Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oink Oink! March 1 is National Pig Day

When I'm at a loss for topics to blog about, I consult the Brownie Locks website. I'm guaranteed to find something that will inspire a post. When I learned that March 1 is National Pig Day, I immediately knew that I had tons of fabulous children's books to discuss!

If you think Babe (the movie) is adorable and clever (which it is!), you need to read the book upon which it was based. Although a story about a pig saved by the cleverness of a fellow farm animal sounds awfully familiar, Dick King-Smith's tale of a sheep-herding pig is hilarious, charming, original, and has one of the most satisfying endings in children's literature.

Charlotte's Web is inarguably the ultimate children's novel about a pig (and perhaps the biggest upset in Newbery Medal history).  If you reread it, you'll be struck by its timelessness and maturity. E.B. White's recording is worth a listen. If children's literature history is an interest, you need to read The Story of Charlotte's Web  to learn about the creation of this modern classic.

Who's the best pig detective in the world? Mercy Watson, that's who! I regularly recommend the Mercy Watson series for families who want to start chapter book read-alouds as well as independent readers ready for chapter books.

Elephant (also known as Gerald) and Piggie is one of the most consistently funny and clever couples in children's books. Although they are quite different (Gerald is a bit more high-strung and goofy at times), they are forever friends. My favorite is We Are in a Book, which is quite meta.

Olivia (the original is a 2001 Caldecott Honor book) turns 15 this year, but this spunky pig (who's very good at "wearing people out")  is still going strong!

Piggies in Pajamas is one of my favorite "not so sleepy" bedtime stories. This rollicking and rhyming story of a bunch of rambunctious pigs who are definitely not interested in bedtime requires some practice if you don't want to trip over your tongue while reading it aloud.

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! is a great read aloud for preschool and elementary school children; they will love this tale of partying pigs and the hapless man whose house they invade.

Finally, if you're in the mood for some porcine-related nonfiction, check these out:

Dick King-Smith's novels often included pigs, but did you know that he wrote an adorable nonfiction title about one of his favorite animals?  All Pigs Are Beautiful is suitable for newly independent readers who want to learn about the habits of these fascinating creatures.

Gail Gibbons's books are ideal for young independent readers. Pigs teaches readers about the typical characteristics of pigs, their life cycle, and their intelligence.

Although there may not be any pig-related books in this week's edition of Wowbrary, I can guarantee that there are some awesome titles to discover.

I participated in Grace Miller Elementary's Family Reading Night last Tuesday and had a fabulous time. I wrote about several of my read aloud choices in an ALSC post about funny read alouds for elementary school children. Check out the comments for more great suggestions.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ridiculously Good Reads: Early 2015 Edition

How's 2015 working out for you? Have you read any fantastically awesome books so far? As a youth services librarian, I need to read books outside my personal interests. (If I didn't, I'd read nothing but realistic fiction, historical fiction, and biographies). I also need to remind myself to not focus on the bright and shiny new reads, but to go deeper into the collection and find titles that I missed. Happily, this often turns up some welcome surprises!

For 2015, I'm going to start a "Ridiculously Good Reads" feature. This will be similar to Reading Roundup, but it will only focus on books that I thought were outstanding. Not just in a literary sense, but books that, for whatever reason, weren't forgotten the second I returned them. Here are my Ridiculously Good Reads for January and February: 

I recommend Annie Between the States whenever possible for middle or high school historical fiction assignments; not only it is a fantastic Civil War era read, but much of the action takes place in Fauquier County (Upperville and Warrenton) and the surrounding areas. Across a War-Tossed Sea has joined my top recommended reads for historical fiction, as it's a moving, gripping, occasionally funny, and occasionally heartbreaking tale of British brothers living in the Tidewater region during World War II. Not only do the brothers struggle with homesickness and guilt over leaving friends and family behind in Britain, but they have to deal with cultural differences, especially segregation laws and customs.  A subplot involving a nearby German POW camp is tremendously affecting and startling; Elliott's research notes on German POW camps and the importance of the Tidewater region during World War II are informative and fascinating.

