Posted in Uncategorized

A word about yesterday.

I’m not posting reviews today as we try to process what happened in our nation’s capital yesterday. I’m trying to think of how to explain this to my Kiddo, and I’m sure many of you are, too. The only thing I feel I can offer is information about how government should work, and maybe that’s where we begin.

This article on explaining protests and activism, from PopSugar, offers some helpful guidance.

The Encyclopedia Britannica explains the Constitution to kids here.

Going to work on a display of government/social justice books next. Stay safe, please.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

1968: A year of revolution, through the eyes of YA authors

1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, edited by Marc Aronson & Susan Campbell Bartoletti, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763689933

Ages 12+

1968 was an intense year: we lost Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy to assassins’ bullets; the Vietnam war raged overseas while protests raged here in the States; Olympic athletes raised their hands in protest and military police marched on the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City, killing students and civilians during a protest. Fifty years later, where are we? You may be surprised. Fourteen authors share their memories and discuss pivotal events in 1968 in this anthology. David Lubar (Campfire Weenies and Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie series) discusses stand-up comedy in 1968, while Lenore Look (Alvin Ho and Ruby Lu series) researches  the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1968 and the lasting impact on China’s citizens. National Book Award longlist nominee Elizabeth Patridge (Boots on the Ground) unites the anthologies with a running “Nightly News” prose poem that gives readers the stark cost of war: month by month tallies of American combat deaths, Vietnamese enemy combat deaths, and Vietnamese civilian deaths.

Each and every piece in 1968 is oustanding; it’s nonfiction that reads like fiction, bringing readers back to that contentious year. Black and white photos throughout capture moments like the Olympic Black Power salute and choppers over Vietnam. There are small moments and sweeping movements, but each observation helps draw important parallels between where we were and where we are; how much we have changed, and how much we have, sadly, remained the same.

The contributor list is an all-star cast of middle grade and YA writers: Jennifer Anthony, Marc Aronson, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Loree Griffin Burns, Paul Fleischman, Omar Figueras, Laban Carrick Hill, Mark Kurlansky, Lenore Look, David Lubar, Kate MacMillan, Kekla Magoon, Jim Murphy, and Elizabeth Partridge. Publisher Candlewick offers a sample chapter on their website, and I’d love to see a reader’s/educator’s guide written, too. 1968 is an essential add to YA collections, and I’d love to see this on summer reading (and school year reading) lists. This needs to be added to curriculum, DOE.

1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for your Spring radar!

Spring always brings some good books to read. In April and May, there’s a little something for everyone – come and see!

April Books

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest, by Sarah Hampson/Illustrated by Kass Reich,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383615
Recommended for readers 4-8
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated pigeon who’s tired of the way he and his fellow pigeons are treated by humans. They’re shooed at, swatted, and treated like a general menace. Dr. Coo remembers when pigeons enjoyed a higher profile in history: in ancient Greece, they delivered news about the Olympic Games; during World War I, they carried messages across battlefields. Now? pfft. So Dr. Coo and his pigeon friends organize and decide to strike: they disappear from every public space, leaving a confused public wondering what happened. Dr. Coo heads over to the mayor’s office a history of the pigeon and a note, asking for tolerance, opening the door to a new era of pigeon-human relations. It’s a cute urban story with a wink to New York and other urban spaces, and has a nice thread about inclusivity and diversity running through the book. Gouache paint and colored pencil art makes for a soft illustration, with attention to the different types of pigeons – there are! – in the cityscape. This would be cute to booktalk with James Sage’s Stop Feedin’ Da Boids!

My Teacher’s Not Here!, by Lana Button/Illustrated by Christine Battuz,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383561
Recommended for readers 4-6
Kitty gets to school and knows something’s up when her teacher, Miss Seabrooke, isn’t there to meet her. What’s going on? There’s another teacher there today! How does school even work when your teacher is absent? This sweet rhyming tale about a student’s first substitute teacher is great for younger kids who are just getting into the swing of school routines and provides some fun advice for coping with and adjusting to unexpected change. Kitty teaches readers some coping strategies, including helping out her friends and the teacher by contributing to class and modeling good behavior using cues she learned from her teacher, that the substitute may not be aware of. This is an animal story, so kids will enjoy seeing the “ginormously tall” teacher, a giraffe named Mr. Omar; pigs, elephants, bears, a whole menagerie of students. Hand-drawn artwork and digital collage come together to create colorful, textured, cartoony fun. This one’s a good addition to preschool and primary collections.

Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star, by Chris Tougas,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781771388399
Recommended for readers 1-3
One of my favorite books coming out this season is this adorable board book! Set to the tune of everybody’s favorite classic song, this sweet and funny version is all about where not to go: not in a plane, not on Grandpa’s knee, not at a puppet show. Luckily, the poor Little Star gets relief by the story’s end, and sits on a potty to… “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star”. It’s adorable with the cutest digital art. Little Star is beyond cute, and gender neutral! Sing along at storytime – I know I’ll be throwing plenty of voice inflection (“Did you just pee on this page?”) and leg-crossing as I read this one. Absolutely adorable, must-add, must-give for collections and toddlers everywhere.

May Books

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book, by Alice Kuipers/Illustrated by Diana Toledano,
(May 2018, Chronicle), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452152325
Recommended for readers 7-9
Polly Diamond is an aspiring, biracial young writer who discovers a magic book on her doorstep one day. Not only does the book write back to her when she writes in it, Everything she writes in the book happens in real life! At first, Polly is psyched: who wouldn’t be, right? But you know how it goes… for every magic journal action, there’s a pretty wild reaction! Written in the first person, with excerpts from Polly’s book, including a pretty great intermediate-level book list for awesome display purposes (“Read Polly Diamond’s favorite books HERE!”). Chapter book readers who love books like Juana and Lucas (on Polly’s favorites list), Jasmine Toguchi, and Katie Woo will thoroughly enjoy Polly’s adventures. There are short, descriptive sentences and a nice amount of new words – Polly is an aspiring writer, after all! Lots of fun for chapter book readers; I’d have kids create their own aquariums as a related craft.

Old Misery, by James Sage/Illustrated by Russell Ayto,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771388238
Recommended for readers 5-10
Readers with a darker sense of humor (and parents who are Gorey fans) will get a chuckle out of Old Misery, the story of a cranky old woman named – you got it – Old Misery, and her old cat, Rutterkin. She’s broke, and the apples keep disappearing from her apple tree! Lucky for Old Misery, she’s not completely heartless and feeds a wandering visitor, who grants her one wish: she wants all the apple thieves to be caught in the tree until she lets them go! Old Misery decides to play a little risky game when Death himself shows up at her door – and she sends him to the apple tree. Be careful what you wish for! The black and white, pen and ink artwork has a creepy, quirky feel to it, which will appeal to kids who like Lemony Snicket’s work, but may go over some kids’ heads. Old Misery narrates the story, offering an opportunity for a fun read-aloud.

Binky fans, Gordon’s got his own adventure! For readers who love Ashley Spires’ Binky the Space Cat graphic novels will love Gordon, fellow member of PURST (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) and Binky’s house-mate, as he finds himself traveling through time to stop an alien invasion. But Gordon travels back too far – before PURST even exists! He’s got to get back to his normal time and set things right! This is fun reading for graphic novel fans, and a nice addition to a popular series. There’s time-travel, problem-solving, aliens, and humor, along with fun art.

See How We Move!: A First Book of Health and Well-Being, by Scot Ritchie,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781771389679

Recommended for readers 5-8
Author Scot Ritchie’s multicultural group of friends are back together again. Last time we save them, they visited a farm to learn how to grow grains and vegetables in See How We Eat!; this time, Pedro, Yulee, Nick, Sally, and Martin are training as their swim team, The Flying Sharks, prepares to compete. They learn about using proper equipment for different activities, warming up before beginning your activity, teamwork and encouragement, goal-setting, nutrition, the mind-body connection, and more. There are suggestions for fun activities and words to know, all coming together to give kids a fun story about a group of friends staying strong and having fun together while encouraging kids to create lifelong habits of health, nutrition, and physical fitness. I like this See How! series; it offers a wealth of information on healthy living, made accessible to younger readers. I can easily read this in a storytime and get the kids talking about the different ways they play, how they eat, and good habits to get into.

