Archive for the ‘Award Winners’ Category

Review of Furia, by Yamile Saied Méndez

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Furia

by Yamile Saied Méndez

Algonquin Young Readers, 2020. 357 pages.
Review written October 17, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Cybils Award Winner
2021 Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Medal Winner

Furia is set in Argentina, telling the story of 17-year-old Camila, who dreams of being a soccer star. Her father played soccer until an injury stopped his career, and her older brother has recently gone professional. But her family doesn’t think that girls should play soccer, so she has to keep her play secret. However, when they win their league championship, she’s going to need her parents’ permission to play in the South American tournament.

Meanwhile, her childhood friend Diego has come back to town. Her family doesn’t know that things got romantic between them before he joined an Italian professional soccer team. That spark is still there. Diego, and apparently everyone else, thinks that she should give up her own dreams and go back with him to Italy. But even though Camila cares about him, she’s got a fire inside and wants to follow her own path.

Along with that story, there are undercurrents about women’s rights in Argentina, domestic violence, and expectations for women. Camila has to navigate all of this while trying to get attention for her skills. She dreams of going to America, where women can play professional soccer.

But meanwhile, how does she navigate all the secrets she’s keeping?

I love the way the book starts, setting up the framework of the setting and Camila’s people:

Lies have short legs. I learned this proverb before I could speak. I never knew exactly where it came from. Maybe the saying followed my family across the Atlantic, all the way to Rosario, the second-largest city in Argentina, at the end of the world.

My Russian great-grandmother, Isabel, embroidered it on a pillow after her first love broke her heart and married her sister. My Palestinian grandfather, Ahmed, whispered it to me every time my mom found his hidden stash of wine bottles. My Andalusian grandmother, Elena, repeated it like a mantra until her memories and regrets called her to the next life. Maybe it came from Matilde, the woman who chased freedom to Las Pampas all the way from Brazil, but of her, this Black woman whose blood roared in my veins, we hardly ever spoke. Her last name got lost, but my grandma’s grandma still showed up so many generations later in the way my brown hair curled, the shape of my nose, and my stubbornness – ay, Dios mío, my stubbornness. Like her, if family folklore was to be trusted, I had never learned to shut up or do as I was told.

yamilesmendez.com
AlgonquinYoungReaders.com

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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.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Lia & Luís: Who Has More?

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

Lia & Luís

Who Has More?

by Ana Crespo
illustrated by Giovana Medeiros

Charlesbridge, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written February 26, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 Mathical Book Prize Winner, ages 2-4

This picture book from Charlesbridge’s “Storytelling Math” series is a lovely way to get small children thinking about quantity, and it’s cross-cultural, too.

Luís often brags to his sister Lia. When they each choose their favorite Brazilian snack from their Papai’s store, Luis is quick to brag that he has more. His bag is bigger.

But what if you count what they have? What if you count something different?

When Lia finally comes up with the idea to measure the treats, she can make a strong case that she has more – and a way to make them equal.

This puts the simple idea of measurement and quantity into a situation that small children will find compelling. Because you always want to have more than your brother. It’s an important early math concept, and it’s a good story.

anacrespobooks.com
giovanamedeiros.com
charlesbridge.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 All Thirteen, by Christina Soontornvat

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

All Thirteen

The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team

by Christina Soontornvat

Candlewick Press, 2020. 280 pages.
Review written March 1, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 John Newbery Honor Book
2021 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
2021 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist
2021 Orbis Pictus Award Honor Book

Wow! I had checked this book out but had decided not to read it, because it’s long, and I thought learning about an incident faraway on the other side of the world wasn’t all that compelling. I’m so glad that watching it win Honor after Honor at the Youth Media Awards – including Newbery Honor, which is rare for nonfiction – convinced me that I was mistaken and should take another look. And author Christina Soontornvat won an incredible two Newbery Honors in the same year, also getting one for her novel A Wish in the Dark.

I was so glad I did. Christina Soontornvat tells the complete story of the thirteen boys on the Thai soccer team who got trapped in a cave and had the whole nation, even the world, rally round to save them. Having read the book, I now understand how they got trapped – the treacherous geology that brought rainwater suddenly and unexpectedly into the cave. I also understand what an incredibly difficult task it was to rescue them – the people in charge honestly thought five to eight of the boys would die.

