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Rosenberg, Madelyn, and Wendy Wan-Long Shang.
This Is Just a Test. Scholastic Press, 2017. 243 pages (978–1–338–03772–2)

Ages 9-12

A late Cold War, made-for-television movie called The Day After, which imagines what happens in a small U.S. town after a nuclear bomb is dropped, leaves seventh-grader David Horowitz upset and unsettled the fall of 1983. Until the movie, his greatest worry was his upcoming bar mitzvah. Now it’s the end of the world. Then again, he’s sometimes just as worried about things exploding in his own home, where his Chinese maternal grandmother, Wai Po, who lives with his family, and his Jewish paternal grandmother, who moved from New Jersey to around the corner after Wai Po moved in, are often at odds in quietly cutting ways. David’s also trying to navigate a new friendship with Scott, a boy who teamed up with David and David’s longtime best friend, Hector, for a trivia contest. They won. Now Scott, who also saw The Day After, has invited David to help him dig a fall-out shelter, and has made it patently clear Hector, who is far from being a cool kid, is not included. Authentic characters, genuine relationships (for better and worse), tension, and humor all combine to make this story about family and friendship and David’s struggle for peace in his own life pleasurable, poignant, and immensely satisfying.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Bing, Xu.
Look! What Do You See? An Art Puzzle Book of American & Chinese Songs. Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander. Viking, 2017. 38 pages (978–0–451–47377–6)

Ages 8-12

Xu Bing has invented a writing system (called a “code” here) called Square Word Calligraphy that uses Roman letters and makes them look like Chinese calligraphy. This unusual and inventive book showcases his transliterated lyrics of several popular American folk songs (e.g., “Skip to My Lou,” “This Land Is Your Land”) and five popular Chinese children’s songs into Square Word Calligraphy. Each is accompanied by a detailed illustration that offers a subtle picture clue, and the challenge for readers is to use the picture clue to decode the song. Once you see the words, you can really begin to read the lines, even of the Chinese songs. The pleasure of decoding is addictive in this volume that features exceptional book-making. For children who love puzzles and decoding, it’ll be a rewarding challenge, and Chinese American children may have double the fun. In fact, in an introduction, the author addresses Chinese children directly, saying, “If you are from China, you might know these from camp or school sing-alongs.”  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center


Barton, Chris.
Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion. Illustrated by Victo Ngai. Millbrook Press, 2017. 36 pages (978–1–5124–1014–3)

During World War I, more than 1,200 U.S. ships and twice as many British ships were camouflaged in dazzling geometric designs. The goal was to paint patterns that would create confusion regarding the direction in which ships were traveling when viewed by German submarines. The idea originated with Norman Wilkinson, a commander in the Royal Navy reserve. It was carried out in part by women artists in Britain and, when the United States began dazzling, the Women’s Reserve Camouflage Corps. Did the camouflage work? No one knows for sure. “But some insisted that at the very least, sailors on those ships just felt better knowing that something had been tried to keep them from getting torpedoed.” This fascinating bit of history is followed by an equally fascinating author’s note about his research and the decisions he made in crafting  the account. Likewise, bold, bedazzling mixed-media illustrations are followed by an intriguing illustrator’s note. A timeline with black-and-white photographs and suggestions for further reading complete the volume. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Phi, Bao. A Different Pond. Illustrated by Thi Bui. Capstone Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages (978–1–62370–803–0)

Ages 6-9

A Vietnamese American boy’s predawn fishing outing with his dad is the subject of a narrative shaped by an exquisite accounting of details. So much beyond the action is conveyed through beautifully weighted sentences (“I feel the bag of minnows move. They swim like silver arrows in my hand.”): The specific experience of this immigrant child (“A kid at my school says my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”); a hard-working family’s economic hardship (“‘If you got another job why do we still have to fish for food?’ I ask. ‘Everything in America costs a lot of money,’ he explains. I feel callouses on his hand when he squeezes mine.”); bittersweet memory as the boy’s dad recalls fishing at a similar pond as a child in Vietnam with his brother, who died during the war. And running through it all is the boy’s happiness in their time together, a pleasure that extends to feelings about his entire family when they gather at day’s end. The evocative art masterfully and movingly reveals details of character, setting, and action while superbly reflecting the warmth and intimacy of the story. At volume’s end, both the author and illustrator share memories of growing up in Vietnamese families that came to the United States when they were children. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Owl Bat Bat Owl
by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2017

Ages 2-5

 

