Posts tagged ‘0-100 pages’

Robot Go Bot

Every month, each staff member takes the time to review a title that has arrived this month in 100 words or less. I include my contributions in a feature I like to call To the Point Tuesday. Feel free to comment with a link to your own to the point reviews.

Robot Go BotTitle: Robot, Go Bot!
Author: Dana Meachen Rau
Illustrator: Wook Jin Jung
ISBN: 9780375870835
Pages: 32 pages
Publisher/Date: Random House, c2013.

For the earliest of readers, this picture book formatted like an early reader presents an unnamed girl building a robot friend. Things start off well, with the pair happily playing together with bubbles, a ball, a boat, and a book. But then the girl finds other uses for the robot, she orders the robot to “Hoe, Bot!” “Grow, Bot!” and “Mow. Mow. Mow Bot!” Bot understandably gets frustrated and leaves. When the girl finds him, it’s to ask him back and give him his turn on the swing, learning her lesson and providing an example of good manners and friendship.

Coretta Scott King Awards 2014

The American Library Association announced their Annual Youth Media Awards earlier this year, and I’ve been slowly but surely catching up on reading all the winners and honorees. The Coretta Scott King Awards are a set of three awards that honor African American authors, illustrators, and new talent of outstanding literature for children and young adults. I’ll be focusing on the Illustrator and New Talent Awards in this post, with the longer author winner and honorees in a separate post once I finish reading them. I have to say though, there were really no surprises in these categories, as the same people are continually recognized for their contributions.

For the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book Award, the committee chose one winner and one honoree.
Nelson MandelaTitle: Nelson Mandela
Author/Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
ISBN: 978006178374
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2013.
Publication Date: January 2, 2013

The honor was given to Kadir Nelson, who authored and illustrated a picture book biography on Nelson Mandela, published at the very beginning of 2013. Nelson Mandela’s passing at the end of 2013 serves as an ironic footnote to the book’s publication and award recognition. Kadir Nelson’s name has cropped up a host of times, and his work has been recognized over an over again.
Won the 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
2012 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
Caldecott Honor for Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
Caldecott Honor for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, for which he also garnered a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and won an NAACP Image Award;
Won Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange
Won Coretta Scott King Author Award for We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

Are you sensing a theme here? Whenever he writes something, he gets recognized by someone! And most people will say rightfully so. In his newest book, readers see Kadir Nelson’s signature style of life-like renderings from the cover (which mimics the design of his biographies on Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr.) all the way to the end. Most striking I think is the first page, where we see a young Nelson playing with the village boys and the sun shines forth from behind the hill with such warmth your eye is immediately drawn to the contrasting shadowed silhouettes. The sparse, poetically formatted text supplements the pictures, that carry the light and dark themes throughout the book.

My one complaint about this and other picture book biographies is that very few specifics are included. Annual biography assignments for school children often have a checklist of facts that need to be contained in the books or require an inclusion of a time line. While this would be a great asset to children studying biographies, especially during February’s Black History Month, readers would be hard pressed to find specifics. Would it have been so hard to add a timeline in the back of the book along side the author’s note, or include specific dates in the text instead of “in early 1990″? Or am I the only person getting frustrated by this oversight?

Knock Knock My Dad's Dream for MeTitle: Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me
Author: Daniel Beaty
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
ISBN: 9780316209175
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. c2013.
Publication Date: December 17, 2013

More recently published Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me won the Illustrator award. Bryan Collier is another illustrator who has been recognized time and time again, with three Caldecott Honors and four Coretta Scott King Awards over the years. Collier’s collages and Beaty’s text follows a young boy as he experiences the loss of his father’s influence. The author doesn’t specify in the story that the father has been incarcerated until you read the end notes, which I appreciate because it lends versatility to the story and could be used for divorce situations in addition to incarceration. The illustrations follow the boy as he grows into an educated man and an involved father in his own right, but at the end you still see the influence his own father had on him, regardless of or maybe because of his absence.

