Review of the Week: “Shadow Hero”

ShadowHeroYang, Gene Luen. The Shadow Hero. Sonny Liew, Illus. Graphic. First Second, 2014. 156p. PB $17.99. 978-1-59643-697-8. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 7-ADULT.
In this appealing and dynamic follow-up to his award-winning works American Born Chinese (2006), and Boxers and Saints (2013), Yang creates a deeply satisfying story about a Chinese American super-hero. In 1944, a Chinese American cartoonist supposedly created the first Asian American super-hero, the Green Turtle, but the hero’s face was never revealed, leaving open the question of his racial identity. In The Shadow Hero, Yang and Liew imagine the Green Turtle’s origin story, adding diversity to the often homogenous world of super-heroes. At first, Hank Chu resists his mother’s wish that he become a super-hero, but then, with the help of a turtle spirit, he fully embraces his super-hero identity and defends his family against extortion by a powerful Chinatown crime boss. The story has Yang’s characteristic self-deprecating humor, as well as a tinge of mysticism. Hank, an anti-hero, struggles with his filial obligations and his own desire for a quiet life. Hank’s mother is full
of bossy vigor and the source of much comic relief, yet she, too, harbors broken dreams. Sonny Liew’s excellent illustrations have an atmospheric quality, striking color, and modern humor. The characters’ facial expressions convey authentic emotions and Liew’s bold, gestural art carries the story as much as Yang’s text. An essential addition to any collection, this is a compelling adventure story that is also a nuanced portrayal of an immigrant family nursing their unfulfilled dreams.
Jenny Yap, Independent

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Board Books, Part 2

Fall Board Book Round-up, Part 2

Last month we offered Part 1 of our annual Fall Board Book Round-up, where we talked about new entries in various series. This month, we will discuss individual titles and favorite characters. Next month in Part 3, we will review recent board book adaptations of picture books.

Individual Board Book Titles

Global Baby BoysAjmera, Maya. Global Baby Boys. Charlesbridge, 2014. $6.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-440-1.

This companion to Global Babies (2007) and Global Baby Girls (2013) is a fundraiser for the charity Global Fund for Children. Like the previous books, outstanding color photos of babies from around the world illustrate each page. The text is composed of short phrases about baby boys: “curious, smart, and fun.” Each photo has a one-word caption naming the country in which the photo was taken. This multicultural celebration will charm both parents and babies.

Light, Steve. Planes Go. Chronicle Books, 2014. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4521-2899-3.

This is Light’s fourth book about transportation, this time with flying machines as the focus. As with his previous books Trains Go and others, the shape of the book makes it stand out: it measures 6 inches tall by 12 inches wide. This expansive two-foot opening allows for the planes to show movement. The narrative gives the name of the vehicle, along with onomatopoeia including putt putt, swoosh, and ba-boom. Planes include a helicopter, the space shuttle, and a blimp. The watercolors on white backgrounds illustrate the planes in a relatively realistic manner without too many details, making this perfect for toddlers.

Page, Stefan. We’re Going to the Farmers’ Market. Chronicle Books, 2014. $7.99. ISBN We're Going Farmers978-1-4521-1834-5.

A lilting rhyme and brightly colored graphical illustrations celebrate a typical farmers’ market in this brief board book. The rhyme describes the products available, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy items, and then outlines some of the dishes that you can cook using those products. But it is really the illustrations that make the biggest impact; there is a 1960’s retro feel to the piece, with colored shapes making up the booths, bowls, and other items. In a few cases, the representations are a little abstract for babies or toddlers, but most preschoolers will get the picture. This is sure to be popular because of the push for schoolyard gardens and the use of farmers’ markets to offer families more healthy food choices, especially in urban areas.

Young, Cybele. Out the Window. Groundwood, 2013. $12.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-370-4.

