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1. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 30 – Wonderful 2016 Children’s Novels

31daysNo excuses!  These are just the books that I read in 2016 that I thought knocked it out of the park.  These aren’t the “best of the year”.  These are just the books that were particularly good and that somehow crossed my radar.  I read a lot more than what you’ll see here, but I loved these the best.  For your consideration:


Wonderful 2016 Children’s Novels

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

cloud-and-wallfish

My dark horse Newbery front runner.  I found it because Roger Sutton mentioned it off-handedly on his podcast, but it was Monica Edinger’s Horn Book review that got the most attention from the folks at Heavy Medal.  It’s just the most delightful little Cold War, East Germany, book you could name.  I’m gaga over it.  If your kids read it, they will be too.

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

fivechildrenwestern

Again with the book recommendations from Monica!  This time a couple years ago, when she found the English edition of this book.  It came out this year with surprisingly little fanfare, but I just adored it.  The question is whether or not kids unfamiliar with the works of E. Nesbit will get anything out of it.  The eternal optimist, I vote yes!  I mean, it’s about a tyrant finding its (his) soul.  There’s something to that.

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm

FullofBeans

Funny that I never reviewed this one, but with Jenni Holm you sort of don’t have to.  The woman’s masterful.  To read her book is to marvel at how seemingly effortlessly she pulls various elements together.  I will say that though this book is a prequel, you will not need to have read its predecessor to get anything out of it.  It is, in a nutshell, sort of perfect.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

 furthermore

To ask anyone to craft a wholly original fantasy novel for kids is just setting that person up for a fall.  If Mafi succeeds in any way here it is in her writing rather than her ideas.  Not that her ideas aren’t interesting.  They are, but it’s the characters, their interactions, and their personalities that sold it for me.  It is infinitely readable and a lot of fun to boot.  I like fun.  I liked this book.  I don’t hold it against it that it’s a New York Times bestseller either.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

ghost-9781481450157_hr

Years ago (three?) I said this Jason Reynolds guy was gonna be a star.  I had a chance to hear him speak for the NYPL librarians after the publication of his first solo YA novel.  In 2016 he started publishing middle grade in earnest and if he doesn’t win any major awards this year it’s simply a matter of time before he does in the future.  I don’t know if Ghost is gonna take home a Newbery in any way, shape, or form.  I just know that it was incredibly fun to read.  One of my favorites of the year.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

 girldrankmoon

It’s anyone’s guess as to why it took me 8 months or so to finally pick this book up.  When I saw Kelly speak at BookExpo here in Chicago this year I knew she was on to something.  But to be perfectly frank, I’ve loved her work since she wrote The Mostly True Story of Jack (a book that I would contend still doesn’t get the attention and respect it deserves).  I liked this one a lot.  It’s a thick one, no question, but it also compelled me skip ahead a little just so that I could make sure that the villain wouldn’t win.  There’s only one other book on this list this year that made me do that.  I’ll let you guess what it was.

The Inn Between by Marina Cohen

InnBetween

I include this book not because it’s some deep, insightful, heavily meaningful book fraught with consequence and award-worthy pain.  No, this is just the kind of book I would have LOVED as a kid.  I was the one who checked out all the Apple paperbacks that involved ghosts from my Scholastic Book Fair orders.  So, naturally, this would have appealed.  I mean, the back flap copy calls it “The Shining meets Hotel California” and that ain’t wrong.  You’d never know it from the cutesy cover, though, would you?  Someone needs a cover do-over.

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz

InquisitorsTale

It doesn’t need my help.  It never needed my help.  But it’s wonderful and winning.  Smarter than almost every other book on here by half.  Gutsy.  Challenging.  And I can’t wait for the movie.  I call dibs on Tom Hiddleston to play the King of France.

The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long

MagicMirror

Poor little book.  You were the first novel I read in 2016 and I came dangerously close to forgetting you here today.  I liked this one very much, going so far as to say in my review that it was similar in tone to The Princess Bride.  It actually makes a rather good pairing with THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, come to think of it.  If you’ve a kid looking for light, frothy fantasy, this is the one to pick up.

Makoons by Louise Erdrich

Makoons

Does anyone ever point out how funny these books are?  Yes, we all know Louise Erdrich to be a master writer, but she’s also incredibly hilarious when she wants to be.  The latest book in the Birchbark House series did not disappoint and even gave us a few new characters.  My favorite is the character done in by vanity, brought low, and ultimately redeemed.  I’m a sucker for that kind of tale.

The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow

MightyOdds

If you could have any superpower, would you choose the normal one or the weird one?  If you chose the weird one then this book is for you.  I think we’ve seen the outcasts-with-superpowers motif a lot (Spiderman, arguably, was one of the first) but I like Ignatow’s style so much that this is one of my current favs.  How much do I love it?  I actually bought a copy for my niece and I almost never ever buy books.  What can I say?  It was just that good.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

 msbixbylastday

Not usually my kind of book but I liked Anderson’s Sidekicked years ago and figured that in spite of the description it might work for me.  And it did!  Granted, there’s more than a touch of Dead Poet’s Society to it, but all I cared was that it had an honest ending.  An honest earned ending.  This title doesn’t pander and I appreciate that.  Worth discovering.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax

Can you believe this book came out in 2016?  I feel as if we’ve been talking about it for two years.  It’s still one of the strongest of the year, no matter what anybody says.  When I was a child, I had a thing for foxes.  Clearly I missed my era.  If you’ve somehow managed to avoid reading this title, you have time to get your hands on it before award season.  Do that thing.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

RaymieNightingale

While I would repeat that this book would be Because of Winn-Dixie if you dipped that book in a vat of sadness, that doesn’t mean it isn’t remarkable.  I found it breathtakingly sad, but also smart.  I didn’t care two bits for the main character (she’s remarkably forgettable) but the other characters just popped off the page.  Quite a book.

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

rebelgenius

Poor action/adventure fans.  What do I even have for you here today?  Well, I have a fantasy novel coming from one of the co-creators of the Avatar: The Last Airbender television series, and that ain’t peanuts.  Though it does come across as a slightly less scholarly His Dark Materials, I enjoyed the premise of Rebel Genius (a great title, if ever there was one).  The big bad villain never makes an appearance but plenty of other baddies do.  It’s compelling to its core.

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

whenseasilver

I just finished reading my daughter Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and wanted to just skip directly to this one, but Starry River of the Sky is next on our list and we shall not go out of order.  Of the three books in the series, this is by far my favorite, and you certainly don’t have to have read the other books to enjoy it.  Lin gets better and better with every book she writes.  Annoying for her fellow authors, I’m sure, but great for the rest of us!

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

WildRobot1

This marked Peter Brown’s debut as a novelist.  Doesn’t seem quite fair that he should be able to write AND draw.  Leave a little talent for the rest of us, won’t you, Peter?  In any case, I’m all about the strong female heroines.  So often in robot books the de facto pronoun is “he”.  Brown made it “she” and it works for her.  Better still, it works for us.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

WolfHollow

Remember earlier when I mentioned that there was one other book on this list that made me so tense I had to skip to the back to know precisely who would live, who would die, and what would become of the villain?  Because the villain in this book does meet a terrible fate, but even so remains a cussed little wretch to the end.  She is, without a doubt, the best villain I’ve encountered in a children’s book in years.  A true blue psychopath.  Best you know now.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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2 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 30 – Wonderful 2016 Children’s Novels, last added: 12/30/2016
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2. Thursday Review: HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR by John Corey Whaley

Synopsis: It might not be easy to picture a story that takes heavy stuff—mental illness, coming out—and weaves them into an often-hilarious, totally recognizable story of friendship and love. Highly Illogical Behavior (which takes place in, of... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Thursday Review: HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR by John Corey Whaley as of 12/29/2016 4:53:00 PM
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3. 2016 and Beyond

So how was your Christmas?   Ours was quieter than last yearbut very enjoyable. We spent Christmas day with our two grandsons and Terry’s parents. We laughed a lot, played games, ate too much and had a great time


The following two photos are a little blurry, which might be a good thing considering we are all wearing silly hats!

Terry with his mum and dad

Me with our grandsons Tris (on the left as you look at the photo) and Kip 

During the rest of the holidays we walked, read and caught up on films missed earlier in the year. The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin was the perfect holiday read. Wouldn’t you work in a bookshop in Paris if you had the chance? I certainly would. Days spent surrounded by books while snow falls on the Champs-Élysées – what’s not to like?  




A little more serious reading is in order for the New Year starting with two books received as gifts this Christmas. East West Street weaves together historical, legal and familial narratives to reveal the origins of international law, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg trial. I’m excited to read this recent winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. I think I’m in for a treat.  

I’m also excited to read the complete edition of the Wipers Times, the famed trench newspaper of the First World War. It contains a unique record of life on the wartime frontline, together with an extraordinary mix of black humour, fake entertainment programmes and pastiche articles.


My favourite film of the year, watched just a few days before Christmas is:  Sully. 
On Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) tries to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 strikes a flock of geese. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survive the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger becomes a national hero in the eyes of the public and the media. 




Before saying goodbye to 2016, I thought it would be fun to look back at the most popular posts on my blog last year. I also want to take a moment to thank you.  It is your visits, comments and shares that keep this blog alive. I am so very grateful to you all. Thank you!  

Now for the top five: 

Coming in at Number One is the wonderful Finnigan The Circus Cat: A Guest Post by Mary T. Wagner.

Mary shared her post with us in August and in October Finnigan was awarded a first-place finish at the Royal Palm Literary Awards in Florida. Congratulations Mary I can’t think of a more worthy winner.

Mary T Wagner at the Royal Palm Literary Awards

In Second Place is a book which occupies a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. When found it was in a very dilapidated state but an excellent book restorer sprinkled a little magic book dust, and saved it from the clutches of the evil book pulping machine! This is just one of the beautiful images from Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales - see others here


In Third Place is our visit to the Titanic Museum in Belfast. The museum kindly shared the post on their social media streams, which certainly increased the number of visitors to my blog. 



In Fourth Place: British Eccentricity on Show at: The Chelsea Flower Show.


Diarmuid Gavin creator of the above flower show garden has indicated he will be taking a break from Chelsea in 2017.  Such a shame as I really love his designs as do a lot of people. 


In July, we visited Krakow and Auschwitz, and that post comes fifth and last on the list.  

  
It’s almost time to wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope 2017 brings you all your heart desires. 


Next week I will be sharing five of my favourite blogs from around the web. I would love to hear about the ones you enjoy so thinking caps on please.  

22 Comments on 2016 and Beyond, last added: 12/30/2016
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4. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 29 – 2016 Reprinted Children’s Novels

31daysBack on December 9th I wrote a piece on those reprinted picture books I was happiest to encounter in 2016.  Now I’ll say a word or two about the reprinted novels of this year.  Naturally, if you look at the output from the publisher New York Review Books you’ll find a lovely array of titles.  For more than are listed here, that’s for sure and for certain.  The books I’m including today are ones I’ve read, so it’s fairly short.  Still, don’t miss the books listed here today.  The book market is not kind to reprints that could be called “forgotten”.


2016 Reprinted Children’s Novels

The Borrowers Collection by Mary Norton

borrowers

My knowledge of previous collections of all the Borrowers stories is not good enough to determine whether or not any previous versions also included the short story “Poor Stainless” or not.  Whatever the case, this new bound volume of full stories is delightful.  Chock full of illustrations, it’s the ultimate Borrowers collection.

The Golden Key by George MacDonald, ill. Ruth Sanderson

goldenkey

The title probably hasn’t been out-of-print before, but I do know that back in the day it was Maurice Sendak who illustrated it.  Sanderson’s a different take than Sendak, that’s for sure, but it’s a lovely new edition.

The Rescuers by Margery Sharp, ill. Garth Williams

rescuers

If Disney had any sense in its monolithic head it would have years ago grabbed the literary rights to every publication ever brought to the silver screen.  Imagine, if you will, a children’s book collection that consists of books that are better known now for their Disney adaptations.  101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith, Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss, and, naturally, The Rescuers.  As with most Disneyfied products, when I read this book as a kid I was struck both by how sharp the writing was (not cutesy in the least) and also by how good illustrator Garth Williams was at making horrific looking humans.  Turns out the master of whimsy had a penchant for the grotesque as well.

rescuers2

Never knew he had it in him.

