Posts from the ‘Children’s Literature’ Category

Boundless

BoundlessTitle: Boundless
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Illustrator: Jim Tierney
Narrator: Nick Podehl
ISBN: 9781480584143 (audiobook), 9781442472884 (hardcover)
Pages: 332 pages
Discs/CDs: 7 CDs, 8 hours 12 minutes
Publisher/Date: Brillance Audio, c2014. (audiobook), Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2014. (hardback)

Amidst the greenery the silver keychain is easy to spot. Will bends to pick it up. It holds only a single key, unusually thick, with plenty of notches. At once he recognizes it as the key to the funeral car — same as his father’s. The guard must have dropped it. Will pockets it.
He is hurrying back toward the shantytown to catch up with the guard, when he hears a grumble off to his right. Likely the fellow has fallen down again. Will wonders if he should tell his father. The guard’s clearly unfit for his post. Will walks through the trees in the direction of the noise. Through the thick foliage he catches a glimpse of the guard’s jacket. […]
The guard is pushed back against a tree, his eyes wide with surprise. A second man has an elbow against the guard’s throat and is pulling the knife from between his ribs. Will can’t tear his eyes from the knife, darkly wet. He feels like he’s been touched with something searingly cold. The man with the knife turns. (87-88)

In the last three years, Will’s life has a had a dramatic change ever since he and his father were involved in the laying of the last spike connecting the Canadian Railway from one side of the country to the other. Will is riding with his father on the longest and biggest train ever built, the Boundless, and in addition to all the passengers and a circus, there is also a funeral car for the manager of the railroad, who is intent on spending the rest of his days, even after death, riding the rails. Rumors fly about the treasures contained in the funeral car, and when the guard is murdered, Will protects the key but ends up isolated in the back of the train. His efforts to make it back to his father and authorities are thwarted again and again, and just when he thinks he can trust the circus folk, he learns their ringmaster might have his own motives for keeping Will and the key close.

This is the first book of Kenneth Oppel’s I’ve read, having missed his previous bestsellers. His other books will be going on the to be read pile if they are anything like this. His world building is fantastic, including descriptions of the train and details of the furnishings. Elaborate information about how technology of that day work are included, and I noticed little details like how the clothing buttons instead of zippers closed. There’s also pieces of magical realism that connect effortlessly with the story, with Sasquatches being very real, in addition to the Muskeg hag that bewitches people and magic tricks where you wonder if real magic is happening.

Will is a multifaceted character, gullible in the beginning but also suspicious once he gets the key. Originally intent on mimicking his father’s exploits and having an adventure of his own to tell people, he sets off to prove his abilities, both to others and to himself. We see him grow as a character, and assume some control over his life. I totally expected Mr. Dorian’s plot to go in a different direction, but that wasn’t the case, and I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed. If you are familiar with the classics, you may draw the same conclusions when you hear what Mr. Dorian is after. When Will finds himself in trouble again and again, his rescues and solutions do not strain credulity, and you’re left with a tale that makes you wonder “Could that have really happened?” Maren is also a capable and self-assured young lady who knows what she wants and is not afraid to go to great lengths to get it. Both Will and Maren think fast on their feet and play off the other’s strengths in order to help each person get what they want most, and their interactions with each other were highly entertaining.

Nick Podehl is probably at his best here, as he incorporates the global nature of the travelers, including accents and even a few words of Hindi. Although I can’t vouch for their accuracy, they sound authentic enough. For fans of trains, fantastical creatures, or just readers who are looking for the next great adventure, they are in for one wild ride.

ALA Media Awards 2015

The ALA Media Awards were announced today. The Oscars of the children’s and teen literature world, here’s a break down of some the winners. The complete list can also be found on their website. I hesitate to include all of them because this post would be way too long, but these are the ones I think the majority of the readers have heard of and are interested in learning. But please do check the website, as all of the winners should be considered and I may include the winners of the other awards in a future post.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:
Newbery Slide 2015

WINNER

“The Crossover,” written by Kwame Alexander

Two Newbery Honor Books also were named:

“El Deafo” by Cece Bell, illustrated by Cece Bell
“Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson

You’re going to have a sense of de ja vue between the Newbery and Coretta Scott King Author Award, so let’s get that out of the way.Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:
Coretta Scott King Author Slide 2015

WINNER

“Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson

Three King Author Honor Books were selected:

Kwame Alexander for “The Crossover,”
Marilyn Nelson for “How I Discovered Poetry,”
Kekla Magoon for “How It Went Down,”

I had a weird since of coincidence as well when viewing the winners of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. I give you the trio of biographies on female African American artists.

