The Horn Book » Out of the Box http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Fri, 27 Mar 2015 18:39:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 1D in 3D http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/1d-in-3d/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/1d-in-3d/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 16:24:32 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47442 The boys of One Direction have been staring at me from the cover of Malcolm Croft’s “unofficial and unauthorized” One Direction in 3D (Sterling, February 2015) for a week now, waiting for me to consider and discuss their 3D-ness. Niall and Louis are pointing at Harry (who is definitely for sure one hundred percent actually […]

The post 1D in 3D appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
croft_one direction in 3dThe boys of One Direction have been staring at me from the cover of Malcolm Croft’s “unofficial and unauthorized” One Direction in 3D (Sterling, February 2015) for a week now, waiting for me to consider and discuss their 3D-ness. Niall and Louis are pointing at Harry (who is definitely for sure one hundred percent actually wearing those 3D glasses on his head in real life) while Zayn makes a funny face and Liam wraps Harry in One Direction–patterned tape. Having donned the 3D glasses and opened the book, I can look at friendly pictures of the boys or struggle to read the white-on-black-background text with crossed eyes.

Clearly, the information presented is not the most important part of this book.

That said, with over 30 pictures of the boys looking dapper, enthusiastic, and incredibly famous, I’m pretty sure anyone who would want a book of One Direction in 3D will be satisfied.

The post 1D in 3D appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/1d-in-3d/feed/ 1
National Puppy Day reading http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/national-puppy-day-reading/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/national-puppy-day-reading/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 17:43:07 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47749 Yesterday was National Puppy Day! To celebrate, here are some of our favorite dog books from recent years (don’t worry; I’m pretty sure the dog doesn’t die in any of them!), all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine. Now, who wants to lend me a puppy to snuggle while I read? Picture books A boy […]

The post National Puppy Day reading appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
puppy with bookYesterday was National Puppy Day! To celebrate, here are some of our favorite dog books from recent years (don’t worry; I’m pretty sure the dog doesn’t die in any of them!), all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine. Now, who wants to lend me a puppy to snuggle while I read?

Picture books

adderson_norman, speakA boy is puzzled when the dog his family adopts doesn’t respond to even the simplest commands in Caroline Adderson’s Norman, Speak! It turns out that Norman is neither untrained nor stupid; he “speaks” Chinese! So off the family heads to Chinese-language school. There are lessons here — about patience and intercultural understanding — but they’re very lightly worn; the casual line of Qin Leng’s ink-and-color illustrations reinforces the story’s warmth. (Groundwood, 2014)

alfie is not afraid_300In Alfie Is Not Afraid by Patricia Carlin, dog Alfie’s young owner claims Alfie isn’t afraid of anything, which is why they’re going camping: “Just the two of us. Alone in the wild.” Readers can clearly see, however, that the little black-and-white pup is the opposite of “not afraid.” The loyal friendship between spindly-limbed boy and sturdy, low-to-the-ground dog is apparent in text and pictures on every amusing page. (Hyperion, 2012)

little dog lost: the true story of a brave dog namd balticOne cold day in Poland, onlookers along the banks of the Vistula River see a little dog adrift on a sheet of ice, heading for open sea. Finally, seventy-five miles from journey’s start, he’s rescued. Simple yet dramatic watercolors effectively convey the wintry setting and Dog’s emotions in Mônica Carnesi’s Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic, an edge-of-your-seat adventure story with text that also works beautifully as a beginning reader. (Penguin/Paulsen, 2012)

dipucchio_gaston_170x213In Kelly DiPucchio’s Gaston, bumptious Gaston looms over his elegant poodle sisters. At the park, they meet a family like theirs but in reverse: bulldogs Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno and their petite sister Antoinette. Were Gaston and Antoinette switched at birth? Should they trade families? DiPucchio’s lively text was made to be read aloud. Christian Robinson’s elegant illustrations feature dogs with minimal yet wonderfully expressive facial details. (Atheneum, 2014)

