Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Jazz on a Saturday Night
Written and Illustrated by: Leo and Diane Dillon
"Ladies and gents, what a jam this will be—/an evening of jazz immortality!" And how! John Coltrane and Charlie Parker on sax, Thelonious Monk on piano, vocals by Ella Fitzgerald, trumpet by Miles Davis, drums by Max Roach, Stanley Clarke on bass! The audience is captivated and carried along on "a river of melody sketched in dim light" in this rhythmic tribute to traditional jazz. The spreads, graphic-styled paintings rendered in deep matte tones with a suggestion of collage, switch between stage and audience, with swirling background patterns portraying the flow of music. The growing excitement of this jazz extravaganza is perfectly complemented by the joyful rhyming text. A splendid read-aloud/listen-along multisensory title, Jazz is an interdisciplinary workhorse, perfect for music, art, movement, poetry, social studies, and language-arts classes."
School Library Journal Review
Elijah of Buxton
Written by: Christopher Paul Curtis
Upper Elementary and Junior High Grades
"The first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit, Elijah is best known in his hometown as the boy who threw up on Frederick Douglass. (Not on purpose, of course — he was just a baby then!)
But things change when a former slave calling himself the Right Reverend Zephariah W. Connerly the Third steals money from Elijah's friend Mr. Leroy, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the south. Elijah joins Mr. Leroy on a dangerous journey to America in pursuit of the disreputable preacher, and he discovers firsthand the unimaginable horrors of the life his parents fled — a life from which he'll always be free, if he can find the courage to go back home."
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The Secret Olivia Told Me
Written by: N. Joy
Illustrated by: Nancy Devard
"Social skills, while usually "caught," sometimes need to be taught. The Secret Olivia Told Me is an elegantly simple book which illustrates the way in which a secret, once shared, is a secret no more. Like that old party game Telephone, the secret changes and grows as it spreads from person to person."
Let it Shine
Written and Illustrated by: Ashley Bryan
"The inspiring words of three well-known spirituals, "This Little Light of Mine," "Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," are matched with powerful construction-paper collage illustrations. Each double-page spread of this oversize picture book is an explosion of shapes and bright colors. Stocky figures, silhouetted against swirling colors are created from geometric shapes woven together. Rather than conceive a story to accompany the lyrics, Bryan presents series of scenes to reflect each set of lyrics. Children dance around with candles and march with saints; God holds a world of colored objects in his hands. The musical notation and lyrics for each song appear at the end of the book, as does a brief note from Bryan about the history of the spiritual and the changes he made in some of the lyrics. This will be hard to read without breaking into song."
Written by: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrated by: Christopher Myers
Elementary and Junior High Grades
"The father-and-son team behind blues journey creates a scintillating paean to jazz. Walter Dean Myers infuses his lines (and the rests between them) with so much savvy syncopation that readers can't help but be swept up in the rhythms. "Stride," for example, narrated by a piano man, captures the spirit of a "band on fire." On a delphinium-purple page, below each line of white type ("I got jump in my feet, and I'm turning up the heat, left hand hauling"), two significant words from that line dance in black script ("jump"/ "feet"), functioning like the chords a jazz pianist uses as percussive punctuation within a tune. Visually, the page's typography evokes long white and short black piano keys. Christopher Myers lays black-inked acetate over brilliant, saturated acrylics. The resulting chiaroscuro conjures the deep shadows and lurid reflections of low-lit after-dark jazz clubs. The artist dynamically enlarges key compositional elements: a massive bass, a long ago drummer's muscular back, and fingers—poised over keys, plucking strings, splayed along a flute. Design sings here, too: Louis Armstrong's spread upends, befitting that jazz giant. A cogent introduction, selective glossary and chronology round out this mesmerizing verbal and visual riff on a uniquely American art form."
Publishers Weekly Review
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
Written by: Janice N. Harrington
Illustrated by: Shelley Jackson
"In this delightful story about life on a farm, an African-American youngster is determined to become the best chicken chaser ever, although Big Mama repeatedly asks her to leave the animals alone. Despite the girl's best efforts, her favorite chicken, Miss Hen, always manages to escape. As the summer days wear on, she finally finds Miss Hen's hiding spot in the tall green grass. She is sitting on a nest with "fuzzy chicks cuddling tight beneath her wing," and although it would be easy to grab her, the child makes a more mature decision and resists the temptation. Harrington uses exceptionally colorful and descriptive language throughout the tale. Miss Hen has feathers as "shiny as a rained-on roof" and is as "plump as a Sunday purse." Her calls sound "like pennies falling on a dinner plate." Jackson's intriguing collages, combining printed cloth with painterly brushstrokes, will have readers lingering over the pages. The birds' feathers are fashioned out of different materials, including fabric, marker pen on loose-leaf paper, newsprint, and lace. Shifting perspectives capture the thrill of the chase as well as the calm of quieter moments. The youngster's face clearly expresses determination, understanding, and pride. This book makes a marvelously delicious read-aloud, accompanied by participatory "prucks" and "squawks" from the audience."
School Library Journal Review
Written by: Francisco Jiminez
"From the perspective of the young adult he was then, Francisco Jiménez describes the challenges he faced in his efforts to continue his education. During his college years, the very family solidarity that allowed Francisco to survive as a child is tested. Not only must he leave his family behind when he goes to Santa Clara University, but while Francisco is there, his father abandons the family and returns to Mexico. This is the story of how Francisco coped with poverty, with his guilt over leaving his family financially strapped, with his self-doubt about succeeding academically, and with separation. Once again his telling is honest, true, and inspiring."
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom
Written by: Margarita Engle
Junior High and High School Grades
How can there be
a little war?
Are some deaths
smaller than others,
a little less?
"Cuba has fought three wars for independence, and still she is not free. Her people have been rounded up in concentration camps, where there is always too little food and too much illness. Rosa knows how to heal sickness with medicines made from wild plants. But with a price on her head for helping the rebels, Rosa dares not go out in the open. Instead, she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her. Black, white, Cuban, Spanish–Rosa does her best for everyone, even Lieutenant Death, who has sworn to kill her. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war? In this history in verse, acclaimed poet Margarita Engle has created a lyrical, powerful portrait of Cuba."
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
What Can You Do With a Rebozo
Written by: Carmen Taffola
Illustrated by: Amy Cordova
"A cradle for baby, a superhero's cape, a warm blanket on a cool night--there are so many things you can do with a rebozo. Through the eyes of a young girl, readers are introduced to the traditional shawl found in many Mexican and Mexican-American households. Pictures of family life frame simply rhythmic text, and rich bands of jewel-toned acrylics highlight and demonstrate both the versatility of the shawl and the warm family relationships."
School Library Journal
The Storyteller's Candle
Written by: Lucia Gonzalez
Illustrated by: Lulu Delacre
"The winter of 1929 feels especially cold to cousins Hildamar and Santiago—they arrived in New York City from sunny Puerto Rico only months before. Their island home feels very far away indeed, especially with Three Kings’ Day rapidly approaching.
But then a magical thing happened. A visitor appears in their class, a gifted storyteller and librarian by the name of Pura Belpré. She opens the children’s eyes to the public library and its potential to be the living, breathing heart of the community. The library, after all, belongs to everyone—whether you speak Spanish, English, or both.
Award-winners Lucía González and Lulu Delacre have crafted an affecting homage to Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian. Through her vision and dedication, the warmth of Puerto Rico came to the island of Manhattan in a most unexpected way."
Children's Book Press
Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book
Written and Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales
"Yuyi Morales takes us on a new journey with Señor Calvera, the skeleton from Day of the Dead celebrations. Señor Calvera is worried. He can’t figure out what to give Grandma Beetle for her birthday. Misunderstanding the advice of Zelmiro the Ghost, Señor Calvera decides not to get her one gift, but instead one gift for every letter of the alphabet, just in case. Una Acordéon: An accordion for her to dance to. Bigotes: A mustache because she has none. Cosquillas: Tickles to make her laugh…only to find out at the end of the alphabet that the best gift of all is seeing her friends. Morales’s art glows in this heart-warming original tale with folklore themes, a companion book to her Pura Belpré-winning JUST A MINUTE."