Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Giant Squid Finalist Blurb

The following is the blurb that was submitted for Giant Squid as a finalist for CYBILS.

From the delay of the title page to Eric Rohmann’s murky deep sea illustrations, Giant Squid is a mystery just like the creature represented in its pages.  Candace Fleming’s choice of poetic text and the squirming, writhing layout of each line keeps the reader swaying as if being rocked by the ocean’s tides.  More forceful spreads when the giant squid captures its prey are accompanied by thick, powerful paragraphs.  A more traditionally labelled diagram following the story will help young readers identify each part of a giant squid and the author’s note goes into further detail about what we do and do not yet know about the giant squid.  I love the font choice of each back matter header.  The inclusion of an extensive bibliography as well as other books about giant squid will keep young scientists busy.  The acknowledgements indicate collaboration  with experts in the field and the section “Searching for Giant Squid Online” includes websites, but more intriguing, some of the first ever captured video footage of giant squid by Dr. Edith Widder.  Just as the giant squid has eluded predators and scientists, the squid portrayed on the pages by Eric Rohmann escapes us as well in a cloud of ink and a vanishing tentacle.  Fortunately, readers will love to seize this book and not let go, learning more about this creature hidden from view and yet, brought to life on these pages by Fleming and Rohmann.

{This blurb was written shortly before they were due, sometime over the holidays.  Today is 1/23 and the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced this morning.  Giant Squid won the honor for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for the most distinguished informational books for children.}

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine

Raul Colon never fails to disappoint with gorgeous texture in his illustrations.  Illustrating Fearless Flyer gave him numerous opportunities to craft fluffy clouds and he does so with lines throughout.  His medium is listed on the verso as Prismacolor pencil on Canson paper and lithograph crayons.  The results are lovely!  

The story of Ruth Law reminds me of Meghan McCarthy’s “Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton”.  Both women were pioneers.  Ruth Law started out as a daredevil, but wanted to be taken more seriously as a pilot.  She did what many thought she could not.  Heather Lang includes direct quotes from Ruth Law on almost every page in a different scripted and quoted font.  Each of these quotes is cited in the source notes in addition to a full bibliography.

As Ruth said herself, “What those men can do a woman can do.  I can do.”

Photographs in the section “More About Ruth Law” show just how bundled one has to be to be flying with no cockpit.  Heather Lang does a masterful job of weaving the story of her flight together and highlighting both the accomplishment and the struggle.

Title: Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine
Author: Heather Lang
Illustrator: Raul Colon
Published 2016 by Calkins Creek
ISBN: 978-1-62091-650-6

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Every Day Birds

Dylan Metrano’s cut paper illustrations create the illusion of stained glass windows.  Each page highlights one bird and one statement about each.  The end of the book has space to tell more information about each of the birds included in the book.  The opening and closing of the book ties in the “Every Day” statement from the title to indicated that while we may observe these birds every day and they might seem more or less mundane at times, we are also learning more about their behavior every day as well and enjoying the beauty they add to the landscape and environment every day.  

Title: Every Day Birds
Author: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Illustrator: Dylan Metrano
Published 2016 by Orchard Books
ISBN: 978-0-545-69980-8

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber

Sue Macy includes extensive sources with quotes directly from both Mary, and her sister, Neely.  Mary’s story seems to be one of a person who knew what she wanted out of life right from the start.  She enjoyed watching sports with her father, wanted to understand what was happening, and even made her own newspaper to send to her grandparents instead of a letter.  Her determination is an inspiration and her dedication is a tribute.  She not only worked in a man’s world, with a press badge that indicated no women or children were allowed in the press box (which I still find curious - was it the content of conversations that it made it an off limits area?!), but she worked there for a loooong time, retiring only when her eyesight was failing a good 17 years after she technically retired.  C.F. Payne’s illustrations are a perfect blend of action shots, spreads that show a wide expanse and illustrations zoomed in, like the one highlighting her press box badge.  Each seems just right.  Beyond being an inspiring figure, Miss Mary also exemplified kindness in a cruel world.  As a youth sports coach myself, I can attest to the fact that athletes will rise to the occasion.  If good things are said about a child, especially published in a newspaper, they will believe them.  They will meet that expectation and be a better person for it.  I’m glad the world had a Miss Mary, and a Sue Macy to write her story.

