Posts tagged ‘Unpaged’

Caldecott Awards 2018

WINNER

Wolf in the SnowTitle: Wolf in the Snow
See previous post (Man was I wrong about this one’s chances!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HONOR BOOKS

Big Cat Little CatTitle: Big Cat, Little Cat
Author/Illustrator: Elisha Cooper
ISBN: 9781626723719
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, c2017.

Endearing, minimalist black and white illustrations portray the circle of life and passage of time through a feline friendship. A newcomer is shown the ropes by the older, established resident cat. Eventually, the original cat “got older and one day he had to go… and he didn’t come back.” Roles are karmically reversed the day a new younger cat arrives, with the previous newcomer now taking the lead. A book that might help explain the death of a pet or sharing experiences with any new addition, whether at school or in the family. Short sentences place the emphasis on the ideas and pictures, and it ends with a sweet dedication to presumably all the cats the author ever had.

Crown an Ode to the Fresh CutTitle: Crown, an Ode to the Fresh Cut
Author: Derrick Barnes
Illustrator: Gordon C. James
ISBN: 9781572842243
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Bolden Books, an imprint of Agate Publishing, c2017.
Awards: John Newbery Honor (2018), Coretta Scott King Author Honor (2018), Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor (2018)

An author’s note explains that he “wanted to capture that moment when black and brown boys all over America visit “the shop” and hop out of the chair filled with a higher self-esteem, with self-pride, with confidence, and an overall elevated view of who they are.” That feeling I don’t think is limited to just the black and brown boys, but to anyone who needs some pampering, a boost of self-worth, or simply needs to be seen by others. Every picture exudes confidence, with the primary focus being on the people’s faces, upturned on almost every page. Regardless of if they are anchored in the barber shop setting or surrounded by swirling bright-colored backgrounds, they are striking a pose and a personality that pops from the pages.

The writing also sizzles, with descriptive, adjective laden verse that reads as if you’re having a conversation with someone. “He looks like he owns a few acres of land on Saturn. Maybe there’s a river named after him on Mars. He looks that important.” It’s an awe-laden but still matter-of-fact narration of a boy who has lost his idealized view of adults and still looks up to becoming a man one day who also has the air about him that he feels from others.

I had this idea that most hair books are geared towards girls (hair styling, dos and don’ts, etc.) but as I look at my local library’s offerings, I might be mistaken in that impression. While hair styling seems to be gender based, there are books featuring bad hair days and hair cuts with both genders represented almost equally.  The illustrations for this title are unabashedly African American, portraying everything from “butterscotch complexion” to darker skin tones, from do-rags to dreadlocks, fades to faux-hawks. I feel like those reviewers who point out how few white people were in the Black Panther movie. I’m pointing this out only to speak upon the realism of the portrayal, as most hair places are very segregated but is still a place where we can find (again to quote from the author’s note) “hardworking black men from all walks of life […] discussing politics, women, sports, our community, and our future.” It’s a slice of life without the social issues, and should be included in hair themed and African American history month story times.

A Different PondTitle: A Different Pond
Author: Bao Phi
Illustrator: Thi Bui
ISBN: 9781623708030
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Capstone Young Readers, a Capstone Press imprint, c2017.

Author Bao Phi combines two infrequently portrayed topics, fishing and immigration, in this quiet slice of life story. There is no tension, no conflict, no real problem to solve unless you count the fact that the boy and his dad (all characters remain unnamed) are attempting to catch fish, an effort that ultimately proves successful. There are subtle references to the state of the narrator’s family, for instance the fact that they have to catch fish even though his parents have jobs because “Everything in American costs a lot of money.” However, the universal themes and feelings are also there, and identifiable with most readers, including the contentment of spending time with a loved one, the pride in accomplishing a task, the mystery of a parent’s past, and a desire to be of service, have a role, and contribute to a group, in this case the family.

The backgrounds of the illustrations had the look of water colors, but the crisp lines and uniform coloring of the characters had a digital feel, so I went looking for information about her technique. I found an interview with Let’s Talk Picture Books where Thi Bui elaborates on her process. I highly recommend taking a look at her photos of the work in progress. The finished product conveys the calm of the early morning trip and the quiet connection and contentment that the characters feel for one another. She states in the interview that she wanted the focus on the boy, and visually she succeeds, centering him in almost every spread and dressing him in a red shirt that frequently peeks out beneath his jacket, a subtle nod to his inability to blend in with this new life. Use for Father’s Day, multicultural, or fishing themed story times with slightly older audiences, as some passages may be too wordy for the preschool crowd.

Grand CanyonTitle: Grand Canyon
Author/Illustrator: Jason Chin
ISBN: 9781596439504
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: A Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Hotzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, c2017.
Awards: Robert Sibert Honor (2018), Caldecott Honor (2018)

“Rivers carve canyons. When they cut down into the ear, canyons grow deeper. As weathering and erosion break apart their walls, canyons grow wider. Over time, rivers wash all of the eroded material away. These processes have been at work for millions of year, relentlessly excavating the mighty gorge known as Grand Canyon.”