A small brown furry animal (resembling a hamster) accidentally tosses his ball out the window in this nearly wordless book. The text is made up of a few sound words, such as “boom boom,” and one phrase half-way through the book directs the reader it is “time to turn around” and flip the book to the other side. The critter can see a parade passing by the window, when the ball is finally thrown back to him. The format of the book is the distinctive feature; it is an accordion-folded board book in a slipcase, making it somewhat problematic for library circulation since it is likely to be returned without the case. Also, the parade features several ocean animals including an octopus; is the parade under water? This creative, unusual book is probably best for home use only.

Anon. Peekaboo Barn: A Lift-the-Flap Book. Candlewick, 2014. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-7557-8.

Peekaboo Barn is a popular app aimed at young children, to play on a tablet device. This board book version features the same illustration as the main focus of each spread, just varying the animals shown in the barn. The main barn door opens on each page to show an animal, with the small upper door opening on every other page. The text is the sound of an animal, motivating the child to guess what animal will be in the barn. The animals are easy to guess, which allows the child to succeed at the reading experience. Unfortunately, the animals all have over-sized eyes that look kind of creepy! Fans of the app seem like the most receptive audience for this.

Laden, Nina. Peek-a-Zoo! Chronicle Books, 2014. $6.99. ISBN 978-14521-1175-9.

Deeply colored, speckled gouache folk art illustrations are the stand-out feature of this guessing-game story, complete with die-cut holes for peeking. In each spread, the child is instructed to “Peek a,” looking through the hole to guess the animal on the next page. It’s easy to guess the panda and tiger, but not the kangaroo or cockatoo, making this fun for kids who can read as well as toddlers. The final page has a mylar mirror to guess who else is an animal. This follows Laden’s popular Peek-a-Who? published in 2000; hopefully the third book will come out sooner!

Laden, Nina. Daddy Wrong Legs. Chronicle Books, 2014. $6.99. ISBN 978-1-4521-1528-3.

In this tall board book split in half horizontally, the reader can mix the legs of one creature with the top of another. For example, flip hairy gorilla legs under the body of human dad, or the frog legs under the elephants head. The brief rhyming text names the distinctive feature of the animal legs – bony legs, scary legs, etc. Laden’s signature dark folk-art gouache illustrations are refreshingly “uncute” in the board book world, making this fun for a wide age range.

Peelis, Yana. Color for Baby. Big Picture Press/Candlewick, 2014. $21.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-7124-2.

The subtitle explains this clearly: “Four board books for baby featuring more than forty famous works by contemporary artists.” A box holds four accordion-folded board books, each featuring art that would help a baby identify blue, red, yellow, or green. For example, one of Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup can paintings is in the Red book, and Ray Lichtenstein’s “Bananas and Grapefruit 1” is in the Yellow book. Each page contains one work of art, captioned with the artist’s name, title of the work, and year produced. The back page of each book contains more information on the works of art, including the size of each, medium used, and other pertinent information.  Clearly, a baby or toddler doesn’t care about famous works of art, but will enjoy the colors. This package seems more for parents, who hopefully will use these books to interact with their small children. The packaging makes this difficult for libraries to circulate, so this is probably best sold in museum gift shops, or given as a gift to parents who enjoy modern art.

Favorite Characters

McGuirk, Leslie. Gobble, Gobble, Tucker! Candlewick, 2014. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6887-7.

The little white dog Tucker (who resembles a Westie), celebrates Thanksgiving in the fourth holiday book featuring this popular character. Like most of us, he anticipates the wonderful food related to the day. The full color cartoon-style illustrations depict Tucker’s human family, as well as his two doggy “cousins” who also visit on that day. The story is mainly a description of Thanksgiving activities, from cooking, to playing football on the lawn, to enjoying the meal, but overall, it is somewhat uneventful. Still, for fans, this is a sweet, brief story.

BizzyDavies, Benji. Bizzy Bear’s Big Building Day. Nosy Crow, 2014. 14.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-7395-6.

