Waking Brain Cells
The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre
Enter the amazing world of abstract art with this picture book biography of Kandinsky. Vasya Kandinsky was raised to be a very proper young Russian boy. Then his Auntie gave him a box of paints and he started to hear colors as sounds. No one else could hear the sounds, but to Vasya they were a symphony that he could paint. Vasya grew up and stopped painting. He still heard the colors around him, but he was going to be a lawyer. When he attended the opera one evening, Vasya saw the colors emerge from the music and was never quite the same again. He became a painter and tried to meet everyone’s expectations, but to be happy he had to paint in his own way, an abstract one.
Rosenstock’s biography is very successful, focusing on Kandinsky as a child and younger man. She doesn’t speak down to children at all here, instead bringing them up to her level and demonstrating what abstract art is, showing the struggle of an artist trapped in the wrong life, and finally beautifully displaying what a life well-lived looks like. She celebrates the transformation from lawyer to artist, from conventional to unique. This book joyfully exposes how we are all different from one another and how those differences can be incredible if allowed to sing.
GrandPre’s art is glorious. She shows what Kandinsky must have seen when hearing the opera and what he heard when the colors spoke to him. The music of the paint box and the noises that emerged for him are shown in flourishes of sound, bringing Kandinsky’s synthethesia vividly to the page. Her art is filled with motion when Kandinsky’s art is being expressed and then dims down to the staid and quiet when he is trying to conform.
Beautiful and choice, this picture book biography is one of the best. Get this for elementary art classes, museum visits, and young artists. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Nonfiction, Picture Books Tagged: abstract art, art, artists, biography, Kandinsky
Winston & George by John Miller, illustrated by Giuliano Cucco
Released March 21, 2014.
Winston is a crocodile and George is a crocodile bird, the kind of bird that cleans a crocodile’s skin. The two of them would fish together in the river with George calling out when he saw a fish and Winston diving into the water to catch it. Then they would share the meal together on shore. But George had the bad habit of playing pranks on all of the crocodiles as well as on Winston. The other crocodiles tell Winston to just eat George to end the problem, but Winston can’t eat his friend. Then George takes a prank too far and puts Winston’s life in danger. He has to convince the other crocodiles and animals to help, but at what price?
Written and illustrated 50 years ago, this picture book is finally being published. Unfortunately, the illustrator died in 2006, so he did not live to see this work finally come to the public. Happily though, the book is fresh and vibrant with a wonderful vintage feel that makes it feel like an immediate classic. Miller’s words are simple and drive the story forward at a fast pace. The ending is immensely satisfying and sharing it aloud one can expect cheers of joy and relief.
Cucco’s illustrations are superb. They have a wonderful grace of line combined with bright tropical colors that pop on the page. The dramatic moments of the book are captured with plenty of motion and action. Best of all, the humor of the text translates directly into humor of image.
A humorous and dramatic look at an unusual friendship, one only wishes that Winston & George could go on more adventures together. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: birds, crocodiles, friendship, pranks, teasing
Little Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Celebrate the wonder of babyhood and toddlerhood with this collection of poems ideal for the youngest listeners. These poems document the small moments of a child’s early years, seeing these little things as exactly what they are: the foundation of the future. So each moment is given a gravity by the poems but they are also entirely playful and fun. There are poems about body parts like noses and tongues, poems about peekaboo and high chairs, poems about naps, others about baths. Each is short, clever and just right for sharing aloud.
DePaola has illustrated the poems with his signature style, depicting children of all colors and nationalities. His illustrations embrace the gentleness of the entire book with their soft and bright colors and clear demonstrations of love.
Get this on the shelves right next to Mother Goose, because what you have here is a new classic set of poetry for the little ones. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books, poetry Tagged: babies, toddlers
The American Booksellers Association has a preview of their Spring Kids’ Indie Next List which features fifty titles picked by booksellers at independent bookstores from across the nation. They also select a top ten:
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
The Secret Box by Whitaker Ringwald
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Sparky! by Jenny Offill
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Filed under: New Books
No Place by Todd Strasser
Dan seemed to have it all from being popular to his hot girlfriend to probably getting a baseball scholarship to college. But then his family started having financial problems and they got worse and worse. Finally, they were forced to leave their home and live in Dignityville, a city park reused as a tent city for homeless people. Dan struggles to figure out how to continue being the same person with his friends, how to stay focused on his future, and how to keep dating one of the wealthier girls in town. On a daily basis, Dan is confronted with the differences in lifestyle and priorities. But Dignityville is not without some good aspects. Dan gets to spend more time with his family and he gets to know Meg, a girl who attends his high school and who also lives in Dignityville with her brother and family. Then Meg’s brother is brutally attacked and it quickly becomes evident that there is a conspiracy to destroy Dignityville, one that may end up hurting those that Dan loves.