For other celebrations of reprinted books, please check out the ShelfTalker piece Hello, Old Friends.  I wish I’d seen the Lobel book mentioned there.  Ah well.  Can’t get them all.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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5. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 28 – 2016 Great Nonfiction Chapter Books for Kids

31daysI peer into the darkness and at long last I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We’re almost there!  Almost at the end of this month’s 31 Days, 31 Lists challenge.  I’m certainly delighted, not least because I’ve managed to keep it up so far (knocking on wood now as hard as my brittle knuckles can knock).

As with some of the lists, today’s is not by any means complete.  I fell down on the job of reading as many chapter nonfiction books as I should have.  And since I refuse to place any books on these lists that I haven’t actually read myself, it’s going to be far too short.  For a variety of far more complete lists featuring nonfiction, please check out the Best of the Year compilations from all the major review journals (SLJ, Kirkus, Horn Book, etc.) as well as libraries like NYPL, Chicago Public Library, and others.


 

2016 Great Nonfiction Chapter Books for Kids

A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today’s Favorite Children’s Book Illustrators, edited by The Stewards of Frederick Warne & Co.

celebrationbeatrix

It seems a pity that I’m only just now mentioning this book, but I honestly couldn’t figure out if there was any other list it would slot into easily.  In truth, it’s probably made for adult enthusiasts and not actual kids, but who knows?  There could be some Potter loving children out there.  Maybe they’d be interested in the wide variety of takes on one classic Potter character or another.  Whatever the case, this book is a beautiful ode to the works of Beatrix and anyone would be pleased to receive it.

Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird by Pamela S. Turner, photos by Andy Comins, ill. Guido de Flilippo

crowsmarts

This is right up there with Sy Montgomery’s Kakapo book as one of my favorite books about obscure birds out there.  Of course, the Kakapo is dumb as a box of rocks while these birds are smarter than human 4-year-olds, but who’s counting?

Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet by Nikki Tate

deeproots

Orca consistently produces fun nonfiction titles on serious subjects in a voice that never patronizes its young readers.  This latest is no exception.

The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott, ill. Kenard Pak

helloatlas

I really wasn’t sure where to put this one either, and it just feels like it has a bit too much content to consider it a picture book.  The publisher calls this, “A celebration of humanity’s written and verbal languages is comprised of fully illustrated word charts depicting children of diverse cultures participating in everyday activities, in a reference complemented by a free downloadable app for iOS and Android that allows readers to hear the book’s phrases as recorded by native speakers”.  Cool, right?  Well, says Kirkus, “This will be a necessity for just about everybody, as there are no phonetic spellings”.  So word to the wise.  It’s still a pretty amazing book.

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming

presentingbuffalo

Did I mention I liked it yet?

I liked it.

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson

sachiko

Still one of the most powerful books of the year.

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, ill. Gareth Hinds

SamuraiRising

This one came out so early in the year that I almost forgot it was a 2016 title.  Then I remembered that there’s this crazy outside chance that it could win a Newbery for its fantastic writing.  So there’s that.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

somewriter

It took me a while to jump on the bandwagon with this one, since I’m sometimes slow on the uptake.  Now that I’ve read it, I’m gratified to write that it really is quite amazing.  I’m not sure what kid would pick it up on their own, but it does a really lovely job of encapsulating White’s life and spends a good amount of time on his writing for children.  Visually arresting from start to finish, this is one of the best bios of the year.  Glad I followed the crowd on this one.

What Milly Did by Elise Moser, ill. Scot Ritchie

whatmilly

I’m not a huge fan of the cover, but I think the book’s worth its weight in gold.  FYI.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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6. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 27 – 2016 Nonfiction Picture Books

It’s finally come!  The list is nearing its end.  So it is with great delight that I present to you some of the last of the lists.  Today’s is particularly long, celebrating what I consider to be some of the best books of 2016. Since so many of them have shown up on my other lists I’ll leave off the comments this time around except for those that haven’t appeared here before.

These are the nonfiction titles I was most impressed by in 2016:


 

2016 Nonfiction Picture Books

Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, ill. Jessie Hartland

adalovelace1

Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson

adalovelace2

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, ill. Sally Wern Comport

adas-violin-9781481430951_hr

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins

animalsnumbers

Anything But Ordinary: The True Story of Adelaide Herman, Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff, ill. Iacopo Bruno

anythingbutordinary

A Beetle Is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston, ill. Sylvia Long

beatleshy

Circle by Jeanne Baker

circle

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, ill. Isabelle Arsenault

clothlullaby

The Deadliest Creature in the World by Brena Z. Guiberson, ill. Gennady Spirin

deadliestcreature

Death Is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham

deathisstupid

Dining With Dinosaurs: A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching by Hannah Bonner

diningdinos

Does a Fiddler Crab Fiddle? by Corinne Demas & Artemis Roehrig, ill. John Sandford

doesfiddlercrab

Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock, ill. Gerard DuBois

dorotheaseyes

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport, ill. Matt Faulkner

elizabethstarted

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal, ill. Laura Freeman

fancypartygowns

Gabe: A Story of Me, My Dog, and the 1970s by Shelley Gill, ill. Marc Scheff

Gabe1

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet, ill. Karen Lewis

grandmotherfish1

Growing Peace: A Story of Farming, Music, and Religious Harmony by Richard Sobol

growingpeace

If this hasn’t appeared on a list before it’s only because I’ve never found a place to slot it.  Though it has elements of biography to it, it’s mostly about sustainable farming, overcoming religious differences, and working together.  And since I never made a peace and global studies list (next year?) it shall go here instead.

How Cities Work by James Gulliver Hancock

howcities

Very keen.  It’s a good book to use if you want to describe to a kid how cities form, what they contain, their problems, their solutions, and their future.  Lots of lift-the-flap elements as well.

One note – if you’re buying this book for your system through Baker & Taylor, they’ll have a warning note attached saying that there are small parts and that it’s not appropriate for children under the age of three.  They sometimes will put this warning on books with small lift-the-flap flaps.  I personally think the book is safe, but you may be strict in your policies.  FYI.

How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh? by Alison Limentani

howmuchladybug

I Am NOT a Dinosaur! by Will Lach, ill. Jonny Lambert

notdino

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, ill. Elizabeth Baddeley

idissent

The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick, ill. Steven Salerno

kiddiamond

Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer by Heather Henson, ill. Bryan Collier

liftyourlight

Martin Luther “Here I Stand” by Geraldine Elschner, translated by Kathryn Bishop

martinluther

The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation by Gilbert Ford

marvelousthingspring

Since the book is focused far more on the invention than the inventor, I couldn’t really put it on the biographical list.  So for all that it’s fun and funny and interesting and beautiful (really beautiful) I’ve had to wait until now to put it on any lists.  That said, it was worth the wait.

Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus by John Hendrix

MiracleMan

The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue by Suzanne Slade, ill. Stacy Innerst

musicgeorge

My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio

mybookbirds

Natumi Takes the Lead: The True Story of an Orphan Elephant Who Finds Family by Gerry Ellis with Amy Novesky

natumitakeslead

The Navajo Code Talkers by J. Patrick Lewis, ill. Gary Kelley

navajocode

Olinguito, from A to Z! / Olinguito, de la A a la Z! by Lulu Delacre

OLINGUITO

Otters Love to Play by Jonathan London, ill. Meilo So

ottersplay

Pink Is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals by Jess Keating, ill. David DeGrand

pinkblobfish

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, ill. Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

poempeter

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

polarbear

Prairie Dog Song by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

prairiedogsong

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Radiant Child

The Secret Subway by Shana Corey, ill. Red Nose Studio

secretsubway

She Stood for Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland by Loki Mulholland & Angela Fairwell, ill. Charlotta Janssen

shestoodfreedom

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne Rockwell, ill. Floyd Cooper

spycalledjames

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman, ill. Daniel Minter

steprightup

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller, ill. David C. Gardner

ticktock

The Toad by Elise Gravel

toad

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes, and Ferrets! by Marcia Williams

tudors

Under Earth / Under Water by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

underearthwater

When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike by Michelle Houts, ill. Erica Magnus

whengrandma

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, ill. Don Tate

whoosh

Whose Eye Am I? by Shelley Rotner

whoseeye1

The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin, ill. Jez Tuya

williamhoy

You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?! by Jonah Winter, ill. Barry Blitt

younevercasey


 

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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1 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 27 – 2016 Nonfiction Picture Books, last added: 12/28/2016
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7. Dan Gemeinhart's SOME KIND OF COURAGE

Way back in January or February, a reader wrote to ask me about Dan Gemeinhart's Some Kind of Courage. I put it into my "Debbie--have you seen" series and am glad to be able to return to it, today, with this review. 

First, the synopsis: 

Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he's ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he's lost his pony--fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.
Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn't about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.
Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything. But he hasn't lost hope. And he hasn't lost the fire in his belly that says he's getting his Sarah back--no matter what.

Not a word, in that synopsis, about Native people, but if you look at the summary in WorldCat, you see this:
In 1890 Washington the only family Joseph Johnson has left is his half-wild Indian pony, Sarah, so when she is sold by a man who has no right to do so, he sets out to get her back--and he plans to let nothing stop him in his quest.
See? "Half-wild Indian pony." The story begins in 1890 in a place called Old Mission, Washington. As the synopsis and summary tell us, Some Kind of Courage is about a boy who is going to try to get his horse back. 

Here's how we first learn about Joseph's pony (Kindle Locations 302-303):
She’s half Indian pony, so she’s got some spirit, but she ain’t nothing but perfect with me.
Later, we'll read of her being a "half wild Indian pony" (Kindle 2043). Indian ponies appear in Westerns all the time. I've never figured out why they're "ponies" rather than "horses" -- and while I understand they had more endurance than other horses, I'm not sure why--in Some Kind of Courage--an Indian pony would have more spirit or be called "wild." That's a small point, though, so I won't go on about it.

Of greater interest to me is that Joseph has been taught, by his now-deceased mother, not to use or think "Chinaman" about Chinese people. That, he remembers, is wrong (Kindle Locations 210-216):
Chinaman. I heard the word in my mind, then my mama’s voice. I’d said it once, the year before, after we’d passed a group of Chinese on the road to Yakima. 
I’d been confused. Everyone called them Chinamen. I didn’t know there was another word for ’em. 
“It ain’t a curse word, Mama,” I’d argued. 
She’d pursed her lips. “Any word can be an ugly word if you say it ugly. And people say that word ugly, Joseph, nearly every time. It sounds hateful and I don’t like it. They’re people just like us, at the end of the day. In the Lord’s eyes, if not in His people’s.”
His mother, apparently, has awareness of stereotyping and racism. They're people, she tells Joseph. But she doesn't seem to have applied those ideas to Native peoples. In chapter six, Joseph and Ah-nee hear voices. They turn out to be two Indian children (Kindle Locations 527-531):
It was Indians. Two of ’em. A boy, older and taller than me, his bare arms taut with muscles. And a girl, five or six years old, with her arms around him and a terrified look on her face. The boy’s eyes narrowed. He bared his teeth like a wolf and snarled a word low and mean in his native tongue. A shaft of sunlight through the treetops gleamed on the long knife blade held in his hand as he ducked into a crouch and lunged toward me.
Bared his teeth like a wolf? Hmmm...

As we move into chapter seven, we read "the Indian" a bunch of times. When Joseph and the boy scuffle, Joseph thinks that he's in the grip of "an actual, real-life Indian" and he worries that he's going to get scalped. Is it realistic for him to think that way? Sure. Just like it was realistic for him to think "Chinaman" when he saw Chinese people. I wonder why his mother did not pass along any teachings about how to view Native people? Does it seem to you that she couldn't, because it wasn't plausible for her to think that way about Native people, but, that it is plausible she'd think that way about Chinese people? I don't know. That's a research question, for sure!

That Indian boy has a broken ankle. With Joseph and Ah-nee's help, the boy gets back to his family. They are, of course, grateful to Joseph. I like that, as Joseph looks at their camp, he sees kids chasing each other and playing. So often, Native children are absent from stories like this one! That little bit, there, is a big plus!

But, then, we're right back to stereotype land, when three Indian men approach Kindle Locations 603-604):
Their faces were deadly serious as they stood before us, looking like they were carved out of dark stone.
The Indian boy, it turns out, is the son of a chief! His name? "Chief George." We get "chief" and "scalp" and "the Indian" (lots of times) and stoicism... and no tribe--much less--a tribal nation.

People like Gemeinhart's story. It was part of the discussions at Heavy Medal (School Library Journal's blog where people engage in mock-Newbery discussions ahead of the actual announcements of who wins that prestigious award). I think it falls heavily into stereotypical depictions of Native people. Because people like it, it will be bought and read and assigned, too, to children in school.