In this large board book, measuring 9 ½ inches square, a bear builds a treehouse in his backyard with help from his friends. The book features several die-cut holes and movable imbedded pieces that show the use of tools, including a hammer, paintbrush, drill, and a saw. There are also flaps that open, including the lid of his toolbox, and tabs that pull to show him using the saw, drill, and hammer. The full color cartoon art was created digitally but resembles gouache, and features a teddy bear-like Bizzy. There are several smaller books with Bizzy and his friends that also have moveable elements, making this popular. Luckily, the pages are made from thick cardboard that should stand up to the heavy play of library users. It also would make a great gift book for children who like to play with toy tools.

Cousins, Lucy. Maisy’s Christmas Tree. Candlewick, 2014. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-7457-1.

The little white mouse Maisy and her friends decorate a Christmas tree in this very simple story for babies. Die-cut on the right edge to emulate tree branches, the text is very brief, describing the activity seen in the illustrations. Done in Cousins’ customary deeply saturated thickly painted cartoons, many children will “read” the book just by looking at the pictures. Although Maisy’s television series only lasted one season, it is still running on Nick Jr., so this is sure to be popular in December.

McBratney, Sam. Look What I Can Do: A First Concepts Book. Illus. by Anita Jeram. Look WhatCandlewick, 2013/2014. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-636-7064-1.

Originally published in Great Britain in 2013, this oversized padded board book features father and son nutbrown hares from the best-seller, Guess How Much I Love You (1994). In this concept book, each page covers a simple concept, from shapes, colors, and numbers to things in nature, the weather, and action words, with varying success.

The first spread features ten small flaps covering a plant or flower depicting a color; the flaps are too flimsy to survive multiple library usage. Also, the colors are soft pastels, with the orange, pink, and brown so close in hue that it may be difficult for a toddler to guess the color.  The next-to-last spread is much more successful, with ten sturdy flaps; each has a numeral on the flap, which lifts to show various small insects or animals, along with the word for the number and the name of the creature. If the entire book was done like the final page, this would have been quite successful.

The other spreads don’t have any flaps, except one large flap on the page depicting action words, and these are a little too quiet – just listing some items that show the concept but no story. The shapes page only has three shapes – a triangle-shaped tree, the circle-shaped sun, and a square box. However, the captions are clear, and the only other text is some dialogue between father and son hare.

Overall, this isn’t very successful as a concept book, but fans of the characters may enjoy this as a gift. It is unlikely to survive library circulation.

By Penny Peck, San Jose State Univ.

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SCBWI Meeting, Read-alikes for “Redwall”

NinjaSCBWI Meeeting on Nov. 1: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is having a special meeting in Walnut Creek, CA, on Saturday, November, 1, 2014, 2:00-4:00pm featuring guest speakers Darcey Rosenblatt, Arree Chung and Heather MacKey.

For information and registration, see: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event;jsessionid=31AEF6B2BD6AF230187B30828B88D609.worker_registrant?llr=ztqkjicab&oeidk=a07ea0fudtdff4656d6.

Read-alikes for the “Redwall” series  by Brian Jacques Redwall

Avi. “Poppy” series. HarperCollins, 1995.

Barry, Dave. Peter and the Starcatchers. Disney Hyperion, 2004.

Bondoux, Anne-Laure. Vasco: Leader of the Tribe. Delacorte, 2007.

Clement-Davies, David. Fire Bringer. Penguin Putnam, 1999.

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor the Overlander. Scholastic, 2003.

DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux. Candlewick, 2003.

Fan, Nancy Yi. Swordbird. HarperCollins, 2007.

Farmer, Nancy. The Warm Place. Orchard, 1995.

Fielder, Lisa. Mouseheart. McElderry, 2014.

Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows. 1908.

Hoeye, Michael. “Hermux Tantamoq” series. Putnam, 2002.