Title: Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber
Author: Sue Macy
Illustrator: C. F. Payne
Published 2016 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-1-4814-0120-3

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White

“All beginnings are wonderful.” - E.B. White

Melissa Sweet mixes her mixed media style with photographs of E.B. White throughout his life and excerpts from his writing and letters with a special, personal connection to her neighbor, White’s granddaughter, Martha.  Sweet’s attention to detail in her illustration style makes each of her books special and unique.  Some Writer’s realia based artwork includes bits of barn, vintage office supplies, and even real eggs.  I happen to be revisiting this to review on New Year’s Eve and a number of quotes from E.B. White’s life strike me on this day when we turn a new page to a new year.

In chapter one, an anecdote is shared about E.B. White’s first (and last) run in with speaking on a stage in front of a crowd.  It struck me as rather similar to Dr. Seuss’ vow after embarrassment to never again speak publicly and yet, each had a voice that reached millions in his own way.  It makes one wonder about the ability of great writers to convey in words that which they might never wish to speak aloud.  

Incorporating the story of White’s life, along with his own writings and recollections, as well as sketches and notes helps the story to flow and for the reader to enjoy the ride as if in E.B. White’s own home made boat, a scow named Flounder.

Being an elementary teacher, I sometimes encounter adults who speak down to children and a passage struck me as just right when reflecting on why this bothers me so much.

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time.  You have to write up, not down.  Children are demanding.  They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth…Children are game for anything.  I throw them hard words and they backhand them over the net.” - E.B. White

E.B. White got that children were people who deserved great stories.  He respected their ability to understand all the nuances and foreshadowing.  Just as I’ve now read “Some Writer” or at least “some” passages of it over and over looking for “The Right Word”, young (and old) readers can read Charlotte’s Web and other of White’s writings again and again and enjoy them each time.

Title: Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White 
Author: Melissa Sweet
Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
ISBN: 978-0-544-31959-2

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

First, I love that this story is told in first person.  Having already written another biography of Louis Braille, Jen Bryant was intimately familiar with the details of his story but in this picture book, her goal was to convey how Louis Braille felt and I think she does so masterfully.  Towards the beginning of the story, when he is playing with his father’s sharp tools and hurts his eye, you can feel the mischief, the knowing that he felt he was big enough to do what he was doing.  It doesn’t end well there, but fortunately that was not the end of Louis’ story.  Really, it was just the beginning in many ways.  Louis has an opportunity to attend a school for the blind where there are books for the blind and he is so motivated to be an excellent student in order to have the privilege to read them with his fingers but when he finally gets to do so, he realizes they are sub par.  Then a military code is developed, but Louis and the students decide it still doesn’t do everything they need when it comes to reading books.  Louis, still a teenager, develops an impressive code of raised dots and the rest is history.  Boris Kulikov shows how bright the possibilities are in the beginning of the story but how starkly dark they become after Braille’s accident and then conversely, they smile on Louis’ face and brightening of the illustrations show that once again his life is filled with the art of the possible.  Likewise, this story highlights a child inventor and young man who accomplished quite a lot in his short life; a model that any child can aspire to think big thoughts, even when you are still small.

{Like several previous blog posts, this one was written a while ago.  As I am loading it onto the blog, it is January 23rd and it will post on January 27th.  Today was a big day!  The ALA Youth Media Awards were announced this morning and Six Dots won a Schneider Family Book Award for being a book for children ages 0 to 10 that embodies artistic expression of the disability experience.}

Title: Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille
Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Boris Kulikov
Published 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-449-81337-9

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Tree In the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window

The story of Anne Frank can be difficult to distill for young children by Gottesfeld and McCarty do just that, telling the story of the tree in the courtyard and the many saplings that have been grown all around the world. McCarty used brown ink on watercolor paper which creates sepia toned illustrations, fitting for this glimpse into the past.  While I was familiar with Anne Frank’s diary and story, I never realized the story of her tree and its long life bearing witness to war and then peace and the message its saplings send into the world now.  I enjoyed this slice of history.

Title: The Tree In the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window
Author: Jeff Gottesfeld
Illustrator: Peter McCarty
Published 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-385-75397-5

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.