November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJ Reviews of 2015 Youth Media Award–Winning and Honor Books

The winners are in, and once again, SLJ predicted many of the top Youth Media Award winners and honor books, selecting, for instance, Kwame Alexander’s Newbery winner, The Crossover, Jandy Nelson’s Printz winner, I’ll Give You the Sun, and Jen Bryant’s Sibert winner, The Right Word for its Best Books of 2014. Check out the reviews of all the winning and honor books.

NEWBERY MEDAL

thecrossoverTHE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander (HMH)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 6–10—Twins Josh and Jordan are junior high basketball stars, thanks in large part to the coaching of their dad, a former professional baller who was forced to quit playing for health reasons, and the firm, but loving support of their assistant-principal mom. Josh, better known as Filthy McNasty, earned his nickname for his enviable skills on the court: “…when Filthy gets hot/He has a SLAMMERIFIC SHOT.” In this novel in verse, the brothers begin moving apart from each other for the first time. Jordan starts dating the “pulchritudinous” Miss Sweet Tea, and Josh has a tough time keeping his jealousy and feelings of abandonment in control. Alexander’s poems vary from the pulsing, aggressive beats of a basketball game (“My shot is F L O W I N G, Flying, fluttering…. ringaling and SWINGALING/Swish. Game/over”) to the more introspective musings of a child struggling into adolescence (“Sit beside JB at dinner. He moves./Tell him a joke. He doesn’t even smile….Say I’m sorry/but he won’t listen”). Despite his immaturity, Josh is a likable, funny, and authentic character. Underscoring the sports and the fraternal tension is a portrait of a family that truly loves and supports one another. Alexander has crafted a story that vibrates with energy and heart and begs to be read aloud. A slam dunk.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

NEWBERY HONOR

EL DEAFO by Cece Bell (Amulet)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 2–6—Cece loses her hearing from spinal meningitis, and takes readers through the arduous journey of learning to lip read and decipher the noise of her hearing aid, with the goal of finding a true friend. This warmly and humorously illustrated full-color graphic novel set in the suburban ’70s has all the gripping characters and inflated melodrama of late childhood: a crush on a neighborhood boy, the bossy friend, the too-sensitive-to-her-Deafness friend, and the perfect friend, scared away. The characters are all rabbits. The antics of her hearing aid connected to a FM unit (an amplifier the teacher wears) are spectacularly funny. When Cece’s teacher leaves the FM unit on, Cece hears everything: bathroom visits, even teacher lounge improprieties It is her superpower. She deems herself El Deafo! inspired in part by a bullied Deaf child featured in an Afterschool Special. Cece fearlessly fantasizes retaliations. Nevertheless, she rejects ASL because it makes visible what she is trying to hide. She ventures, “Who cares what everyone thinks!” But she does care. She loathes the designation “special,” and wants to pass for hearing. Bell tells it all: the joy of removing her hearing aid in summer, the troubles watching the TV when the actor turns his back, and the agony of slumber party chats in the dark. Included is an honest and revealing afterword, which addresses the author’s early decision not to learn ASL, her more mature appreciation for the language, and her adage that, “Our differences are our superpowers.”—Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City

NEWBERY HONOR

BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Bks.)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 4–7—“I am born in Ohio but the stories of South Carolina already run like rivers through my veins” writes Woodson as she begins her mesmerizing journey through her early years. She was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1963, “as the South explodes” into a war for civil rights and was raised in South Carolina and then New York. Her perspective on the volatile era in which she grew up is thoughtfully expressed in powerfully effective verse, (Martin Luther King is ready to march on Washington; Malcom X speaks about revolution; Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat only seven years earlier and three years have passed since Ruby Bridges walks into an all-white school). She experienced firsthand the acute differences in how the “colored” were treated in the North and South. “After the night falls and it is safe for brown people to leave the South without getting stopped and sometimes beaten and always questioned; We board the Greyhound bus bound for Ohio.” She related her difficulties with reading as a child and living in the shadow of her brilliant older sister, she never abandoned her dream of becoming a writer. With exquisite metaphorical verse Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience, from her supportive, loving maternal grandparents, her mother’s insistence on good grammar, to the lifetime friend she meets in New York, that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss. This should be on every library shelf.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

CALDECOTT MEDAL

THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND by Dan Santat (Little, Brown)
redstar
SLJ star

PreS-Gr 2—How long would you wait and how far a journey would you make to find your truest friend? Born on an island for imaginary friends, Beekle waits to be “imagined by a real child.” He waits and he waits, but his turn never comes. Filled with impetuous courage, Beekle does the unimaginable and heads out across deep waters until he reaches the real world. He finds that life there is so harried that no one notices him. Eventually, as he waits at the top of a star-leafed tree, a small girl with a friendly face calls out to him with a picture in her hand. They learn to be friends, share adventures and snacks, joke, “and together they did the unimaginable.” Santat’s attention to detail in the mixed-media illustrations shares a child’s eye for laughter and movement on full-bleed spreads with strategically placed text. Gazes of wonderment, broad smiles, and changes in perspective ensure an easy transition from page to page. Beekle’s round white visage and taped orange paper crown are immediately identifiable in each scene, a sharp contrast to his surroundings against variations of dark neutrals on a city street or the brightly colored dragons of a child’s imagination. Like Beekle’s new friend, there’s something here that feels just right as an “unimaginary” friendship creates a joyous, recognizable bond. A terrific addition to any library.—Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

CALDECOTT HONOR

nanainthecityNANA IN THE CITY by Lauren Castillo (Clarion)

PreS-Gr 1—Nana’s young grandson is excited about staying with her, but her new apartment is in the city, which, according to him, is “busy,” “loud,” and “filled with scary things.” Nana, however, thinks the city is “bustling, booming, and extraordinary,” and the next day, she takes him out to experience the sights and sounds for himself. Soon, the boy discovers that “busy” can be fun as he romps through Central Park, which is filled with people appreciating a fine fall day. “Loud” is actually enjoyable as he listens to street musicians and sees a fellow break-dancing to recorded music. By day’s end, he comes to realize that the city is “filled with extraordinary things” and is “the absolute perfect place…to visit.” While the child’s account is related in brief text, the watercolor illustrations tell readers much more. They see him initially hang back as his grandmother leads him into the cavernous subway, hold hands over his ears and grimace at construction and traffic noises, and cling to Nana as a street person approaches her for money, which later becomes for him a friendly encounter when she offers the man a pretzel. Dark, graffiti-filled scenes change to a spread dominated by reds and yellows as the boy points in wonder to the lights, buildings, and bustle of the city at day’s end. This is a fine example of how firsthand experience can overcome initial fear. Pair it with Lilian Moore’s celebration of the city in Mural on Second Avenue (Turtleback, 2013).—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT

CALDECOTT HONOR

THE NOISY PAINT BOX: THE COLORS AND SOUNDS OF KANDINSKY’S ABSTRACT ART by Barb Rosenstock, illus. by Mary GrandPré (Knopf)
redstar SLJ star

Gr 1–4—A stirring tribute to a prominent pioneer of abstract art, Paintbox follows the life of Russian-born artist Vasya Kandinsky from his childhood to adulthood, conveying the astounding imagery conjured in the painter’s (probably genetic) condition, synesthesia, which caused sensory fields to collide in explosions that enabled him, for example, to hear colors. In this delightful homage, Rosenstock’s crisp visual language unites with GrandPré’s deeply expressive and whimsical paintings to re-create the intriguing world of art as seen through Kandinsky’s distinct lens. The book offers diverse potential for different types of study, whether one is reading for information or for pleasure. Outstanding.—Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

CALDECOTT HONOR

SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)

PreS-Gr 1—The winning picture book team that created Extra Yarn (HarperCollins, 2012) is back together in this understated, humorous, and charmingly perplexing tale. Sam and Dave, who are either identical twin boys or friends who look astonishingly alike and share a sartorial sensibility, set out to dig a hole in the hopes of finding “something spectacular.” With shovels in hand, the boys (with an eager terrier looking on) begin to tunnel into the soil, but they just can’t seem to find anything of interest. What works spectacularly is the clever play between words and pictures. As in Klassen’s This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick, 2012), readers are in on a joke to which the characters are oblivious. Namely, that each time the boys change direction, they narrowly miss discovering increasingly enormous jewels hidden in the earth. The book progresses with each verso showing the boys’ progress, while the recto features simple text, mostly dialogue between the practical but unlucky explorers. About halfway through, a spread reveals a diamond so large it can barely be contained on the page; it dwarfs the two boys and their trusty canine companion—but all for naught, since they decide to dig in a different direction. Exhausted and covered from head to toe in dirt, Sam and Dave decide to take a rest. Klassen’s use of muted earth tones and uncomplicated compositions is paired well with Barnett’s deadpan humor. As they nap in their hole, the dog continues to dig…until suddenly the trio is falling; they soon land in a place that looks an awful lot like home. Small details reveal that this house and its inhabitants are ever so slightly changed. Are they dreaming? On the other side of the world? In a different dimension? Readers will have to puzzle that one out for themselves.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

CALDECOTT HONOR

VIVA FRIDA by Yuyi Morales (Neal Porter Bks.)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 1 Up—Kahlo’s unusual life story, background, and art have made her a frequent topic of biographies. Morales’s perception of her creative process results in a fresh, winning take on an artist who has rarely been understood. The author uses strong verbs to give Kahlo voice: “I see (Veo)”; “Sé (I know).” Kahlo is depicted as a self-possessed woman with a drive to create. Her artistic process has room for others to participate, though—love, imagination, and dreams are closely entangled in her art. In the illustrations, Diego Rivera is shown creating alongside his wife. While the artistic process seems magical to readers, Kahlo knows what she is searching for. Each spread has just one or two words on it, both in English and Spanish. The text floats on the page, with the Spanish in a lighter color, adding to the ethereal, dreamlike feel of the book. Morales’s art and O’Meara’s photographs take this book to another level. Created with stop-motion puppets, paintings, and digital elements, these are amazing works of art themselves. The puppets are lifelike, resembling Kahlo (with her unibrow) and Rivera accurately. They are surrounded by the animals Kahlo loved, including vibrant feathered parrots, a monkey, and dog. Throughout the book, Kahlo goes searching for inspiration and finds it all around her. Morales incorporates many of the hallmarks of Kahlo’s art into her own. The artist wears silver, open-hand earrings and multicolored dresses. She plays with a skeleton puppet on these pages and imagines herself soaring, freed from her fragile body. Morales’s note in both English and Spanish describes her connection with Kahlo. A resonant title that can be used anywhere Kahlo’s art is studied. It will also be admired in bilingual collections.—Susan E. Murray, formerly at Glendale Public Library, AZ

CALDECOTT HONOR

therightwordTHE RIGHT WORD: ROGET AND HIS THESAURUS by Jen Bryant, illus. by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 2–5—Those who have relied upon a thesaurus (meaning treasure house in Greek), either in print or through the tool menu of word processing software, will gain a greater appreciation for the reference tool in this beautifully designed picture book biography of its creator, Peter Roget. Bryant describes bibliophile Roget, taking him from a timid, studious child who was always compiling lists to an accomplished doctor who by 1805 had compiled the beginnings of the first thesaurus. Busy and exuberant, Sweet’s charming watercolor illustrations, layered over collages of vintage images and fonts, capture Roget’s passion for classification while also providing readers new opportunities for discovery (Latin translations of animal names, mathematical terms, and a plethora of synonyms). Expertly researched and well written, Bryant’s narrative not only details the creation of the thesaurus; it also conveys a sense of Roget the man: his shy nature, his keen intelligence, and his passion for knowledge. There truly was a particular blend of artistry and intellect that went into Roget’s book, as evidenced from a reproduced page from the original thesaurus. The book contains extensive back matter, including an incredibly detailed time line that goes into the man’s other inventions (the slide rule, the pocket chess set) and an author and illustrator’s note, as well as Roget quotations that are sure to inspire if not a love of language then at least a search for the perfect turn of phrase. An excellent illustrated biography.—Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

CALDECOTT HONOR

THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Jillian Tamaki (First Second)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 8 UpEvery summer, Rose and her parents vacation at a lakeside cottage. The rest of the world fades away as Rose reunites with her friend Windy and delves into leisurely games of MASH, swimming, and the joy of digging giant holes in the sand—but this summer is different. Rose is on the cusp of adolescence; she’s not ready to leave childhood behind but is fascinated by the drama of the local teens who are only a few years older, yet a universe apart in terms of experience. They drink, they smoke, they swear. As Rose and Windy dip their toes into the mysterious waters of teen life by experimenting with new vocabulary (“sluts!”) and renting horror movies, her parents struggle with their own tensions that seem incomprehensible to Rose. Layers of story unfurl gradually as the narrative falls into the dreamlike rhythm of summer. Slice-of-life scenes are gracefully juxtaposed with a complex exploration of the fragile family dynamic after loss and Rose’s ambivalence toward growing up. The mood throughout is thoughtful, quiet, almost meditative. The muted tones of the monochromatic blue-on-white illustrations are perfectly suited to the contemplative timbre, and the writing and images deserve multiple reads to absorb their subtleties. This captivating graphic novel presents a fully realized picture of a particular time in a young girl’s life, an in-between summer filled with yearning and a sense of ephemerality. The story resolves with imperfect hope and will linger in readers’ mind through changing seasons.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

PRINTZ AWARD

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson (Dial)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 9 Up—A resplendent novel from the author of The Sky Is Everywhere (Dial, 2010). Fraternal twins and burgeoning artists Jude and Noah are inseparable until puberty hits and they find themselves competing for boys, a spot at an exclusive art school, and their parents’ affections. Told in alternating perspectives and time lines, with Noah’s chapters taking place when they are 13 and Jude’s when they are 16, this novel explores how it’s the people closest to us who have the power to both rend us utterly and knit us together. Jude’s takes are peppered with entries from her bible of superstitions and conversations with her grandmother’s ghost, and Noah continuously imagines portraits (complete with appropriately artsy titles) to cope with his emotions. In the intervening years, a terrible tragedy has torn their family apart, and the chasm between the siblings grows ever wider. Vibrant imagery and lyrical prose propel readers forward as the twins experience first love, loss, betrayal, acceptance, and forgiveness. Art and wonder fill each page, and threads of magical realism lend whimsy to the narrative. Readers will forgive convenient coincidences because of the characters’ in-depth development and the swoon-worthy romances. The novel’s evocative exploration of sexuality, grief, and sibling relationships will ring true with teens. For fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (St. Martin’s, 2013) and Melina Marchetta’s realistic fiction. See author Q&A, p. 152.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

PRINTZ HONOR

AND WE STAY by Jenny Hubbard (Delacorte)
redstar SLJ star

Gr 9 Up—Emily Beam is a new student at Amherst School for Girls. There are rumors, of course, about why she has entered the school in January of her junior year, but none of them come close to reality. The truth remains only for Emily to replay over and over, each time revealing a bit more about the circumstances leading up to the day when her boyfriend entered the school library where she was working with her class, lured her into the stacks to talk, and then shot himself in the head. (By the way, If you’re wondering why no one simply Googled Emily’s mysterious past, her story is set in 1995, perhaps for that very reason.) As the teen acclimates to boarding-school life, she keeps her story close to her chest, but reveals herself little by little through the poems she writes and ultimately shares. Emily feels an affinity for her namesake, Emily Dickinson, who lived and wrote just down the street from ASG, and draws on her spirit to pour her emotions onto paper. And We Stay is a little gem of a book. Readers learn as much about Dickinson’s beliefs and poetry as they do about friendship, first love, teen suicide, and even abortion-not an easy balancing act. Yet despite the heavy topics, the book feels sweet and poetic and never gratuitous. Budding poets may particularly appreciate Emily’s story, but there is certainly something for anyone looking for a good read with a strong, believable female lead who is working her hardest to overcome tragedy.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

PRINTZ HONOR

carnivalatbrayTHE CARNIVAL AT BRAY by Jessie Ann Foley (Elephant Rock)
redstar SLJ star

Gr 9 Up—This promising debut, set in the heyday of grunge, tells the story of Maggie Lynch, a displaced Chicagoan and grunge music fan, living in a quiet town (Bray) on the Irish Sea. Maggie was uprooted from her friends, her music scene, and her beloved Uncle Kevin when her romantically fickle mother married her latest boyfriend, resulting in a move to his hometown. During her time of difficult adjustment to Ireland, Maggie falls in love with Eion the very moment a devastating loss hits her family, leading to rebellion and a journey to Rome to see Nirvana and fulfill Uncle Kevin’s wish for her. Foley sets the scene vividly, writing that Bray has a “soggy sort of grandeur” and weaving in the tiny cultural differences that Maggie has to navigate as an American. The narrative voice is clear and compelling, but Maggie often makes decisions that feel incongruous to her character. She has an independent spirit, but Eion only joins her on the journey because she needs a rescue. A self-professed Nirvana fan, which is critical to the plot, she never seems to like the band as much as she is trying to impress Uncle Kevin. However, the secondary characters are complex and sympathetic: Foley has also populated Bray with a host of quirky, loving, and memorable background characters, which enriches the story. Recommended for teens who enjoy travelogue romance stories or novels about rock music.—Susannah Goldstein, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

PRINTZ HONOR

GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Anderw Smith (Dutton)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 10 Up—It used to be that the only interesting events to occur in crumbling Ealing, Iowa happened between the pages of 16-year-old Austin Szerba’s “history” journals. Austin’s journals are elaborate and uncensored records about sex; his love for his girlfriend, Shann; his growing attraction for his best friend, Robby; his unique Polish ancestors; even Ealing’s decrepit mini-mall where he and Robby hang out. Shann tells Austin, “I love how, whenever you tell a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction, like an explosion.” And that’s exactly how Austin narrates the end of the world when a twist of fate sparks the birth of mutant, people-eating praying mantises. Austin not only records the hilarious and bizarre tale of giant, copulating bugs but his own sexual confusion and his fear about hurting the people he loves. Award-winning author Smith has cleverly used a B movie science fiction plot to explore the intricacies of teenage sexuality, love, and friendship. Austin’s desires might garner buzz and controversy among adults but not among the teenage boys who can identify with his internal struggles. This novel is proof that when an author creates solely for himself-as Smith notes in the acknowledgments section-the result is an original, honest, and extraordinary work that speaks directly to teens as it pushes the boundaries of young adult literature.—Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