People may defend it because of the way that Gemeinhart deals with "Chinaman." For me, that defense will signal another time in which Native concerns are set aside in favor of what an author has done to elevate someone else. When will that sort of thing end, I wonder?

In short: I do not recommend Dan Gemeinhart's Some Kind of Courage. Published in 2016 by Scholastic, it'll likely do quite well, which is too bad for everyone who will have stereotypical ideas of Native peoples affirmed by Gemeinhart's writing. And of course, completely unacceptable for Native kids who are asked to read it.

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8. Monday Poetry Stretch - Somonka

Christmas is over, but Hanukkah is still going strong. The new year is just around the corner. I'd like to write about endings and beginnings, so a form written from two perspectives sounds like a good idea.

The somonka is a Japanese form that consists of two tanka written in tandem. The first tanka is usually a declaration of love, with the second a response to that declaration. While this form usually requires two authors, it is possible for one poet to write from both perspectives.

Writing somonka requires that we revisit the guidelines for tanka. Tanka is a form of Japanese poetry that has been practiced for more than 1000 years. Tanka are composed of 31 syllables in a 5/7/5/7/7 format. Most tanka focus on nature, seasons, the discussion of strong emotions, or a single event of some significance.

In her article Tanka as Diary, Amelia Fielden writes:
Tanka, meaning ‘short song’, is a 1300 year old Japanese form of lyric poetry. Non-rhyming, it is composed in Japanese in five phrases of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables.

In English, tanka are normally written in five lines, also without (contrived) rhyme, but in a flexible short/long/short/long/long rhythm. Due to dissimilarities between the two languages, it is preferable not to apply the thirty-one syllable standard of the Japanese poems, to tanka in English. Around twenty-one plus/minus syllables in English produces an approximate equivalent of the essentially fragmentary tanka form, and its lightness. To achieve a “perfect twenty-one”, one could write five lines in 3/5/3/5/5 syllables. If the resulting tanka sounds natural, then that’s fine. However, the syllable counting does not need to be so rigid. Though no line should be longer than seven syllables, and one should try to maintain the short/long/short/long/long rhythm, variations such as 2/4/3/5/5 or 4/6/3/6/7 or 3/6/4/5/6 syllable patterns can all make good tanka.
Here is an example, translated by one of my former colleagues at the University of Richmond. These tanka were sent back and forth between a nobleman named Mikata No Sami (Active C. 700) and his young wife, the daughter of Omi Ikuha (N.D.)

Tied up, it loosens,
untied, it's too long
my love's hair --
nowadays I can't see it --
has she combed it together?

Everyone now says
my hair is too long
and I should tie it up --
but the hair you gazed upon
I'll leave in tangles

Translated by Stephen Addiss in The Art of Haiku: Its History through Poems and Paintings by Japanese Masters (pp. 19-20)


I hope you'll join me this week in writing a somonka. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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9. New Releases this week 12/26-1/01

Happy Monday! There is only one new release this week with an interview, THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE by Stacey Lee! Don't forget to check it out below!

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, Anisaa, and Kristin

YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS LAST WEEK: WINNERS

Cursed by R.L. Stine: Melissa P.

MORE YOUNG ADULT FICTION IN STORES NEXT WEEK WITH AUTHOR INTERVIEWS


* * * *


The Secret of a Heart Note
by Stacey Lee
Hardcover
Katherine Tegen Books
Released 12/27/2016

An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs.

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Secret of a Heart Note?

My favorite thing in writing Heart Note was coming up with novel ways to describe smells. My main character, Mim, with her super sensitive nose, processes the world through smell. Unfortunately, the English language is quite limited when it comes to describing smells. The same thing is true with taste. My inlaws often use Chinese words to describe a particular taste (we do love our food!), and when I ask for the English translation, frequently, none exists. For more exacting descriptions of taste or smell, we must rely on comparisons (e.g., this medicine tastes like a skunk died in my mouth; that perfume smells like cotton candy.)

For Heart Note, I used comparisons, but I also tried to stretch the language to 'suggest' smells, like, "there's a buttery roundness to the scent, like it's used to sunshine." Another thing I did was to read wine descriptions. Enologists are experts in the art of describing taste, and my descriptions often have a 'wine' feel: "It had a dominant of miso soup, osha beats, a lick of buffalo weed, not too spicy, with a silvery finish."


Purchase The Secret of a Heart Note at Amazon
Purchase The Secret of a Heart Note at IndieBound
View The Secret of a Heart Note on Goodreads


MORE YOUNG ADULT NOVELS NEW IN STORES NEXT WEEK


* * * *


Endgame: Rules of the Game
by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton
Hardcover
HarperCollins
Released 12/27/2016

The explosive final novel in the Endgame trilogy. Two keys have been found. The strongest Players are left. One final key remains to win Endgame and save the world.

For Sarah, Jago, Aisling, Maccabee, Shari, An, and Hilal, Endgame has reached its final phase. The third key, Sun Key, is all that stands between one Player saving their line—or perishing along with the rest of the world. And only one can win.

West Bengal, India: Maccabee is Playing to win. He has Earth Key and Sky Key and he is determined to find Sun Key. But in Endgame, fate can turn in the blink of an eye. He must Play carefully. He must watch his back.

Kolkata, India: An Liu is Playing for death. His goal: stop Endgame, and take the world down with him.

Sikkim, India: For Aisling, Sarah, Jago, Shari, and Hilal, their mission is to stop Endgame. Sun Key must not be found.

No matter what they’re Playing for, all of the remaining Players have one thing in common: they will end the game, but on their own terms.

Purchase Endgame: Rules of the Game at Amazon
Purchase Endgame: Rules of the Game at IndieBound
View Endgame: Rules of the Game on Goodreads



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10. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 26 – 2016 Unique Biographies for Kids

31daysDuring the 2016 Boston Globe-Horn Book Colloquium Carol Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes spoke together about the art of writing about other people.  During the speech they mentioned how part of their job is to break down “the canonical boundaries of biography.”  Too often kids read the same biographies about the same people over and over again.  The canon, such as it is.  There were a bunch of perfectly good biographies out about those folks this year.  I prefer the more obscure figures and the people who don’t usually get studied.

On that note, here are the folks from 2016 that got some stellar bios.  The ones you probably shouldn’t miss:


 2016 Unique Biographies for Kids

Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, ill. Jessie Hartland

adalovelace1

Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson

adalovelace2

It’s a twofer!  Ask for one Ada Lovelace biography, get two!  Which one do I like better?  According to my notes  . . . my notes say I liked both of them equally.  We had some in 2015 as well, it occurs to me.  Does that mean we’ll get even more in 2017?  Stranger things have happened.

By the way, I heard the most amusing complaint the other day that Ada gets all the bios for kids and Babbage gets none.  I’ll just let you process that one in your brain yourself.

Anything But Ordinary: The True Story of Adelaide Herman, Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff, ill. Iacopo Bruno

 anythingbutordinary

Lots of reason to love this. Rockliff did a lot of original research to learn about this early female magician and her most magnificent and infamous trick.  Iacopo Brunos’ art just add to the lustre, since he produces gorgeous art and gets very little public appreciation for it.  Luscious.

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, ill. Toshikado Hajiri, translations by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi

areyouecho

How many other lists can I get this on?  At least one more, I think . . .

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, ill. Isabelle Arsenault

clothlullaby

You might remember Cloth Lullaby from such previous lists as 2016 Calde-nots (solely because the illustrator doesn’t reside here).  It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly I like it so much, apart from the art.  Maybe it’s the fact that it shows that art springs from inside you and comes out in all kinds of original, eclectic, interesting ways.

Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock, ill. Gerard DuBois

dorotheaseyes

Photographers do get pic bios, but I’m still holding out for Weegee.  Dorothea Lange will do in a pinch, though.

Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood, ill. Duncan Tonatiuh

 esquivel

I love that I live in a world where a picture biography of a lounge music composer can even exist.

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal, ill. Laura Freeman

 fancypartygowns

I had this sitting on my desk and someone walked past, saw the dresses, and then started cooing about the ones they knew.  Very cool.

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman, ill. E.B. Lewis

firststep

A biography of a kid!  Once in a while a child will be assigned such a thing.  Ruby Bridges can only be discussed by so many children.  Nice to have some (much earlier) alternatives.

Gabe: A Story of Me, My Dog, and the 1970s by Shelley Gill, ill. Marc Scheff

Gabe1

Technically this is an autobiography and not a biography but the psychedelic, nutty, dog-loving nature of this (which is to say, its awesomeness) compels me to include it.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, ill. Elizabeth Baddeley

 idissent

The first, I am sure, of many such biographies to exist.

Indian Boyhood: The True Story of a Sioux Upbringing by Charles Eastman, ill. Heidi M. Rasch

indianboyhood

A new edition of a title that was released more than a hundred years ago.  Debbie Reese included an earlier republication on her list of Recommended Children’s/YA/Reference/Resource Books, FYI.

The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick, ill. Steven Salerno

kiddiamond

Poor sports books.  They just don’t really come out all that often.  Particularly if they’re about women.  This one was fun and light-hearted, something we could all read once in a while.

Martin Luther “Here I Stand” by Geraldine Elschner, translated by Kathryn Bishop

martinluther

2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  If you’ve any kind of an older kid who wants to know more about that, start here.

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service by Annette Bay Pimentel, ill. Rich Lo

mountainchef

A rather fascinating story of the Chinese-American chef who worked in what many might consider impossible circumstances.  We do not HAVE a huge number of older Chinese-American biographies on our shelves.  But we have this now, and that is good.

The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue by Suzanne Slade, ill. Stacy Innerst

musicgeorge

Very fun and peppy.  I would have loved an accompanying CD but I suppose it’s not too hard to find the titular song if you really look.

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, ill. Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

poempeter

A lovely ode to a lovely man.

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming

presentingbuffalo

I still think the Newbery committee needs to seriously consider this book.  Distinguished hardly even covers it.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Radiant Child

And speaking of major literary awards, oh, Caaaaaaaldecott committee . . .

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson

sachiko

Nominated for a National Book Award, it’s amazing.  And, very unfortunately, very timely at this precise moment in history.

She Stood for Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland by Loki Mulholland & Angela Fairwell, ill. Charlotta Janssen

shestoodfreedom

A Civil Rights activist has her story told, and published, by her own children.  And what did YOU get your mom this holiday season, hmmmm?

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne Rockwell, ill. Floyd Cooper

spycalledjames

Basically, you hand this book to the kids currently obsessed with Hamilton.  LOTS of Lafayette for them to enjoy, and a hero worth remembering.

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman, ill. Daniel Minter

steprightup

I wish I had reviewed this book this year.  I’m not a horsey girl, and even I thik this is an amazing story.  Basically it challenges our ideas of what an animal can and cannot learn while celebrating a pretty fascinating man as well.

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller, ill. David C. Gardner

ticktock

When I was a kid I had to memorize a song about Benjamin Banneker.  These kids no one ever seems to study him.  I’m just pleased that there’s a new bio of him out now.  Let’s get more!

What Milly Did by Elise Moser, ill. Scot Ritchie

whatmilly

What did she do?  Basically made it possible for you to recycle your plastic.  You’re welcome.

When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike by Michelle Houts, ill. Erica Magnus

whengrandma

And in other elderly woman news, Gatewood became famous for hiking more than any other person in the country.  Crazy inspiring story, this.

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, ill. Don Tate

whoosh

Geez, I loved this book.  I love books that celebrate real inventors and Barton makes the guy sound so approachable.  You’ll love him by the time you get to the end.

The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin, ill. Jez Tuya

williamhoy

Not the first Hoy bio I’ve ever seen, but I’m happy we’ve a variety to choose from now.

You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?! by Jonah Winter, ill. Barry Blitt

younevercasey

How crazy is it that this is the first picture book biography of the guy I’ve ever encountered?  Winter has a blast with the subject matter.  I wonder if he’ll ever consider doing one of Yogi Berra . . .


 

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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11. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 25 – 2016 Transcendent Holiday Titles

31daysNote that I didn’t specify which holidays, of course.  These are just the books I think did a slam bang job of lauding their respective days of celebration.  Enjoy one and all!


2016 Transcendent Holiday Titles

Babushka: A Christmas Tale by Dawn Casey, ill. Amanda Hall

babushka

Oh, certainly this isn’t the first Babushka title you’ve ever encountered in your life . . . or is it?  It’s certainly the cheeriest I’ve seen.  And lovely too.

