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Reviews of the 2016 Batchelder Award winners

Winner:

alemagna_wonderful fluffy little squishyThe Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy
by Beatrice Alemagna; illus. by the author; trans. from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
Primary     Enchanted Lion     44 pp.
9/15     978-1-59270-180-3     $18.95

After Eddie overhears her sister say “birthday — Mommy — fuzzy — little — squishy,” she frets, “She’s going to give Mom the most amazing present!” Eddie scours her neighborhood–portrayed in sweeping detail in expansive scenes–for the perfect gift: “Do you have a FLUFFY SQUISHY?” she asks the baker, etc. This story is satisfying — from whimsical start to gratifying, unexpected finish. NELL BERAM

From the Spring 2016 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

 

Honor Books:

appelfeld_adam and thomasAdam & Thomas
by Aharon Appelfeld; illus. by Philippe Dumas; trans. from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green
Intermediate     Seven Stories      160 pp.
10/15     978-1609806347     $15.75

During WWII, nine-year-old Adam and his classmate Thomas are led by their parents from their ghetto home into the forest to survive. They build a sort-of nest for shelter and wait, passing time by discussing war, religion, and philosophy. The lyrical, parable-like story takes place nearly outside time and place (there are occasional key markers); a fascinating author’s note describes Appelfeld’s own WWII experiences. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

From the Spring 2016 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

 

suzhen_grandma lives in a perfume villageGrandma Lives in a Perfume Village
by Fang Suzhen; illus. by Sonja Danowski; translated from the Chinese by Huang Xiumin
Primary     North-South

In this Chinese import, young Xiao Le and his mother visit his dying grandmother. He’s saddened by her death soon after, but when he views the setting sun, he says,”Look, Mom, Grandma is frying an egg in heaven!” Fang treats a difficult topic with compassion and humanity, but adult guidance and explanation may be necessary. Danowski’s realistic illustrations are expressive and somber. MELINDA GREENBLATT

From the Fall 2015 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

 

liniers_written and drawn by henrietta Written and Drawn by Henrietta
by Liniers; illus. by the author
Primary   TOON   62 pp.
9/15   978-1-935179-90-0   $12.95
Spanish ed. 978-1-935179-91-7   $12.95

Henrietta’s mom gives her a box of brand-new colored pencils, and she’s off, creating a nail-bitingly thrilling story (“The Monster with Three Heads and Two Hats”) about a girl named Emily and the monster who comes out of her wardrobe one night. The monster, though it looks scary, turns out to be friendly (“Good evening little miss!”) and in search of a hat for its third head. Emily joins in the quest, entering her suddenly “HUUUUGE,” labyrinthine wardrobe and braving a truly terrifying monster (“the monster with one head and three hats!”) before emerging victorious. Liniers works magic here, and not just with the Narnia-like wardrobe. Emily’s adventure is drawn with colored pencils — brightly colored, messy, dramatic scrawls; contrastingly neat, contained panels in pen-and-ink and watercolor show Henrietta drawing the story and commenting on its progress. Liniers paces both elements superbly, keeping the focus on the exciting monster tale but interjecting the quieter panels at just the right moments. This is also a clever explication of the creative process: as she draws, Henrietta sometimes looks at the story objectively from the outside (“Those three little dots really add… / …SUSPENSE!”); at other times she’s swept up in the excitement of her own creation (“I’m drawing really fast ’cause I want to see what happens next”). For emergent readers, this will require some sophistication, with words like chaos and labyrinth and hat-o-logy and even Phrygian; the hand-lettering may also present a challenge. But it’s all worth it. A Spanish version, Escrito y dibujado por Enriqueta, is also available. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2016.

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