I've become more and more impatient with epic 400+ children's/YA novels and endless series. Ugh! Enough! You better have a really good reason for having such a huge book and for extending the story into a trilogy (or more). Thankfully, there are still authors and publishers out there who haven't forgetten about reluctant readers, or readers who just want a quick read every now and then. Bridge is part of the Alternative series, which is set at Rondo Alternative High School. This is Jose's last chance to graduate; family issues such as his dad's unemployment (due to medical issues) and difficulty concentrating in class due to his work schedule make school a challenge. At 92 pages and written with reluctant readers in mind, this is a realistic and empathetic look at situations that befall many high school students. Patrick Jones worked with teens at juvenile detention centers and alternative education centers, so he's very familiar with the issues and situations that these young people face. I'm definitely planning to add more books in the Alternative series. 

I'm a huge fan of Lucy Knisley's graphic memoirs; Displacement, in my opinion, is her finest so far (and I thought it would be hard to top Relish). As always, family relationships play a huge part in her latest graphic memoir (food is also a Knisley trademark, but less so in this one). As her grandparents are dealing with the physical and mental realities of aging (as Knisley includes her musings on twenty-something issues, this is a remarkable juxtaposition), this cruise is probably their last big trip. Her sorrow over their decline, her befuddlement over typical cruise activities, and the differences in her relationships with each grandparent are sensitively, humorously, and achingly depicted in both art and prose. Excerpts from her grandfather's World War II memoir are included throughout the memoir, which adds a poignant and admirable touch. This is graphic memoir writing and drawing at its finest.

I'll bet you're anxious to find spring. (Pitchers and catchers report this week, so it's on its way!) Finding Spring is a charming beauty of a picture book. This little bear cub is dismayed to learn that he has to hibernate during winter before spring arrives; when he sets off to find the mysterious spring, he finds something quite marvelous, indeed.  This sweet book has constantly been checked out since we received it early this year; it's a superbly created book that's perfect for late winter.

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution is one of our staff's early favorites for 2015. 2015's summer reading program is "Every Hero Has a Story," and this unique story ties in perfectly! Christopher Ludwick's story shows that everyone has talents and qualities to contribute, even in unexpected ways. Finding picture books about historical eras that are excellent read alouds is rare; there are plenty of fine historical fiction picture books, but not many that are suitable for reading aloud. This is a terrific read aloud for elementary school students studying the American Revolution.

I was extremely hesitant to read Noggin. I wanted to read all finalists for the National Book Award (Young People's Literature division), but I had a hard time getting past the premise of the story. Once I decided to read it, I was completely engrossed. It's a mature, unsettling, unforgettable, and provocative science fiction novel that raises tough questions about scientific advancements and mortality.

Supertruck is another early 2015 title that has been constantly checked out since we received it (and very appropriate for winter reading!). A blizzard has overpowered the city; luckily, an unlikely hero in the form of a garbage truck saves the day. So adorable and clever!

At 990 pages of text, Truman is an enormous biography (took me nearly seven weeks to get through it), but it's one of the best presidential biographies I've ever read (I've been reading a biography of each president--off and on-- since October 2012). Truman's late-in-life political career, the chaos of the 1944 Democratic convention (where it was an unspoken understanding that Roosevelt would likely die in office, thus making the VP nominee more critical than it had ever been), the decision to launch the atomic bomb, the firing of General MacArthur and the Korean War crisis, the rise of Senator Joe McCarthy, the enormous loss of popularity and calls for impeachment, and much, much more are brilliantly brought to life. Moreover, his undying love for his wife, Bess, and daughter, Margaret, is touchingly depicted. Truman was a complicated character (his views on civil rights did not mean that he was incapable of making unsettling statements) at an extraordinary time. An outstanding biography. The Roosevelt-Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy biographies era is very reminiscent of the Washington-Adams-Jefferson-Madison biographies era; their political careers intertwine with each other on a greater scale than other eras in American history (Roosevelt to a lesser extent, since he was an established icon by the time Truman began his political career) but definitely true for Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy). Very intriguing to observe!

