Monday, December 11, 2017

Book of the Week: The Marrow Thieves



The Marrow Thieves

by Cherie Dimalene
Published by Dancing Cat Books (DCB)/Cormorant, 2017
234 pages
ISBN: 978-1-7086-486-3
Age 12 and older


“It began as a rumor, that they had found a way to siphon dreams right out of our bones.” In a not-too-distant future when environmental devastation has killed millions, many people no longer dream when they sleep. At the Canadian government’s new residential “schools,” the dreams of Indigenous people are distilled from their marrow for later use by the wealthy and privileged. Sixteen-year-old Frenchie escaped school Recruiters at 11 and has been with his found family ever since. One elder, one middle-aged adult, four teens, and four children from several Nations, they are constantly on the move evading Recruiters as new schools are built further and further north. Although skilled at survival, safety is an unknown destination, and when tragedy strikes at the heart of their group Frenchie decides it’s time to stop running and take a stand. This riveting work confronts the reality of genocide but never loses sight of hope. It’s the breath of those who survive.  It’s the love, the solidarity with others, cultural traditions, and the power of languages kept alive. Métis author Dimalene’s plot is fast-paced and unyielding while her finely drawn main characters, although marked by pain, are full of intelligence, compassion, and grace. Dimalene’s exquisite writing offers beautiful turns of phrase and lines that sting with their sharpness and honesty, while Frenchie’s teen voice and feelings, often surprisingly funny, are, like the story itself, at once of his time and our own. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book of the Week: A Different Pond



A Different Pond

by Bao Phi
Illustrated by Thi Bui
Published by Capstone, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1623708030
Ages 6-9


A Vietnamese American boy’s predawn fishing outing with his dad is the subject of a narrative shaped by an exquisite accounting of details. So much beyond the action is conveyed through beautifully weighted sentences (“I feel the bag of minnows move. They swim like silver arrows in my hand.”): The specific experience of this immigrant child (“A kid at my school says my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”); a hard-working family’s economic hardship (“‘If you got another job why do we still have to fish for food?’ I ask. ‘Everything in America costs a lot of money,’ he explains. I feel callouses on his hand when he squeezes mine.”); bittersweet memory as the boy’s dad recalls fishing at a similar pond as a child in Vietnam with his brother, who died during the war. And running through it all is the boy’s happiness in their time together, a pleasure that extends feelings about his entire family when they gather at day’s end. The evocative art masterfully and movingly conveys details of character, setting, and action while superbly reflecting the warmth and intimacy of the story. At volume’s end, both the author and illustrator share memories of growing up in Vietnamese families that came to the United States when they were children. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book of the Week: Long Way Down



Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds
Published by Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Atheneum, 2017
320 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4
Age 11 and older


Will learned “The Rules” from his older brother, Shawn. No. 1: No crying. No. 2: No snitching. No. 3: Get revenge. When Shawn is shot and killed, Will’s grief is trapped behind a wall of unshed tears. He’s sure he knows who did it: Riggs. And of course he won’t tell the police. Using the gun Shawn kept in his middle drawer, the gun he was never supposed to touch, Will leaves his 8th floor apartment the morning after Shawn’s death. He gets on the elevator at 9:08:02 a.m. Over the next 67 seconds and 234 pages of this taut, tightly paced novel in verse, different rules are broken: the rule in which no one talks on the elevator; and rules of life and death, space and time. On every floor as Will descends someone impossible gets on the elevator. Will knows each one of them, and their conversations—with him, with one another—explore the strange, unreliable honor of The Rules and reveals the cycle of violence they perpetuate. And now it’s Will’s turn to put The Rules into play, to shoot Riggs for killing Shawn. Isn’t it? The final two words of this novel are explosive, inviting discussion about what comes next, but it’s the entirety of Will’s reality-bending, expansive 67-second descent that makes it possible to wonder. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book of the Week: Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics



Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics

by Margarita Engle
Illustrated by Rafael López
Published by Godwin Books / Henry Holt, 2017
48 pages
ISBN: 978-0805098761

