Archive for the ‘Award Winners’ Category

Review of Crown, by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Crown

An Ode to the Fresh Cut

by Derrick Barnes
illustrated by Gordon C. James

Bolden Books (Agate Publishing), Chicago, 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Newbery Honor Book
2018 Caldecott Honor Book
2018 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
2018 Capitol Choices selection

It’s not often that a picture book wins Newbery Honor. Because the Newbery is given specifically for the text. In this case, we can’t write it off as a fluke, because not only did the 2018 Newbery committee think the text of this book was worthy of honor, the 2018 Coretta Scott King committee singled it out for the author’s work. Mind you, it also got honor from the 2018 Caldecott committee and from the 2018 Coretta Scott King committee for the illustrator’s work. So this picture book garnered a truly amazing four Honor awards.

This book is about a black boy getting a haircut. But also about a black boy feeling great about himself.

Here’s what the author says he was trying to do in a note in the back:

Mr. Tony was my barber in the sixth grade. To get to his chair, I rode the Prospect southbound Metro bus to 63rd St. every Thursday, the day of the week my mother would leave eight dollars on the kitchen table so that I could get my hair cut. Walking out of that shop, I never felt like the same kid that went in. I couldn’t wait for Friday morning so that Carmella Swift, my girlfriend, could see how perfect my box was shaped up. I knew she’d bug out about the two parts on the right side of my head, which, in my mind, made me look like Big Daddy Kane. There was no way she’d resist my ruler-straight hairline, a precise frame for my smiling, brown, 11-year-old face. That fresh cut made you more handsome. It made you smarter, more visible, and more aware of every great thing that could happen in your world.

With this offering, I wanted to capture that moment when black and brown boys all over America visit “the shop” and hop out of the chair filled with a higher self-esteem, with self-pride, with confidence, and an overall elevated view of who they are. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins. It’s how we develop swagger, and when we begin to care about how we present ourselves to the world. It’s also the time when most of us become privy to the conversations and company of hardworking black men from all walks of life. We learn to mimic their tone, inflections, sense of humor, and verbal combative skills when discussing politics, women, sports, our community, and our future. And really, other than the church, the experience of getting a haircut is pretty much the only place in the black community where a black boy is “tended to” – treated like royalty.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut focuses on the humanity, the beautiful, raw, smart, perceptive, assured humanity of black boys/sons/brothers/nephews/grandsons, and how they see themselves when they highly approve of their reflections in the mirror. Deep down inside, they wish that everyone could see what they see: a real life, breathing, compassionate, thoughtful, brilliant, limitless soul that matters – that desperately matters. We’ve always mattered.

All the honor this book earned is testimony that the author and illustrator pulled this off with flair.

Every person in the shop will rise to their feet
and give you a round of applause
for being so FLY!
Not really . . . but they’ll look like they want to.

You’ll see it in their eyes.

The first time I read this book, I wasn’t sure who I’d recommend it to besides black and brown boys. But this book is a celebration! It’s going to uplift anyone who reads it. And I, for one, am now in a position where it’s just a little easier to see that kid coming up to the information desk as the living, breathing, compassionate, thoughtful, brilliant, and limitless soul he is.

As with all picture books I review, you really need to check out this book yourself and enjoy the pictures to get the full experience. This one’s highly recommended.

agatepublishing.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/crown.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Echo

by Pam Muñoz Ryan

read by Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, Macleod Andrews, and Rebecca Soler
music performed by Corky Siegel

Scholastic Audiobooks, 2016. 10 hours, 22 minutes, on 9 compact discs.
Starred Review
2016 Newbery Honor Book
2016 Odyssey Honor Audiobook

This is an amazing audiobook production.

The story is about an enchanted harmonica. The prologue tells of a boy lost in the woods in Germany who learns about the sisters whose spirit enchants the harmonica, and who entrust it into his care.

Then the main part of the book gives us three stories – first a boy in Germany with a musical gift but with a birthmark on his face that makes him seen as less than perfect and in danger in Hitler’s Germany. The second story is about two brothers in Pennsylvania at an orphanage after their grandmother became too frail to care for them. Mike is a talented piano player, and it seems they have a chance of a home, but something is wrong. Perhaps he can join the harmonica band that’s auditioning for new members. Then Ivy, in California, has to move to a new home, where children of Mexican heritage aren’t allowed to go to school with the other children. But she can join the orchestra.