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Slide 2015

WINNER

“Firebird,” illustrated by Christopher Myers and written by Misty Copeland

Two King Illustrator Honor Books were selected:
Christian Robinson for “Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker,” by Patricia Hruby Powell
Frank Morrison for “Little Melba and Her Big Trombone,” by Katheryn Russell-Brown

You’ll see some repeats from the above list to this next list as we move to the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children.
Sibert Slide 2015

WINNER

“The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus,” written by Jen Bryant

Five Sibert Honor Books were named:

“Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson
“The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, & the Fall of Imperial Russia,” written by Candace Fleming (Also recognized as a finalist for YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults)
“Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker,” written by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson
“Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands,” written and illustrated by Katherine Roy
“Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation,” written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

I don’t think anyone was as surprised by the list for the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:
Caldecott Slide 2015

WINNER

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” written and illustrated by Dan Santat

Six Caldecott Honor Books also were named:

“Nana in the City,” written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo
“The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art,” illustrated by Mary GrandPré and written by Barb Rosenstock
“Sam & Dave Dig a Hole,” illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett
“Viva Frida,” written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
“The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant
“This One Summer,” illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki

SIX Honorees! Three picture book biographies! And the most shocking inclusion of all, is a young adult graphic novel!! While I applaud the diversity of the selections and the number of honorees is unprecedented (can anyone prove otherwise), I’m disconcerted at the range of ages that the selections are intended for. I need to gather my thoughts and reread the book before addressing this fully, so stay tuned.

This One Summer was also featured in the list of the Michael L. Printz Award books for excellence in literature written for young adults as an honoree. Am I the only one thinking “WHAT CRAZINESS IS THIS!?!?”
Printz Slide 2015

WINNER

“I’ll Give You the Sun,” written by Jandy Nelson

Four Printz Honor Books also were named:

“And We Stay,” by Jenny Hubbard
“The Carnival at Bray,” by Jessie Ann Foley
“Grasshopper Jungle,” by Andrew Smith
“This One Summer,” by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

A list that didn’t have a single repeat on any of the other lists was the Odyssey Awards, presented for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States:
Odyssey Slide 2015

WINNER

“H. O. R. S. E. A Game of Basketball and Imagination,” produced by Live Oak Media, is the 2015 Odyssey Award winner. The book is written by Christopher Myers and narrated by Dion Graham and Christopher Myers.

Three Odyssey Honor Recordings also were selected:

“Five, Six, Seven, Nate!” produced by AUDIOWORKS (Children’s) an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc., written by Tim Federle, and narrated by Tim Federle;
“The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place,” produced by Listening Library, an imprint of the Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, written by Julie Berry, and narrated by Jayne Entwistle;
“A Snicker of Magic,” produced by Scholastic Audiobooks, written by Natalie Lloyd, and narrated by Cassandra Morris.

And since we’ve covered all the other age group specific awards, let’s finish this post with the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book (which in my opinion should just be renamed the Mo Willems Award):
Geisel Slide 2015

WINNER

You Are (Not) Small,” written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Two Geisel Honor Books were named:

Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page,” written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
Waiting Is Not Easy!” written and illustrated by Mo Willems

What award or winner most surprised you?

Appreciate a Dragon Day

Started by Donita K. Paul in 2004 to celebrate the release of Dragon Spell, Appreciate a Dragon Day is today, January 16th. In honor of the day, here are some picture books you can share.

Crocodile Who Didn't Like WaterTitle: The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water
Author/Illustrator: Gemma Merino
ISBN: 9780735841635
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Macmillan Children’s Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers LTD, c2013.

An unnamed crocodile sees all his crocodile siblings enjoying swimming, diving, and going underwater, but he doesn’t like it. He realizes why one day when a sneeze reveals what he could be good at instead. Debut author/illustrator Gemma Merino adds hints throughout the primarily blue, green, and red pictures that this crocodile is different, from the eggs being carried on the end pages to his shoes, his coloring, and finally the little nubs exposed on his back. A simple story that lets children know it’s okay to not be good at something, because they’ll inevitably be good at something else.

