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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book of the Week: Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together

by Renée Watson
Published by Bloomsbury, 207
264 pages
ISBN: 978-1-68119-105-8
Age 13 and older


A scholarship student at a private high school, Jade misses having her neighborhood friends at school but the private school offers an international volunteer opportunity. This year she hopes to be chosen. In the meantime, Jade’s school counselor encourages her to participate in Woman to Woman, a community-based mentoring program for African American girls. Jade is paired with Maxine, an African American alum of her school. Jade also become friends with Sam. Like Jade, Sam rides the bus to school—a rarity. But Sam, who is white, has never stepped foot in Jade’s neighborhood. It all has Jade thinking about how people perceive her, and her community. Then she is not chosen for the volunteer trip to Costa Rica, despite tutoring fellow students in Spanish. The reason? Jade already participates in the mentoring program and her teacher feels other students deserve opportunities, too. Jade’s frustration is further fueled by the assault of a young Black woman by police in a nearby community. For Jade, the beating is too close, too personal, intensifying her sense of disquiet and disconnect with her school community, including Sam. Why, she finally challenges her teacher and her mentor, does everyone assume that because she's young and Black and poor she only needs help and "opportunities" but has nothing to offer, anything to give? Jade knows she has plenty to give in this vivid, poignant novel featuring a cast of singular characters; complex, authentic relationships; and a young woman voicing a critical truth. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Book of the Week: A Perfect Day



A Perfect Day

 

by Lane Smith
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-536-2
Ages 2-6


Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel are all relishing a perfect day, although the perfection differs for each of them: The warm sun in a flowerbed (Cat), a cool pool (Dog), birdseed (Chickadee), and a corncob (Squirrel). Enter Bear, who disrupts everyone’s moment of bliss. Each of the animals hastily abandons their prized spot or snack when Bear lumbers near. It turns out Bear, whose massive presence can barely be contained on the page, is having a perfect day too. His is comprised of a composite of comforts: “The warmth of the sun. The cool of the water. A belly full of corn and seed. A flower bed for a nap.” A simple text showcases repetition and predictability, while the dynamic mixed-media illustrations command attention with changes of scale and perspective. (MVL) ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book of the Week: Star-Crossed



Star-Crossed

by Barbara Dee
Published by Aladdin, 2017
277 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-7848-9
Ages 9-12


There’s drama on and off the stage in this middle-school romance in which shy 8th grader Mattie decides to try out for Romeo and Juliet. She’s thrilled to be cast as Paris. Although it’s a small part, it allows her to swoon over her secret crush, Gemma, who is playing Juliet. At 12, Mattie is just beginning to figure out her own sexuality and Barbara Dee perfectly captures the awkward passions of a first crush, made all the more challenging by Mattie’s uncertainty about how any advances she might make will be received, not just by Gemma but by all the other kids at school. The director, Mr. Torres, notices Mattie has an affinity for Shakespeare and asks her to run lines with dreamy Liam, the reluctant Romeo, who needs extra help. When Liam suddenly drops out of the play due to a hockey injury, Mattie is tapped to take his place since she already knows the part so well. Now she gets a rare chance to act on her feelings, at least on stage, playing Romeo to Gemma’s Juliet. The chance to kiss Gemma/Juliet? Excruciatingly thrilling, and it fills Mattie with so much anxiety that it’s all she can do to remember her lines. And will she ever be able to tell Gemma how she really feels? It all adds up to a surprisingly tender coming out story with subtle parallels to the original star-crossed lovers. (KTH)  ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book of the Week: Niko Draws a Feeling



Niko Draws a Feeling

by Bob Raczka
Illustrated by Simone Shin
Published by Carolrhoda, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4677-9843-3
Ages 4-7


Niko loves to draw. His pictures, inspired by what he observes, are abstract images of the in between—the feeling or action or intent—of a situation. He draws the “ring-a-ling” of the ice cream truck, not the truck or the ice cream; the hard work a mother bird building her nest, not the bird or nest. Friends and family don’t understand his pictures. Believing that no one will ever understand his art, Niko expresses how he feels in a picture he tapes to his door. When new neighbor Iris learns Nico draws she asks to see his pictures. Looking carefully at each one, she doesn’t ask what they are. When she gets to the one on his door she says, “It looks like how I feel. You know, sad because I had to move.” Niko knows he’s found someone who understands him: A new friend. A straightforward yet thoughtful narrative touches on abstract art, the complex experience of creative inspiration, and the emotions of being misunderstood. Mixed-media illustrations provide a winning accompaniment, conveying the concrete of Nico’s world, including his multiracial family, and his abstract art. (EMT) ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book of the Week: Out of wonder

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and
    Marjorie Wentworth
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Published by Candlewick Press, 2017
52 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-8094-7
Ages 8-13



Twenty sparkling, original poems each celebrate a specific poet in a terrific collection that also serves as an introduction to the poets honored. The opening poem by Kwame Alexander, “How To Write a Poem,” celebrates Naomi Shihab Nye (“Let loose your heart— / raise your voice. … find / your way / to that one true word / (or two).” The final offering, also by Alexander, celebrates Maya Angelou (“Rise / into the wonder / of daybreak. … Know your beauty / is a thunder / your precious heart unsalable. ...Shine on honey! / Know you / are phenomenal.” In between are poems paying tribute to Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Bashō, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Walter Dean Myers, Emily Dickinson, Terrance Hayes, Billy Collins, Pablo Neruda, Judith Wright, Mary Oliver, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, William Carlos Williams, Okot p’Bitek, Chief Dan George, and Rumi. The poems, varied and wonderful, skillfully reflect their subjects thematically and stylistically. Additional information about each of the 20 poets is found at book’s end. A singular, beautifully composed illustration serves as a perfect accompaniment for each poem, complementing but never competing with words that will open eyes, and minds, and hearts to these writers. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center