Strasser tackles the issue of homelessness head on here. Yet he does in such a way as to make it accessible to those who have not experienced it. The emphasis is on the fact that there are all sorts of people who are homeless, not just those with addiction and mental health issues. Seeing the slow fall to homelessness by Dan’s parents and their reaction to being homeless further underlines that people are doing their best in trying and exceedingly difficult situations.
Dan is a very engaging character, one who quickly learns how profoundly his life has changed. The other characters at Dignityville are also well drawn and interesting as are Dan’s parents. The only character I found two-dimensional was Talia, Dan’s girlfriend, who seemed distant and aloof from what was happening. As the book progressed, the mystery of who was trying to shut down Dignityville moved to the forefront of the story. I felt that this distracted from an already powerful story and took it over the top. It was an unnecessary addition to the book.
An important book about a teen and his family experiencing homelessness, teens will find much to love in these pages. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Teen Tagged: families, homelessness
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Filed under: Recommended Links
38,000 children in Scotland have voted and selected the 2013 winners of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards. The winners are:
Jumblebum by Chae Strathie
The Accidental Time Traveller by Janis Mackay
Ferryman by Claire McFall
Filed under: Awards
Here are my top picks for recent board books, perfect for toddlers:
Bedtime for Chickies by Janee Trasler
Pottytime for Chickies by Janee Trasler
This pair of board books introduces three small chicks who have problems falling asleep and using the potty correctly. Trasler uses humor and other animals to make these books great fun to read. Her artwork is particularly child-friendly and the Chickies themselves are naughty and silly, in the just the way small children would appreciate. These are sure to be favorites at bedtime.
Creature Colors by Andrew Zuckerman
Creature Numbers by Andrew Zuckerman
Filled with crisp and clear photographs of animals against a white background, these books stand out visually in a crowded board book market. The Colors book is the more successful of the two with the colors popping on each page. The Numbers book is still well done and extends from counting individual animals to counting legs and fins as well. Both books are strong additions to library and family collections.
We’re Going to the Farmers’ Market by Stefan Page
A bright and friendly visit to the Farmers’ Market, this is sure to start daydreams of warm summer days for those of us in northern climes. The illustrations are colorful and evoke the delight of the market perfectly. Wonderful for children who have a local farmers’ market and know the pleasure of visiting the different stalls, selecting veggies and heading home to cook and eat.
You Are My Baby: Garden by Lorena Siminovich
You Are My Baby: Ocean by Lorena Siminovich
Both released March 25, 2014.
These are the third and fourth books in this board book series which pairs a larger board book with an inset small book. The larger book has the images of the adults with the story, and the small book has the images and noises of the babies. The pages turn independently and work best when you have small hands helping you. Sturdy and with the fun aspect of mixing and matching, these books are beautifully designed with very accessible illustrations.
Filed under: Board Books, Book Reviews Tagged: toddlers
The winners of the 2014 Blue Peter Book Awards have been announced. The short lists for the awards are selected by a panel of judges and then the winners are voted on by over 400 children from ten schools in the UK.
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Best Book with Facts
Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: World War II by Tony Robinson and Del Thorpe
Shortlisted Titles for Best Story
Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Whale Boy by Nicola Davies
Shortlisted Titles for Best Book with Facts
Marvellous Maths by Jonathan Litton
The World in Infographics: Animal Kingdom by Jon Richards and Ed Simkins
Filed under: Awards
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
YOUTH / TEEN
Courage Has No Color: the True Story of the Triple Nickles by Tanya Lee Stone
CHILDREN HONOR BOOKS
I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl! by Betty K. Bynum, illustrated by Claire Armstrong-Parod
Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Terry Widener
YOUTH / TEEN HONOR BOOKS
God’s Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens by Romal Tune
Invasion by Walter Dean Myers
Raising the Bar by Gabrielle Douglas
Seraphina’s Promise by Anne E. Burg
Filed under: Awards
Room on the Broom was nominated for an Oscar for best animated short film this year. Based on the picture book by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the film is great fun to watch.
It’s available right now on Hulu for free, but it expires in the next five days. Enjoy it while you can!
Filed under: Movies
The official teaser trailer for Paddington has arrived with just a glimpse of the beloved bear. But even with that little peek, I want to take him home, jam sandwiches and all:
Filed under: Movies
The committees have selected the books for the 2014 BEA Editor Buzz panels. Here are the book on the YA and Middle Grade Buzz lists:
YA Buzz Books
I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil
The Jewel by Amy Ewing
King Dork Approximately by Frank Portman
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Middle Grade Buzz Books
Life of Zarf by Rob Harrell
Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson
The Truth about Twinkle Pie by Kat Yeh
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill
Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale
Filed under: Awards, Middle School, Teen
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