The more symbolic structure of the illustrations lend the impression this is meant for older audiences, and I can see where this might be a recommendation for patrons specifically looking for material of this nature. Most poignant is the subtle nods to the father’s absence, such as the main character wearing his father’s tie as he peruses his dreams, and an elephant statue peeking out of his office background mimicking the child’s bedroom wallpaper. The ending picture seems slightly out of context with the rest of the story, but although overall I think the less abstract images make the most impact when reading, that last picture makes a memorable ending to a tale of perseverance.

When the Beat Was BornTitle: When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop
Author: Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrator: Theodore Taylor III
ISBN: 9781596435407
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, c2013.

According to the ALA website the John Steptoe New Talent Award was “established to affirm new talent and to offer visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration which otherwise might be formally unacknowledged within a given year within the structure of the two awards given annually by the Coretta Scott King Task Force.” This award is often overlooked because it’s not awarded every year.

I can understand why this book was recognized by the committee, as it sheds light on the start of Hip Hop, something that most people have never considered. The story focuses on DJ Kool Herc rise from Jamican music lover peering over the fence at party set-ups to hooking up his father’s super-sized speakers to street lamps and christening the break dance style that evolved during his days of being a DJ. While Laban Carrick Hill includes a personalized author’s note and a partial time line of hip hop in the 1970s and 1980s, just like Kadir Nelson’s picture book biography he avoids specific dates and details.

The pictures by Theodore Taylor III are well drawn, with clean lines showing children what the different break dancing moves look like. His work showcases the old technology of speakers bigger than people, boomboxes bigger than babies, and turntables plugged into one another instead of through wireless connections. It’s almost a time capsule for readers, where parents can talk about the music they used to listen to, and I wish it had a compilation CD that featured some of the “Hip Hop” beats that are discussed in the book. I especially enjoyed the scene of community where Herc is playing street parties in the park and we see people of all ages, including one gray haired woman and a small child with a jump rope, listening to the music. As someone who grew up in the suburbs and didn’t have that type of environment, I’m surprised to find myself wanting to seek out that community network.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. Check out the blog for other reviews of nonfiction books.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award 2014

The American Library Association Annual Youth Media Awards were announced this month, and I’ve been trying to read through the winners and honorees. The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given to books geared for beginning readers. Ironically, I actually featured two of the honorees for the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award earlier this year. You can find Ball by Mary Sullivan reviewed here along with several other ball themed books that I used for a story time. Another runner-up, A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems was also featured earlier on this blog. I don’t think anyone was surprised by its inclusion on the list, as books by Mo Willems has quickly become a staple of picture books and early reader libraries.

BallA Big Guy Took My Ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other two I had not reviewed yet, and I’m therefore going to review them together.
Penny and Her MarbleTitle: Penny and Her Marble
Author/Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
ISBN: 9780062082046
Pages: 48 pages
Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2013.
The third honoree, Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes has been getting an astonishing amount of press since it’s publication in February of 2013. The simple story relates Penny’s neighborhood walk with her doll when she spies a marble in Mrs. Goodwin’s yard. Secretly picking it up and taking it home, Penny is filled with guilt that she took something that didn’t belong to her. After suffering from a hurt stomach and bad dreams, Penny hurries to return the marble, only to get caught by Mrs. Goodwin herself. All ends happily, with Mrs. Goodwin presenting the marble to Penny as a gift.

I couldn’t help being struck by Penny’s outfit, a white, long-sleeved, polka-dotted shirt under a skirt with suspenders and a flowered headband, which she must own in every color combination imaginable if you have been following the series. The bright colors make you happy just looking at them, and even the nightmares maintain that color scheme, proving that they are not menacing but kept age-appropriate distressing for an imaginative girl like Penny. The independence she exhibits will certainly make an impact with readers, as she deals with her issues and comes to her own conclusions of right and wrong without even asking for guidance from her caring parents.

Watermelon SeedTitle: The Watermelon Seed
Author/Illustrator: Greg Pizzoli
ISBN: 9781423171010
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2013.
I was surprised by the winner of the award, given to The Watermelon Seed by first time author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli. The striking pink, green, and black colors lend a monochromatic color scheme to the story of a crocodile who swallows a watermelon seed. After fearing for his life, he thankfully burps out the offending seed. Although swearing off his favorite food, we see that promise doesn’t last long. On the last page an engorged stomach hovers over pieces of rind on the floor as the worried faced crocodile might be in trouble all over again.