Looking for some brand-new reads! Check out our latest and back issues of Wowbrary.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Celebrate and Remember: Books for Black History Month

History, biographies, and historical fiction are among my favorite things to read, so I'm excited to tell you about some of my favorite books that are perfect for Black History Month. If you're looking for a book to fulfill a Black History Month assignment, or just want some awesome recommendations for personal reading, these books will definitely engage, entertain, and inspire readers from many ages and backgrounds. All books highlighted were published in 2014 or early 2015.

I haven't read this brand-spanking new 2015 book because it's been checked out so many times! (Yaaaay!) 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World covers history-making African-Americans from Crispus Atticus to Barack Obama.

Russell Freedman (1988 Newbery Medal winner for Lincoln: A Photobiography) is a champion writer of young people's nonfiction. Throughout his 85 years, he has created outstanding biographies on Benjamin Franklin, Babe Didrikson Zacharias, Confucius, Lafayette, Crazy Horse, Louis Braille, Marian Anderson, Marco Polo, and the Wright Brothers. His history titles cover well-known aspects of history such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and  World War I, but also investigate the plight of children during the Great Depression, the daily lives of children during the Western Expansion, early 20th century Asian immigration, the vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) in the southwest, the fight against child labor, and pre-Columbus explorers of North America. The man is a giant and pioneer in children's informational books, and many of his history books focus on everyday heroes in extraordinary moments in history.  Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America is an eye-opening and powerful look at the struggle to ensure that African-Americans have equal representation at the voting booth. Although it's written for children, teens and adults who have seen Selma and want to learn more about the fight for voting rights will definitely benefit from reading this. If you want more titles about African-American history by Freedman, check out his 2006 account of the Montgomery bus boycott and his Marian Anderson biography (mentioned above).

I've discussed Brown Girl Dreaming many times on this blog; if you haven't read this memoir-in-verse about Jacqueline Woodson's childhood experiences in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York during the days of Jim Crow, you are missing out! It's won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, is one of two 2015 Newbery Honor books, and a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list.

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream is a gorgeously illustrated and told tribute to Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina. Told through the perspective of a seamstress's daughter, this is a touching and memorable look at a little-known pioneer.

If you want Virginia history as well as African-American history, look for The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement. (It's also on the Middle School Battle of the Books list.) Barbara Rose Johns was a teenager when she organized a protest against the deplorable conditions of her segregated school in Prince Edward County. As part of Brown v. Board of Education, the community's fight against segregation helped to bring about integration in the public schools.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker  is a brilliantly (and dazzlingly!) created biography of the fascinating dancer/actress, Josephine Baker. Although Baker was stunningly sophisticated, her poverty-stricken childhood in St. Louis was a far cry from Paris.  The enormous racism during her lifetime is sensitively and factually presented for young readers.

Pre-civil rights history intrigues me. I'm automatically interested in any black history title that's NOT about slavery or the 1960s civil rights movement (as important as it is to keep learning about those eras). The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, And the Fight for Civil Rights is a sobering and difficult read at times, but an important one to read. I reviewed it last August.

We have a number of related 2015 titles on order or just recently received:

Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage 
Mae Jemison (a biography of the first African-American female astronaut)
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March
X: A Novel (YA novel about Malcolm X co-written by daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and acclaimed YA author Kekla Magoon)

For recommendations of pre-2014 books on black history, see these posts.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Saturday, February 07, 2015

And the Winners Are....(2015 Youth Media Awards)

The Youth Media Awards were announced on February 2; as usual, there were some surprises! (Ahem.)  Let's get to them! 

About the award: "The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." 

Children: Alan Rabinowitz and C'atia Chien for A Boy and a Jaguar 

Middle School: Ann M. Martin for  Rain Reign

Teen: Gail Giles for Girls Like Us 

My verdict: I adore A Boy and a Jaguar. If you want an inspirational book about overcoming enormous obstacles, you need to read it.  Rain Reign is an emotionally difficult read and not one of my favorites by Ann M. Martin (I'm a fan of her lengthy and distinguished career). Girls Like Us is a tremendous and emotionally gripping story featuring young adults with Down Syndrome.  Overall, I can't argue with these choices. Not going to lie to you--I felt a little verklempt when A Boy and a Jaguar and Girls Like Us were announced. Fabulous and important books. 

