Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Books Are Marching In, Part I

The Spring 2011 publishing year is well underway. March brings us more terrific picture books, chapter books, nonfiction, and YA books. Let's take a look, shall we?

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: A Counting Nursery Rhyme

My favorite board books are REAL board books, not picture books squeezed into board book format. This is a die-cut picture presentation of the familiar nursery rhyme, using a circus theme. Not only that, it's interactive; squares on each page reveal a peek at the next page's illustration. Cute!

Ten Miles Past Normal

I'm a huge fan of Frances O'Roark Dowell. The Kind of Friends We Used to Be is a realistic, funny, and heartfelt middle school friendship story, while Falling In is a wild and hilarious fariy tale. Dowell's books usually straddle the children's/YA divide, but her latest, Ten Miles Past Normal, is solidly YA. Her debut YA novel about the daughter of modern-age hippie parents was called a "completely refreshing take on the coming-of-age novel" by School Library Journal, and according to The Horn Book Magazine, Dowell "gets all the details of ninth grade right." Can't wait to read it!

13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System

Oh, that wacky International Astronomical Union. Demoting planets, adding planets...it's enough to make you dizzy! Not to mention that all these changes quickly make solar system books out of date. Thankfully, David Aguilar and the National Geographic Society are here to explain it all to you. Aguilar profiles all 13 planets (wait, what?), the sun, comets, and all that jazz. Does he also provide a new mnemomic phrase for remembering the planets? Because "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies" obviously won't work anymore. And since it's published by the children's division of National Geographic's publishing house, you know it's going to be high quality.

Angel in My Pocket

Angel in My Pocket sounds like a sweet and unique story; after finding and forgetting about an angel coin in her pocket, Bette and her classmates discover new ways to move forward from loss and hardships. Publishers Weekly praised its "introspective" and "lovingly crafted" story.

Ant and Grasshopper

I'm eager to read this retelling of the Aesop fable; Kirkus Reviews found it "joyful": School Library Journal admired its "humorous, fluid retelling" and recommended it for a read aloud. Yes! We often find Aesop's fables collected in volumes rather than in single-title format; I'm excited to find an excellent picture book retelling.

Between Shades of Gray

While Between Shades of Gray may not immediately fly off the shelves due to its subject matter, I couldn't ignore the multiple starred reviews that this debut novel has received. This historical fiction novel features an aspect of history that is rarely discussed in youth fiction: Stalin's reign of terror. Through the story of 15 year old Lina, the mass deportation of the Baltic people to Siberia is told. While reviews note that the story is incredibly sad and tragic, Ruta Sepetys's writing is acclaimed: "Sepetys' flowing prose gently carries readers through this crushing tragedy of this tale that needs telling (Kirkus Reviews)"; "...the novel illuminates the persecution suffered by Stalin's victims (20 million were killed), while presenting memorable characters who retain their will to survive even after more than a decade in exile (Publishers Weekly)"; "Unrelenting sadness permeates this novel, but there are uplifting moments when the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for compassion take over (School Library Journal)." Sounds like a difficult read, but definitely a worthwhile one.

Bless This Mouse

Lois Lowry's latest sounds like a hoot. It's the story of a colony of church mice facing the most dreaded day in the church year: the feast of St. Francis. Like many Catholic and Episcopalian churches, St.Bartholemew observes this feast by encouraging parishoners to bring their pets to church for a blessing (I haven't figured out if St. Bartholomew Church is Catholic or Episcopalian; the Mouse Mistress is Hildegarde, which makes me slightly lean toward Episcopalian, since Hildegard of Bingen is not officially a saint in the Catholic church, but is in the Episcopalian/Anglican church, yet the priest is named Father Murphy, which makes me think that it's Catholic... although Episcopalian priests are addressed as "Father So-and-So"....perhaps it's intentionally not clear?). Meaning that CATS will be present in the church. And frankly, Mouse Mistress Hildegarde is tired of the church mice being the only animals to not receive a blessing from the priest. Oh, what to do? Reviews have been positive, with Publishers Weekly being over the moon for it: this "fun and lighthearted" story is "an impeccably constructed, good-humored adventure filled with master plans, near disasters, and brave rescues..." Great!

Blink & Caution

Tim Wynne-Jones's thriller about two street kids caught in a criminal plot has been applauded as his "finest, most beautifully written yet" by Kirkus Reviews. Publishers Weekly declares it a "dazzling crime novel that evokes the taut writing and tropes of hard-boiled fiction while interweaving social justice themes and a solid sense of realism." Authors dream of reviews like this; I'll definitely have to check it out.

Blue Chameleon

I adore Emily Gravett's picture books; unfortunately, unless she decides to take up residency in the United States, she's ineligible for the Caldecott Medal. Boo. I'm looking forward to this story about a chameleon trying to find his place in the world. I don't need to quote any reviews; as usual, they are exceptional.

Busy Elephants

I love the "Busy [Animal X]" board books by John Schindel. That is all. Here's the latest one.

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred

Based on the "House That Jack Built" refrain, The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred is a "wonderful read aloud (Kirkus Reviews)" detailing the making of arroz con leche. Perhaps one to watch for the Pura Belpre Award?


A girl who sees spirits, a mysterious young man, and family secrets that threaten to be revealed? Sounds like a page turner! "...Billingsley's plot involves murder, mystery, romance, ancient lore, family drama, and sisterly love," according to The Horn Book Magazine. Sounds like a lot to juggle. Yet Billingsley takes her time to develop the story, resulting in a YA novel that is a "darkly beguiling" (Publishers Weekly) and "delicious" (The Horn Book Magazine).

Hey Diddle Diddle

Eve Bunting doesn't normally "do" lighthearted picture books; her picture books are usually known for their sophisticatication and maturity. This take on the familiar Mother Goose rhyme appears to be one of her exceptions; I'm anticipating this for an upcoming Mother Goose-themed story time.

That's enough for one post; to be continued!

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