What I remembered about the news event was that one rescuer – a Thai Navy SEAL – did die in the rescue process. I now understand why cave diving is so much more treacherous than open sea diving and how that could have happened, even to an expert diver.

The author was visiting family in Thailand when the boys got trapped, so she was able to express and understand what the people there were thinking and feeling about the rescue, and how hundreds of people pitched in to help without pay.

It was an international team that saved the boys, including American Navy SEALS and British cave divers. But the author tells about the many Thai people that were involved, including those who worked to divert streams flowing into the cave and drain water coming out of the cave, which was also crucial to making the rescue possible.

Believe it or not, I was so taken up with this story, I dreamed about it one night when I was in the middle of the book!

This book is long, with lots of text, but the text is broken up with photographs or charts or sidebars on almost every spread. This is more for middle school or high school readers than younger kids, but whoever picks it up, once you start reading, you’re going to be drawn in.

candlewick.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Everything Sad Is Untrue, by Daniel Nayeri

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Everything Sad Is Untrue

(a true story)

by Daniel Nayeri

Levine Querido (Chronicle Books), 2020. 356 pages.
Review written February 16, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 Michael L. Printz Award Winner

I felt like I scored when this won the Printz Award. A friend had recently recommended it highly, so I had it checked out already, and didn’t have to wait to get it on hold. Even with that strong recommendation and winning the top award for Young Adult books, I was not disappointed when I read this book, and I agree with the acclaim.

The subtitle says this is a true story, but it’s presented as fiction. We learn at the back that the author told the story of his life as a refugee from his own perspective when he was twelve. Since he wasn’t able to verify facts, he went with his memories and changed some details – and called it fiction.

The style makes this book memorable and delightful. He writes it, telling the reader the story, as his younger self told stories to his class when he was twelve. To give you the idea, I’ll show you the beginning:

All Persians are liars and lying is a sin.

That’s what the kids in Mrs. Miller’s class think, but I’m the only Persian they’ve ever met, so I don’t know where they got that idea.

My mom says it’s true, but only because everyone has sinned and needs God to save them. My dad says it isn’t. Persians aren’t liars. They’re poets, which is worse.

Poets don’t even know when they’re lying. They’re just trying to remember their dreams. They’re trying to remember six thousand years of history and all the versions of all the stories ever told.

In one version, maybe I’m not the refugee kid in the back of Mrs. Miller’s class. I’m a prince in disguise.

If you catch me, I will say what they say in the 1,001 Nights. “Let me go, and I will tell you a tale passing strange.”

That’s how they all begin.

With a promise. If you listen, I’ll tell you a story. We can know and be known to each other, and then we’re not enemies anymore.

I’m not making this up. This is a rule that even genies follow.

In the 1,001 Nights, Scheherazade – the rememberer of all the world’s dreams – told stories every night to the king, so he would spare her life.

But in here, it’s just me, counting my own memories.

And you, reader, whoever you are. You’re the king.

I’m not sucking up, by the way. The king was evil and made a bloody massacre of a thousand lives before he got to Scheherazade.

It’s a responsibility to be the king.

You’ve got my whole life in your hands.

And I’m just warning you that if I’m going to be honest, I have to begin the story with my Baba Haji, even if the blood might shock you.

But don’t worry, dear reader and Mrs. Miller.

Of all the tales of marvel that I could tell you, none surpass in wonder and coolness the one I am about to tell.

That gives you an idea of the style, which continues the entire book. In a somewhat rambling but completely charming way, Khosrou, who was renamed Daniel so Americans could pronounce it, tells the story of his Persian forebears and life in Iran, how his mother became a Christian and they had to flee, and how things are completely different now in Oklahoma.

But that summary doesn’t convey the power and poignancy of this story.

His mother is portrayed as the hero of the book – utterly unstoppable. The stories inside the book range from tragic and frightening, including their time as refugees before they got permission to come to America, to more garden-variety encounters with unkind kids in Oklahoma, to mythic tales of Daniel’s ancestors. He was a small child when he had to leave his home country and extended family behind, and he conveys that child’s perspective.

He also weaves themes through the narrative so that I want to read it again to see what I didn’t catch the first time. I think next time, I’ll listen to an audiobook, because that will suit the style perfectly.

levinequerido.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Can You Crack the Code? by Ella Schwartz, illustrated by Lily Williams

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Can You Crack the Code?

A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography

by Ella Schwartz
illustrated by Lily Williams

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 118 pages.
Review written December 14, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 General Children’s Nonfiction
2021 Mathical Honor Book, Grades 6-8

I’ve always thought codes and ciphers are fascinating, from the time I was a kid right up to the present when I made some videos showing how to make interesting ciphers using mathematical concepts.

When I made the videos last Spring when the library was closed for the pandemic, I didn’t find too many current books on making codes, but that situation has been remedied. This book is a nice solid selection to fill in that gap. Written for elementary to middle school kids, it gives a history of encoded messages along with explanations of ciphers and codes the reader can use.

Each chapter has a message to decrypt, and the book ends with a message for the reader to solve and email the author if they figure it out. A few clues are given, and it’s a nicely appropriate historical code used.

The book starts with steganography – hiding a message in some way – and the Caesar cipher and continues with things like Benedict Arnold’s book cipher and Thomas Jefferson’s wheel cipher up through a puzzle encoded in a statue in front of CIA headquarters and the use of prime numbers in computer security.

Even when they get deep into the history of clandestine messages, they do give the readers chances to crack the codes.

There’s plenty here to get kids intrigued, and one thing I love about code-making is there are lots of jumping-off points from this book.

ellasbooks.com
lilywilliamsart.com
Bloomsbury.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Before the Ever After, by Jacqueline Woodson, read by Guy Lockard

Friday, January 29th, 2021

Before the Ever After

by Jacqueline Woodson
read by Guy Lockard

Listening Library, 2020. 2 hours, 15 minutes on eaudio
Review written January 4, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2021 Capitol Choices selection
2021 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#8 Children’s Fiction

This is a novel in verse written from the perspective of twelve-year-old ZJ, talking about his Dad, a professional football player.

His Dad is a star, with a Super Bowl ring. Or at least he was – before. When ZJ goes through his memories, we learn that his Dad was also a wonderful, active, loving father. He did lots of things with ZJ and ZJ’s friends.

But then one day, he didn’t play a game they expected him to play. He started getting awful headaches, forgetting their names, and acting strangely. And they didn’t know what was going on. Different doctors had different ideas, but nothing was working.

The way the book covers “Before,” your heart breaks with ZJ when his Daddy starts to change.

Normally, I think I enjoy novels in verse more by seeing the poetry with my own eyes. It’s easier to catch what the author’s doing. In this case, I did enjoy listening to the warm voice of the narrator, and I did figure out it was a novel in verse before I looked at the book.

This is a heartbreaking tribute from a kid to his dad.

jacquelinewoodson.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Julián Is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love

Candlewick Press, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 24, 2018, from a library book
2019 Stonewall Children’s Literature Award Winner
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Other Picture Books

Julián Is a Mermaid is a wonderful story told with magnificent illustrations. On the front end papers we see a young boy swimming underwater while his abuela looks on. Abuela and her four friends – all approximately Abuela’s age and body type – are in the pool, too, wearing swim caps and holding onto the edge.

The book still hasn’t started. On the title spread, we see Julián and Abuela walking to the train station, with three tall, beautiful women flamboyantly dressed as mermaids walking behind them.

The book officially begins on the train. The mermaids get on the train, too. The text reads:

This is a boy named Julián. And this is his abuela.
And those are some mermaids.

Julián LOVES mermaids.

One of the mermaids waves to Julián. We can tell that the big book he’s reading has a picture of a mermaid inside.

The next spreads show Julián’s imagination. He’s in the water. He kicks off all his clothes but his underwear. A swarm of fish sweeps past – and Julián has a tail! He’s a mermaid! Another big fish gives him a necklace.

But he’s pulled out of the dream when the train reaches their stop. The mermaids wave good-by.