Sandwiched between equally informative opening (featuring a map of the area and some general facts) and closing (elaborating on its history, ecology and geology, along with a cross section and bibliography) spreads, Chin’s book is full of elaborate illustrations and factual tidbits. In an outline reminiscent of Jan Brett, species of plants and animals are identified in the mattes surrounding pictures of a child and adult traveling through all the levels of the canyon. These characters are never identified by name, and the narration uses “you”, inviting readers to travel along and assume a role in the journey, stylistically similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Alternating between these more informational spreads are full page flashbacks where you glimpse what the canyon could have looked like as the character travels through the timeline of formation. If that’s not enough, there are little cutouts incorporated that you sometimes don’t notice until you turn the page. The climatic finish of the “narration” is a four page wide fold-out panoramic view of the canyon, inspiring the awe that can be found and felt when visiting the real deal. Having visited a small portion of the Canyon last year, I was blown away when I first looked at it. This is the closest you are going to get if searching for a travel guide for children, with science seamlessly incorporated into the mix.

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The Secret Project

Secret Project.jpgTitle: The Secret Project
Author: Jonah Winter
Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
ISBN: 9781481469135
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2017.

Night and day, the greatest scientists in the world conduct experiments and research in the laboratory. They are working on something they call the “Gadget.” What they are trying to invent is so secret, they cannot even call it by its real name. (unpaged)

Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter attempt an ambitious undertaking in trying to condense the creation of the atom bomb to a level that the picture book crowd can understand. This is definitely not an easy subject to place into context, but they try. They compare the busy, secretive work to the outside world, where life continues, where “artists are painting beautiful paintings” and there are “peaceful desert mountains and mesas, cacti, coyotes, prairie dogs”. The basics of the science are there, that the scientists are “trying to figure out how to take the tiniest particle in the world, the atom, and cut it in half, making it even tinier” before other scientists are able to do the same thing. Atom is not further described, and a passing mention of metals plutonium and uranium are described as things “that can be turned into something with enormous power” with no elaboration. The scientists are portrayed as single shaded shadows, emphasizing their anonymity during that time frame.

I have a hard time determining who to recommend this to or what audience this would best serve, as it will likely raise questions that will have to be answered by an adult. The book is dedicated “for the peacemakers”, which makes me think it was created for parents who are intentionally broaching the topic with their children, maybe because of a new awareness brought about by today’s politics or media. The author’s note elaborates on the creation and aftermath of the first nuclear test. I feel it was probably a conscious decision to refrain from using the word “bomb” or “explosion” instead referring to it as invention or “Gadget”. The wordless spreads at the end are used to convey the powerful nature of what they’ve created, with a four page ever expanding angry red mushroom cloud culminating in a double page spread of finite black.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

Accident

Accident.jpgTitle: Accident!
Author/Illustrator: Andrea Tsurumi
ISBN: 9780544944800
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2017.

“Oh No!” Lola cried. “I’ve ruined everything!”
“I’ll hide in the library! They have books and bathrooms.”
“And I’ll stay there till I’m a grownup.”
So Lola ran away from her mess and right into everyone else’s.

From red punch spilled on a white sofa, to a broken swing, a snipped hose line and a collapsed cake, the assorted animals in this town would give Alexander a run for his money in the horrible terrible day category. The illustrations remind me of Richard Scarry’s world or Family Circus cartoons, with lots of action and tiny vignettes completely filling the page. If you’re using this as a story time selection, I would recommend making it available for kids and parents to peruse or pointing out some of the more specific actions. The surprised puffer fish is an ingenious choice, seemingly maneuvering around like the excitable fish in Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, bounding through the streets on either back fin or propelling himself with his side fins and his expressions are not to be missed as he bounces down the stairs head(?) first. Vocabulary building opportunity exists as Lola and others call the incidents catastrophe, disaster, mayhem, calamity, and fiasco. After a red bird whose been following the action since the beginning sets Lola right in that they were all accidents that they can make better, the rest of the anxious animals pitch in to correct the problems. Some we saw causes and solutions (a narwhal who popped a sloth’s balloon is shown with the sloth who now has a pinwheel) while others are more open ended (two flamingos replacing a door certainly has a story behind it). Lola’s return shows that everyone can have an accident, and it’s how you react that is important. A humorous, much needed lesson in owning up and helping out.

How to Be an Elephant

How to Be an Elephant.jpgTitle: How to Be an Elephant: Growing up in the African Wild
Author/Illustrator: Katherine Roy
ISBN: 9781626721784
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: David Macaulay Studio, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a divising of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, c2017.

