Monday, September 26, 2016

Book of the Week:
A Hungry Lion or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals

A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Published by Atheneum, 2016
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4889-5
Ages 4-8

“Once upon a time there was a hungry lion, a penguin, a turtle, a little calico kitten, a brown mouse, a bunny with floppy ears, and a bunny with un-floppy ears….” The list goes on. But with each turn of the page, some of the animals disappear, until finally the narrator notes, “Umm…I guess Once upon a time there was just a HUNGRY LION and a dwindling assortment of other animals.” Just when children will think they’ve got it all figured out—that lion, whistling innocently, is clearly eating the others—Surprise! Here they all are, at a party. For the lion. With cake (“enormous, lovely four-tiered cake with buttercream frosting”). Whew! But then…who turned off the lights? Oh! There’s never a dull moment in this picture book, with its alternating cascade of language and sparely stated moments, its perfect pacing, and its constant unsettling of readers’ and listeners’ understanding and expectations. Child-like illustrations offset the sophisticated text, adding to the overall effect of being deliciously undermined at every turn. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book of the Week: The Hole Story of the Doughnut

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

by Pat Miller
Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-544-31961-5
Ages 6-10

Prior to 1847, little round cakes fried in lard were a dietary staple for sailors aboard ships. They were easy to prepare and easy to eat. But Hanson Gregory, a 16-year-old cook’s assistant aboard a schooner, listened to his fellow sailor’s complaints about the cakes, which they called “sinkers” because the centers were so heavy with grease, and he came up with a way to improve them: He took the top of a pepper shaker and cut the centers out of the cakes before he fried them. They were such a hit that Hanson shared the idea with his mother when he got back home, and she began to cook up dozens of “holey cakes” to sell on the docks to the sailors, and pretty soon, all the ships’ cooks began to adopt the practice, thereby spreading doughnuts far and wide. Gregory later became a ship’s captain, and tall tales began to develop about how he came to invent the doughnut, some of which are included in this book. A great deal of primary and secondary research went into recounting the doughnut’s—or, more accurately, the doughnut hole’s--entertaining history. Each whimsical watercolor illustration is framed within a circle, echoing the importance of the doughnut hole. (KTH) ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book of the Week:
A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids

A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids

by Shelley Tougas
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2016
272 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-403-7
Ages 9-12

“There’s no Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids. How is that possible?” Mary’s invitation to be in her older cousin’s wedding launches a laugh-out-loud story genuine in its depth and warmth. Mary’s family is about to move to North Dakota to join her dad, who’s been there for a job since their small-town family hardware store failed. Middle school-aged Mary and her younger brother, Luke, are staying with their grandmother and bride-to-be Edie’s family in St. Paul for the summer while their mom, exhausted from holding things together at home alone, joins their dad to find a place they all can live. Mary’s been charged with keeping her mom’s big secret: The past year has been so economically and emotionally challenging that Luke hasn’t had his First Communion. It makes for some artful dodging on Sundays. Mary also wants to help unassertive Edie, who struggles with social anxiety, have the wedding she wants. And she keeps thinking about Brent, the boy she punched just before the end of the school year. He’s a bully. She hates him. What’s harder to acknowledge is that she was cruel to him, too. Through it all, including a hint of romance with Nick, the boy next door, Mary offers earnest and amusing prayers to various saints for help dealing with immediate predicaments and long-terms worries. Her Catholic family and other characters are drawn with realism and affection in an entertaining, insightful novel about family, friends, enemies, faith, and compassion. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book of the Week:
One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

by Daniel Bernstrom
Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
Published by Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0062354853
Ages 3-7

The premise is not unfamiliar: a dangerous creature, in this case a snake, eats a series of unsuspecting victims, here beginning with a boy, only to be outsmarted and meet its comeuppance. But everything about the telling is fresh and full of delight in this begs-to-be-read-aloud rhythmic, rollicking tale. “‘I’ll bet,” said the boy, in the belly dark and deep, ‘that you’re still very hungry, and there’s more you can eat.’” Indeed, there is more, and each time the boy repeats this refrain the snake is encouraged to gobble up something else: a bird, a cat, a sloth, an ape, a “rare kind of bear,” and a hive full of bees. Then the bulging-bellied snake takes one more bite: a small piece of fruit with a “teeny-tiny” fly. “Gurgle-gurgle came a blurble, from that belly deep and full.” It’s one bite too many and out they all come, ending with the brown-skinned boy and his “whirly-twirly toy.” Vibrant action words, playful descriptors, internal rhyme and alliteration all energize a story that take place “in the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree.” Colorful, digitally rendered illustrations add to the whimsy. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 29, 2016

