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I Want to be i n a Scary Story book cover
I Want to Be in a Scary Story
 
by Sean Taylor. Illustrated by Jean Jullien. Candlewick Press, 2017

Ages 3-7

Little Monster is ready to be in a scary story. The narrator begins with a dark and scary forest. “Oh my golly gosh!” says Little Monster, not ready for something quite that scary. The scene changes to a spooky house. “Oh my goodness me! … Oh yikes and crikes!” Finally Little Monster admits it would be better to do the scaring. Anticipation builds as Little Monster walks toward a room to scare whoever is inside … “can we maybe change this book so it’s a FUNNY story?” The back-and-forth dialogue between Little Monster, who is small and wide-eyed, his purple-inked dialogue matching his color, and the unseen narrator, whose words are shown in black, is always easy to follow. So, too, are Little Monster’s emotions. The gentle tension shifts to the comically absurd and then back again in this begs-to-be-read-aloud picture book when Little Monster suddenly disappears and the narrator becomes increasingly worried. “Boo!” Digitally colored ink illustrations show Little Monster against white pages when talking with the narrator, and in full-color, bold, slightly comical (and maybe a teensy bit scary) scenes when part of the various stories being told. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Herbert's First Halloween
Herbert’s First Halloween
by Cynthia Rylant.  Illustrated by Steven Henry. Chronicle, 2017

Ages 3-6

 

Herbert is a little pig who “was not so sure about Halloween.” Herbert’s dad loves Halloween, however. When Herbert decides he wants to be a tiger his dad measures Herbert and sews ears, tail, and paws with claws while Herbert practices his roar. Herbert’s dad carves a smiling-faced pumpkin they name Jack, and tells Herbert about the candy. “You will need a bucket. … A big one.” Herbert’s dad is gently reassuring, helping Herbert navigate his uncertainty throughout a warm, sparely told yet perfectly paced story that follows Herbert through his first night of trick-or-treating. “Herbert roared many tiger thank-yous.” Muted illustrations echo the narrative’s understated charm. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

My Autumn Book book cover
My Autumn Book
by Wong Herbert Yee. Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt, 2015

Ages 3-5

 

“The air turns crisp. / The sky turns gray. / Is autumn really on the way?” In the fourth lovely, season-related picture book about the same small Asian girl, autumn is indeed arriving. It comes with swirling and twirling leaves, busy squirrels, flying geese, cocooning caterpillars, and more. As in past books featuring this girl and her father, author/illustrator Wong Herbert Yee’s rhyming text is paired with soft color illustrations full of warmth and appealing details. The book’s trim size makes it perfect for small hands to hold.  © 2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Baby's First Words book cover


Baby’s First Words
by Stella Blackstone and Sunny Scribbens. Illustrated by Christiane Engel. Barefoot Books, 2017

Ages 6 months – 3 years

A toddler’s day provides the story arc of a board book that offers engagement, affirmation, and delight, showing a mixed-race, gay-parented family. “Good morning!” reads the primary text on the opening page spread. The colorful scene includes word labels for “baby” (the girl), “bed,” “blocks,” “clock,” “laugh” (she’s all smiles as she greets one of her dads), “woolly mammoth” (a stuffed animal), and more. Objects, actions, and feelings are labeled as the little girl gets dressed, plays outside, eats lunch, plays inside, and, over the course of the day, experiences a range of emotions, engages with a variety of vehicles, and encounters an array of animal toys before being given a bath and going to bed. The pleasing illustrations are punctuated by humor (e.g., the woolly mammoth is often shown doing something funny for a woolly mammoth—coloring with a crayon, brushing its teeth) and full of warmth. One dad, home with her throughout the day, is Black, the other is light-skinned, like the little girl. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Duyvis, Corinne. On the Edge of Gone. Amulet Books/Abrams, 2016. 456 pages (978-1-4197-1903-5)

Age 14 and older

It’s 2035 and a comet is headed toward Earth. Preparations for the inevitable destruction have fallen along class lines – those who can afford it, or who have critical skills, are set to escape on self-sustaining generation ships. Those who can’t are staying in underground shelters with little hope of long-term survival. Biracial Denise, her drug-addicted mother, and her trans sister don’t come close to qualifying for safe passage on a generation ship but Denise is determined to get the three of them on board, even it means lying or sneaking on. Denise has autism – sometimes that hinders her, sometimes it helps, but always it is just part of who she is and how she views the world. Set in a futuristic Amsterdam, this compelling novel is tense, visceral, and extremely well crafted. It also offers a thoughtful exploration of ethical dilemmas: What would you be willing to do to survive? Whom would you save? And, in the face of pending doom, who deserves to live and who is expendable? ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Rusch, Elizabeth.
Impact! Asteroids and the Science of Saving the World. Photographs by Karin Anderson. (Scientists in the Field) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. 76 pages (978–0–544–67159–1)

Age 10 and older

“About once a year, a car-size asteroid strikes the Earth … roughly every five thousand years, the Earth is struck by an asteroid as big as a football field.” And then there are the really big ones every few million years—the kind that can trigger a global disaster. (Think dinosaurs.) How do scientists understand the past and potential future impact of asteroids on earth, and calculate risk? It’s work that takes place on many fronts, from amateur meteorite hunters to geologists studying craters of long-ago impacts to asteroid hunters, both amateurs and professional scientists, monitoring space using telescopes on the ground and orbiting the earth. Each kind of research and monitoring plays an important part in understanding asteroids and identifying potentially hazardous asteroids. The men and women introduced here share their fascination with their work, as well as things some readers may find surprising. (e.g., “A lot of science is writing … You are always trying to convey what you’ve done or what you’re hoping to do.”). The inviting design includes ample color photographs and graphics, while a final chapter, “How to Save the World,” offers fascinating theories on how we might try to divert a potentially devastating asteroid from impact. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Lee, Fonda. Exo. Scholastic Press, 2017. 371 pages (978–0–545–93343–8)

Age 12 and older

Teenage Donovan is a member of the security forces keeping the peace after years of war that followed the invasion of Earth by the Mur zhree. Although the war has ended, an active human resistance remains. “Hardened” with zhree biotechnology as a child, Donovan can activate a protective exoskeleton, but it can’t prevent him being kidnapped by the Sapience resistance when a raid goes awry. When the resistance learns Donovan is the son of the Prime Liaison—his father is the highest ranking human in their district and works closely with zhree leaders—he’s taken to a Sapience hideout as a pawn. Although Donovan has personal issues with his demanding father, he’s loyal to the zhree and, especially, his fellow security officers. But the identity of the principle Sapience propaganda writer turns everything upside down: It turns out to be his mother, who left when he was six, unable to save Donovan from the Hardening his father volunteered him for. The resistance believe exos are no longer fully human. Donovan knows it’s his humanity that makes him feel so conflicted upon seeing his mom—both hungry for and resistant to her love. A fast-paced, compelling work of science fiction with strong world-building deftly addresses the logistical and emotional complexities of political conflict and change through intriguing characters—human and nonhuman alike. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Stevens, Courtney.
Dress Codes for Small Towns. HarperTeen, 2017. 337  pages (978–0–06–239851–2)

Age 13 and older

A YA book set in a small town in which the main character, a preacher’s kid, does not hate either the town or being a preacher’s kid. In which the group of friends at the story’s heart feels both exceptional and ordinary and authentic. At the center of it all is Billie McCaffrey, who may be in love with both of her best friends, Wood and Janie Lee; who dresses in jeans and combat boots and creates large-object art in her garage; who is part of a group of six friends who call themselves the Hexagon and are as adept at creating community as causing havoc. The Hexagon’s efforts to save Otter Falls’ annual Harvest Festival and Corn Dolly competition—both of which are presented with astonishing appreciation through Billie’s eyes—is the storyline around which Billie and her friends make discoveries about themselves and one another in a novel that is funny and poignant and probing by turns as it examines sexuality, gender, friendship, love, and family, all with remarkable little angst in spite of some serious soul searching. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2017.  306 pages (978–1–4814–3825–4)

Age 12 and older

Will learned “The Rules” from his older brother, Shawn. No. 1: No crying. No. 2: No snitching. No. 3: Get revenge. When Shawn is shot and killed, Will’s grief is trapped behind a wall of unshed tears. He’s sure he knows who did it: Riggs. And of course he won’t tell the police. Using the gun Shawn kept in his middle drawer, the gun he was never supposed to touch, Will leaves his 8th floor apartment the morning after Shawn’s death. He gets on the elevator at 9:08:02 a.m. Over the next 67 seconds and 234 pages of this taut, tightly paced novel in verse, different rules are broken: the rule in which no one talks on the elevator; and rules of life and death, space and time. On every floor, as Will descends, someone impossible gets on. Will knows each one of them, and their conversations—with him, with one another—explore the strange, unreliable honor of The Rules and reveal the cycle of violence they perpetuate. And now it’s Will’s turn to put The Rules into play, to shoot Riggs for killing Shawn. Isn’t it? The final two words of this novel are explosive, inviting discussion about what comes next, but it’s the entirety of Will’s reality-bending, expansive 67-second descent that makes it possible to wonder. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Mathieu, Jennifer. Moxie. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 330 pages (978–1–62672–635–2)

