Monday, January 28, 2013

Missing On Superstition Mountain

From the Publisher:

It's summer and the three Barker brothers—Simon, Henry, and Jack—just moved from Illinois to Arizona. Their parents have warned them repeatedly not to explore Superstition Mountain, which is near their home. But when their cat Josie goes missing, they see no other choice. There's something unusually creepy about the mountain and after the boys find three human skulls, they grow determined to uncover the mystery. Have people really gone missing over the years, and could there be someone or some thing lurking in the woods? Together with their new neighbor Delilah, the Barker boys are dead-set on cracking the case even if it means putting themselves in harm's way.

Here's the first book in an action-packed mystery series by aNew York Timesbestselling author.

Valentine's Day Origami

Booklist (December 15, 2012 (Vol. 109, No. 8))

Grades 3-6. Far from generic greeting cards and predesigned e-messages, this inviting title in the Holiday Origami series encourages young people to create an original I-love-you offering. The clear step-by step instructions are illustrated with bright color photos and diagrams on every well-designed double-page spread. After a brief history of the origin and traditions of Valentine’s Day, the origami instructions start off simply, with pictures and directions on exactly how and when to fold and crease. First, there are two spreads with 9 steps that show how to make an origami heart. Later, 13 steps over four pages show how to make a red rose. Nine steps make a heart box. The joy of creating and giving friendship bracelets is a great climax. Back matter includes a glossary and a list of suggested websites. Other titles in the series focus on origami for Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Fun for sharing at home and school.

The Price of Freedom

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2012)

In a collective act of protest and heroism, an Ohio community successfully defied the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. In 1856, John Price and two other Kentucky slaves crossed the Ohio River to freedom in Oberlin. Like many other runaways, Price stayed there. Two years later, when slave hunters tracked him down and captured him, the citizens of the town banded together to defend him. The Fradins recount the confrontation, known as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, with its manifold legal and moral repercussions in a minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour narration. Words and illustrations combine in a fast-paced, breathless, cinematic flurry that stars genuine action heroes armed with rifles and large doses of courage and principle. Velasquez uses mixed media and oil paints to portray his characters as living and acting, never posing. Many illustrations are framed by wood strips, an effective period touch. How wonderful, too, that a double-page photograph of the Rescuers, as the Oberlin citizens came to be known, concludes the saga. Judith Fradin and her late husband, Dennis, were frequent collaborators; his Bound for the North Star (2000) is also about runaway slaves. History made immediate and meaningful. (author's note, bibliography, further reading, websites) (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Goldilocks and Just One Bear

Booklist (November 1, 2012 (Online))

Preschool-Grade 3. With lots of wordplay and wry, lively pictures, this fractured fairy tale is also a hilarious sequel to the Goldilocks story. Of course, the parody is for older readers, but even young preschoolers will get some of the twists and turns on the story they know, and they will love the mayhem caused by a big, klutzy creature. A bear gets lost in the city, and, disoriented by the bright lights and terrible racket, he takes shelter in an apartment in Snooty Towers. No one is home. He tries the food: too soggy, too crunchy. He wants porridge, but he settles for a toast sandwich. When he tries to rest, he ends up sitting on the cat and then bursting the beanbag chair. Then the family returns and finds the mess. The little one screams, “Somebody has been eating my toast and they’ve eaten it all up!” The bear thinks the mommy person looks familiar. It turns out it’s Goldilocks, living happily ever after. The playful, mixed-media art in colored pencil, paint, and collage extends the wordplay fun with the scenes of the bear lost in the crowded streets and passing by the Ugly Sister Beauty Parlor, Coffee Beanstalk, and Little Piggy Bank. Great for sharing.

Doug Unplugged

Booklist (January 1, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 9))

Preschool-Grade 1. Yaccarino’s gentle humor, whimsy, and panache is on full display in this picture book celebrating the difference between virtual and real-life learning. Young Doug is a robot who is plugged in by his parents every morning so that he can absorb as many facts as possible. Happy downloading, his dad calls as he heads to work, leaving Doug to learn all about cities. What looks like it might be a tale of parental pressure on young students instead turns into a cheerful story of discovery. Doug has no sooner downloaded vital statistics about pigeons when he sees a live one on the windowsill. Bot follows bird, and the fun begins. Yaccarino’s illustrations are deceptively simple in their generous use of primary colors and bold lines; they invest the story with tangible vibrancy. The expression of sheer joy as Doug, all wide-mouthed enthusiasm, scatters a flock of pigeons or plays with a new friend is enough to convince any reader that unscripted learning is still the most satisfying way to plug into the world around us.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Island: A Story of the Galapagos

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2012)

A beautifully made picture book presents the story of the Galpagos Islands for young readers. It's not easy to present the story of island formation, species colonization and evolution in a picture book, but Chin succeeds admirably, challenging intelligent young readers with sophisticated concepts, but presenting them in a way that will allow readers not only to understand them, but to marvel at them, as well. As in Chin's previous volumes, Redwoods (2009) and Coral Reefs (2011), gorgeous watercolor illustrations lure readers into the scientific story. Chin is careful to point out in his author's note the necessity of speculation and educated guesses, given how far in the past the story takes place. But the work is top-notch narrative nonfiction, based on the best current scientific research. An eye-catching variety of horizontal panels, thumbnails and full-bleed pages makes science visual. Especially effective is the discussion of how species change over time: The finches' beaks become larger, tortoises' shells change shape, and cormorants' wings shrink. In the epilogue, after millions of years of evolution, a ship appears, and a man comes ashore, pen and notebook in hand. It's Charles Darwin, as explained in the backmatter, where his theory of evolution by natural selection is explained and further information on the Galpagos Islands and their indigenous species is presented. Another superb contribution to scientific literature by Chin. (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Castle: How It Works

Booklist starred (December 1, 2012 (Vol. 109, No. 7))

Grades K-3. Let’s face it. Macaulay wrote the book on castles: his Caldecott Honor winner Castle (1977), later reenvisioned as part of Built to Last (2010). Now he revisits the topic with a younger audience and a new purpose in mind, recalling in an introductory note that as a kid, he didn’t like reading, but he found that pictures made it more fun. Actually, with lines like “Archers will greet you with flaming arrows,” the text here is fun, too. As the narrative begins, a castle stands on a hill, while would-be attackers skulk on another hill in the foreground. Short sentences offer plenty of intriguing information about the castle, its inhabitants, and their many means of defense. Readers are occasionally addressed informally, “Are you friend or foe?” Pretty soon, the attackers make their move. Despite their alarming weapons (battering rams, catapults), it’s clear that in the end, the defenders will prevail. The format is slightly larger than a typical book for beginning readers, giving a bit more scope for the illustrations: strong line drawings with color washes. The use of different perspectives and cross sections is particularly fine. A promising start for Macaulay’s new My Readers series of nonfiction.

Bear Has a Story to Tell

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2012)

Within a gentle tale of hibernation and renewal, the Steads' second collaboration (after Caldecott-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee) explores a second, internal theme: the nature of the storytelling narrative itself. Increasingly sleepy, Bear pads through the fall landscape with "a story to tell" before winter's sleep. Mouse, Duck, Frog and Mole are well into their own winter preparations and cannot listen. Months later, when the reunited friends gather beneath a full moon, Bear can't remember his story. Helpfully, his friends suggest a protagonist ("Maybe your story is about a bear"), a plot ("Maybe your story is about the busy time just before winter"), and supporting characters (themselves). Thus, Bear begins his story as this one ends: The first line of his story is both the last line of the book and its first. Erin Stead's pictures quietly appeal: Pencil line and shading define basic features of animals and trees, while washes and smudges of paint suggest seasonal colors, Bear's rotund mass, and the brushy cobalt expanse of starlit skies. Sharing an affinity with Jerry Pinkney yet evoking the sparer 1960s work of Evaline Ness and Nonny Hogrogian, Stead's compositions exude an ineffable, less-is-more charm. The Steads' work adopts a folkloric approach to cooperative relationships; the affectionately rendered animals that stand in for humans convey a nurturing respect for child readers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

Booklist starred (November 15, 2012 (Vol. 109, No. 6))

Grades K-3. In the winter of 1909, a brave girl named Clara Lemlich, only five feet tall, picketed for workers’ rights. She arrived in America along with hundreds of other immigrants from eastern Europe, hardly speaking any English. But instead of her father being hired, it’s Clara the factories want, and off she goes to make women’s clothing in a garment factory from dawn till dusk. The conditions are appalling: “If you prick your finger and bleed on the cloth, you’re fined. If it happens a second time, you’re fired,” and more. While the men at the factory don’t think girls are strong enough to strike, Clara proves them wrong, eventually leading the “largest walkout of women workers in U.S. history.” Markel’s informative text buzzes with details of the oppressive conditions and neatly plays up Clara’s can-do spirit, but she perhaps tries to cover too much territory, and as a result, omits some crucial explanations (e.g., why can’t Clara’s father get hired?). However, Robert F. Sibert Medalist Sweet (Balloons over Broadway, 2011) creates punchy, vibrant collages that make up for any shortcomings. The zingy images masterfully (and appropriately) incorporate fabric and stitches as well as old images of checks and time cards. One particularly moving picture is seen from above as row upon row of workers toil away. A detailed note about the garment industry and a selected bibliography conclude. This book has fighting spirit in spades—you go, Clara!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Colorful Dreamer The Story of Artist Henri Matisse

Booklist starred (November 1, 2012 (Vol. 109, No. 5))

Grades K-3. This inspiring picture book about the life of Henri Matisse weaves back and forth between Henri’s dreary reality—rendered in pencil shades of black, white, and gray—and the vivid world of his imagination, depicted in gorgeous full-color pencil, paint, and collage. Much to Henri’s parents’ dismay, their son does not excel at school, working in the family store, or the violin; instead, he is a dreamer. During his blah stint as a young lawyer, Henri starts to suffer stomach pains and ends up in the hospital, where he has plenty of time and nothing to do. But a set of paints changes all that: he picked up the paintbrush and was transported into paradise. From here, the book really sings as we’re treated to Henri’s vivid inner life made real on canvas. Parker’s lyrical text is accessible to young children and offers a rich look at the artist’s life, but it’s Berry’s art that wows. She manages to capture the vibrancy and rich saturation of Matisse’s original paintings and then changes styles to reflect his later-in-life colored-paper cutouts, which he referred to as drawing with scissors. An endnote fills in details about Matisse’s life. A great introduction to the renowned artist and a validation of dreamers everywhere.

Cover image for Colorful dreamer : the story o...

A Butterfly Is Patient

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2011)

Another interwoven flight of poetry, natural history and lovely art from the creators ofAn Egg Is Quiet(2006) andA Seed Is Sleepy(2007). Beneath hand-scripted headers that sometimes take license with facts but create lyrical overtones ("A butterfly is creative"), Aston offers specific and accurate descriptions of metamorphosis, pollination, camouflage, migration and other butterfly features and functions, along with the differences between butterflies and moths. Imagination-stretching comparisons-"monarchs weigh only as much as a few rose petals," the wingspan of the Arian Small Blue is "about the length of a grain of rice"-lend wings to the body of facts, and though the author avoids direct mention of reproduction or death, a quick closing recapitulation that harks back to the opening page's hatching egg provides an artful hint of life's cyclical pattern. With finely crafted, carefully detailed close-up watercolors, Long depicts dozens of caterpillars and butterflies, each one posed to best advantage, unobtrusively labeled and so lifelike that it's almost a surprise to page back and find them in the same positions. Similar butterfly albums abound, but none show these most decorative members of the insect clan to better advantage.(Informational picture book. 8-10)

Cover image for A butterfly is patient


Library Media Connection (August/September 2012)

Is that a chimpanzee or an orangutan? Maybe it's a gorilla? This series will clear up any confusion one might have about primates. Each book starts off with a description of what primates are and shows where they live in the world. There are chapters about the featured primates' classification, adaptations, life cycle, behavior, intelligence, and their future. Each book also offers a quick reference profile showcasing specific physical differences through a photograph and information about the weight, height, habitat, diet, etc. Each book also gives information on relevant organizations. These books contain maps, diagrams, captions, and stunning photographs. There are unique factoids throughout the books making them useful for research. Text is written in a simple and straightforward manner that is easy enough for upper elementary students to read, yet contains plenty of information for researchers. Bibliography. Glossary. Websites. Index. Patricia Walsh, Educational Reviewer, Norfolk, Virginia. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Cover image for Bonobos