Monday, February 20, 2017

Book of the Week: Giant Squid

Giant Squid

by Candace Fleming
Illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Published by A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2016
36 pages
ISBN: 978–1–59643–599–5
Ages 6-11

Giant squids lives so deep in the ocean that few have ever been seen. Scientists have had to piece together a complete picture based on just parts of the creatures that have been found, mostly inside sperm whales caught by fisherman. Candace Fleming’s haunting narrative captures the mystery and the majesty of this amazing animal, once thought to be a sea monster. The moody realistic illustrations create a strong sense of being deep undersea, and include a stunning double-fold-out page showing a giant squid reemerging from the shadows of the murky ink it has shot to protect itself from a barracuda. An author’s note provides more information, including fascinating tidbits such as the fact that there are more photographs of Mars than of giant squid. Honor Book, 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

CCBC Multicultural Statistics for 2016

This post is adapted from  "Publishing in 2016: A Few Observations," an essay that will appear in the forthcoming CCBC Choices 2017 publication.

The CCBC has been documenting the number of books published by and about people of color and First/Native Nations book creators in various ways for 32 years.  For the first nine years, we only documented books by and about Africans and African Americans. Beginning in 1994, we began documenting and counting books by and about Africans and African Americans, Asian Pacifics and Asian Pacific Americans, First/Native Nations individuals, and Latinos.  (More about what we count and how we count.)

The slips designed and used by CCBC librarian Merri Lindgren for books to log and count.

Of the approximately 3,400 books we received at the CCBC in 2016, most from U.S. publishers, here’s the breakdown*:

  • 278 books had significant African or African American content
    • 71 of these were by Black authors and/or illustrators
  • 92 books were by Black authors and/or illustrators 
    • 21 of these had no visible African/African American cultural content)

  • 237 books had significant Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content
    • 75 of these were by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage
  • 212 bookswere by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage
    • 137 of these had no visible Asian/Pacific cultural content
  • 55 books had significant First/Native Nations content
    • 21 of these were by First/Native Nations authors and/or illustrators
  •  22 books were by First/Native Nations authors and/or illustrators
    • 1 of these had no visible First/Native Nations content

  • 166 books had significant Latino content 
    • 58 of these were by Latino authors and/or illustrators
  • 101 books were by Latino authors and/or illustrators
    • 43 of these had no visible cultural content  

(*As always, it’s important to note that these numbers are solely a reflection of quantity--or lack thereof--and have nothing to do with quality, which, as with everything we receive, varies widely. Additionally, the number of books "by" does not refelect the number of individual book creators in each category, as a number of authors and illustrators created multiple books. Finally, the numbers will change slightly as we continue to receive a stray title or two. Check the statistics on our statistics on our web site for up-to-date numbers, including a breakdown by U.S. publishers only.)

Brown-skinned Daniel.
As part of the CCBC’s ongoing work around diversity in children’s and young adult literature, 2016 marked the start of a new project for us: a diversity analysis of the picture books we receive. We haven’t quite completed the work of looking at 2016 titles in depth (that will be a future post), but, anecdotally, we can say this: in picture books featuring humans (as opposed to animals or inanimate objects) as principle characters, the default is still to whiteness (that is, white characters). Having said that, we can also say that a definite trend is to make some main characters brown-skinned, with no identifiable culture or cultural content to the stories. While this cannot and should not be seen as a substitute for books with cultural content, it is not unwelcome when care is taken to avoid stereotypes in representation. (A future post will discuss how we evaluate these books in terms of our counts.)

It was also, thanks in part but not whole to Canadian publishers distributing in the United States, an unusually bountiful year for outstanding Native picture books, including My Heart Fills with Happiness, Leah’s Mustache Party, The Owl and the Lemming, Thunder Boy Jr., and We Are Not Alone, among others.

The #OwnVoices movement was one of the most important developments of 2016 for all of us who care about books for children and teens. The hashtag, coined by author and disability advocate Corinne Duyvis (On the Edge of Gone), promotes the importance of books created by cultural insiders to the identity experience they portray. It’s an idea that is both common sense and radical, and one that underscores the importance, too, of publishers seeking out new talent. Among the debuts of new authors of color we appreciated in 2016 are The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, and Riding Chance by Christine Kendall.