A family of owls is sound asleep on the top of a branch when a family of bats arrives and hangs from the bottom. The startled owls all awaken, but soon doze off again. The bats do the same. All except the smallest owl and the smallest bat, who are curious about each other. The two adults awaken and admonish them. They all fall asleep. Then it begins to blow, a fierce, strong wind that knocks owls and bats off the branch and in every direction. The two frantic adults begin swooping after their youngsters and returning them to safety, quickly going from saving their own young one to saving the nearest young one they reach. Is it any wonder a beautiful family friendship is the result? The warmth of this wordless story is trumped only by its charm. The visual narrative is easy to follow and yet there is so much to notice, from the ever-changing expressions— those eyes!—of the owls and bats to the small, secondary story of a spider on the tree, to the marvelous palette, and the pattern of symmetry and its disruption. Everything is intentional and perfect in a story sure to be requested again and again. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Hooray for Birds! 
by Lucy Cousins. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2017

Ages 2-4

 

With her signature bold black outlines and flat colors, Cousins engages the picture-book set from page one, encouraging young children to imagine themselves as birds, waking up and shouting, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Each page focuses on a sound or movement that will be easy for children to imitate or act out (“Scratch the ground with your feet / Catch a fly with your beak.”) and each one offers a picture clue showing a brightly colored bird. The uncluttered pages and large format of the book both make it easy for children to see, and they will all be flapping, hopping, and pecking along until it’s time to—“Whoo! Whoo!” —say good-bye. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Slater, Dashka. The 57 Bus. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. 305 pages (978–0–374–30323–5)

Age 12 and older

Despite recently losing a friend to gun violence, African American Richard is focused on improving his grades and graduating from his Oakland high school. Sasha, who attends private school, is agender and brilliant, the type of person who invents languages for fun. On November 4, 2013, as Richard and Sasha ride the bus home from their respective schools, Richard holds a lighter to Sasha’s skirt, which erupts into flames. This event sets in motion a long, painful process of court appearances for Richard, and healing for both. The two teens are treated with respect and empathy in this nonfiction account that begins with an exploration of their backgrounds, including Sasha’s gradual understanding that they don’t identify as either male or female, and continues through Sasha’s recovery and Richard’s sentencing. Accessible descriptions of aspects of the U.S. and California justice systems—the practice of restorative justice and California’s Proposition 21, which allows juvenile offenders to be charged as adults—in addition to information about Richard’s personality and adolescent brains and behavior, suggest that, as Richard’s friend attests, the crime “was like a funny prank-joke turns to something that ends your whole life.” Although a grim event begins this narrative, the humanity of both teens and their families is palpable throughout. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find out more about this month’s titles by clicking a cover image below!

NOVEMBER
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman. Clarion, 2016 Read more.
NOVEMBER (1)
The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 Prior to Read more.
NOVEMBER (2)
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell.  Illustrated by Rafael López. Houghton Read more.
NOVEMBER (1)
Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2016 This riveting Read more.
NOVEMBER (2)
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Philomel, 2016 The sinking of the Nazi passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff, killing an Read more.
NOVEMBER (1)
The Sound of All Things by Myron Uhlberg. Illustrated by Ted Papoulas. Peachtree, 2016 Both of the young narrator’s parents Read more.
NOVEMBER (2)
Esquivel! Space–Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood. Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Charlesbridge, 2016 Juan Garcia Esquivel was an avant garde Read more.
NOVEMBER (1)
Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin. Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey. Schwartz & Wade, 2016 A little owl leaves his mama, Read more.
NOVEMBER (2)
Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle. Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander. Chronicle, 2016 The transformation from Read more.
NOVEMBER (3)
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales.  Little, Brown, 2016 Thunder Boy Smith Jr. hates his name. Read more.

NOVEMBER (3)

May 16th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2017-2018 | 2017-2018 Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers | November - (Comments Off on NOVEMBER (3))

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales.  Little, Brown, 2016

Thunder Boy Smith Jr. hates his name. Because his father is also Thunder Boy Smith, Thunder Boy Jr. is nicknamed Little Thunder, which sounds to him “like a burp or a fart.” He wants his own name, one based on his talents, like learning to ride a bike when he was three (Gravity’s Best Friend); or his interests, such as garage sales (Old Toys Are Awesome), or powwow dancing (Drums, Drums, and More Drums!); or his future dreams of traveling the world (Full of Wonder). “I love my dad but I want to be mostly myself.” It turns out his dad understands, announcing one day that it’s time for Thunder Boy Jr. to get a new name: Lightning! “My dad and I will light up the sky.” A story the author has stated is based on his own Spokane heritage is full of warmth and good-hearted humor. Lively, playful illustrations represent both Thunder Boy and the world of his imagination. Dialogue bubbles are used throughout, while Thunder Boy’s little sister, Lillian, mentioned once in the text, has a key role in the visual narrative. Honor Book, 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Read: Go to the library and ask your librarian about other books on thunder and lightning storms.
  • Talk: Ask your family what your name means. Are you named after anyone in your family? Do you have a middle name? What does your last name mean?
  • Sing: Make rain/a thunderstorm using hands- start with rubbing hands quietly, then snap, then tap on legs, then clapping.
  • Write: Practice writing your name.
  • Play: Draw a picture of yourself or act out doing something you love to do
  • Math or Science: Talk about differences and similarities between lightning and thunder. Which one is audible and which one is visual? What are some connections between thunder and lightning?

