Monday, November 2, 2015

Boats For Papa

Booklist starred (May 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 17))
Grades K-2. A gentle storyteller’s voice, in a soothing cadence, introduces the details of this simple, moving tale. Buckley, a young beaver, lives with his mama in a “small wooden house by the sea.” He clearly loves his mother. He also loves finding beach treasures and crafting boats from driftwood. Watercolor illustrations in warm tones range from expansive two-page spreads to full page and more intimate vignettes, capturing the quiet setting, the bond between the two, and their activities. Only one thing is missing: Papa. When Buckley makes a boat of which he is especially proud, he decides to set it adrift with a note to Papa. If it doesn’t return to shore, Buckley will know that Papa has received it. Mama agrees; she misses Papa, too. Buckley builds many beautiful boats for Papa. It is only at the end of the year that Buckley makes a discovery: Mama has all the boats. The pacing is exquisite as Buckley absorbs and reacts to this information, recognizing and expressing love in return. These two will persevere in the tender journey of life. Reassuring, consoling, and lovely.

The Bear Report

Booklist (October 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 3))
Preschool-Grade 2. Sophie’s homework is to find three facts about polar bears, but she is more interested in watching TV and just phones it in: “They are big.” “They eat things.” “They are mean.” Just as she is settling down in front of the glowing screen, however, she discovers a giant polar bear perched in an armchair. His name is Olafur, and he wants to show her around his home. In beautiful watercolor illustrations, Sophie playfully learns about life in the Arctic, from whales singing beneath the frigid water to the iridescent aurora borealis. With Olafur as a guide, Sophie realizes the Arctic isn’t a barren wasteland of ice, but a vibrant environment worth saving. Heder’s conversational, handwritten lines casually identify wildlife and Arctic features without getting too fact heavy, which may be more welcoming to kids turned off by informational texts. Meanwhile, the aqueous watercolor washes are the perfect medium for the icy seas. A final spread reveals Sophie enthusiastically researching polar bears and plastering the TV with drawings of Olafur. A breezy, entertaining introduction to the Arctic.

The Astounding Broccoli Boy

From the Publisher
From Frank Cottrell Boyce—the beloved, award-winning, New York Times–bestselling author of Millions and Cosmic—comes another hilarious, heartbreaking, and completely original middle grade novel.
Rory Rooney likes to be prepared for anything. That sort of planning pays off when you're the smallest kid in your class. Rory is even prepared (mostly) for Tommy-Lee, his nemesis, who starts most days by throwing Rory out of the back of the school bus. Don't be scared, his favorite book says, be prepared. And Rory aims to be. What's more heroic than that?
But Rory isn't prepared when he suddenly and inexplicably turns green and finds himself stuck in an experimental hospital ward. The doctors are just as baffled as Rory is, and that's when he begins to wonder: What if this isn't caused by his genes, or a virus, or something he ate? What if it's something even more extraordinary? After all, more than a few superheroes' careers began when they turned green. Could this be a sign that he's meant for something greater? Rory is going to find out—and that's going to start with escaping from the hospital.

The Night World

Booklist starred (March 15, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 14))
Preschool-Grade 1. Caldecott Medalist Gerstein delights and inspires readers in this meditation on the night. A sleeping boy is awakened by a “meow.” The cat on his bed, Sylvie, wants to go outside, even as the boy protests it’s too early. But out of the dark house—“Is this our house?”—they creep, and Sylvie, who can now speak, tells the boy, “It’s coming.” Several stunning two-page spreads executed in shades of black and charcoal and dotted by hundreds of bright stars bring the nighttime world close. Then animals step out of the shadows, making the outdoors pulse with life. By the time birds appear in the trees, the shadows are lifting, and the stars fade into the glow of morning. Glorious sunlit spreads capture not just the look of a breaking dawn but the haunting feel of watching night turn to day. Gerstein is at the top of his game here, capturing a nearly inexpressible mood. Beginning with the very darkest shades while the boy is in the house (with only the green eyes of the cat or the whites of the boy’s eyes for color) makes readers look and look again, and once they are outside, the animals’ stirrings will have children pointing at the darkened pages with delight. The strong yet simple message impresses: look around; there are so many wonderful things to see.