Ages 8-12


“Flight! / I’m the first woman pilot, but I won’t be the last — / every little girl who sees me up here in blue sky / will surely grow up with dreams / of flying too!” (from “The World’s First Woman Pilot,” Aída de Acosta, 1884-1962, Cuba) Biographical poems introduce 18 Hispanics whose lives, notes author Margarita Engle, range from those “celebrated in their lifetimes but have been forgotten by history,” to others who “achieved lasting fame.” Even the shortest poems provide a brief but intriguing sense of their subjects’ lives and accomplishments while nurturing readers’ desire to learn more. Brief biographical “Notes about the Lives” at volume’s end are a starting point for doing just that, while a concluding poem, “More and More Amazing Latinos,” is a treasure trove of additional names—and lives—to learn about. The men and women profiled come from across Latin America and were accomplished in many fields. Gorgeous full-page portraits of each subject incorporate elements of the work for which they were known, while inspired spot illustrations add to the volume’s beauty. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book of the Week: Little Wolf's First Howling



Little Wolf’s First Howling

by Laura McGee Kvasnosky
Illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and
    Kate Harvey McGee
Published by Candlewick Press, 2017
24 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-8971-1
Ages 3-7


Kvasnosky, Laura McGee. Little Wolf’s First Howling. Illys by Kate Harvey McGee. Candlewick Little Wolf is eager to go out at night with his father, Big Wolf, to learn how to howl. As the moon begins to rise, Big Wolf demonstrates a howl that ends with a lengthy “ooooooooooo.” Little Wolf’s first attempt starts strong but his enthusiasm gets the better of him as he brings it to a close: “I’m hoooowling, ‘oooowling, ‘ooooowling!” Which isn’t, Big Wolf notes, “proper howling form.” Big Wolf demonstrates. Little Wolf tries again. This time, his howl starts strong and ends with a jazzy “dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-woooooooooooo” Big Wolf praises Little Wolf for many things. “But your howling. It is not proper howling form.” So they try again. This time, Little Wolf’s ending is even more unrestrained. And Big Wolf can’t help it: he starts tail-wagging and ear-twitching and paw-tapping along. Distinctive digitally rendered paintings reminiscent of colored block prints create an inviting backdrop for a story begging to be howled aloud. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book of the Week: The Stars Beneath Our Feet



The Stars Beneath Our Feet

by David Barclay Moore
Published by Knopf, 2017
294 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5247-0124-6
Ages 9-13


On the edge of young adulthood, Lolly has the support of a hardworking, no nonsense mom and her girlfriend; his dad, who isn’t a daily presence in his life but whose love is never in doubt; staff at the community center; his best friend, Vega. He’s also keenly aware that the freedom with which he moved through Harlem when he was young has changed now that he’s 12; now that he’s eyed by various crews of older boys and young men as being either with them, or against them. The threat feels all the more real since his big brother Jermaine was recently shot and killed, and Lolly’s grief is complicated by the fact his brother, so often his protector, was mad at him for refusing to get involved in Jermaine’s dubious business. But Lolly’s sense of himself and the world and possibilities begins expanding after receiving an architecture book as a gift. Inspired to begin constructing an elaborate city out of Lego bricks, his efforts lead to a surprising new friendship with Rose, a girl most kids shun, who is navigating struggles of her own, and to exploring the real places pictured in the book. Lolly, his family, friends, and neighbors are vivid and alive in a story featuring exceptional characterizations and dialogue. The complexities of family and friendships come into full relief in a story celebrating the power of creativity and community in a child’s life. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, October 30, 2017

Book of the Week: Herbert's First Halloween



Herbert’s First Halloween

by Cynthia  Rylant
Illustrated by Steven Henry
Published by Chronicle, 2017
28 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4521-2533-6
Ages 3-6


Herbert is a little pig who “was not so sure about Halloween.” Herbert’s dad loves Halloween, however. When Herbert decides he wants to be a tiger his dad measures Herbert and sews ears, tail, paws, and claws while Herbert practices his roar. Herbert’s dad carves a smiling-faced pumpkin they name Jack, and tells Herbert about the candy. “You will need a bucket …. A big one.” Herbert’s dad is gently reassuring, helping Herbert navigate his uncertainty throughout a warm story that follows Herbert through his first night of trick-or-treating. “Herbert roared many tiger thank-yous.” Muted illustrations echo the narrative’s understated charm. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book of the Week: When Dimple Met Rishi



When Dimple Met Rishi

by Sandhya Menon
Published by SimonPulse, 2017
380 pages pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-7868-7
Age 12 and older


Teenage Dimple Shah loves coding and wants to be an app designer. She’s not interested in having a boyfriend, let alone thinking about getting married, something her traditional Indian parents can’t understand. Rishi Patel embraces traditional Indian values, respects his parents and their opinions, and wants to make them happy. When Dimple and Rishi’s parents decide that the two would be a good match, Rishi embraces the idea—he likes everything he’s learned about Dimple—and agrees to attend the same summer app development program for high school students that Dimple is going to. He’s unaware Dimple knows nothing about the informal arrangements their parents have made for their lives after college. It’s the perfect setup for this romantic comedy with a Bollywood flair (sans singing—although they do dance!) when Dimple, angry and appalled by what Rishi tells her when they meet, finds herself thrown together on a project at the camp and they (inevitably) fall in love. This delightful novel told in third-person chapters alternating between them is more than just fun and romance, although it offers plenty of both. As a young woman of color, Dimple navigates sexism and racism during her time at tech camp while also being keenly aware that most campers, including Rishi, are from wealthy families, while Dimple has little money to spend or spare. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book of the Week: I Want to Be in a Scary Story



I Want to Be in a Scary Story

by Sean Taylor
Illustrated by Jean Jullien
Published by Candlewick Press, 2017
48 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-8953-7
Ages 3-7


Little Monster is ready to be in a scary story. The narrator begins with a dark and scary forest. “Oh my golly gosh!” says Little Monster, not quite ready for something quite that scary. The narrator changes the scene to a spooky house. “Oh my goodness me! … Oh yikes and crikes!” Finally Little Monster admits it would be better to do the scaring. Anticipation builds as Little Monster walks towards a room to scare whoever is inside … “can we maybe change this book so it’s a FUNNY story?” The back-and-forth dialogue between Little Monster, who is small and purple and wide-eyed and whose dialogue is in purple, and the unseen narrator, whose words are shown in black, is always easy to follow. So, too, are Little Monster’s emotions: sometimes what you think you want changes once you actually get it. The gentle tension shifts to the comically absurd and then back again in this begs-to-be-read-aloud picture book when Little Monster suddenly disappears and the narrator becomes increasingly worried. “Boo!” Digitally colored ink illustrations show Little Monster against white pages when talking with the narrator, and in full-color, bold, slightly comical (and maybe a teensy bit scary) scenes when part of the various stories being told. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book of the Week: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground



Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

by Rita Williams-Garcia
Published by Amistad / HarperCollins, 2017
176 pages
ISBN: 978-0062215918
Ages 8-12


Clayton Byrd loves playing the blues harp (harmonica) with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and other blues musicians in the park. Clayton is eagerly looking forward to the day he’ll finally get the nod from his grandfather to take a solo during one of their performances. When his grandfather dies suddenly, Clatyon’s mother is too wrapped up in her own complicated feelings to be sensitive to her son’s grief and sells Cool Papa’s belongings. Struggling in the days that follow—he keeps falling asleep in class—Clayton finally skips school to go in search of the bluesmen in the park. On the subway, he’s mesmerized by a group of kids who beatbox and dance for money. Clayton can’t help but join in on his harmonica, and the boys net their biggest take of the day when they pass the hat. While Clayton likes the younger kids in the group, the oldest teen snatches the hat Clayton is wearing, the last thing Clayton has left from Cool Papa. Determined to get it back, Clayton sticks with the group, bending notes to create a melody matched to their hip-hop beat. A marvelous author’s note on the musical origins of blues and hip-hip and her appreciation for both concludes a story about love  and grief and music and family and the importance of being heard.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Charlotte Zolotow Lecture Featuring Jason Reynolds: November 2

20th Annual Charlotte Zolotow Lecture
Featuring Jason Reynolds
Thursday, November 2, 2017
photo of Jason ReynoldsJason Reynolds burst onto the writing scene in 2014 with the publication of When I Was the Greatest, which won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. Since then he has written seven highly acclaimed novels for children and teens, including The Boy in the Black Suit (2015), All American Boys (with Brendan Kiely) (2015), As Brave as You (2016), Ghost(2016), Miles Morales: Spider-Man (2017), Patina(2017), and Long Way Down (2017). A dynamic and compelling writer and speaker, in just four years he has become one of the brightest stars in the field of children’s and young adult literature.

The annual Charlotte Zolotow Lecture is sponsored by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with support from the Friends of the CCBC. This event is part of the 2017 Wisconsin Book Festival and is free and open to the public.
Varsity Hall, Union South, 1308 W. Dayton Street, Madison
7:30 p.m.
A 20th Anniversary Charlotte Zolotow Lecture Reception will be held prior to the lecture, beginning at 5:30, in space adjacent to the lecture hall.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book of the Week: Town Is by the Sea



Town Is by the Sea

by Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Illustrated by Sydney Smith Published by Groundwood, 2017
48 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-871-6
Ages 6-9


A boy describes his day in the town by the sea where he lives, an accounting made extraordinary by its lyricism and its visual accompaniment. “It goes like this…” is the repeated refrain as he details each part of his day. Morning includes butterflies in his stomach when he swings up high; lunch is a baloney sandwich and carrots; in the afternoon he notices the salt-smell of the air when he stops at the graveyard overlooking the sea. Most of the ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations have a muted palette but feel full of light and movement and convey an exceptional sense of place along with the narrative. But there is another repeated refrain: Two consecutive double-page spreads between each part of the day in which the boy takes note of how the sea looks (paintings show its expansiveness and the play of light on water), and thinks of his father at work in the coal mine beneath the sea (paintings dominated by heavy, oppressive dark bearing down on the working men). The boy notes matter-of-factly that his future will be the mine, just like his father and grandfather. But for now readers see he is simply and beautifully secure in the warmth of family and familiarity, and also the light. An author’s note explains more about the setting of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in the 1950s. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 25, 2017

Book of the Week: All's Faire in Middle School



All’s Faire in Middle School

by Victoria Jamieson
Published by Dial, 2017
248 pages
ISBN: 978-0-5254-2998-2
Ages 8-13


Imogene has been home-schooled her entire life. Additionally, she’s grown up as part of the Renaissance Faire that takes place over 8 weeks every year in her Florida community. Now she’s finally getting the chance to participate in the Faire with a small role as a squire to her dad’s villainous knight. She’s also starting public school--her own choice--for the first time. Imogene’s trials and tribulations as she navigates middle school is framed in terms of a Medieval drama at the start of every chapter. (“Our heroine’s journey through the halls of middle school winds through unknown lands and unchartered territories.”) Figuring out what to wear is only the first challenge, and easy compared to the trials and tribulations of friendship. Imogene experiences the false face and slings and arrows of one popular girl in particular while also learning she, herself, is not above treachery as she tries to position herself in the social strata. Her behavior isn’t very noble at home, either. Luckily her family is marvelously grounded, not to mention wonderfully realistic. Life isn’t all Faires and fun, after all: her dad sells pools and spas as his day job while everyone pitches in at home, whether helping make crafts for the shop her mom runs at the Faire, or watching her little brother. Imogene’s dad is brown-skinned, her mom white in this entertaining and highly relatable quest in which Imogene emerges the hero of her own story—-what every kid can be. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book of the Week: The One Day House

The One Day House

by Julia Durango
Illustrated by Bianca Diaz
Published by Charlesbridge, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1580897099
Ages 4-8


Young Wilson is full of ideas for ways to help fix his elderly neighbor Gigi’s house: paint it orange and yellow “like the sun,” fix the windows so they’ll open, build a fence so she can have a dog, repair the steps and the chimney and the roof, plant a garden. He’d even like to fix her piano, “so you can play music again.” Across summer, fall, and winter, he shares his ideas with Gigi and others, from the ice cream man to the librarian to his classroom teacher. Gigi always makes sure Wilson knows he is already gifting her with his presence, and she clearly is not expecting young Wilson’s many ideas to come to anything, but when spring arrives, they do! Wilson’s agency is presented realistically in an engaging picture book showcasing a dreamer and do-ers. The satisfying patterned text is set again vibrant multi-media collage illustrations featuring a brown-skinned boy and his diverse, multigenerational neighborhood. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book of the Week: Moxie



Moxie

by Jennifer Mathieu
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2017
336 pages
ISBN: 978-1626726352
Age 13 and older