Boot and ShoeDogs Boot and Shoe share a lot of things, but Boot prefers the back porch and Shoe, the front. A squirrel gets both dogs riled up enough to give chase; each ends up on the wrong porch — and decides to wait for the other. The sprightly lines of Marla Frazee’s black-pencil and gouache illustrations add to the humor of Boot & Shoe, a nimble tale of misplaced assumptions. (Simon/Beach Lane, 2012)

hawkes_remy and luluIn Remy and Lulu, Lulu is a clever little Parisian dog. Remy is an itinerant painter. Once the two join forces, Lulu’s meticulous vignettes of Remy’s sitters’ pets, which she surreptitiously adds to Remy’s paintings, delight his subjects — though not Remy. Lulu’s canny taking-charge is amusing. Meanwhile, the three contrasting painting styles — Lulu’s classic elegance (thanks to miniaturist Hannah E. Harrison), Remy’s turn-of-the-twentieth-century modernism, and author/illustrator Kevin Hawkes’s own lively and painterly milieu — are inviting. (Knopf, 2014)

charley's first night_300Young Henry agrees to his new puppy Charley sleeping in the kitchen “forever” in Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest. His parents are “pretty clear” about this, though Henry and Charley disagree and —not surprisingly — are both in Henry’s bed by night’s end. Henry’s forthright account is extended by subtle details in Helen Oxenbury’s art. An unsentimental, yet adorable, recasting of an ever-reliable theme. Also look for sequel When Charley Met Grandpa. (Candlewick, 2012)

mcghee_case of the missing donutIn a crime caper for the picture book set, a boy (“the sheriff”) and his dog (“the deputy”) must escort a box of a dozen donuts home from the bakery. One donut goes missing. Author Alison McGhee’s snappy text for The Case of the Missing Donut plays it straight, while Isabel Roxas’s illustrations, drawn with graphite and colored digitally, hold the evidence that allows the reader in on the joke. (Dial, 2013)

rudge_perfect place for tedPet-store dog Ted sets off to find “somewhere perfect.” He tries a circus, a pet pageant, and being a guard dog, but is passed over every time. In a funny twist, the perfect place for Ted turns out to be a “puuuurrrrrfect” place. Leila Rudge’s soft illustrations for A Perfect Place for Ted, done in pencil, ink, and collage, feature many patterns and amusing details. (Candlewick, 2014)

samuels_fred's bedBeagle Fred has many kinds of beds: Shopping-Bag Bed (with party hats and noisemakers inside), Pile-of-Old-Newspapers Bed (Fred lies in the kitchen catching dripping cake batter), etc. Sharp-eyed kids will spot the clues to what’s happening next. Author/illustrator Barbara Samuels’s art in Fred’s Beds features bright colors and crisp patterns set against white backgrounds, so children can easily find the details that make the book so much fun. (Farrar, 2014)

stein_i'm my own dog“I’m my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself,” says the independent canine narrator of David Ezra Stein’s I’m My Own Dog. But one day, when his legs prove too short, he lets someone scratch his itchy back. Soon the dog is taking his “good boy” on walks, teaching him about chasing squirrels, etc. Stein’s gestural watercolors are the perfect foil for the droll text. (Candlewick, 2014)

find a cow now_300Zipping around the apartment, trying to round things up, urban cattle dog Dog longs for the life he was made for in Find a Cow Now! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. But once on the farm, clueless Dog tries to round up a chicken, a pig, and a donkey; readers will spot the cow before he does. Stevens packs a lot of emotion into the canine’s frenetic body movements and the cow’s gentle eyes. Holiday 2012

 

Primary fiction

mckay_lulu and teh dog from the seaIn Hilary McKay’s Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, the second appearance of Lulu and her cousin Mellie (Lulu and the Duck in the Park) allows readers more insight into the girls and their friendship when they go on holiday with Lulu’s family to a seaside cottage. Along with the novel’s abundance of dialogue, Priscilla Lamont’s pen-and-ink illustrations show setting, characterization, and important action scenes, giving plenty of help for beginning chapter book readers. (Whitman, 2013)

viorst_lulu walks the dogsSelf-absorbed Lulu’s (Lulu and the Brontosaurus) arguing skills have matured to wheedling in Lulu Walks the Dogs by Judith Viorst. Still, Mom and Dad won’t pay for something (that’s not divulged until book’s end), so Lulu earns money by dog-walking. This extended comic fable is rife with authorial intrusion and funny asides. Lane Smith’s pencil illustrations are in fine form, especially the caricatures of canines and their resembling owners. (Atheneum, 2012)