About the award: "...[T]he Coretta Scott King Book Awards annually recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience." 

Illustrator (Honor): Christian Robinson for  Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

My verdict: Sensational illustrations. And a great read as well.

(We will receive the co-honor Little Melba and Her Big Trombone shortly, along with Firebird, which won the Illustrator Medal.)

Author (Honor): Kwame Alexander for The Crossover; Marilyn Nelson for How I Discovered Poetry; Kekla Magoon for How It Went Down 

My verdict: Some people think that How I Discovered Poetry has been forgotten in the wake of the avalanche of praise and publicity for Brown Girl Dreaming; I agree, so I'm happy it was recognized in the CSK Awards. How it Went Down is a powerful and timely look at a community shattered by the death of one of its youth. I'll discuss The Crossover later in this post. 

Author (Medal) 

Jacqueline Woodson for Brown Girl Dreaming 

My verdict: Hardly a surprise. (I'm happy it won!) I'll discuss Brown Girl Dreaming further in this post. That beautiful cover is now crowded with medal insignia. 

The CSK/John Steptoe Award for New Talent went to Jason Reynolds for When I Was the Greatest, which is well deserved (you can read my review here.) Reynolds's latest (just published!) book, The Boy in the Black Suit, is top on my to-be-read list. 

About the award: "...honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens..." 

My verdict: Have not read, but will read ASAP. 

About the award: "...honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18)..." 

Semifinalists (announced in December): Laughing at My Nightmare; The Family Romanov; Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business and Won; The Port Chicago 50

My verdict: Did not see that coming! Can't wait to read it. The Family Romanov and The Port Chicago 50 are both amazing books, so I was surprised that they didn't win. 

About the award: " award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature." Awarded since 2000, this is the top award for YA literature. Because it has so few criteria compared to other awards (it must be published for YA and can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or anthology; unlike the Newbery and Caldecott, books published in other countries and written by authors outside the United States can and have won Printz distinctions), it's very difficult to predict.  

Honor: Jenny Hubbard for And We Stay; Jessie Ann Foley for The Carnival at Bray; Andrew Smith for Grasshopper Jungle; Mariko Tamaki for This One Summer

Winner: I'll Give You the Sun   

My verdict: I was stunned when they announced the Printz...because we had the winner and three out of the four honor books already in our collection. That is rare, friends, because Printz committees are so unpredictable.  And We Stay is a story that will stay with you for some time; it's a mature YA title with lots of issues going on, but they are remarkably balanced. I know This One Summer has had a ton of love and is praised by many smart and knowledgeable people. I'm not feeling the love, though. 

About the award: "...presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth." 

Illustrator Winner: Yuyi Morales for Viva Frida 

Text Honor: Juan Felipe Herrera for  Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

Text Winner: Marjorie Agosin for I Lived on Butterfly Hill 

My verdict: Viva Frida is remarkable; have not read the others! Will do so ASAP. (We;ll order the Text Winner ASAP.)

About the award: The Batchelder Award has one of the clunkiest award descriptions out there. Basically, it's an award for books that 1) were originally published outside of the United States and 2) were originally published in a non-English language and later translated into English. The publisher is the official winner (the award is intended to encourage publishers to publish titles from other countries.) 

Honor: First Second for Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust (translated from French); Enchanted Lion Books for Nine Open Arms (translated from Dutch; Enchanted Lion publishes many international titles and is well represented in this award's history). 

Winner: Eerdsman Books for Young Readers for Mikis and the Donkey (translated from Dutch; Eerdsman won this award in 2012 for Solider Bear, also by the same author/illustrator/translator of Mikis and the Donkey) 

My verdict: Hidden is eye-opening. Haven't read the others, so adding them to my list. 