Perfect for picnics in the upcoming summer months, I think it’s the simplicity of the drawings that catch readers eyes the most. With no background details, we can focus on the crocodile, who fears vines will grow out of his ears, his skin will turn colors, and he’ll eventually end up in a fruit salad. That last possibility hopefully lends assurance to the readers that his fears are unfounded, as people would never end up in a fruit salad. Although I recognize that I’m biased towards pictures that have more detail than these drawings, I can definitely see the appeal of our poor nameless crocodile’s distressed eyes and the bright pink backgrounds that dominate most of the book.

Bravo to the winners and honorees, and look for more upcoming reviews of books recognized by the various committees.

A Big Guy Took My Ball!

A Big Guy Took My BallTitle: A Big Guy Took My Ball!
Series: Elephant and Piggie
Author/Illustrator: Mo Willems
ISBN: 9781423174912
Pages: 57 pages
Publisher/Date: Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group, c2013.

Full disclosure here: I LOVE Elephant and Piggie. Willems writes them on the kids’ level, whether it’s naming the characters the species they are, the humor, or the spot-on facial expressions that convey everything that the characters are feeling without the use of a single word. Even the language, simplified and repetitive, but not dumbed-down, is just right for reading aloud by either adults or children. If you aren’t familiar with the Elephant and Piggie series, what is wrong with you and where have you been for the last years?

In the newest installment, Piggie discovers a big ball, which is promptly taken by a big guy. Sharing his story with Elephant upsets his friend. Indignant to think that his friend Piggie is getting picked on while still recognizing that he is a “big guy” too, Elephant heads out to confront this “big guy” and retrieve the ball. He returns to Piggie unsuccessful, telling Piggie “You did not say how big he was.” (30) But when all three finally come together, they all learn a lesson in perspective, sharing, and friendship. While the ending is syrupy sweet and could have been handled a little less obviously, it’s still a great story. And if you’re wondering “Where is the pigeon?” who appears in Willem’s books, don’t forget to check out the back jacket artwork!

Bird Talk and Alex the Parrot

I’m usually trying to pair unique books with each other, whether it’s for story times or simply to promote them together on a display. Two books published last year both have wonderful illustrations and complement each other with their subjects.

Bird TalkAlex the Parrot

Title: Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why
Author/Illustrator: Lita Judge
ISBN: 9781596436466
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Flash Point, an imprint of
Roaring Brook Press, c2012.
Title: Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird
Author: Stephanie Spinner
Illustrator: Meilo So
ISBN: 9780375868467
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf,
an imprint of Random House Children’s Books,
a division of Random House, c2012.

On a completely unrelated note… “Look Ma, COLUMNS!” So pretty. Ahem, regaining my train of thought…
While I knew about Koko the gorilla who was taught sign-language, I was not familiar with Alex, which stands for Avian Learning EXperiment. In Alex the Parrot Stephanie Spinner goes into detail about the raising and training of Alex, and African grey parrot that eventually would go on to learn hundreds of words and concepts taught to children in kindergarten. He would combine words to make sentences, answer questions, and compare items by their shape or color. No one expected these abilities from a bird with a brain the size of a walnut, but Alex proved them wrong. Spinner also talks about the lengths that trainer Irene Pepperberg took to avoid acusations that the bird was simply mimicing her or responding to unconscious cues.

As a comparison with what other birds do naturally, pair it with the book Bird Talk by Lita Judge. You might have to either explain or alter the language for younger audiences when she says “attract a mate”, “fledgling” or “species”, but she does include a glossary at the end to assist with that task. There are over two dozen of introductory exmples of birds around the world, varying from the common robin, blue jay and crows to the more exotic Scarlet Macaws, Blue Bird of Paradise, and yes even the African Grey Parrot. It does seem that the subtitle might be viewed as a misnomer, since the book doesn’t just cover vocalizations, but also explains how different types of birds behave when defending their flocks and about half the book is mating/courship behaviors. Overall though, the pictures are engaging and well-drawn and the listing in the back makes an easy reference of where you can find those species featured.

