Monday, April 23, 2018

Book of the Week: The Parker Inheritance

The Parker Inheritance

by Varian Johnson
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2018
331 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-94617-9

Ages 8-11




At her late grandmother’s house in Lambert, South Carolina, for the summer, African American Candice discovers an old letter referencing a hidden treasure in town. Her grandmother tried to find it to benefit the community years before. Instead, she left town in disgrace after losing her job as city administrator. Candice, who loves puzzles, teams with neighbor Brandon, who has research skills (and internet access at home), in hopes of finding the money and redeeming her grandmother’s name. Candice and Brandon’s emerging friendship slowly solidifies as details about their lives unfold (Candice’s parents are separated; Brandon is dealing with a bully and a disapproving grandfather) along with the mystery. Clues in the letter from the mysterious benefactor reference Lambert’s mid-twentieth century history, when Siobhan, the talented, forthright daughter of the tennis coach at the Black high school, was in love with Reggie, the best player on the team, despite her father’s disapproval. Chapters set in the past expand on the story Candice and Brandon are uncovering: When a secret 1957 match between the white and Black boys’ tennis teams triggers violent racist attacks after the Black high school team wins, Siobhan’s family and Reggie must flee town for their own safety. The teens’ resulting separation is at the heart of the mystery in this entertaining homage to The Westing Game that deftly yet meaningfully incorporates social justice issues from the past and the present (e.g., ongoing racism, homophobia).  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 16, 2018

Book of the Week: I Got a Chicken for My Birthday


I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

 

by Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Sarah Horne

Published by Carolrhoda, 2018
32 pages
ISBN: 978-11-5124-3130-8

Ages 4-8


A girl who wants tickets to an amusement park for her birthday gets a chicken from her Abuela Lola instead. A chicken that isn’t interested in eating and doesn’t have time to lay eggs. It does, however, have a list. At the top of the list: 100 steel girders. At the bottom: a partridge in a pear tree. In between is everything from a winch, cement, a horse, and firewood to a bird, a cat (to catch the bird), a dog (to catch the cat) and poms poms. The chicken also has a plan. It involves complicated construction, which the chicken oversees as it puts the various animals to work. When the chicken arranges for Abuela Lola to visit it puts her to work too. “I got a chicken for my birthday,” says the young narrator with each turn of the page before describing the latest developments in a spare, droll accounting paired with colorful India ink illustrations that spare no details in documenting the absurdity (the chicken in a hardhat is priceless). The end result? A fully functioning amusement park. “I got a chicken for my birthday. And the chicken is a genius … Next year, I’m asking Abuela Lola for a trip to the moon.” ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book of the Week: Snow Lane


 

Snow Lane

by Josie Angelini
Published by Feiwel and Friends, 2018
197 pages pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-15092-9
Ages 10-13


Ten-year-old Annie Bianchi is the youngest of 9 kids in a Catholic family in mid-1980s Massachusetts. Exceptionally bright and creative, Annie’s in a class for gifted students despite struggling with dyslexia. Although Annie doesn’t always follow the nuances of social interactions, she looks for the good in people and has a wonderful friend at school in her lab partner, Jordan. At home, she doesn’t think of her family as poor, or even unusual, although Annie knows her teenage sister Fay’s physical abuse and cruelty, usually directed at her sister Nora, is wrong, just as she knows her mother is often overwhelmed. A narrative grounded in Annie’s perspective, told in her engaging, ingenuous voice, offers a masterful slow reveal of the larger truths hinted at in small details and occasional dramatic moments that are part of Annie’s daily life. It’s not that Annie’s an unreliable narrator; it’s that she only begins to fully comprehend that things at home are not typical when she gets a glimpse of her family through the perspective of outsiders after Nora runs away. Everything and everyone is more complicated, and more poignant, than at first revealed in this moving, captivating work about family, and resilience, and survival, and the love, in spite of everything, that is never in doubt. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Friday, April 6, 2018

CCBC 2017 Statistics on LGBTQ+ Literature for Children & Teens

In 2017 we expanded our CCBC diversity statistics to include books with LGBTQ+ content and/or characters, and the results have been both fascinating and eye-opening.

Of the approximately 3,700 books we received at the CCBC in 2017, we counted:

  • 134 (3.62%) with significant LGBTQ+ content.
    • Of these, 21 (15.67%) were #OwnVoices (written by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+). However, this does not necessarily mean that the author's identity aligns with that of the character, e.g. a cisgender bisexual woman could create a transgender lesbian character.

This number (134) includes books with LGBTQ+ primary or significant secondary characters, LGBTQ+ families, nonfiction about LGBTQ+ people or topics, and what we've been calling "LGBTQ+ metaphor" books (more on that in a moment). Here's the breakdown:
  • 61 books (45.52%) feature an LGBTQ+ primary character
  • 36 books (26.87%) include an LGBTQ+ secondary character without an LGBTQ+ primary character
  • 25 books (18.66%) include an LGBTQ+ family
  • 9 books (5.22%) are nonfiction (not including graphic novels)
  • 3 books (2.24%) are anthologies with significant LGBTQ+ content
  • 2 books (1.5%) are LGBTQ+ metaphors

The two books we consider "metaphor" books are Bunnybear, written by Andrea J. Loney and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña, and Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima. Both books can easily be interpreted as metaphors for coming out to one's self and/or others and finding community.

