Sunday, November 25, 2018

Shelf Awareness--The Kissing Hand 25th Anniversary Edition

PB Review: The Kissing Hand 25th Anniversary Edition

The Kissing Hand 25th Anniversary Edition by Audrey Penn, illus. by Nancy M. Leak and Ruth E. Harper (Tanglewood, 32p., 9781939100184)

"Chester Raccoon stood at the edge of the forest and cried." Like many children facing their first day of school, Chester would prefer to stay home with his mother, doing familiar things. Mrs. Raccoon promises that, at school, he will "make new friends. And play with new toys." Also, she has a secret to share: Mrs. Raccoon kisses Chester "right in the middle of his palm," and says that anytime he's lonely and needs "a little loving from home," this "very kiss" will fill him with "toasty warm thoughts." Not to be outdone, Chester turns the tables on his mother in a satisfying twist at the end of this gentle, reassuring picture book. The expressive illustrations bring Chester to life and help to ensure that The Kissing Hand is as lovely and relevant today as it was when it was first published 25 years ago. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Discover: When it's time for Chester Raccoon to start school, his mother shares a secret that will make their separation easier.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November Book Picks


LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME, by Kate DiCamillo, is a gem, whether or not you’ve read the previous RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE. This time, Louisiana Elefante narrates her own story, which begins when Granny pulls her out of bed at 3am. They hit the road, leaving behind Louisiana’s pet cat Archie, along with her best two friends, Raymie Clarke and Beverly Tapinski. There is also Buddy, the one-eyed dog. Louisiana begins to believe that Granny does not have her best interests in mind… (MG)

In THE EXTREMELY INCONVENIENT ADVENTURES OF BRONTE METTLESTONE, by Jaclyn Moriarty, the title character has been raised by Aunt Isabelle ever since she was a baby. Her parents left her in Aunt Isabelle’s lobby and went off to have adventures. So when Bronte is ten years old, and she's notified that they've been killed by pirates, she’s not overcome with sadness. But her parents have left an unbreakable will (bordered by fairy cross-stitch), which sends her on a dangerous journey to deliver very specific gifts in very specific ways to her ten other aunts. Moriarty’s smart, inventive fantasies are always chock-full of quirky characters, whether human, water sprite, or evil Whispering Dark Mage. (MG)

Jarrett Krosoczka, author/illustrator of picture books--such as Baghead--and graphic novels for young children, turns to a young adult project with HEY KIDDO, which describes how his life has been shaped by his mother’s addiction. When her bad decisions make life too dangerous for three-year-old Jarrett, the boy is taken in by his grandfather and grandmother, "two incredible parents" who "just happened to be a generation removed.” Krosoczka’s powerful memoir shows how art helps him to make sense of his world, including his unconventional upbringing. (YA)

Picture Books:

In BLUE, Laura Vaccaro Seeger follows up her Newbery Honor Book, GREEN, with the story of a boy and a puppy who grow up/old together. A tender look at how life goes on. The text consists of variations on the word “blue,” and there are subtle die-cuts that add interesting continuity throughout.

HOW TO KNIT A MONSTER, by Annemarie van Haeringen, tells of Greta the goat, who is a very, very good knitter. When she doesn’t pay attention to her work, a wolf jumps off her needles! Things escalate until Greta manages to make things right. An award-winner in Holland, where it was first published.

And, finally, GREEN PANTS, by Kenneth Kraegel, features young Jameson, who only ever wears green pants. Because when he wears them he can do anything. But when he’s asked to be in his cousin's wedding party, it’s with the understanding that he must wear a (black) tuxedo. Will Jameson decide to be in the wedding without his green pants?


Friday, November 9, 2018

Shelf Awareness--Muse of Nightmares

YA Review: Muse of Nightmares

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown, $19.99 hardcover, 528p., ages 13-up, 9780316341714)

In Strange the Dreamer, the first book in Laini Taylor's spellbinding duology, orphan Lazlo Strange joined a delegation tasked with saving the city of Weep from the shadow of a towering citadel, once home to tyrannical blue-skinned gods who raped, tortured and murdered Weep's citizens. Lazlo fell in love with Sarai, one of five surviving "godspawn" living secretly in the citadel since the day an enslaved human broke free and led a deadly revolt. As the citadel finally toppled, Lazlo discovered he has a powerful, magical gift and must be godspawn; in the same moment, Sarai, who spent her life entering dreams, plunged to her death.

Now, in Muse of Nightmares, Sarai is a ghost. She's been saved from "the tide of evanescence" by her sister Minya, who has the power to bind souls. Minya makes it clear that she will bind Sarai if Lazlo doesn't help her wreak revenge on the murderous humans. The godspawn subdue the girl and try to figure out how to "unwork Minya's hate" while also attempting to locate the thousands of other godspawn "who'd vanished before" and make peace with the humans below. Then, a new terror arrives. Nova is a wrathful blue "soldier-wizard" from the same world as the slain gods, who also has a powerful gift. She's spent hundreds of years searching for her sister, Kora--stolen away by the very gods who terrorized Weep--and won't be appeased until Kora is found.

Gods and humans collide as master fantasist Taylor employs multiple points of view to explore the wonder of magic and the madness of vengeance. She seems to effortlessly conjure whole worlds for her readers' delight. The elegant prose is at once lofty and lusty, tender and brutal, as Taylor weaves her deeply tangled tale of revenge and redemption. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Discover: Lovers Sarai and Lazlo are nearly swept away by the fallout from a war between gods and the humans they preyed upon.

Monday, November 5, 2018

November's Book of the Month--You Bring the Distant Near

November’s Book of the Month is YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR, by Mitali Perkins.

This story presents three generations of Das women, who struggle to balance multiple cultural identities.

We begin with the voices of Sonia and Tara Das, as they move with their mother from London, England, to Flushing, Queens, USA (they’re Bengalis who have also lived in Ghana). They join their father, who has gone ahead to find work. Flushing isn’t to Mrs. Das’s liking—too many people of color make her feel unsafe. Her daughters, however, quickly adapt. Budding actress Tara goes from channeling Twiggy to mastering Marcia Brady, while high-achieving, feminist Sonia finds peace by documenting her life in notebooks. Both girls navigate the ups and downs of the American dream, Das family-style.

The saga is later taken up by their daughters, Shanti and Annu, who are equally compelling characters exploring their own identities and futures. And, although the story mostly belongs to its various teenage narrators, Mrs. Das functions throughout as something of a backbone. Like the wonderfully complex, evolving human being that she is, her journey, possibly the most difficult of all, ultimately feels the most triumphant. YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR is the journey of strong, unique women who experience life on their own terms.