The three stories are told completely separately, with a different narrator for each part. What they have in common is that all involve a harmonica with an especially beautiful tone that has a red M painted on it. The three stories come together in an episode at the end, and then we get an epilogue to tell a little more about the story of the boy and the three sisters who sent the harmonica out into the world.

The book is good, and won Newbery Honor. Each story has some punch to it, and each child has reason to need the encouragement that comes through the harmonica.

The audio production is exceptional! There is harmonica music throughout, as well as piano music when that’s part of the story. It adds so much to hear the songs being played.

Some producers might not have dared to add harmonica music when the text is raving about the harmonica’s glorious tone. But for the most part, the music played went perfectly with what was described. For several of the songs, they added a singer, which I wasn’t completely happy with – but that was a way to let the listener know the words, which was a nice addition for the child listener. Even though I know the words to songs such as “Brahm’s Lullaby” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” an unobtrusive way to include them for kids was to have a voice along with the harmonica playing.

This is definitely a book that has much value added in audio form! A delightful listening experience.

scholastic.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/echo.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

2018 Morris Awards and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

I’m blogging about my experience at ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2018. Last time, I blogged about my first meeting with the 2019 Newbery committee meeting. On Sunday, I went to a couple of publisher events (which I’m not going to talk about) and some interesting talks.

One was about Equity and Diversity in Libraries. It was an inspiring session and encouraged us to reach out to our communities and make new connections. They also encouraged us to find people of color and encourage them to become librarians. Only 10% of our profession is people of color, which is a crying shame. Where to find them? They are already working in our libraries in positions that don’t require a library science degree. Encourage someone you know to get that degree and join our profession!

Another session I went to was on Blockchain, Open Civic Data, and TV Whitespace – all ways for libraries to bring access to their communities. They are just beginning to research using these. But some websites to watch and find out more are:

https://ischoolblogs.sjsu.edu/blockchains/
https://civic-switchboard.github.io/

I also went to a session sponsored by Demco where they talked about transforming event and collection discoverability with linked data. They have a product that takes your event data and makes it discoverable by Google – so, for example, someone searching for a yoga class in the area will have a library event come up, and it will be on top because of being free. Tagging with the location, the price (free), and the time the event happens all will help library events show up on top of search results. (Our library just got a new event system, so I’m not sure we can use this, but it is an exciting development.)

After the exciting Youth Media Awards announcements on Monday morning and breakfast with friends, I finished up my conference with the Morris Awards (for a debut novelist) and the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards. All the Finalists give speeches, and they let you choose five of the winners to take home with you (Yay!), so I love going to this event. Here are my notes on the speeches, with the Morris finalists beginning:

Nic Stone, Dear Martin
Such an honor to be part of everything happening right now! This book had a wild journey to publication, and it’s amazing to be here.

S. F. Henson, Devils Within
She’s dreamed of being a published author since she was 4 years old.
This book began when she saw a news article about a 10-year-old boy who killed his white supremacist father.
She grew up in the South – accustomed to be silent when people made racist comments.
When hate is all you know, how do you learn to love?
Nothing will change if people remain silent.
Books are a gateway to empathy.
Silence hurts people.
Seeds don’t grow on their own.

S. K. Ali, Saints and Misfits
Peace – the one thing our world needs.
What if we need inner peace first?
Her agent asked her: What if we looked for stories featuring young Muslim heroes?
Readers have told her, MeToo!
The main character has to grapple with the power of words. Words save us and break chains of shame.

Akemi Dawn Bowman, Starfish
Thank you for knowing how important stories are for teens.
Her book has trauma, racism, abuse, and feeling alone. So she’s sad when kids say they see themselves in the book – but glad they feel seen.

2018 Morris Award Winner:
Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

Her favorite rapper is Tupac. He’s never won an award, but he has changed lives – by acknowledging young people like she was.
The greatest achievement is sparking other brains.
It’s an honor to write for these young people.
Our world would be a better place if current political leaders read books about people who are not like them.
Be the light in the darkness.
The child you hand a book to today may some day be a president with a Twitter account.