We also took a closer look at the identities of primary characters. We used widely recognized identities in an effort to be consistent in our counting, as terminology within the LGBTQ+ community evolves and changes regularly. We counted queer (but not explicitly bisexual) cisgender women as lesbians, and queer (but not bi) cisgender men as gay. We had a category for transgender characters, and one for the non-binary umbrella (genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, etc.). In a separate category, we counted books in which a character questions their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

That being said, of the 61 books featuring an LGBTQ+ primary character, we counted:
  • 16 (26.23%) lesbian
  • 14 (22.95%) gay
  • 15 (24.59%) bisexual
  • 2 (3.28%) transgender
  • 5 (8.2%) questioning
  • 8 (13.11%) non-binary
  • 1 (1.64%) asexual
Little Pig has two grandpas.

Finally, our total count includes fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. There are very few picture books with LGBTQ+ characters or content. Of those we received, most were about families in general or had secondary or tertiary LGBTQ+ parents. Picture books with gender-expansive characters most often feature a child who was assigned male at birth and likes to wear skirts, dresses, or other clothing traditionally considered to be "feminine." Within the fiction category, few are middle grade titles; the majority are YA.

Of the 134 books with LGBTQ+ content or characters:
  • 13 (9.77%) are picture books
  • 17 (12.78%) are nonfiction, including graphic novels
  • 104 (77.61%) are fiction

Although it is a slow improvement, there are books being published that better represent the vast diversity of identities and experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. In the months and years ahead, we hope to see even more, especially books with LGBTQ+ characters of color and gender-expansive characters, as well as more #OwnVoices stories. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Book of the Week: Martin Rising



Martin Rising: Requiem for a King

by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Published by Scholastic Press, 2018
127 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-70253-9

Age 9 and older


In early April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., returned to Memphis to stand again with striking sanitation workers. Fevered and tired, he wanted to skip the April 3 evening rally at Mason Temple, but went and roused the crowd with his oratory and his faith in the path of nonviolence and the promise of the future he knew he may not live to see. Late afternoon April 4, he participated in a gleeful pillow fight in his room at the Lorraine Motel before dressing for dinner. These and other moments illuminated in poems detailing King’s life, and especially his final days, his death, and the grief that followed, are full of poignancy, power, and tension. Divided into three sections—Daylight, Darkness, Dawn—the poems’ language and cadence don’t just invite but almost insist on being spoken aloud. Impeccably researched and documented, the poems, paired with expressive mixed-media illustrations, conclude with a brief photo essay about the Memphis strike and King’s assassination, along with a timeline, sources, and an essential author’s note. “Can a dream ever die? / A burst of sun replies: / His life well lived for peace and good, / Martin’s spirit—still alive! / And with love, / we all shall rise.” The pain of King’s loss feels immediate and shocking, the hope of his legacy lasting. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 26, 2018

Book of the Week: Captain Starfish



Captain Starfish

by Davina Bell
Illustrated by Allison Colpoys
U.S. edition: Abrams, 2018
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4197-2837-2

Ages 3-6


“The day before the Underwater Dress-Up Parade, Alfie got that feeling.” It’s a familiar feeling, and not a nice one. He had it before a race once, and when he worried about playing musical chairs. Alfie tells himself he’s brave enough to be Captain Starfish in the parade, but that night he dreams of sea monsters. In the morning his tummy hurts and he doesn’t go. His parents take him to the aquarium instead. During their visit, Alfie notices a small clown fish who swims to the glass for just a second before darting away to hide in the coral. Inspired by that brief encounter, Alfie realizes it’s okay not being Captain Starfish this year, but decides that next year he’ll be a clown fish in the parade. Alfie’s fear will be relatable for many children with social anxiety. His parents’ calm acceptance means they don’t try to push Alfie, or treat him like there’s something wrong that needs fixing. It makes the final page spread showing clown fish Aflie one year later all the more satisfying: Alfie decided he’s ready. A limited, unusual color palette with soothing blues and punctuations of bright coral adds further distinction to this welcome picture book. (MVL) ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, March 19, 2018

Book of the Week: Boots on the Ground



Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam

by Elizabeth Partridge
Published by Viking, 2018
224 pages
ISBN: 978-0-670-78506-3
Age 12 and older


Chapters detailing the experiences of diverse individuals in Vietnam during the war—soldiers, a military advisor, a military nurse, a young Vietnamese woman trying to flee the country with her family after the fall of Saigon—alternate with chapters focusing on the political front in the United States in this arresting account of the Vietnam War. Each individual story illuminates how the perspectives of those with “boots on the ground” differed vastly from the official government narrative, as well as how far removed political and military decisions are from the lives of those whom they impact, often devastatingly. The chapters set in the United States illuminate the thoughts and actions of presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford) and protesters (Martin Luther King, Jr., who was criticized within and beyond the Civil Rights Movement for his decision to speak out against the war, and Country Joe MacDonald, who wrote one of the most popular anti-war anthems). The narrative turns toward healing as it documents efforts to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including initial backlash against architect Maya Lin’s design, and the Memorial’s cathartic impact (built as she envisioned it). Photographs throughout, detailed notes, a comprehensive bibliography, and brief updates on the lives of those Partridge interviewed to show us the war through their eyes round out a forceful work. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center