About the award: "...awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year." This is another difficult one to predict. Memoirs/autobiographies, history, biography, science/nature, etc are all eligible, ranging from picture books to YA nonfiction, if they meet the initial criteria.

Winner: Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet for The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

My verdict: I LOVE The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, so I was thrilled that it won. Gorgeous book. The honors are excellent choices. 

About the award: "The Geisel Award is given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year." Books also must be a minimum of 22 pages, but not exceed 96 pages.

Honor: Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard for Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page; Mo Willems for Waiting is Not Easy

Winner: Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant for You Are (Not) Small 

My verdict: I...well....okay. I have not seen You Are (Not) Small, so will hold off on that. This award tends to be all over the place due to its criteria. Everything from picture books (that aren't published as easy readers) to short chapter books have won.  Has there been an Elephant and Piggie book that has not been named either an Honor or Winner? I'm glad the award exists, but wish there was a separate distinction for easy chapter books and easy reader/picture book. We'll order the Mr. Putter and Tabby book soon. 

About the award: "It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." The illustrator must reside in the United States. Children is defined up to "14 years of age." 

Honor: Lauren Castillo for Nana in the City; Mary GrandPre for The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kadinsky's Abstract Art; Jon Klassen for Sam & Dave Dig a Hole; Yuyi Morales for Viva Frida; Melissa Sweet for The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus; Jillian Tamaki for This One Summer

My verdict: I gee...I...well, this got the chit chat going on Twitter and the blogopsheres.

This One Summer is quite a controversial choice. It's a YA graphic novel that is quite mature. Really mature. Remember that the award is for illustration, and not just for a picture book. However--I can think of others that I wanted to be named. 

My verdict: Did you hear wailing and gnashing of teeth around 10:05 or so? That was me! Because I took a chance on not ordering the titles we didn't have on the nominations list for ALSC's Notable Children's list in December and said," I'll order it when it's finalized! Surely out of the many, many books we've ordered this year, we'll have the winner!" Nope nope nope. So, guess who will be discovering the 2015 Caldecott Medal along with our patrons? MOI. *Waits impatiently*

And...This One Summer. Yes, according to the criteria, the committee met and delivered the criteria. There are no limits on the number of honor books and the eligibility of This One Summer is correct. The criteria does not mean that the book needs to encompass the broad range of "up to fourteen." I'm not entirely happy over its inclusion and wish others had been included, but that's life.  I'm very disappointed that Beauty and the Beast  and other titles were overlooked. But that happens nearly every year. On to 2016! 

About the award: "It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." Author must reside in the United States. 

If you know the history of the Caldecott and the Newbery, you'll understand why the creators of the awards insisted that the authors/illustrators be American residents. At the time the Newbery was established in 1922, British children's literature reigned supreme. If you think about what we consider classic children's literature published before the 1940s, you'd probably be able to name more British titles than American titles. The Secret Garden. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Peter Pan.  And so on. The American publishing industry needed a way to focus attention and awareness of American children's literature and to encourage authorship of children's literature in the States (and then named this award after a British bookseller, but that's another story). And thus, the Newbery was born. Some folks have called for the residency requirement to be dropped, as American children's authors and illustrators are popular worldwide (I can attest to that after browsing in an Italian bookstore two years ago), but don't hold your breath. 

Honor: Cece Bell for El Deafo; Jacqueline Woodson for Brown Girl Dreaming 

Winner: Kwame Alexander for The Crossover

My verdict: WHEEEE! Hearing these titles announced was so, so lovely after the mixture of emotions I felt after hearing the Caldecott announcements. Let's talk about the honor books. Love, love, love, AND A GRAPHIC NOVEL. A graphic novel received an honor, when many, many people thought that Newbery committees would not be able to name a graphic novel. If you're not familiar with El Deafo--it's Cece Bell (a Virginia author!)'s memoir of growing up with hearing loss and having to wear a clunky and noticeable hearing aid. 

Brown Girl Dreaming is exceptional, but I'm not disappointed that it received an Honor. (Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and is a New York Times bestselling author for this book. She'll be fine. This is her fourth Newbery honor.)

