Monday, January 15, 2018

January Recommendations


THE SECRET OF NIGHTINGALE WOOD, by Lucy Strange: When 12-year-old Henrietta (Henry) and her family move to the English countryside, it's supposed to be a fresh start. But, after the tragic death of Henry's older brother, Mama is kept sedated and Father escapes by taking a job abroad. When nasty Doctor Hardy takes baby Piglet away, Henry is determined to save her family, even when the adults question her own sanity. Strange's debut is a gorgeous coming-of-age tale, probably my favorite mid-grade of 2017. (MG)

THE WAR I FINALLY WON, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is the follow up to Newbery Honor book The War that Saved My Life. Ada finally gets surgery to repair her club foot. But the war is still on and people keep dying. “Iron-faced” Lady Thornton offers Ada, Jamie, and Susan a cottage to live in after Susan’s house is bombed, but then the British army requisitions Lady Thornton’s home, and she moves in too. Along with her daughter, Maggie, and a Jewish girl from Germany. A German! Ada is a remarkable character and this second book is a worthy follow up to the first. (MG)

THORNHILL, a graphic novel by Pam Smy, tells two parallel stories. Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute in 1982. Ella, in 2017, is also lonely, having just moved into a new house, with no mother and a father who’s always working. When Ella glimpses a girl’s face in the window of run-down, abandoned Thornhill, she begins to investigate. Mary’s story is told in diary entries, Ella’s in atmospheric black and white art. Echoes of Jane Eyre lend creepiness and foreboding to this ghostly tale. (MG/YA)

Picture Books:

ON A MAGICAL DO-NOTHING DAY, by Beatrice Alemagna, is the story of how a kid, stuck in a cabin with his mom, his electronic game taken away, begins to explore. Outside, in the rain, he discovers a (real) word full of (real) treasures. You’ve got to see this art!

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH A GHOST, by Rebecca Green, is your handy guide for creating “a lifelong (and beyond) friendship” if you’re lucky enough to be found by a ghost. Charming art illuminates detailed instructions that are funny and sweet.

AFTER THE FALL: HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP AGAIN, by Caldecott winner Dan Santat, is a powerful story about not giving in to your fears. It takes place after Humpty falls from his wall, after all the king’s men DO manage to put him (mostly) back together again. Humpty really wants to be up on that wall again, high above the city, but he’s afraid of heights. The ending will knock your socks off!


Monday, January 8, 2018

Shelf Awareness--Dear Girl

PB Review: Dear Girl

Dear Girl by Paris Rosenthal and Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Holly Hatam (HarperCollins, $17.99 hardcover, 40p., 9780062422507)

Beloved children's author Amy Kraus Rosenthal and her daughter, Paris, offer young readers plenty of uplifting, empowering advice in the form of a series of letters shared by a mom to her "Dear Girl." They tell readers to "[k]eep that arm raised! You have smart things to say!" and "[i]f your instinct is telling you to say no, say no, you know?" The message to young girls is clear: be bold and find your own way.

These timeless bits of wisdom encourage all kids to celebrate what makes them distinctive, from freckles to birthmarks to hair color. Girls are advised to accept a wide range of feelings, whether they need "a good cry" or a friend or a moment to dance. And, just as importantly, the letters promote taking time to experience the wonder of rainbows, crazy handshakes and coloring outside the lines.

Holly Hatam's art is lighthearted and energetic, with a variety of textures and techniques employed to demonstrate pointers that are both practical and full of whimsy. Amy Kraus Rosenthal died in 2017, but this collection is no weepy farewell. Adults may realize how bittersweet it is for the book to end "Most of all, dear girl who I love, know that you can always always always... turn to me." But readers of any age will want to return again and again because, as the authors advise, "Whenever you need an encouraging boost, remember you can turn to any page in this book." --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.  

Discover: Letters from a mom to a young girl emphasize empowerment and self-acceptance.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January's Book of the Month--Leave Me Alone!

January's Book of the Month is a 2017 Caldecott Honor Book, LEAVE ME ALONE! by Vera Brosgol.

The old woman of this tale lives in a small village, in a small house, but her very big family makes it just about impossible to sit quietly and knit. And knit she must. So she packs her things in a sack and leaves. She travels to a forest (which has curious bears). She climbs a mountain (which has hungry goats). And she even reaches the moon (inhabited by aliens who want to examine her with scanners that go “beep boop"). But don’t worry, she finds the perfect place to finish her knitting. Though it's not all that long before she thinks twice about her new situation.

This Russian-tinged story is an imaginative take on classic fairy tales, but the material is fresh and new in Brosgol’s hands. Much like Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s The Wolf The Duck & The Mouse, LEAVE ME ALONE! feels like it’s been created by someone who wants to bring her own spin on the classics to a modern audience. The color of the art is stunning, and Brosgol makes good use of the white of her pages, too. The old woman’s facial expressions are priceless. Did I mention it’s funny? And absurd. And . . . a winner!