Sure to be an Adventure: Benjamin reviews Treasure Town

I've got something special for you today! Benjamin wants to tell you about a book he read this week.
What is the name of this book?
Treasure Town!

Who is it by?
Ummm. Doug . . . [Doug Wilhelm, and illustrated by Sarah-Lee Terrat]

How was it?
It was good.

Who would like it? 
Probably like, 5-, 6-, 7-year-old's or anybody who likes Magic Tree House. [The book is designed for grades 2 and 3.]

What was it about? It was about these four kids, no three kids, um, and they met they two guys named Bug and Yuke, and they were looking for treasure in Alaska, but they were down in Sandy Feet, Florida! And then the three kids told them about the treasure that was down here in Sandy Feet, Florida. And they all went hunting for it together. And Yuke was a really fat guy and he was strong, so one of the kids named Speedup was helping dig with him for the treasure; and the treasure was Jean Lafitte's treasure.

What did you learn from it?
That there are two girl pirates that were braver than boys! Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Was it funny? Why?
It was funny. Cuz one time, Yuke said "excuse me" when Speedup told him to get out . . .

Who are all the main characters?
Bug - He's an old fat guy looking for treasure
Yuke - Really good digger and Bug's partner
Speedup - Good digger, too, like Yuke. And he's a kid.
Luis - A kid who day dreams with Bug about treasure.
Hayley B. - A kid who has a strong intuition. She can tell when there is treasure or not! Only girl that's part of the main characters.

Tell me more about the pirates.
Jean Lafitte - If you had all of his gold, then you could build a bridge of gold across the Mississippi River!
Anne Bonny - Escaped from jail. We don't know what happened after she escaped from jail.
Mary Read - Sailor that got captured, but girls back then were not supposed to be sailors. Died from a fever in jail.

Here's the rest of the characters.
The townspeople - gathers around if a police car is on top of a geyser of the town's main water pipe!
Chief Gherkin - he doesn't like the beach.

Did you like the pictures? YES!

Would you say this is a good book for kids?
Yes. Ok, can I read you one chapter??

Haha! Oh man, I get a kick out of this kid. Doug Wilhelm, author of Treasure Town, sent me a copy of the book for review, on my request. I thought Benjamin might like it! He also sent a Classroom Guide to go along with it, if that's your thing. Treasure Town is available for pre-order and will release on April 20, 2015. I have posted affiliate links above, for your convenience.

Add these books to your reading list! The 2014 Cybils Winners

I'm always pleasantly surprised by the announcement of the Cybils winners. It comes every year on February 14th, but for some reason the Cybils announcement isn't my strongest association for that day...

Cybils Day is Valentines Day!
I dare you to try to take a good picture of yourself kissing someone.
It's somewhat difficult.

Anyway, the list of "books I must read" has just gotten longer. For your convenience I will stick some Amazon image links in here, as I list them. (If you're a Barnes & Noble shopper, we'll do those at the end.) If you frequent the library, I'm with ya there! But if you're shopping today and you shop through these links I can earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

On to the winners!

Winners I'll find...

I'm dying to read Feathers Not Just for Flying. and Okay Andy.

Also The Family Romanov because Anastasia was a beloved movie of my childhood, but prrrobably not securely rooted in fact. Also loved Candace Fleming's Aesop's Fables book.

I'm thinking I'm going to have to press The Luck Uglies into the hands of some of my favorite Brandon Mull fans and then ask for their opinion.

Winners I already love...

I can wholeheartedly recommend the Graphic Novel winners. In Real Life was amazing enough that I looked up all about it on the internet, and made Jacob read it also, and enjoy just opening it up sometimes. A beautiful book that makes ya think twice. And El Deafo. Oh, El Deafo, I thoroughly enjoyed you. El Deafo also got a Newbery Honor this year, you know.

I shall have to tell you more about this one, soon!

I also adore the Fiction Picture Book category winner: Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. It's thrilling, it's funny, it's a visual treat. My kiddos made me read it over and over and quoted it for days. I'd love to own it.