Maybe slightly more detailed than is ideal for classroom sharing, the books overall would both go over well for kids with birds on the brain, and I would hand them together to anyone who’s hearing the call of the wild outside their window.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, you’ll have to head on over to Julie Azzam’s blog, Instantly Interruptible.

Me and Momma and Big John

Me and Momma and Big JohnTitle: Me and Momma and Big John
Author: Mara Rockliff
Illustrator: William Low
ISBN: 9780763643591
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, c2012.

This slight story features a mother and her three children. Told from the perspective of her oldest son named John, the book makes readers aware of his mother’s job carving stones for the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Also called “Big John” and “Saint John the Unfinished”, a afterward more detailed than the actual story talks about how the building of this cathedral has taken over a century and still isn’t completed. Construction was halted for both World Wars and didn’t begin again until forty years later. After resuming construction in 1982 with a program to teach skills to the unemployed which lasted twenty-five years, construction today is again halted due to lack of funds. Even under a temporary roof that probably feels more permanent to the community that utilizes the unfinished structure, people still gather for services and shelter. The illustrations by William Low are appropriately grand in scale, showcasing the size through the use of aerial shots and sweeping landscapes, but I half-expected something more detailed, like David Macaulay’s work. The jacket cover description also makes mention of being “inspired by one of the first women in the United States to learn the traditional craft of stonecutting,” which is not even mentioned much less detailed within the pages. In fact, there are few details about the trade, the history of the building, or information about the family contained in the actual tale.

Overall, I wanted more.

2 The Point Tuesday Chu’s Day

Each month for my job, I write a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ll be adding my contribution to the blog in a new feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Chu's DayTitle: Chu’s Day
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Adam Rex
ISBN: 9780062017819
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Harper, c2013.
Publication Date: January 8, 2013

Readers are warned that “When Chu sneezed, bad things happened.” The panda cub’s parents are quick to ask if he feels a sneeze coming on when entering the dusty library or the peppery diner. Each time, Chu responds with a threatening and escalating “aah- aaah- Aaaah-“, only to finish after the page turn with a “No.” But it’s at the circus, when everyone is preoccupied, that readers witness the danger in Chu’s sneeze. Adam Rex’s expressive illustrations bring Chu to life in this book by celebrated author Neil Gaiman, which is perfect for a read-aloud during a sick day from school.

2 the Point Tuesday — Follow Follow

For my new job, all the librarians write a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ll be adding my contribution to the blog in a new feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Follow FollowTitle: Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems
Author: Marilyn Singer
Illustrator: Josee Masse
ISBN: 9780803737693
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group Inc., c2013.
Publication Date: Feb. 7, 2013

Marilyn Singer retells several fairy tales through two poems , one being the flipped version of the other one and only changing punctuation in order to convey different points of view. For instance: “Jinni of the Lamp/ I am just a poor/ young knave/ Give me all I crave” becomes “Give me all I crave,/ young knave./ I am just a poor/ Jinni of the Lamp.” Singer maintains the uniqueness of the format in this second volume of “reverso poems”. Josee Masse’s split drawings complement both poems and the pictures interact with each other while portraying the different perspectives. I especially like the picture for Little Mermaid’s poem, where a mermaid literally becomes intertwined with a girl with legs.

Oh I wish I got more words to talk about this book! I really admire and love what she does with words, and when I reviewed Mirror Mirror, I tried to copy it and now we see her tackling that same story in Follow Follow. Has anyone else tried or had success attempting reverso poems?

The Helpful Puppy

Helpful PuppyTitle: The Helpful Puppy
Author: Kim Zarins
Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully
ISBN: 9780823423187
Pages: Unpaged
Publisher/Date: Holiday House, c2012.

All the animals helped out at the farm—
all except the puppy.
“I want to help out too!”