Next came the Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists, though not all were present:

Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, Eyes of the World
This is the second book they’ve written together and the second that’s been a finalist for this award.
Collectively the finalists give fresh approaches to nonfiction, books that take risks and experiment with voice.
For teens, many voices come at us at once.
“Good for reports” is over – these are “real books” with innovation and invention.
The story of the people in this book is also our story.
They were refugees from an anti-Semitic Fascist state.
The book was a year-long dive into photos she treasures.
A love story – and their book is, too.
Two refugees with a camera tried to stop Hitler before it was too late. (They did not succeed, but they still shed light.)
When hatred is the path to power, we must all fight with our own voices.

Dashka Slater, The 57 Bus
The story happened in her neighborhood. How could such a thing happen? But she asked follow-up questions.
We believe in the power of stories.
But the Truth isn’t always black and white.
That’s the beauty and power of nonfiction storytelling.
Young people are capable of understanding complexity and nuance. They require it.
The stories we give them must be as complicated as they are.
We live at a time when we place value on certainty.
Uncertainty is a humbler place – but it leads to investigation and understanding.
Give kids tools to do better next time – and give them a next time.
Give them true, complicated, and messy stories.

Deborah Heiligman, Vincent and Theo
(These remarks were delivered by her editor, Laura Godwin.)
She’s bolstered by a community of young adult nonfiction writers.
Writers are using new techniques.
The books “leave the world a souvenir.”
Without Theo, we wouldn’t have Vincent’s art.
Theo told Vincent to use more color, to lighten and brighten his pallette.
Vincent would envy us our community.

Review of Out of Wonder, by Kwame Alexander

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Out of Wonder

Poems Celebrating Poets

by Kwame Alexander
with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth
illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Candlewick Press, 2017. 50 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

Here’s a beautiful large-format book of poems celebrating poets. Kwame Alexander and his two co-authors have written poems in three sections. Poems in the first section match the favored style of the celebrated poet. Poems in the second section incorporate the feelings and themes of the celebrated poet’s work. And poems in the third section respond to the celebrated poet with thanks.

It’s all done with large, lovely paintings accompanying the poems, in a book in large format. To hold this book and leaf through it gives you a feeling of grandeur, nicely setting off the importance of these poets.

Kwame Alexander puts it well in the introduction:

A poem is a small but powerful thing. It has the power to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in ways you never imagined. There is a feeling of connection and communion – with the author and the subject – when we read a poem that articulates our deepest feelings. That connection can be a vehicle on the road to creativity and imagination. Poems can inspire us – in our classrooms and in our homes – to write our own journeys, to find our own stories….

Allow me to introduce you to twenty of my favorite poets. Poets who have inspired me and my co-authors with their words and their lives. They can do the same for you. Some of the poets we celebrate in this book lived centuries ago and wrote in languages other than English, while others still walk the streets of San Antonio and New York City today. Chris Colderley, Marjory Wentworth, and I had two requirements for the poets we would celebrate in Out of Wonder: first, they had to be interesting people, and second, we had to be passionately in love with their poetry. Mission accomplished!

I believe that by reading other poets we can discover our own wonder. For me, poems have always been muses. The poems in this book pay tribute to the poets being celebrated by adopting their style, extending their ideas, and offering gratitude to their wisdom and inspiration.

Enjoy the poems. We hope to use them as stepping-stones to wonder, leading you to write, to read the works of the poets celebrated in this book, to seek out more about their lives and their work, or to simply read and explore more poetry. At the very least, maybe you can memorize one or two.

We wonder how you will wonder.

This is one of those books where you need to see for yourself how striking it is. Check it out!

candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/out_of_wonder.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

2018 Youth Media Awards

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

I’m going to blog about 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver – but I think I’ll begin with the Youth Media Awards.

These are always an exciting highlight of midwinter. This year, it was all the more exciting as I anticipate being in the group that decides the Newbery winners next year.