Book of the Week: As Brave As You

As Brave As You

by Jason Reynolds
A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2016
410 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-1590-3
Ages 8-12

Eleven-year-old Genie and his older brother, Ernie, are staying with their Virginia grandparents while their parents go on vacation. It’s Genie’s first time meeting his grandfather, who’s never visited Brooklyn. Genie is fascinated to discover the older man is blind, although so capable in the house that Genie doesn’t realize it at first. A story full of small dramatic arcs and ongoing mysteries—of the door the boys aren’t supposed to open but that Genie does only to find a room full of swallows; of the yellow house in the woods; of the unexplained tension between his father and grandfather; of the effect of the girl down the hill on his brother—has an essential, understated storyline as Genie, a quiet, curious observer, deepens his understanding of himself, his grandfather, and the joy and pain and love that is family. Genie, so keen in his wondering, with a notebook full of questions; his grandfather, full of poignant regret, fierce pride, and barely acknowledged fear of moving beyond the predictable world contained within the four walls of the house; his grandmother, all bustling efficiency and loving control; Ernie’s alternating confidence and caution are exquisite characterizations gracing a story both funny and tender (poop patrol in the yard; their grandfather and a friend teaching Ernie to shoot; Ernie not wanting to fire a gun). It also beautifully captures the way summer days can feel shapeless, while forming themselves into a season of growth and discovery through living and loving, hurting and healing. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book of the Week: The Secret Subway

The Secret Subway

by Shana Corey
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Published by Schwartz & Wade, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2
Ages 7-11

Alfred Ely Beach was a genius who was ahead of his time. In the mid-19th century, he came up with an idea that would help to solve New York City’s congested streets: an underground train. His vision was of a train powered by an enormous fan, but he knew the idea was unlikely to be approved by Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, so instead he proposed building a system of tubes underground to carry mail. After getting permission to proceed, he rented the basement of a clothing store to use as his headquarters and hired workers to come in each day to start digging a tunnel. They loaded wagon after wagon with dirt to carry off under the cover of darkness each night. After almost two months, they had a tunnel that was eight feet across and 294 feet long, and then Beach hired more workers to come in to paint and decorate the interior. When the work was completed, Beach invited local dignitaries and the general public to come and experience the “train of the future.” Although it was a sensation, Beach was ultimately refused permission to expand, and before too long the secret subway lay dormant – forgotten and neglected – until forty years later when it was discovered by other workers digging a tunnel for what is today the New York City subway system. Shana Corey used primary source documents to uncover this buried bit of fascinating history, and she tells the story in an engaging manner that will draw readers in. Artist Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio constructed intricate three-dimensional illustrations which aptly convey the depth of the subterranean world in which Beach labored, using characters made from wire and foam, and painted scenery as backdrops. The back of the book’s dust jacket provides an illustrated guide to how the book’s artwork was created from the initial photo research and sketches to the final lighting and photography, a story almost as interesting as the subway itself.  © 2016 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book of the Week: Where's the Party?

Where’s the Party?

by Ruth Chan
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2016
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-269-9
Ages 3-7

Georgie loves throwing parties for his friends, but on this particular day his spontaneous plans fall apart when no one can come. Feta has to make pickles. Lester has lightbulbs to change. Shy Ferdinand would rather stay home. Every other friend has a reason, too (“My ears are itchy.” “I need to fold my socks.” “My shorts are too bright.”), and Georgie, who starts the day full of optimism, is eventually drooping with dejection. The humor and heartbreak of this story extends to the visual. George is a sweet-faced gray cat. His friends include a dog, a giraffe, a hippo, a mouse, and a star-nosed mole. All of the animals are wide-eyed and full of expression, from sheepish to sly to sad. Poor Georgie. The playful illustrations are a skillful blend of full-scene and spots incorporating speech bubbles, and include a double-page spread tracing Georgie’s journey through his city neighborhood before he arrives back home to … Surprise! “We love you, Georgie!” Friendship and kindness—and, ok, cake—are all any party really needs. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center