Recent Picture Books: Good, Better, Best

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat - This book just won the Caldecott Medal last week. I noticed it on our library shelf today and snagged it. I liked it alright, it's a picture book biography of an artist from the 80's, a contemporary of Andy Warhol. I wasn't familiar with Jean-Michel Basquiat or his work, and the book was fine, but it didn't move me particularly. *shrug* The book is definitely well done and made me want to look up the artist and his original work. Author Javaka Steptoe credits Jean-Michel Basquiat with opening an era of inclusion and diversity in fine art, which is noteworthy, but this isn't mentioned in so many words until the end notes. If I was going to buy a picture book bio of a lesser-known artist tonight, I'd pick A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin over this one. But of course Basquiat and Pippin aren't interchangeable. Glad this book was made. I tried a couple of times to read it to my kiddos, but they were uninterested. I wonder how much of that was the book, and how much of that would be different if I was already super enthusiastic about Basquiat.

Nanette's Baguette - The latest from Mo Willems This one is fun (are you surprised? So many of Willems books are!) And focuses on the "ette" rhyme. It was made richer for me because I have heard about the tradition of the French to begin permitting their children to walk to the corner bakery for the daily baguette. I love this little video about visiting a French Bakery. Never been to France, myself. The cut paper diorama illustrations were very fun and dimensional, and the story line was nice with a fun twist. It was especially fun to read with my six-year-old, Levi because he loves baguettes and when we eat at any given bakery that is usually what he chooses. He could relate to crunching into a tasty baguette.

Ada Twist, Scientist - I grabbed this one off the "new" shelf at the library and brought it home, because it was obviously related to Rosie Revere, Engineer. I read Rosie on Lindsay's recommendation and liked it. I have to say I liked Ada Twist, Scientist even better! Maybe it's because I'm married to a chemist and not an engineer? Anyway, I thought it was very fun and beautifully illustrated. I found myself thinking, "This is definitely a book for nerdy parents." :) The rhyme scheme was wonderful, nothing stilted or forced about it. I loved Ada's big brother, who wasn't ever mentioned in the text that I remember, but who adds so much to the story.  When I finished it, three-year-old Jubilee asked me to read it again right away and I was happy to oblige. Her favorite page was of Ada's explosion in the classroom (mentos and soda, it looks like). I definitely recommend this one.

2017 Newbery Winner review: The Girl Who Drank The Moon

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I hadn't heard much about this book until it won the Newbery award. (This just goes to show that I'm reading fewer middle grade novels and reading about fewer middle grade novels than I once was). I put it on hold as soon as I read the announcement of the award, and happily I found a copy on the library shelf before my hold even came in.

The basic premise of the story is this: Every year the citizens of our sad village leave a baby in the forest as a sacrifice to the witch. Every year the confused witch who lives in the forest helps the baby find a happy home in another village, and on the journey she feeds the baby starlight. But this year the witch forgets herself and doesn't check the sky properly, and ends up gathering moonlight for the baby as well. So our little Luna drinks the moonlight and becomes enmagicked.

The bog in the book is very nearly a character of its own. We live near one of Connecticut's few bogs,
and I had to snap this photo of it, frozen, in honor of the book.
I found myself wondering what was going to happen once Luna's magic manifested. I found myself wondering how Antain (from the village) was going to prove himself a hero. I found myself falling in love with several of the characters and surprised with how fleshed out the story and the characters became. There was a time (around page 80) when I was frustrated with the book and nearly quit it. I felt like I could predict what was going to happen, and I was disappointed in the witch Xan, who was pretty much our main character to that point. I'm really glad I kept going though. I feel like the book really busted out and became wonderful shortly after that. We started getting more perspectives and deepening other characters and that is what I loved about this one.

I heartily recommend The Girl Who Drank the Moon. And I heard it was good on audio, too, which I'm inclined to believe. I think it would make a very nice read-aloud.

Benjamin's latest read

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

Amazon has been recommending the book to me, and I did so love The Mysterious Benedict Society books by the same author. So when I saw this one at the library I grabbed it. I started it, but Benjamin snagged it and finished it first.

Last night I asked him, "How many stars would you give this book, out of five stars?"

"Hmm. Minimum: 4.5. Maximum: 6," he said.

So there you go. A strong recommendation from the young reader, and I'm enjoying so far. Here's a new book to get on your radar.

Edited to add: I should also tell you that when I went to tuck Benjamin in for the night, he brought up The Secret Keepers.

"Do you know how, in the book, they draw their dream houses at night?"

"No," I said, "I'm not as far as you are."

"This won't spoil anything," he reassured me. I gave him the eyebrow. "At night they sometimes draw a picture of their dream house, like, what they would have if money was unlimited. Do you think we could do that?"

We had a a good time drawing ourselves an indoor pool and a basement game room and a slide from the top floor down to the bottom. And I was pleased that the book got Benjamin drawing -- he isn't big on drawing and writing.