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. Anna Dewdney

christmasbarn

Anna Dewdney left us in 2016.  One of the many losses we’ve had to swallow.  Be comforted then that she did a really stand up and cheer job on this old Margaret Wise Brown book.   A nice take on an old classic.

The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda

christmasstoryFor you pop-up lovers.  Of course Sabuda got his start with a pop-up Christmas book (The Christmas Alphabet, if I’m not much mistaken).  This just makes sense as a natural companion.

Christmas for Greta and Gracie by Yasmeen Ismail

christmasgreta

Okay.  Stand back.  I’m going to say it.

Most emotionally honest children’s book with a Christmas theme since The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

That is all.

Groundhog’s Runaway Shadow by David Biedrzycki

groundhogrunaway

Lest you fear this is an entirely Christmas-related list (it’s alphabetical which skews it a little at the start).  I love Groundhog’s Day books and we get about one to two a year.  This one’s worth the price of admission.

Hanukkah Delight! By Leslea Newman, ill. Amy Husband

hanukkahdelight

A board book and a bloody good one too.  And trust me, there’s a need.  Great Hanukkah board books aren’t exactly a dime a dozen.

Hanukkah with Uncle Reuben: Not Santa . . . (But Not Bad) by Mark Tuchman

unclereuben

The only mystery with this book is how it hasn’t been picked up by a major publisher yet.  Consider it your culturally sensitive alternative to Shmelf the Elf.

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story by Kallie George, ill. Stephanie Graegin

lostgift

I’m not the kind of reader who goes in for cute little furry animals delivering lost Christmas presents on their own, but this book isn’t cloying.  It’s cute, but it comes by its adorableness honestly.  Kudos George & Graegin!

Maple and Willow’s Christmas Tree by Lori Nichols

maplewillowHeartfelt is hard.  Of all the Maple & Willow books, I like this one best.  Not hard to see why.

More Than Enough: A Passover Story by April Halprin Wayland

morethanenough

When Marjorie Ingall wrote up her The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2016 list (THE best list to go to each and every year for all things Jewish) she alerted me to this book.  I was able to locate it pretty quickly and I’m awfully glad I did.  Here’s what Marjorie had to say about it: “We see a young family shopping, preparing for and celebrating the holiday, announcing ‘dayenu’ regularly along the way. In an afterword, Wayland explains the meaning of the word, outlines the elements of the Seder, and notes that ‘dayenu’s message—being grateful for the blessings in each moment—goes beyond Passover. It’s a concept I hold in my heart when I’m on a beautiful hike, when I’m biking with my family, when I’m petting my kitty.’ A good reminder for all of us.”

The Nutcracker by Kate Davies, ill. Niroot Puttapipat

nutcrackerClearly I’m a pop-up sucker, but this really and truly is one of the best Nutcrackers you’ll ever buy.  I mean, just LOOK at that ending!

Potatoes at Turtle Rock by Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman, ill. Alex Steele-Morgan

potatoesturtle

If you buy only one book by a tattooed female rabbi this year . . .

Refuge by Anne Booth, ill. Sam Usher

 refuge

That this book isn’t better known is shocking to me.  It draws direct comparisons between refugees and a certain fleeing couple and their newborn babe. $1 from the sale of each book sold until October 2017 will go to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

A Teeny Tiny Halloween by Lauren L. Wohl, ill. Henry Cole

teenytiny

For all that Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year, in a lot of ways, this was the only book that really did it for me in 2016.  A great rendition of a classic.

Yitzi and the Giant Menorah by Richard Ungar

yitzi

Funny and smart.  And now, naturally, I have the Steven Universe song “Giant Woman” caught in my head, though now it’s with the words “Giant Menorah” instead.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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2 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 25 – 2016 Transcendent Holiday Titles, last added: 12/25/2016
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12. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 24 – 2016 Science and Nature Books for Kids

31daysThere were no science books on the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for 2016.  Nor in 2015.  Nor 2014.  Bomb in 2013 was sort of a science book, so we’ll count that.  And Moonbird that year certainly was.  Yet it’s often surprising how consistently science and nature get overlooked when they’re handing out awards for nonfiction.  According to my sources, science writers are complaining about this fact, and with good reason.  When you create an award for nonfiction and then hand it consistently to biographies, you are, however unintentionally, sending a message.

On the children’s side of things the Robert F. Sibert Medal fares a bit better. In 2016 none of the books were science or nature related, but in 2015 we had Neighborhood Sharks and in 2014 Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore actually took home the Medal itself with Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate getting an Honor.  You go, Sibert committees!

In their honor, I dedicate today’s list to the lovely science and nonfiction books that were published in 2016 with a hat tip to Melissa Stewart for inspiring me to do this list in the first place.


2016 Science and Nature Books for Kids

FICTION PICTURE BOOKS

Honoring those books willing to add a little science and nature in their mix.  Extra points for backmatter.

Ada Twist: Scientist by Andrea Beaty

adatwist

Unless I’m much mistaken, she’s still topping the New York Times bestseller list in the picture book category.  I’ll give you some moments to take in the vast implications of this.  Pairs particularly well with the upcoming film Hidden Figures.

Baby Loves: Aerospace Engineering!/Quarks! by Ruth Spiro, ill. Irene Chan

babylovesquarks

babylovesaerospace

I defended this to you when I put it on the board book list, and I’d willingly do so now.  Don’t just assume that due to their format these are meant solely for babies.  It’s a kitchy idea that yields a lot of plum rewards.  Big concepts are broken down for young people.  I can get behind that.

Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer & Adam Schaefer, ill. Frann Preston-Gannon

becauseacorn

It’s the ciiiiiiircle of liiiiiife . . . and it mooooooves us alllllllll . . .

Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari, ill. Bagram Ibatoulline

CoyoteMoon1

Apparently coyotes roam my own neighborhood’s streets in the summer.  I’ve never seen them, but I’m willing to believe it.  Jaw-droppingly gorgeous with a surprisingly gripping text, this is sort of like a more fictionalized version of the aforementioned Neighborhood Sharks, only this time with coyotes.  In hindsight, I should have put this on the readaloud list too.  GREAT readalouding.

Faraway Fox by Jolene Thompson, ill. Justin K. Thompson

faraway-fox

The book follows a single fox blocked off from its fellows by a highway.  Humans construct a tunnel under the road for wildlife and the fox is reunited with its kind.  Information appears at the end about the real world tunnels, how they are constructed, and some of the challenges they fact.  The art, for the record, is also a real draw here.  Luscious.

Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau & Deborah Hopkinson, ill. Meilo So

followmoon

The only Meilo So book out this year?  Nope, there’s one coming up later (see if you can guess what it is).  Here, a girl attempts to save loggerhead sea turtle babies from man-made light, which means she has to engage in some pretty serious activism.  A very cool story, and one I’ve not seen told before.

From Wolf to Woof!: The Story of Dogs by Hudson Talbott

from-wolf-to-woof-cover

This pairs particularly well with . . .

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet, ill. Karen Lewis

grandmotherfish1

. . . this book.  Both cover evolution to a certain extent.  This scrappy little Kickstarter title covers ground that few books have on evolution.

Mad Scientist Academy: The Weather Disaster by Matthew McElligott

madscientistweather

Not a lot of good weather books out this year.  This one’s filling a 2016 gap.

Octopus Escapes Again by Laurie Ellen Angus

octopusescapes

I’m oddly partial to this adorable book and the creature behind it.  Always makes me think of this stranger still video, of course.

Olinguito, from A to Z! / Olinguito, de la A a la Z! by Lulu Delacre

OLINGUITO

Sure, it’s an alphabet book.  Sure it’s bilingual.  But it’s actually a really delightful trip into the cloud forest to talk about “discovering” a new animal.  Drills home to kids the fact that this is still being done today, barring the destruction of said cloud forest.

Otters Love to Play by Jonathan London, ill. Meilo So

ottersplay

It’s the second Meilo So title on this list today!  Hooray!  And otters basically just sell themselves.  In writing this part of today’s list I just wasted a lot of time watching otters on YouTube for inspiration (have you seen the one of the baby sleeping on its mommy?).  In any case, this lives up to its subject matter.

NONFICTION CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins

animalsnumbers

I just recommended this book to a colleague looking for a book to give to a 7-year-old who loves facts and figures and animals too.  Couldn’t have come up with anything better!  Plus, it’s where I learned that the peregrine falcons that nest on my library every year are the fastest birds in the world.

A Beetle Is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston, ill. Sylvia Long

beatleshy

This is a long-standing series but it doesn’t appear to be slowing down in any way, shape, or form.  Distinctly fabulous.

The Deadliest Creature in the World by Brena Z. Guiberson, ill. Gennady Spirin

deadliestcreature

I’m a sucker for a Guiberson/Spirin combo any day of the week.  Actually, I’m a sucker for Spirin, period, but his work with Guiberson over the years has never produced a melon.  Plus, how do you top that title?  Answer: You don’t.

Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet by Nikki Tate

deeproots

I was blown away with this book.  Seriously floored.  You go into it thinking it’s just another gee-aren’t-trees-great title and what you get instead is this enormously in-depth, serious consideration of how they contribute to the earth.  We’ve all heard the statistics on how much oxygen in the atmosphere they produce, but this was the first children’s book I’ve ever read that attempted to explain precisely how their root system works.  I’d listened to a RadioLab episode (From Tree to Shining Tree) that explained this and I’m still shocked by the implications.  Well done Ms. Tate for filling this book with such pertinent, incredibly up-to-date information!

Dining With Dinosaurs: A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching by Hannah Bonner

diningdinos

I’m not just sticking this on here because I need a dino title.  Trust me, my library shelves are good in that area.  But this took a distinctly deep and delightful look at a topic I would have told you had already been covered.  Turns out, not so much.  A must-add.

Does a Fiddler Crab Fiddle? by Corinne Demas & Artemis Roehrig, ill. John Sandford

doesfiddlercrab

I honestly thought the book was just going to start with fiddler crab and then move on to other animals with evocative names.  Nope.  Demas and Roehrig are in it for the long haul.  The long fiddler crab haul.  Good on them!

Feathered Dinosaurs by Brenda Z. Guiberson, ill. William Low

feathereddinos

Because you can’t have enough dinosaurs.  Or enough Guiberson, for that matter.

Flying Frogs and Walking Fish: Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

flyingfrogs

I’d cut that title way way down, but that’s the only thing I’d cut from this highly engaging title (plus it’s always great to see Jenkins and Page working together again).

How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh? by Alison Limentani

howmuchladybug

I put this on the math list not too long ago, but it’s also a really interesting, very young, science title.  When you consider how much each animal weighs, you find yourself having your assumptions consistently challenged.  Math and science = best buds.

I Am NOT a Dinosaur by Will Lach, ill. Jonny Lambert

notdino

My college, for whatever reason, owned the skeleton of a giant sloth.  I remember seeing it for the first time on display, just utterly baffled by what I was looking at.  Sloths were giants once?  If you’ve a kid, hand them this book and they’ll be able to know this information far sooner than my sad college-aged self.

If You Are a Kaka, You Eat Doo Doo: And Other Poop Tales from Nature by Sara Martel, ill. Sara Lynn Cramb

ifkakadoodoo

That title’s gonna turn off a bunch of folks right from the start.  Maybe that’s not the worst thing, since it really is a book entirely about poop.  That said, it’s not gross about it.  I mean, there are gross things in it (one word: smearing) but they’re presented in a very matter-of-fact way.  If you buy only one poop book this year . . .

My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio

mybookbirds

Shockingly lovely from start to finish.  A science picture book coffee table book, if you take my meaning.

Natumi Takes the Lead: The True Story of an Orphan Elephant Who Finds Family by Gerry Ellis with Amy Novesky

natumitakeslead

Such a good story, and a good readaloud too.  I’d normally avoid any book that traipses this close to anthropomorphism but Gerry and Amy are very careful to place everything in terms true to a baby elephant.  Could actually work as a graduation gift picture book as well, come to think of it.

Pink Is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals by Jess Keating, ill. David DeGrand

pinkblobfish

Not solely about the blobfish, alas, but still worth your time thanks to the sheer number of facts packed into these pages.

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch, ill. Mia Posada

plantssitstill

A cute premise.  Shows all the different ways that plants get up and go go go!

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

polarbear

Though it’s not sourced properly (no backmatter to speak of) this is still a truly gorgeous book.  It’s the kind of title you can use to either sate the polar bear needs of a true fans, or lure other readers into adoring.

