Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. Clarion, 2013.
Xander wants to have a Panda Party at the zoo where he lives. But he’s the only panda there so he invites all the bears to a “bear affair” instead. Then Koala informs him that she’s actually a marsupial. “Marsupials—we’re rather rare. Will I not be welcome there?” Xander tries again, this time promising a “hearty party” for all the mammals at the zoo. But Rhinoceros refuses to come without his oxpecker bird. So Xander invites mammals and birds. Crocodile chimes in: “Birds and reptiles—long ago, we were related, don’t you know? If you didn’t, now you do. Can’t the reptiles join in too?” Finally, Xander’s friend Amanda Salamander comes up with the perfect solution in this playful picture book that cleverly integrates a little bit of science into its masterful rhyming text. Whimsical illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the narrative, while the author’s note provides additional information about the various animals in the story. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Viking, 2013.
Jamie describes his moods throughout the day in terms of colors associated with what’s he doing. First he’s in a purple mood, eating a cold plum and drinking grape juice. Then he’s in a “gray kind of place / Storm brewing inside / That I hide / ’Cause I don’t want any trouble space” after his big brothers kick him off the couch. Green is all pleasure after his little sister asks him to draw a dragon. Black is brooding anger when his brothers tease him. Orange is energetic and upbeat, like the basketball he’s playing. Red is urgent, like a fire-engine, as he races home after the game. Dinner is yellow, is lively, is good food (corn pudding, chicken curry) and family. Blue is cool time alone as he washes dishes. The lively narrative is emotionally vivid, with word choice and line length skillfully changing the pacing to suit each mood Jamie describes. Realistic family dynamics (teasing, arguing, playing together, jostling for the biggest piece) play out in brief bits of dialogue and in the illustrations showing Jamie and the other members of his African American family. Honor Book, 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin. With an afterword by Will Allen. Readers to Eaters, 2013.
As a child, Will Allen hated working in his family’s garden. “He planned to quit on planting, picking, pulling weeds, leave those Maryland fields for basketball or white-shirt work.” It turns out he did both, playing professional basketball in Belgium, then getting “white-shirt” work in Wisconsin. But while helping a Belgian friend dig potatoes during his basketball days, he made a life-changing discovery: he “loved digging in the dirt.” Living in Milwaukee after playing ball, Will noticed how few people, especially in poor neighborhoods, had access to fresh vegetables. He bought an inner city lot that included six greenhouses, got friends to donate fruit and vegetable waste to create compost, added red wiggler worms and figured out—through trial and error, and with hands-on help from neighborhood kids–how to gradually transform the polluted soil to grow healthy food. Will devised ways to use every inch of space, growing food in the ground, and also in pots and baskets and buckets and boxes. He added hoophouses for more growing room, and vats of water to raise fish. He named his venture “Growing Power,” and not only began feeding people in the city, but teaching people in his neighborhood, around the country, and around the world how to be urban farmers. This lively introduction to Will Allen’s groundbreaking work (for which he’s received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant) features a buoyant narrative by Jacqueline Briggs Martin set against Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s energetic illustrations. It’s impossible not to be inspired by their account of the creativity of Will’s venture and the hope inherent in its success. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center