Hunter, Erin. “Warriors” series. HarperCollins, 2003.

Jones, Allan Frewin. Trundle’s Quest. Greenwillow, 2010.

Lasky, Kathryn. “Guardians of Ga’Hoole” series. Scholastic, 2003.

Lawson, Robert. Rabbit Hill. Viking, 1944.

McAllister, M.I. “Mistmantle” series. Miramax, 2005.

O’Brien, Robert. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Atheneum, 1971.

Oppel, Kenneth. Silverwing. Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Peck, Richard. Secrets at Sea. Dial, 2011.

Rogers, Jonathan. The Wilderking Trilogy. Broadman & Holman, 2004.

By Penny Peck, San Jose State Univ.

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Review of the Week: Silver People

silver peopleEngle, Margarita. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Fiction. Houghton, 2014. 260p. $17.99. 978-0-544-10941-4.
OUTSTANDING. GRADES 6-9.

The blatant racism and horrific conditions surrounding the monstrous undertaking of the construction of the Panama Canal are told through the voices of characters such as Mateo, a 14-year-old
Cuban who lies about his age in order to be able to work on the project; Anita, a young, female herb collector/seller; Henry, a Jamaican hoping to send money back home; and various U.S. historical figures, such as U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Engle’s devastating free-verse novel eloquently lays out the racial injustice between the whites and Europeans who acted in more supervisory capacities, and those of color who had not only to deal with deplorable and dangerous working conditions, but also segregation and horribly inadequate living conditions. Especially compelling are sections containing poems from the voices of the jungle flora and fauna who also had to endure this environmentally disruptive project. There is hope, though, as Henry and Mateo become friends “Then we sit/ together, / medium- dark/ and dark-dark, / as if/ the bizarre/ Canal Zone rules/ did not/ matter. / They don’t.” In the epilogue, a dictional letter written after the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition mentions that although there are plenty hailing this new “manmade Wonder of the World,” no mention whatsoever is made of what the “silver people” endured. “No one cares because no one knows,” it says. Well, thanks to Engle’s elegant and affecting novel, now more will know. Included are a historical note and selected references.

Eric Barbus, San Francisco PL

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Spotlight on ACL Member – Nancy Pino

ACLSpotlight on ACL Member – Nancy Pino

The September meeting is always something to look forward to as we meet the new year’s Helfeld Fellows. But this year we had a special mystery guest – Nancy Pino! It doesn’t take long for anyone involved with ACL to hear this name and to figure out that she has something to do with pulling all our reviews together into each month’s issue of BayViews. But despite rumors that she had been sighted at some long-ago Institutes, even old-timers like me had never met her. So I decided that my last official act as President would be to invite her to the September reception – and she jumped at the chance to match our faces with the names on the reviews that pass through her hands month after month. What a job she does – from picking up the actual reviews each month to incorporating the hand-written revisions from the copy editors, proofing the first draft, working with the proofreader to correct any additional errors, adding in Penny Peck’s BayNews material, delivering e-files to various people, arranging for printed copies and then labeling and mailing off those printed copies to various subscribers. Nancy is ACL’s one real employee, and it has been a privilege for us all to have someone so responsible, dedicated, and willing-to-work-through-changes as Nancy.

When I asked her how she actually came to ACL originally, she credited Virginia Reed with recommending her to the group, and Bob Muller, then President, with interviewing her and offering her the job. As she recalls, Bob drove from South San Francisco to her Oakland home, and her then-three-year-old son kept them company as they discussed the job. Soon after Bob left, Nancy’s son began inquiring anxiously where “that man” had gone. When Nancy explained that he would not be coming back, her son burst into tears, “I hid your car keys on his car.” Indeed, there were no keys to be found in or around the house, and Nancy was soon on the phone with Bob. “Hold on,” he said – and came back jingling the keys. They had been tucked into probably the only safe place where they could have survived a 15-mile trip on freeways and across the Bay Bridge – a snug little nook behind the license plate! And the next day, Bob drove them back to Nancy.