“With flapping ears and whiffling trunks, the herd quickly spreads the new. After 22 months of growing,  a new baby is on her way. From walking and rumbling to drinking and dining, nothing will come easy for this giant-to-be. But like her mother before her, she’ll have to learn…”

Katherine Roy’s watercolors portraying the life of an elephant start at the very beginning, showcasing an elephant calf still in utero on the title page in purple and gray hues. The baby springs onto the scene and is greeted by a half dozen trunks, emphasizing the community and emphasis on family that a herd maintains. The thick brush strokes transition to lighter golds portraying the sand-swept savanna. The diagrams included are informative and supplement the text, providing information on the elephant’s development, habits, and survival methods. Bite sized facts allow for easy digestion by readers who aren’t distracted by the fully engaging pictures.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

In the Middle of Fall

In the Middle of Fall.jpgTitle: In the Middle of Fall
Author: Kevin Henkes
Illustrator: Laura Dronzek
ISBN: 9780062573117
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, c2017.

This book is perfect for a seasonal story time, and I wish I had discovered it sooner in the year when it would have been appropriate to share and read aloud. The whole story is told in two sentences drawn out over multiple pages that evocatively detail the signs of the season: “air is chilly / and the squirrels are frisky / […] and the pumpkins are ready / and the apples are like ornaments.” Dronzek’s paints pop from the page, reflecting the vibrant oranges, reds and yellows that Henkes describes. The squirrels look fat and friendly like Tafuri’s, the opening scene of the tree reminds me of Fall is Not Easy and the middle scene of the shaggy-haired white child with a brown dog leaning against a wall evokes a classic scene of contemplation, that might have readers drawing comparisons to Charlie Brown. Even in the monochromatic scene accompanying the “gardens are brown” description, Dronzek draws in readers with over-sized sunflowers being harvested by a mouse and a brilliant yellow bird. The message of fleeting memories and short-lived seasons is a gentle reminder that changes will happen and good things can be found even as we remember the things that have passed. Keep this one in mind for next fall, or squeeze it in now before the snow arrives in earnest. I don’t think readers would mind stretching the seasons.

The Road to Epoli

Since I can’t draw, in honor of Inktober I searched out a graphic novel to fit each daily theme presented. Now that October is over, I finally have a chance to catch up on my blogging. Here’s my submission for Oct. 22nd’s theme: trail.

Road to Epoli.jpgTitle: The Road to Epoli
Series: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo (#1)
Authors: Ben Costa & James Parks
Illustrator: Ben Costa
ISBN: 9780399556135
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, c2017.

Rickety Stitch is a revived skeleton. Although like most of his kind he has no physical brain, his personality pegs him as an anomaly. Working several dead end jobs with his friend The Goo gets him nowhere, as Stitch strums on his lute, trying to capture the song that haunts his dreams. En route, The Goo gets captured and Stitch gets pressed into service of capturing a gnome for a giant ogre-spawn as the only way to rescue his friend. With the help of an imp with questionable motives and morals, a naive gnome, and a no-nonsense unicorn, Stitch discovers that this might be the first step of an epic story, one he will no doubt be singing about when it finally ends.

The vibrant colors used in the illustrations remind me of Princeless or Nimona, inevitably appealing to a broad teen audience. I also feel like this might provide an introduction to the idea of D&D, if only because it feels like multiple campaigns might be in the works, and there are plenty of incidents where readers might questions motives and actions of the characters. Will he or won’t he? The humor inside the story also appears to be aimed at older audiences, as Rickety Stitch is continuously seen drinking in taverns, complaining about job politics, and waxing existentially about his identity and purpose. Whether being stabbed or scorched, Rickety Stitch seems immortal in his ability to avoid any permanent damage. By the end of the book, the plot seems to have been one long set-up for future tales, as Stitch is still struggling to remember the song that plagues his dreams and seems no closer to his vaguely determined destination, although he does finally receive a map for guidance. The characters are more memorable than the story, and I’d be curious to see how that translates for future installments. I feel this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Rickety or The Goo.

The Monsters’ Monster

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a 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.

Monsters' Monster.jpgTitle: The Monsters’ Monster
Author/Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
ISBN: 9780316045476
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., c2012.

Together they would make a MONSTER monster. The biggest, baddest monster EVER!

Grouch, Grump, Gloom ‘n’ Doom are monsters that live in “a dark monster castle, high atop a dark monster mountain, overlooking a monster-fearing village.” To settle an argument over who was the biggest, baddest monster, instead of choosing among themselves they decide to pool their ideas and resources and build one. Monster is the result of this teamwork, obviously drawing inspiration from the 1931 classic movie Frankenstein. But Monster is neither big nor bad, and the original trio/quartet (Gloom ‘n’ Doom are two heads on one body) are sorely disappointed. Obviously standing out with his green head and oversized body and his less violent attitude as compared to the other primarily white and orange-brown creatures, Monster has by the end won them over to his way of thinking. With frenetic and funny word use, it’s a great read-aloud to share this Halloween for kids of all ages.

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