Congratulations are in order!

Cybils winners have been announced! Yippee! The full list is here.Congratulations! Congrats to the authors and illustrators and publishers for making such good books and earning honors. Congrats to the Cybils panels for choosing good ones for us.

For Young Adult Graphic Novels, the winner is March, Book Three!

You know I thought very highly of March Book Three. In fact, right now I'm running a giveaway of the whole trilogy. My review of the book and the details about the giveaway are here. It closes tonight, but you've got a couple of hours...

For Elementary and Middle Grade Graphic Novels, the winner is Lowriders to the Center of the Earth!

I have to say I'm slightly embarrassed that I have not actually read this book. What?!? How is that possible? Weren't you on the round one judging panel? Yes I was, and when you're on round one you read as many of the nominees as you can, but all your fellow judges are doing the same and you're trying to make sure each book gets read by at least two panelists. This one wasn't available from my library, the publisher didn't send me a copy and I didn't know it was such a contender until our final discussion of books that are going on the shortlist. So, that's how it happened. And now it has won! I've got to catch up. At least I've got a few pages into book one (the winner here is book two in the series.) I've got to see what I stamped with my personal seal of approval! I'd better get reading!

Happy Valentines day to you!

Review and Giveaway: March trilogy by John Lewis

January 23 was the big day for ALA award announcements this year. The Newbery is usually the most talked-about book, but this year the big surprise was that March: Book Three set a new record by winning FOUR of the awards.
Affiliate link to the March Trilogy set.
Amazon is having a nice sale on this, at the moment.
The March series is composed of three graphic novels that talk about John Lewis's experience in the Civil Rights movement. Each book is longer than the next and each goes into more detail. All three books do a good job of advocating for peace and teaching about non-violent protest and civil rights.

So, which four awards did it win? To quote the publisher's press release:

MarchBook Three, the concluding volume by Congressman John LewisAndrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, was announced as the winner of:
  • the Coretta Scott King Book Award (for outstanding African-American books for youth),
  • the Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in young adult literature),
  • the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award (for most distinguished informational book for children),
  • and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.
These honors for MarchBook Three follow closely on the heels of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature – Young Adult Category, making it the first book to win both the Printz and the National Book Award.

And of course it was shortlisted for the Cybils award, winners will be announced Feb 14th. I've written here on Everead about Book One and a little about Book Two, so I'll share some of my thoughts about Book Three now. I really think of this book in comparison to Rolling Blackouts, because I read them back to back.

When I was reading for the Cybils, I read a book called Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq. It's a great book about journalists going to visit these countries, and especially about a veteran of the Iraqi war going along with them. I kept thinking that it was really great for taking new perspectives and thinking about how one person's actions affect others. I still think it's a fascinating book.

But then I read March: Book Three, and it was all that and more. I thought about taking new perspectives and the interconnectedness of our actions as well, and the pacing was better, the language was cleaner, and well, the art of both of them is top notch, and hard to compare because the styles are so different.

Maybe the pacing of March: Book Three was better because Rolling Blackouts was made using hours and hours of video and audio tape, and only lightly edited, and March: Book Three was made with the benefit of the natural editing that our memories do for us. Either way, it was no contest for me which of the two would be more appealing to teens. (Literary merit and kid appeal are the criteria for the Cybils award). I think Rolling Blackouts will also find an audience, but the person I most wanted to recommend it to is an adult.

Anyway, March: Book Three is one of the best graphic novels of the year, without a doubt. And the whole March trilogy is top-notch. Rep. John Lewis was quoted by his publisher: "March is a guidebook reminding us that we all must speak up and stand up for what is right, what is fair, and what is just." And I have to agree with that quote.

One of the most poignant parts of the book, for me, was when Lewis discussed his growing need to part ways with the SNCC, the civil rights organization that he had helped to lead for years. It was always known as the most fired up one of the bunch, but it eventually got too hot for John Lewis to handle. I found that fascinating, and his talking about it brought a new dimension to the civil rights story, for me.

Top Shelf (the book's publisher) sent us Cybils panelists the whole trilogy when Book Three was nominated, and I already owned books one and two. So I thought I'd better buy myself book three and share series with someone else.

If you'd like to win The March Trilogy, sign up for the Everead email newsletter. Why do I ask you to enter this way? So that I will have your email address on hand, in case you win. Too many times I've picked a contest winner only to be unable to contact them and give them their prize. It's sad. Besides, I mostly use my newsletter for announcing giveaways, so it'll be a nice fit for you. Those who are already subscribed to the newsletter need only reply to me to be entered in the contest. New subscribers between now and the drawing on Feb 14th, 2017 will automatically be entered.

As always, if you have any trouble signing up or any questions you can leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email at alysa@evereadbooks.com. 

p.s. Jacob tells me that Rep. John Lewis has been in the news lately. Heard anything about it? I confess the only bits of news I heard about him related to his winning all of these ALA awards.  
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