Age 13 and older

Vivvy loves the Riot Grrrl bands and zines of her mother’s youth, but unlike her mom at 16, Vivvy is not a wave-maker or rule-breaker in her small east Texas town, until anger at the rampant sexism at her school spurs her to action. Vivvy creates an anonymous zine, Moxie, calling out the sexism—some of it verbal, some of it physical, some of it psychological, all of it an assault. New student Lucy, an avowed feminist, loves Moxie, while Vivvy’s best friend Claudia finds the word “feminist” too much and the Moxie calls to action useless. New boy Seth, on whom Vivvy has a crush, sees Vivvy placing copies of Moxie in the bathrooms, but he keeps her secret and romance blossoms. Moxie begins to illuminate and then bridge divides of race and class as many different girls begin to embrace the anonymous zine and the Moxie movement slowly grows. The sexism at Vivvy’s school—insidious and infuriating—is both believable in the context of this story and also symbolic of the sexism in our society as a whole: It is systemic in scope; takes myriad forms; is too rarely acknowledged or challenged; has an impact that is achingly personal; those who fight back face repercussions; and every additional voice adds power to the call for change. Mathieu’s narrative is fierce and inspiring, while her nuanced characters and the complexity of their relationships ground the story.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Dimaline, Cherie.
The Marrow Thieves. DCB, 2017. 234 pages (pbk  978–1–77086–486–3)

Age 12 and older

“It began as a rumor, that they had found a way to siphon dreams right out of our bones.” In a not-too-distant future when environmental devastation has killed millions, many people no longer dream when they sleep. At the Canadian government’s new residential “schools,” the dreams of Indigenous people are distilled from their marrow for later use by the wealthy and privileged. Sixteen-year-old Frenchie escaped school Recruiters at 11 and has been with his found family ever since. One elder, one middle-aged adult, four teens, and four children from several Nations, they are constantly on the move evading Recruiters as new schools are built farther and farther north. Although they’re skilled at survival, safety is an unknown destination, and when tragedy strikes at the heart of their group Frenchie decides it’s time to stop running and take a stand. This riveting work confronts the reality of genocide but never loses sight of hope. It’s the breath of those who survive. It’s the love, the solidarity with others, cultural traditions, and the power of languages kept alive. Métis author Dimaline’s plot is fast-paced and unyielding while her finely drawn main characters, although marked by pain, are full of intelligence, compassion, and grace. Dimaline’s exquisite writing offers beautiful turns of phrase and lines that sting with their sharpness and honesty, while Frenchie’s teen voice and feelings, often surprisingly funny, are, like the story itself, at once of his time and our own. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Heiligman, Deborah.
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers. Godwin Books / Henry Holt, 2017. 454 pages  (978–0–8050–9339–1)

Age 14 and older

As a young man, Vincent Van Gogh worked at an art auction house but was neither happy nor successful. He turned to God and ministered to the poor with great humility and an unsettling passion for self-denial until he was asked to leave his post. At 27, he returned home and began to draw and paint with purpose, relentless in the desire to improve. His brother Theo, two years younger and a successful art dealer, was his greatest critic and staunchest supporter financially and emotionally. Excited by the new style called Impressionism, Theo encouraged Vincent to use more and more color in his work. There had been signs for years that Vincent could be unstable, sometimes subject to deep sadness and withdrawal, sometimes frenzied. Theo, too, battled despair. A narrative that quotes liberally from their prolific correspondence details their individual struggles, while the devotion between them is its heart and soul. This exquisite, remarkable book told in the present tense positions readers as intimate observers of Vincent’s and Theo’s lives. Two portraits emerge in rich detail: a deep-thinking, gifted artist who was a troubled, gentle, compassionate man; and an insightful critic who recognized his brother’s brilliant mind and work, devoting incredible energy and resources to nurturing and supporting him. Uplifting, poignant, and tragic by turns, the brothers’ lives unfold in a work of exceptional literary nonfiction weaving scholarly research (further detailed in ample end matter) into a vivid, immersive account. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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