Waking Brain Cells
The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry
The author of I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean and other picture books has released his first book for early readers. It is the story of Blizz Richards, a yeti who lives an isolated life in Nepal. He has a great cave for a house that he’s filled with all sorts of cool gadgets and lots of things to play on. He is a cryptid, and as one he has taken an oath to never be seen by the outside world. So Blizz almost never sees his family. But all that is about to change with the announcement of an upcoming Big Feet Family Reunion. Blizz shares the story of Brian, one of his relatives in Canada who got spotted and had his picture taken and put up on the Internet. It was all because of George Vanquist, a man who continues to seek out cryptids and expose them. Now Blizz has to risk it all to see his family, rescue Brian from his shame of being exposed and avoid George Vanquist along the way.
Sherry has such a great touch for humor. Throughout the book there are moments of hilarity that children will adore. He also manages to create unique characters even in this very simple format. Blizz manages to be a cool character, someone who lives a rich life despite being mostly alone. He does have several clever smaller creatures who live with him and who help out regularly throughout the story. The book moves along at rocket speed, helped by the large number of illustrations which will make it a welcoming read for new readers.
The illustrations have the same clarity as Sherry’s picture books. With simple lines, he creates entire worlds here with characters who express emotions clearly. One of the best parts of this book are the little diagrams throughout, first of what a yeti really is, then showing Blizz’s house, and next explaining cryptids, They are clever, funny and avoid creating large paragraphs of explanation.
Filled with humor and the same distinctive illustration style as his picture books, this early reader will appeal to any child looking for some giggles. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Chapter Books, Easy Readers Tagged: families, humor, myths, yetis
The 2014 list of Publisher’s Weekly starred reviews of children’s books has been released and is available for free on their website. This second edition of their annual guide has over 350 starred titles as well as interviews with some great authors including Rick Yancey, Jandy Nelson, Ashley Bryan and Laurie Halse Anderson. Enjoy!
Filed under: Book Reviews, Recommended Links
What Forest Knows by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by August Hall
This poetic exploration of the seasons invites young readers into the forest to see what happens to the animals and plants as the seasons change. It begins with snow, which is something the forest knows well. It also knows about waiting, so it waits as the animals in the forest sleep and rest during the cold. Then buds come and creeks run and birds fly and it’s spring. All of the animals and insects awaken and come out into the growing grass. Fruit arrives with fall, nuts ready for squirrels to harvest. Animals eat to survive the next winter. Finally, there is snow again in the forest and an invitation to make the forest yours too.
Lyon’s poem is glorious. She winds through the forest along with the breezes, touching down and pointing out exactly the right things. It’s a poem that is organic and natural, celebrating everything in the woods, the ongoing changes, and allowing us to see ourselves reflected in the woods as well. This book is an invitation to explore during all seasons, to look for birds and bugs and mammals as we walk.
Hall’s illustrations add to that immense appeal of nature and the forest. His paintings play with the light as it changes through the seasons as well as the colors of the trees and the grass as the time passes. They are dappled and lush, filled with the movement of the wind and the movement of the leaves.
A great addition to the crowded shelves about seasons, this picture book combines poetry with gorgeous illustrations. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books, poetry Tagged: forests, nature, seasons
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato
Eliot loved living in the big city, but sometimes it was hard being such a small elephant in such a huge place. He had to watch out so he didn’t get stepped on, doorknobs could be too high, and he could never catch a cab. Even at home, Eliot had to find a way to make everyday things work. Eliot also loved cupcakes, though when he tried to buy one in a shop he couldn’t get noticed by the person at the counter. He felt very small and invisible then, but on the way home he discovered a mouse trying to reach some food and found that even though he may be small he can make a big difference. Even better, he can make friends!
Curato uses only a few words to tell his story, making the most of the illustrations to show the ways that Eliot solves his height issues at home as well as how the new friends solve the cupcake buying problem. Children will enjoy reading about this little polka-dotted elephant who faces the same issues that they do in life. They will easily relate to the sadness of being ignored too.
The illustrations in this book are filled with charm. Eliot himself is a wonderfully unusual little fellow, shining on the page. The images of the city are mostly done in a dark and subtle color palette. The entire book has a fifties vibe to it and some of the images are pulled right out of an Edward Hopper painting. It’s a courageous choice that works particularly well.
A charmer of a protagonist and an urban landscape make this one delicious cupcake of a picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: cities, cupcakes, elephants, friendship
Last week School Library Journal released their list of the Best Books of 2014. Their list has four categories: Picture Books, Middle School, Young Adults and Nonfiction. Plenty to love in their lists!
This week, Kirkus has released their list of the Best Children’s Books of 2014. Their Teen list will be released next week.
The interesting thing is to note how many of the books are not on both lists, which gives us plenty of 2014 books to celebrate!
Filed under: Awards
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Grayson lives with his aunt, uncle and cousins after his parents died when he was much younger. Middle school is hard. Grayson doesn’t have friends, eating his lunch in the library rather than the cafeteria. He rarely does anything more than go to school and return home again. After school, Grayson has time on his own before the others get home and he spends his time in front of the mirror dreaming of wearing a dress and being a princess. It’s a fantasy he quickly puts away when the others come home, returning once again to being a boy in a long t-shirt and jeans. Then one day, Grayson decides to go out for the school play. And when he auditions, he tries out for the role of Persephone. What will happen if he gets cast as the female lead and is no longer invisible?
Polonsky has created a critical book for middle-graders about the experience of being transgender in middle school. She hits just the right tone of lightness and seriousness, allowing the story of Grayson to unfold naturally and beautifully on the page. The reader learns along with Grayson what he is really feeling inside, how he wishes to express it, and also how incredibly brave he is. He’s an incredible character, one that is relatable and inspiring.
Polonsky also does not duck away from negative reactions to Grayson. In Grayson’s aunt, readers will see an adult who is struggling to understand someone who is transgender. She seeks to protect Grayson from bullies by hiding what he truly is and goes after the teacher who is helping Grayson express who he is on the inside. There are also bullies at Grayson’s school who play a part in his isolation. Yet there are also heroes among the students as well as Grayson’s uncle who is supportive. It’s a strong mix of reactions, showing that while there is hate there is also love and support.
An important book for middle-grade children about being transgender and being true to yourself. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Middle School Tagged: LGBTQ, theater, transgender
Blizzard by John Rocco
Rocco tells a story from his childhood of the blizzard of 1978 that dumped 53 inches of snow on his Rhode Island town. The story begins with just a few flakes in the air and by the time school closes and the children make their way home, the snow is getting deeper and deeper. The next morning, the drifts were so high that they had to leave the house through the window rather than the door. The snowplows stopped running because the snow was too deep. They were isolated and at first it was great fun with days of playing in the snow and drinking mugs of hot cocoa with milk. Then after a few days, food got scarcer and the cocoa was being made with water. It was up to a ten-year-old John to make his way to the grocery store pulling his sled with tennis rackets strapped to his feet.
Rocco embraces the wonder of a huge snowfall in this picture book. The delight of a landscape and world changed into something foreign and incredible. The changes to routine, the cancelation of school, families stuck inside together, the futility of trying to dig out paths. He celebrates it all on the page and then moves the story to an arctic exploration of one boy against the elements, complete with a map of his route to the store. There is a rich humor throughout the narrative that reassures children that the family is not going to starve but also offers real reason to travel to the store, watery cocoa!
Rocco’s art cleverly incorporates the days of the week in the art, from snow on branches spelling out the word to a squirrels trail on the roof. The cool white and blues of the outdoors are contrasted fully with the yellows of the indoor world of the family. The disjointed attempts at clearing the snow are cleverly done, speaking to the power of intent but also the depth of the snow and the effort required to clear it.
Perfect for folks in Buffalo, but also a great story to read when any snowstorm is drifting your way, preferably with mugs of milk hot cocoa. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: blizzards, families, Rhode Island, snow
“When you read my books, I’ll be there with you. We’ll share the story together.” @SANDRA_MARKLE http://picturebookmonth.com/2014/11/why-picture-books-are-important-by-sandra-markle/ … #PictureBookMonth
Filed under: Recommended Links
The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
The first book in a new series, this novel invites readers along on a journey into a series of worlds that are tied together by the Pirate Stream, a river of pure magic. Fin is an orphan with a strange power where no one remembers him after a few minutes, not even the people at the orphanage who cared for him as a child. He uses that skill to be a master thief, but then he receives a letter with instructions that take him on a quest to find his mother. Marrill is living in Arizona, a perfectly dull life, when a ship suddenly appears next to her in the desert. Climbing aboard, she suddenly finds herself on an adventure in the Pirate Stream with a wizard, the ship’s captain, and the crew of rats. She has to find the parts of the Map in order to make her way home, exactly what Fin also needs to find his mother. This adventure takes readers to unknown worlds filled with sinister magic, great friendships, and plenty of action.
Ryan and Davis have crafted a wild fantasy novel that is constantly surprising. Thanks to the strange waters of the Pirate Stream, the travels on board the ship bring readers and the characters to lands that are unique and fascinating. There is an island of trees that speak and think where rumors and whispers rule. There is a frozen land with a leaning tower filled with treasure. There is a bird made from part of the Map that can lead them to the other pieces. There are mad wizards who create sorrow wherever they go and are determined to destroy themselves and all of the worlds.
While the adventure is a large part of the book, at its heart is the friendship of Marrill and Fin. Both of them are lonely children before they meet one another, Marrill because she has traveled a lot with her parents and never settled in one place and Fin because everyone forgets him. Marrill though does not forget Fin, because she cares so deeply. Their friendship offers both of them riches beyond treasure and delight beyond the adventure.
This strong middle grade fantasy novel will have readers looking forward to the next book and returning to the dangers and wonders of the Pirate Stream. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Middle School Tagged: fantasy, magic, pirates, wizards
The shortlist for the 2014 Costa Book Awards have been announced. The awards are given to the best books in several categories by British and Irish authors. One category is the Children’s Book Award. Here is the shortlist:
Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders
The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo
Running Girl by Simon Mason
Filed under: Awards
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