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Showing posts from April, 2017

Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez

Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonore Garza with illustrations by Alyssa Bermudez is one of those rare, great kid's books that is diverse without diversity being the subject.
Lucía zips through the playground in her red cape, clearly braver and more agile than the boys in capes who tell her that, "Girls can't be superheroes!" Hearing this makes Lucía, "spicy mad. A KA-POW kind of mad!"
But, Abuela has a secret past and something that can help Lucía. When Abu was a little girl, she was a special kind of superhero, a luchadora! Abu tells Lucía that a luchadora is, "more than a masked wrestler with swift moves, more tha just a superhero with slick style. A luchadora is agile. She moves and thinks quickly. A luchadora has moxie." With Abu's silver mask on, Lucía finds the courage to go back to the playground and show those boys just how wrong they are. 
Soon, there are all sorts of luchadoras on the playground and Lucía can't wait to play with t…

Tinyville Town: I'm a Librarian by Brian Biggs

If you grew up with the marvelous, magical books of Richard Scary, then Brian Biggs's Tinyville Town Gets to Work will feel familiar to you. And, while you may wonder why we need even the slightest reworking of Scarry's richly detailed books, let me remind you that, during my own, slightly less than half a century lifetime, Scarry's books have been edited and adapted to our changing social norms. Biggs got his version of Cars and Trucks and Things that Go out of the way with his Everything Goes trilogy. With Tinyville, Biggs continues to give kids a look at the working world of adults and all the different jobs there are.

What Biggs does with his Tinyville books is put minorities like people of color and women into the work place while also giving readers a look at more meticulous aspects of the work. These books are important because, if children can see it, they can imagine it. Children's books are mirrors, windows and doors. They allow children to see themselves, in …

The Owl and the Pussy-cat by Edward Lear and The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Julia Donaldson is a brilliant British children's book author who has made her mark in the US with books like The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. Donaldson writes with a sense of humor and creativity that pairs perfectly with her masterful gift for telling a story in rhyme, making her the ideal choice for carrying on the further adventures of Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussy-cat with the marvelous Charlotte Voake illustrating.

Edward Lear's story, first published in 1871, reads a bit like an acid trip, what with the bong trees, the mince and the quince and the turkey wedding officiant. Voake plays with these oddities, inhabiting the island that the Owl and the Pussycat sail to with little green and brown folk and a distinct colonial air.  Her style is loose and and fluid, much like Lear's rhymes. The Owl and the Pussy-cat with illustrations by Charlotte Voake is a wonderful way to introduce children to this very famous, very fun lyrical rhyme about a two animals in l…

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury is, like every picture book Donaldson writes, an absolute joy to read out loud. This is exactly the kind of book best read with a little listener on your lap, being bounced up and down with each and every exciting page turn.

Rabbit is hopping home one day when a booming voice comes out from his burrow saying, "I'm the GIANT JUMPEREE and I'm scary as can be!"

Each time, with each increasingly larger animal, the Giant Jumperee's threats get bigger and scarier. From, "I'll squash you like a flea," to "I'll sting you like a bee!" to, "I'm the GIANT JUMPEREE and you're terrified of me!" Oxenbury's pastoral illustrations and gentle watercolors perfectly present the animals, taking the edge off them. Their body language is tense at times and the suspense builds as the story unfolds and the fear of the animals builds. Oxenbury mitigates the tension with humor. But, up…

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence, 192 pp, RL 4

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrenceis an extraordinary story of friendship, scout camp and competition that just happens to take place in outer space. But it begins on Earth with Avani Patel, new kid in town who loves rodeo and country music, unlike the girls in the Flower Scouts troop her father forced her to join. They love talking about boys, the heartthrob Chaz Wunderlip and makeup. Things take a sharp turn when, somewhere in space, Mabel is finishing up her homework. But, instead of teleporting a newt, she mistakenly zaps a "new kid."

Avani and Mabel become fast friends, and soon Avani gets her father's permission to go to scout camp, but not the camp he thinks. Instead of Flower Scout camp, Avani and Mabel head to Star Scout camp where she makes enemies straight away when she steps on the tail of a methane breather, or, as Avani mistakenly calls them, "toot breathers."

