Friday, October 18, 2019

Carter Reads the Newspaper

Carter Reads the Newspaper 
by Deborah Hopkinson; illus by Don Tate
36 pages; ages 6-10
Peachtree Publishing, 2019

theme: biography, black history,

Each February we celebrate Black History Month. It’s a time to honor heroes like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But there’s one hero we sometimes forget.

That hero is Carter G. Woodson. He didn’t help people escape from slavery. He didn’t protest in the streets or lead bus strikes. Instead, he changed the way people think about history. When told that Black people had no history, Carter was appalled. Of course they did! His parents, born into slavery, had shared their family stories. He listened to stories of Civil War veterans who had fought for their freedom. He read the newspapers and discovered more stories of black men and women – people who were left out of the history books.

So in 1926, Carter began his own fight: to include Black Americans in the history books. He established Negro History Week – which later became Black History Month.

What I like about this book: I always love true stories about empowerment and perseverance. I am drawn to heroes who fight for truth, freedom, and justice. And because I’m a journalist, I’m a bit partial to stories that show the power of information.

I like Don Tate’s illustrations, beginning with the end papers. Open the front and you see sketched portraits of historical Black people: Nat Turner, Phillis Wheatley, Elijah McCoy. Back end pages feature more recent Black Americans: Mae Jemison, Katherine Johnson, Colin Kaepernick.

I like the back matter: resources for learning more, notes from the author and the illustrator, a list of Black leaders pictured throughout the book (with a snippet of bio facts), and a timeline of Carter Woodson’s life and accomplishments.

If you are looking ahead for books to feature this coming February, put this one on your list.

Beyond the Books:

Newspapers provide the first draft of history. So challenge yourself to read the print edition of a local newspaper each week. I read mine at the library.

Ask your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents to share stories of when they were kids. Write your own newsy article about them.

Visit a local history museum, or find a local history book in the library. What was your town like 50 or 100 years ago?

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Jumbie God's Revenge

The Jumbie God's Revenge 
by Tracey Baptiste 
pages 272; ages 8-12
Algonquin Young Readers, 2019

Corinne La Mer leapt from one tall coconut tree to another. Nothing but air surrounded her and there was only the sand and a few sharp rocks below.

By the end of the first paragraph, author Tracey Baptiste has grounded us so firmly into the setting that one can almost smell the salty breeze and feel the warmth of the Caribbean sun. Even if you haven’t read the first two books of the Jumbies series, you will feel at home in this story.

Corinne’s island is hit by a June storm – an early hurricane – and she knows in her bones that this is no ordinary storm. It must be the work of the Jumbies. If you don’t know what a jumbie is, just ask Tracey. They are tricksters from Caribbean folktales, she says, “a group of malevolent creatures who [are] hell bent on harming or at least tricking any human who dared to cross their path.”

So Corrinne sets off to find Mama D’Leau, the half-woman, half-snake who protects and rules the ocean. But Mama D’Leau is just as worried about the storm. Even worse, Mama D’Leau is frightened. What, Corinne wonders, would scare a jumbie?

When a second, more ferocious storm wrecks the island, and villagers flee to the mountain for safety, Corinne discovers that the storms are caused by the angry god, Huracan. Confronting this god is too large a task for a single girl. In addition to her friends, Corinne needs the help the jumbies – but can she trust them?

What I like about this book: I like the story of courage, the theme of community, the action-packed adventure. And the luscious language. Take a listen:

Everything about the white witch looked like it was near expiration: the sun-bleached pattern on her dress, the threadbare wrap that tied her head, the few drooping twists of short white hair that refused to be contained in her headwrap.

If I gave stars, I’d toss a basketful into the sky for this book. It’s a great read-aloud for the week before Halloween, or a cold, gray, rainy week – make a pot of hot cocoa, put on a CD of ocean waves lapping on the beach, turn on your best warm yellow lights, and enjoy a magical adventure.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Dark Lord Clementine

The Dark Lord Clementine 
by Sarah Jean Horwitz
336 pages; ages 9 - 13
Algonquin Young Readers, 2019

Last month I was checking out the pile of books in my To Be Reviewed basket… and was just about to put this in the “later” stack when I flipped it open to read the first sentence. Good thing I did, because… well, I’ll let the book speak for itself.

Clementine Morcerous awoke one morning to discover that her father had no nose.

And really! How could I put it down after that!

I love the premise: Clementine’s father, the Dark Lord, is wasting away. And if he disappears completely, she is the only one to carry on his name – and his life’s work. But Clementine isn’t nearly as dark as her dad. We can see this when she’s in the garden and there, away from the spiky, carnivorous, bloodsucking plants, she’s raising flowers. Dark Lords do NOT raise flowers!

What I like about this book:

  • There is mystery. What is happening to her father? Who is responsible for chipping bits off him?
  • There is fear. How will Clementine get on with managing the estate should her father’s magic disappear?
  • There is a longing. While on a trip to town to buy bread and candles and other necessities, Clementine hides in the trees behind the schoolyard to watch the kids play. Wouldn’t it be fun to have friends?
  • There is a challenge. Someone wants to usurp the Dark Lord’s power. Or are they really after something else?
  • There are unexpected allies. Like Sebastian, who wants to be a knight and had seen Clementine hiding in the forest. And while there is no sword in the stone, there are plenty of swords stuck in the ground, courtesy of the Lady of the Lake, who has really bad aim.
  • There are adventures.
  • And there is an inside glimpse of the sorts of intellectual property disputes that rage between Evil Overlords.
  • Mostly, there is a lot of fun!

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy 
by Mackenzi Lee 
464 pages, YA
Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins), 2018

When I heard someone mention the title of this book, I hoped it might be nonfiction. You know, a tell-all about famous women pirates.

But I was delightfully surprised to find it an adventure tale spun in the eighteenth century starring a young woman who desperately wants to become a doctor. That is SO not socially acceptable for her family’s station, besides which no hospital (or physician) will accept her as a student.

Plus there’s her name, Felicity Montague: a star-crossed name if ever there was. And this intriguing first line: “I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off.” We learn that Felicity works in the bakery that Callum owns. And he’s a bit distracted as they wash the dishes, which is how he ends up slicing the tip of his finger off. Felicity, who has been reading medical treatises for so long, is now faced with an actual medical emergency.

And not to put too much of a damper on her relationship with the baker, she reveals that “with a chunk of his finger missing, Callum is the most interesting he has ever been to me.” Then we dive into Felicity’s mind. She is thinking about the 27 bones four tendon, three nerves, two arteries, and other aspects of hand anatomy. Callum, on the other hand, would like Felicity as his wife. She could do worse than marry a baker, he posits…

We know she’s going to leave before she knows it. She’s got a brother in London. Surely he’ll take her in. Before long, Felicity is up to her eyeballs in intrigue. My favorite part is where she runs off to join a pirate expedition to protect sea monsters – a far cry from applying to medical studies. But science is science.

The writing is fun to read! For example: “…traveling with Johanna and Sim will be like trying to wrangle kittens into the bath…” This is the kind of writing that leaves the sting of sea salt on your face and your hair tangled in knots by the wind.

And then – there’s Back Matter. As many of you know, I love back matter, and Mackenzi Lee does not disappoint (though I will point out the distinct lack of end notes). She talks about women characters in historical fiction and then addresses the aspirations of her three women characters. And she shares stories of real-life women in history who inspired each of them. And so we learn about women in medicine, scientist, and piracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Review copy discovered @ my library.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Astro-Nuts to the Rescue!

Astro-Nuts Mission One: The Plant Planet 
by Jon Scieszka  ; illus by Steven Weinberg
220 pages; ages 8-12
Chronicle Books, 2019

If you’re looking for a funny, smart book that combines climate change with a zany space adventure, then look no further. AstroNuts begins with a count-down to an emergency blast-off. Emergency, because “humans finally crossed a BIG RED LINE – putting more than 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO-2 (carbon dioxide) into my beautiful atmosphere.”

Yep, the story is told by planet Earth, and boy does Earth have a story to tell. It’s about four super-powered animal astronauts who launch into space to search for a Goldilocks planet. You know… not too hot, not too cold, juuuust right! ”Like I used to be,” says Earth. “Before you got here.”

Need a quick lesson on climate change and why 400 ppm is so important? Read this and this.

So, our mutant heroes arrive at a planet full of plants. No dangerous animals, but… viney vines wind around the rocket. Alas, our trusty Astronuts are captured by intelligent vegetation and imprisoned in a plant cell (complete with a map blueprint diagram).

Will they escape? Will they go on another mission? Will they find a Goldilocks planet before we humans set off a huge extinction brought on by our inability to moderate our addiction to fossil fuels?

And now, a word from our sponsor - Earth.

What I like about this book: I love the point-of view. I love the occasional astronaut reports, the glitch computer, and “Official NNASA transcripts”. The illustrations are fun, the presentation combines elements of comics, and there’s a bit of atmospheric chemistry tossed in. Plus I love the way the Astronuts harness the golgi apparatus and a bunch of mitochondria to escape the plant cell. There are plenty of space references some readers will appreciate and new words, such as “snotrocketing” (verb). And no, it’s not in the glossary.

There’s also a couple pages at the back of the book that describe how the collage illustrations were created. And a challenge for readers to create their own collage artwork, along with a link to an Astronut website where you can download some helpful printouts.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Hide and Seek ~ Splish and Splash!

If you’re looking for some fun books featuring animals, these might fit the bill.
themes: animals, colors, adaptations

If You Played Hide-And-Seek with a Chameleon 
by Bill Wise; illus. by Rebecca Evans
32 pages; ages 8 - 12
Dawn Publications, 2019

If you played games with animals, would you win or lose?

Come to the Animal Fair and play games with twelve different animals – from basketball to twister. There’s the pie-eating contest with a hippo. Of course you’d lose that because a hippo has the biggest mouth of all the land animals. And of course, if you play hide-and-seek with a chameleon, you’d lose! Because … chameleons!

What I like about this book: Each game is matched with an animal whose natural traits would give it a great advantage. Shoot hoops with a giraffe? Race against a cheetah? A paragraph of animal facts accompanies each game, explaining why you have no chance against your animal competitor. Except the snail; you might have a chance against a snail.

I like the bright and fun illustrations that invite you to imagine yourself as part of the games. And I really like the back matter – four pages of fun facts, a challenge to look closer, and great STEM activities.

Splish, Splash, Foxes Dash! Canadian Wildlife in Colour 
by Geraldo Valério
24 pages; ages 2 - 5
Owlkids, 2018

Red, yellow, blue, here they come… Canadian animals in colour!

Brown features a duck, dabbling under the water. Green caterpillars munch green leaves. Pink prawns pirouette.

What I like about this book: The language is fun: dabble, pirouette, perch and peck. The colors are bright, and the illustrations are created using paper collage. Text on the page is simple and direct. But don’t fear; there is Back Matter! That’s where you’ll find out more facts about the animals featured in the book.

Beyond the Books:

 Go on an animal color-safari. If you can get to a zoo, great! If not, walk through a pet store. Look at the colors and patterns of the animals.

Make collage art to show one of your favorite animals doing something it would normally do. Use up old magazines, newspapers, and gift wrap to create your art. You can check out some of Geraldo Valério’s art at his website – just click on a book.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Friday, September 6, 2019

My Name is Wakawakaloch!

My Name Is Wakawakaloch! 
by Chana Stiefel; illus. by Mary Sullivan
32 pages; ages 4 - 7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019

theme: names, friends, problem-solving

Wakawakaloch was in a volcanic mood. Everyone was bungling her name.

Schools in our neck of the woods are just getting started this week, and teachers are faced with learning new names.  So I thought this might be a fun book for the new year!

In this book, the kids at school mangle Wakawakaloch's name. They call her Walawala or Wammabammaslamma. But those aren’t her names, and Wakawakaloch gets so mad that she wants to change her name to something easy to pronounce. Besides, she can’t ever find a T-shirt with her name printed on it. Gloop would be a good name, right?

What I like about this book: I love the language: the image of Wakawakaloch being volcanic. I like the mis-names that kids give her. And I like when Wakawakaloch sees images of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother’s acts of bravery, and understands how powerful her family's name is. Not only that - she comes up with a way she can help other kids with unusual names. It involves T-shirts.

I also like the end papers with illustrations of children and how to pronounce their names. No Wakawakaloch, but there is a Chana (like the author) and, according to the handy-dandy guide, the way to pronounce her name is Kh-ah-nah. Make sure you begin with a throat-clearing “ch” ant the beginning!

Beyond the Books:

Check out this brief interview with Chana, and watch the book trailer.

Names are important. Where does your name come from? You might discover an exciting family tale when you ask about your name.

Write down the way you say your name. And when you meet new friends, ask how to say their names. You don’t want to bungle it up!

Today (or as soon as it starts up again) we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copy provided by my friends at Blue Slip Media.