 

Intermediate fiction

hest_letters to leoFourth-grader Annie, (Remembering Mrs. Rossi), is still adjusting to life after her mother’s death in Amy Hest’s Letters to Leo. She gets a dog, Leo, and writes letters to him, journal-style, much like the late Mrs. Rossi’s students wrote letters to Annie. Illustrated by Julia Denos with doodles and lists, the letters allow her time to reflect and heal. Readers will enjoy watching Annie grow as a friend and a daughter. (Candlewick, 2012)

ibbotson_one dog and his boyIn One Dog and His Boy, Hal’s parents get him a dog for his birthday, but Fleck is only a rental, due back at the Easy Pets Dog Agency when the weekend ends. A brisk chase across London and, eventually, cross country ensues as Hal, aided by kennel maid Pippa, finds Fleck and determines to take him to his grandparents. This (sadly) last of the late author Eva Ibbotson’s novels features a journey with welcome echoes of Dodie Smith. (Scholastic, 2012)

DashAfter Pearl Harbor, Mitsi Kashino’s family has to go live in a “camp.” Worse, her beloved dog, Dash, isn’t allowed to accompany them. Luckily, elderly neighbor Mrs. Bowker takes Dash in. When amusing letters “from Dash” start arriving at camp, they help Mitsi make friends and spread happiness. A companion to Duke, Kirby Larson’s 2015 Scott O’Dell Award–winning novel Dash is another diverting wartime dog story. (Scholastic, 2014)

lean_dog called homelessCally’s fifth grade classroom enrolls in a hospice-benefiting “sponsored silence” — and she keeps the silence. New neighbor Sam, blind and mostly deaf, and a dog named Homeless that appears with her dead mother’s ghost help Cally say what she needs to, with or without words. Sarah Lean’s rewarding first novel A Dog Called Homeless stands out for its clean, evocative prose and genuine characters. (HarperCollins/Tegen, 2012)

martin_reign rainIn Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign, autistic eleven-year-old Rose lives with her single dad, who doesn’t have the resources, material or emotional, to be a parent. Luckily her uncle Weldon has her back; she’s soothed by her ongoing collection of homonyms; and she has Rain, her dog — until Hurricane Susan, during which Rain disappears. This could be a tear-jerker. It isn’t. Rose is a resilient, honest, and perceptive narrator. (Feiwel, 2014)

 

Nonfiction

montalvan_tuesday tucks me inThe narrator of Luis Carlos Montalván and Bret Witter’s sometimes funny, sometimes hard-hitting picture book Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog is Tuesday, a golden retriever service dog. Tuesday describes how he helps take care of disabled veteran Luis. Through engaging color photographs (by Dan Dion) and a clear, compelling text, this book for primary students portrays the difficulties of a vet suffering from PTSD; readers also learn fascinating facts about service dogs. An appended author’s note explains more about Luis’s condition and Tuesday’s training. (Roaring Brook, 2014)

dogs on dutyMilitary Working Dogs have done everything from aiding the wounded during WWI to sniffing out explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan and helping humans cope with posttraumatic stress disorder. Dorothy Hinshaw Patent’s Dogs on Duty: Soldiers’ Best Friends on the Battlefield and Beyond, an accessible book for intermediate readers, traces the history of dogs in American wars and then outlines how a puppy becomes an MWD. “Hero Hounds” sidebars tell of individual heroic dogs. (Walker, 2012)

 

For even more dog books, check out Notes from the Horn Book newsletter piece “Picks of the litter.” If you’re more of a cat person, see Out of the Box posts “Kitten envy” and “Purrfect reads.” Not pet-picky? We’ve got a long list of recommended books on pets of all types (up to and including rhinoceroses and brontosauruses) here.

The post National Puppy Day reading appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/national-puppy-day-reading/feed/ 1
Sara Pennypacker on Completely Clementine http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/authors-illustrators/sara-pennypacker-on-completely-clementine/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/authors-illustrators/sara-pennypacker-on-completely-clementine/#respond Tue, 24 Mar 2015 15:00:54 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47646 In the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine, reviewer Claire Gross talked to author Sara Pennypacker about the end of her long-running Clementine series. Read the full review of Completely Clementine here. Claire E. Gross: What was the hardest part about saying goodbye to Clementine? Sara Pennypacker: Clementine was a mix of my […]

The post Sara Pennypacker on Completely Clementine appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
pennypacker_completely clementineIn the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine, reviewer Claire Gross talked to author Sara Pennypacker about the end of her long-running Clementine series. Read the full review of Completely Clementine here.