Prairie Dog Song: The Key to Saving North America’s Grasslands by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

prairiedogsong

The prairie, its life, its history, and its possible future are all discussed in this beautifully rendered little book.

The Toad by Elise Gravel

toad

I’m a big fan of all the Gravel series titles.  Of the titles out this year, the toad stole my heart.  Maybe because I used to catch them in my backyard as a kid.  Maybe just because this book’s the funniest.

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill

greatauk

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I had no idea what a Great Auk even was before I read this book.  Or, for that matter, that they were gone.  Sometimes it feels like the passenger pigeon and the dodo get all the press.  Poor auks.

Under Earth / Under Water by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

underwater

Leave it to the Polish to do something this cool.  My kids just dive into this book (no pun intended) since there are so many tiny elements to adore.  Again, no backmatter to speak of (European nonfiction titles have that in common) but still awesome.  And huge!

What Milly Did: The Remarkable Pioneer of Plastics Recycling by Elise Moser, ill. Scot Ritchie

whatmilly

Ever stop to consider the fact that recycling plastics is a relatively new idea?  How did it get officially started by vast numbers of cities around the country?  A little old woman figured it all out.  I love unexpected heroines.

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, ill. Don Tate

whoosh

I’m keen on unexpected heroes too.  This book is great because it shows that you don’t have to come up with polio vaccine to be considered an inventor.  Plus this guy (A) made something cool and (B) is still alive!  Once in a while you get a kid in your library who has to check out a bio on someone still alive.  Now you’ve an ace in your back pocket.

Whose Eye Am I? by Shelley Rotner

whoseeye1

Look them in the eye and tell them you’re not interested in this book.  Go on. Tell them.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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13. Highly recommended: TALES OF THE MIGHTY CODE TALKERS

Eds. note: This graphic novel--like many in the genre--can be used with a wide range of ages, from students in middle grade, on up to college. 

Comics! Graphic novels! Are you reading them? You should be! They're outstanding... for what you can learn about!

Years ago, I learned about the Code Talkers. I don't recall when or how, but I knew about them. With each year, a growing number of Americans are learning about who they were, and their role in WWI and WWII.

A few years ago, I started reading about comic books--written by Native people--about Code Talkers. Then, I got a couple of those comic books and was deeply moved by what I read.

The two that I read (described below) are in Volume One of Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers. Given the popularity of graphic novels, Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers is an excellent way for teens to learn about the Code Talkers--from people who are Native.

Back in June of 2014, I wrote about Arigon Starr's Annumpa Luma--Code Talkers about Choctaw code talkers from WWI. It was a stand-alone, then, and is now one of the many stories in Volume One. An image from Annumpa Luma stayed with me. Here it is:

From Annumpa Luma by Arigon Starr


That page warms my heart. So many of my relatives were--and are--in the service. They are people whose ancestors fought to protect their families and homelands.  The code talkers, like soldiers everywhere, were/are... husbands. Wives. Parents. Children... on homelands, or, carrying those homelands in their hearts.

That seemingly obvious fact is brought forth in the stories in Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers. 

In the prologue--Homeplace--we read the words of Lee Francis III. He founded Wordcraft Circle in 1992 to promote the work of Native writers and storytellers. He passed away in 2003. Where, I wondered, was Homeplace first published? After poking around a bit, I found it in his son's doctoral dissertation. That son, Lee Francis IV, founded Native Realities Press. Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers is published by that press. Knowing all this gives this collection depth and a quality that is hard to put into words. It is something to do with family, community, nation, conflict, commitment, perseverance... shimmering, with love.

~~~~~   

After Homeplace, is Roy Boney's We Speak in Secret, which I read/reviewed as a stand-alone in December of 2014 and Arigon Starr's Anuuma Luma. They're followed by several others that expand what we know. Did you know, for example, that Native women were in those wars? That may seem obvious, too, but one story in Tales of the Mighty Code Talker focuses on a Native woman.

Code: Love by Lee Francis IV is about Sheila, a Kiowa woman who is a nurse. A soldier is brought to the field hospital where she's working. His eyes are bandaged. She's walking past and hears him call out for tohn. She approaches his bed, but a guard stops her because that soldier is "some sort of radio man. Command wants him under guard." Sheila's mind goes back home--to Anadarko, Oklahoma--as she remembers a boyfriend who enlisted in the war. This injured soldier, we understand, is a Native man speaking his language, and thinking of his own home. Of course, Sheila figures out a way to get him some water.

Each story in Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers is memorable. 
I highly recommend it to teachers, everywhere. 
Libraries ought to get several copies. 

The closing pages include a lesson plan, a history of the Code Talkers, a bibliography, and biographies of the writers whose work is in the book. Here's the cover, and the Table of Contents:



  • Forward, by Geary Hobson
  • Publisher's Note, by Lee Francis IV
  • Prologue, written by Lee Francis III; artwork by Arigon Starr
  • We Speak in Secret, written and illustrated by Roy Boney, Jr.
  • Annumpa Luma: Code Talker, written and illustrated by Arigon Starr
  • Code: Love, written by Lee Francis IV; illustrated by Arigon Starr
  • PFC Joe, written and illustrated by Jonathan Nelson; Additional colors and letters by Arigon Starr
  • Mission: Alaska, written and illustrated by Johnnie Diacon; Colors and letters by Arigon Starr
  • Trade Secrets, Pencils and Inks by Theo Tso; Story, color, and letters by Arigon Starr
  • Korean War Caddo, original story concept by Michael Sheyahshe; Story, art, color and letters by Arigon Starr
  • Epilogue, illustrated by Renee Nejo; written by Arigon Starr
  • The History of the Code Talkers, by Lee Francis IV
  • Coding Stories, by Lee Francis IV, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre
  • Bibliography
  • Editor's Note
  • Biographies


~~~~~

Native America Calling's segment on December 14 was all about Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers. One of the early callers was a Tlingit man, calling in from Alaska, to say that there were Tlingit code talkers, too. In response to his call, Arigon Starr said that his story is precisely why Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers is subtitled "Volume One."

There's more to know. I look forward to Volume Two. In the meantime, get several copies of Volume One, directly, from Native Realities Press.

2 Comments on Highly recommended: TALES OF THE MIGHTY CODE TALKERS, last added: 12/29/2016
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14. YALLFest interviews with Stephanie Kuehn, Justine Larbalestier, Amie Kaufman, and Caleb Roehrig

Today is the second installment of the on-the-fly interviews I did with some of the YALLFest authors. Between panels and signings and catching up with friends, they all had hectic schedules, so I truly appreciate that they indulged me and my silly questions.

Here's what I asked:

What real-life adventure would you most like to go on?

What fictional adventure would you most like to crash?

Besides storytelling, what skill(s) would you contribute to the group on an adventure quest?

As a writer, what do you think is your strongest skill? And do you have any tips for getting better at it?


And then if they had time, I gave them some markers and a paper with "YA Books = " and had them get creative for their picture.

Today's featured victims are Stephanie Kuehn, Justine Larbalestier, Amie Kaufman, and Caleb Roehrig.

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15. Winter Greetings

Here in the North Central region of California, the winter is scarcely wild (though it is a bit frosty and rainy) and we are all wearing sweaters and coats and boots and scarves as though freezing to death. (Pause for laughter from everyone east of... Read the rest of this post

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16. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 23 – 2016 American History for Kids

31daysFor a year or two I helped sit on the committee for the New York Historical Society’s book prize.  Each year it goes to books that, “… honor the best children’s historical literature and encourage authors to continue to create engaging and challenging narratives that provide a window into the past for middle readers and their families.”  And, oh ye poor starving middle grade historical fiction writers, it gives you a whopping $10,000, so get your publishers to submit your name next year.

I’m in Illinois now, but I miss it.  It used to be that I’d gather up a bunch of names of potential candidates each year.  The books would have to highlight a specific moment in American history.  After all, just because a book is set in the past, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily saying something about a distinct historical moment.  And when I started putting these lists together, I thought about doing the same thing.  Only this time I’m going to include picture books as well.

Here is a collection of some of the most interesting American historical works for kids out this year.  Split, as you can see, into Fictional Picture Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, and Middle Grade Novels.


2016 American History for Kids

Fiction Picture Books

Diana’s White House Garden by Elisa Carbone, ill. Jen Hill

dianawhite

Historical Moment: WWII.

Doing Her Bit: A Story About the Women’s Land Army of America by Erin Hagar, ill. Jen Hill

doingherbit

Historical Moment: WWII.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. R. Gregory Christie

FreedomCongo

Historical Moment: American slavery in 19th century Louisiana

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

FreedomOverMe

Historical Moment: Slavery in America.  Specifically in 1828.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, ill. Francis Vallejo

jazzday1

Historical Moment: 1958 when Art Kane gathered together the greatest living jazz musicians for one photograph.

Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote by Dean Robbins, ill. Nancy Zhang

misspaulpresident

Historical Moment: Women’s suffrage.  Culminates in 1920.

My Name is James Madison Hemings by Jonah Winter, ill. Terry Widener

namejameshemings

Historical Moment: Slavery in America. Specifically during and after the presidency of Thomas Jefferson.

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson, ill. Ron Husband

steamboatschool

Historical Moment: 1847 in St. Louis after the passage of a Missouri law prohibiting the education of African-Americans.

Non-Fiction Picture Books

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff, ill. Hadley Hooper

aroundamerica

Historical Moment: Women’s Suffrage.  Specifically it begins in April of 1916.

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport, ill. Matt Faulkner

 elizabethstarted

Historical Moment: Women’s Suffrage from the beginning to the end.

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman, ill. E.B. Lewis

firststep

Historical Moment: Segregation. Follows the 1847 (the same year as Steamboat School!) Supreme Court case that ended segregation in Boston’s schools.

Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare by Gene Barretta

lincolnkennedy

Historical Moments: The presidencies of both Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy.

The Navajo Code Talkers by J. Patrick Lewis, ill. Gary Kelley

navajocode

Historical Moment: WWII.

Saved By the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11 by Julie Gassman, ill. Steve Moors

savedbyboats

Historical Moment: September 11, 2001.

The Seagoing Cowboy by Peggy Reiff Miller, ill. Claire Ewart

theseagoingcowboy

Historical Moment: Post-WWII America’s aid to Poland in 1945. Review of the book at the WWII children’s book blog The Children’s War here.

The Secret Subway by Shana Corey, ill. Red Nose Studio

secretsubway

Historical Moment: New York City in the 1860s and 1870s.  Specifically the time of Boss Tweed.

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne Rockwell, ill. Floyd Cooper

 spycalledjames

Historical Moment: The Revolutionary War.

Middle Grade Fiction

Makoons by Louise Erdrich

Makoons

Historical Moment: The Great Plains of the Dakota Territory in 1866.

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

snowwhite

Historical Moment: The Great Depression in New York City.


 

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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17. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 22 – 2016 Fictionalized Non-Fiction for Kids

31daysEarlier this year I had a lovely lunch with an author of nonfiction titles for kids.  As we discussed the wide range of nonfiction available to children these days she lamented the fact that we’ve become so narrow in what we deem worthy of our children’s attention.  Sticking strictly to what we consider to be the “facts” can be unnecessarily fraught.  Then again, things like fake dialogue and just generally making up stuff can be more than problematic.  But how can any nonfiction picture book be considered wholly accurate when illustrations are, by their very nature, imaginings on the part of an artist?  And around and around and around these arguments go.

For me, the simplest answer is simply to take a knife and cut your children’s nonfiction into two parts.  On one side you can have your books that stick as closely as possible to the truth.  No fake dialogue.  No goofy imaginings.  Staid.  Solid.  Steady.  Then, on the other side, come the creative interpretations.  Books that work to engage young readers with more fictionalized elements.  Those are the books we’re going to celebrate today.  They’re sometimes wholly fictionalized, sometimes mostly true, and always very interesting.  Enjoy!


 

2016 Fictionalized Non-Fiction for Kids

Arnold’s Extraordinary Art Museum by Catherine Ingram, ill. Jim Stoten

arnoldsextraordinary

Anyone can celebrate famous art.  How many books for kids chose instead to highlight some of the more obscure pieces out there in the world?  For adults and kids that are sick to death of the Mona Lisa or Michaelangelo’s David, Ingram’s book comes as a strange little antidote.  Here you’ll find the Bauhaus Metal Party of 1929 or Pablo Picasso’s bull, as well as a slew of others as our host, Arnold, leads a tour of his extraordinary museum.  Plus there’s humor. Lest we forget.