Vivvy loves the Riot Grrrl bands and zines of her mother’s youth, but unlike her mom at 16, Vivvy is not a wave-maker or rule-breaker in their small east Texas town, until anger at the rampant sexism at her school spurs her to action. Vivvy creates an anonymous zine, Moxie, calling it out. Some of the sexist behavior is verbal, some of it physical, some of it psychological, all of it is some form of assault. New student Lucy, an avowed feminist, loves Moxie, while Vivvy’s best friend Claudia finds the word “feminist” too much and the Moxie calls to action pointless. Neither of them know Vivvy is behind the zine. New boy Seth, on whom Vivvy has a crush, sees Vivvy placing copies of Moxie in the bathrooms but he keeps her secret and romance blossoms. Moxie begins to illuminate and then bridge divides of race and class as many different girls embrace the anonymous zine and the Moxie movement slowly grows. The sexism at Vivvy’s school—insidious and infuriating—is both believable in the context of this story and also symbolic of the sexism in our society as a whole: It is systemic in scope; takes myriad forms; is too rarely acknowledged or challenged; has an impact that is achingly personal; those who fight back face repercussions; and every additional voice adds power to the call for change. Mathieu’s narrative is fierce and inspiring, while her nuanced characters and the complexity of their relationships ground the story and add to the satisfaction. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book of the Week: Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh



Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh

by Uma Krishnaswami
Published by Tu Books, 2017
288 pages
ISBN: 978-1600602610
Ages 8-12


Maria loves softball and is thrilled to discover a woman teacher at her small-town school in California is starting a team for girls. The only problem: she’s not sure her Sikh father will let her join. When he reluctantly agrees, her next goal is to convince him to let her wear shorts rather than a dress when she plays. As the girls begin to practice, they are sometimes jeered by boys in town, and sometimes at odds with one another, with coveted positions and racial tensions both coming into play. Maria and several other girls have fathers from India who came to the United States via Mexico because of U.S. anti-Indian immigrant laws. Many of the men married women who are Mexican American, like Maria’s mother. Many others in town, including the man from whom Maria’s father rents the land he farms and whose daughter is her rival on the team, are white. The same anti-immigrant laws also prevent Maria’s father from purchasing the land he’s been farming for years when the owner decides to sell. A story set during World War II deftly balances substantial information with an engaging character and story line. Less lighthearted than the cover suggests but still hopeful, this novel showcases family, culture, community and even politics, from the keen interest of Maria’s father to the end of British rule in India to the impact of the war on families in town. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 28, 2017

Book of the Week: ¡El gallo que no se callaba! / The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!



¡El gallo que no se callaba! / The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!

by Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Published by Scholastic Press, 2017
48 pages
ISBN: 978-1-338-11414-0
Ages 6-10


The village of La Paz is noisy. “Dogs bayed, mothers crooned, engines hummed, fountains warbled, and everybody sang in the shower.” In fact it’s so noisy the mayor is fired and an election is held to choose a new one. “Only Don Pepe promised peace and quiet. He won by a landslide.” First Don Pepe bans loud singing, then he bans singing altogether. Seven quiet years pass until a “saucy gallito” moves into town and does what roosters do: “Kee-kee-ree KEE!” Furious, Don Pepe cuts down the tree where the rooster sits. When that doesn’t silence the rooster, Don Pepe throws him in a cage alone, then takes away his corn, and blankets him in darkness. Still the rooster crows. “I sing for those who dare not sing—or have forgotten how,” he tells Don Pepe. Even under threat of being turned into soup, the rooster is defiant, stating a song “will never die—so long as there is someone to sing it.” And the townspeople, their memories stirred, pick up his call. A delightfully told story is an entertaining and accessible allegory about the importance of speaking up, and sometimes resisting authority. Colorful mixed media illustrations with a comic edge provide a vibrant backdrop for the language- and idea-rich story, here in a bilingual edition. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book of the Week: The Lost Kitten



The Lost Kitten

by  Lee
Illustrated by Komako Sakai
Translated by Cathy Hirano from the Japanese
Published by U.S. edition: Gecko Press, 2017
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-77657-126-0
Ages 3-6


When Hina and her mother take in a kitten they find outside their front door, Hina is initially a little reluctant—it’s not as clean and cute as a pet shop kitten. In a short time, however, she is caught up in thinking about names. “Maybe Bluey for its eyes. Or Twiggy because it was so skinny…Just thinking about the kitten made her happy.” While her mother is out buying cat food and her grandmother is napping, Hina realizes she can’t find the kitten. Is it frightened? Did it run outside when her mother left? Is it lost? Hina remembers how she felt once when she was lost in a store and couldn’t find her mother, and wonders if the kitten feels the same way. A story at once understated and dramatic pairs muted illustrations that marvelously capture the physical posture and movements of a small child (and kitten) with a finely paced, emotionally charged text that takes place in a short timeframe and conveys the immediacy of a young child’s emotions and reasoning, and the powerful force of empathy. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book of the Week: Midnight at the Electric



Midnight at the Electric

by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published by HarperTeen, 2017
257 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-239354-8
Age 12 and older


In 2065, Adri moves in with her newly discovered cousin, Lily, while she trains for her future life as a settler on Mars. Loner Adri worries living with elderly, open-hearted Lily will be hard, but Lily is respectful of Adri’s privacy and Galapagos, a giant tortoise on Lily’s Kansas farm, is a peaceful companion. In 1934 Catherine lives with her mother, little sister, and a tortoise named Galapagos on their Kansas farm, where the dust storms ravaging the Plains threaten her little sister’s health. Learning the boy she loves also loves her is bittersweet when Catherine, debating something drastic to save her sister, discovers a secret about the past that raises huge questions about her family. In 1919, Lenore lives in England, mourning the loss of a beloved brother in the Great War. Lenore wants to visit her best friend Beth in America. In the meantime, she forges a friendship with James, a disfigured young man who tests her understanding of compassion and acceptance while spinning impossible stories about his life. For Adri, who’s never relied on anyone but herself and is struggling to connect with others on her team, the old letters and journals in Lily’s house leading her to Catherine’s and Lenore’s stories hold surprising fascination. Family, friendship, and the family that friendship are the gifts Catherine, Lenore and especially Lily give Adri as she prepares for her journey in this singular novel graced by complex, poignant characters and relationships. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, August 7, 2017

Book of the Week: The First Rule of Punk



The First Rule of Punk

by Celia C. Pérez
Published by Viking, 2017
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-29040-8
Ages 9-12


Malú and her mom have moved from New York to Chicago for her mom’s 2-year visiting professorship. Mixed-race (Mexican/white) Malú, whose parents are amicably divorced, is unhappy about leaving her dad, who nurtured her interest in punk. She also feels like her mom, whom she calls SuperMexican, wants her to be a perfect señorita, which couldn’t be further from Malú’s understanding of herself (or, it turns out, the truth). Expressing her punk identity with heavy make-up the first day at José Guadalupe Posada Middle School doesn’t just raise her mom’s eyebrows, however: Malú’s in violation of school rules. After the mom of Malú’s new friend Joe introduces Malú to Mexican American punk musicians—something Malú didn’t know existed—and other Mexican singers. Malú recruits Joe and two other kids to form a punk band and try out for the school talent show. When the principal rejects their act, Malú and her bandmates organize an alternate talent show in the spirt of their school’s namesake while reworking a classic Mexican song into a punk performance that brings together the parts of Malú’s identity she thought were disparate, but prove not to be. Malú’s zines exploring aspects of her personal history and culture add a rich visual dimension to a spirited, engaging story about a creative, irrepressible girl navigating uncertainties and making new connections and discoveries. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book of the Week: That Neighbor Kid



That Neighbor Kid

by Daniel Miyares
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2017
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4979-3
Ages 4-8


Two neighboring houses. A moving truck. A fence and a tree. A girl and a boy. As the story opens, she’s peeking out the window of one house, he’s sitting in the yard of the other. She watches as he pulls down some fence boards. Some of these become steps up the tree. The girl, now outside, watches him, peering over the fence, then from behind a bush. Finally she picks up the hammer he dropped and follows him up the tree. He’s surrounded by boards, pouring over plans, and clearly confused. There’s a tentative exchange of greetings before he hands her a bucket of nails. She reads the plans, clearly in her element. And then they get to work, holding boards and hammering, painting and playing, building a tree house and closing the distance between stranger and friend. Miyares’s illustrations are predominantly black-and-white with small accents and occasional washes of celebratory color as this wordless story progresses in a book that feels both nostalgic and timeless. And while the narrative arc is clear, it also leaves plenty of room for discussion, whether about details of this story or the ways strangers can become friends. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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