I’ll be honest, knowing that I’d be reading for the Newbery in 2018, I didn’t read as many children’s books in 2017. I hadn’t read either the Printz winner or the Newbery winner. But many of my Sonderbooks Stand-outs and other favorites did win Honor, so I’m going to talk about those.

Looking at my Stand-outs page, none of my Children’s Fiction choices got honor, but a book I almost picked (and loved much), Charlie and Mouse, by Laurel Snyder, won the Geisel Award for beginning readers.

One of my Sonderbooks Stand-outs in Children’s Nonfiction, Grand Canyon, by Jason Chin, won both a Caldecott Honor (for illustration) and Sibert Honor (for children’s nonfiction). I was thrilled about that!

One of my Sonderbooks Stand-outs in Picture Books, A Different Pond, by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui, won Caldecott Honor. Huzzah!

I never did review Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James, a picture book about an African American boy getting a haircut – a wonderful book that made me smile. But Crown impressively won Coretta Scott King Honor in both the Illustrator and Author categories – and then went on to win Caldecott Honor and Newbery Honor. Now, it’s very rare for a picture book to get Newbery Honor, since that is for the text. But the Coretta Scott King committee also thought the writing was distinguished – so we can’t chalk it up to a fluke on the part of this particular Newbery committee.

I was excited and surprised that three of the four Printz Honor books were Sonderbooks Stand-outs. (I don’t usually see eye-to-eye with the Printz committee, and I hadn’t even read the winner or the other Honor book.)

I was especially happy about the Printz Honor for Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor, since fantasy doesn’t often do well with the Printz committee – and Laini Taylor created an amazing world in this book.

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, cleaned up four Honors – Newbery Honor, Printz Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Odyssey Honor for the audiobook read by the author.

And The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, won the Morris Award for debut fiction for young adults, won the Odyssey Award for the audio version (which is how I read the book), plus Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Printz Honor.

Some books I reviewed but did not name as Sonderbooks Stand-outs also won some awards. I was happy about Silent Days, Silent Dreams, by Allen Say, winning a Schneider Family Book Award, for excellence in portrayal of a character with a disability.

Another one I have reviewed – but it looks like I haven’t posted the review yet – is Out of Wonder, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, written by Kwame Alexander, which won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

You can see the big award winners are missing. But this will give me some reading to do!

And it’s always a wonderful experience to be part of the thrill of books being honored. You either have wonderful books brought to your attention, or you have wonderful books affirmed to the world.

But next year’s going to be much more exciting!

Review of Long Way Down audiobook, by Jason Reynolds

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds
read by the author

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017. 2 hours on 2 discs.
Starred Review
2018 Odyssey Honor

I already wrote about how amazing this book was in my review of the print version. I found new levels of amazing by listening to it.

Jason Reynolds reads his own poetry, so he knows exactly how each line was intended. I noticed details I didn’t notice when I read it myself.

This audiobook is about a kid in a situation where what he thinks he needs to do is kill the person he’s sure murdered his brother. And then on each stop of the elevator someone gets on who was a victim of the same rules Will is trying to live by.

There’s whole new power in listening to Jason Reynolds read the words himself.

It’s a short book in either form, but it’s not one you’ll easily forget.

jasonwritesbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/long_way_down_audio.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this audiobook?

Review of March, Book Three, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

March, Book Three

by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
art by Nate Powell

Top Shelf Productions, 2016. 246 pages.
Starred Review
2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
2017 Printz Award
2017 Coretta Scott King Author Award
2017 Siebert Medal
2017 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction
2017 Battle of the Books Winner

I was at the Youth Media Awards in Atlanta, Georgia, on the Monday after Trump’s inauguration, when this book by John Lewis won an unprecedented four awards, and not a single Honor among them. Atlanta is John Lewis’ home district, so he was there, and had participated in the weekend’s Women’s March. Later that day, I went to the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award program and heard John Lewis speak. Every speaker mentioned how thrilled they were to be in the room with him. After that, I received a free copy of this book, got it signed, and shook his hand.

And this book continues the telling of his story, in graphic novel form. This volume 3 contains more violence than the earlier volumes. It begins with a bombing of a church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963, and continues through Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when marchers were met with violence at the Edmund Pettis Bridge and John Lewis was hospitalized, and ends with the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.

The whole story is framed by looking back from the day of President Obama’s Inauguration – a direct result of the work that was done in the 1960s.

The book is about idealism and about conflict – from both within the movement and outside it. It’s also about nonviolence being met with violence and standing for what you know is right.

An accessible look at history through the eyes of someone who was there, this book is a monumental achievement and deserves all of the many awards it has won.

I’m putting this on my page for Children’s Nonfiction, because it is written for teens (and I don’t have a teen page for nonfiction). But be aware that the level of violence is high – because that’s what these activists faced. They put their lives on the line for what’s right.

topshelfcomix.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/march_book_3.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of This Land Is Our Land, by Linda Barrett Osborne

Monday, August 28th, 2017

This Land Is Our Land

A History of American Immigration

by Linda Barrett Osborne

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016. 124 pages.
2017 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist
Starred Review

I heard Linda Barrett Osborne speak at the awards ceremony for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards. She commented that her book wasn’t as timely when she began writing it in 2013. The facts in the book go up to 2015, but I do hope that her publisher comes out with an updated version before long. Though we may need to see how the next few years go.

The history of immigration in America is fascinating. In her talk, the author surprised us with facts such as that Benjamin Franklin didn’t want too many Germans to immigrate, and immigrants from Asia were not allowed to become citizens until 1952.

This book covers more than 400 years of immigration in America – and it’s surprising how similar attitudes have been over the years. In the introduction, we read what George Washington wrote about discouraging immigration, and then the author says this:

Both of these ways of looking at immigration – openness to all or restrictions for some – are part of our heritage. In the early twenty-first century, we still debate who and how many people should be allowed into our country, and if and when they should be allowed to become citizens. Some Americans think of the United States as multicultural, made stronger by the diversity of different ethnic groups. Others think that there should be one American culture and that it is up to the immigrant to adapt to it. Still others have believed that some immigrant groups are incapable of adapting and should not be permitted to stay.

Americans whose families have lived here for some time – whether centuries, decades, or just a few years – often discount their own immigrant heritage. They look down on newcomers from other countries. Indeed, far from inviting Lazarus’s “huddled masses,” our laws, policies, and prejudices have often made it difficult for many immigrants to enter the United States or to find themselves welcome when they are here.

This Land Is Our Land explores this country’s attitudes about immigrants, starting from when we were a group of thirteen English colonies. Until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which kept Chinese workers from immigrating to the United States, there were no major national restrictions on immigration – therefore, there were no illegal immigrants, or what we now call “undocumented aliens”: people from foreign (alien) countries who have no official papers to enter the United States.

The author quotes from a letter by Benjamin Franklin about the many Germans settling in Pennsylvania in 1751. (Some of those were my ancestors!)

Now imagine the same words today, with “Mexican” substituted for “German.”

As they came, settled, and endured, each immigrant group went through a remarkably similar experience. They left their countries to escape poverty, war, starvation, or religious and political persecution – or for economic opportunity. As foreigners who came from different cultures and often spoke languages other than English, they faced prejudice from groups that were already here. They seemed to threaten American customs and values established as early as the 1600s. Often, they were denied jobs and housing. They did the hardest and least well paid work. Yet they saved money and made homes here. Immigrant men brought over their wives and children; immigrant children brought their siblings and parents. Families reunited. Whole communities left their country of birth and regrouped in America. The children and grandchildren of immigrants, born here, spoke English. They absorbed American attitudes and ways of living. They grew in numbers and gained political power.

They often acted toward immigrant groups that came after them with the same kind of prejudice and discrimination that their families had encountered when they first moved here.

This Land Is Our Land does not attempt to answer all the questions and solve all the problems associated with immigration. Rather, it looks at our history to provide a context for discussion. If we examine the way Americans have responded to immigrants over time – and the responses have been startlingly similar and consistent – we gain an insight into immigration issues today. Why do we sometimes invite immigration and sometimes fear it? How much does race play a part in whether we accept new immigrants? Does the legacy of our country’s origin as a group of English colonies still shape our attitudes?