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock, ill. Sophie Casson

artistme

There are lots of books about children meeting famous artists.  There are very few about children meeting famous artists with the sole purpose of making those artists miserable.  A lot of what I like about Peacock’s book is her willingness to feature a protagonist in the wrong.  A boy teases Vincent Van Gogh alongside the other people of his village, though deep down he knows that there’s more here than meets the eye.  The whole book is tinged with an odd sort of regret, as the now grown boy looks back on what might have been.  The melancholy is a kind of allure in and of itself, and Casson’s illustrations do not attempt to replicate Van Gogh’s paintings, yet it does invoke them in some way.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

FreedomOverMe

The articles of sale for the slaves are real.  The names of the slaves (or lack thereof) and areas of expertise are real.  But for the poems Ashley Bryan had to rely on his own expansive memory to weave lives out of scant words.  As I said in my review of this book, “Ashley Bryan does everything within his own personal capacity to keep these names and these people alive, if just for a little longer. Along the way he makes it clear to kids that slaves weren’t simply an unfortunate mass of bodies. They were architects and artists and musicians. They were good and bad and human just like the rest of us.”

From Wolf to Woof!: The Story of Dogs by Hudson Talbott

from-wolf-to-woof-cover

The story of how wolves became man’s best friend is presented with a possible scenario on the start.  The scenario cannot, by rights, be considered strictly factual.  Then again, often as librarians we’ll give a pass to books that contain groups doing one thing or another on the page because the writer is being vague enough with the reader (does that make sense?).  This is a story as much as it’s a lesson in evolution and I think child readers will better grasp what Talbott’s trying to say because of the way in which he says it.

The Great Antonio by Elise Gravel

greatantonio

Straddles the line between fiction and nonfiction.  In fact, Horn Book said of the book that it is, “not quite a biography yet not quite a legend.”  Kirkus, for their part, hit the nail on the head when they said that, “The comedic treatment never mocks Antonio but celebrates him in all his weird glory.”  And since I’m just quoting the professional reviews here, let’s end with a line from Publishers Weekly that really makes it clear why this book is special. “What’s to be made of lives that don’t go the way they were supposed to? Gravel shows that they’re worth paying attention to.”  Amen that.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, ill. Francis Vallejo

jazzday1

The most fictionalized non-fiction on this list, in a way.  The facts are there, but because Orgill enters into the head of some of the characters (like the kid on the cover, for example) it’s not technically non-fiction.  Fiction and non-fiction get swished all together so that you have to be diligent to figure out how to separate out the two.  What it is is cool.

Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer by Heather Henson, ill. Bryan Collier

liftyourlight

So let’s talk about what happens when someone writes a picture book biography.  If the subject isn’t someone who gets a lot of biographies already, like a Lincoln or a Rosa Parks, then telling their tale means doing a little extra work.  You have to find those little moments of humanity throughout their life that allow the reader to connect with the hero.  You also need to pick and choose how much of their life to discuss.  And finally, you need to do all of this in a fun and child-centric way.  When including dialogue, you have to source what’s said by the characters in the backmatter.  It could be rigorously footnoted or it could just be a quickie statement that says the dialogue came from this book or that interview.  When it’s not sourced I, the librarian, have to assume it’s fake.  And in the case of this book, the choice to write it in the first person makes it trickier still.  It’s a true piece of fictionalized non-fiction, and a very interesting read it is too.  Be sure to pair it with the (now sadly out-of-print) Journey to the Bottomless Pit: The Story of Stephen Bishop and Mammoth Cave by Elizabeth Mitchell.  Dang good book that.

Lost and Found: Adele & Simon in China by Barbara McClintock

LostFound

A new Adele and Simon title is a cause for celebration, and here McClintock outdoes herself.  Each spread in this book is chock full of details about turn-of-the-century China.  Devoid of even a whiff of a Boxer Rebellion, it nonetheless gives a thorough accounting of what the different regions looked like.

Mad Scientist Academy: The Weather Disaster by Matthew McElligott

madscientistweather

This is another case of my loving the sequel better than the original.  Why Dreamworks hasn’t snapped this series up for its next big budget blockbuster is beyond me (a school full of mad scientists and monsters writes itself) these books are basically Magic School Bus sans “Bus”.  The students must solve laughably out-of-control situations using their brains, and readers learn something along the way.  In this particularly case it’s all about the weather.  For the weather obsessed, the mad scientist obsessed, the monster obsessed, and the just generally obsessed.

A Moon of My Own by Jennifer Rustgi, ill. Ashley White

moonmyown

When my daughter was younger we were walking home one night and she pointed out the moon to me.  “Like Harold”, she said, which took me a minute.  Only after much thought was I reminded of the fact that in Harold and the Purple Crayon the moon “follows” Harold home.  In this book Rustgi takes the same premise, with a little girl “followed” by the moon.  In the back of the book it, “explains each topic the girl wonders about, describes and maps the places she visits on her adventure, describes the phases of the moon and gives further facts, and provides activities that can help children understand why the moon appears to change” (or so sayeth Kirkus).  I like books with facts in the back. I like that books that go overboard with the facts in the back even more.

Mr. Matisse and His Cutouts by Annemarie van Haeringen

mrmatisse

Sometimes I feel like artists get more straight up fictional picture books about their lives than members of other professions.  The book covers the time in Matisse’s live when he moved from paints to paper cutouts, making it clear to kids that great art can be done with something as simple as scissors if the spirit is willing.  I like books that make art accessible to kids.  This certainly fits the bill.

My Name is James Madison Hemings by Jonah Winter, ill. Terry Widener

namejameshemings

One of the things that I like about Jonah Winter is that he never makes anything easy on himself.  A fictionalized picture book portrait of one of the sons of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings?  Don’t say it could never be done because it just was.  I suppose I should have included this on my list of picture books for older readers since reading this book requires a certain level of sophistication on the part of the reader.  What I really love about it, though, is that it never goes for easy answers.  Hemings is left with questions about his father that will never be answered, and so are we.

My Washington D.C. by Kathy Jakobsen

mywashingtondc

Let it never be said that Jakobsen is not meticulous in her renderings.  Twelve sites around Washington D.C. are visited by two kids.  While they offer up a kind of travelogue about the city, we get to admire the folk arty stylings of Jakobsen’s clever paints.  She did this with NYC back in the day and I can tell you that every single library branch of NYPL uses it constantly.  So glad she’s back.

Octopus Escapes Again! by Laurie Ellen Angus

octopusescapes

Part story / part array of surprising octopus facts, this is one of the many octopus-related titles to come out this year.  And, let’s be honest, one of the best.

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

polarbear

You ever have that thing where you were totally into a book or a band or an obscure film and then before you can declare your love of it to the world lots of other people go about discovering it too?  I read this book a while ago and was going to be very excited to include it on this list.  Then it up and appears on the New York Times Best Illustrated list for 2016.  It’s garnered a couple other honors along the way as well.  Doggone it.  I was into The Polar Bear before it was cool, y’all.

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant, ill. Boris Kulikov

sixdots

Like Lift Your Light a Little Higher, this book tells the story of its hero from the hero’s perspective.  So while everything in it is technically accurate, Braille never directly said any of the stuff in this book so it sort of ends up as a picture book.  Or does it matter to you where it ends up so long as it’s somewhere?  Though it seemed odd to me that there wasn’t any actual Braille within the book or on the cover (Braille that you could feel, that is) it’s a moving portrait, lovingly rendered.

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson, ill. Ron Husband

steamboatschool

Oh, I like this book so much!!  I discovered it a little late in the year and was so taken with it that I immediately took it home to read to my own kids.  Based on an actual steamboat school built by the Reverend John Berry Meachum to operate outside the confines of an unjust law, Hopkinson tells a fictionalized version about a free black boy living in St. Louis in 1847 and how he comes to an education against extreme odds.  The telling is stellar and Husband’s art a fun antidote to the stodgy realism this kind of story would usually inspire.

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang, ill. Jordi Solano

swimmingsharks

The story of the Japanese-American shark research pioneer is fascinating.  I love it when a more obscure subject gets some attention in a book.  My notes inform me that it’s on this list here today because it has “fake dialogue” in it.  There are also faux notebook pages with simple facts about the species.  Take all that with a grain of salt since Ms. Clark herself was real and this story is definitely worth discovering.

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets! by Marcia Williams

tudors

If you’ve read one Marcia Williams title then you know what to expect here.  Like a Cricket Magazine on speed, Williams fills her margins with chatty cathys.  In this case they’re mostly ferrets.

A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 by Matthew Olshan, ill. Sophie Blackall

voyageclouds

Olshan and Blackall paired previously with another fact/fiction hybrid, that time called The Mighty Lalouche.  When it came out, critics and librarians weren’t entirely certain what to do with it.  This follow up about a true air voyage above (and almost in) the sea is a bit more accessible.  It’s very funny and chock full of interesting facts about early aerial travel.  Try pairing it with the Caldecott Honor winning book Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride illustrated and written by Marjorie Priceman

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, ill. Jennifer Black Reinhardt

yaksyak

Occasionally an animal word pair book will come out, but rarely will it be as pleasing to the eye and funny as this.  PW said it was, “Gleeful linguistic fun that kids will wolf down.”  Yep.  Pretty much.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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3 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 22 – 2016 Fictionalized Non-Fiction for Kids, last added: 12/22/2016
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18. A Short Interview with Shannon Messenger

We're pleased to welcome Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of The Lost Cities and the Sky Fall series, to the blog today for a short interview on her first publishing experience. I had the privilege of meeting Shannon at one of my local book stores earlier this year. When I heard about her first publishing experience, I knew it was meant to be told on this blog. She wrote and rewrote her first novel a whopping 20 times before it was published! To me, her story screams, "If I can do it, than so can YOU!!!" I hope you as a reader will take comfort from her story that persistence and perseverance will always be the keys to achieving your goals. 




1) You mentioned that you wrote your first novel, Keeper of the Lost Cities 20 times, got an agent on draft 16, sold the book at draft 18 and published draft 20. What was the one thing you changed between drafts in order to achieve publication?

(Actually it was draft 13 that got me an agent and then we sold draft 18)

Ha—I wish there was only one thing that changed between all those drafts. But they were five seriously major revisions. I’d never written a book before, so I had a LOT to learn. Thank goodness my agent had faith in me—and gave incredible revision notes—to help me shape the book into what it needed to be. 



2) 20 drafts later, you have a published book. What motivated you to keep on going?

I really, really, REALLY wanted to be a published author. And I firmly believed that if I just kept trying, I’d find a way to get there. Which was true—I really think the only difference between someone who reaches their dream and someone who doesn’t is that the person who doesn’t gave up. If you keep pushing and learning and practicing, eventually you’ll get there.



3) After your experience, what advice on revision would you give aspiring authors who are in the process of drafting and redrafting their work?

The best advice I can give is, “remember, it’s part of the process.” It’s so easy to look at your hot mess of a draft and think it’s proof that you’re just not good enough—but it’s not. Revision is a part of writing, even if you have to do it multiple times. Just keep pushing yourself and you’ll get there. (and work with critique partners!)



4) How do you think your experience has taught you to be a better writer?

It taught me tons of important things, and pointed out a ton of mistakes I was making. But I think the most important thing it taught me is how to sort through edit notes. I never want to dig in my heels and ignore changes that would make my book better. But not every note ends up being a helpful note either. And going through so many rounds of revision really helped me develop a gut sense for when I need to take a note to heart and when I can disregard—or, more importantly—how to get to the heart of the issue and find a different, better fix to address the problem.



5) What would you tell other authors in the querying process?
The same thing I already said above—don’t get discouraged or give up. I know it can be a stressful, discouraging process. But if you believe in yourself, work hard, and keep trying, you will get there eventually. I promise!


ABOUT THE BOOK


Let The Wind Rise
by Shannon Messenger
Hardcover
Simon Pulse
Released 4/26/2016

The breathtaking action and whirlwind adventure build to a climax in this thrilling conclusion to the “remarkably unpredictable” (BCCB) Sky Fall trilogy from the bestselling author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

Vane Weston is ready for battle. Against Raiden’s army. Against the slowly corrupting Gale Force. Even against his own peaceful nature as a Westerly. He’ll do whatever it takes, including storming Raiden’s icy fortress with the three people he trusts the least. Anything to bring Audra home safely.

But Audra won’t wait for someone to rescue her. She has Gus—the guardian she was captured with. And she has a strange “guide” left behind by the one prisoner who managed to escape Raiden. The wind is also rising to her side, rallying against their common enemy. When the forces align, Audra makes her play—but Raiden is ready.

Freedom has never held such an impossible price, and both groups know the sacrifices will be great. But Vane and Audra started this fight together. They’ll end it the same way.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she learned--among other things--that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She's studied art, screenwriting, and film production, but realized her real passion was writing stories for children. 

She's the NYT and USA Today bestselling author of the middle grade series, KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, and the SKY FALL series for young adults. 

Her books have been featured on multiple state reading lists, published in numerous countries, and translated into many different languages. She lives in Southern California with her husband and an embarrassing number of cats.


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19. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 18 – 2016 Easy Books

31daysI first came up with the idea for a 31 Days, 31 Lists series in late September.  Having kept track of a number of books over the year, it made a logical kind of sense.  But as we got closer to the actual lists I realized that in some categories I’m going to be seriously lacking.  Not having planned to do this series earlier in the year, I neglected certain areas.

All this is to say (slash, give lame excuses) that today’s list is a bit on the skimpy side.  I have no doubt that the Geisel committtee this year could drown you in completely fantastic easy books.  I’m a bit on the picky side so these are the only ones I can really stick a flag in and declare to be worth the asking price.  Please forgive the brevity:


 

2016 Easy Books

Come Over to My House by Dr. Seuss, ill. Katie Kath

comeovertomyhouse

Originally published in 1966, I knew that this recent Seuss re-illustration was bound to differ from the original.  I was, however, very trepidatious.  I’ve been burned by shockingly offensive Seuss books before (please see: Surprise! It’s Racist!) and with that late 60s pub date there was no guarantee that either Seuss nor the original illustrator (Richard Erdoes) were inclined to be kind.  Yet when I picked it up and read through it, it was lovely.  Far better than the It’s-a-Small-World vibe you get from the cover and title, the book has a hook (visiting houses around the world) and it works.  Add in Katie Kath’s art, which bends over backwards to be on the up-and-up and you’ve got yourself a truly worth new Seuss on your shelves.

The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat and Mo Willems

the-cookie-fiasco

Pretty sure I’ve said everything there is to say about this book.  There was a reason I put it on my math picture book list and if I could drown it in further laudatory comments I would do so.  Eclectic, crazy original art, great characters, humor, math concepts, and a great storyline all combine.

Get a Hit, Mo! by David A. Adler

gethitmo

I loved loved loved Mo’s last book Don’t Throw It to Mo, which was a very rare easy book about football (children’s books about football at all are outnumbered by baseball books 10:1).  And while this book covers the most written-about sport in literature for kids, I love it.  It doesn’t hurt matters that my 2-year-old son also loves it (we live near Chicago and the Cubs won this year so . . .).

I See and See by Ted Lewin

isee

The “I Like to Read” series by Holiday House has always frustrated librarians.  We like the books a lot but because the publisher for some reason has always published the books at an egregious 8″ X 10″ (rather than the standard 6″ X 9″ where most easy readers fall) we tend to forget about them.  They get shelved in the picture book sections and unless you know to spot their distinctive little spines, you’ll probably forget all about them.  I couldn’t forget this book, though.  Maybe it was the fact that it reminds me so much of NYC (I’m pretty sure he included the Bryant Park carousel at the end) but the very simple text and gorgeous Lewin art make for a winning combo.

Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin, ill. Rob Dunlavey

owlseesowl

It’s not technically marketed as an easy reader, and indeed the text owes far more to the reverso poetry movement than anything else.  That said, I was very taken with the quiet, contemplative little book.  And I do think it’s sufficiently simple to enter onto this list.  I do!

Snail and Worm: Three Stories About Two Friends by Tina Kügler

snailworm

Oh.  Oh oh oh.  This is my #1 pick for the Geisel this year, no question.  My five-year-old daughter has taken to reading one of these stories every morning to my two-year-old.  As a result, anytime he sees a worm he will immediately say, “Worm! Worm!  Where’s snail?”  Where indeed.  Deeply funny and original, these books are for kids who are working their way up to the Frog and Toad books. I’ve found it hard to come up with any easy readers that fall into this reading level quite so perfectly


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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20. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 19 – 2016 Early Chapter Books

31daysAlongside yesterday’s easy book list, this is the other list that could have been a little beefier this year.  Not a lot of racial diversity to be found, to be frank.  That fault lies with me, not the books published in 2016.  Still, with that in mind, this list is a collection of great books I read this year but should NOT be taken as the best of the year by any means.


 

2016 Early Chapter Books

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann

Armstrong

It’s difficult to know where to put this book, but if I had a gun to my head I’d probably slot it under “early chapter book” rather than “picture book”.  Not that it isn’t chock full of gorgeous full color spreads from start to finish.  It just has a slightly older feel to it, best suited for those kids willing to sit and listen and contemplate a little more deeply.

Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon by John Himmelman

bunjitsubunny

Generally I like to avoid sequels, and this is the third in the Bunjitsu Bunny series.  And honestly, I would avoid it, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s just so doggone impressive.  With shocking short stories, Himmelman manages to pack a strong punch with a very few number of words.  If that man ever gets into easy books, Geisel take note.

Fluffy Strikes Back by Ashley Spires

fluffy

Clearly I like early chapter books where furry creatures kick things on the covers.  This book is a little like a comic and a little like an easy reader.  I’m usually wary of spy thrillers done with animals (movies of that sort do not pan out).  This, however, is what they all wish that they could be.  I may also be inclined towards it since my house is beset by bluebottle flies every summer and no love of mine is lost on them.

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, ill. Matt Myers

infamousratsos

It doesn’t have the elegance of Bunjitsu Bunny, but LaReau’s tale of two “bad” kids who can’t help but do good felt like it was striking the same notes.  Maybe I should have put it on my Books with a Message list.

Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina

juanalucas1

I just absolutely, 100% loved this book.  I think it was the only early chapter book I went so far as to review this year.  The struggle of a girl to learn English (a particularly weird and illogical tongue) will strike a chord with many readers struggling to learn another language.

Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton

narwhalunicorn

Narwhals are hot in 2016.  The just keep cropping up!  And why not?  As this book makes so eminently clear, they are the unicorns of the sea.  This upbeat, consistently amusing, warm-hearted little book is perfect for transitional readers that need that comic element to their tales.

The Sandwich Thief by Andre Marois, ill. Patrick Doyon

SandwichThief

Oops.  I lied.  I reviewed two early chapter books this year.  I have no idea why I adore this one as much as I do.  The story of a boy’s incredibly hoity toity sandwich getting stolen every day shouldn’t make me so happy, but it does!  It may even make you yearn for homemade mayonnaise.  It’s just that convincing.

What’s Up, Chuck? by Leo Landry

whatsupchuck

This is one of those books that straddles the line between picture book and early chapter book so perfectly that it should almost be its own category.  I decided to put it here, because it actually has a pretty gripping plot.  I love what it has to say about personal petty rivalries and dealing with your own jealousy.  What kid isn’t going to relate?

Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? by Kate DiCamillo, ill. Chris Van Dusen

whereareyou

This is the latest in DiCamillo’s Deckawoo Drive series that began with the Mercy Watson books.  It’s unapologetically DiCamilloian.  Can you name any other author that could get away with writing an early chapter book about an elderly woman setting off to find herself by riding the rails?  It’s engrossing.  No animals in it, unlike the other books in the series, so it’s a risk but there are jellybeans so I’m giving it two thumbs up.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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0 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 19 – 2016 Early Chapter Books as of 12/19/2016 1:30:00 AM
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21. Monday Poetry Stretch - Bite-Sized Sonnet

Since we wrote a sonnet variation last week, I thought I continue with this theme. In Avis Harley's book Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry, she include the bite-sized sonnet. This form follows the rhyme scheme of a "traditional sonnet," but it's not written in iambic pentameter. Instead, each line contains only ONE syllable. Here's Avis' poem.
A Bite-Sized Sonnet

House
sleeps.
Mouse
creeps
in
through
thin
flue.

Spots
cheese;
stops.
Sees
cat.
SCAT!

Poem 
©Avis Harley. All rights reserved.
I hope you'll join me this week in writing a bite-sized sonnet. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

2 Comments on Monday Poetry Stretch - Bite-Sized Sonnet, last added: 12/29/2016
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22. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 20 – 2016 Graphic Novels & Comics for Children

31daysOkay!  I’ve been looking forward to this particular list for a while.  But first, a quick note on what we’re calling these things.  Not too long ago the very funny Glen Weldon wrote a piece for an NPR blog about whether or not we should be calling these books “comics” or “graphic novels”.  Weldon is firmly in the comic camp, and he makes a strong case.  He is not, however, a librarian, and so he can be forgiven for not knowing his history on this one.  The term “graphic novel” was embraced early on by librarians to distinguish the better bound GNs from the flimsy, circulate-them-once-and-they’re-done comics that abounded.  These days GNs and trades are almost more common than floppies, and so there’s been a call to call comics comics again.  I was tempted to just call all of this that woefully technical term “sequential art” and be done with it . . . but how would that be different from picture books, eh whot?  No, we’re splitting the difference today.  Whether you’re a graphic novel enthusiast or a comic book reader, I think you’ll find something for everybody on this list of some of the best from 2016 for kids:


 2016 Great Graphic Novels & Comics for Kids

Anna & Froga: Out and About by Anouk Ricard

annafroga

Is so French!  I was very much taken with this odd little book, the second in the Anna & Froga series to come to America.  There’s an adult quality to the feel of the book, but it doesn’t have that misanthropic undercurrent you sometimes get in imports.  Instead, it’s really rather sweet.  And I was particularly taken with the tale about the vampire next door.

Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World by James Sturm

apearmadillo

Hooray!  First off, kudos to Sturm for coming up with what may well be my favorite original animal pairing of the year.  Apes and armadillos!  Magic!  If you’re looking for a good friendship tale, this entry into the TOON Books oeuvre will hit the spot.  With a minimal number of words, you get two fully-fleshed out characters in an adventure ideal for readers who are on the cusp of reading full chapter books.

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard

bera-covfinal

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this book up and I was left never quite knowing where the plot was going as I read it.  And I CERTAINLY didn’t expect the ending either!  It’s just your average hero’s quest, except the hero in question is a pumpkin gardener who keeps searching for bigger, better heroes to do the job for her.  I loved the pacing, and you get used to the art pretty quickly.  Loved the heroine too.  Bera doesn’t adhere to your stereotypical feminine tropes.  She’s just a one-headed troll with a job to do. Go, Bera!

The Birth of Kataro by Shigeru Mizuki

kitaro

Oops!  Here it comes again for a third pass!  After popping up on my International Imports and Oddest Books of the Year lists already, you’d think I’d be tired of old Kitaro by now.  And you would be WRONG!  Just to sum up once more, you have ancient Japanese legends mixed with a manga art style resulting in a crazy mash-up of an unlikely hero surviving a host of creepy crawly monsters.  Better read the author’s note before you begin.

Compass South by Hope Larson, ill. Rebecca Monk

compasssouth1

Hope Larson!  Big time fan over here.  When people ask for Raina Telgemeier readalikes I always point them to Chiggers though I’ve a particular fondness for Mercury as well.  This latest book was drawn by someone else entirely, but you definitely can tell that Larson’s behind the ideas.  And what’s not to love?  One-eyed women with shell-encrusted eyepatches.  Danger on the high seas.  Two pairs of twins.  Danger, near death, disease, maps, the whole kerschmozzle!  If you’re looking for adventure, this is the start to a promising series.  Extra points if you’ve discovered Hope’s new Goldie Vance comic series as well.

The Heartless Troll by Oyvind Torseter

heartlesstroll

Kitaro isn’t the only GN here that’s appearing on multiple lists.  Torseter did a fine and dandy job with his epic quest book.  The fact that it is physically larger than your average comic shouldn’t put you off.  It sort of has a Bone-like quality to it too, with its simply drawn hero and elaborately detailed villain.  Jeff Smith, I suspect, would be a fan.

Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green

hippopotamister

A book so popular in my family it made it onto my Christmas card this year.  Truth.  My five-year-old loves it.  My two-year-old loves it, and why not?  This is what people talk about when they talk about tight plotting in books for younger readers.  And talk about a hero’s quest!  Hippopotamister might as well be singing a Disney-esque “I want” song at the story’s start.  He enters the world, succeeds, fails, and then uses his knowledge to better the place where he got his start.  Plus the red panda is funny.