The evening after our September meeting, I got the following email from Nancy: I really enjoyed my time with you and your group and was pleased to see ACL remains a wonderfully friendly, fun group of dedicated professionals serving our children and education. Librarians are like teachers in that they, too, are people oriented and always willing to help kids. Our family has certainly appreciated you all these years. To guarantee my interest in children’s books, and my grown children’s memories of good books, I have a Narnia poster hanging in my office where everyone who enters can see it. I enjoyed my stint as a mystery guest and loved matching faces to names. It was fun. It was a pleasure to meet you at last, and I look forward to reproducing your reviews in future months as I always learn from them. Thanks again for a lovely morning. Take care.

Over the years, Nancy has worked with many other groups large and small, but she has always been faithful to ACL– and we are all so grateful. What a treat to finally meet in person!
Elizabeth Overmyer, retired

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National Book Award Finalists, BayViews Website Updated

National Book Award Finalists: The National Book Foundation announced finalists for the 2014 National Book Awards in poetry, young adult literature, nonfiction and fiction on Wednesday morning. The winners will be recognized at a ceremony on Nov. 19, headlined by Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket. Finalists in the category YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE:

John Corey Whaley, “Noggin,” Atheneum Books for Young Readers
A tragicomic novel in which a 16-year-old boy dies of leukemia — but comes back to life five years later when his parents, who had his head cryogenically frozen, find a donor body to reattach his head to.

revolutionDeborah Wiles, “Revolution,” Scholastic Press
Set in Mississippi in 1964, “Revolution” blends a fictional coming-of-age story with historical documents from the civil rights era, including leaflets, brochures and newspaper clippings.

Jacqueline Woodson, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Nancy Paulsen Books brown girl dreaming
Ms. Woodson’s memoir in verse details her experience growing up as an African-American in South Carolina and New York during the 1960s and ’70s.

Eliot Schrefer, “Threatened,” Scholastic Press
In Mr. Schrefer’s novel, an orphan named Luc who is struggling to get by in the African country of Gabon joins an expedition to study chimpanzees and heads deep into the jungle, where he finds a family of sorts among the apes.

port-chicago-50Steve Sheinkin, “The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights,” Roaring Books Press
Mr. Sheinkin, a former National Book Award finalist, tells the true story of a port in California where an accidental explosion killed more than 300 sailors in 1944. The Navy and the rest of the military were segregated at the time, and most of the dead and injured were African-American. The sailors protested unsafe working conditions and some were charged with mutiny.    http://www.slj.com/2014/10/awards/2014-national-book-awards-finalists/#_

Global Baby BoysNew ACL BayNews Posted: The October 2014 BayNews (the newsletter for the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California) is now available on our website: http://www.bayviews.org . You will find Part 2 of our Fall Board Book Round-up, Readalikes, new storytime themes, and much more:  http://bayviews.org/baynews.html.  Thanks! Penny Peck

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Review of the Week: “A Dance Like Starlight”

dance like starlightDempsey, Kristy. A Dance Like Starlight:  One Ballerina’s Dream. Floyd Cooper, Illus. Picture Book. Philomel, 2014. [32]p. $16.99. 978-0-399-25284-6. OUTSTANDING.  GRADES PRE-3.

An African American girl wishes on invisible stars in the Harlem night sky to become a ballerina. Her mama works, cleaning and fitting costumes for a ballet school. When “Miss Janet Collins…first colored prima ballerina” comes to perform at the
Met, the girl and her mama go to see the performance, helping to solidify the girl’s hopes and dreams. Dempsey’s lyrical writing floats readers into the dreamy world of dance. Master artist Floyd Cooper immerses us into the soft pinks, yellows, and browns of 1950s New York, giving the hint of old photographs.

Sheila Dickinson, Richmond PL

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