Every month, we post an annotated bibliography of books that were rated ‘Outstanding’ and nominated for our Distinguished List at our previous month’s meeting. Members can see full reviews of these books and many more in the January edition of BayViews.
Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
In this fresh, off-beat alphabetical tour, the letters are the only predictable element. In amusing cartoon-like sketches and brief stories, characters deal with an imaginative array of situations that will delight those who already know their way from A to Z. (Grades 1 – 4)
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino; illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
An expressive and emotionally resonant representation of gender variance that will inspire discussion in the library, classroom and at home. (Preschool – Grade 3)
Quest written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
Picking up where Journey (Candlewick, 2013) left off, the girl and boy are sent on a quest to find more colored markers which will free a king and bring color back to the fantasy kingdom. Becker’s gorgeous illustrations once again move the wordless story along at an exciting clip. (Kindergarten to Grade 2)
Sequoia by Tony Johnston; illustrated by Wendell Minor
Roaring Brook, 2014.
A majestic sequoia tree is the main character in this gorgeous picture book. The union between text and illustration is breathtaking. (Kindergarten – Grade 1)
The Storm Whale written and illustrated by Benji Davies
A tender, quiet adventure shows brave Noi rescuing a small beached whale and accompanying his father to release the creature back to the sea. The tidy adventure and the loving bond between father and son are beautifully expressed in the spare text and atmospheric illustrations. (Preschool – Grade 2)
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
The communities bordering the Canadian woods where Benji lives in the runaway-slave founded community of Buxton, and Red lives with his Irish immigrant family in neighboring Chatham are full of tales about a wild man, known as the “Madman of Piney Woods” to some, and the “Lion Man” to others. Once again, Curtis weaves intrigue and fascinating historical detail into a sturdy narrative. (Grades 4 – 8)
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Little, Brown, 2014.
Twelve-year-old Amira wishes she could go to school; after the militia invades her Darfur village, Amira and her mother and sister must walk to a refugee camp. Perhaps there will be a chance for education there? Told in free verse, Amira’s story is compelling and the pencil sketch illustrations give the appearance that they were done by a child like Amira, helping to convey the story along with the poetic text. (Grades 4- 8)
Sisters written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
In this follow-up to Smile (Scholastic, 2010), Raina, Amara, and little brother Will drive with Mom from the Bay Area to Colorado for a family reunion, arguing all the way. There is plenty of humor but what stands out is the realistic portrayal of two sisters who are very different. (Grades 4 – 10)
Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti
A deeply satisfying and historically grounded retelling of Grimm’s classic tale of abandonment, cannibalism and gingerbread that makes the story both more understandable and more chillingly believable, elevating its appeal to older readers. Mattotti’s claustrophobically dark and vigorous brushed-ink drawings compliment Gaiman’s conversational and creepily compelling narrative. (Grades 4 – 8)
The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
This picture-book biography of Peter Mark Roget chronicles the key moments in his life and conveys his fascination with lists and words, leading to his groundbreaking thesaurus. Blending comic-style art with historical artifacts and images, the richly inventive book design and illustrations convey the allure or words, letters, and lists. (Grades 3 – 5)
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos written and illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Roaring Brook, 2014.
Fans of the new “Cosmos” television series will enjoy this picture book biography of astronomer Carl Sagan. The distinctive full color artwork has cartoonish characters that are child-friendly, while still being respectful of the subject. The final spread includes an author’s note, notes concerning each page’s text, bibliography and source notes that help to fill in more details on Sagan’s life. (Grades 1 – 5)
A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Dessert by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Schwartz & Wade, 2015.
This appetizing slice of history shows how food procurement, kitchen equipment, clothing and homes have evolved over 400 years. Elegant historical illustrations, rendered in ink, watercolor and blackberry juice, reflect not only these developments, but social change as well. (Grades 2 – 5)
The Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book: Fun Projects for All Seasons by Kari Cornell; photographs by Jennifer S. Larson
Includes detailed instructions for gardening projects ranging from growing a sack of potatoes to building a terrarium in a jar. This well-organized, attractive book will make an excellent addition to your children’s gardening collection. (Grades 3 – 6)
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
A must-read for every California 4th grader, this is a fluid history of the court case that desegregated California schools in 1947, involving the Mendez family who were Mexican-American. This informational picture book has dramatic color illustrations done in the style of Mayan artwork. (Grades 1 – 5)