Kid Beowulf by Alexis Fajardo

KidBeowulf

Speaking of quests, the remarkable thing about Fajardo’s first book in the “Kid Beowulf” series is just how sprawling, epic, and ambitious it is.  There are graphic novel readers out there that need and crave comics with huge backstories, countless characters, as well as a bit of real history.  This is the book you hand them.  And then the next.  And the next.  And the next . . .

King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

KingKazoo

I was talking this book up to a group of women the other day and found that for all its simplicity, it’s surprisingly difficult to encapsulate why exactly I love this book as much as I do.  Obviously there’s the Carl Barks influence (right down to the Gyro Gearloose-esque inventor), so that’s a plus.  But I really latched onto the sense of humor, which is not easy to pull off.  Of all the books on this list I think I might deem it the funniest.  Let’s hope there are more in the pipeline.

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper, ill. Raul the Third

lowriderscenterearth

Here’s a trend I noticed in 2016: I kept encountering sequels or companion books where I liked the newer creations much more than their predecessors.  Case in point, the latest Lowriders title.  I was sadly lukewarm when Lowriders in Space came out.  I wanted to adore it (I mean, Raul the Third illustrates his books with Bic pens, people!) but the storyline didn’t cut it for it.  Fast forward to 2016 and Lowriders to the Center of the Earth.  Now THAT is more like it!  Integrating ancient Aztec gods alongside legends of the chupacabra and La Llorona (amongst others), with a little Mexican wrestling thrown in for spice, this book is delicious.  Loved the plot, the adventure, the characters, and the fact that I never saw where it was going.  Camper and Raul are clearly hitting their stride.

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire

namelesscity

I came very close to not reading this book this year.  I mean, I absolutely adore Faith Erin Hicks (Friends With Boys is a particular favorite and close to my heart) but it was marketed as YA and I didn’t want to truck with books outside my age range.  It was only when the book appeared on New York Public Library’s 100 Children’s Books list for 2016 that I came to understand that it’s not really YA but straight up middle grade.  Once I got my hands on a copy I devoured it in one sitting.  Wowza!  If you’ve a kid that loves Avatar the Last Airbender, just tell them that the book is basically set in Ba Sing Se and they’ll know exactly what you mean.  This is Character Development: The Book, in a good way.  Haven’t read it yet?  You lucky duck.  You’re in for a treat.

Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna

pinocchio

Again with the pretty pretty.  Again with the imported book that has already appeared on two other lists.  I care not.  If I could make Sanna a household name, you know that I’d do so.

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

snowwhite

The most cinematic of the books on this list this year.  It’s also, quite possibly, Matt Phelan’s best to date.  And if you haven’t seen it, check out the holiday image he created for the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog.  Apropos since this is such a Christmasy book.

Varmints by Andy Hirsch

varmints-cover

Anyone else notice that three of today’s comics’ covers feature a boy and a girl running hell-for-leather together (it’s harder to notice on Compass South, but it’s there)?  Just something I noticed.

Now you might think that after reading Candy Fleming’s remarkable bio of Buffalo Bill Cody I’d be ruined for the Old West forever.  Not so!  Andy Hirsch takes us back to a time of shysters, mules, and villains with two siblings you just gotta root for.  I did admittedly have a hard time finishing the book, if only because my darn kids kept trying to take it off me.  Sorry, kiddos.  This is mommy’s comic book.  Mommy’s!


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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2 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 20 – 2016 Graphic Novels & Comics for Children, last added: 12/21/2016
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23. Cybils Speculative Reader: THE DELPHI EFFECT by RYSA WALKER

Welcome to the 2016 Cybils Speculative Reader! As a first run reader for the Cybils, I'll be briefly introducing you to the books on the list, giving you a mostly unbiased look at some of the plot.Enjoy! Time travel! Ghosts! Plotting adults! Secret... Read the rest of this post

1 Comments on Cybils Speculative Reader: THE DELPHI EFFECT by RYSA WALKER, last added: 12/29/2016
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24. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 21: 2016 Poetry Books for Kids

31daysFun Fact: The American Library Association does not currently give an award specifically to great works of children’s book poetry.  Is not that strange?  When I first discovered this to be true, I was perplexed.  I’ve always been a bit of a rube when it comes to the poetic form.  Placing stresses on syllables and knowing what constitutes a sestina and all that.  Of course even without its own award specifically, poetry can win the Newbery or the Caldecott.  Yet too often when it happens it’s in the form of a verse novel or its sort of pooh-poohed for its win.  Remember when Last Stop on Market Street won the Newbery and folks were arguing that it was the first picture book to do so since A Visit to William’s Blake’s Inn couldn’t possibly be considered a picture book because it was poetry?  None of this is to say that poetry doesn’t win Newberys (as recently as 2011 Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman won an Honor) but aside from the month of April (Poetry Month a.k.a. the only time the 811 section of the public library is sucked dry) poetry doesn’t get a lot of attention.

So rather than relegate all poetry discussions to April, let us today celebrate some of the lovelier works of poetry out for kids this year.  Because we lucked out, folks.  2016 was a great year for verse:


 2016 Poetry Books for Kids

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, ill. Toshikado Hajiri, translations by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi

areyouecho

No surprises here.  If you know me then you know I’m gaga for this title.  For the purposes of today’s list, however, let’s just zero in on Kaneko’s own poetry.  Cynical beast that I am, I would sooner eat my own tongue than use a tired phrase like “childlike wonder” to describe something.  And yet . . . I’m stuck.  Honestly there’s no other way to adequately convey to you what Kaneko has done so perfectly with this book.  Come for the biography and history lesson.  Stay for the incomparable poems.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

FreedomOverMe

I’m not entirely certain that I can express in words how deeply satisfying it’s been to see this book get as much love and attention as it has, so far.  Already its appeared on Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best, its been a Kirkus Prize Finalist, it was on the NCTE Notable Poetry List, and New York Public Library listed it on their Best Books for Kids.  I would have liked to add an Image Award nomination in there as well, but you don’t always get what you want.  Regardless, I maintain my position that this is a serious Newbery contender.  Even if it misses out during the January award season, there is comfort in knowing that folks are finding it.  Very satisfying.

Grumbles From the Town: Mother-Goose Voices With a Twist by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich, ill. Angela Matteson

grumblestown

Its been promoted as a writing prompt book, but I’d argue that the poetry in this collection stands on its own two feet as well.  Yolen and Dotlich take classic nursery rhymes and twist them.  We’ve all seen that kind of thing before, but I like how they’ve twisted them.  A passing familiarity with the original poetry a good idea, though they’ve covered their bases and included that information in the back of the book as well.  Good original fun all around.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, ill. Francis Vallejo

jazzday1

So far it’s won the only major award (aside from the Kirkus prize) to be released so far for a 2016 title.  Jazz Day took home the gold when it won in the picture book category of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards.  And, granted, I was on that committee, but I wasn’t the only one there.  It’s such an amazing book, and aside from poetry its hard to slot it into any one category.  Fiction or nonfiction?  You be the judge.

Miss Muffet, Or What Came After by Marilyn Singer, ill. David Litchfield

missmuffet

It’s sort of epic.  From one single short little nursery rhyme, Singer spins out this grandiose tale of crushed hopes, impossible dreams, and overcoming arachnophobia.  Since it’s a story told in rhyme I’m sort of cheating, putting it on this poetry list.  Maybe it’s more school play than poetry book.  I say, why not be both?

poempeter

Now this book has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award, so there is some justice in this world.  When I first read the description I wasn’t entirely certain how it would work.  Imagine the daunting task of telling Ezra Jack Keats’ story using his own illustration style.  Imagine too the difficulty that comes with using poetry and verse to tell the details of his story.  Pinkney’s done poetry of one sort or another before, but I dare say this is her strongest work to date in that style.

Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks by Skila Brown, ill. Bob Kolar

slicketyquick

From the start I liked the poems (they were smart) but since it was about real sharks I pondered that question every children’s librarian knows so well: how would it fly with kids?  Well, I donated a copy to my kid’s daycare and found, to my infinite delight, that the kids in that class were CRAZY about it.  Every day when I went to pick my daughter up, she and the other kids would start telling me shark facts.  You’ve gotta understand that these were four-year-olds telling me this stuff.  If they get such a kick out of the book (and they do) imagine how the older kids might feel!

A Toucan Can, Can You? by Danny Adlerman, ill. Various

ToucanCan

It’s baaaaack.  Yeah, this little self-published gem keeps cropping up on my lists.  Someone recently asked me where they could purchase it, since it’s not available through the usual streams.  I think you can get it here, in case you’re curious.  And why should you be curious?  Because it takes that old How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck, expands it, and then gets seriously great illustrators to contribute.  A lovely book.

Somo Como Las Nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, ill. Elisa Amado

wearelikeclouds

Because to be perfectly frank, your shelves aren’t exactly exploding with books about refugee children from South America.  That said, it’s easy to include books on lists of this sort because their intentions are good.  It’s another thing entirely when the book itself actually is good.  Argueta is an old hand at this.  You can trust him to do a fantastic job, and this book is simultaneously necessary and expertly done.  There’s a reason I put it on my bilingual book list as well.

Spinach Dip Pancakes by Kevin Kammeraad, ill. Danny Adlerman, Kim Adlerman, Chris Fox, Alynn Guerra, Justin Haveman, Ryan Hipp, Stephanie Kammeraad, Carlos Kammeraad, Maria Kammeraad, Steve Kammeraad, Linda Kammeraad, Laurie Keller, Scott Mack, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Carolyn Stich, Joel Tanis, Corey Van Duinen, Aaron Zenz, & Rachel Zylstra

spinachdip

This book bears not a small number of similarities to the aforementioned Toucan Can book.  The difference, however, is that these are all original little tiny poems put into a book illustrated by a huge range of different illustrators.  The poems are funny and original and the art eclectic, weird, wise and wonderful.  It even comes with a CD of performances of the poems.  Want a taste?  Then I am happy to premiere a video that is accompanying this book.  The video cleverly brings to life the poem “Game”.  I think you’ll get a kick out of it.  And then be unable to remove it from your brain (good earworm, this).

If you liked that, check out the book’s book trailer and behind-the-scenes peek as well.

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka

wetcement

My year is not complete unless I am able to work a Raczka poetry collection onto a list.  I’m very partial to this one.  It’s a bit graphic design-y and a bit clever as all get out.  Here’s my favorite poem of the lot:

Poetry is about taking away the words you don’t need
poetry is taking away words you don’t need
poetry is words you need
poetry is words
try

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, ill. Julie Morstad

WhenGreen1

I think I broke more than a few hearts when I told people that Morstad’s Canadian status meant the book was ineligible for a Caldecott.  At least you can take comfort in the fact that the poetry is sublime.  I think we’ve all seen our fair share of seasonal poems.  They’re not an original idea, yet Fogliano makes them seem new.  This collection actually bears much in common with the poetry of the aforementioned Misuzu Kaneko.  I think she would have liked it.

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. Jeffery Boston Weatherford

tuskegeecover

It’s poetry and a kind of verse novel as well.  I figured I should include one in today’s list, though I’d argue that the verse here serves the poems better than the storyline.  There is a storyline, of course, but I like the poetry for its own sake.  My favorite in the book?  The one about Lena Horne.  I had no idea the personal sacrifices she made during WWII.  There’s a picture book bio coming out about her in 2017, by the way.  Looks like I’ll need to know more.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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25. New Release this week 12/19-12/25 and a giveaway!

Happy Monday! Surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly), we only have one new release to share with you this week, CURSED by R.L. Stine! We also have a giveaway of it below so don't forget to enter!

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, Anisaa, and Kristin

YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS THIS WEEK


* * * *


Cursed
by R.L. Stine
Paperback Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon Pulse
Released 12/20/2016

From the beloved and bestselling author of the Goosebumps series comes three haunting and terrifying Fear Street Saga novels—now available in one chilling paperback edition.

Fear Street is cursed.

It’s been that way for hundreds of years. Unspeakable horrors haunt those who’ve walked on its terrifying path. And it all started with one family—the Fears.

Go back to how it all began and discover why the heir to the Fear name attempted to escape the family curse, how a young woman fell victim to the haunted Fear mansion, and why marrying into the Fear family means being trapped in a world of death and horror.

And how Fear Street became the evil place it is today.

Purchase Cursed at Amazon
Purchase Cursed at IndieBound
View Cursed on Goodreads


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