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Showing posts from March, 2018

Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis AND Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle by Charise Mericle Harper, 122 pp, RL 3

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Last year, I reviewed and loved The Amazing Crafty Cat by the multitalented, amazing Charise Mericle Harper.  Since then, two more books about Birdie, a creative girl who is passionate about crafts, have come out! Both have the marvelous craft centered plots that find Birdie in complicated situations with friends, like Evan, and mean girls, like Anya. And, as you might expect, Birdie - with the help of her alter-ego, Crafty Cat - comes up with a craft that saves the day, or at least makes her day better. Best of all, each book ends with "Crafty Time" pages. Starting with a list of crafts Birdie made in each story and the supplies needed, Harper gives clear, easy to follow instructions allowing readers to make the same crafts! As a librarian and parent, I especially appreciate the way that Harper makes social interactions and the challenges that they bring a central part of each story.  In Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis, Birdie's expectations are high as she and Eva…

Honey by David Ezra Stein

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In 2007, David Ezra Stein published  Leaves, the story of a bear's first autumn and the surprise of leaves falling from the trees. With sparse text and simple illustrations, Stein perfectly captures the glow of the season along with the curiosity and joy of a young child. Now, with Honey, (which is dedicated to bees) this charming bear, in his second year, is back! Waking from a winter of hibernating, he is hungry and his stomach is growling, "like another bear." Digging and scraping for things to eat, Bear remembers . . .  Although a bit more fluid and gestural, Stein's illustrations reminded me of the marvelous works of Arnold Lobel. With a muddy, sometimes grey palette, readers can almost feel the damp, crisp world the bear wakes to. Stein brightens this world with words and colors, especially when the bear is thinking about honey, which is, "warm, golden, sweet," and "spicy, aromatic, sparkling with sunlight." Honey is a book of patience as the…

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Young Readers' Edition, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, with Kathleen Krull, 208 pp, RL 4

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In 2013, law student Shana Knizhnik started  her tumblr blog after the Supreme Court decided Shelby County v. Holder, which did away with a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act and Justice Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, something that is not done. One review equated Ginsburg's unusual act with "shaming your spouse in front of dinner guests." And this came after Ginsburg read to other dissents the day before. Almost overnight RBG became notorious (the "notorious" in the name is nod to Notorious R.B.G., the rapper who was murdered in 1997). "Can't Spell the Truth without Ruth" stickers and posters, t-shirts, Halloween costumes and all other sorts of pop culture items were emblazoned with this icon. Working with journalist Irin Carmon, Knizhnik turned her blog into a book that is now, with the help of Kathleen Krull, award winning author of non-fiction for kids, available in a young readers' edition! What you can expect to find in…

Cici's Journal: Adventures of a Writer-In-Training by Joris Chamblain and Aurélie Neyret, 150 pp, RL 4

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Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-In-Trainingby Joris Chamblain and Aurélie Neyret is the complete package! Originally published in France asLes Carnets des Cerise, this is story of a young girl who observes the world around her with the eye of an aspiring writer, presented to readers as her journal. Scrapbook type pages with photos, doodles, mementos and newspaper clippings tucked and taped along the edges are interspersed with pages of traditional graphic novel panels that move the story along. Aurélie Neyret's illustration stye is cinematic and her characters are instantly engaging. She creates a world that you want to linger in and return to. Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-In-Training represents the first two volumes in this series, Part One: The Petrified Zoo, and Part Two: Hector's Book. Being a journal, ten and a half year old Cici spends the first pages introducing readers to herself and her world. Her dream is to be an author and she loves …

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

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Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel is yet another marvelously, magically beautiful picture book bursting with beasts from this talented author and illustrator. In 2016, Wenzel's They All Saw a Cat enchanted and engaged readers (and earned a well deserved Caldecott Honor). Wenzel's follow up, Hello Hello, reads like a companion, or really like a best buddy, to They All Saw a Cat. Hello Hello begins, "Hello Hello," with a white cat on the recto looking at a black cat on the verso, a Mona Lisa smile on its face. What follows is a playful rhyme that introduces animals, alike and different, to each other, culminating with a girl and a boy, hugging and smiling at an orangutan and a lemur, and the verse, "A world to see, a world to know. Where to begin? Hello Hello." As this lyrical text wanders through the animal kingdom, Wenzel makes the point that all life is connected in its glorious beauty, its similarities and differences.
Set on a white page, Wenzel's illustra…

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, 384 pp, RL: TEEN

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I remember back in 2011 when Ready Player One by Ernest Cline hit the shelves and started selling and thinking I should read it. A fellow bookseller did and said it was great, but it took almost seven years for me (and my son) to finally read (actually, listen to) Ready Player One. I was at my son's seventh grade back-to-school night and a parent mentioned to the English teacher that her son was reading it and she was concerned about the content. I suggested she read what her son reads and then took my own advice. And, since I clearly live under a rock, I also just learned that it has been made into a movie by Steve Spielberg to be released this month. For those of you who like audio books, Ready Player One is fantastically, perfectly narrated by Wil Wheaton. Wheaton was a child actor (Stand by Me, Star Trek: The Next Generation) is a voice actor (everything from Aqualad to Grand Theft Auto) and adult actor playing a version of himself in The Big Bang Theory, among other things. I…

Pashmina by Nidhi Channani, 176 pp, RL 5

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Pashmina is the gem of a debut graphic novel by Nidhi Channani that begins as a story about the challenges of growing up the child of an immigrant in California and quickly evolves into a story of magic, mythology and the the hard choices girls and women face growing up in a patriarchal culture of oppression. Channani illustrates most of Pashmina in grey tones, reserving vibrant bursts of color for the moments of magic as the arrive in the story.
Priyanka Das is teased by mean girls at school, tentatively testing out her skills as an artist and learning to drive. She is a pretty typical American teenager. Except that her mother immigrated from India before she was born and has refused to talk about the family she left behind - or Priyanka's father. With father figure Uncle Jait about to become a father himself, Pri, as she asks to be called, is feeling sad and isolated, especially when her mother continues to refuse to talk to her about the country she left behind. When Priyanka ope…

Islandborn by Junot Díaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

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Islandborn is the debut picture book written by Junot Díazand marvelously illustrated by Leo Espinosa. Born in the Dominican Republic, Díaz is the Pulitzer prize winning author of books for adults. With his first children's book, he explores what it means to have two home countries, even when you can't remember your first home. Working in a school where the majority of my students have a first home and family they return to visit yearly, I am so excited to have a picture book that starts this conversation for us.

Everyone in Lola's school seems to have come from somewhere else and Lola and her classmates have been given the assignment to draw pictures of their first homes. But Lola can't remember her first home. Fortunately, she has family and neighbors who do remember and they help paint a picture for her of the island where she was born. Díaz does a superb job explaining the difficult reasons why Lola's family, and many others, left the unnamed island for America,…