And The Crossover? Let me tell you why I'm ecstatic that it won. First of all, it's not a 400+ paged epic novel. (237 pages, people.) It's not historical fiction or fantasy. It's a book about basketball. Literary sports books represent! It's a book about twin boys dealing with first crushes, friendship issues, sibling issues, finding their own identity, and growing up in a supportive and loving family. It deals with some serious and sad issues, but it's totally believable. It's a book that reluctant readers will want to read. It's a book featuring African-American characters that is NOT historical fiction. It's a coming of age story featuring middle school guys. It's a coming of age story featuring African-American middle school guys. How often do we see that? Middle school guys, regardless of ethnicity? Rare. Middle school African-American teens? Even rarer.

And Kwame Alexander is also a Virginia author! Virginia authors rule the Newberys this year!

So! Overall, very happy about the awards. (I'll just have to deal with the Caldecott.)  I have a TON of reading to do!

I recently blogged about books for science experiments at the ALSC blog. (Those posts are much, much shorter.)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Friday, January 30, 2015

2014 Favorites: Picture Books and Predictions!

I thought we would never get here; it's the Friday before the Newbery/Caldecott announcements! Time to wind down my favorites from 2014 by discussing my favorite picture books, and going on record with my picks for Monday's Youth Media Awards.

I don't have an accurate count for the number of picture books I read. I only counted 68 picture books/easy readers, which isn't that much. However, I really only kept track of the picture books/easy reader titles that made an impression. Eight were especially awesome:

I adore this West African Beauty and the Beast a ton, and hope that it's recognized on Monday. H. Chuku Lee's illustrations are divine.

If you want picture books so cute you want to pinch them, you need to keep tabs on Il Sung Na. Just LOOK at that baby duckie. ALL of Na's illustrations are like that. Full of pep, personality, and adorable-ness. A Book of Babies features a baby duck observing other baby animals. The text is sparse but simply poetic.

Little Green rolls into town and only knows one word: "Go!" Everyone goes, goes, goes...and goes.Luckily, a new friend, Stop, shows up.  Go! Go! Go! Stop! is hilarious, but it also has a well-crafted message about cooperation (without laying it on too thick).

Gus and Me was definitely the surprise (for me) of 2014. I certainly wasn't expecting a tender and wonderfully crafted picture book memoir about Keith Richards's relationship with his grandfather. It's a deeply heartfelt story about the importance of grandparents, mentoring, and music. Richards's daughter, Theodora (named after Gus, whose formal name was Theodore), created wistful and endearing illustrations that match the gentle tone of the story. I appreciated the simple biographical note about Keith Richards in the back matter ("Keith later began playing in a band with a group of friends, including Mick Jagger. They called themselves the Rolling Stones.") and an overview of Theodora Richards's research and technique for her renderings of post-war London.

HYSTERICAL. Absolutely hysterical. Here Comes the Easter Cat is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Cat is jealous and wants to replace the Easter Bunny, but pretty much falls apart when he realizes what a strenuous job it is to be the Easter Bunny. Its sequel, Here Comes Santa Cat, is just as funny.

I realize that a story about a girl whose favorite playmate is a maple tree is rather out there, but Maple is such a tender and darling story about the arrival of a baby sister that it immediately became one of my year's favorite picture books. I prefer books that present the arrival of a sibling in a positive manner rather one that is is strongly negative (until the very end), so this one is on my recommendation list when people ask for "new baby books."

I'm a fan of everything Byron Barton creates, but his transportation-themed picture books (which make for great board books as well) are my favorites. My Bus is ideal for the youngest transportation-obsessed listeners. There's also a little bit of addition and subtraction going on throughout the story, which adds a great touch.

Remember the game "Telephone"? Perhaps you played it in Scouts/youth group or at summer camp. It starts when someone whispers a phrase into his/her neighbor's ear, who then does the same; this continues until the last person in the circle has to say the phrase out loud. Of course, it's usually completely different from the original phrase! I play this with my Tween Scene group in the summer, and it's always a hit. Telephone stars a mama bird who asks another bird to pass on an important message for baby bird Peter. As you can imagine, the birds add their own interpretations to the original message.  Mac Barnett's picture books are wildly inventive and funny; this is fabulous.