Full list of winners is here: http://www.cybils.com/2015/02/the-2014-cybils-awards.html

The books that win the Cybils are always good ones. The Cybils criteria are 1) that the book has to be published within the year of the contest and 2) has to have both kid appeal and literary merit. The Cybils strike a nice balance between the Newbery (which is all about merit) and what you find at the book fair or on the bestseller lists (often heavier on kid appeal). Lists for past years can also be found on the Cybils site, I often reference them when making recommendations in a genre I don't read especially.

Here's the Barnes & Noble link I promised!

Do you have a favorite place to find book recommendations? Please share!

The Most Distinguished American Picture Book for Children: Beekle!!!

Yippee! I love it when the ALA awards are announced! And that day was yesterday.

The Newbery.

The Caldecott.

And so many more that I didn't even realize existed until adulthood! (The Printz, for Young Adults; the Theodore Seuss Geisel, for Easy Readers; the Odyssey for Audiobooks; the Sibert for non-fiction; and all these and more!)

I am particularly thrilled with the news that The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat, has garnered the Caldecott Medal. My taste for Santat's work has been validated in the biggest way. *puts on hip sunglasses* I was a fan before he won the Caldecott.

"Beekle" as we call this book in the Stewart household, is fantastic. Just gorgeous. So lovely. When I picked my first-grader, Benjamin, up from school I told him the news. He was as thrilled as I.

"What was your favorite picture from it?" I asked him.

"Hmmm." He took a minute. "The one where [Beekle] is sailing past the dragon."

"That one is so awesome!" As well as being a visual feast, it marks a major turning point in the book -- Beekle, an imaginary friend who hasn't been imagined yet, decides to stop waiting for someone else to think of him. He does "the unimaginable" and becomes the captain of his fate.

"My favorite," I said, "was the one with the tree. The huge tree full of stars." You guys. This tree. It's an autumn tree, with thinning red leaves. Except the leaves are all shaped like stars. I don't know if this was originally laziness (it certainly comes easier to me to draw a star than a maple leaf) but it is just breathtaking. I'm not the only one who likes it -- one of the characters in the book thinks it's worth drawing.

And the difference between these two illustrations (my favorite and Benjamin's favorite) is a testament to Santat's skill. One left me impressed with it's complexity (both in the composition and in the execution) and other impressed me with its simplicity.

My  version of the Beekle tree.
This is JUST like the tree in the book. I'm probably going to get in trouble for making fan art that is so close to the original.
I can smell next year's Caldecott, now. 
Anyway, we've put The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend on hold at the library (again) so that we can stare at it some more. We own a couple other great books of Dan Santat's (Sidekicks, Carnivores) but haven't got Beekle yet.

Let's muse for a moment. Do you think it's harder to illustrate a book you wrote, or a book someone else wrote? Like many illustrators, Dan Santat has done both. He wrote and illustrated Beekle.

I imagine it all depends. I mean, if you are illustrating someone else's book, you have something to go off of. It's like, "Ok, I've read this and it's given me some ideas so here we go." But then . . . it's maybe more pressure? Like, what if the author totally hates what you've done with it? (I know, many authors have zero say in the illustration of their books. But still. I'd feel worried that I'd somehow wreck all the author's hard work or something.) OR what if one bit just really bugs you and you want to change the wording a bit? But you can't. You're not the author. You're not the editor. You're just the illustrator.

Of course, if you are doing both the writing and the illustrating, these problems disappear. Don't like something? Just change it! But then, there's the whole other problem of, hmm, You-Have-to-Come-Up-with-ALL-of-it. If the text stinks? Your fault. If the pictures are sub-par? It's on you. Yikes!

I don't know which way I would have it. How about you?
* I would like to state for the record that it would be SO BOSS to be on the Newbery or Caldecott selection committee (Sorry other ALA award committees, being on you would just be BOSS, not SO BOSS. Everybody knows the Newbery and the Caldecott.)

** Excellent interview with Dan Santat at Publisher's Weekly. Knowing what Beekle's story meant to him adds a new layer of meaning to the story for me, as a parent.

***This post contains affiliate links. If it floats your boat to click on them and then make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Which would float my boat.
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