Claire E. Gross: What was the hardest part about saying goodbye to Clementine?

Sara Pennypacker: Clementine was a mix of my own children’s personalities, so saying goodbye to her felt like the goodbyes I’ve had to say to them at all the points when they’ve stopped needing me so much. Clementine made it through third grade, she’s going to be just fine, but she doesn’t need me to tell her story anymore…Oh, man, now I’m tearing up.

The post Sara Pennypacker on Completely Clementine appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/authors-illustrators/sara-pennypacker-on-completely-clementine/feed/ 0
Snow White app review http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/snow-white-app-review/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/snow-white-app-review/#respond Fri, 20 Mar 2015 18:41:56 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47603 The latest in Nosy Crow’s series of fairy-tale adaptation apps (which includes The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk) is Snow White, released last week. Snow White employs the same winning formula of the other series entries: cheerful illustrations and animation; witty humor; well-integrated interactivity; straightforward navigation; charming […]

The post Snow White app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
snow white menuThe latest in Nosy Crow’s series of fairy-tale adaptation apps (which includes The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk) is Snow White, released last week. Snow White employs the same winning formula of the other series entries: cheerful illustrations and animation; witty humor; well-integrated interactivity; straightforward navigation; charming narration by an all-child cast; and pop-up dialogue balloons extending the text.

This more-silly-than-scary retelling sticks to the traditional story but ages it down for its preschool and primary audience. Snow White is sent away by the queen’s huntsman with no real threat of his actually harming her, and there’s no mention of eating a heart, human or otherwise. Though Snow White is afraid during her wanderings through the forest, she is accompanied by a friendly fox. Her warm welcome at the dwarves’ home is never really in question. The evil queen attempts to kill Snow White with a poisoned piece of stinky cheese (“It’s kind of you to offer, but I don’t really like stinky cheese,” Snow White politely declines) and a poisoned cupcake before landing on the mostly-successful apple. Rather than the prince’s kiss, Snow White is awakened by the (traditional but now less-common) dislodging of the apple piece from her throat. The queen is imprisoned rather than killed.

snow white dwarves

snow white and the queen

In many scenes, the user is invited to assist Snow White, the dwarves, or the evil queen with tasks such as picking flowers, washing dishes, mining gems, or mixing up a poisonous brew. The characters encourage the user through each tasks (although their prompting can get a bit old — I’m matching socks as fast as I can, okay?!); sound effects indicate when the task is completed. A few of these activities subtly reinforce concepts of counting, colors, etc. The interactive moments smartly take advantage of the device’s capabilities, e.g., rocking the device rocks baby Snow White to sleep (be careful: the microphone may pick up sounds that wake her), the magic mirror reflects the user’s own face using the camera.

As in the series’ other apps, Snow White cleverly blends a contemporary sensibility into the fairy tale. The dwarves’ names are Bernard, Bob, Bill, Basil, Boris, Brian, and Barbara; music options at Snow White and the prince’s wedding feast include calypso and Bollywood. A few references to brushing teeth and choosing healthy snacks seem both very current and a little weirdly didactic.

“Read and play” and “Read by myself” options, plus a map of scene thumbnails, allow the user to progress through the app at her or his own pace and revisit favorite sections of the story.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $4.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

The post Snow White app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/snow-white-app-review/feed/ 0
Dystopian YA lit panel at MIT http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/dystopian-ya-lit-panel-at-mit/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/dystopian-ya-lit-panel-at-mit/#respond Fri, 20 Mar 2015 18:17:51 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47609 Last night MIT hosted a Communications Forum, “Coming of Age in Dystopia: The Darkness of Young Adult Fiction.” The discussion was moderated by associate professor of literature Marah Gubar, with panelists Kenneth Kidd, children’s literature scholar and author (Freud in Oz) and literature department chair at the University of Florida; and YA fantasy author Kristin […]

The post Dystopian YA lit panel at MIT appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
mit panel

moderator Marah Gubar with Kristin Cashore and Kenneth Kidd

Last night MIT hosted a Communications Forum, “Coming of Age in Dystopia: The Darkness of Young Adult Fiction.” The discussion was moderated by associate professor of literature Marah Gubar, with panelists Kenneth Kidd, children’s literature scholar and author (Freud in Oz) and literature department chair at the University of Florida; and YA fantasy author Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue), an alumna of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College (aren’t we all?! well, no, but two-thirds of the Horn Book staff did go there; and now we’re their down-the-hall neighbors).