PRINTZ HONOR

THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Jillian Tamaki (First Second)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 8 Up—Every summer, Rose and her parents vacation at a lakeside cottage. The rest of the world fades away as Rose reunites with her friend Windy and delves into leisurely games of MASH, swimming, and the joy of digging giant holes in the sand—but this summer is different. Rose is on the cusp of adolescence; she’s not ready to leave childhood behind but is fascinated by the drama of the local teens who are only a few years older, yet a universe apart in terms of experience. They drink, they smoke, they swear. As Rose and Windy dip their toes into the mysterious waters of teen life by experimenting with new vocabulary (“sluts!”) and renting horror movies, her parents struggle with their own tensions that seem incomprehensible to Rose. Layers of story unfurl gradually as the narrative falls into the dreamlike rhythm of summer. Slice-of-life scenes are gracefully juxtaposed with a complex exploration of the fragile family dynamic after loss and Rose’s ambivalence toward growing up. The mood throughout is thoughtful, quiet, almost meditative. The muted tones of the monochromatic blue-on-white illustrations are perfectly suited to the contemplative timbre, and the writing and images deserve multiple reads to absorb their subtleties. This captivating graphic novel presents a fully realized picture of a particular time in a young girl’s life, an in-between summer filled with yearning and a sense of ephemerality. The story resolves with imperfect hope and will linger in readers’ mind through changing seasons.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

CORETTA SCOTT KING (AUTHOR) BOOK AWARD

BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Bks.)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 4–7—“I am born in Ohio but the stories of South Carolina already run like rivers through my veins” writes Woodson as she begins her mesmerizing journey through her early years. She was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1963, “as the South explodes” into a war for civil rights and was raised in South Carolina and then New York. Her perspective on the volatile era in which she grew up is thoughtfully expressed in powerfully effective verse, (Martin Luther King is ready to march on Washington; Malcom X speaks about revolution; Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat only seven years earlier and three years have passed since Ruby Bridges walks into an all-white school). She experienced firsthand the acute differences in how the “colored” were treated in the North and South. “After the night falls and it is safe for brown people to leave the South without getting stopped and sometimes beaten and always questioned; We board the Greyhound bus bound for Ohio.” She related her difficulties with reading as a child and living in the shadow of her brilliant older sister, she never abandoned her dream of becoming a writer. With exquisite metaphorical verse Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience, from her supportive, loving maternal grandparents, her mother’s insistence on good grammar, to the lifetime friend she meets in New York, that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss. This should be on every library shelf.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

CORETTA SCOTT KING (AUTHOR) HONOR

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander (HMH)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 6–10—Twins Josh and Jordan are junior high basketball stars, thanks in large part to the coaching of their dad, a former professional baller who was forced to quit playing for health reasons, and the firm, but loving support of their assistant-principal mom. Josh, better known as Filthy McNasty, earned his nickname for his enviable skills on the court: “…when Filthy gets hot/He has a SLAMMERIFIC SHOT.” In this novel in verse, the brothers begin moving apart from each other for the first time. Jordan starts dating the “pulchritudinous” Miss Sweet Tea, and Josh has a tough time keeping his jealousy and feelings of abandonment in control. Alexander’s poems vary from the pulsing, aggressive beats of a basketball game (“My shot is F L O W I N G, Flying, fluttering…. ringaling and SWINGALING/Swish. Game/over”) to the more introspective musings of a child struggling into adolescence (“Sit beside JB at dinner. He moves./Tell him a joke. He doesn’t even smile….Say I’m sorry/but he won’t listen”). Despite his immaturity, Josh is a likable, funny, and authentic character. Underscoring the sports and the fraternal tension is a portrait of a family that truly loves and supports one another. Alexander has crafted a story that vibrates with energy and heart and begs to be read aloud. A slam dunk.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

CORETTA SCOTT KING (AUTHOR) HONOR

howidiscoveredpoetryHOW I DISCOVERED POETRY by Marilyn Nelson (Dial)

Gr 6 Up—Nelson traces her childhood and developing awareness of civil rights issues in this eloquent collection of 50 unrhymed sonnets. In 1950, her father, one of the first African American Air Force officers, is recalled to duty, launching the family on the first of several cross-country moves. Her father takes a leave from law school, her mother takes leave from teaching, and: “Our leaves become feathers. With wings we wave good-bye to our cousins.” Their travels take them from Cleveland to Texas, Colorado, Kansas, California, Maine, and Oklahoma; the leave-takings are always painful. In “Traveling Light,” she muses over the family dogs (Pudgy, Lady, and General) left behind. “Daddy explains. We’ve been transferred again. We stand numb as he gives away our toys.” Close family ties help them confront the small-mindedness and racism encountered along the way. In “Bad Name,” she observes: “TV is black-and-white, but people aren’t. There’s a bad name mean people might call you, but words aren’t sticks and stones.” Books, television shows, and friends provide a respite from the menace of the Cold War. Through snatches of grown-up conversation, she learns of Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, and Little Rock. She overcomes school yard bullies, wonders about boys, and is humiliated by a teacher who makes her read aloud a racist poem: “She smiled harder and harder until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo-playing darkies….” This hurtful episode only underscores the awesome power of words and leads Nelson to wonder whether “there’s a poet behind my face.” Altogether, Nelson’s poems offer a candid portrait of her formative years as well as a triumphant message, which will resonate with readers, young and old, who cherish and recognize the power of words and stories.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

CORETTA SCOTT KING (AUTHOR) HONOR

HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon (Holt)

Gr 9 Up—When 16-year-old Tariq, a black teen, is shot and killed by a white man, every witness has a slightly different perception of the chain of events leading up to the murder. Family, friends, gang members, neighbors, and a well-meaning but self-serving minster make up the broad cast of characters. The police bring their own personal biases to their investigation of the case. When all points of view are combined, the story of a young man emerges and with it, a narrative that plays out in communities across the country every day. Heartbreaking and unputdownable, this is an important book about perception and race. How It Went Down reads very much like Julius Lester’s Day of Tears (Hyperion, 2005) in a modern setting and for an older audience. With a great hook and relatable characters, this will be popular for fans of realistic fiction. The unique storytelling style and thematic relevance will make it a potentially intriguing pick for classroom discussion.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

CORETTA SCOTT KING (ILLUSTRATOR) AWARD

FIREBIRD by Misty Coopeland, illus. by Christopher Myers (G.P. Putnam’s)

Gr 2–6—A poetic dialogue between an aspiring young dancer and the American Ballet Theater’s soloist comprises the text of this stunning picture book. Copeland provides words of encouragement to boost the dreams of an African American girl whose desire to be a ballerina is hampered by her low self-image and lack of confidence. “I was a dancer just like you,” Misty tells her, “a dreaming shooting star of a girl/with work and worlds ahead.” Copeland’s title role in Stravinsky’s The Firebird serves as the theme for Myers’s signature paint and collage illustrations, which feature full spreads bursting with color and excitement. Elongated forms and slanted geometric shapes are infused with a color palette of browns, yellows, and fiery reds contrasted with cool blues, purples, and splashes of white. Scenes of dynamic action and quiet serenity work together to move the narrative forward, leaving readers with a sense of hope for the future of the young dancer. The author includes a note that discusses her own struggle and need for affirmation, acknowledging those who helped her along the way. A very successful collaboration, appealing to all and particularly valuable to collections on the performing arts.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

CORETTA SCOTT KING (ILLUSTRATOR) HONOR

JOSEPHINE: THE DAZZLING LIFE OF JOSEPHINE BAKER by Patricia Hruby Powell, illus. by Christian Robinson
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 5–8—This charming biography invites readers to step inside the vibrant and spirited world of performer and civil rights advocate, Josephine Baker. Robinson’s paintings are as colorful and rich as Josephine Baker’s story, offering page after page of captivating and animated illustrations and rhythmic text, which is written in blank verse. In a few short and well-organized parts, readers learn the story of one of the world’s most well known female performers who danced and sang her way from the poor and segregated streets of St. Louis to the dazzling stages of Paris all the way to Carnegie Hall. Text and illustrations work in tandem to accurately document Josephine’s extraordinary life and the era in which she lived. Clear and lively descriptions of Josephine’s story play out creatively in the text, introducing readers to basic principles of poetic structure in storytelling and offering an accurate portrait of a woman who fought for racial equality and civil rights through her life’s passion: performance. Reluctant readers of nonfiction and poetry lovers alike will be drawn to this book’s musical, theatrical nature, making for a fun, enriching, and holistic reading experience. This unique and creative work is a first purchase.—Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