Two broad categories--Asian/Pacifics and Latinos--saw a notable jump in numbers this year for both "by" and "about." The numbers for African and African Americans and First/Native Nations remained disappointingly static or dropped. Those mixed numbers reflect our mixed feelings: It’s both an both an exciting and frustrating time for multicultural literature advocates. Some of the excitement is familiar. Each and every year, there are wonderful new books. Among the many 2016 titles we’re eager to share with librarians and teachers across Wisconsin and beyond are Ghost, Makoons, Outrun the Moon, Playing for the Devil’s Fire, and many others. Some of the excitement is a direct result of social media providing wider visibility to the current era of this advocacy work, giving the voices of people of color and First/Native Nations and their allies in the world of children’s and young adult literature greater reach.

The frustration is familiar, however. It’s explained by the fact that, overall, the numbers that haven’t changed drastically in the 32 years we’ve been counting.  It’s explained by the fact that the conversations we are having now, about the importance of multicultural literature, about the importance of publishing books by authors and artists of color and First/Native Nations, about the importance of calling out racism in books for youth, still need to take place. And it’s explained by the fact that these conversations have been going on in one form or venue or another for well over 70 years.

The field of children’s and young adult literature is not removed from our society as a whole, so the fact that we are still having these conversations is, on the one hand, no surprise. But it’s also a field in which so many of us, from authors and artists to editors and publishers to librarians and teachers, believe in the power of books and reading to change the world.

We are dreamers and we are doers, and we can change the world by showing all children that they are seen, and valued, and respected, book by book. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book of the Week: Book Uncle and Me

Book Uncle and Me

by Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrated by Julianna Swaney
Published by Groundwood, 2016
149 pages
ISBN: 978–1–55498–808–2
Ages 7-10

Nine-year-old Yasmin visits Book Uncle’s Lending Library, located on a street corner near her apartment, every day. He calls her his Number One Patron. She usually borrows longer books, so the day Book Uncle suggests a picture book, she’s disappointed but politely accepts it. After she reads the story, about doves trapped in a hunter’s net working together to free themselves, she finds she can’t stop thinking about it. “How strange that such a skinny book can leave so many questions in my mind.” When Book Uncle is told by the city that he must shut down his library because he has no permit and can’t afford one, Yasmin is devastated. Then she’s determined. Together with her friends she draws attention to Book Uncle’s plight during the mayoral campaign, challenging the candidates to support Book Uncle and literacy, and finding out in the process that the current mayor was behind the lending library’s closure (he wanted to clean up the streets before his daughter’s marriage at a nearby fancy hotel). Engaging, child-centered, and often funny, this easy chapter book set in a large Indian city is also a primer in community activism for young children. ©2017 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book of the Week: Watched


by Marina Budhos
Published by Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2016
265 pages
ISBN: 978–0–553–53418–4)
Age 13 and older

When Naeem is caught shoplifting, it further jeopardizes his already tenuous hope of graduating high school. Then he’s offered a deal by police: spy on other Muslims in New York City and he won’t be charged. In fact, they’ll pay him for information. It could even become a real job. Naeem is both enticed and repulsed by the offer. He wants to help his family, and the cops make him feel like he’s special, but he hates the idea of spying, and he hates that he doesn’t think he has a choice. When Naeem encounters Ibrahim, a boy he hasn’t seen in awhile, he realizes Ibrahim fits the officers’ “lone wolf” profile: he’s angry, isolated, and has been reading radical Islamic web sites. Naeem reluctantly reports him then becomes more and more uncomfortable as another operative steps in and further fuels Ibrahim’s anger. Isn’t this entrapment? Naeem feels trapped, too, in this taut, timely novel that addresses complex realities, from Islamophobia and police coercion to radicals who prey on Muslim youth feeling disillusioned, disconnected, and hopeless. Details of Naeem’s daily life, his worries about school, his relationship with family members, friends, and others within and beyond the diverse Muslim community, ground this riveting work in even greater poignancy and realism, while the author’s note provides background information on the truths behind this work of fiction. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book of the Week: Somos como las nubes = We Are Like the Clouds

Somos como las nubes = We Are Like the Clouds

by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano 
Translated by Elisa Amado from the Spanish 

Published by Groundwood, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978–1–55498–849–5