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NOVEMBER (2)

May 16th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2017-2018 | 2017-2018 Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers | November - (Comments Off on NOVEMBER (2))

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle. Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander. Chronicle, 2016

The transformation from autumn to winter on a small farm means “putting the farm to bed.” Strawberry plants must be covered with straw, the autumn harvest finished, oats and rye planted to replenish the fields. “Good night, fields, peaceful and still.” Brush is burned, wood is cut and stacked, hay bales placed as a windbreak for the hives of bees. “Good night, bees, sheltered and safe.” The repeated “good night” refrain follows a detailed accounting of many tasks that also give a sense of the abundant harvests that came before. The work, shared by every member of the farm family—mother, father, girl, boy—is realistically yet refreshingly non-gender-stereotyped. This contemporary story is set against warm, detailed folk-art illustrations that have a nostalgic, almost idyllic feel. Everything looks cozy, which seems appropriate for a good-night story. (Ages 3–7)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Read: “Big Tractor” by Nathan Clement
  • Talk: About the vegetables and fruits grown on the farm. What does the family in the book do to ready the farm for winter? What do you does your family do to get ready for winter?
  • Sing: “Farmer in the Dell”
  • Write: Use vegetables in paint or ink to make vegetable stamp prints.
  • Play: Use play materials to build your own farm. Pretend to tuck the farm in for winter.
  • Math or Science: Find all the vegetables that are orange/red/green. Find all the animals.

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NOVEMBER (1)

May 16th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2017-2018 | 2017-2018 Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers | November - (Comments Off on NOVEMBER (1))

Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin. Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey. Schwartz & Wade, 2016

A little owl leaves his mama, brother, and sister sleeping in their nest and ventures out one night on his own. The entire story is told with just four words per page. “Stars Twinkle Mice Scamper” is accompanied by luminous illustrations that track the owl’s journey, conveying the quiet wonder of the moonlit night. When the owl lands on a log over a body of water, he looks down and sees his own reflection. This is the only time the four-word pattern is broken in order to heighten the dramatic moment: “Owl / Sees Owl.” The little owl then returns home, his journey described with words from the previous pages in reverse: “Scamper Mice Twinkle Stars,” for example, and, finally, “Sister Brother Mama Home” in a book that is lovely both visually and textually. (Ages 2–4)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Read: The poem “Quiet in the Wilderness”
  • Talk: About the colors, animals, and nature that the children see in the pictures (for babies and toddlers); talk about the mirror image of the poem in the book (for preschoolers)
  • Sing: Find the song “Nocturnal” by Billy Jonas at your library or online and sing along.
  • Write: Your name and think of words of things you like that start with each letter with the help of a grown-up.
  • Play: Have a mirror for kids to see themselves like Owl. Make expressions. Pretend to be an owl.
  • Math or Science: Talk about nocturnal animals. What animals would you see at night in the woods?

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NOVEMBER (2)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | November | 2017-2018 Intermediate - (Comments Off on NOVEMBER (2))

Esquivel! Space–Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood. Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Charlesbridge, 2016

Juan Garcia Esquivel was an avant garde musician born and raised in Mexico. Captivated by music and by sounds as a child, he had no formal musical training and “focused on how sounds could be arranged” as he started to create music of his own. “He was an artist, using dips and dabs of color to create a vivid landscape. But instead of paint, Juan used sound. Weird and wild sounds! Strange and exciting sounds!” As a young man he moved to New York City, and soon was creating music that had everyone talking—and listening! The artist known simply, emphatically, as “Esquivel!” became hugely popular in the 1950s into the 1960s, in the heyday of easy-listening “lounge” music. Now new generations are discovering his unique and playful stylings. An energetic narrative set against distinctive illustrations with elements of whimsy introduces the musician to young readers and listeners, while end matter includes where to read, listen, watch, and find out more. (Ages 8–11)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do the author and illustrator describe sound in the book? How would you describe – with words, images, action — a sound you hear around you?
  2. Why do you think Juan Esquivel was called a space-age sound artist?
  3. How did Esquivel make old styles of music new? How does the illustrator of the book make old styles of art new?

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