Monday, June 26, 2017

Book of the Week: Our Very Own Dog



Our Very Own Dog

by Amanda McCardie

Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino 

Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2017

24 pages

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8948-3

Ages 4-8

“A dog came to live with us when I was four.” An engaging picture book in the voice of a girl whose family adopts a dog from the shelter works as a terrific informational narrative, too. The little girl’s dog, named Sophie, “was nervous around my father at first, so he was careful not to look into her eyes or pet her or get to close.” How-to’s like this are seamlessly integrated into a narrative that also incorporates related facts in a smaller font on each page (“A shy or nervous dog may feel threatened if you look too closely into her face.”) The child narrator talks about the specific behavior of Sophie—playing, eating, socializing and more--and in doing so shares helpful information for any child or family hoping or dreaming or planning for a dog, or simply interested in reading about them. Breezy mixed-media illustrations add to the blithe, upbeat feel of a volume that concludes with a final page of advice and an index. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book of the Week: The Harlem Charade

The Harlem Charade

by Natasha Tarpley
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
297 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-78387-3
Ages 9-12



The rich past and present of Harlem is central to this lively, Balliett-esque mystery featuring three diverse young detectives. When Korean American Jin first pairs with African American Alex for a school assignment to explore some dimension of Harlem history, she’s challenged by Alex’s brusque and secretive manner. The two unite over shared interest in the recent discovery of a painting by a Black woman activist artist of the 1960s. African American Elvin, who’s been living on his own after his grandfather’s recent attack and hospitalization, is drawn into their search for the woman’s other paintings—whereabouts unknown. The three 7th graders begin to unravel the intersecting paths of the recovered painting, the missing art, the attack on Elvin’s grandfather, and the plans of a shady councilman who wants to create Harlem World, a cultural amusement park that will severely impact the lives and livelihoods of many Harlem residents. Their connection deepens as they reveal private concerns: Alex is ashamed of her family’s wealth, Jin fears her grandparents’ bodega is threatened by the proposed amusement park, and Elvin worries about his ill mother. This satisfying mystery also illuminates controversy surrounding an actual Museum of Modern Art Exhibit on Harlem in the late 1960s and spotlights the timeless and timely question at the intersection of cultural identity and art: “who gets to tell our stories?” (MVL)  ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 12, 2017

Book of the Week: Away



Away

by Emil Sher
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Published by Groundwood, 2017
24 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-483-1
Ages 5-8


Skip does not want to go to sleep-away camp, and in the busy days before she leaves she maintains her stance of resistance through a series of sticky notes left for her mom, even as she resignedly proceeds with getting ready. Meanwhile, Skip’s mom is a gentle, steady front of consistency in notes of her own as she shepherds Skip through the necessary preparations and packing. The notes comprise a spare written narrative that reveals satisfying details of their lives and relationship (“I bought you bug spray. Bring math homework to laundromat. I quiz, you fold.” “Bigfoot last seen under your bed.”), while expressive ink and watercolor illustrations show brown-skinned Skip and her white mom navigating the days leading up to their separation. Skip’s mom reassures Skip that Lester the cat will be alright without her, and that her own memories of sleepaway camp are “warm as biscuits” in spite of an old picture showing her in tears on the day she left. As for Skip, by story’s end she’s ready to admit, in a (sticky note) letter home, that “Next year’s goodbye will be easier!” ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book of the Week: Exo



Exo

by Fonda Lee
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
384 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-93343-8
Age 12 and older

 

Teenage Donovan is a member of the security forces keeping the peace after years of war that followed the invasion of Earth by the Mur zhree. Although the war has ended, an active human resistance remains. “Hardened” with zhree biotechnology as a child, Donovan can activate a protective exoskeleton, but it can’t prevent him being kidnapped by the Sapience resistance when a raid goes awry. When the resistance learns Donovan is the son of the Prime Liaison—his father is the highest ranking human in their district and works closely with zhree leaders—he’s taken to a Sapience hideout as a pawn. Although Donovan has personal issues with his demanding father he’s loyal to the zhree and, especially, his fellow security officers. But the identity of the principal Sapience propaganda writer turns everything upside down: It’s turns out to be his mother, who left when he was six. She couldn’t save Donovan from the Hardening his father volunteered him for and she believes it means Donovan isn’t really human anymore, even as Donovan knows it’s his humanity that makes him feel so conflicted upon seeing her—both hungry for and resistant to her love. A fast-paced, compelling work of science fiction with strong world-building deftly addresses the logistical and emotional complexities of political conflict and change through intriguing characters—human and nonhuman alike.©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, May 29, 2017

Book of the Week: Baby's First Words

Baby's First Words

by Stella Blackstone and Sunny Scribens
Illustrated by Christiane Engel
Published by Barefoot Books, 2017
20 pages
ISBN: 978-1-78285321-3
Ages 6 months - 3 years

 

A toddler’s day provides the story arc of a board book that offers engagement, affirmation, and delight, showing a mixed-race, gay-parented family. “Good morning!” reads the primary text on the opening page spread. The colorful scene includes word labels for “baby” (the girl), “bed,” “blocks,” “clock,” “laugh” (she’s all smiles as she greets one of her dads), “woolly mammoth” (a stuffed animal), and more. Objects, actions and emotions are labeled throughout as the little girl gets dressed, plays outside, eats lunch, plays inside, and, over the course of the day, experiencing a range of emotions, engages with a variety of vehicles, and encounters an array of animal toys before being given a bath and going to bed. The pleasing illustrations are punctuated by humor (e.g., the woolly mammoth is often shown doing something funny for a woolly mammoth—coloring with a crayon, brushing its teeth) and full of warmth. One dad, home with her throughout the day, is Black, the other is light-skinned, like the little girl.  “Night night!”  ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book of the Week: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora



The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

by Pablo Cartaya
Published by Viking, 2017
236 pages
ISBN: 978-1-101-99723-9
10-13 years


Arturo lives in an apartment complex in Miami along with most of the rest of his extended, close, chaotic Cuban American family. At the center of their lives are Abuela and La Cocina de la Isla, the restaurant she began with Arturo’s late grandfather. With Abuela’s health in question, no one wants to tell her about the threat to the proposed expansion of the restaurant into the empty lot next door: a new, buffoonish developer in town has plans for an upscale high-rise. At the heart of this lively story are important questions: How do communities shape and value individuals; how do individuals shape communities? How do differing ideas of what constitutes “progress,” including gentrification, impact community, and the family that community can be? They are explored in a blithe narrative featuring a slightly lovesick middle schooler (Arturo is trying to figure out if visiting Carmen likes him the same way he likes her) trying to help his family convince the city council to vote in favor of their restaurant’s proposal. Arturo finds inspiration for both his ideals and love in the poetry of Jose Marti, the Cuban poet and activist whom, he learns, his late grandfather loved (and Carmen does, too).  © 2017 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book of the Week: Not Quite Narwhal



Not Quite Narwhal

by Jessie Sima
Published by Simon & Schuster , 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8
Ages 3-8


Kelp knew early on that he’s different from other narwhals. His tusk is short, he doesn’t like typical narwhal food, and he isn’t a very good swimmer. When Kelp is caught in a current and swept far from home, he sees land for the first time. High on a cliff he spots “a mysterious, sparkling creature” and feels an immediate affinity. Kelp swims ashore, finds his land legs, and sets out in pursuit. “Land narwhals!” Kemp cries in delight when he spots an entire group of them. “Actually, we’re unicorns. And, by the looks of it, so are you!” Kelp learns his tusk is a horn (complete with cascading rainbows) and the legs with which he couldn’t swim well are excellent for galloping. He loves every minute of his life with the unicorns, until he remembers his narwhal friends. Will the narwhals still love him once they learn he’s a unicorn? It turns out they knew it all along. Will he have to choose between narwhals and unicorns? Never. Rainbows and unicorns and sparkles (and narwhals) serve a genuine purpose in this winsome tale of identity, self-discovery, and acceptance. Clever humor in the appealing art, created in Photoshop and incorporating cartoon elements, punctuates a story overflowing with warmth. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center