On the blog:
- My 10 Favorite Choices from the ALA Youth Media Awards last week
Du Iz Tak? was an obvious choice for the Caldecott. Since the text is written in a made-up insect language, the book’s illustrations are essential to comprehension. With patient reading and attention to detail, readers can understand the meaning of the words. It’s a clever and entertaining story, and the illustrations are elegant, detailed, truly lovely.
There is so much to love about Vera Brosgol’s Leave Me Alone! It’s a story that I think many moms will relate to: Grandma just wants to some quiet alone time, and she literally has to go beyond the moon to find it. Brosgol’s writing is perfectly paced, and there is a stateliness to the writing that contrasts neatly with the fun of the illustrations. Those goats with their mouths stuffed with yarn!
A sweet dual-language English-Spanish text for the very youngest readers. Angela Dominguez chooses just one word per page to tell the story of two giraffes who meet and become friends.
I am loving the new Elephant & Piggie early reader series. Laurie Keller’s Geisel-winning We Are Growing! offers a lesson in the superlative and some very funny moments, especially when the lawn mower shows up. I should have seen that coming–I mean, the lawn mower is right there on the cover. But somehow, it still came as a laugh-out-loud surprise. Blades of grass would not appear to be very promising subjects for a picture book, but Keller makes it work.
If blades of grass don’t seem promising subjects for a picture book, neither does a pill bug, but Hank is adorable, and this is a charming story of one very adventurous day in the life of a little pill bug who happens to have a much bigger best friend, a beautiful brown girl named Amelia. Chuck Groenink’s illustrations provide a comical perspective on the challenges of getting around in the world as a pill bug, especially in the first pages of the book as our focus stays narrowly on Hank.
Ashley Bryan’s Freedom Over Me is a powerful collection of poems and paintings honoring the lives and work of eleven men and women who were enslaved on a plantation in the American South during the early nineteenth century. Bryan came across their names and ages on a list of goods to be sold at a plantation estate sale. Bryan takes that scant information and creates poems and paintings to bring these enslaved men and women to life. There is dignity in their work, hope in their love for and connection to each other. I was most inspired by each person’s commitment to using their talents and abilities to make lives better for their fellow slaves. For each person profiled, Bryan writes two poems and paints two portraits: one portrait and poem depicts their lives and work as slaves, while the other focuses on their memories and dreams, often connected to their pasts in Africa. The poems seem best understood and appreciated as short monologues.
There is such a need for books about older child adoption, and Home at Last has an added bonus of featuring older child adoption by two dads. But this isn’t a story I would choose to share with my own adopted older child. There is a frightening scene where one of the dads loses his temper and yells at his son after the boy struggles yet again to sleep in his own bed at night. I realize this is a picture book and not a parenting manual, but many traumatized children have a particular set of terrors connected to night, bedtime, and sleeping, and it was incredibly disturbing to me to see a parent further traumatizing an already terrified child by screaming at him. And the solution, which I think is supposed to be a feel-good solution, also really bothered me: the old dog drags himself up from his spot on the parents’ bed to go sleep with the frightened child. Why does the dog understand more about the emotional needs of the child than the parents? Why is the dog willing to meet those needs when the parents are not? When a child is terrified and not sure he’s safe in the world, we really shouldn’t send the dog to do our work for us, no matter how badly we’d just like a good night’s sleep.
Very few children’s novels have lengthy annotated bibliographies at the end, but then very few children’s novels are as ambitious as Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale. A thoroughly researched book that wears its research lightly. A book that should delight readers familiar with the structures, tropes, and themes of medieval literature and spark an interest in medieval literature for those new to it. A book full of adventure and moral philosophy. A book that can be read and enjoyed on many levels. Not like anything I’ve read before. Hatem Aly’s charming marginal illustrations add to the fun.