The Bagel King, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Sandy Nichols,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN; 978-1-77138-574-9
Recommended for readers 4-8

Zaida, Eli’s grandfather, gets bagels from Merv’s Bakery every Sunday morning. One morning, when no bagels show up, Eli gets a phone call: Zaida’s fallen on his tuchus and can’t get the bagels! Eli and his family aren’t the only ones waiting on bagels, either – Eli visits Zaida, only to discover that Zaida’s friends are verklempt, too. No bagels! What a shanda, as my stepdad would say! Eli helps care for his zaida and keep him company, but he knows the best way to cheer Zaida up, and heads to the bagel store on his own the very next Sunday. This story is the most charming book about grandparents and grandchildren, loaded with compassion, a wink and nudge type of humor, and loads of fun, new Yiddish terminology. If you’re an urban dweller, like me, these words are kind of a second language: Zaida is grandfather, and tuchus is your bottom; there’s a little glossary of other Yiddish words that show up in the story, too. (Verklempt is overwhelmed with emotion, and shanda is a shame – you won’t find them in the story, but all I could hear was my stepdad when I read this, so there you go.) I loved the sweet storytelling, the compassion and the decision to act on Eli’s part, and Zaida and his group of friends were wonderful. It’s got an urban flavor that everyone will enjoy, and is good storytelling. Use this story as an opportunity to get your kids talking about relationships with their grandparents: what do you call your grandparents? Do they cook, bake, or shop for food? Do you go with them? (I’d love to get some bagels to hand out with my group… hmmm…) The acrylic artwork has a soft, almost retro feel, but really emphasizes the relationship story with colors, gentle expressions, and soft lines.

The Golden Glow, by Benjamin Flouw,
(May 2018, Tundra/Penguin Random House), $17.99, ISBN: 9780735264120

Recommended for readers 4-8
A fox who loves nature and botany goes on a quest for a rare plant to add to his collection. The Golden Glow is a plant from the Wellhidden family, and only grows high in the mountains. There’s not even a picture of it; it’s never been described. Fox packs his supplies and heads off to the mountains, meeting different animals and noting different plants and trees along the way. When Fox finally reaches the mountaintop, he waits… and discovers the Golden Glow! It’s stunning! It’s breathtaking! And Fox realizes that “the golden glow is more beautiful here on the mountaintop than it ever would be in a vase in his living room”. Part story and part nature journal, The Golden Glow is just gorgeous and teaches a respect for nature. The angular art draws the eye in; there’s so much to see on every page, every spread. Flouw creates detailed lists of Fox’s hiking pack, plus trees and flowers that he encounters on his way, and a map of different zones on the way up to the mountain, from the foothill to snow zones, all in beautiful detail for younger readers to enjoy. Fox’s decision to leave the flower where it is presents a love of and respect for nature that can lead to a great discussion on conservation. Bright red endpapers with angular design could be a topographic map of the area – talk about how different areas look from above! I know it’s way early, but I’ll quietly whisper this one now: Caldecott contender.
Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Votes for Women! Suffrage was a fight every inch of the way.

Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot, by Winifred Conkling, (Feb. 2018, Algonquin Young Readers), $19.95, ISBN: 9781616207342

Recommended for readers 12+

Winifred Conkling is emerging as a definitive chronicler of women’s history. Passenger on the Pearl told the story of Emily Edmondson, who escaped slavery and dedicated her life to education young African-American women; Radioactive! gave long-overdue props to Irène Curie & Lise Meitner, whose work on radioactivity was often overlooked in a male-dominated field; now, Votes for Women gives us a comprehensive history of the fight for American suffrage, long before women finally won the right to vote in 1920. For readers who may only be familiar with Susan B. Anthony, this volume is indispensable, introducing readers to Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Susan B. Anthony’s counterpart and founder of the suffrage movement, and Alice Paul, who took her cue from the more action-oriented British suffrage movement, and went to jail for the cause, where she and fellow protestors suffered deplorable conditions and were force-fed. We meet Victoria Woodhull, the first female Presidential candidate, and revisit Sojourner Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” Most importantly, we learn about the beginnings of intersectional feminism; when abolitionists and suffragists found common ground – and then diverged under political fire.

This is a comprehensive book, complete with photos, primary sources, and writing that never turns away from the more difficult moments in the battle for the vote: from racism to violence, it’s all here. It’s a good book for your nonfiction collections and women’s history collections for middle school and high school, with extensive primary source references, a timeline of American women’s suffrage, a bibliography, notes, and an index. Booktalk this with the graphic novel, Sally Heathcote: Suffragette by Mary M. and Bryan Talbot, which features a fictional character from the British movement, and is a great hook to get teens interested. A Mighty Girl has a strong list of additional reading, filtered by age, on suffrage.