This book also presents the experiences of immigrants who left their home countries to start a new life here. How did their expectations and aspirations match the realities of living in the United States? How was the experience of different groups affected by racial prejudice? How did they eventually succeed, if they did, in becoming Americans?

You can see that the author has big ambitions for this book – but I believe she succeeds.

Now, you may guess that she does have an agenda in presenting this background, and I think that agenda shows when she talks about how we all have immigrant ancestors – except for Native Americans. But her point is well taken. As she says in the Epilogue:

Do we treat them as fellow human beings, with respect and compassion – the way we wish our immigrant ancestors had been treated, no matter who they were, no matter which country they left to pursue the American Dream?

This book got an award from the Young Adult Library Services Association, and my library has it in the Juvenile Nonfiction section. The target audience seems to be upper elementary and middle school students, perhaps through high school. There are plenty of historical photographs included as well as copies of old documents. The large, wide pages make it seem a little younger – but there is enough information packed onto those pages, even with largish print, that older readers won’t feel talked down to – if they pick the book up.

It does seem like a good time to know about the history of immigration in America – this book is a good way to bring yourself up to speed. Our country’s attitudes haven’t changed a whole lot over the years – but it’s good to know that those immigrants we did welcome to our shores over the years are the very people who have helped to make our country great.

abramsyoungreaders.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/this_land_is_our_land.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Scythe, by Neal Shusterman

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Scythe

by Neal Shusterman

Simon & Schuster, 2016. 435 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Printz Honor

Scythe is set in the future, when mankind has conquered death completely. The Age of Mortality is over. Everybody’s got nanites inside them that heal them quickly. Revival centers can bring “deadish” people back to life – even people who fall from buildings and splatter on the pavement. (Which of course becomes a reckless teen thing to do.)

Yes, people grow old, but when their body starts wearing out, they get surgery to “turn the corner” and rejuvenate their body to a younger age.

Earth indeed is run by computers, but that’s not seen as a disaster in this book. Here’s how they describe it.

The greatest achievement of the human race was not conquering death. It was ending government.

Back in the days when the world’s digital network was called “the cloud,” people thought giving too much power to an artificial intelligence would be a very bad idea. Cautionary tales abounded in every form of media. The machines were always the enemy. But then the cloud evolved into the Thunderhead, sparking with consciousness, or at least a remarkable facsimile. In stark contrast to people’s fears, the Thunderhead did not seize power. Instead, it was people who came to realize that it was far better suited to run things than politicians.

In those days before the Thunderhead, human arrogance, self-interest, and endless in-fighting determined the rule of law. Inefficient. Imperfect. Vulnerable to all forms of corruption.

But the Thunderhead was incorruptible. Not only that, but its algorithms were built on the full sum of human knowledge. All the time and money wasted on political posturing, the lives lost in wars, the populations abused by despots – all gone the moment the Thunderhead was handed power. Of course, the politicians, dictators, and warmongers weren’t happy, but their voices, which had always seemed so loud and intimidating, were suddenly insignificant. The emperor not only had no clothes, turns out he had no testicles either.

The Thunderhead quite literally knew everything. When and where to build roads; how to eliminate waste in food distribution and thus end hunger; how to protect the environment from the ever-growing human population. It created jobs, it clothed the poor, and it established the World Code. Now, for the first time in history, law was no longer the shadow of justice, it was justice.

The Thunderhead gave us a perfect world. The utopia that our ancestors could only dream of is our reality.

There was only one thing the Thunderhead was not given authority over.

The Scythedom.

When it was decided that people needed to die in order to ease the tide of population growth, it was also decided that this must be the responsibility of humans. Bridge repair and urban planning could be handled by the Thunderhead, but taking a life was an act of conscience and consciousness. Since it could not be proven that the Thunderhead had either, the Scythedom was born.

Scythes operate under their own jurisdiction, ruled by ten commandments. Scythes are to kill without bias, bigotry, or malice aforethought. They kill within quotas and give a year of immunity to the families of those who submit to the gleaning. The families of those who resist are gleaned as well.

Scythes are to lead an exemplary life in word and deed and to keep a journal.

So this is the background of this book. Such creative world building! It makes you think about the repercussions of such a world, and Neal Shusterman brings up many things I would have never dreamed of.