Oh So Brave DragonTitle: Oh So Brave Dragon
Author/Illustrator: David Kirk
ISBN: 9781250016898
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: A Feiwel and Friends book, an imprint of Macmillan, c2014.

Dragon isn’t afraid of anything, and roars to prove it. But what’s that sound? That couldn’t have been him. Oh no, something else is roaring in the forest! He seeks comfort from the unknown among his forest friends, and they work together to chase it away. Kids will laugh at the dragon’s antics, being clued in by the expressive, in-the-know yellow bird that dragon is being silly. Their dynamics with each other remind me of rational Elephant and overly-excitable Piggie by Mo Willems. Add this to a dramatic read-aloud and be prepared for kids to join in on the roaring.

Dragon's Extraordinary EggTitle: Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg
Author/Illustrator: Debi Gliori
ISBN: 9780802737595
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: first published as Dragon Loves Penguin in Great Britain in 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, Published in the United States of America in October 2014 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, c2013.

Through a relatively unnecessary piece of meta-fiction, Bib asks for a bedtime story from his parents and they read the book you are reading to him. Dragons come to a land of ice and snow, wait for spring, and proceed to lay their eggs. All except one dragon, who luckily discovers an abandoned egg to care for and that hatches a penguin. While the other baby dragons tease the penguin, it’s the penguin who comes to their rescue at the end. There really isn’t any rising action or suspense, and no comeuppance for the teasing dragons during the anti-climatic ending. This book does have a place where lesson books are necessary, peppered with platitudes like “Sometimes things happen for a reason” and “Little One was given love and time, the greatest gift of all.”

Waking DragonsTitle: Waking Dragons
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Derek Anderson
ISBN: 9781416990321
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2012.

An unnamed knight, followed by his equally fearless pooch, is reminded by his mother’s note to wake the dragons before school. This is a big task for such a little guy, especially since there are two dragons to not just wake up but get dressed, fed, and prepared for the day. While it seems questionable that the dragons would wear pajamas but not wear clothes during the day, Anderson’s details are adorable, including bed posts shaped like castle towers, a ladder for the tiny knight to ascend to the dragons’ bed, and a fire extinguisher at the ready during teeth brushing “in case of dragon breath”. The rhymes are simplistic, although the division of verses across multiple pages (sometimes just two words on a page) necessitates pre-reading before sharing aloud in a group. Good for a dragon themed story time where you’re looking for a shorter, less complex story.

Dragon Moves InTitle: A Dragon Moves In
Author/Illustrator: Lisa Falkenstern
ISBN: 9780761459477
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, c2011.

An underwhelming story, Hedgehog and Rabbit stumble upon a dragon’s egg and take the resulting dragon home with them. When the dragon’s growth means he gets stuck in the house, the house gets destroyed in the process of getting him out, and Hedgehog, Rabbit, and Dragon move on to build him a new one. There is nothing to distinguish the characters from one another. The spreads with lots of white space just look like they are missing their background, and twice she resorts to double page spreads of flying objects, with the equivalent of old comic book words superimposed (BANG! BAM! BOOOOOOM!). Details would have helped draw in dragon fans.

Goodnight DragonsTitle: Goodnight, Dragons
Author: Judith L. Roth
Illustrator: Pascal Lemaitre
ISBN: 9781423141907
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group, c2012.

Pastel colors yield a soothing feel to what you think is going to be a dragon hunt. But the reason the child is hunting dragons is to hug them, feed them hot chocolate, and tuck them in under warm blankets. Proving that nothing is as fierce as it seems, the bird’s eye view of the four dragons cuddled close to woodland creatures is a delight to see. Suggested as a wind-down from a busy day spent dragon taming.

AgainTitle: Again!
Author/Illustrator: Emily Gravett
ISBN: 9781442452312
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2011.

This book defies explanation. Cedric the dragon presents his mother with a bedtime story book, then implores her to read it again and again and again. His mother obliges and gets more and more frustrated, seemingly altering the story to fit her mood and circumstances until… well the book ends in a completed unexpected and unexplained way. There seems to be an aspect of meta-fiction, but I’m uncertain how much that applies to the whole book. This one has me scratching my head, between the ending and the colors and the narration. Maybe I’m just not the right audience.

What Goes UpTitle: What Goes Up!
Author/Illustrator: Paula Bowles
ISBN: 9781589251199
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Tiger Tales, an imprint of ME Media, LLC. c2013.

Let’s end this list on a high note. What personality! Martin is a dragon who dreams of flying but his wings are too small. His antics while attempting to get off the crowd are humorously and colorfully portrayed. The one page that gave me pause is when I don’t think it’s indicated as well as it could have been that Martin went down the hill instead of over the ledge, but it’s a small quibble. Martin’s body reminds me of an obese kangaroo with wings and a tail, and those wings by the end of the book are beautiful, subtly showcasing the transformation that Martin undergoes. The expressions convey so much feeling with just a tilt of a head and floppy ears, and his child helpers accept the presence of a dragon without question. This is a CUTE book, and everyone should become acquainted with this dear dragon.

Am I missing any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments.

What There is Before There is Anything There

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 expanding that idea 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.

What There Is Before There is Anything There LiniersTitle: What There is Before There is Anything There (originally published as Lo que hay antes de que haya algo)
Author/Illustrator: Liniers
ISBN: 9781554983858
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Original edition c2006 by Pequeno Editor, Buenos Aires, Argentina,
Text and illustrations c2006 by Liniers
English translation copyright c2014 by Elisa Amado, First published in English in Canada and the US in 2014 by Groundwood Books

This enigmatic story features a young boy being put to bed. As soon as the lights are turned off, the ceiling disappears, a varied assortment of silent “they” descend from the sky, and a dark that extends tendrils towards him follows. Racing to his parents’ room, they allow him to crawl into bed with them, where the beings resurface as soon as the parents are asleep and the lights are out. Is this proving that fears are not so easily conquered? All sorts of questions remain unanswered. While definitely strange in their appearance, the creatures (for lack of a better word) seem quite innocuous, although the boy doesn’t stick around to prove one way or the other. Daylight readings are recommended, because children may catch this nightmarish fear from the protagonist.

Squickerwonkers

SquickerwonkersTitle: The Squickerwonkers
Author: Evangeline Lilly
Illustrator: Johnny Fraser-Allen
ISBN: 9781783295456
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Titan Books, a division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd., c2013.
Published: November 2014

Selma, a spoiled girl with blonde pigtails, wonders into a wagon like structure. A laundry list of limericks introduces Selma to a marionette troupe, with each one assuming an undesirable trait that harkens back to the seven deadly sins, except there are nine marionettes and lust isn’t one of their traits (thank goodness). When she climbs onstage and the puppets pop her balloon, Selma threatens her grandfather will make them pay. But the grandfather is also a puppet and turns Selma over to the troupe to be made into a puppet.

Am I the only one left scratching my head trying to comprehend this heavy-handed moralistic plot meets Coraline? The only proof of Selma’s spoiled nature is the narrative. I feel like she has a right to be upset about creepy dolls popping her balloon. The introductions are so cursory that we have a name and an adjective, like those old camp pneumonic devices (Abigail’s Apple, Bobby’s Ball, etc.). There is an appropriately creepy setting and ending, but no discernible path on how we got there, no characterization, no plot. The simplistic and clunky rhymes leave me questioning how much of this is the book she originally wrote when she got the idea as a 14-year-old experimenting with Seuss like wordplay. It’s the first of a series of 18 BOOKS!? These should have been published as a collection of short stories, not individual volumes. No plot and no point. Please get better, quickly!

Fall Leaves

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 expanding that idea 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.

Fall Leaves HollandTitle: Fall Leaves
Author: Loretta Holland
Illustrator: Elly MacKay
ISBN: 9780544106642
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2014.

Playing with homophones and homonyms, Loretta Holland conveys some of the changes children can witness when summer transitions to fall and finally becomes winter. While older reads might appreciate the slightly factual content included on each page, some may find it distracting from the much more engaging wordplay and stunning pictures. Made with “ink, yupo paper, light, and photography”, the three-dimensional quality provides interest, depth, and the impression of movement through billowing skirts, falling snow, and surface reflections on the water. Waning light and varying perspectives project an otherworldly quality, and the two children’s fluid size could make them friends of the Littles or the Borrowers. Use this for a quiet and reflective evening story time.