 

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, History

Two families find common ground during the Civil Rights era: The Silence of Our Friends

The Silence of Our Friends, by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos/Illustrated by Nate Powell, (Jan. 2018, First Second), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250164988

Recommended for readers 12+

Originally published in 2012, The Silence of Our Friends is getting a re-release next week.Set in 1968 Texas, The Silence of Our Friends tells the story of two families – a black family and a white family – who come together as the civil rights struggle comes to a boil. It’s a memoir of Mark Long’s childhood in a virulently racist Texan suburb; it’s the story of his journalist father, Jack, and his friendship with African-American professor at Texas Southern University professor, Larry Thompson; and it’s the story of a lesser-known event in civil rights history: a series of student protests at Texas Southern University, culminating in police brutality and shots fired at unarmed African-American students in a university dorm. Those same students were imprisoned and put on trial for the death of a police officer who was killed by a fellow officer’s misfire.

The Silence of Our Friends is taken from the Martin Luther King quote, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” It’s a powerful quote given powerful illustration in Long’s story. Jack Long is a journalist trying to do the right thing, but his racist boss wants a pro-white narrative in the press. Jack’s silence can kill.

Artist Nate Powell, who beautifully illustrated John Lewis’ March trilogy, creates strong, stark images here, using black and white artwork to create imposing shadows and menacing crowds and idyllic homes with tension thrumming throughout. The Silence of Our Friends is an ally’s story and a good additional title in civil rights collections.

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Momma, let your babies grow up to be feminists: A look at Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie

Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu, (Sept. 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626726352

Recommended for readers 13+

This is one of the best books I will read this year. Vivian is a high schooler who is just DONE. She lives in a small Texan town that lets the football team run wild. They get away with chauvinist garbage all day long, from wearing explicit t-shirts, to telling girls to “make me a sandwich”, to groping in the hallways. The teachers – and the principal, whose son is the star player on the team – all dismiss the girls’ concerns. They have routine clothing checks to make sure the girls’ clothing doesn’t “tempt” the guys. This, my friends, happens every day in schools all over the U.S.

Vivian has had enough. The daughter of a 90’s Riot Grrl, she takes action by anonymously starting up a ‘zine called Moxie; initially, the ‘zine is her way of blowing off steam, but girls at school start responding. They answer Moxie’s call, whether it’s to identify one another by doodling stars on their hands, or showing up to protest dress code checks by wearing bathrobes and fuzzy slippers. Vivian isn’t the only one sick of the old guard. The girls’ soccer team has been wearing uniforms older than dirt, so Moxie Girls – as the girls name themselves – hold a bake sales and craft fairs to raise money for new uniforms. The girls at school unite thanks to Moxie, and before she realizes what’s happened, Vivian finds herself leading a movement from within.

I ADORE this book. It’s as empowering for women as it is for teens, who must read this book. I loved Viv’s mom as much as I did Viv, because I get that mom. She keeps her Riot Grrl stuff in a box labeled, “My Misspent Youth”; she’s working to pay the bills, relies on her parents probably a little more than she’d like, and she’s just damned tired. Riot Grrls don’t die; we’re still here, we just have a lot of stuff to do, man. But look to our kids. Viv may be the “good girl” at school, but once she’s fed up, she falls back on some solid third-wave feminism and makes a ‘zine while listening to Bikini Kill. It’s a call to action for every single person who picks up this book, and we’re not leaving the boys out this time: Viv’s boyfriend shows up for her, always supports her. But it’s Viv who is the strong character here, making him understand that the “not all guys” thinking is a cop-out, or even holding her relationship at arm’s length to figure things out.

Moxie is everything good and important about feminism and YA fiction, and if you haven’t added it to your TBR yet, you need to go do that right now. Go make a ‘zine while you wait; here’s a link to my meager Pinterest board so far. And if you can’t wait until Moxie hits shelves in a week, read an excerpt from feminist YA novel ‘Moxie’ from EW magazine.  Amy Poehler’s production company already has the film rights, so that should tell you volumes about the excitement behind this book.

 

Posted in History, Non-Fiction

Book Review: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, by Gina De Angelis (Chelsea House, 2001)

Recommended for ages 10+

The shirtwaist was a high-necked, long-sleeved blouse design popularized by the iconic Gibson Girl image in the early 1900s. At this time, New York boasted about 450 shirtwaist factories, but building codes and labor laws left a lot of room for interpretation. As a result, on March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in the Asch Building in downtown Manhattan. Multiple factors – locked doors to prevent workers from leaving early or stealing materials; ineffective and too few fire escapes and elevators, and crowded office conditions among them – caused the deaths of 146 workers, mostly women, many recent immigrants. The fire and the ensuing trial – which exonerated the company’s owners – gave rise to movements pushing for stronger building safety standards and unionization of garment workers, which would help them lobby for better working conditions and better pay.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire of 1911 tells the story of the fire and the aftermath. Black and white photos taken at the scene and the makeshift morgue bring home the pain of the event and drive home the magnitude of the fire. Readers learn that the owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, went on to continue business and continue the business violations that caused so many deaths at the Asch Building, having been cleared of any wrong doing because the Asch Building was legally sound. The owners made money after the insurance settlement, causing an outcry among the deceased’s family members. The book also details the story of the garment workers labor movement and takes the reader into present-day sweatshop conditions and the continued fight for safe working conditions and a living wage. 

Cornell University’s Kheel Center for Labor Documentation’s web exhibit with primary and secondary sources, a link to a transcript of Blanck and Harris’ trial, and a bibliography. Nonprofit organization Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, seeking a permanent memorial to the victims, offers an open archive where contributors add their own modern-day remembrances and information and a names map which lists the name, country of origin, New York address, and final resting place of the identified victims.

Short PBS documentary on the Triangle Fire.

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Middle School, Tween Reads

Book Review: Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw (Bloomsbury, 2008)

 
Recommended for ages 8-12
 
Ellie McDoodle is the nickname for sixth grader Eleanor McDougal, who fills her notebooks with doodles, journaling the people around her, her family, and her own daily happenings.

When Ellie’s parents announce that they’re moving, Ellie is crushed. She doesn’t want to leave her friends, her school, or her home. She creates a journal to document the move, insisting that “there won’t be much to keep track of… because this is the END of everything good.”

Or is it? Despite some rough patches, like discovering the “New Kid Bingo” card some of her classmates circulate at school or teachers not remembering her name, Ellie learns that being the new kid may not be so bad. Through her own actions, she makes friends, convinces her parents to give her a room of her own in the attic, and organizes her fellow classmates in a peaceful against long lunch lines in the cafeteria. Being the new kid may end up being sort of fun after all.

Ruth McNally Barshaw’s Ellie McDoodle series has been described by Student Library Journal as “reminiscent of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid“, and it is to some degree: both stories have a vibrant narrator who tells his tale in the first person, accompanied by line drawings. To dismiss Ellie McDoodle as merely a feminine Wimpy Kid is selling the book short. Ellie McDoodle is not a Wimpy Kid clone; it is a smart, sensitive book featuring a character to whom both boys and girls can relate.
 
Ellie’s family is as realistic and provides a positive family model. The family eats meals together at the same table; they play friendly pranks on one another, like hiding a spooky-looking Mrs. Santa Claus figure all around the house to take family members off guard; even Ellie’s cranky older sister Risa is never outright abusive, but is more of an angsty teen. Her older brother Jonathan is a friendly clown who makes punny jokes, and her toddler brother, Ben-Ben, is a happy baby who gets into everything. 
Readers will see Ellie as a positive role model who affects her own change rather than waiting for it to come to her. Rather than succumb to her sadness, Ellie seeks ways to make the best of her situation. She befriends a librarian at the local library; meets neighborhood children and accepts their invitiations to play, a move that helps her cope with insensitive schoolmates. Using her talent in art to help make a difference in her school, her peaceful protest gets not only the notice of the principal, but of the local television station.
 
Ruth McNally Barshaw’s website offers information on all of the Ellie McDoodle books and links to more of McNally Barshaw’s art. Readers can find out where she’ll be appearing and read her blog, and create Ellie mini-books and stationery. She offers teens advice on writing their own graphic novels, and has teaching guides available for educators.
 
The Ilsley Public Library in Vermont created a book trailer for New Kid in School, viewable below.