And now, for my probably wildly off-the-wall predictions for Monday's big announcements!

Newbery: Brown Girl Dreaming
Honors: Rain Reign, Revolution, El Deafo (some are naming El Deafo for the Newbery; will be interesting to see if the committee can name a graphic novel according to the Newbery criteria)

Caldecott: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Honors: Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, Beauty and the Beast (please?)

Want to catch the announcements of the Youth Media Awards live? You have several options:

Watch the live webcast.
Follow I Love Libraries on Twitter or Facebook.
The official hashtag for the announcements is #ALAyma. If you follow this hashtag, be prepared for an avalanche of tweets!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Friday, January 23, 2015

2014 Favorites: Young Adult and Graphic Novels

I read so many amazing books last year! In this penultimate post of my 2014 favorites, I'll tell you about the young adult and graphic novel standouts: 

I read 36 young adult novels. Nine blew me away: 

YA coming of age books from a boy's perspective are not nearly as common as middle grade coming of age books for girls. Coming of age books from an African-American male teen's perspective? Even rarer. Which is why The Crossover was one of my 2014 highlights.  Josh and Jordan are pretty tight, as you would imagine fourteen year old twin boys to be, but the balance of their relationship changes when Jordan gets a girlfriend. Dad was once a basketball star, and they appear to be following in his footsteps; when their father becomes seriously ill, their closeknit family ties threaten to be shattered. Written in verse, this is a powerful novel about family, grief, maturity, and basketball. 

Down Syndrome is a rare topic in YA literature, so Girls Like Us is a welcome addition.  Quincy and Biddy have both graduated from their school's special education program, so it's now time to learn independent skills through shared apartment living and working at their first jobs.  Quincy and Biddy face the world in different ways; Quincy is antagonistic, while Biddy retreats. Learning how to navigate their new reality brings its ups and downs; the vulnerabilities that girls with cognitive impairments face are heartbreakingly and realistically portrayed.

How it Went Down tells the story of a community rocked by the fatal shooting of an African-American teen. Multiple points of view are represented, from loved ones and acquaintances of both the victim and the perpetrator, but the details add up to create a confusing and complex situation. Readers that want gritty, mature, and realistic stories should definitely check this out.

The Living (published in 2013) is one of the very, very few books that I have read in one sitting. I could not put it down until I knew how the story ended (at least for this novel; the sequel will be out in May, and I can hardly wait!). Shy (his nickname) thinks his summer job on a cruise ship should be a fun way to pass the summer; it's hard work keeping the passenger happy (older ladies tend to tip better if you flirt with them), but there's enough time to goof off with the other teen employees. Unimaginable disaster occurs when an earthquake hits California, followed by a tsunami. Shy must do everything to stay alive and to find his missing girlfriend. My patience for disaster/dystopian YA is pretty much played out, but this is an incredible and whirlwind read. Shy is also Latino, which adds a great multicultural aspect to the story.

Lost Girl Found is an eye-opening look at the plight of young women in Sudan. Poni and her family must flee her village after it is bombed. Finding shelter at a refugee camp only provides marginal help for Poni. Desperate to continue her education, Poni must seek out an ingenious way to survive and thrive. Contemporary or recent events in countries other than the United States are rarely portrayed in YA fiction; this is a superbly realized and written novel.

A Mad, Wicked Folly is a must read for anyone (not just teens) who can't get enough of Downton Abbey. Set during the Edwardian period, this is a highly entertaining and sensitive tale of an upper-class teen who rebels against the mores of her society. (It's QUITE scandalous.) Victoria yearns to be a serious artist instead of a typical young woman of the nobility; there's lots of details about balls and such, but the emerging suffragette movement in Britain also plays a key role.

The finalists for the 2014 Young People's Literature division of the National Book Award were all tremendous (I read them all, but since I read Noggin in 2015, I can't count it here). Threatened is Eliot Schrefer's outstanding followup to Endangered.  Orphan Luc is a debt slave in Gabon, until he meets a scientist studying chimpanzees in the jungle; after the scientist disappears, Luc must survive on his own. Not only is this a great adventure/survival novel, but it's also a brilliantly researched and told tale of chimpanzee society. 

A Time to Dance is one of my picks for the Schneider Family Book Award. (February 2, people!) Veda's struggle to adapt after an accident leaves her an amputee is not just a fine inspirational story told in verse, but it's also a terrific insight into Indian society, especially the importance of Bharatanatyam dance. It's a standout for readers who like stories about dancers or stories set in countries other than the United States. 

YA novels about the implications of reality TV are nothing new (The Hunger Games is the most famous example, but Surviving Antarctica is even older). While most are harrowing reads (the aforementioned titles, along with Reality Boy), The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy is an emotionally lighter (and more authentic) novel of teens involved in a reality show at their arts-oriented high school. Naturally, the divide between the teens featured on the show and the teens who are not is quite sharp (especially since these teens are all aspiring artists). A group of friends embark on a protest against the show; when one of their own changes sides and becomes featured on the show, loyalties and friendships are stretched even further. Although parts are quite funny (and no one has to fight to the death), this is a literary and sophisticated novel that asks a lot of questions about the price of fame and how far would you go to achieve your dreams.

I made a commitment to read more graphic novels this year! I read 14 graphic novels, which I think is a record for me. Four were outstanding:

I'm a newbie to Lucy Knisley's work, but I'm already a devoted fan. Regular readers know that Knisley's graphic memoirs are often family and food-oriented. An Age of License follows Lucy through Europe as she attends a Norwegian comics convention.  Food inevitably plays a big part in the story, but so does romance and career issues common to twenty-somethings (although Knisley's are rather unique).  Her 2015 memoir, Displacement, will be out shortly (in which she accompanies her grandparents on a cruise). 

Max Brooks is best known for World War Z, so The Harlem Hellfighters  is quite a departure. The Harlem Hellfighters was the first African-American regiment in World War I; they never lost a man to capture or a foot of ground to the German forces.  This is written for adults, so Brooks does not shy away from the violence of the war or the injustices that the men faced at home (I would definitely recommend it for teens interested in World War I history or African-American history). Movie rights have already been sold (to Will Smith), so we'll (hopefully) see this at movie theater in the near future. 

Although Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust is a graphic novel for children, it conveys the nightmare of the Nazi regime and Holocaust in a sorrowful yet age-appropriate manner. A grandmother tells her granddaughter about her childhood in Occupied France; after her parents are exiled to concentration camps, Dounia is hidden by a number of relatives and friends for the duration of the war. This is definitely a book to read together, as some aspects are deeply sad. It's one of the few Holocaust era books that are appropriate for young readers. 

March: Book One was released in 2013, but I read it in early 2014. As Congressman John Lewis prepares for the first inauguration of Barack Obama, he reflects on his youth in segregated Alabama and the early days of the civil rights movement. This volume ends with the start of the student movement in Nashville. It's a fascinating read by one of the surviving leaders of the civil rights movement. Although this is written for an adult audience, teens interested in civil rights history should definitely read it. This is the first book in a trilogy. 

My countdown to the ALA Youth Media Awards ends next Friday with a look at my 2014 favorite picture books and my picks for the Youth Media Awards. Keep in mind that I've been closely following the Newbery/Caldecott/etc awards for nine years, and only once has my pick won a Medal (The Only and Only Ivan in 2013). So don't be surprised if I'm wildly off (my favorites are occasionally Honor books, but only once has one won the big enchilada). The Youth Media Awards will be announced on February 2 at 9 AM ET/8 AM CT. . While the best place to watch the announcements is in person (I've had the chance to do that once, and it's super fun), you can watch the broadcast here. If you'd rather follow the Twitterati, look for #ALAyma. If you just want results (and not an avalanche of tweets), follow I Love Libraries on Facebook or @ILoveLibraries on Twitter.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

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