Squirrel Stories

After reading Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins, I found myself turning to picture books as well for some squirrel fun. Here’s some suggestions, both old favorites and some newer publications.
Nuts to You Ehlert

Nuts to You by Lois Ehlert

This story is the epitome of a squirrel behaving badly, digging up the flower bulbs, stealing the birdseed from the bird feeder, and ultimately getting in the house! What do you do to get him out!? Another favorite that I read regularly this time of year is The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri. The colorful, cheery illustrations show the industrious squirrel darting from here to there, focusing on the task at hand of getting ready for winter. This book explains the actions of Ehlert’s squirrel as just looking for more good food to stock away.
 

 

 

 

Those Darn Squirrels

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

A more recent story about squirrels and their love for food. An old man loves to paint the birds and hangs feeders to encourage the birds to stay. The squirrels see the feeders as a buffet of food, and the man makes several attempts to thwart their thievery. But the squirrels have a plan of their own to gain access to the food, especially after the birds leave. There are several ways of making your own bird feeder out of any recycled plastic container, whether it’s a milk jug, peanut butter jar, or water or pop bottle. Another easy way is coating a pinecone with peanut butter and rolling it in seeds. There are two sequels, including Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door and Those Darn Squirrels Fly South.
Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next DoorThose Darn Squirrels Fly South

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0-545-16070-7

Leaf Trouble by Jonathan Emmett with pictures by Caroline Jayne Church

Instead of causing trouble, one squirrel has troubles of his own. The collages overlaid on ink drawings appear three dimensional, and you could almost reach out and touch the leaves as they cascade around Pip Squirrel. In a rendition of Chicken Little, Pip is distressed that the oak tree he lives in is losing his leaves and enlists another squirrel to help him put them back on the tree. Mama Squirrel comes along and explains what’s going on in simple language, making it clear that Pip has no need to fear. Bring some leaves in from outside and make your own leaf rubbings by placing a sheet of paper over a leaf and rubbing it with the side of a crayon.

Earl the Squirrel

Earl the Squirrel by Don Freeman

The author of Corduroy uses scratchboards to present black and white illustrations accented with a red scarf that Earl receives from a friend. Earl is tasked with finding his own nut, but will the scarf be a help or a hindrance with his search? Earl uses his scarf in several ways, and you can challenge your little one to find different ways to use a scarf.

Merle the High Flying Squirrel

Merle the High Flying Squirrel by William Peet,

For those children with longer attention spans, there’s Merle, a squirrel overwhelmed by the noise and afraid to leave his home. He heads out in search of tall trees and quiet forests instead of the bustling city he currently lives. After reading this story, either take the kids outside for a walk in the woods, make a kite of their own and see how high it can fly or talk about different things you can find in different parts of the world, like mountains, the ocean, deserts, and forests.

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

Although not primarily about squirrels, they are featured in a unique setting that’s perfect for rounding out a story time in this book that has received a fair amount of buzz.

Since once I started looking I seemed to find a fair number of squirrel book, I’ll end this post with a brief round-up of some other titles I found. Aw, Nuts! by Rob McClurkan is another brand new book that reminds me of the animation of Fairly Odd Parents portraying the misadventures of Scrat, the saber-tooth squirrel from the Ice Age movies. Just like Scrat, this squirrel is chasing the perfect nut, and nothing will prevent him from reaching his goal. Beatrix Potter didn’t just write about Peter Rabbit, but also Squirrel Nutkin in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Melanie Watts has created a whole series around Scaredy Squirrel who is too afraid to leave his tree. Two more recommendations include Delicious by Helen Cooper, showing that even picky eaters can be convinced to try something new, and Never Trust a Squirrel written Patrick Cooper and illustrated by Catherine Walters, with a guinea pig learning from a squirrel that you should probably know how to climb before entering fox territory.
Aw Nuts! Tale of Squirrel Nutkin Scaredy Squirrel

Never Trust a Squirrel

Delicious

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What am I missing? Leave your squirrely selections in the comments below.

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