Waking Brain Cells
The pair who created Step Gently Out return with another gorgeous book connecting young readers to nature. This picture book focuses on birds and flight, using the metaphor to encourage young people to “fly” themselves and spread their own wings in life. The poem at the heart of the book is simple and lovely, creating a sense of wonder and opportunity. The photographs dynamically capture eleven species of birds in flight and in their natural habitats. There are wide-mouthed babies in the nest and incredible pictures of birds in full flight, like the one on the cover. This is a book that inspires both in words and images.
Frost is a gifted poet who has written novels in verse for older readers as well as picture books for younger readers. Her words here create a positive feeling of strength for the reader, showing them what is possible. At the same time, her poem is also beautifully written, creating imagery that is tangible and that will make sense for children. One of my favorites is that wings are “stitching earth to sky with invisible thread.”
Lieder’s photographs are simply stunning. He has captured birds in poses that are dramatic and amazing, leaving plenty of dappled light and green on the page for the poetry to shine next to his images. I found myself leaning into the book to look even more closely at the structure of wing and feather on the page.
I hope there will be more collaboration between these two since their first two books are so noteworthy. This vibrant picture book will be at home equally in units on birds and poetry. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: birds, flight, nature, poetry
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This picture book explores time and the way that things happen all at once across the world. Small moments are captured from various countries: an elevator stuck in New York City, a horn honks in traffic in Mexico, a volcano erupts, a boy learns to balance on his bike. One after another these snapshots of time are happening all at once and yet also form a lovely series of events that are all entirely human and show how interrelated our world actually is.
The concept is at once immensely simple and also incredibly complex, the understanding that your own life is just one of many being lived at the very same time. Martins embraces that duality in the book, capturing those universal moments but also showing the diversity around the world. A guide at the end of the book includes a map of where the various events take place all at the same time. There is a distinct wonder to the book, a feeling that the world is both larger and smaller than it had seemed to be a second before.
Carvalho’s illustrations are bold and graphic. He uses thick black lines to create scenes that are active and beautiful. One page contrasts with the next, showing diverse people and settings. The result is a feeling of moving clearly from one place to the next with each turn of the page, from lush jungles to concrete settings, from bright sunlight to clouded evening.
Perfect to start discussions about time and place and even time zones, this picture book allows children to think in a bigger way about their world, diversity and their own place. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: diversity, time
The nominations for the 2015 Eisner Awards have been announced. These awards are for the best in comics and graphic novels and include specific categories for youth. Here are the nominees in those categories:
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Hello Kitty, Hello 40: A Celebration in 40 Stories edited by Traci N. Todd & Elizabeth Kawasaki Mermin, Book 3: Deep Dive by Joey Weiser
The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke
Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse by Art Baltazar & Franco
Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
Filed under: Awards, Graphic Novels
My Family Tree and Me by Dušan Petričić
A little boy talks about his family starting with his father’s side of the family and his great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother. Then his great-grandfather and great-grandmother. His great-grandfather clearly has genetic ties to his parents, including red hair from his father and the need for glasses from his mother. Then come Pops and Nana, where again Pops shows genetic ties to his parents too. And finally there are the three siblings who all show an intriguing mix of genetics. At the center of the book are all of the family members, including his mother’s side, cousins and more. Then the book moves from his mother to his grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents showing a different genetic line, this time Asian and once again there are characteristics that carry through the generations straight to the boy at the center of the story.
Petričić is a Serbian author and illustrator. This picture book has a distinct European flair that is very appealing. The focus on family and genetics is very clever along with the delight of it being a multicultural child and family. Petričić makes sure to be respectful of both the European and Asian heritage, showing the genetics at play on both sides equally. It is also fascinating to see time pass in reverse directions on each side of the family, one getting more and more modern while the other gets more old-fashioned with each page turn. That twist adds a strong dynamic to the book, showing that genetics can be traced in both directions in a subtle but strong way.
The illustrations are funny and add to the joy of the book with the red hair of one side of the family, the glasses, then the round faces and prominent ears of the other. Readers will enjoy spotting a characteristic and turning pages to see what generation had it first and which side of the family it came from.
Cleverly done, this will be a welcome book to share when doing units on family trees or even when preparing for visits to extended family. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Kids Can Press and Netgalley.
Filed under: Uncategorized
This second book in The Winner’s Trilogy continues the story of Kestrel and Arin. In a strategic choice, Kestrel has given herself into an engagement to the prince of Valoria, never revealing to Arin that she did so to save him and his country from destruction. Now Kestrel is in Valoria, being treated like a princess, but her heart is still with Arin. The emperor is impressed with his son’s new fiancé, and works to hone her into his pawn. But Kestrel has her own political plans that include continuing to try to help Arin from her new position. At the same time, she works to keep Arin at a distance so that he never finds out the sacrifice she is making. But this fragile set up cannot be maintained forever, something must give, and it may end in complete destruction for them all.
Rutkoski’s second book keeps the political thrills of the first and continues to stir in romance and deception. As with the first, the reader and Kestrel really don’t know who they can trust or even if they can trust anyone at all. As with any second book in a series, this book is as much a bridge to a conclusion as anything. Rutkoski plays nicely with pacing throughout the book, allowing things to maddeningly slow for the reader as Kestrel is caught in a trap of her own making. She picks the pace up at the end as tension mounts, creating a book that is captivating to read.
Kestrel is one strong female protagonist. She works against the entire society she lives in to try to set her own course and to be in charge of her own destiny, even if her heart calls for her to do something else. Arin too is a finely drawn character, a romantic figure who is also thoughtful and while he may realize that Kestrel is not telling him the truth cannot force her to give up her game. It’s a dance of two people against an empire, embroidered in romance and dazzling with political intrigue.
This strong second book in this series will have readers desperate to read the third and final book to find out what happens next. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus and Giroux.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Teen Tagged: fantasy, politics, romance
The Children’s Book Council and Mathematical Science Research Institute have awarded the first Mathical: Books for Kids from Tots to Teens book prizes for books that “foster a love and curiosity for math.” Here are the four winners, one in each age category.
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl
GRADES 3-5 and 6-8
Really Big Numbers by Richard Even Schwartz
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
Filed under: Awards Tagged: math
The author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu returns with a new novel for young readers. Peter loves baseball just like all of the others in his family, including his mother who is a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan. His older brother is amazing at baseball and will occasionally join in the neighborhood game and hit homeruns with his favorite bat. But when tragedy strikes their family, Peter stops playing entirely. He can’t seem to find joy in it anymore and starts to spend most of his time alone. As Peter’s mother descends deeply into grief, rarely eating or speaking and never leaving the living room, Peter decides that maybe baseball can inspire her to return to normal. So Peter tries out for a Little League team that his father reluctantly agrees to coach. Soon baseball is once again a huge part of their family, but can it heal the wounds left behind by loss?
Shang has written a book that will appeal to children who adore baseball but also invites in those who may not be fans. This is not a sports book, but rather a novel that features baseball and the catalyst that sports can be for a family to rally around. At the same time, Shang shows the appeal of baseball in particular with its mathematical logic, fascinating trick plays, and the effect that being on a team can have on different kids.
The central family in this novel is Chinese American. Shang weaves details of that heritage throughout the novel. It is more about the reverberations through generations of concepts like honoring your elders and showing respect in very tangible ways. The father in the book had been a distant figure and suddenly becomes that sole caretaker for Peter and his little sister. That transition is shown in all of its difficulty, made even more difficult because of the strict nature of their relationship. These complexities add a lot of depth to the novel, making it about so much more than baseball.
A deep look at grief, loss and baseball, this novel features strong writing and great characters of diversity. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Elementary School Tagged: baseball, Chinese-Americans, families, grief
The 27th Annual Minnesota Book Awards have been announced. The books must be the work of a Minnesota author or illustrator. Here are the winners in the youth categories:
Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen
YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Filed under: Awards
The 2014 LA Times Book Prizes have been announced. Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton won the Innovator’s Award.
Here is the winner for Young Adult Literature:
Candace Fleming for The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
Filed under: Awards, Teen
The nominees for the 2015 Teens’ Top Ten were announced by YALSA. Teen are encouraged to read the nominees and vote for their favorites starting on August 15th and running through Teen Read Week. The titles with the most votes become the Teens’ Top Ten for the year. Here is the video announcing the nominees:
Filed under: Awards, Teen
Finn and Sean had been abandoned by their mother years ago, leaving Sean taking care of Finn. Finn is called Moonface and Sidetrack by people in Bone Gap because he never makes eye contact and is often day dreaming. But things changed for the brothers when Roza appeared. Beautiful Roza lived with them, cooked them Polish food, and fell in love with one brother. Then Roza disappeared. Finn witnessed her being abducted but could not give a full description of the man who took her. The people of Bone Gap had always assumed that Roza would leave, people leave Bone Gap and never return. Now Finn has fallen for a girl who keeps bees and who is known in town as a homely girl, but Finn just sees beauty when he looks at Petey. Finn will need to figure out things about his family, himself and the unique way he sees the world before he can set out to rescue Roza and everyone he loves.
Ruby has created a unique and amazing read. Her world shifts under your feet, seemingly something solid at first and then changing on you, revealing itself and exposing both wonder and horror in the same breath. It is a challenging read, one that puts you on a journey of discovery about all of the characters and about the town itself too. As the book peels open and you see deeper inside, it will surprise you with what it shows. And you will question whether this book is a new genre, one that is not clearly fantasy or horror or reality fiction, though it may read as more real than most of that. it’s a genre bender, one that needs no classification to be great.
The characters in this book are complex and detailed. Each one, even the secondary and tertiary characters have backgrounds and histories. They have all witnessed things and reacted to their pasts in ways that turned them into who they are today. Ruby reveals many of these details while others are untold but also richly displayed. The main characters of Finn, Roza and Petey all have great details and histories. They are thoughtfully shown, moments captured in crystalline details that shimmer and sparkle.
A stunningly beautiful and amazing teen novel, this unique book will impress and delight readers who make the journey to Bone Gap. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Teen Tagged: communities, families, fantasy, magical realism
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