April 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Get With the Program! | SLJ Spotlight

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In need of programming ideas? For those looking for STEM-related projects for preschoolers, Ward’s What Will Grow? is the perfect accompaniment to gardening units, with a step-by-step seed planting overview located in the back matter. McKissack’s Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout not only retells the history of many beloved and well-known childhood rhymes, games, and dances but also provides instructions on how to enjoy these activities. Lastly, a stack of paper and a few bold markers are all you need to continue Niemann’s exploration of language and how we construct meaning from text and image.

redstarMcKissack, Patricia C. Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood. illus. by Brian Pinkney. 184p. bibliog. ebook available. index. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Jan. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780375870880; lib. ed. $27.99. ISBN 9780375970887.

nf-sp-mckissack-letsclapetcGr 2-6 –Children’s literature powerhouses McKissack and Pinkney team up for the second time, creating a dynamic collection of songs, rhymes, and stories with origins in the African American diaspora. McKissack recalls most of the examples from her childhood in Missouri and Tennessee and shares her own versions as well as memories and anecdotes. However, this volume is far from just a trip down memory lane. The extensive research, much of which the author attributes to her late husband in the thorough back matter, highlights the histories behind these classics. McKissack weaves this research together fluidly in a storylike format with accessible language. Many pieces have changed over time, and she acknowledges this evolution by presenting different versions and iterations. The content represents a wide range of formats and includes performance poetry by Langston Hughes, Anansi trickster tales, Christian spirituals, Underground Railroad hymns, proverbs, and such standards as “Miss Mary Mack” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Pinkney’s artistry brings even more joy to this lively assortment. His distinctive broad brushstrokes, bright watercolors, and playful characterizations add a splash of color and light. Each section heading features a large, vibrant illustration, with other color and black-and-white vignettes peppered throughout the chapters. VERDICT Part songbook, part research text, this work is perfect for families to share together or for young scholars who seek to discover an important piece of cultural history. McKissack and Pinkney capture the essence of the songs, stories, and play of an African American childhood.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Niemann, Christoph. Words. illus. by Christoph Niemann. 352p. index. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062455505.

nf-sp-niemann-wordsPreS-Gr 4 –Niemann begin with a simple concept: he illustrates 300 of the most common sight words in English using a thick black marker and a big stack of paper. The nouns and adjectives (“dog,” “small,” “street”) are simple enough to represent. But how to approach “why,” “just,” or “but”? Niemann rises to the occasion in this delightful, thought-provoking experiment to “celebrate language and art.” Beginning readers will enjoy looking at the images and sounding out the words. However, this title is way more than a traditional primer. Part of the fun is puzzling out the thought process behind the images. Some spreads use the context of both pages to convey the meaning (e.g., “left/right,” “could/would”). More experienced readers will appreciate the nuance and complexity of some of the renderings. For instance, “test” looks like a swimmer dipping a toe into the water, and “state” is a half-melted snowman looking down at his own puddle. In figuring out why Niemann represents a word in a particular way, readers and aspiring artists will uncover and perhaps challenge their own ways of constructing meaning. VERDICT Recommended for most collections as well as for classrooms and family time.–Jennifer Costa, Cambridge Public Library, MA

redstarWard, Jennifer. What Will Grow? illus. by Susie Ghahremani. 40p. Bloomsbury. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681190303.

nf-sp-ward-whatwillgrowPreS –This bucolic companion to Ward’s What Will Hatch? captures the magic and excitement of planting a garden and waiting for it to bloom. In simple rhyming couplets, Ward highlights seeds of all shapes and sizes, including sunflower seeds (“Stripy black./Crunchy snack.”) and dandelion seeds (“Fluffy, white./Taking flight.”). Each short verse is followed by the question, “What will grow?” The sunflowers and dandelions flourish beside peas, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins, radishes, and milkweed, along with apple, oak, and pine trees. Ghahremani’s striking images, replete with light and texture, are painted with gouache on wood and feature whimsical hand-lettering. The opening pages show “roly, round” peas thriving against a background of soft greens and tans while shining raindrops fall gently to the ground. Woodland creatures like rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and even a fox appear among the verdant greenery in each spread. Four gatefold illustrations will appeal to children’s sense of wonder, and informative back matter instructs aspiring gardeners on when and how to sow the showcased seeds. VERDICT Pair this tranquil snapshot of plant life with Elly MacKay’s If You Hold a Seed or Julie Fogliano’s And Then It’s Spring, and encourage young readers to get outside to do some planting of their own.–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston

Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple