novices through such tricky concepts as greenhouse gases and the differences between daily weather and long-term climate change. The book ends with the reassurance that we can help reverse the rate of change. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young; illus. by Nicole Wong (Charlesbridge)
Stewart and Young explain where chocolate comes from: working backward from cocoa beans (dried and processed by humans) to cocoa pods (from cocoa flowers pollinated by midges) to monkeys dropping cocoa seeds on the rainforest floor. Full-bleed ink and watercolor illustrations show each step along the way. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

The Sea Turtle Scientist [Scientists in the Field] by Stephen R. Swinburne (Houghton)
The Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) studies the sea turtles in the Caribbean and works for their preservation. This series entry follows Dr. Kimberly Stewart, a.k.a. the “turtle lady,” who lives and works with WIDECAST on the island of St. Kitts. Grade level: 4–6. 65 pages.

Project Seahorse [Scientists in the Field series] written by Pamela S. Turner,; photographs by Scott Tuason
Readers follow conservation group Project Seahorse in its efforts to preserve seahorses, coastal reefs, and the fishing-based livelihood of Handumon, in the Philippines. Interspersed are details about seahorses, portrayed beautifully in underwater photography. Grade level: 4–6. 57 pages.

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F. Yezerski (Farrar)
This ecological history of Meadowlands of New Jersey captures the complex relationship between humans and the environment. Each double-page-spread illustration is bordered by tiny images with a wealth of taxonomical information (and sly humor). Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld; illus. by Priscilla Lamont (Knopf) 
Alice and her family have a plot of land upon which they grow edible plants, raise chickens, and enjoy their interactions with the variety of living things in their backyard ecosystem. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

 

Poetry

In the Wild by David Elliott; illus. by Holly Meade (Candlewick)
Full-spread woodcut and watercolor art captures both the essences and habitats of fourteen worldwide animals: a jaguar prowling the jungle floor, a polar bear immersed in a blue-green sea, etc. Deftly composed verses include paradoxes and wry thoughts. Companion books: In the Sea and On the Wing. Grade level: PS. 32 pages.

UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian (Simon/Beach Lane)
Florian evokes the world of bees with repetitive patterning that cleverly references honeycombs, flowers, and the bees themselves. His humorous rhythmic verse, too, echoes bee behavior. A paragraph of more straightforward facts elucidates each spread. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

All the Water in the World written by George Ella Lyon; illus. by Katherine Tillotson (Atheneum/Jackson)
Lyon celebrates the essence of life itself in a lyrical poem about the water cycle. In sweeping, digitally rendered art resembling watercolor and collage, Tillotson creates luxuriant ocean swirls and pelting streaks of rain. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

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3. Selfie Sweepstakes Reviews: Between the Osprey & the Gar

[As an experiment last fall, I invited self-publishers to submit their best new titles for review. About a dozen heeded the call, and I am reviewing their books in this space.]

ospreyBetween the Osprey & the Gar; written and illustrated by Trahern Cook. Studio Campfire Books, 2014. 32pp. Paper ed. ISBN 978-1500876265. $11.99

As Grandfather tells it, there’s a legend: deep at the bottom of the lake lies the “innocence purse,” said to bring youth to its finder.  So when Grandfather becomes too frail to escort the eleven cousins on their nightly cruise to watch the osprey feed, they decide to retrieve the purse and make the old man young again. This précis is rather easier to follow than the actual text of the picture book itself, which is overstuffed with tangents, flourishes, exclamation points, and cousins. (A few more commas, however, would not have gone amiss.) The acrylic illustrations employ a good range of rich tones in black outline to provide the spooky and magical aura aimed at by the overworked text. R.S.

 

[This review may be distributed freely and excerpted fairly; credit to “Read Roger, The Horn Book Inc., www.hbook.com.”]

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4. Apples to Elephants: Artists in Animation

dicamillo_bink & gollieChildren’s book geekery comes in many forms. My own most recent example came while watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid with my daughter for the first time. After skipping all the scary sea-witch scenes (which incidentally makes for a remarkably short film), we were watching the credit sequence roll when suddenly I started jumping up and down and pointing. “Tony Fucile! I just saw Tony Fucile’s name! Tony Fucile!” That’s the price any kid has 
to pay when Mama is a children’s 
librarian — having to deal with intemperate enthusiasm about anything and everything related to children’s books.

It is safe to say that never before have so many artists from the world of animation made the pilgrimage to books. In an era when pundits predict the death of print, it seems ironic that people who often have a background in computer-generated effects are seeing a future in this supposedly dead, paper-based medium. Publishing has seen its fair share of changes, but animation studios have undergone some major changes as well. (For example, today’s feature films are more often computer animated than hand drawn.) Artists who have worked in animation bring to their books experience that affects every element of their works’ look, style, and pacing, leading to illustrations that can incorporate the best of both worlds.

flora and the flamingoThe first thing one learns when talking with artists with animation backgrounds is that just because someone worked in animation in some capacity, it’s not to say that they have all have performed the same jobs. In the filmmaking process, different departments fulfill different tasks. First there are animators who create the key drawings, alongside the character designers who create the look and feel of animated characters. Then there are concept or visual development artists, who do everything from designing characters and environments to illustrating moments from the script, and background or layout artists, who often break down 2D storyboards into 3D shots. The job of the “inbetweener” (in the words of Caldecott honoree Molly Idle, who started out as one) is to “create the drawings that go in between the key drawings in a scene.” And just to confuse matters further, there is a fair amount of overlap among these departments. Still, due to the myriad responsibilities, the best way to refer to these people might just be to call them artists in animation. The umbrella term animator does not actually apply.

Such artists are hardly new to the children’s book scene. Since the dawn of Disney (and possibly before, if you consider Winsor McCay, creator of “Gertie the Dinosaur,” a children’s illustrator thanks to his Little Nemo comic strip), there have always been artists with animation backgrounds working in the field of children’s literature. Mary Blair, illustrator of the Ruth Krauss Little Golden Book I Can Fly, was a longtime Disney art supervisor. Bill Peet, author-illustrator of more than thirty books including The Whingdingdilly, was a story writer for Disney Studios. Even Swedish illustrator Gustaf Tenggren’s The Poky Little Puppy was influenced, according to Leonard S. Marcus’s Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way, less by “the guileful elves and trolls of Swedish folklore than [by] the uniformly endearing Disney Seven Dwarfs, in whose creation Tenggren himself was deeply involved.”

They have always been with us. Still and all, have there always been so many animation experts in publishing, or are their numbers greater today? “I’ve seen it grow and grow over the past ten years,” confirms Laurent Linn, art director for Simon & Schuster. Why? A combination of elements has contributed to the uptick. Significant among them has been the animation studios’ move from 2D animation to 3D. Former layout artist LeUyen Pham (illustrator of the Alvin Ho, Princess in Black, and Bo at Ballard Creek books, along with Freckleface Strawberry and many others) spent some time “helping to shepherd in the transition to 3D from traditional layout. It’s complicated to explain, but I was basically a bridge between the old way of animating and the 3D world that was coming through.” As traditional animation jobs have changed (and grown scarcer), the focus of former animation artists has widened. Linn speculates, “As more of them see others in the animation world doing books, it’s become an option that most of them hadn’t considered before.” Additionally, the opportunity to work on your own characters can be alluring. Says artist Kelly Light (Louise Loves Art), “I came home from [a] book tour drunk on the experience of being with kids who like my characters. Not Bugs Bunny or Mickey or Snoopy or SpongeBob (they did ask me to draw SpongeBob)…but I got to share my own artwork and got to talk to kids about making their own art.”

santat_adventures of beekle“I actually find the craft of animation extremely time-consuming to tell a story, though I greatly admire anyone with the diligence to create frame by frame of film,” says 2015 Caldecott Award winner Dan Santat, author-illustrator of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. The creator of the Disney animated television series The Replacements, Santat knows all too well why so many people have made the shift to picture books. “Working creatively with a large corporation and numerous executives was rather frustrating because there was a feeling that there was a process of homogenization to try to appeal to as many kids as possible.” The result is a subsuming of personal style. As Bink & Gollie’s illustrator Tony Fucile, a man who has worked on everything from Disney’s Aladdin to the 2015 Pixar film Inside Out, says, “On large features animators work toward a goal together; it’s a team sport…You need to row that giant boat as one.” That can make working on your own books a freeing, almost frightening process. “Editors don’t want you to draw like someone else. They want you to be you. We’re not used to that.” Santat agrees. “[Book] publishing is you, an editor, and an art director all working together to bring your ideas to life in their purest form.”

Historically, publishers as well as teachers and librarians might have written off picture book art with a “cartoonlike” style. After all, cartoons were seen as lowbrow and literature, high. Yet with the proliferation of high-quality graphic-novel and comic-book elements in children’s books comes a wider acceptance of similar forms in picture books. Says Laurent Linn, “I think more animation/cartoon styles are accepted and wanted in trade picture books. A lot of parents/librarians/
editors/art directors/etc. now (like us) were raised in a time when animation wasn’t seen as…the opposite of fine illustration, but as an art form.”

Whether they’re winning Caldecott recognition or simply producing top-quality bestsellers, artists in animation have attained a level of critical acclaim little known to their predecessors. One might think that, having worked in studios where individual creativity was subsumed for the greater good of the whole, these artists’ styles might look too similar to one another. Yet it is their range that sets them apart. True, some illustrators look like they have an animation background right off the bat. Pick up Bink & Gollie and note how elastic Tony Fucile’s characters’ facial expressions are. Flip through Caldecott Honor Book Flora and the Flamingo and see how Molly Idle imbues the characters’ motions with an enviable fluidity.

Yet other former animation artists are harder to spot. In I Want My Hat Back Jon Klassen’s hatless bear stands with a stalwart steadiness that belies his creator’s motion-picture background. Aaron Becker’s books Journey and 
Quest construct intricate worlds that have more in common with David Macaulay’s painstaking attention to detail than with Becker’s own animation work on the Cars spinoff, and yet that is a part of his background experience. What then is the connective thread among former animation artists?

GreenWhen asked how their background has influenced their art, most illustrators with animation backgrounds speak to the way in which their storytelling techniques have been honed. “I think that my background in animation is absolutely invaluable,” says two-time Caldecott Honor winner Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Green, First the Egg). “It taught me about timing and pacing and the importance of identifying the ‘key frames’ in storytelling. To make a 
storyboard — which is the very important first step in the animation process — is to make a picture book, basically.” Fellow Caldecott Honor winner Molly Idle agrees. “Both are sequential, visual, storytelling mediums.” In her case, the language of filmmaking informs her every decision. “A page turn is like a scene change. A series of spot illustrations can function as a montage. A double-page spread can be used like a pan (the camera move, not the crockery). As I’m thumbnailing sketches I’ll ask myself…should this illustration be an establishing shot or a close-up?”

“There is no doubt that my pacing, character design, and technique come directly from the 100+ shorts I animated for TV and for festivals,” says Mo Willems, multiple Caldecott Honor winner. However, more important than those elements, to him, is the fact that the anonymity of that storytelling allowed him to hone his craft. As a result he was able to work on and improve his storytelling ability, “before having to slap my name on the cover of one of my efforts.”

willems_don't let the pigeon drive the busWillems, however, would disagree with the thinking that animation and picture book creation are all that similar. “Comparing animation and books is like comparing apples and elephants. In cartoons you are stuck with a specific aspect ratio, but you control the duration, rhythm, voices, and volume of the piece. In a book you give away a great deal of control to your readers; they determine the voices, the pacing, and the way in which it is consumed, which requires a greater respect for your audience paired with trusting your work enough to let go.”

For former animation artists, it’s a big shift from trying to please everyone as a cog in a larger machine to trying to please an audience as only yourself. Suddenly the spotlight isn’t just shining on the work. It’s shining on you as well. The interesting thing is that so many artists refuse to say which medium they love more. Both forms of storytelling exert a firm hold on the people involved. You can take the artist out of animation, but you’ll never take the animation out of the artist. “That’s the thing about animation, it’s magic you make with a pencil,” says Kelly Light. “I think if you learn it and love it, it has a lifelong hold on your heart.”

A Sampler of Illustrators with Animation Backgrounds

Chris Appelhans (Sparky!, written by Jenny Offill): Worked at LAIKA and DreamWorks

Aaron Becker (Journey, Quest): Worked on the film adaptation of The Polar Express and provided backgrounds for PIXAR’s Cars Toons series

Vera Brosgol (Anya’s Ghost): Designer at LAIKA

Peter Brown (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild): Painted backgrounds for The Venture Bros. on Cartoon Network

Peter de Sève (The Duchess of Whimsy): Designs for Blue Sky

Tony Fucile (Bink & Gollie): Animator for Disney, PIXAR, Warner Bros., and others

Carter Goodrich (Say Hello to Zorro!): Designs for Blue Sky, PIXAR, and others

Molly Idle (Flora and the Flamingo): Worked as an inbetweener and breakdown artist for DreamWorks

William Joyce (Rolie Polie Olie): Various, including conceptual characters for Disney/PIXAR, and co-founder of Moonbot Studios, an animation and visual effects studio

Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet series): Animated for Shadedbox Animations

Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back): Concept artist and illustrator on films including Coraline and Kung Fu Panda 2

Dan Krall (The Great Lollipop Caper): Designer at DreamWorks

Kelly Light (Louise Loves Art): Animator with Animotion, Film Roman, and other studios. Character artist

Bill Peet (The Whingdingdilly and many 
others): Story writer for Disney Studios

LeUyen Pham (Freckleface Strawberry, written by Julianne Moore): Worked as a 2D, 3D layout artist and concept designer at DreamWorks

Christian Robinson (Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio): Graduated from CalArts’s character animation program

Dan Santat (The Adventures of Beekle): Created the animated television series The Replacements

Julia Sarcone-Roach (Subway Story): Attended RISD and studied animation

Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Green, First the Egg): Animated openings for NBC shows and specials, FOX-TV, ABC’s 20/20, and others. Animated “Pete Seeger’s Family Sing-A-Long”

Divya Srinivasan (Octopus Alone): Animation work with music videos, movies, and book trailers

Bob Staake (Bluebird, this issue’s Horn Book Magazine cover): Animation design for Cartoon Network and Little Golden Books

Doug TenNapel (Cardboard): Created Earthworm Jim, Catscratch, and VeggieTales in the House

Mo Willems (Elephant & Piggie books): Animator for Sesame Street, creator of “The Off-Beats” and Sheep in the Big City

Dan Yaccarino (The Birthday Fish): Worked on Oswald and The Backyardigans

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

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5. Flowers Study Guide

When we study living things, we like to include four topics:

  • morphology
  • life cycles
  • habitats
  • relationships with humans

The morphology (study of the form) of flowers includes the parts of the flower and what each part does, as well as the different kinds of flowers. Start by introducing or reviewing the morphology of a flower:

  • Download The Parts of a Flower Powerpoint Presentation for a clear introduction to the parts of a flower.
  • Have students bring flowers to class and dissect them. (If you are in a setting in which students may not have easy access to wildflowers or flowers in their own gardens, bring a bouquet of mixed flowers to class.) Use the American Museum of Natural History’s Flower Anatomy page if you don’t have a diagram in your science text. Have students recreate the diagram with the parts of their flowers.
  • Create a class Pinterest board showing as many different kinds of flowers as possible. Challenge students to find the petals and stamens of each flower. This can be tricky — for example, the large white flowers of the dogwood flower are actually bracts (like the poinsettia) and the petals are the tiny structures in the center.

dogwood

The life cycles of flowering plants generally consist of

  • pollination of the flower>
  • formation of seeds>
  • germination of seeds>
  • growth leading to flowers>
  • pollination again

Here are some resources on the life cycle of the plants:

Probably the best possible way to study the life cycle of the plant is to plant one. In Tech Lessons on Plants you can simulate the life cycle in Google Earth, or you can find a bean growing project in  Jack and the Beanstalk.

Flowers grow in many different habitats. If you’re using the Pinterest board idea, you might want to add separate boards for flowers found in different habitats, such as mountains, deserts, tropical and temperate forests, prairies, and cities. However, these distinctions are often only relevant to wildflowers. Not only are flowers cultivated in plenty of habitats which are not their natural habitats, but they are also carefully bred to live in different habitats from their own.

Gardens are sort of like zoos for plants; most gardens, whether at your school or your students’ homes or a large botanical garden, showcase plants from many different places. Find a native plant garden in your area and visit it. How many of the flowers there are familiar to your class?

Use online research or field trips to identify ten plants that are native to  your region. Plan a garden for your school using these plants. Maybe you can really plant the garden!

Flowers have a complex relationship with humans. Flowers show up in our homes and gardens, artwork and objects like clothing and wallpapers, and in our songs and stories. Here are a few choices for exploring this relationship:

  • Use coloring pages of the state flowers to create a paper quilt of the United States. Divide the coloring pages among students and ask each student to find out why the flower was chosen by the state.
  • Traditionally, flowers had a variety of meanings, so that people could communicate in their secret language. If you sent your friend a bunch of Bells of Ireland, it meant, “Good luck!” Check out the Language of Flowers page from Texas A&M, and see how practical this kind of communication might be. Decide how the main characters of the literature you’re currently reading would have put together a bouquet that showed their true feelings.
  • Flowers turn up in literature sometimes. Discuss the flowers in Sleeping Beauty as an example. Then find examples of flowers that are important in books you’re reading, popular songs, and movies the class has seen.

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6. Beloved Books to Inspire 12-Year-Olds | Shared by Author K.E. Ormsbee

"These stories kept me up way past my bedtime and still hold places of honor on my bookshelf."

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7. My Writing and Reading Life: Paige McKenzie, Author of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

PAIGE MCKENZIE, the face of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, is thrilled to have the chance to bring her unique voice to life in a book series.

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8. If You Were Me and Lived In … Scotland, by Carole P. Roman | Series Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | April 17, 2015 Enter to win a complete autographed set of the If You Were Me series, by award-winning author Carole P. Roman; including If You Were Me and Lived in … Scotland: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World! One (1) winner receives the grand prize: An autographed set of Carole P. Roman’s If […]

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9. Update: Francisco and Robert Jiménez School

jimenez_the circuitBack in February I interviewed my mom Gretchen, who’s an instructional aide in Southern California’s Santa Maria–Bonita School District, about her campaign to name the district’s newest elementary school in honor of Dr. Francisco Jiménez. Dr. Jiménez is an author, recipient of a 1998 BGHB Award, and an alum of the area’s schools. And, as he has poignantly chronicled in his book The Circuit and its sequels, he was a migrant farmworker child, like many of the district’s current students.

Who better, my mother asks, to recognize as a champion for these children than someone who has walked in their shoes?

Last night the school board’s naming committee met to hear spoken arguments for the three names on the short list of proposals, narrowed down from about eighty. The nomination for Dr. Jimenéz was combined with that for his late brother, Robert Jiménez — who also attended SMBSD schools and was a beloved employee of the district for decades. Bill Libbon worked with the Santa Maria Boys and Girls Club for forty years and recently retired from his position as its executive director. Santa Maria police officer Mark Riddering, who died of ALS in 2008, was instrumental in bringing the D.A.R.E. drug prevention program to Santa Maria schools. Choosing which of these influential community members to honor must have been difficult, but ultimately the committee unanimously voted to christen the new elementary school “Francisco and Robert Jiménez School.” The school will open in August.

Given that the school will have a dual immersion English/Spanish program, it seems especially fitting to name it after the Jiménez brothers. As Spanish speakers in English-only schools, and with their education spotty due to their many moves, their English bilingualism was hard-won.

It’s also good timing to celebrate both brothers, honoring the memory of Robert Jiménez (who passed away in December) and the literary accomplishments of Francisco Jiménez (whose fourth memoir series entry, Taking Hold, pubbed last week.)

Congratulations to the Jiménez family!

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10. Illustration Inspiration: Tracy Dockray, Illustrator of Izzy and Oscar

Tracy Dockray's most recent book is “Izzy and Oscar”, an octopus out of water tale, by Allison Estes.

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11. Where Do Our Baby Teeth Go? By Vilasinee Bunnag | Book Review

Author Vilasinee Bunnag, along with illustrator Yasmin Doctor, have created a wonderfully interactive picture book, Where Do Our Baby Teeth Go?, to help little ones understand, celebrate, and document this rite of passage.

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12. Mock book award results | 2015

mockawardwinners2015

Committee results from left to right: the two Caldecott groups, Geisel, and Sibert.

