Monday, July 24, 2017

Book of the Week: The Leaf Reader



The Leaf Reader

by Emily Arsenault
Published by Soho Teen, 2017
240 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61695-782-7
Age 13 and older


Marnie Wells has taught herself tasseomancy, divination with tea leaves. Now, months after the disappearance of a girl named Andrea, Andrea’s best friend, Matt, seeks Marnie out. Matt’s been receiving cryptic emails from someone claiming to be Andrea and doesn’t know whether to believe it’s her. Marnie finds herself drawn to Matt and colliding with the wider circle of friends Andrea was part of, all of them wealthy kids at the upscale high school that Marnie attends only because her grandmother teaches there. Although Andrea’s never been found, the police believe the emails are a cruel hoax. Marnie isn’t sure. She also isn’t sure if Matt can be trusted and the images in the leaves, although open to interpretation, are unsettling. Then Marnie discovers Andrea knew Jimmie, a former friend of Marnie’s brother. Everyone has always considered Jimmie troubled but Marnie remembers him from her childhood because of his surprising if misguided attempts to please her. She wants to ask Jimmie about Andrea but the search for him proves frustrating as she knocks on doors, then terrifying when images and insight from the tea leaves lead to a chilling discovery that illuminates a deep and callous class prejudice and disregard for human life. A tense, compelling work that veers into the metaphysical as Marnie comes to terms with a family gift she isn’t sure she wants also fits solidly into the genres of mystery and contemporary realistic fiction. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book of the Week: Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!




Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!

by  Atinuke

Illustrated by Lauren Tobia (Anna Hibiscus Book 5) Published by U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 110 pages. (pbk. 978-1-61067-678-6)

Ages 4-8


Also reviewed:


Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 6) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 93 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-679-3)


Love from Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 7) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 95 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-680-9)

 
You're Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! (Anna Hibiscus Book 8) Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane-Miller, 2017. 95 pages (pbk. 978-1-61067-681-6)


The return of Anna Hibiscus is cause to rejoice with these four new paperbacks for newly independent readers or reading aloud. In Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna has returned from visiting Granny Canada, her maternal grandmother. Her new experiences make her feel uncertain—does her family think she’s changed too much? But the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents with whom she lives along with her parents and younger brothers in “amazing Africa” soon reassure her with their welcome and warmth, while a newly hatched chick bonded to Anna leads to amusing antics. In Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! and Love from Anna Hibiscus!, Anna visits the village her grandparents left years before for the city where they all live now. Anna is unsure about making friends with the village kids, and aware how different—and in some ways more fortunate—her life is by comparison (she never goes hungry). But she realizes she and they all have things to learn and things to share with one another. When Anna meets Sunny Belafonte after he steals from her, she’s angry until she understands he did it because he was hungry and is living on his own, sparking Anna’s determination. In You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna and her family are navigating grief and loss with the death of beloved grandfather, who, Anna comes to understand, lives on in memories and stories. Atinuke is exceptionally attuned to the emotional life of young children. Respect, compassion, and understanding are all things Anna is taught by example and through gentle conversation with adults in her life. They are values she easily, innately embraces in the context of stories that are joyful even as they address difficult realities. Anna is biracial (Black/white), while the intentionally unspecified settings, both city and village, underscore that across Africa there is urban and rural; poverty, wealth, and middle class life like that of Anna’s family.  © 2017 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book of the Week: Where's Rodney?



Where's Rodney

by Carmen Bogan
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Published by Yosemite Conservancy, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-930238-73-2
Ages 4-8


Rodney likes moving, not sitting in a desk at school; he likes the freedom of outside, not the constraints of inside. But Rodney isn’t excited about an upcoming field trip to the park—he knows the little, triangle-shaped space with yellow grass in his city neighborhood. “It had one large cardboard trash can and two benches where some grownups sat all day long.” The day of the trip, however, the bus rumbles right by that park, out of the city, past farm fields, and through a mountain tunnel. At the other end, it emerges into bright sunshine and a park unlike any Rodney has known. It’s a place where he can climb high on a cliff, or down low into a canyon; he can run and shout, or discover small things of great beauty with quiet observation. “Rodney was outside—more outside than he had ever been before.” Rodney, a Black child in a diverse, contemporary classroom, is experiencing nature on a scale both grand and intimate at the center of this buoyant yet contemplative picture book with illustrations that reflect both the changing physical landscape and emotional range of the story as Rodney discovers that “outdoors” can not only be “majestic,” but peaceful, too. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 3, 2017

Book of the Week: Flying Lessons & Other Stories



Flying Lessons & Other Stories

by Ellen Oh, editor
Published by Crown, 2017
218 pages
ISBN: 978-1-101-93459-3
Age 11 and older


“Blame my Uncle Kenneth. Everybody else does.” (Tim Tingle) “It’s a lot of pressure to pick a good elf name.” (Tim Federle) “Nani wears a fur coat to the beach.” (Soman Chainani) Whether starting with irresistible opening lines like these, or easing more quietly into the lives of their characters, the ten short stories in this anthology are wonderfully crafted slices of life. Whether funny or poignant, painful or hopeful (and most are a combination, because life is like that), these stories featuring mostly contemporary older children and teens are widely varied in style and setting. The unifying theme is this: everyone’s voice matters, everyone has a story. What the stories also have in common are vividly realized characters whose lives feel genuine and are exceptional to the extent that every child and young adult is exceptional—singular and needing to be seen. Inclusion itself should not be exceptional, however. It should be deep and genuine and meaningful as it is within and across these pages featuring diverse writers—something foundational to the vision of this work that models how any anthology, regardless of theme, should be conceived. The result is a collection of stories that will spark recognition, and connection, and enjoyment for all readers in a multitude of ways. Additional contributors include Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Matt de la Peña, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, and Jacqueline Woodson. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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