Waking Brain Cells
A new study of 19 preschoolers ages 3-5 years old studied brain activity while the children listened to stories. Done with functional magnetic resonance imaging, the study focused only on listening to stories, no visual stimuli were involved.
Results showed that more reading at home was “strongly associated with activation of specific brain areas supporting semantic processing (the extraction of meaning from language). These areas are critical for oral language and later for reading.”
Areas associated with mental imagery also showed a strong activation, meaning that children were able to “see the story” and watch their imaginations make images.
Filed under: Reading
Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
Tate’s class has been told that they are doing a pen pal project and they can either be assigned pen pals or pick them. Tate has just the right person to write to, Hank Williams, who is an emerging star in 1948. Tate tells him all about her life in Rippling Creek, Louisiana where she lives with her Uncle Jolly, Aunt Patty Cake and her little brother Frog. At first, Tate tells Hank Williams that her parents are well known and gone because of their work, her father as a photographer and her mother in the movies. But as she continues to write to them, she reveals the truth of her family life where her father has disappeared and her mother is doing time in jail. There is one final secret that Tate can’t face at all and it will take all of her courage to admit to it.
Holt writes a story of a girl who has concocted a life of dreams for herself. Tate is unfailingly positive about many things. Even when she talks about her mother being in prison, she focuses on the fact that her mother is in an elite singing group while there. Her life with her uncle and aunt is stable and lovely, filled with small moments that demonstrate their love for her, like finding a way to hear her mother sing on the radio and discovering just the right dog at just the right time. Holt gives Tate all the time she needs to face her different truths. And the result is surprising and tender.
Tate is a marvelous character. She is quickly proven untrustworthy as she admits early in the novel to lying about her mother and father. Yet there is something so down-to-earth about her too that readers will somehow trust her despite all of this. Perhaps it is the details of her life that make that work, and the way that she hides truths even from herself. It is a delicate balance and one that Holt does very well.
Young readers will love this book for its heart and the beautiful spark of its main character. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Elementary School Tagged: families, grief, historical fiction, pen pals
The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards shortlists have been announced. The awards celebrate Australian writers. The winner will be announced in May. Here are the shortlists for the youth categories:
PATRICIA WRIGHTSON PRIZE FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not-Very Brave by James O’Loghlin
Crossing by Catherine Norton
The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King
Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu
The First Voyage by Allan Baillie
Rivertime by Trace Balla
ETHEL TURNER PRIZE FOR YOUNG ADULT’S LITERATURE
Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth
Book of Days by K.A. Barker
Cracked by Clare Strahan
The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty
Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
The Road to Gundagai by Jackie French
Filed under: Awards Tagged: Australia
The pair who created Step Gently Out return with another gorgeous book connecting young readers to nature. This picture book focuses on birds and flight, using the metaphor to encourage young people to “fly” themselves and spread their own wings in life. The poem at the heart of the book is simple and lovely, creating a sense of wonder and opportunity. The photographs dynamically capture eleven species of birds in flight and in their natural habitats. There are wide-mouthed babies in the nest and incredible pictures of birds in full flight, like the one on the cover. This is a book that inspires both in words and images.
Frost is a gifted poet who has written novels in verse for older readers as well as picture books for younger readers. Her words here create a positive feeling of strength for the reader, showing them what is possible. At the same time, her poem is also beautifully written, creating imagery that is tangible and that will make sense for children. One of my favorites is that wings are “stitching earth to sky with invisible thread.”
Lieder’s photographs are simply stunning. He has captured birds in poses that are dramatic and amazing, leaving plenty of dappled light and green on the page for the poetry to shine next to his images. I found myself leaning into the book to look even more closely at the structure of wing and feather on the page.
I hope there will be more collaboration between these two since their first two books are so noteworthy. This vibrant picture book will be at home equally in units on birds and poetry. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: birds, flight, nature, poetry
Filed under: Recommended Links
This picture book explores time and the way that things happen all at once across the world. Small moments are captured from various countries: an elevator stuck in New York City, a horn honks in traffic in Mexico, a volcano erupts, a boy learns to balance on his bike. One after another these snapshots of time are happening all at once and yet also form a lovely series of events that are all entirely human and show how interrelated our world actually is.
The concept is at once immensely simple and also incredibly complex, the understanding that your own life is just one of many being lived at the very same time. Martins embraces that duality in the book, capturing those universal moments but also showing the diversity around the world. A guide at the end of the book includes a map of where the various events take place all at the same time. There is a distinct wonder to the book, a feeling that the world is both larger and smaller than it had seemed to be a second before.
Carvalho’s illustrations are bold and graphic. He uses thick black lines to create scenes that are active and beautiful. One page contrasts with the next, showing diverse people and settings. The result is a feeling of moving clearly from one place to the next with each turn of the page, from lush jungles to concrete settings, from bright sunlight to clouded evening.
Perfect to start discussions about time and place and even time zones, this picture book allows children to think in a bigger way about their world, diversity and their own place. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: diversity, time
The nominations for the 2015 Eisner Awards have been announced. These awards are for the best in comics and graphic novels and include specific categories for youth. Here are the nominees in those categories:
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Hello Kitty, Hello 40: A Celebration in 40 Stories edited by Traci N. Todd & Elizabeth Kawasaki Mermin, Book 3: Deep Dive by Joey Weiser
The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke
Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse by Art Baltazar & Franco
Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
Filed under: Awards, Graphic Novels
My Family Tree and Me by Dušan Petričić
A little boy talks about his family starting with his father’s side of the family and his great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother. Then his great-grandfather and great-grandmother. His great-grandfather clearly has genetic ties to his parents, including red hair from his father and the need for glasses from his mother. Then come Pops and Nana, where again Pops shows genetic ties to his parents too. And finally there are the three siblings who all show an intriguing mix of genetics. At the center of the book are all of the family members, including his mother’s side, cousins and more. Then the book moves from his mother to his grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents showing a different genetic line, this time Asian and once again there are characteristics that carry through the generations straight to the boy at the center of the story.
Petričić is a Serbian author and illustrator. This picture book has a distinct European flair that is very appealing. The focus on family and genetics is very clever along with the delight of it being a multicultural child and family. Petričić makes sure to be respectful of both the European and Asian heritage, showing the genetics at play on both sides equally. It is also fascinating to see time pass in reverse directions on each side of the family, one getting more and more modern while the other gets more old-fashioned with each page turn. That twist adds a strong dynamic to the book, showing that genetics can be traced in both directions in a subtle but strong way.
The illustrations are funny and add to the joy of the book with the red hair of one side of the family, the glasses, then the round faces and prominent ears of the other. Readers will enjoy spotting a characteristic and turning pages to see what generation had it first and which side of the family it came from.
Cleverly done, this will be a welcome book to share when doing units on family trees or even when preparing for visits to extended family. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Kids Can Press and Netgalley.
Filed under: Uncategorized
This second book in The Winner’s Trilogy continues the story of Kestrel and Arin. In a strategic choice, Kestrel has given herself into an engagement to the prince of Valoria, never revealing to Arin that she did so to save him and his country from destruction. Now Kestrel is in Valoria, being treated like a princess, but her heart is still with Arin. The emperor is impressed with his son’s new fiancé, and works to hone her into his pawn. But Kestrel has her own political plans that include continuing to try to help Arin from her new position. At the same time, she works to keep Arin at a distance so that he never finds out the sacrifice she is making. But this fragile set up cannot be maintained forever, something must give, and it may end in complete destruction for them all.
Rutkoski’s second book keeps the political thrills of the first and continues to stir in romance and deception. As with the first, the reader and Kestrel really don’t know who they can trust or even if they can trust anyone at all. As with any second book in a series, this book is as much a bridge to a conclusion as anything. Rutkoski plays nicely with pacing throughout the book, allowing things to maddeningly slow for the reader as Kestrel is caught in a trap of her own making. She picks the pace up at the end as tension mounts, creating a book that is captivating to read.
Kestrel is one strong female protagonist. She works against the entire society she lives in to try to set her own course and to be in charge of her own destiny, even if her heart calls for her to do something else. Arin too is a finely drawn character, a romantic figure who is also thoughtful and while he may realize that Kestrel is not telling him the truth cannot force her to give up her game. It’s a dance of two people against an empire, embroidered in romance and dazzling with political intrigue.
This strong second book in this series will have readers desperate to read the third and final book to find out what happens next. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus and Giroux.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Teen Tagged: fantasy, politics, romance
The Children’s Book Council and Mathematical Science Research Institute have awarded the first Mathical: Books for Kids from Tots to Teens book prizes for books that “foster a love and curiosity for math.” Here are the four winners, one in each age category.
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl
GRADES 3-5 and 6-8
Really Big Numbers by Richard Even Schwartz
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
Filed under: Awards Tagged: math
The author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu returns with a new novel for young readers. Peter loves baseball just like all of the others in his family, including his mother who is a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan. His older brother is amazing at baseball and will occasionally join in the neighborhood game and hit homeruns with his favorite bat. But when tragedy strikes their family, Peter stops playing entirely. He can’t seem to find joy in it anymore and starts to spend most of his time alone. As Peter’s mother descends deeply into grief, rarely eating or speaking and never leaving the living room, Peter decides that maybe baseball can inspire her to return to normal. So Peter tries out for a Little League team that his father reluctantly agrees to coach. Soon baseball is once again a huge part of their family, but can it heal the wounds left behind by loss?
Shang has written a book that will appeal to children who adore baseball but also invites in those who may not be fans. This is not a sports book, but rather a novel that features baseball and the catalyst that sports can be for a family to rally around. At the same time, Shang shows the appeal of baseball in particular with its mathematical logic, fascinating trick plays, and the effect that being on a team can have on different kids.
The central family in this novel is Chinese American. Shang weaves details of that heritage throughout the novel. It is more about the reverberations through generations of concepts like honoring your elders and showing respect in very tangible ways. The father in the book had been a distant figure and suddenly becomes that sole caretaker for Peter and his little sister. That transition is shown in all of its difficulty, made even more difficult because of the strict nature of their relationship. These complexities add a lot of depth to the novel, making it about so much more than baseball.
A deep look at grief, loss and baseball, this novel features strong writing and great characters of diversity. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Elementary School Tagged: baseball, Chinese-Americans, families, grief
The 27th Annual Minnesota Book Awards have been announced. The books must be the work of a Minnesota author or illustrator. Here are the winners in the youth categories:
Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen
YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Filed under: Awards
Send a Question or Comment to Appleton Public Library.