Waking Brain Cells
Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake (InfoSoup)
Published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth, this picture book tells the true story of an event in Potter’s childhood. Beatrix loved animals from a very young age. In fact, she and her brother had quite a collection of animals over the years from a family of snails to rabbits trained to walk on a leash. Beatrix also loved to draw and paint her animals. One day, she wanted to paint a guinea pig so she borrowed one from a neighbor. The guinea was a magnificent specimen named Queen Elizabeth. Beatrix promised to return Queen Elizabeth the next morning “unharmed.” Unfortunately though, she would not be able to keep that promise!
Hopkinson adopts a wonderfully wry tone throughout this picture book where readers know that something horrible is going to befall Queen Elizabeth. There is lovely foreshadowing from the title but also from the demise of other creatures in Beatrix’s care, including the family of snails who simply dried out and lizards eaten by birds. The pacing here is delicately balanced, allowing plenty of time for the dread to creep in as Beatrix takes the guinea pig home.
Voake’s illustrations are done in pen and watercolor, showing the world of Victorian England as well as the myriad pets owned by the Potter family. Voake includes parts of Potter’s own diaries in the illustrations, showing her detailed look at her pets and also illuminating how some of them died.
This picture book offers a humorous look at young Beatrix Potter who would become known for her images of animals living through what many children do when they care for others pets or even their own. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: Beatrix Potter, death, guinea pigs, historical fiction, pets
Titans by Victoria Scott
Astrid’s family has been destroyed by the Titans, mechanical horses raced at a track near her Detroit neighborhood. Her father lost everything betting on the horses and now they may lose their home. Yet Astrid also finds herself drawn to the Titans and spending time figuring out the math to create the best approaches to turns. So when Astrid meets a strange old man who has a Titan of his own, the first generation ever made, Astrid knows that she just has to try to ride it. It is up to Astrid now to secure the future for her family if she can only prove that a poor girl and an old horse can win.
Scott has written such a rip-roaring story. It is a book that will hook those who love horses as well as those who love racing. It’s a book that is science fiction, but a near future that is all too possible, where the division between rich and poor is even more strong than today and where impossibly complex robotic horses come to life. Even better, it is a world that makes sense for the reader, one with great appeal and a strong heroine to cheer for.
Astrid is an amazing heroine. She has a brain that thinks in mathematics and physics, naturally bounding ahead of others. And she uses it not just to ride differently than the others but also to face the horrible traps set into the race track that change from one race to another. Astrid is complex. She is deeply loyal to her family, yet does not tell them what she is doing. She also takes longer than the reader to fall for her Titan, something that works very nicely so that the reader is cheering them on together.
A riveting read that is compulsively readable, this teen novel has great appeal and will set anyone’s heart racing. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Middle School, Teen Tagged: families, horses, racing, robots, science fiction
The American Indian Youth Literature Awards are presented every two years by the American Indian Library Association. The awards recognize the best in writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Here are the winners and the honor books:
PICTURE BOOK WINNER
Little You by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett
MIDDLE SCHOOL WINNER
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III
YOUNG ADULT WINNER
House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle
PICTURE BOOK HONOR
Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People by S. D. Nelson
MIDDLE SCHOOL HONOR
Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
YOUNG ADULT HONOR
Her Land, Her Love by Evangeline Parsons Yazzie
Filed under: Awards
The Lollies has filled the void left by the end of the Roald Dahl Prize. A panel headed by Michael Rosen selected four titles in each category and now children in Britain will vote for their favorites. Here are the shortlisted titles:
Gracie Grabbit and the Tiger by Helen Stephens
Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien
I Need a Wee! by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Slug Needs a Hug by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
6-8 YEAR OLDS
Badly Drawn Beth by Jem Packer and Duncan McCoshan
The Jolley-Rogers and the Cave of Doom by Jonny Duddle
Thorfinn the Nicest Viking and the Awful Invasion by David MacPhail and Richard Morgan
Wilf the Mighty Worrior: Saves the World by Georgia Pritchett and Jamie Littler
9-13 YEAR OLDS
Danger Is Still Everywhere: Beware of the Dog by David O’Doherty and Chris Judge
Emily Sparkes and the Friendship Fiasco by Ruth Fitzgerald
The Parent Agency by David Baddiel and Jim Field
Petunia Perry and the Curse of the Ugly Pigeon by Pamela Butchart and Gemma Correll
Filed under: Awards
Lula Mae really wants a puppy, but her mother tells her that times are hard and she will just have to make do. So Lula Mae takes a look around and decides that maybe a chicken could be a good dog. She finds the most likely chicken, one that is confident, and grabs it. She names the “dog” Pookie and puts a hair ribbon on its head. Her mother insists that whatever Lula Mae calls it, she’s not to bring it into the house. Soon Pookie is starting to act like a dog. She shepherds the other chickens around. She acts like a guard dog when Cousin Tater threatens Lula Mae and the baby with a garter snake. Pookie even manages to perform a search and rescue when Baby Berry goes missing.