My children’s lit students just met for the last time, and we spent most of our three-hour class in mock book award groups. I had been thinking about trying mock awards in this short six-week module for a few years, but this year Maleka Donaldson Gramling, the terrific course TF, thought it would be worth reconfiguring some tried and true aspects of the course to make room for this lengthy process. I am happy to report that it was worth it. The students had lively and informed discussions and proved that they really have learned a few things over the past few weeks.

In working out the logistics, I relied heavily on advice from Calling Caldecott readers. With 23 students and a handful of auditors, we ended up with four committees: two for Caldecott and one each for Geisel and Sibert. Each student nominated one or two books and tonight they completed the project, meeting in committees (we separated the two Caldecotts into two different rooms), presenting each book, discussing, and voting. You can see a photo of the results above. Here is the full list.

Caldecott committee #1 had an even number of members and after several ballots were still in a dead tie. The final decision was made by coin toss:

  • Winner:
    The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat
  • Honor Book:
    The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Caldecott committee #2 had a more traditional experience:

  • Winner:
    The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre
  • Honor Books:
    - Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
    - The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Geisel committee choices:

  • Winner:
    You are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant
  • Honor Book:
    Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilly Carré

And the Sibert committee — the largest group — chose:

  • Winner:
    Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins
  • Honor Books:
    The Right Word by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
    The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre

The deliberations were fueled by snacks and each group had an instructor t0 help keep discussion focused on award criteria. I am so grateful to Maleka for moderating the Geisel group and to Lauren Adams (unofficial discussion facilitator and Adolescent Lit instructor) who oversaw the Sibert group. I bounced between the two rooms and helped the Caldecott groups.

What do you all think? Students? Other blog readers? Do you like their results? After all, part of the real committee experience is dealing with the post-decision social media fallout.

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13. What ELSE do you do?: five questions for T. A. Barron

Author T. A. Barron instituted the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes in 2000. Named for the author’s mother, the Prize is given annually to fifteen young people “who have made a significant positive difference to people and/or our environment.” Each winner receives $5,000 toward his or her work or higher education.

Barron’s latest fantasy novel, Atlantis in Peril, will be published in May by Philomel Books, and look for his thoughts about his main man Merlin in the forthcoming May Horn Book Magazine, a special issue on the theme of Transformation. Nominations for the 2015 Barron Prize can be made through the website linked above, but the deadline is April 15th so burn rubber, jk.

This is the first in a series of interviews with children’s book people about what else they do with their time.

Author photo 2014 for Horn Book 1.  RS: Over the fifteen years the prize has been awarded, have you seen any shift in the kind or focus of activism from the nominees? 

TAB: The quality and diversity of these kids has always been extraordinary – they blow my mind every single year. But there have been dramatic shifts in what kinds of activism motivate them. For example, there’s been a big increase in young people helping other people and the environment at the same time – such as one recent winner who invented solar lanterns to replace dangerous and polluting kerosene or dung ones in developing countries. Another change is that nearly all our nominees these days have created their own activism websites and have a real social media presence, which definitely wasn’t the case when we started!

2.  RS: Where do you see the intersection between your work as a novelist and as a conservationist?

TAB: Both are about young people – their struggles, ideals, and surprising power to change the world. Every day, I’m worried about the terrible planetary mess we are handing to our children. Yet every day, I’m amazed by the honesty, freshness, energy, dreams, humor, and courage of young people. So in my writing, I try to authentically earn the idea that every kid, of any description, has a special magic down inside – magic that could change the world. Add to that “hero’s journey” core how much I like to weave ecological ideas into my books…and you have the two themes that flow through all my stories.

Similarly, in my conservation work, I try to share stories of real people who have made a difference to creating a more healthy environment – people like Jane Goodall (visionary), John Muir (activist), Rachel Carson (writer), and Johnny Appleseed (tree planter). We actually do have the power to give Mother Nature the space and flexibility she needs to survive – but we have to believe that before we can do it. The stories we tell young people – the seeds we plant metaphorically as well as physically – can help us get there.

