Jul 19, 2014

Summer Fun- with Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan is an illustrator/storyteller whose talent is widely acclaimed, but whose books are far from predictable or typical in the picture book market. In some ways his books have the same effect on the reading/teaching/publishing world that Maurice Sendak's had - undeniably original, powerful, colorful, and compelling, but also disconcerting, even confusing, dense with image and emotion. 
Author A. Levine Books, April, 2013

Tan's 2013 release, RULES OF SUMMER, fits the above description perfectly. The endpapers suggest that it's a story of two brothers exploring summer in a gritty urban setting. The first title page develops that premise with the vibrant, upbeat pair parading across a vast expanse of yellow intensity. The next page turn reveals the truth- it's a summer of big brother "rules" and little brother struggles- to understand, to withstand, to prove himself, to belong. In short- to keep up. The seemingly mundane left-page "rules" contrast dramatically (and wildly) with the right-page interpretations of the younger boy. 

This is a book that will be loved by various readers for entirely different reasons, will be re-examined repeatedly, and could be reviewed differently by each reader each time it's examined. Here are just a few examples:

Kirkus gave it a starred review that included this:
"Evocative, enthralling and with absolutely astounding artwork so good readers will wish that, like summer, it would last forever. (Picture book. 4 & up)"

School Library Journal review included this:
"I looked at the bookflap and there, lo and behold, the book started to make more sense. According to the flap the rules are those seemingly arbitrary ones that younger siblings have to face when older siblings come up with them. Slowly a book that before had seemed to have only the slightest semblance of a plot began to make a lot more sense. Had I not read the flap, maybe I would have come up with an entirely different interpretation of the pages. Not sure. Whatever the case, I like where the flap took me, even as I suspect that some kids will have entirely different takes."

Since you are making a place for picture books in your busy summer, (and I know you are), get your hands and heads wrapped around this book. Share it with someone, and then hurry back to your library to check out award-winning, best-selling Shaun Tan's other titles. Each one could fill a summer on its own. 

Rules of Summer released in paperback in April, 2014, so it's even easier to have your own copy to peruse over and over again.

Jul 8, 2014

More Multiple-Target Picture Books

I'll keep this short, but these are just a few titles that deserve a deeper look. I'll share my Goodreads notes on them and links so you can follow-up for yourselves.

Each of these titles is distinguished by its potential use with readers of various ages, depending on the intended purpose. The writing and illustration style of each is dramatically different from the others, as are their topics and stories. 

First up:  GASTON, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson. 
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
Goodreads synopsis:
"This is the story of four puppies: Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston. Gaston works the hardest at his lessons on how to be a proper pooch. He sips—never slobbers! He yips—never yaps! And he walks with grace—never races! Gaston fits right in with his poodle sisters.
But a chance encounter with a bulldog family in the park—Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette—reveals there’s been a mix-up, and so Gaston and Antoinette switch places. The new families look right…but they don’t feel right. Can these puppies follow their noses—and their hearts—to find where they belong?"
My review- with four stars:
"I added this recent title to categories for diversity and body image, because it not only works as a delightfully funny and heartwarming story for young readers/readaloud, it could also open discussions with older kids about family expectations, identity, and judging others based on physical traits/externals."

McSweeney's Mcullens, 2011

Next in line: SYMPHONY CITY, written and illustrated by Amy Martin.
Goodreads synopsis says:
"In Symphony City, a young girl, lost in a big city, makes her way home by following the rich and vibrant music of the streets. Bursting with bright colors and narrated in lively, staccato phrases, Amy Martin's debut children's book is at once a sweeping page-turner and a book that makes you want to stop and pore over every page.
Symphony City is an exciting adventure story for children and parents who love music, art, and big imagination. As a special bonus, the dust-jacket unfolds into a giant two-sided poster, suitable for extended gazing.
My review, with four stars:
I'm a fan of the illustration and the idea of this book rather than the text. It is a highly appealing concept, and the images offer ample opportunity for discussion and could even serve as prompts for personal writing. It offers an homage to the ubiquitous value of music in our lives, but I feel it might have been more effective if developed as a wordless book.

Roaring Book Press, 2014
A Neal Porter Book
Now for a non-fiction title, GRAVITY, written and illustrated by Jason Chin.

Goodreads synopsis has this to say:
"What keeps objects from floating out of your hand?
What if your feet drifted away from the ground?
What stops everything from floating into space?
As in his previous books, Redwoods, Coral Reefs, and Island, Jason Chin has taken a complex subject and made it brilliantly accessible to young readers in this unusual, innovative, and very beautiful book."