At home, while Abuela is taking a bath, Julián wants to live in his imagination a little longer. He takes off his clothes except his underwear, makes a mermaid crown with plants and flowers (this part is all shown with pictures), puts on lipstick – and uses the fluffy lace curtain from the window to make a beautiful tail. Julián stands triumphant in the same pose as in the picture on the cover.

When Abuela comes out, she doesn’t exactly look happy. We can see Julián considering what he has done.

And then, Abuela, all dressed now, gives Julián a bead necklace to complete his outfit. They go out the door together.

We aren’t sure where they’re going – but as they walk, we see many people, all dressed as sea creatures.

“Mermaids,” whispers Julián.

“Like you, mijo. Let’s join them.

And Julián and Abuela end up walking along the beach as part of a long ocean parade, all sorts of people in wonderful costumes – and the mermaids from the train right in front of them.

On the back endpapers, we’ve got Abuela’s swim group again, but this time they’re all underwater and they have all grown tails. Julián the mermaid is swimming beneath them.

The first lovely thing about this book is the illustrations. They are exquisitely and beautifully done. (In fact, I would be so happy if this book won the Caldecott.) All the people are distinct characters, and the art carries the story in most of the book.

But what’s especially lovely is that nowhere at all is Julián told that a little boy shouldn’t imagine being a mermaid. Abuela looks askance at him for taking down her lovely lace curtain – but even that she goes with.

And I love, love, love the way she encourages his imagination by letting him join the parade of others dressed as he is.

And nobody puts any restrictions on this boy’s imagination.

candlewick.com

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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 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 Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines, gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston

Monday, May 11th, 2020

Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines

Revitalizing Inuit Traditional Tattoing

gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston
with photography by Cora De Vos

Inhabit Media, Ontario, Canada, 2017. 70 pages.
Review written May 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Young Adult Honor
Starred Review

I read this book because it won a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor in the Young Adult category, and I’m glad I did.

This book tells the story of the Inuit Tattoo Revitalization Project, an effort begun by Angela Hovak Johnston to revive the traditional tattooing of the Inuit people. Here’s a small part of her explanation in the Introduction:

This eight-year project began with my personal journey to permanently ink myself with the ancient symbols that were worn by my Inuit ancestors. The last known Inuk woman in the Nunavut area with tattoos done the traditional way passed away in 2005; that is when my passion grew. Knowing she was the last inked Inuk woman, I strongly believed tattoos couldn’t become just another part of history that we only read about in books, so I pushed forward with my dream of having tattoos. I knew I had a role to play. It took me years of hard research and finding the right tattoo artist to do these markings on my face. Not giving up, in 2008, I finally had my first facial tattoos. Inuit traditional tattoos, almost lost as a result of missionaries and residential schools, have come back. While tattoos skip three generations in some families, through this project, we thankfully had the pleasure of inking a family of women who carried three generations of new tattoos.

This book documents a part of the project where Angela and her team met for five days in April 2016 at the Kugluktuk Heritage Visitor Centre in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, and gave traditional tattoos to the Inuit women who came.

The photographs by Cora De Vos, an Inuk photographer, make this book exceptional. Each participant gets a spread. On one side the woman explains the significance to her of the tattoos she received along with various pictures of receiving the tattoos or modeling the tattoos. On the opposite side, there’s a portrait of the woman with the finished tattoos, often in traditional Inuit clothing, and always looking beautiful and strong.

Each woman speaks for herself, which makes the text a little bit repetitive, since receiving the tattoos meant similar things to many of the women. But I did appreciate that all were given a voice and a moment to shine. All the women are truly beautiful and this project brings that out in such a lovely way.

The photos are so gorgeous, readers might be tempted to try to get similar tattoos for themselves, so there is an Author’s Note about cultural appropriation at the back – this project is going to focus on giving Inuit women the opportunity to receive the traditional tattoos first.

The book is full of hope and joy about Inuit women reclaiming their history and traditions. You can see their emotion in the photographs and hear the pride in their voices. This is a lovely thing for anyone of any ethnicity to witness, and I’m very glad I discovered this beautiful book.

inhabitmedia.com

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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 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 Fry Bread, written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Fry Bread

A Native American Family Story

written by Kevin Noble Maillard
illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Roaring Brook Press, 2019. 44 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Winner
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor

Since this book won the Sibert Award, I’m going to list it on my Children’s Nonfiction page, but this book is really two things – a picture book with simple text and an informational book when you read the detailed eleven-page Author’s Note (with a recipe) at the back.

The picture book part is lovely. These spreads all begin with a caption “Fry Bread Is….” Fry bread is food, shape, sound, color, flavor, time, art, history place, nation, everything, us, and you. The pictures show a loving and joyful intergenerational group of American Indians making fry bread together. They’re a diverse group in appearance and skin tone, and have parents and elders guiding them and telling stories.

The pictures are joyful and evocative. I like the picture on the page “Fry Bread Is Sound” where you can almost hear the dough frying. The words are simple and could work in a story time.

Fry Bread Is Time

On weekdays and holidays
Supper or dinner
Powwows and festivals
Moments together
With family and friends

The Author’s Note brings it all together and explains the background and significance of the carefully-chosen details in the illustrations.

He begins the Author’s Note like this:

The story of fry bread is the story of American Indians: embracing community and culture in the face of opposition. It is commonly believed that the Navajo (Diné) were the first to make fry bread over 150 years ago. The basic ingredients may appear simple – flour, salt, water, and yeast – yet the history behind this community anchor is anything but.

Despite colonial efforts throughout American history to weaken tribal governments, fracture Indigenous communities, and forcibly take ancestral lands, Indian culture has proven resilient. In strange, unfamiliar lands, exiled Natives strived to retain those old traditions and they created new ones, especially for food. Survival meant adapting, and those ancestors, isolated from familiar meats, fruits, and vegetables, got by with what they had. Without the familiar indigenous crop of corn, historic farming practices and dietary traditions drastically changed.

Many tribes trace the origin of modern Indian cooking to this government-caused deprivation. From federal rations of powdered, canned, and other dry, government-issued foods, fry bread was born.

Then the note goes page by page, and along the way we learn that different tribes and different regions have different recipes and different traditions for fry bread.

Fry bread reflects the vast, deep diversity of Indian Country and there is no single way of making this special food. But it brings diverse Indigenous communities together through a shared culinary and cultural experience. That’s the beauty of fry bread.

There’s so much in this picture book. A story to enjoy combined with so much to learn about and celebrate.

kevinmaillard.com
juanamartinezneal.com
mackids.com

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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 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 Dancing Hands, by Margarita Engle and Rafael López

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Dancing Hands

How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Rafael López

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2020 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner
Review written February 10, 2020, from a library book

Dancing Hands tells the story of Teresa Carreño, who was born in Venezuela in 1853. She learned to play the piano when she was very young.

I love that this book won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, because the artist does a wonderful job of using the art to convey the joyful music Teresa played with bright, colorful, and playful images. The author does a good job of using poetic language that was a perfect vehicle for the art. Here’s what’s written on two spreads about Teresa learning to play the piano:

At first, making music seemed magical,
but Teresa soon learned that playing a piano
could be hard work. Sometimes she had to struggle
to make the stubborn music behave
as she practiced gentle songs
that sounded like colorful birds
singing in the dark and light branches
of a shade-dappled mango tree . . .
and powerful songs that roared
like prowling jaguars, beside towering waterfalls
in a mysterious green jungle.

If Teresa felt sad, music cheered her,
and when she was happy, the piano helped her
share bursts of joy. By the time she was six,
she could write her own songs, and at seven
she performed in the peaceful chapel
of a magnificent cathedral, playing hymns
that shimmered like hummingbirds.

When she was eight years old, her family was forced to flee Venezuela because of war, and they came as refugees to New York City. Teresa began to perform in her new country and became famous as the Piano Girl.

But the United States was at war, too. Teresa traveled many places to perform, but this book features the invitation she received to play for President Abraham Lincoln at the White House when she was ten years old.

The president’s son had recently died, so the book focuses on how her joyful playing – and dancing hands – brought comfort to the grieving family.

A note at the back adds details to put it all in context, but this exceptionally beautiful book tells the true story of a young girl who used music to bring joy to others.

rafaellopez.com

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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 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?