The panel kicked off with a discussion of that polarizing 2011 Wall Street Journal article by Meghan Cox Gurdon, “Darkness Too Visible.” Cashore gave fair warning that she might not be able to contain her rage re: Gurdon’s argument that YA literature was somehow “too dark” and that that’s a bad thing. Kidd gave some background on the history of young people embracing literature with un-cheery themes (“It’s always been there”), and Gubar asked us to think about the use of the word “dark” as a synonym for “bad,” especially in the context of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement.

The conversation continued with discussion of Cashore’s series and other YA dystopias — among them Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games books, M. T. Anderson’s Feed, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, and Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now — and the highly quotable Cashore’s assertion that “Every writer has the right to write about the essential fucked-up-ness of the world” (though as a white person she recognizes her own privilege in being able to do so).

During the Q & A portion, Cathie Mercier, director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, asked about adults’ anxiety — bordering on pathology — regarding young adulthood (“That’s a complicated and hard question,” began Kidd’s answer; “I’m not in your class anymore, Cathie,” said Cashore, before engaging thoughtfully in the discussion).

We found out some of the panel’s favorite non-dystopian YA books — Kidd: Boy Meets Boy; Cashore: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks; Gubar: the President’s Daughter series — and Kidd urged the audience to start a “What Is Adult Literature?” campaign.

An audience member made the point that as a teen he and his friends liked reading “dark” books — Stephen King, for example — because they saw them as hopeful, wish-fulfillment; the grownups were the ones effing up the world, and once they destroyed themselves, the next generation could start fresh. “Bleak stories are not necessarily bleak reading experiences,” agreed Kidd; and Cashore talked about readers’ choice, saying she never gets complaint letters from teens, only adults (someone once wrote: “Getting to the end of Graceling [sex scene] was like finding a cockroach in my ice cream.”

An actual *teen* in the audience asked a question about characters inspiring readers, and a young woman of color asked about diversity. All in all, the evening was entertaining, thought-provoking, and energizing. Thanks, MIT!

The post Dystopian YA lit panel at MIT appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/dystopian-ya-lit-panel-at-mit/feed/ 0
Synthia Saint James at Simmons http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/synthia-saint-james-at-simmons/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/synthia-saint-james-at-simmons/#respond Thu, 19 Mar 2015 15:47:43 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47581 (Say *that* three times fast!) Next week, visual artist, author, and illustrator Dr. Synthia Saint James will be on the Simmons College campus as the Eileen Friars Leader-in-Residence. Right now some of her art is being installed along the hallway outside the Horn Book office. It’s lovely and thought-provoking — lucky us!

The post Synthia Saint James at Simmons appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
(Say *that* three times fast!)

Next week, visual artist, author, and illustrator Dr. Synthia Saint James will be on the Simmons College campus as the Eileen Friars Leader-in-Residence. Right now some of her art is being installed along the hallway outside the Horn Book office. It’s lovely and thought-provoking — lucky us!

stjamesart2

stjamesart1

The post Synthia Saint James at Simmons appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/synthia-saint-james-at-simmons/feed/ 0
Whistling past the graveyard http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/whistling-past-the-graveyard/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/whistling-past-the-graveyard/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 16:34:33 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=45775 Another odd mini-trend to go with our rapture-girl books: The Boy in the Black Suit and The Dead I Know star teenage boys who work in funeral homes. The girl in Six Feet Over It lives in a graveyard (well, on the grounds of one) and works, after school, as its manager. Where’s Bod when […]

The post Whistling past the graveyard appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
Another odd mini-trend to go with our rapture-girl books: The Boy in the Black Suit and The Dead I Know star teenage boys who work in funeral homes. The girl in Six Feet Over It lives in a graveyard (well, on the grounds of one) and works, after school, as its manager.

Where’s Bod when you need him? Or Jack Gantos?

reynolds_boy-in-the-black-suit gardner_deadIknow longo_sixfeet2

The post Whistling past the graveyard appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/whistling-past-the-graveyard/feed/ 3
Song of the Sea movie review http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/song-of-the-sea-movie-review/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/song-of-the-sea-movie-review/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 17:03:16 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47518 I’m a sucker for fairy-tale and folklore retellings, and a major sucker for selkie lore…so I had very high hopes for animated film Song of the Sea (Cartoon Saloon, December 2014), directed by Tomm Moore (whose The Secret of Kells was a 2009 Best Animated Feature Academy Award nominee) and cowritten by Moore and William […]

The post Song of the Sea movie review appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
song of the sea posterI’m a sucker for fairy-tale and folklore retellings, and a major sucker for selkie lore…so I had very high hopes for animated film Song of the Sea (Cartoon Saloon, December 2014), directed by Tomm Moore (whose The Secret of Kells was a 2009 Best Animated Feature Academy Award nominee) and cowritten by Moore and William Collins. I wasn’t disappointed — in fact, my expectations were far surpassed. And I’m not alone in my enthusiasm: Song of the Sea has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 98% and was nominated for this year’s Best Animated Feature Award.

Set in contemporary Ireland, the film begins on a craggy island with a lighthouse. The lighthouse-keeper Conor’s wife Bronagh (Lisa Hannigan) is expecting a baby, and their young son Ben is excited to meet his new sibling. Bronagh assures Ben that he will be “the best brother ever” and tells him a bedtime story about the god Mac Lir — myth and legend are clearly a comfortable part of their everyday lives. That night, Bronagh’s labor begins, and in distress, she runs into the sea and does not return. Conor discovers the baby girl, wrapped in a white selkie skin, on the beach.

On Saoirse’s (pronounced “Seer-sha”) sixth birthday, she sneaks out of bed and discovers the child-sized selkie’s coat. She dons her coat and — now with the ability to assume a seal’s form — goes for a joyful midnight swim, scaring the wits out of her family in the process. The children’s overbearing Granny insists that the island is not safe for Saoirse, and dad Conor regretfully agrees; Granny takes them to her home in the city.

Ben (David Rawle) is determined to get back to the island and to his endearingly goofy sheepdog Cú; Saoirse longs to return to the sea. The siblings set out for home, soon encountering some (also endearingly goofy) fairies who tell them that the goddess Macha is turning supernatural beings into stone, and only Saoirse can undo Macha’s magic with her selkie’s song. But since Saoirse is growing weak far from the ocean — not to mention that she doesn’t talk yet, let alone sing — this is a tall order. Now with added urgency, Ben and Saoirse (eventually reunited with Cú) continue their quest. They come across many figures from Celtic mythology, including the not-so-bad-after-all Macha, along the way.

In both story line and its execution, the movie does a remarkable job of intertwining specific threads of Celtic mythology and folklore with universal human themes. The relationship between dad Conor — still very much mourning the loss of Brongah and afraid he will lose Saoirse to the sea as well — and Granny, for instance, parallels that between the grieving god Mac Lir and his mother Macha; the similarities of their dynamics are echoed in the characters’ appearances, personality traits, and voices (Conor and Mac Lir are both voiced by Brendan Gleeson, Granny/Macha by Fionnula Flanagan).

And the film is just gorgeous. The animation is lush, inviting, and masterful — fans of Miyazaki’s work will find plenty to love here — with many traditional Celtic visual motifs subtly worked in. Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) does not speak for the majority of the film, but she doesn’t need to: her small face and big eyes are incredibly expressive. Rounding out the lovely presentation is an original score by composer Bruno Coulais and Irish folk band Kíla.

Song of the Sea has a very limited theatrical release, so it may be difficult to find at a theater near you (although I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen if you can). Happily, it’s out on DVD and iTunes today! And if you’re lucky enough to be close to The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, you can check out the exhibit “Songs and Secrets” — featuring concept art from Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells — through June 21.