My review, with four stars:

"The spare text and vibrant, dynamic illustrations make this book a valuable resource to launch investigations about gravity and space. back matter leads readers through the basics and leads to further research and investigations. This is a gorgeous book in its own right, but also a valuable teaching tool."

Finally, Here's RED KITE, BLUE KITE, written by Ji-li Jiang, illustrated by Greg Ruth.

Goodreads synopsis says:
When Tai Shan and his father, Baba, fly kites from their roof and look down at the crowded city streets below, they feel free, like the kites. Baba loves telling Tai Shan stories while the kites--one red, and one blue--rise, dip, and soar together. Then, a bad time comes. People wearing red armbands shut down the schools, smash store signs, and search houses. Baba is sent away, and Tai Shan goes to live with Granny Wang. Though father and son are far apart, they have a secret way of staying close. Every day they greet each other by flying their kites-one red, and one blue-until Baba can be free again, like the kites. 

Inspired by the dark time of the Cultural Revolution in China, this is a soaring tale of hope that will resonate with anyone who has ever had to love from a distance."

review, with five stars:
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

"The intensity and heart of this story are matched by the illustrations and language, which portray a harsh reality but also evoke a gentle and loving relationship. The shadowy/foggy background images reveal the terrain, both political and physical, while not distracting from the central story. This works well with very young readers as a family story of hope and happiness and also with older readers as a personal story from what is otherwise a remote and disconnected time and place in history."

I hope you'll take time to check these out, and share them with readers at every age.

Jun 28, 2014

ALA Acceptance Speeches: HORN BOOK

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? 
Except when what happens there is the annual American Library Association Conference for 2014. It's happening RIGHT NOW, June 26-July 4, 2014,  as I sit at home typing this.

Life has its compensations, though. Because I subscribe to The Horn Book Magazine, I can actually read some of the award winners' acceptance speeches before they are given, thanks to the early arrival of my July/August issue. Of course, I'd rather have a seat at the ticketed presentation events, but I'll get there one of these days. For now, though, I can't even  provide a link so you can read them. Until the big event occurs, that content will be blocked. 

For now, I'll post links to the titles and winners for a few major awards. I encourage you to check them out. After the big day, when links to text (and, I hope, videos) become available, I'll update this post and add them. 

I just had to say for now that the magazine, the conference, the books themselves are celebrations of the best of the best in literature for young readers. I say that deserves to be announced this very minute!

Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2013
I'll start with Caldecott Medal winner, Brian Floca, for the illustration of LOCOMOTIVE.
I urge you to check out this astonishing book, and its creator. Reading his acceptance speech was as informative as it was engaging and provided insight to the time, talent, and collaboration that resulted in this remarkable book. That few nonfiction picture books have ever won the Caldecott Award could have been seen as an impediment, but it outshines any preset expectations. 

LINK will be here: 

Candlewick, 2013
Newbery Medal Winner, Kate DiCamillo, for the distinguished text of FLORA AND ULYSSES. This was quite the year for her, since she has also been the 2014 National Ambassador for Young people's Literature. DiCamillo's acceptance speech is rich with her personal history as  reader from a family of readers. Hers is as much an acceptance and thank you speech as it is an homage to the immeasurable value of books in her life and in the lives of us all. 

It will be worth returning to read it when the link is added here:

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
The Coretta Scott King Medal for Illustration was awarded to Bryan Collier for KNOCK KNOCK. I adored this book from the first time I read it and each time after that. Reading Collier's acceptance speech revealed nuance and layers that eluded me despite careful exploration. I beg you to read and carefully examine this book for yourself (as well as his other titles), then check back to read his speech for yourself after it is linked, here:

The Horn Book Magazine - Bryan Collier Aceptance

Amistad Press, 2013 
The Coretta Scott King Medal for text  was awarded to Rita Williams-Garcia for P. S. BE ELEVEN. This remarkable book depicts urban life in the 1960's. My favorite quote from her speech is, "Life back then screamed for change like an angry baby in a funky diaper. Change. Me. Now!" 
Her voice and language in this book is just as compelling at being able to plant the reader firmly in the time, place, emotions and circumstances of her story regardless of the reader's age or actual circumstances. 
Read the book, please, and also check out Williams-Garcia's speech when it is linked here: 

As I type, review, and post this, the ALA conference continues. These notables and many others will be signing books, giving interviews, and generally basking in well-earned acclaim. Allow yourself a peek at why they are so deserving by reading their books and exploring their websites and other titles.
Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.