This fanciful picture book is brimming with down home warmth. The book’s premise is wonderfully quirky, the substitution of a chicken for a dog. Readers will expect it to go very badly, but this book takes a more positive spin. Even as Pookie starts to act like a dog, she is still clearly a chicken reacting the way a chicken would in that situation. The humans interpret it differently, adding to the fun of the entire story.
Wilsdorf’s illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. They are filled with bright colors and show a vibrant rural lifestyle filled with chickens, woodpiles, and crops. Some of the illustrations show the paths of people (and chickens) running around and convey the panic of trying to find Baby Berry. Sharp-eyed children will spot him by following Pookie’s path.
Funny and entirely individual, this picture book is about making do and following your own heart. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: chickens, families, farms, pets
This picture book invites children to head outside and play in every season. The book begins in spring with children outside carrying umbrellas and jumping in puddles. They play with worms and get good and muddy. Then they head inside to dry off, dump out their boots, and mop up. Summer comes next with sand, water and shells. They carry it back inside with them too as they wash up from all of the sunshine. Autumn is next with apples and leaves that need to be picked off and raked up. Finally, there is winter with snow and ice that can be carried in and the children thawed out before a fire.
This is truly a celebration of playing outdoors. Each season begins with the line “We’re bringing the outside in, oh, bringing the outside in…” When the children head inside the line is repeated and readers can see how parts of being outside are actually brought inside with the children. The book ends with a collection of items saved from their year outside and slightly older children wanting to look through all of their treasures together.
The illustrations show such joy from the children as they spend time together outside. Grins spread ear-to-ear on their faces as they fly kites, stomp in puddles, jump in leaves and sled in snow. This book is pure warmth too, as children dry off, warm up and come back inside happily as well.
A book that shows the pleasure of being out of doors, this picture book should lead to a great ramble outside. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: outdoors, play, seasons
Riley carefully chooses the right clothes for the first day of public school, probably more carefully than another other teen ever has. Riley’s clothes need to blend in, but Riley has never been good at that, particularly with having a congressman for a father but even more so because being gender fluid makes dressing all the more complicated. When a therapist tells Riley to start a blog and find a cause, Riley starts to write online about what it is really like to be a gender fluid teen. At school, Riley is starting to fit in with new friends and what could be a budding romance if Riley is reading the signs right. But then advice Riley has given to a transgender teen online takes makes the blog go viral and the issue gets national attention. Soon Riley realizes there is a local stalker reading the blog, threatening to reveal Riley’s identity to everyone.
Garvin has managed to write an entire novel without letting readers know the gender that Riley was assigned at birth. It’s a tremendous feat, made all the more amazing because readers will not notice what he is doing. A large part of that is because Riley is an incredibly engaging and extraordinary character, filled with angst about gender but also longing for friends and even a dash of romance. Riley is a blaze of light as a character, burning so brightly on the page that is impossible to look away. This is a book that you read in one long gulp, caught in the world the author has created so vividly. It is a book that dances with disaster, offering a protagonist who is smart, courageous and simply superb.
Garvin deals with a series of serious issues in this novel. He does not shy away from any of it, which makes the book all the more raw and engaging. He shows exactly what being androgynous is like, the bullying and speculation about a person’s gender. He speaks to the tragedy of suicide in the trans population, the hatred that is directed their way, the lack of understanding and even violence by parents. He turns his attention to sexual attacks as well, creating a book that is riveting to read but also very important to have on library shelves.
An impressive, important and glorious teen novel about one gender fluid teen who will let you understand what being gender fluid is about and the courage it takes to be yourself every day. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Teen Tagged: bullying, gender, gender fluid, LGBTQ, transgender
I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!) by Rachel Isadora (InfoSoup)
A book about your senses, this picture book invites the youngest of children to think about their senses and the many ways they use them in life. Starting with hearing, the book offers examples of different things that children may hear in their day like birds, bees and waves. There are also things you can’t hear, like worms. There are loud and soft noises too. Smelling has good smells like soap and bad smells like sneakers and baby diapers. Sight offers light and dark, the joy of wearing glasses to help you see, and the fun of reading. Touch has animals and rain, but also things not to touch like hot stoves or electric plugs. Taste is filled with foods, even ones like spinach that you may not want to eat at first. And then it all comes together in one crunchy pickle in the end.
Isadora uses small pictures on the page to show all sorts of interactions with the world. Children will enjoy seeing the things that they have done and then will want to talk about other ideas they have of things they have experienced with their senses. This is a book that starts a conversation with small children. Are there other things that are crunchy to eat? Other things that are dangerous to touch? Other things that you can’t hear at all? This book invites that sort of exploration of the child’s own world.
A joyous exploration of all of your senses that will have toddlers listening hard. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: senses
Filed under: Recommended Links
The Quick Picks list is always my favorite list of the year. I find titles on it every year that I’ve never heard of and that are amazing and even better will be popular with teen readers! YALSA picks the Quick Picks list every year and it includes both fiction and nonfiction. Here are the top ten titles for 2016, but the big list is worth looking at for great additions to your library collections:
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Shadowshapers by Daniel Jose Older
The Silence of Six by E. C. Myers
Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee
Filed under: Awards, Teen
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