With those few words, Kim Zarins begins a rollicking journey through the farm as puppy explores all the possible ways the other animals help. But he can’t lay eggs like the hens, he can’t pull the cart like the ox, and he can’t give milk like the cow. Even the sheepdog claims that he’ll be able to help someday, but not now. In text that has some rhyming meter but isn’t uniform in its scheme or rhythm, it provides interesting listening. At the very least, it keeps both readers and listeners on their toes, but it might have flowed better if she’d been more consistent. For instance:

“Then the puppy visited the cow.
The farmer squirted the milk into a pail.
“Can I make milk?” he asked.
The cow replied, “Of course not. You’re a male.”

Next the puppy saw some sheep and cheered.
Yippee! I can give fur, like you give wool!”
“Na-ah-ah-ah,” the sheep baaed.
“You’d look silly sheared.”

The real stand-out is the ending, where we learn that the puppy’s job is to give love, which he does unconditionally. Emily Arnold McCully’s watercolors are a thing of beauty and you can’t help but fall in love with this spirited little pup. The book itself makes me think of a more stylized remake of the Pokey Little Puppy, with the bright colors of the farm distinguishing feathers on the hens, whiskers on the cat, and tiny flies buzzing around the cow’s tail, although the boy inexplicably changes shirts for dinner. I love how the two page wordless spread shows a boy and his dog and the uncomplicated joy they provide for each other. Every little child who has a dog will agree that this book captures that spirit extremely well in the pictures, so long as they can look past the slightly awkward text and focus on the very obvious message.

Creatrilogy: Dot, Ish, and Sky Color

DotIshSky ColorAuthor/Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds     Publisher: Candlewick Press        Pages: unpaged

Title: The Dot                                    Title: Ish                                              Title: Sky Color
ISBN: 9780763619619                     ISBN: 978076362344                       ISBN: 9780763623456
Date: c2003.                                       Date: c2004.                                       Date: c2012.

Because it’s a series of picture books and they are all somewhat commulative, I thought I’d post these together. In the first, we see Vashti frustrated by her lack of talent until she is encouraged by her art teacher to “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” It takes her on a journey of dots, and she uses that technique to encourage another little boy to draw. In the second, we see what I assume is that same little boy, Ramon, grown up just slightly and dealing with his brother’s teasing that his artwork isn’t good enough. With help from his little sister, he learns that there’s nothing wrong with his drawings not looking “right” but instead looking “ish”. In the third, just published book, Marisol (Ramon’s sister, which we know by the name and the hair-do) is part of a group painting a mural at school, and doesn’t have the blue she needs to do the job. Marisol learns the impact color can have on a piece of artwork, how to think outside the box and to observe the world around her. Through her interaction with a classmate, I feel like Reynolds leaves an open ending, so if he ever wanted to add to the series he could.

When you look at them together, you notice a gradual increase in color as you progress from the first to the third book. Besides Vashti’s drawings, the only color we have is a circle of color around the character that seems to reflect her mood, from pensive blue to angry red to more inspired colors of green, pink, and yellow. Ish features a more thoroughly colored background, although most are still limited to only one or two colors. Sky Color has the most color of all three, with one two page spread featuring the protagonist dreaming in a sea of color. This is also the first time we’ve seen the character colored, even if it is just on the cover and in that one dream sequence.

Not only do the books build on the amount of color, but they also build on the lessons they teach and the drawing styles they portray. I’m not a painter, so if I get these wrong please feel free to let me know and I’ll alter accordingly. With The Dot, there’s an obvious emphasis on abstraction, minimalism, and just plain trying something new. More literally, it makes me think of pointilism, where pictures are made of nothing but dots of color. Ish reminds me of abstract paintings, where subjects are painted in a very “ish” way, similar to the works of Picasso. The paintings don’t have to be perfect representations or copies in order to be called art. Finally, Sky Color has me thinking of impressionistic works like Monet, where they swirled colors together in the sky to add depth and fluidity and the passage of time. Marisol encourages kids to think outside the box, because a sky doesn’t have to be blue, and the grass doesn’t have to be green.

While the stories themselves are somewhat slight, the messages are very clear that art can take many shapes, forms, and colors. I think these would all be good starting points for very young children interested in the arts.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 74 other followers

%d bloggers like this: