Thursday, May 31, 2012

Themed Reviews: Baseball

            Have you heard the song "The Base Ball Polka?" No? Not surprising, but it was the first known baseball song. It did not stick, unlike "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" which has remained incredibly popular since it was written in 1908. The unofficial anthem of baseball, it is often sung during the 7th inning stretch at many major league parks.

            Baseball has a rich history in the United States. It dates back to the late 1700s and boomed in popularity in the mid-1800s. Today, Major League Baseball is a big business and important part of American culture. The books highlighted below are a mix of picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels, and several nonfiction selections perfect for reading aloud or sharing with the baseball fans in your life.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Jack Norworth
Illustrated by Amiko Hirao

As baseball season gets into full swing, this color-splashed, wild, animal-filled picture book is the perfect accompaniment for the younger fan. The home team is represented by an elephant, a cheetah, a flamingo, and an assortment of other vibrant characters. At the center of the story are baseball-crazy Katie Casey and her enthusiasm for the team. Never missing a game, yelling at the umpire, knowing the names of all the players-it's all there in Katie's support. When the score is tied, 2-2, Katie steps out of her role as fan, and becomes the cheerleader rallying the team as she leads the stands in singing the familiar song of the title. In the end, Katie is just the support that is needed and she rides triumphantly off on the shoulders of pitcher, giraffe. To the delight of large and small readers, a CD accompanies this picture book with three contributions from Grammy and Oscar award winner, Carly Simon. Fascinating performer's and artist's notes appear at the end of the tale enriching the reading experience. 2011, Charlesbridge, Ages 6 to 8, $17.95. Reviewer: Janice DeLong (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781936140268

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cooking Fun

Today is the start of National Vegetarian Week in the UK and this past Saturday Jamie Oliver had his Food Revolution Day in the U.S. To help inspire you, we are reposting our Cooking Fun feature. Bon appetit!

Plus a few new recommended titles:

Bon Appetit!: The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessi Hartland (9780375869440)

Grow a Garden: Sustainable Foods by Susan Temple Kesselring and illustrated by Tatevik Avakyan (9781616418618)

Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams (9780805092851)

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and illustrated by Priscilla Lamont (9780517709900)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mystery Month

May is Mystery Month over at Booklist Magazine and they've compiled their Top 10 Crime Fiction for Youth list for 2012. Below are select reviews for books on their list—to read multiple reviews for titles on the full best book list subscribe to CLCD.

The Case of the Deadly Desperados
Caroline Lawrence
            The Case of the Deadly Desperados is a first-person narrative of P. K. Pinkerton. Twelve-year-old P. K. recounts his/her (the gender is never clearly revealed) adventures through writing on ledger paper. The setting of 1862 Virginia City, Nevada, provides the perfect backdrop to the wild adventures. P. K. is an orphan who on his/her twelfth birthday experiences the shooting death of his/her foster parents. P. K. flees the scene in possession of a deed that will grant him/her a large area of land. Because of this, P. K. is on the run from Whittlin’ Walt and his gang. While assuming various disguises to evade Walt, P. K. encounters an interesting variety of people in the Wild West. He/she meets a Soiled Dove (prostitute), spends time in an opium den, and learns to read nonverbal cues from poker players. The book is quick paced and engaging, moving from one escapade to the next without ever slowing down. Although not presented in expansive detail, the allusions to prostitution, the opium den, and the killing of P. K.’s foster parents at the book’s start all suggest that this book should not be read by the youngest of readers. Overall, Lawrence has written a gripping book that leads its way nicely in becoming part of a larger series. 2012, Putnam/Penguin, Ages 11 to 15, $16.99. Reviewer: Ursula Adams (VOYA, April 2012 (Vol. 35, No. 1)).
ISBN: 9780399256332

Rodrigo Corral
            If a picture is worth a thousand words, this venture in visual storytelling contains volumes worth of detail. Photographs (some featuring posed actors), news clippings, screen shots, character-drawn sketches, and artfully arranged everyday artifacts (tickets, concert bills, backpack contents), aided by occasional superimposed lines of dialogue, present a love story between Glory, a piano prodigy whose mother died nine years ago, and Francisco, an artistic, lonely Argentinian immigrant who chafes at the condescension he encounters at his new school. Their romance is told as an extended flashback, framed by urgent news reports of Glory’s disappearance eighteen months after the two met. As Glory’s fragile mental state becomes increasingly clear, however, it throws the very nature of the story into question, and a clever, intricate buildup of visual clues (including a neat overarching musical metaphor related to Glory’s repeated playing of “Chopsticks” in concert as a symptom of her breakdown) suggest that Francisco may not exist at all. The layout is dynamically composed, making the most of a single image per page; photos are saturated with color and light, and print excerpts set against backgrounds of varying textures and colors sustain visual interest. Each page conveys not just information but emotion; romantic scenes are warmly luminous and suffused with hope, while dark or lonely moments are shadowy or overexposed. Narrative clues are scattered throughout, but only the most observant readers will catch their implication on the first readthrough. For those willing to pore over each page and weigh each detail, though, this ambitious, beautiful work satisfies both intellectually and emotionally. 2012, Razorbill, Grades 9 to 12, $19.99. Reviewer: Claire Gross (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, April 2012 (Vol. 65, No. 8)).
ISBN: 9781595144355

The Girl is Murder
Kathryn Miller Haines
            1942 New York City; 15-year-old Iris Anderson must cope with a new family dynamic and living arrangement. Her widowed father, a former naval officer who lost a leg at Pearl Harbor, has decided to return to his private investigator business. They now rent rooms instead of having their own apartment, and Iris attends a public high school instead of a private girls' school. Iris decides to help her father with his investigations, especially the disappearance of a hunky boy she met at school. She struggles with the questions of whom to trust, who really is her friend, and, in turn, what kind of friend she is. Haines paints a gritty portrait of early 1940s NYC from the Lower East Side to Harlem, from uniform to zoot suit, from rationing to sharing, from poor to rich. This is a real page-turner with a "film noir" feel; definitely not Nancy Drew! Highly Recommended. 2011, Roaring Brook Press, Ages 13 to 18, $16.99. Reviewer: Esther R. Sinofsky (Library Media Connection, October 2011).
ISBN: 9781596436091

I Hunt Killers
Barry Lyga
            In order to catch a killer, one must think like a killer, and nobody knows how to do that better than Jazz Dent. His father is one of the most notorious serial killers in the world and taught Jazz everything he knew about the art of killing. Now his dad is in jail, and all Jazz wants to do is suppress the urges his dad passed on to him and be a normal teenager, but when a new serial killer shows up in Lobo’s Nod, Jazz is obsessed with catching him. In order to face the killer, Jazz must first confront his own demons and decide which side he is really on. Lyga brilliantly combines the feel of a true crime story with mystery, adventure, and psychoanalysis in this intense story of a different kind of family bond. It is a classic “whodunit” with the added intrigue of describing murders in great detail, while not becoming overly gruesome, as well as the police work involved in solving a crime, so it feels like a true crime novel instead of fiction. The characters are especially believable, and the reader will be drawn in by their motivations and actions. Jazz’s inner struggle to understand his compulsions to both save and hurt people will captivate readers into wanting to know which path he will ultimately choose. This story will appeal to a wide variety of older teen readers, especially guys, and will make an excellent addition to any library serving mature teens. 2012, Little Brown, Ages 15 to 18, $17.99. Reviewer: Blake Norby (VOYA, April 2012 (Vol. 35, No. 1)).
ISBN: 9780316125840

Brian Selznick
            The separate stories of two youngsters, a boy in 1977 and a girl in 1927, finally come almost miraculously together. The boy’s tale is told at first in engrossing text; the girl’s only in black and white double-page textured drawings. We meet Ben living unhappily in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota with his aunt and uncle and family, having lost his mother in a car accident. He is deaf in one ear, but after a lightning strike accident he is completely deaf. Finding clues to a father he never knew, Ben takes off for New York City to find him. In 1927 a girl named Rose lives isolated by her deafness in Hoboken, New Jersey, looking yearningly across the river at New York City where her mother is a famous actress. She too runs away. Themes run through both stories: parents, deafness, storms, stars, and the American Museum of Natural History. Some coincidences must be accepted, but the happy ending is both believable and satisfying. Selznick provides detailed, naturalistic, black pencil drawings that create gray, almost photographic scenes of buildings and people with a sense of mystery. We are swept into the powerful visual story as the point of view zooms in or out. The provocative narrative, similar in format to the author’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, leaves the reader with much to think about and illustrations to peruse repeatedly. 2011, Scholastic Press, Ages 9 to 12, $29.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780545027892

Monday, May 7, 2012

Themed Reviews: Mother's Day

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. - Mark Twain

   Mother's Day is a special day when we show the mom's in our life how much they mean to us. We make them breakfast in bed, shower them with flowers and gifts-don't forget that nothing beats a homemade card for Mom. Held on the second Sunday of May-this year on May 13-this holiday dates back to the early 1900s. It became a national holiday in 1914 when President Wilson and congress issued a proclamation, stating the day was a chance to "publicly express our love and reverence for the mothers of our country." Browse through the following selections for stories to share with any mothers in your life.

What's Special About Me, Mama?
Kristina Evans
Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

Unconditional love resonates in words and images emphasizing a boy's importance to his family. Symbolizing hugs and kisses, X's and O's faintly cover the background on several pages in which the child initiates his queries to his mother. A double-page spread shows their faces as the mother, consistently addressing her son as Love, tells him he has many unique qualities and compliments his expressive eyes. He counters that people remark that his eyes resemble hers and demands she divulge why he is special. The mother praises his skin color. The son insists his skin is not unusual because it matches his father's complexion. The accompanying illustration shows the father embracing the son. The child's request for details confirming his uniqueness is reiterated as he responds that his grandmother and aunt have the hair and freckle attributes his mother admires. He minimizes the value of his hugs, kisses, generosity, and kindness, resulting in his mother revealing an answer to his question that satisfies him. Illustrations convey the theme of belonging as the son interacts with his parents and relatives, showing them hugging, touching hands, cooking together, and playing at the beach. The collages represent how the family members celebrate their shared physical characteristics, emotions, and loyalty. Brown, black, green, yellow, blue, lavender, and blue hues highlight the gentle essence of the characters and their settings. The steadfast bond between the boy and adults presented in art and text stresses trust, consistency, dependability, and acceptance, creating an appealing story to read aloud. Pair with Javaka Steptoe's In Daddy's Arms I am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers (1997). 2011, Disney Jump at the Sun Books/Disney Book Group, Ages 3 to 6, $16.99. Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780786852741