CORETTA SCOTT KING (ILLUSTRATOR) HONOR

littlemelbaLITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE, by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illus. by Frank Morrison
redstar
SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 2–5—Music lovers will enjoy this picture-book biography of Melba Liston (1926–99), child prodigy and virtuoso trombonist who collaborated with most 20th century jazz greats. An excellent match of breezy text and dynamic illustrations tells an exhilarating story. Always in tune with music, seven-year-old Melba chose her first instrument from Joe’s Music Truck. Self-taught and determined, she survived the gender-based taunts of high school boys while playing in Alma Hightower’s after-school music club (using her horn to “turn all those hurt feelings into soulful music”) and racial discrimination while touring with Billie Holiday’s band. In the end, Liston “[made] her trombone sing” for audiences around the world and was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. Russell-Brown’s text engages the senses (“[Melba] especially loved Fats Waller, with his growly voice and booming piano”), while Morrison’s distinctive illustrations, stretched out like a slide trombone, draw the eye across each spread to the page turn. Back matter includes a detailed afterword with two photographs and a bibliography of books, articles, interviews, radio broadcasts, and websites, including a Jazz Café, where students can view Liston performing with Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Pair this book with Jonah Winter’s Dizzy (Scholastic, 2006) and Marilyn Nelson’s Sweethearts of Rhythm (Dial, 2009) to explore more fully the jazz culture of the time. A celebration of the talent and success of a little-known African American female musician, this title will enrich library collections.—Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

CORETTA SCOTT KING/JOHN STEPTOE NEW TALENT AWARD

WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST by Jason Reynolds
redstar SLJ star

Gr 7–10—Ali lives with his mother, Doris, and kid sister, Jazz, in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn and spends all of his free time with best friends Noodles and Needles, brothers who live in a run-down brownstone next door. Needles was born with Tourette’s syndrome, and after a particularly bad episode of tics, Doris gave him some knitting needles to focus his attention. The three teens hang out on the stoop and streets, living life and getting in just a touch of mischief. When their friend Tasha gets them into a party-and not just any party, an exclusive, adults-only party-trouble escalates. How will the trio deal with the fallout of that eventful night? Reynolds’s debut oozes with authenticity-details about bodegas, barbershops, and local streets flesh out the setting-and builds with great tempo, starting in a slow groove and picking up to a swift beat. The main and secondary characters are well developed; their sweetness, sassiness, and even stupidity are endearing and relatable. This title is an easy sell to teens living in urban areas but will appeal to anyone looking for realistic protagonists in the daily grind, learning about themselves and one another. Reynolds is an author to watch.—Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD (AGES 0–10)

A BOY AND A JAGUAR by Alan Rabinowitz, illus. by Catia Chien (HMH)

Gr 2–5—Rabinowitz is a wildlife conservationist and spokesperson for the Stuttering Foundation of America. When he was a boy, he discovered that, despite severe speech challenges, he had a gift for communicating with animals. The book charts his story through college and his travels to the jungles of Belize. Eventually, he overcomes his stutter enough to speak before the prime minister on behalf of the jaguars. Chien’s acrylic and charcoal illustrations perfectly capture the tenacious, loving spirit of the author as a boy and a lonely, intrepid young man. Chien has a flair for painting animals as well as portraying Rabinowitz’s condition with empathy. One page, drenched in a moody mauve, depicts his anguished face and hands gripping at his throat as he tries to “push words out.” With the flip of a page, readers see the boy awash in yellow sunlight, surrounded by animals, his face completely relaxed as he speaks fluently. Rabinowitz’s text is elegant, if at times slightly wordy for the target audience: “In this animal’s eyes are strength and power and sureness of purpose.” The emotional resonance of the text, urgency of the issues discussed, and breathtakingly beautiful illustrations make this book a winner. The story will help children empathize with their peers with speech issues and will be a lifeline to those with special needs or who feel like outsiders for one reason or another. Every library should own this book, a testament to the fierce beauty of jaguars and the human spirit.—Jess deCourcy Hinds, Bard High School Early College, Queens, NY

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD (AGES 11–13)

RAIN REIGN by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel & Friends)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 4–6—Rose is different from the other children in her class in many ways. She struggles to control the obsessions and outbursts that are symptomatic of her high-functioning autism. She is fascinated by homophones, or homonyms, as most people know them, and prime numbers. Rose uses patterns and habits to gain some control over her days. Her mother left when Rose was two, so she lives with her father, and is also cared for by her Uncle Weldon, who lives nearby, and who often shows Rose the most understanding and compassion. When her father brings home a lost dog, Rose names her Rain, since she was found in the rain, and “rain” is a homonym (with “reign”). During a superstorm, her father lets Rain out, and Rose’s beloved companion is lost. Rose and her uncle finally find Rain after a long and difficult search, but they learn that Rain is actually Olivia, the pet of a family who lost everything in the storm. Told through Rose’s voice, the story gives readers the perspective of someone who sees life in black-and-white, and who struggles when rules are broken, or routines are changed. The characters around Rose develop incrementally as readers witness their reactions to her obsessions and her struggles. Though Rose’s story is often heartbreaking, her matter-of-fact narration provides moments of humor. Readers will empathize with Rose, who finds strength and empowerment through her unique way of looking at the world. A first purchase.—MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD (13–18)

girlslikeusGIRLS LIKE US by Gail Giles (Candlewick)

Gr 8 Up—Quincy and Biddie are “speddies” (special education students). They have just graduated high school and must live out in the world on their own. After being matched together by their teacher, they are given adult responsibilities: Quincy works at a supermarket while Biddie cooks and cleans for the older woman who is boarding them. The teens must learn how to fend for themselves in a world that is unfamiliar. They have both experienced physical, mental, and sexual violence, and must rely on each other to come out stronger than they were before. Girls Like Us is filled with genuine relationships that develop over time and feel authentic. There is humor and heart throughout, making the severity of the protagonists’ situations more accessible to readers. A story line about Biddie’s obsession with a family of ducks in their backyard is particularly poignant. The one- or two-page chapters alternate between Quincy and Biddie and are told in voices that are genuine to their experiences but never sensationalized. The frank discussions and depictions of the violence committed against them are shocking but never vulgar. Giles has constructed a unique, hard-hitting yet refreshing story with well-developed characters free from expected clichés or caricatures. A powerful novel that teens will enjoy wholeheartedly.—Christopher Lassen, Brooklyn Public Library

ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL

ME…JANE produced by Paul R. Gagne and Melissa Reilly Ellard of Weston Woods Studios, Inc.
redstar
SLJ star

PreS-Gr 2–In this heartwarming portrait of primatologist Jane Goodall as a young girl, author Patrick McDonnell eloquently tells the story of young adventurous Jane. She, along with her stuffed chimpanzee, Jubliee, delights in exploring the outdoors; observing animals and nature; and finding magic in such things as the discovery of where eggs come from. Children will love the simple text of this Caldecott Honor–winning picture book (Little, Brown, 2011), which carries the important message that they should follow their dreams. McDonnell’s superb and warm ink and watercolor drawings are surrounded by faded ornamental engravings and stamps from the 19th and early 20th century. Animators Paul and Sandra Fierlinger have skillfully captured the tone of this delightful story by adding extra elements, such as additional etchings from Goodall’s diary, to make the narrative come alive, further enhanced by Shay E. Lynch’s upbeat musical score. Extras on the DVD include a conversation with Goodall and McDonnell. In this 15-minute conversation, viewers will have the opportunity to hear McDonnell describe some of the details that went into writing the book. This segment also offers children a chance to “meet” Jane and hear her talk about her childhood; sharing some of her own stories, and elaborating on the experiences touched on in the narrative. VERDICT This educational and entertaining tribute to Goodall and her significant legacy is highly recommended for all collections.–Amy Joslyn, Fairport Public Library, Fairport NY

THE LAURA INGALLS WILDER AWARD: DONALD CREWS

HOW MANY BLUE BIRDS FLEW AWAY? by Paul Giganti, illus. by Donald Crews (Greenwillow)

K-Gr 2–Although this book can be used with children learning to count and subtract, it falls short in many other ways. The gouache illustrations are bland and the text is dry, labored, and boring. The -difference – alluded to in the subtitle refers to the questions that readers are asked to figure out. For example, the first page shows a bowl of fruit and youngsters are asked, -How many apples were there? How many oranges were there? How many more apples than oranges were there? – In addition, there is no plot or real story line; instead the book reads like a series of math exercises. Children will quickly lose interest and tire of the repetitiveness. Libraries would be better off sticking with books by Stuart J. Murphy and Amy Axelrod, who know how to put fun into math while telling a story, too.” -Lisa S. Schindler, Bethpage Public Library, NY

MARGARET A. EDWARDS AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: SHARON M. DRAPER

PANIC by Sharon M. Draper (Atheneum)