At Camp Andromeda, the rivalry between the oxygen breathers and the methane breathers heats up a…

Newsprints by Ru Xu, 208pp, RL 4

Newsprints is the first in a new graphic novel series by Ru Xu and it is entrancing! A fast moving story with mysteries and suspense, this first book sets the table and leaves you hungry for more. And, while the setting and characters are very much fictional, there are aspects to the story that Xu tells that feel almost ominously contemporary.
Set in the port town of Nautilene, Newsprints has a 1920s feel, with newsboys on every corner hawking the Nautiline Bugle and the Grumby Gazette with a territorial ferocity. Heading up the Bugle boys is Blue, an orphan, among several, being raised by Mayor Aric Nancy and his wife, both of whom run the Nautiline Bugle, the only newspaper that tells the truth. The great nation of Goswing has been at war with their neighbor Grimmaea for ten years, leaving many orphans and a struggling city, making sacrifices and living on rations. 
Running from Grumby Gazette thugs, Blue stumbles upon the workshop of a strange inventor named Jack Jingle, and accepts …

Stand Up and Sing! by Susanna Reich, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, Foreward by Peter Yarrow

Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music and the Path to Justice written  by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson is a superb introduction to the life of a great man with a lifelong commitment to human rights. Stand Up and Sing! is also a valuable book to have now, in a time where injustices and opressions are escalating.

Peter Yarrow's introduction to Stand Up and Sing! is an important starting place. While readers might know little about being blacklisted, the civil rights movement and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and might have never heard of Yarrow's folk trio, these of his words will speak to young readers. Of Seeger, Yarrow writes, 
He was, in a word, the embodiment of courage in the face of great evil. Yet, astonishingly, his love of humankind and his creative personal light continued to grow brighter and brighter through the years.
Reich begins Stand Up and Sing! with Pete on stage, singing and playing banjo to a crowd, leading them in song. She then details…

You and Me, Me and You by Miguel Tanco

You and Me, Me and You by Miguel Tanco is the kind of picture book that is really hard to do well, and Tanco does it very well. I have extremely high standards for picture books about the special bond parents and children share and a very low tolerance for sentimentality, of which there is none in Tanco's book. Also, it's just plain challenging to capture the similar but different ways that a parent loves a child and a child loves a parent. With You and Me, Me and You, Tanco marvelously, magically does this, perhaps by having the childnarrate with the perspective and wisdom of an adult. The pictures tell one story, the words another, and in this I think that both children and adults will "get" and love You and Me, Me and You.

I ask you the most difficult questions . . . and keep you in shape. I show you how to talk to strangers . . . and how to slow down. I take you to places you've never seen . . . and get wet with you in the rain.
Each page features half of a sentence…

Pass It On by Sophy Henn

Pass it Onby Sophy Henn is a gem of a book. The text and the illustrations are joyful, rising above the challenge of creating a winning picture book with a message. Henn takes a muted palette, throwing in pops of color to bring her smiling, playful characters to life, creating a text that rolls along mellifluously and with equal joy.

Henn begins Pass it On, "When you see something terrific . . . smile a smile and pass it on. If you chance upon a chuckle, hee hee hee and pass it on." Henn's text is simple and encouraging, especially when the story turns to grey days and lonely moments. "Just branch out, see who's there," Henn tells readers, and when you, "least expect it, like a bolt out of the blue, a smile or a chuckle will be passed . . . right back to you." Community, reciprocity and empathy are at the heart of Pass it On in a way that is meaningful to the littles listeners and memorable to adults. Pass it On is the kind of book we always need o…

The Amazing Crafty Cat by Charise Mericle Harper, 128 pp, RL 3

Charise Mericle Harper is a kind of triple threat when it comes to kid's books. She clearly remembers what it was like to be a kid; she has a brilliant flair for crafts and incorporates them into her stories flawlessly, and she has a fantastic sense of humor. These three qualities made her Fashion Kitty series a delight to read and now, with her new series, The Amazing Crafty Cat, she is bringing her talents to a younger group, although this series will appeal to readers of all ages. And, as you might expect, Harper includes several pages of back matter with detailed, easy to follow instructions on how to make the crafts seen in the book.

Like Fashion Kitty, Birdie has a secret identity, the Amazing Crafty Cat.  When we first see Birdie, she is making panda crafts. Panda hair clips, panda pencil toppers and panda cupcakes that she plans to take to school to celebrate her birthday. Birdie boxes up her cupcakes and heads to school and then disaster strikes. She trips and falls and al…