The post Song of the Sea movie review appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/song-of-the-sea-movie-review/feed/ 1
Spot app review http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/spot-app-review/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/spot-app-review/#respond Thu, 12 Mar 2015 16:28:02 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47439 Many of David Wiesner’s best-known books are wordless or nearly wordless. Mr. Wuffles, Flotsam, Tuesday: readers create their own narrative based on a visual experience. And that experience is unlike any other — each of Wiesner’s books is entirely unique, though each is also indelibly his. His new app, Spot (HMH/Smashing Ideas, February 2015), is […]

The post Spot app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
spot menuMany of David Wiesner’s best-known books are wordless or nearly wordless. Mr. Wuffles, Flotsam, Tuesday: readers create their own narrative based on a visual experience. And that experience is unlike any other — each of Wiesner’s books is entirely unique, though each is also indelibly his.

His new app, Spot (HMH/Smashing Ideas, February 2015), is also wordless (there are some sound effects and music). It’s also entirely unique, indelibly his, mind-blowingly imaginative…and very difficult to describe. It’s a little hard to figure out how to enter and navigate once you’re inside; a ladybug crawls across the screen (it’s the letter o in Spot). Tap its back, then use the pinch-and-spread method with your fingers to zoom in, aerial-view-like, on: first an island, then the exterior of a house, and then inside the house, where you’ll find some small ladybugs — they look like the heroic ones from Mr. Wuffles — working on constructing a giant mechanical ladybug. Zoom in on their worktable where five pulsing “hotspots” appear — one on a moldy sandwich, one on a pencil, a cookie, a newspaper, and a file folder labeled “Worlds: Mekanikos, [something in alien language that also looks like it’s from Mr. Wuffles], Katzaluna, Oceana Prime, Lower Rügg.” Pick a pulsing spot to follow, and zoom in further an another (out-of-this)world, populated by creatures familiar, remarkable, and/or bizarre. And on and on…

spot worktable

These worlds-within-worlds are truly interconnected: motifs reappear throughout the app, and visitors from each of the worlds make cameos in the others (e.g., fish in a rolling aquarium attract some uncomfortable attention in Katzaluna, a cat-populated metropolis). Humorous details — particularly visible in the species’ interactions and various tourists’ clueless behaviors — add emotional warmth and additional narratives to interpret.

spot cat parade

an uncomfortable interaction with the locals (plus a parade-float stowaway)

With so much to explore, this app will keep kids engaged, confounded, inspired, enthralled. You can find downloadable parent and educator guide PDFs along with a brief “Behind the Scenes” video here. Dive in, embrace your confusion, and enjoy.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $3.99. Recommended for primary users and up.

The post Spot app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/spot-app-review/feed/ 0
Walter Dean Myers’s legacy http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/walter-dean-myerss-legacy/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/walter-dean-myerss-legacy/#respond Thu, 12 Mar 2015 14:34:45 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47449 Librarian Sara Lissa Paulson was so inspired by the work of Walter Dean Myers that she wrote this new article for us. It’s both a tribute to the man and a kick in the pants for publishers to create books for all children by all stripes of new authors and illustrators — and to produce […]

The post Walter Dean Myers’s legacy appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
Librarian Sara Lissa Paulson was so inspired by the work of Walter Dean Myers that she wrote this new article for us. It’s both a tribute to the man and a kick in the pants for publishers to create books for all children by all stripes of new authors and illustrators — and to produce and distribute books that all families can afford.

This was also the call to arms by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson in her 2014 Horn Book at Simmons keynote speech, “Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers,” recently published in the March/April 2015 Horn Book Magazine (the one with five gay picture-book prodigies, as imagined by Tomie dePaola, on the cover). Vaunda called for more good books about the African American historical experience and also “more books with black characters experiencing what children of any culture might. More books that are funny, as Christopher Myers suggests in his article ‘Young Dreamers.’  We need both.”

Our March/April From the Guide provides some suggestions, some “Books to Fill the Gaps.” And we want to know about more: what are your favorite books that depict kids of all colors and backgrounds just being kids?

Finally, we’d like to direct your attention to our Talking About Race resource page, which we started in 2013 and are adding to all the time. #WeNeedDiverseBooks…and we’re all working to keep the conversation alive.

The post Walter Dean Myers’s legacy appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/walter-dean-myerss-legacy/feed/ 0