3. RS: Could you describe one of the most surprising or inventive projects you’ve seen submitted for this prize?

TAB: I’m still waiting and hoping for the bright young kid out there who will invent a way for me to write books faster (as a community service, of course)! Alas, that isn’t going to happen. Some of my most favorite recent projects are: (1) Waste No Food, linking food donors with charities that feed the hungry, thus helping people and keeping food waste out of landfills. (2) Literacy for Little Ones, providing new books and early literacy information to nearly 10,000 families with newborn babies. (3) Project TGIF (Turn Grease Into Fuel), collecting waste cooking oil from residents and restaurants and refining it into biodiesel to help New England families with emergency heating needs.

4. RS: What do you think is the key to growing a lifelong idealist?

TAB: Here’s what I hope to convey to any kid from any background: See your life as a story – a story of which YOU are the author. So make it the very best story you can! Tell it with courage; tell it with passion. And also find a way to have a chapter or two where your dreams for how to make the world a better place are made real by the small, everyday things you do in your life – as well as the broader causes you support.

5. RS: If I told you I wanted to save the world, what would you give me to read first?

TAB: I’d give you three books: (1) Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman (on the power of every person to make a difference). (2) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (on the power of love). And (3) The Hero’s Trail (the new 2015 edition) by T. A. Barron. (I know it’s shameless of me to include that last title…but this new edition is so packed with inspiring stories of real young people who have shown amazing courage and compassion that I just can’t resist.)

 

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14. Book Series Giveaway | Spot The …

Enter to win copies of Spot the Dinosaur on the Island and Spot the Monkey in the Jungle, written by Stella Maidment and Illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy. Giveaway begins April 9, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 8, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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15. Shh! We have an author event!

The other night, Martha Parravano and I attended an “Ink and Drink” at Candlewick Press for visiting author Chris Haughton. Boston was a stopover for Haughton, an Irishman who lives in London, on his way to Mississippi to accept the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for Shh! We Have a Plan, which received a starred review in the November/December 2014 Horn Book Magazine. His other books include Little Owl Lost and Oh No, George! and he developed a snazzy-looking app called Hat Monkey.

Haughton_bks

Haughton started as a graphic designer, then got hooked in to People Tree, a fair trade organization specializing in fashion/textiles and gifties. He talked about his time in Nepal, including co-founding a free-trade carpet and knitwear organization called Node that works with an adult education and support center to train and employ women, many of whom are domestic violence survivors or otherwise victims of oppression. This little guy — a George hand puppet (from Oh No, George!) — is one of the projects.

george

Just when you thought he couldn’t get any more big-hearted, he also created the artwork for a hospital children’s ward. And he read Shh! We Have a Plan aloud to us. And all with an Irish accent. The evening was lots of fun. Thanks for hosting, Candlewick!

shhprofile

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16. Children’s Book Trends on The Children’s Book Review | April 2015

This month, The Children's Book Review's book trends shows that your still helping us celebrate our 7th birthday by entering our Fire HD 6 Tablet giveaway. Have fun perusing this list of TCBR's book trends.

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17. Five questions for Nikki Grimes

nikki grimesApril is National Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than by talking with acclaimed poet Nikki Grimes? Her many books include narratives in verse, prose fiction, poetry collections, and nonfiction, frequently featuring African American characters and culture. In Grimes’s latest picture book, Poems in the Attic (illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon; Lee & Low, 5–8 years), a girl describes, in free verse, an exciting discovery: a box of poems her mother wrote during her own youth. Like a diary, the poems offer the daughter an intimate first-person perspective of her mother’s world travels as the child of an Air Force captain.

1. Your author’s note for Poems in the Attic says that you moved around a lot as a child. Did you have adventures similar to your characters’? What were some of your favorite places?

NG: My life was very different my characters’, I’m afraid. My frequent moving had to do with being in the foster-care system, and my adventures primarily took place between the pages of books! However, the challenges that result from a child frequently being uprooted, no matter the cause, are challenges I can relate to. As for favorite places of my childhood, I would have to say the public library, the planetarium, and Central Park. All three were magical.

2. How did you come up with the idea of having the mother write in a different poetic form than her daughter?

grimes_poems in the atticNG: I’d been wanting to do a collection of tanka poems for young readers for some time. I’d originally considered creating a collection of paired poems similar to A Pocketful of Poems (illus. by Javaka Steptoe; Clarion, 5–8 years), in which the character introduced haiku poetry, but using the tanka form. However, I came up with the idea for this story and realized it provided me a perfect opportunity to use two different forms to capture the voices of mother and daughter. I had tanka on the brain at that point, so it was an easy choice for me.

3. The daughter reflects, “My mama glued her memories with words / so they would last forever.” How does poetry help to glue down memories?

NG: Poetry is the language of essence. Through the use of metaphor, simile, and the rest, the poet paints a picture, catches the essence of a subject, and plumbs all of the senses connected with that subject. What better genre is there for capturing a memory?

4. As you travel and engage with children, how do you inspire in them an interest in reading and writing poetry?

NG: That interest is already in them. Poetry is a huge part of their childhood, from the ABC song to jump-rope rhymes to “Ring Around the Rosie.” Stoking that interest only requires sharing poems with them to which they can relate. One whiff of poetry about the stuff of their own childhood, their own lives, and they are off and running. Once they’ve gotten a good taste of poetry, just try and stop them from reading and writing it!

5. Which poets inspire you?

NG: Oh, my! That list is long. My library includes Lucille Clifton, Naomi Shihab Nye, Wendell Berry, W. B. Yeats, William Stafford, Jane Yolen, Pablo Neruda, Natasha Trethewey, Gary Soto, Helen Frost, Mary Oliver, Marilyn Nelson, Shakespeare (sonnets, anyone?), Langston Hughes, Mari Evans. Yikes! Okay, I’ll stop.

From the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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18. When a Cat Lover Writes Dog Haiku Poems

Lee Wardlaw is the author of 30 books for young readers, including Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Award, the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry, and the Purina/Fancy Feast “Love Story” Award.

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19. Re-Imaging Shakespeare or Creating a Shakespeare Re-Mix

To make re-mixed Shakespeare exciting for young readers as well as older readers, get your hands dirty and have a field day in that Shakespeare toolbox.

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20. Selfie Sweepstakes Reviews: Bandits Peak

[As an experiment last fall, I invited self-publishers to submit their best new titles for review. About a dozen heeded the call, and I am reviewing their books in this space.]

bandits_peak_500x800-210Bandits Peak; by Chris Eboch. Pig River Press, 2015. 173pp. ISBN 0-978-0692346006. Paper ed. $9.99

Jesse is out for a wander in the wilderness he loves near his small Washington State town when he comes across some strangers, two men and a pretty young woman. Fifteen-year-old Jesse’s insta-crush on the slightly-older Maria is believable and touching, and gives the subsequent boy-detective plot some emotional resonance. That the strangers are Up to No Good will be instantly apparent to readers, but an unrealistic degree of naivete on Jesse’s part, and the unrealistic lengths the story goes to in reinforcing that cluelessness, make the novel less credible than it needs to be. But what keeps it grounded–so to speak–are the wilderness-survival details (tracking, fire-making, fishing) that are Jesse’s best weapons for getting these varmints behind bars where they belong.   R.S.

 

[This review may be distributed freely and excerpted fairly; credit to “Read Roger, The Horn Book Inc., www.hbook.com.]

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21. Zodiac, by Romina Russell | Book Review

Readers looking for tension, angst, fantastical myths, well-rounded characters, and a very human tale of survival will delight in this quick and engrossing page-turner of a story, sure to inspire the inner-Zodiac in everyone.

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22. 2015 Zena Sutherland Lecture by Jack Gantos

GantosSuttonPlease join us for the 2015 Zena Sutherland Lecture, “A Pair of Jacks to Open,” with Jack Gantos. Friday May 1, Harold Washington Library in Chicago, 7:30PM. The lecture is free but tickets are required.

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23. Best Selling Picture Books | April 2015

This month our best selling picture book from our affiliate store is the gorgeously illustrated Sleep Like a Tiger, written by Mary Lougue and pictures by Pamela Zagarenski.

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24. Best Selling Middle Grade Books | April 2015

This month, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Book 1, by Jeff Kinney, is The Children's Book Review's best selling middle grade book.

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25. Best Selling Kids Series | April 2015

This month's best selling kids series from The Children's Book Review's affiliate store is the wonderfully educational series The Adventures of Riley.

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