Age 9 and older
“…the odyssey that thousands of boys, girls and young people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico undertake when they flee their countries because of extreme poverty and fear of violence” is the subject of this powerful, bilingual collection of poems. The opening, title poem compares children and their dreams to clouds. Then the voice of a child in El Salvador offers warm images of neighborhood life, followed by references to gang members and violence. “Hit this one, hit that one. / I don’t want to be this one or that / one.” The journey poems speak through and to the experiences of many children, chronicling endless walking, the frightening bestia (train), the dessert crossing. “My father says / if we keep singing, / we’ll scare away all the tiredness / and the fear / and become a song.” These migrants are individual children, each with their own names and histories and hopes and dreams, a message eloquently reinforced in “We Introduce Ourselves to the Border Patrol.” And the idea that “We Are Like the Clouds” is irony, and perhaps necessity, in the face of the unwelcoming fence at the border. The two final poems can be interpreted as a literal dream, or as safety and happiness: an arrival. Author Jorge Argueta fled from El Salvador to the United States during the war in the 1980s. His poems are set against paintings by Alfonso Ruano both realistic and symbolic. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book of the Week: A Poem for Peter

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day




by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
Published by Viking, 2016
52 pages
ISBN: 978–0–425–28768–2

As a child in the 1960s, Andrea Davis Pinkney was affected profoundly by The Snowy Day. It was the first book she encountered featuring an African American child like her. Her ingenious poem is a celebration of both the character Peter and of his creator, Ezra Jack Keats. Keats started out life as a poor Jewish boy in Brooklyn who dreamed of being an artist. Peter of The Snowy Day makes several of what Pinkney describes as “peek-a-boo” appearances throughout this lyrical account of Keats’ life, “waving at the reader.” When Keats was working early in his career as a comic-book artist, for example: “The brown-sugar boy / in a blanket of white / began to ignite by what kids saw, / and didn’t see, / in the not-so-funny comics / Ezra was made to draw. / All the heroes in all the comics / were always as white as a winter sky.” This tour-de-force is illustrated brilliantly with acrylic, collage, and pencil artwork that gives a true sense of Keats’s own artwork. (KTH) ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Carole Boston Weatherford wins 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award

Freedom in Congo Square, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, is the winner of the twentieth annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. The award is given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will be presented in Madison this spring.
Carole Boston Weatherford’s potent picture book narrative begins “Mondays, there were hogs to slop, / mules to train, and logs to chop. / Slavery was no ways fair. / Six more days to Congo Square.” Congo Square, the Foreword explains, was a legal gathering spot for enslaved and free Blacks in New Orleans. The first 14 couplets count down the days to Congo Square, documenting the work of enslaved men and women as they labored in fields and in houses, in despair and in defiance, Monday through Saturday.  The remaining 11 couplets mark the transition to Sunday, and the gathering in Congo Square, spinning out details of music and dancing, chanting and singing, lifting spirits and hearts.  The deceptively spare text resounds with power and honesty, and is set against expressive paintings in which stylized, elongated figures carry out the heavy work of Monday through Saturday, before breaking free to move with fluid joy and abandon on Sunday.  
Freedom in Congo Square was edited by Sonali Fry and published in the United States in 2016 by little bee books.

The 2017 Zolotow Award committee named three Honor Books:  

Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, written and illustrated by Jarvis, edited by Maria Tunney, and published by Candlewick Press; 

Giant Squid, written by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann, edited by Neal Porter, and published by Neal Porter Books / Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group;

and Thunder Boy Jr., written by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, edited by Alvina Ling, and published by Little, Brown and Company.  

The 2017 Zolotow Award committee also cited ten titles as Highly Commended:  
  • A Bike Like Sergio’s, written by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick Press)
  • Blocks, written and illustrated by Irene Dickson (Nosy Crow / Candlewick Press)
  • The Cow Who Climbed a Tree, written and illustrated by Gemma Merino (Albert Whitman) 
  • Daniel Finds a Poem, written and illustrated by Micha Archer (Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin Random House) 
  • Hannah and Sugar, written and illustrated by Kate Berube (Abrams) 
  • Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • My New Mom and Me, written and illustrated by Renata Galindo (Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House);
  • The Princess and the Warrior, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams)
  • School’s First Day of School, written by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson (A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan)
  • The Sound of Silence, written by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo (Little, Brown)
Additional information about the 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award can be found here.