Gr 9 Up—Draper has created a nurturing setting for her characters in the Crystal Pointe Dance Academy where students have been dancing and working together for years. Miss Ginger, their instructor, provides support and challenge in endeavors like the spring showcase or the upcoming production of Peter Pan. Diamond, 15, is swept off her feet by a stranger’s promise of an audition for a movie when he finds her alone at the mall. Her BFF, Mercedes, gets a cryptic text before they are to meet at the food court to go to the academy for a performance. Through drugs and restraints, villainous Thane and his henchmen cameramen, as well as other paying participants, abuse Diamond as the unwilling star in Internet pornography for days. Meanwhile, with only intermittent plot coverage of Diamond’s ordeal, the dance academy and school hold vigils and worry about their classmate. Most chapters actually deal with Layla: she doesn’t acknowledge fellow dancer Justin’s crush because she is more concerned about boyfriend, Donny, who gets dangerous and abuses her when he feels jealous or insecure. Layla suffers from some bad judgment, a mostly absentee mother, and the challenge of her father being released after six years in prison. This realistic novel takes on too many characters and plotlines, and the scattershot approach may leave readers less engaged and invested. Dance enthusiasts should enjoy the depictions of costumes, jitters, daunting roles, and therapeutic workouts. However, multiple issues-bullying, kidnapping, sexual enslavement by a predator-pedophile, abusive teen relationships, and sexting-result in hot-button overload.—Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA

2016 MAY HILL ARBUTHNOT HONOR LECTURE AWARD: PAT MORA

waterrollsWATER ROLLS, WATER RISES/EL AGUA RUEDA, EL AGUA SUBE by Pat Mora (Children’s Bk. Pr.)

PreS-Gr 1—In this bilingual book, Mora uses her travels around the world to talk about water in unique ways, while creating varied and compelling imagery. In the Grand Canyon, water is described as “skidding and slipping, swooping round bends, spinning on tree roots, careening down cliffs.” Younger readers will enjoy the calmness of the words, while older readers will want to imitate the author’s style and try their own hand at descriptive writing. So’s watercolor illustrations match the tone of the writing perfectly and capture the different landscapes and cultural nuances. Use this book to introduce the water cycle, land forms, or poetry. Pair it with Splish Splash (HMH, 1994), a poetry book by Joan Bransfield Graham.—Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

MILDRED L. BATCHELDER AWARD

MIKLIS AND THE DONKEY by Bibi Dumon Tak, illus. by Philip Hopman, tr. by Laura Watkins (Eerdmans)

Gr 3–5—Mikis is a boy who lives a quiet existence in a small town on a Greek isle with his family. His grandfather meets him after school and tells him there is a surprise waiting for him at home; the surprise is a donkey that Mikis is allowed to name. After much consultation with the donkey, it is decided by Mikis that Tsaki is the perfect name for her. Mikis’s friends and family are greatly amused by the friendship that the boy and animal develop; a friendship that takes them on adventures around the isle—to the doctor, to a pasture to make friends with another donkey, building a new stable, and one big surprise at the end. This a sweet story about a loving child and his donkey. There is no high adventure, fast-paced drama, or laugh-out-loud comedy, but readers who enjoy a gentle tale will appreciate the beauty of this quiet story. Included throughout are black-and-white pencil sketches of the duo’s adventures.—Lisa Nabel, Dayton Metro Library, OH

MILDRED L. BATCHELDER HONOR

HIDDEN: A CHILD’S STORY OF THE HOLOCAUST by Loic Dauvillier, ilus. by Marc Lizano, color by Greg Salsedo, tr. by Alexis Siegel (Holtzbrinck)

Gr 3–6—Elsa and her grandmother Dounia can’t fall asleep one night, and the little girl begs the older woman to share the reason for her sadness. Dounia recounts her experience as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1942. Heartbreaking incidents, such as being ostracized by a teacher and former friends or having to don a yellow a star, are told from a child’s perspective, filled with confusion and innocence. Eventually, the little girl is hidden under a panel in her family’s wardrobe as police vandalize her home and arrest her parents. Neighbors, the Pericards, rescue Dounia and adopt her while they try to locate her mother and father, who have been transferred to a concentration camp. Dauvillier doesn’t shy away from the brutal truth in this portrayal of the Holocaust. Interspersed with Dounia’s flashbacks are present-day moments of dialogue between the narrator and Elsa, which are depicted in brown and tan hues. Elsa asks questions and offers comments that young readers might also be grappling with while reading this tale. Lizano’s stylized illustrations depict characters with oversize heads, reminiscent of “Peanuts” comics, giving this difficult subject an age-appropriate touch. The subdued palette of blues and greens match the story’s tone, and the plethora of images highlighting meals, country scenes, and family time places more emphasis on the people who helped one another during this terrible period than on the heinous acts committed. The final image, one of familial love and peace, will pull heartstrings. Pair this poignant graphic novel with Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars (Houghton Mifflin, 1989).—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

MILDRED L. BATCHELDER HONOR

NINE OPEN ARMS by Benny Lindelauf, illus. by Dasha Tolstikova, tr. by John Nieuwenhuzen

Gr 5–8—The Boon family is down on their luck when they move into a leaky old house on the edge of town. Fing and her sisters sense the house and adjacent cemetery have a macabre past, and they defy their strong-tongued grandmother to explore the dank cellar and curious hole in the hedge. Between the mysterious house, a spitfire sister, schoolyard bullying, and their father’s latest bumbling get-rich-quick scheme, nothing goes according to any sort of predictable plan—either for the Boons or readers who will be drawn into their story. The translation from the original Dutch is fluid with nuanced language and tone, allowing kids to inhabit a world at once strange, engaging, and richly historical. A fine addition for large collections.—Amy Koester, St. Charles City-County Library District, Wentzville, MO

ODYSSEY AWARD

HORSEH. O. R. S. E. A GAME OF BASKETBALL AND IMAGINATION, produced by Live Oak Media, by Christopher Myers, narrated by Dion Graham & Christopher Myers

Gr 3–6—Two friends on an urban basketball court begin a game of H.O.R.S.E. For the uninitiated, Myers does a fine job describing how to play the game, which is similar to Ghost: one player shoots any kind of shot (layup, jumper, etc.) and the other player has to duplicate it. If the second player fails to make the shot, he gets one letter and the game continues until someone loses five times and spells the word H.O.R.S.E. It sounds simple enough, until these two players get creative, such as balancing on the top of a 437-story building and shooting a perfect layup with the left foot. As the friends raise the stakes and the braggadocio rises to an inventive pitch, readers will appreciate the grand humor. White or plain background space emphasizes the dramatic shots that are dreamed up. In addition, the text waves up and beyond the skyline just as the ball can soar. This book will encourage all readers to grab a close friend and get out to play a game, matching their athleticism to their imaginations.—Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

ODYSSEY HONOR

FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATEproduced by Audioworks, by Tim Federle, narrated by Tim Federle

Gr 4–6—Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster, the unlikely but very likable misfit star of Better Nate Than Ever, has made it to Broadway! Sure, he’s second understudy for the title role in E. T.: The Musical, but his lack of stature in the cast cannot diminish his enthusiasm for just being there. Stalwart best friend and acting coach, Libby, is back home in Jankburg, PA, offering Nate support and advice via text and Skype, while Nate is staying in a tiny New York apartment with his Aunt Heidi, a struggling actress. Challenged by intimidating stars, a clueless director, and insecurities about his blossoming manhood, Nate perseveres, ultimately and unwittingly saving the day. Once again, author and Broadway performer Federle reads with flamboyant energy, but he varies his voicings so little, it is often difficult to discern which character is speaking. The story approaches head-on mature issues such as sexuality, bullying, and terminal illness with humor and tenderness. Nate’s acute self-awareness sometimes rings untrue for a teenage boy, but ultimately makes him all the more endearing. Listeners will cheer Nate on as he stumbles into stardom on the Great White Way.—Jennifer Verbrugge, State Library Services, Roseville, MN

ODYSSEY HONOR

THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE, produced by Listening Library, by Julie Berry, narrated by Jayne Entwistle

Gr 6 Up—In this Victorian boarding school murder mystery, seven young women find themselves gloriously free from adult supervision when their judgmental, penny-pinching headmistress and her good-for-nothing brother die suddenly during dinner. Rather than alert the authorities and risk having the school shut down and all the students sent home, the girls decide to keep things under wraps and proceed as if the late headmistress and her brother were still alive. But first they’ll have to bury the bodies in the garden without attracting the notice of busybody neighbors, potential suitors, a suspicious housekeeper, and a host of charmingly annoying villagers with a penchant for showing up at the worst possible moment. While juggling mounting debts and increasingly precarious fabrications in order to keep up their charade, the students also try to discover who poisoned the deceased—and why. Berry’s prose is reminiscent of the dark comedy and melodrama of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” mysteries. Each girl at Saint Etheldreda’s School is defined largely by an adjective that precedes her name: Dear Roberta, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Dull Martha, Stout Alice, Smooth Kitty, Pocked Louise, and Dour Elinor. The nicknames are illustrative of the insidious ways in which women and girls were pigeonholed and denigrated in the patriarchal society of 19th-century Great Britain, and over the course of the story, the characters prove that their supposed weaknesses are often the sources of great strength and ingenuity. That said, the device is used throughout the entirety of the book and will wear thin with some readers. The pacing slows midway, though kids will want to read on—if only to find out if the sisterhood winds up behind bars for all of their shenanigans. Overall, this is a well-researched, clever, and deliciously dark comedy with an emphasis on female empowerment.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

ODYSSEY HONOR

A SNICKER OF MAGIC, produced by Scholastic Audiobooks, written by Natalie Lloyd, and narrated by Cassandra Morris.

Gr 3–7—Twelve-year-old Felicity is tired of driving all over the country with her mother and younger sister, Frannie Jo. So when Mama drives into her hometown of Midnight Gulch, TN, Felicity hopes to be able to put down some roots of her own. Midnight Gulch has a magical history, and Felicity loves hearing stories about its former residents, including two musician brothers whose jealous duel resulted in a curse that split their family apart. A modern-day talent show duel at her school gives Felicity the chance to showcase a magical talent of her own: word collecting. But first, she must figure out how to get over her stage fright and make her words come out sounding right. Narrator Cassandra Morris’s words flow beautifully and she does a phenomenal job of bringing this enchanting story to life. Listeners will love getting to know the town’s colorful residents and following Felicity’s adventures as she tries to break the age-old curse and find a home she can call her own.—Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

PURA BELPRÉ (ILLUSTRATOR) AWARD

vivafridaVIVA FRIDA by Yuyi Morales (Neal Porter Bks.)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 1 Up—Kahlo’s unusual life story, background, and art have made her a frequent topic of biographies. Morales’s perception of her creative process results in a fresh, winning take on an artist who has rarely been understood. The author uses strong verbs to give Kahlo voice: “I see (Veo)”; “Sé (I know).” Kahlo is depicted as a self-possessed woman with a drive to create. Her artistic process has room for others to participate, though—love, imagination, and dreams are closely entangled in her art. In the illustrations, Diego Rivera is shown creating alongside his wife. While the artistic process seems magical to readers, Kahlo knows what she is searching for. Each spread has just one or two words on it, both in English and Spanish. The text floats on the page, with the Spanish in a lighter color, adding to the ethereal, dreamlike feel of the book. Morales’s art and O’Meara’s photographs take this book to another level. Created with stop-motion puppets, paintings, and digital elements, these are amazing works of art themselves. The puppets are lifelike, resembling Kahlo (with her unibrow) and Rivera accurately. They are surrounded by the animals Kahlo loved, including vibrant feathered parrots, a monkey, and dog. Throughout the book, Kahlo goes searching for inspiration and finds it all around her. Morales incorporates many of the hallmarks of Kahlo’s art into her own. The artist wears silver, open-hand earrings and multicolored dresses. She plays with a skeleton puppet on these pages and imagines herself soaring, freed from her fragile body. Morales’s note in both English and Spanish describes her connection with Kahlo. A resonant title that can be used anywhere Kahlo’s art is studied. It will also be admired in bilingual collections.—Susan E. Murray, formerly at Glendale Public Library, AZ

PURA BELPRÉ (ILLUSTRATOR) HONOR

LITTLE ROJA RIDING HOOD by Susan Middleton, illus. by Susan Guevara (G.P. Putnam’s)

PreS-Gr 2—Elya follows up Rubia and the Three Osos (her version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”) with this Mexican influenced and modern take on “Little Red Riding Hood.” The book has a flair all its own: Little Roja’s mother watches telenovas, Little Roja drives an ATV, the wolf wears a bandana and skull necklace, Grandma has a laptop and a statue of Jesus, and when Little Roja saves the day, Grandma ends up investing in a good lock and security camera. Elya’s engaging text features snappy rhymes and plenty of contextual clues for Spanish words, which are in easy-to-find bold type. Her rhyming scheme is essential in helping non-Spanish speakers with pronunciation. A glossary at the beginning of the book provides straightforward pronunciations and definitions for Spanish words. The main characters are well depicted and follow the story nicely. Guevara’s illustrations provide a lot to see, such as the three blind mice and Roja’s cat, who tag along for the entire adventure; slightly menacing sunflowers with eyes; talking magpies; and some very busy Spanish trickster elves, who are unexplained, except in Guevara’s bio. Overall, the story shines through, and this is a must-have where Elya’s other books have been popular.—Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH

PURA BELPRÉ (ILLUSTRATOR) HONOR

GREEN IS A CHILE PEPPER by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illus. by John Parra (Chronicle)
redstar SLJ star

PreS-Gr 2—The creators of Round Is a Tortilla (Chronicle, 2013) are back with another Mexican American culture—infused concept book with universal appeal. A little girl and boy walk around their town pointing out the vivid palette that permeates their home and community. “Green are the cornstalks./Green are the pails./Green is a bench/for abuela’s tales.” The Spanish translation of the featured color is also provided on each spread. Excellent for building vocabulary, this work introduces festive customs such as the Day of the Dead and Mexican folk dance, which are further explained in an extensive glossary. The diversity of the characters refreshingly reflects the diversity of the Latino community. Thong’s buoyant rhyming text is perfect for reading aloud and Parra’s stunning folk-art illustrations offer vibrant scenes that children will return to again and again. The exuberant depictions of cooking, outdoor parties, and fun craft-making invite myriad extension activities. A choice book for bilingual or STEAM-powered storytimes.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

PURA BELPRÉ (ILLUSTRATOR) HONOR

SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL: SYLVIA MENDEZ & HER FAMILY’S FIGHT FOR DESEGREGATION by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 2–5—When the Mendezes moved to Westminster, CA, in 1944, third-grader Sylvia tried to enter Westminster School. However, the family was repeatedly told, “‘Your children have to go to the Mexican school.’ ‘But why?’ asked Mr. Mendez……’That is how it is done.'” In response, they formed the Parents’ Association of Mexican-American Children, distributed petitions, and eventually filed a successful lawsuit that was supported by organizations ranging from the Japanese American Citizens League to the American Jewish Congress. Younger children will be outraged by the injustice of the Mendez family story but pleased by its successful resolution. Older children will understand the importance of the 1947 ruling that desegregated California schools, paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education seven years later. Back matter includes a detailed author’s note and photographs. The excellent bibliography cites primary sources, including court transcripts and the author’s interview with Sylvia Mendez, who did attend Westminster School and grew up to earn the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tonatiuh’s illustrations tell a modern story with figures reminiscent of the pictorial writing of the Mixtec, an indigenous people from Mexico. Here, the author deliberately connects his heritage with the prejudices of mid-20th century America. One jarring illustration of three brown children barred from a pool filled with lighter-skinned children behind a sign that reads, “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed,” will remind readers of photographs from the Jim Crow South. Compare and contrast young Sylvia Mendez’s experience with Robert Coles’s The Story of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic, 1995) to broaden a discussion of school desegregation.—Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

PURA BELPRÉ (AUTHOR) AWARD

livedonbutterflyhillI LIVED ON BUTTERFLY HILL by Marjorie Agosín (Atheneum)

Gr 5–8—Celeste is a sixth-grader living in Valparaíso, Chile. Her life is idyllic, full of a loving, multigenerational family, a home she finds inspiring, and good friends. Things take a drastic turn when Valparaíso starts being affected by what Celeste’s parents call “earthquakes of the soul”—the country falls under the grip of a ruthless dictator who is determined to eliminate dissent. Friends start disappearing, and Celeste’s parents, who are seen as subversives for their work helping the disadvantaged, go into hiding. Celeste is sent to live with her aunt in the United States, where she struggles to acclimate, and to understand the larger picture of what is happening at home. Agosín has woven a historical story that draws on her own life experiences, with themes of exile, the quest for justice, and the power of the written word to preserve history. The story mirrors, but does not directly reference, the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and its accompanying turmoil. The language is poetic and full of imagery and, while the book is long, it moves at a smooth pace. Occasional illustrations reflect the mood of each phase of the story. This is Agosín’s first book for a younger audience, and she has managed to capture the wide-eyed curiosity and confusion of her narrator. Given its length and weighty themes, this book is best suited for serious readers.—Jenna Lanterman, formerly at The Calhoun School and Mary McDowell Friends School, New York City

PURA BELPRÉ (AUTHOR) HONOR

PORTRAITS OF HISPANIC AMERICAN HEROES by Juan Felipe Herrera, illus. by Raúl Colón
redstar
SLJ star

Gr 4–8—A dazzling collection of short biographies on 20 Latino men and women who have shaped United States history. Profiled chronologically, each entry provides a succinct but lyrical description of how these heroes have made their mark. From the arts (Desi Arnaz, Joan Baez, Rita Moreno) to the sciences (Luis W. Alvarez and Ellen Ochoa), the breadth of influence covered is vast and aptly demonstrates the diversity within the Hispanic community. Inclusion of the usual suspects (César Chávez, Sonia Sotomayor, Roberto Clemente) is appreciated, but what sets this work truly apart is the memorialization of little-known figures, such as Julia de Burgos (poet), Judith F. Baca (artist), and Ignacio E. Lozano (journalist). California Poet Laureate Herrera packs relevant info and kid-appropriate details (Tomás Rivera meeting the “library lady” for the first time; Dennis “Dionisio” Chavez being bullied because of his name) without overwhelming the work, infusing the narratives with engaging text. Colon’s portraits are luminous. His use of watercolor and pencils gives each entry an ethereal cast, elevating the subjects to an almost beatific place of honor. This is especially true in the case of “Hero Street U.S.A.,” one of the last chapters, about a street in Silvis, IL, that was renamed in remembrance of eight American soldiers of Mexican descent. Complete with helpful recommended reading, suggestions and source notes, this visually and textually stunning title is one to cherish and celebrate.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL BOOK AWARD

THE RIGHT WORD: ROGET AND HIS THESAURUS by Jen Bryant, illus. by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 2–5—Those who have relied upon a thesaurus (meaning treasure house in Greek), either in print or through the tool menu of word processing software, will gain a greater appreciation for the reference tool in this beautifully designed picture book biography of its creator, Peter Roget. Bryant describes bibliophile Roget, taking him from a timid, studious child who was always compiling lists to an accomplished doctor who by 1805 had compiled the beginnings of the first thesaurus. Busy and exuberant, Sweet’s charming watercolor illustrations, layered over collages of vintage images and fonts, capture Roget’s passion for classification while also providing readers new opportunities for discovery (Latin translations of animal names, mathematical terms, and a plethora of synonyms). Expertly researched and well written, Bryant’s narrative not only details the creation of the thesaurus; it also conveys a sense of Roget the man: his shy nature, his keen intelligence, and his passion for knowledge. There truly was a particular blend of artistry and intellect that went into Roget’s book, as evidenced from a reproduced page from the original thesaurus. The book contains extensive back matter, including an incredibly detailed time line that goes into the man’s other inventions (the slide rule, the pocket chess set) and an author and illustrator’s note, as well as Roget quotations that are sure to inspire if not a love of language then at least a search for the perfect turn of phrase. An excellent illustrated biography.—Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL HONOR

BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Bks.)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 4–7—“I am born in Ohio but the stories of South Carolina already run like rivers through my veins” writes Woodson as she begins her mesmerizing journey through her early years. She was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1963, “as the South explodes” into a war for civil rights and was raised in South Carolina and then New York. Her perspective on the volatile era in which she grew up is thoughtfully expressed in powerfully effective verse, (Martin Luther King is ready to march on Washington; Malcom X speaks about revolution; Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat only seven years earlier and three years have passed since Ruby Bridges walks into an all-white school). She experienced firsthand the acute differences in how the “colored” were treated in the North and South. “After the night falls and it is safe for brown people to leave the South without getting stopped and sometimes beaten and always questioned; We board the Greyhound bus bound for Ohio.” She related her difficulties with reading as a child and living in the shadow of her brilliant older sister, she never abandoned her dream of becoming a writer. With exquisite metaphorical verse Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience, from her supportive, loving maternal grandparents, her mother’s insistence on good grammar, to the lifetime friend she meets in New York, that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss. This should be on every library shelf.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL HONOR

thefamilyromanovTHE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 9 Up—The tragic Romanovs, last imperial family of Russia, have long held tremendous fascination. The interest generated by this family is intense, from debates about Duchess Anastasia and her survival to the discovery of their pathetic mass graves. A significant number of post-Glasnost Russian citizens consider the Romanovs holy to the extent that the Russian Orthodox Church has canonized them. This well-researched and well-annotated book provides information not only on the history of these famous figures but also on the Russian people living at the time and on the social conditions that contributed to the family’s demise. The narrative alternates between a straightforward recounting of the Romanovs’ lives and primary source narratives of peasants’ lives. The contrast is compelling and enhances understanding of how the divide between the extremely rich and the very poor can lead directly to violent and dramatic political change. While the description and snippets on the serfs and factory workers are workmanlike, the pictures painted of the reclusive and insular Romanovs is striking. Unsuited to the positions in which they found themselves, Nicholas and Alexandra raised their children in a bubble, inadequately educating them and providing them only slight exposure to society. The informative text illuminates their inability to understand the social conditions in Russia and the impact it might have had on them. This is both a sobering work, and the account of the discovery of their bones and the aftermath is at once fascinating and distressing. A solid resource and good recreational reading for high school students.—Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL HONOR

JOSEPHINE: THE DAZZLING LIFE OF JOSEPHINE BAKER by Patricia Hruby Powell, illus. by Christian Robinson
redstar
SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 5–8—This charming biography invites readers to step inside the vibrant and spirited world of performer and civil rights advocate, Josephine Baker. Robinson’s paintings are as colorful and rich as Josephine Baker’s story, offering page after page of captivating and animated illustrations and rhythmic text, which is written in blank verse. In a few short and well-organized parts, readers learn the story of one of the world’s most well known female performers who danced and sang her way from the poor and segregated streets of St. Louis to the dazzling stages of Paris all the way to Carnegie Hall. Text and illustrations work in tandem to accurately document Josephine’s extraordinary life and the era in which she lived. Clear and lively descriptions of Josephine’s story play out creatively in the text, introducing readers to basic principles of poetic structure in storytelling and offering an accurate portrait of a woman who fought for racial equality and civil rights through her life’s passion: performance. Reluctant readers of nonfiction and poetry lovers alike will be drawn to this book’s musical, theatrical nature, making for a fun, enriching, and holistic reading experience. This unique and creative work is a first purchase.—Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL HONOR

NEIGHBORHOOD SHARKS by Katherine Roy (David Macaulay Studio)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 2–4—In preparation for this well-researched book on great white sharks, Roy joined scientists in the Farallon Islands to study the animals near San Francisco. Though shark lovers of all ages will enjoy poring over the intense, vivid images, there’s a lot of information that older students will particularly appreciate. Readers will learn about many aspects of great whites—their anatomy, how they hunt, and their place in the ecosystem, as well as how scientists study them. The action-packed illustrations, rendered in watercolor and pencil with some digital work, are both accurate and captivating. Pair this one with Gail Gibbons’s Sharks (Holiday House, 1992) or Seymour Simon’s Incredible Sharks (Chronicle, 2003). Additional information in the form of films, books, and online resources are appended, including a link to a live webcam of the Farallon Islands. An excellent introduction.—Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL HONOR

SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL: SYLVIA MENDEZ & HER FAMILY’S FIGHT FOR DESEGREGATION by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 2–5—When the Mendezes moved to Westminster, CA, in 1944, third-grader Sylvia tried to enter Westminster School. However, the family was repeatedly told, “‘Your children have to go to the Mexican school.’ ‘But why?’ asked Mr. Mendez……’That is how it is done.'” In response, they formed the Parents’ Association of Mexican-American Children, distributed petitions, and eventually filed a successful lawsuit that was supported by organizations ranging from the Japanese American Citizens League to the American Jewish Congress. Younger children will be outraged by the injustice of the Mendez family story but pleased by its successful resolution. Older children will understand the importance of the 1947 ruling that desegregated California schools, paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education seven years later. Back matter includes a detailed author’s note and photographs. The excellent bibliography cites primary sources, including court transcripts and the author’s interview with Sylvia Mendez, who did attend Westminster School and grew up to earn the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tonatiuh’s illustrations tell a modern story with figures reminiscent of the pictorial writing of the Mixtec, an indigenous people from Mexico. Here, the author deliberately connects his heritage with the prejudices of mid-20th century America. One jarring illustration of three brown children barred from a pool filled with lighter-skinned children behind a sign that reads, “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed,” will remind readers of photographs from the Jim Crow South. Compare and contrast young Sylvia Mendez’s experience with Robert Coles’s The Story of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic, 1995) to broaden a discussion of school desegregation.—Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

STONEWALL BOOK AWARD

thisdayinjuneTHIS DAY IN JUNE by Gayle E. Pitman, illus. by Kristyna Litten (Magination)

PreS-Gr 2—Filled with saturated colors and vivid illustrations, this picture book uses rhyming couplets to convey the fun and exuberate feelings assocated with a pride parade for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and families. For example, “Rainbow arches/Joyful marches/Motors roaring/Spirits soaring.” The cartoon artwork is richly detailed and capture the “Banners swaying/Children playing.” The diversity shown at the pride parade is realistic; both homosexual and heterosexual people, young and old, are depicted as well as individuals, couples, and families. At the end of the book, a “Reading Guide” provides explanations for the images and allusions in the book. Additionally, a “Note to Parents and Caregivers” offers suggestions for talking to various age levels of children about LGBT families. This beautifully illustrated book is a great addition to a school or personal library to add diversity in a responsible manner without contributing to stereotypes about LGBT people.—April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

STONEWALL BOOK HONOR

BEYOND MAGENTA: TRANSGENDER TEENS SPEAK OUT by Susan Kuklin, photos by author (Candlewick)

Gr 9 Up—Extended interviews with six very different transgender, genderqueer, and intersex young adults allow these youth to tell their stories in their own words. Author-interviewer-photographer Kuklin interjects only briefly with questions or explanations, so that the voices of these youth-alternately proud and fearful, defiant and subdued, thoughtful and exuberant-shine through. While the interview subjects do occasionally ramble or become vague, the power of these 12-to-40 page interviews is that readers become immersed in these young adults’ voices and experiences. The youth interviewed here do not uniformly share It Gets Better-style happy endings, but their strength is nonetheless inspirational as they face ongoing challenges with families, sexual and romantic relationships, bullies, schools, transitions, mental health, and more. The level of detail about their lives, and the diversity of their identities-including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and geography-provide a powerful antidote to the isolation and stigma that some transgender youth experience. Photographs of four of the subjects, including some before-and-after transition pictures from childhood and adolescence, help tell their stories and bring their transitions to life. Extensive back matter includes an interview with the clinical director of a health program for LGBTQI youth, a glossary, and books, media, websites, and organizations of interest to transgender youth. While this book’s format and subject matter are probably never going to attract a broad audience, there is much here that will resonate with and hearten the kids who need it and will foster understanding and support among those who live and work with transgender teens.—Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

STONEWALL BOOK HONOR

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson (Dial)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 9 Up—A resplendent novel from the author of The Sky Is Everywhere (Dial, 2010). Fraternal twins and burgeoning artists Jude and Noah are inseparable until puberty hits and they find themselves competing for boys, a spot at an exclusive art school, and their parents’ affections. Told in alternating perspectives and time lines, with Noah’s chapters taking place when they are 13 and Jude’s when they are 16, this novel explores how it’s the people closest to us who have the power to both rend us utterly and knit us together. Jude’s takes are peppered with entries from her bible of superstitions and conversations with her grandmother’s ghost, and Noah continuously imagines portraits (complete with appropriately artsy titles) to cope with his emotions. In the intervening years, a terrible tragedy has torn their family apart, and the chasm between the siblings grows ever wider. Vibrant imagery and lyrical prose propel readers forward as the twins experience first love, loss, betrayal, acceptance, and forgiveness. Art and wonder fill each page, and threads of magical realism lend whimsy to the narrative. Readers will forgive convenient coincidences because of the characters’ in-depth development and the swoon-worthy romances. The novel’s evocative exploration of sexuality, grief, and sibling relationships will ring true with teens. For fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (St. Martin’s, 2013) and Melina Marchetta’s realistic fiction. See author Q&A, p. 152.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

STONEWALL BOOK HONOR

MORRIS MICKLEWHITE AND THE TANGERINE DRESS by Christine Baldacchio, illus. by Isabelle Malenfant (Ground Book/House of Anansi)

PreS-Gr 1—Throughout this heartening story, touches of tangerine point to the elements in Morris’s world that are important to him: his mother’s flaming tresses; his cat, Moo; and a dress from the school dress-up box. When he wears it, he feels wonderful. White is a well-chosen background foil for Malenfant’s watercolors and charcoals; the soft acrylics comprising the vibrant dress “bleed”-a perfect effect for indicating movement. A marvelous spread shows Morris reveling in the color that swirls across the gutter as he thinks about his mother’s hair, tigers, and the sun. The text details the fabric’s swishes and crinkles and the click of the boy’s heels. When the children tease and ostracize him, he pretends not to notice, but by Friday, he stays home with a stomachache. The role of adults is particularly well handled. There is no deus ex machina (teacher intervention), a situation that rings true for many such interactions. His mother does not pass judgment when she notices a boy wearing a dress in her son’s painting, and she complies with his desire for nail polish. This support and Morris’s irrepressible imagination buoy him as he returns to school, where his creative spaceship is a magnet for the boys; walls begin to crumble. Baldacchino offers an alternative model for families to the one depicted in Marcus Ewert’s 10,000 Dresses (Seven Stories, 2008), and rather than presenting an overt message about gender identity, the book provides a subtle and refreshing glimpse at a boy who simply likes to dress up.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL AWARD

youarenotsmallYOU ARE (NOT) SMALL by Anna Kang, illus. by Christopher Weyant (Two Lions)

K-Gr 2—In this endearing story, two bears argue about perspective. Each is convinced that the other is big or small in comparison to him and his friends (“I am not small. You are big.”; “I am not big. See?”). Each group argues, until two other creatures (one even bigger and one even smaller) come along and shows them that they can be both big and small at the same time. The punch line at the end will have audiences laughing. This is a funny book with a good-hearted lesson to which children will easily relate. The illustrations complement the text nicely; the characters are expressive and likeable. The use of white space and large text make this a perfect book for reading aloud or for a shared lap read.—Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh, PA

THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL HONOR

MR. PUTTER & TABBY TURN THE PAGE by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Arthur Howard (HMH)

K-Gr 2—Mr. Putter and Tabby go on their most exciting adventure yet: a trip to the library for a special “read with your pet” storytime. The two usually lead a pretty calm existence, but Mr. Putter is willing to try something new because of his fond memories of his teachers reading stories to the class. He shares his news with Mrs. Teaberry, and she signs up, too, bringing her dog Zeke. Mr. Putter is a good library reader and he chooses his book with care. The readings come off without a hitch—or well, almost (Zeke!)—and the group is rewarded with stickers and free bookmarks. This is another solid easy reader from this creative team, with the standard larger font, simple sentences, cartoon illustrations, and excellent use of white space. A perfect selection for storytime or anytime sharing.—Melisa Bailey, Harford County Library System, MD

THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL HONOR

WAITING IS NOT EASY by Mo Willems (Hyperion)

K-Gr 2 –Gerald and Piggie are sharing another adventure in the latest book in the series. The expected large print, spare dialogue, and bubble delivery make it easy to read. Gerald loses patience with Piggie when he is told that a surprise is in store but that he must wait for it. His reactions include producing several loud GROANS and reminding Piggie repeatedly that waiting is NOT easy. Piggie knows that the surprise is worth the wait, but she has to keep Gerald there to see it. The simple words and expressive illustrations, as always, reveal the fact that we often overlook the obvious and that there is beauty all around us. Nothing brings greater joy than sharing that beauty with our friends. VERDICT This original story is about friendship, but it also offers insights into human emotions.–Janene Corbin, Rosebank Elementary School, Nashville, TN

WILLIAM C. MORRIS AWARD

GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES by Isabel Quintero (Cinco Puntos)
redstar SLJ Best Book, star

Gr 9 Up—Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez has a lot to deal with during her senior year. Her best friend Cindy is pregnant; her other best friend Sebastian just got kicked out of his house for coming out to his strict parents; her meth addict dad is trying to quit, again; and her super religious Tía Bertha is constantly putting a damper on Gabi’s love life. In lyrical diary entries peppered with the burgeoning poet’s writing, Spanglish, and phone conversations, Quintero gives voice to a complex, not always likable but totally believable teen who struggles to figure out her own place in the world. Believing she’s not Mexican enough for her family and not white enough for Berkeley, Gabi still meets every challenge head-on with vulgar humor and raw honesty. In moments, the diary format may come across as clunky, but the choppy delivery feels purposeful. While the narrative is chock-full of issues, they never bog down the story, interwoven with the usual teen trials, from underwhelming first dates to an unabashed treatment of sex, religion, and family strife. The teen isn’t all snark; there’s still a naiveté about whether her father will ever kick his addiction to meth, especially evident in her heartfelt letters to him. When tragedy strikes, readers will mourn with Gabi and connect with her fears about college acceptance and her first sexual experience. A refreshing take on slut- and fat-shaming, Quintero’s work ranks with Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Candlewick, 2013) and Junot Diaz’s Drown (Riverhead, 1996) as a coming-of-age novel with Latino protagonists.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

YALSA AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS

popularPOPULAR: VINTAGE WISDOM FOR A MODERN GEEK by Maya Van Wagenen (Dutton)

Gr 7 Up—The bright and perceptive Van Wagenen wanted to boost her popularity in middle school. As a self-defined “Social Outcast, the lowest level of people at school who weren’t paid to be there,” the eighth-grader had quite a climb ahead of her. Her modus operandi was intriguing: she used a 1950s teen etiquette book that her father found at a thrift store as a guide to climb the social ladder. The clash of eras and cultures is funny—the author wears a girdle, hat, and pearls to class; learns how to apply makeup; improves her posture and poise; and tries a diet. But the best lessons she learns from Fifties teen model Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide are about how to talk to and understand the people around her. Bravely visiting all the various cliques in the lunchroom and making conversation with her secret Sunday school crush, she becomes even more sensitive and aware—and yes, more popular. Van Wagenen’s tone is personable and polished. Even though she has many typical tween obsessions and concerns, her writing is surprisingly mature. While overall this light memoir provides plenty of fun, it has a grittier backdrop than the cover and description might suggest. Van Wagenen’s school, in Brownsville, TX, near the Mexican border, commonly experiences lockdown drills and warnings against gangs, and she casually mentions that smoke from a drug war in Matamoros, Mexico, is visible from her house. The part-Hispanic teen also occasionally sprinkles in Spanish words. With a DreamWorks movie option in the works, this entertaining title should be in demand.—Liz French, Library Journal

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