Moments ago I finished reading Pennyroyal Academy by M. A. Larson. I’ve been reading it on the bus, before bed, while I cook, and even on my walk home. It has been my constant companion since I first became enthralled by the girl with no name and her encounter with a witch and enchanted forest. After running into Remington, a knight-to-be, she soon finds her way to Pennyroyal Academy, where Princesses of the Shield are trained to fight witches. Here anyone can become a princess, if only they train hard enough and learn well enough. Given a diagnosis of suffering from a memory curse, the girl is also give a name, Cadet Eleven or Evie for short. With only a dragon scale and clothes of cobwebs as hints to her past, she feels a bit out of place. However, she soon befriends other outcast girls, though she does have trouble with a sour princess-in-training, aptly named Malora. Learning the history of princesses, navigating warrior training with a Fairy Drillsergeant, and even sewing lessons with the master tailor troll offer challenges Evie must find the strength to overcome. Twists and turns throughout the story left me guessing (and sometimes peeking to the last chapter). By discovering the truth of her memories and family, Evie is finally free to be herself. A slight undercurrent of romance between Evie and Remington satisfies without overpowering the main story of a girl deciding for herself who she is and what she wants to be. Cheeky nods to classic fairy tales round out this world of witches, princesses, dragons and knights. Pick up this story of self-discovery and adventure for a dose of princess power.
On Monday, February 2, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the 2015 Newbery and Caldecott award winners. These books have won the most prestigious prizes in children’s literature.
John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander–Twin brothers Josh and Jordan are basketball stars and great friends, until a girl gets in the way. A middle grade story of brotherhood and basketball told in a variety of poetic styles.
Newbery Honor Books: El Deafo by Cece Bell and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat–An imaginary friend sets out on a journey to find a real child to befriend.
Caldecott Honor Books: Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPre, Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.
For other award winners, see the full list.
Sam and Dave have dug a hole in my mind. At the risk of sounding like a heretic in the realm of children’s librarians, I’ll admit that I’ve not been a fan of Jon Klassen’s hat books. Grim humor is just not my thing. So with reluctance, and only after hearing all the buzz, I decided I did need to read Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. And my first reaction was bewilderment—“What happened there?” So I read it again. And again. And yet again. And then looked at the illustrations. And then looked at them some more. I shared it with my teenage daughter, who shared it with her friends. (“Freaky!” was their verdict, which was a compliment.) And somehow, it has grown on me. I still don’t really understand it. Neither does anyone else, I’ve learned. There are many theories about what it really means. But what did the dynamic duo of Barnett intend for it to mean? And will we ever find out where Sam and Dave really are? The ending is unnerving, and I keep turning it over in my mind. The spare text, subdued illustrations, and determined characters remind me a bit of The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson, though a bit grimmer. (Still, The Carrot Seed family is a bit harsh, too, don’t you think?) Will Sam and Dave achieve the same classic status? If you haven’t read it yet, get your hands on Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. And please…explain it to me!
P.S. Check out Barnett and Klassen’s other collaboration Extra Yarn, which I love. It’s sweetly satisfying and will always remind me of Iowa City’s Tree Huggers!
I’m a dog person, so naturally if I see a new dog picture book on the shelf I grab it. All of us in the Children’s Room will agree that a dog storytime is always a hit!
In 2014, there were lots of picture books about dogs published and so many of them are funny, clever and of course, cute!
Maggi is an adventurer and a pretty good songwriter. Her border collie, Milo, is her best friend. Maggi gets a package from her grandma with all the necessities for a frog hunt, boots, and a book about frogs. Why frogs? A quick look at her bedroom reveals a fascination with frogs, including frog drawings, slippers, etc.
“I’m a frog hunter and he is Milo!” she announces, and together they wander off to the pond. After waiting a “million minutes” for something to happen, she’s bored! Milo wanders off. A panicked search for Milo in the muck reveals Milo has found a frog! Milo finds even more frogs and at the end of the day,”Side by side, they sat on the edge of the world, just listening to the frogs say good night.”
Here are a few more doggie books to enjoy:
This Book Just Ate My Dog! By Richard Byrne
“When her dog disappears into the gutter of the book, Bella calls for help. But when the helpers disappear too, Bella realizes it will take more than a tug on the leash to put things right.”
Gaston words by Kelly DiPucchio; pictures by Christian Robinson
A proper bulldog raised in a poodle family and a tough poodle raised in a bulldog family meet one day in the park.
Time for Bed, Fred by Yassmeen Ismail.
A child has a very difficult time getting Fred, the dog, to bed.
Eddie and the Dog by Alison Brown
Eddie longs for a friend who likes adventure and finds the perfect match in Dog.
The Library’s Children’s Staff stepped things up this year, providing the longest list of recommended titles. These books range from stories perfect for bedtime stories to chapter books for independent readers. Perhaps your child’s new favorite is on this list!
ICPL BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF 2014
The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker
The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham
Hermelin the Detective Mouse by Mini Grey
Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell
Gabriel Finley & the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Levy – II
Puddle Pug by Kim Norman
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Sparky by Jenny Offill
Quest by Aaron Becker
The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio
The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc
Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Mix It Up! By Herve Tullet
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Maple by Lori Nichols
Moo! By David LaRochelle
Underwater Dogs: Kids edition by Seth Casteel
Found by Salina Yoon
If you’ve been waiting for information about One Book Two Book, the annual celebration of children’s literature in the City of Literature, here’s the scoop—the date has changed! Traditionally held in January, the festival will be moving to March 6-8 in 2015. All events will be held in downtown Iowa City, based at the Sheraton Hotel.
Author and illustrator David LaRochelle will be visiting and sharing his work. He has written several picture books, including Moo!, It’s a Tiger, and The Best Pet of All, as well as a young adult novel, Absolutely, Postively Not. LaRochelle didn’t start out to be an author. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a balloon man or maybe a cartoonist like Charles Schulz. During college, his dreams shifted to becoming a Hallmark card illustrator, until he was told he didn’t draw well enough. He decided to become a teacher. While teaching elementary school, LaRochelle began writing for kids. With over 25 books published, LaRochelle now writes and illustrates full-time. Although he no longer teaches, he visits schools and libraries regularly to talk about his books. In his spare time, he is also a professional pumpkin carver, whose artistry has been featured on the Good Morning America show.
One Book Two Book will also feature additional authors, and the full line-up will be announced soon. Other activities will include special events to recognize local student authors, a children’s book fair, live entertainment, face painting, arts and crafts, and more. Kids will also get to meet other special guests—children’s book characters Frog & Toad, Martha from Martha Speaks, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Babymouse, and Geronimo Stilton. It will be a fun-filled weekend, so get out those brand new 2015 calendars and save the dates for One Book Two Book!
Two dads, four boys, one dog, one cat, and one invisible cheetah. The Family Fletcher is preparing for a new school year, the first school year where all four of the very different boys will be in school. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Levy follows this unique, and at the same time totally normal, family throughout the year as they deal with their individual problems. Twelve year-old Sam is a soccer player, a cool kid looked up to as the example for his younger brothers. Can he transfer his talent for storytelling into a part in the school play, and more importantly still be cool? 10 year-old Jax thinks Sam is the coolest, and wants to be accepted as part of the same crowd, now that he’s in the same school building. But with a changing friendship and a school project hanging over his head, Jax might end up more behind than ever. Eli, also 10 (but a couple of months younger), is starting a new, expensive, academically minded school, trading familiar faces for scholarly challenges. When his new school turns out to be less amazing than he had hoped, he struggles with the his ability to admit he made a mistake. Six year-old Froggie (not Jeremiah) is excited to start kindergarten with Flare, his invisible cheetah. His biggest problems are asking for kittens, turtles and convincing his family that his new friend Ladybug is real girl.
Even with all of their individual issues to work through, the whole family comes together for the biggest Halloween party ever, camping trips, and convincing their grumpy neighbor Mr. Nelson that they mean no harm. With loving support from both Papa and Dad (who have some misadventures of their own), the Fletchers work together to overcome all obstacles that come their way. This is a fun romp that just happens to have a diverse family at the heart of it.
“3 weeks 2 sisters 1 car” Perfect for the holidays—the quintessential family road trip!
I’m not generally a fan of graphic novels, but author and illustrator Raina Telgemeier does a great job of convincing me to broaden my horizons. I just read her newest title, Sisters, which explores the complexity and humor of sibling rivalry and family relationships. Sisters evokes a universal familiarity. Who doesn’t remember the family road trip as the perfect time to fight and bond?
Telgemeier’s first autobiographical novel, Smile, continues to be incredibly popular. Booklist described it as “possibly the only universally embraced graphic novel on the planet.” Sisters continues Raina’s story, sharing how she and her sister Amara fight their way to common ground, against the backdrop of a family reunion, also filled with family fights and affections. Sisters left me with a smile and warm memories of my own sisters…and wishing for more. Perhaps Telgemeier will turn me into a graphic novel fan yet!
Sisters and Smile both have hold lists on them at the library, but they are worth the wait. (And the lists aren’t too long!) While you’re waiting, you could check out a couple of my other favorite sister books, touching picture books great for all ages: Big Sister, Little Sister by LeUyen Pham and Maple & Willow Together by Lori Nichols.
This week I get to see one of my sisters, and I’m excited to share Sisters with her. We can relate–it’s surprisingly like our story!
This time of year, a time when so much of our culture is fast paced and commercially focused, I’m reminded about how thankful I am of all the outreach I get to do each week. Visiting schools and daycares grounds my soul. At each visit, the kids teach me so much about living in the moment.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so naturally my visits in November are about being thankful. I ask the kids what they are thankful for. Some kids don’t understand this concept, so I start with a few examples: “I’m thankful for the time I get to spend visiting them at school” or “I’m thankful for the sun shining.” The kids catch on quickly. They are thankful for their birthday, snow, toys, trains, and more toys! By now they’re totally enthusiastic, so this is when I get the kids to settle down with one of my favorite books to read this time of year.
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson is a sweet story about sharing, friendship, and giving thanks. Bear is bored and wants to throw a party for his forest friends. Each of his friends arrives with delectable gifts, and a repeated line encourages audience participation (“…and Bear says, ‘Thanks!’”). Sadly, Bear finds his own cupboards are bare! But his friends remind him not to fret–there’s no need for more food, because Bear’s got his own gift of stories to share, “…and they all say, ‘Thanks!’”