As the book begins, two teens, Citra and Rowan, are chosen to be apprentices of Scythe Faraday, a conscientious scythe. He chooses them partly because they don’t want to be scythes.

But scythes don’t usually take two apprentices. Scythe Faraday assures them that whoever is not chosen will resume a normal life after the year is up. But at the gathering of scythes, a new “modern” faction takes issue with that and demands that whichever one becomes a scythe, their first act will be to glean the other.

Scythe Faraday thinks of a way to get around this, but it backfires. The book takes the shape of a whodunit and a thriller.

Meanwhile, this other faction of scythes includes a leader who carries out mass gleanings and takes joy in killing. Which group will prevail, the conscientious gleaners who live simply and strive to serve humanity, or those who take joy in killing and think humanity should serve them?

This book is outstanding. The premise sounds a little grim, but it’s thoughtful and visionary and a good read as well.

The flap says this is the start of a series, but the book ties up completely. I wouldn’t have guessed it was more than a stand-alone if I hadn’t read the flap. All the same, I will be delighted to return to this intriguing future earth.

storyman.com
simonandschuster.com/teen

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill

Monday, March 13th, 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

by Kelly Barnhill

Algonquin Young Readers, 2016. 388 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Newbery Medal Winner

In the Protectorate every year, the youngest baby is left in the woods for the Witch.

But this year, the mother of the child protests and goes mad and has to be locked up.

And Antain, the young apprentice to the Elders is disturbed by what he sees and asks uncomfortable questions. But the elders leave the baby anyway.

They left her knowing that there surely wasn’t a witch. There never had been a witch. There were only a dangerous forest and a single road and a thin grip on a life that the Elders had enjoyed for generations. The Witch – that is, the belief in her – made for a frightened people, a subdued people, a compliant people, who lived their lives in a saddened haze, the coulds of their grief numbing their senses and dampening their minds. It was terribly convenient for the Elders’ unencumbered rule. Unpleasant, too, of course, but that couldn’t be helped.

They heard the child whimper as they tramped through the trees, but the whimpering soon gave way to the swamp sighs and birdsong and the woody creaking of trees throughout the forest. And each Elder felt as sure as sure could be that the child wouldn’t live to see the morning, and that they would never hear her, never see her, never think of her again.

They thought she was gone forever.

They were wrong, of course.

Now, there is a witch who lived in the woods named Xan. Here’s her perspective on the Day of Sacrifice:

For as long as Xan could remember, every year at about the same time, a mother from the Protectorate left her baby in the forest, presumably to die. Xan had no idea why. Nor did she judge. But she wasn’t going to let the poor little thing perish, either. And so, every year, she traveled to that circle of sycamores and gathered the abandoned infant in her arms, carrying the child to the other side of the forest, to one of the Free Cities on the other side of the Road. These were happy places. And they loved children.

But this year, which was turning out so differently from usual, something about the baby caught at Xan’s heart. And as she journeyed with the baby, she accidentally fed it moonlight rather than the usual starlight.

There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known. But because the light travels such a long distance, the magic in it is fragile and diffused, stretched into the most delicate of threads. There is enough magic in starlight to content a baby and fill its belly, and in large enough quantities, starlight can awaken the best in that baby’s heart and soul and mind. It is enough to bless, but not to enmagic.

Moonlight, however. That is a different story.

Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.

So, baby Luna gets enmagicked, and Xan realizes that means she must care for the baby herself. So Luna grows up in the forest with tiny dragon Fyrian (who thinks he is Simply Enormous) and bog monster Glerk. When her magic comes in, there may be disastrous consequences, so Xan has to take momentous steps to control it.

Luna has no idea of her origins. And Xan has no idea what she has set in motion – things that are going to change the lives of everyone in the Protectorate and the forest. They will find the source of all the Sorrows and discover how to fight against it.

This is a lovely book with a fantasy world not quite like any other. We have the usual quest of good versus evil, but it proceeds in surprising ways.

I like the way this book celebrates Love and Joy. And conquering those who feed on Sorrows.

kellybarnhill.wordpress.com
AlgonquinYoungReaders.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/girl_who_drank_the_moon.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?