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Reviews of 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Picture Book Award Winner and Honor Books

Picture Book Winner

The Patchwork Bike
by Maxine Beneba Clarke; illus. by Van Thanh Rudd
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.
9/18    978-1-5362-0031-7    $15.99

A child in an unnamed “village where we live inside our mud-for-walls home” describes the diversions of daily life: “whooping and shrieking and laughing” on the sand hill, exploring the desert, and playing atop an abandoned police car accompanied by “my crazy brothers,” annoying their “fed-up mum” (shown in what looks like a white abayah), and, best of all, zooming about on their “patchwork bike” built of scrap. Clarke’s spare, mellifluous language dances across the pages, full of vivid imagery and hyphenated turns of poetry (“out in the no-go desert, under the stretching-out sky”), all of it hand-lettered on Rudd’s rough, tactile paintings. Working in heavy acrylic paint on recycled cardboard marked by residual packing instructions, trademarks, and barcodes, Rudd re-makes the commonplace paper into the desert’s ubiquitous brown; long, dark shadows of the blocky, heavily outlined figures imply a searing sun. These illustration choices reflect the book’s very theme — exposing the harsh reality of life that some people face while acknowledging the resilience that comes from homemade joy. Appended author’s and illustrator’s notes tell personal stories about each one’s inspirations. THOM BARTHELMESS

From the November/December 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor Books

Dreamers
by Yuyi Morales; illus. by the author
Primary    Porter/Holiday    40 pp.
9/18    978-0-8234-4055-9    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-4125-9    $18.99
Spanish ed.  978-0-8234-4258-4    $18.99

Two pairs of eyes shine from the cover of Morales’s book — the infant’s eyes brilliant with curiosity, his mother’s gaze pensive. These two “migrantes” arrive on “the other side, / thirsty, in awe, / unable to go back.” Here they meet cultural challenges (customs, language) that are resolved at the San Francisco Public Library, with its welcoming staff and “unimaginable” wealth of books. These offer paths to literacy, community, even a career: the stellar picture books Morales found there inspired her to create her own. Nicely recognizable in the art, they’re also identified in a lengthy list of “Books That Inspired Me (and Still Do).” Enriching the artist’s palette of turquoise, indigo, crimson, magenta, and gold, another migrant — a vibrant orange monarch butterfly — flits freely throughout. Folkloric figures, too, engage in the action, while the diaphanous garment from which the mother seems to emerge — it’s like flowers, feathers, flame — protects and propels her. Occasional Spanish words enrich the succinct, gently poetic text. Back matter includes “My Story,” setting the narrative in personal and historical context (Morales came to the U.S. in 1994); a note describes the natural and culturally significant materials used in the pen-and-ink, acrylic, and collage art. A wise book and, to praise it in its own words, “resplendent,” an eloquent vision of the “resilience” and “hope” of the “dreamers, soñadores of the world.” Concurrently published in Spanish as Soñadores. JOANNA RUDGE LONG

From the November/December 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
by Traci Sorell; illus. by Frané Lessac
Primary    Charlesbridge    32 pp.
9/18    978-1-58089-772-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-63289-633-9    $9.99

“Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude. It is a reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles — daily, throughout the year, and across the seasons.” An extended family engages with activities and traditions that express gratitude and carry on Cherokee history and culture, such as stomp dancing at the Great New Moon Ceremony, basket weaving, making corn-husk dolls, and playing stickball. The book underscores the importance of traditions and carrying on a Cherokee way of life while simultaneously incorporating modernity and challenging dated media images of Indigenous people. Here, a father sporting an earring and a topknot minds the children; a family bids goodbye to a clan relative who deploys with the U.S. military. Skin colors range from light to dark, visually underscoring the book’s message of diversity and inclusion. Staying firmly upbeat and idyllic, the cheerful, richly detailed gouache illustrations in bright, saturated colors cycle through the seasons, beginning with the Cherokee New Year in autumn. The text includes several Cherokee words; a line of text in a smaller font along the bottom of the page provides each word as written in the English alphabet, its phonetic pronunciation, the word as written in the Cherokee alphabet, and its definition. A glossary, an author’s note on Cherokee culture, and a complete Cherokee syllabary conclude this attractive and informative book. JULIE HAKIM AZZAM

From the November/December 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

The 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced at SLJ’s Day of Dialog and via Facebook Live on May 29th, 2019. For reviews of the fiction and nonfiction winners and more, click on the tag BGHB19.

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Comments

  1. Sam Juliano says:

    I’m mighty thrilled at the selections made by the Boston-Horn Book for this year’s awards!

    I have counted myself as a passionate adherent of THE PATCHWORK BIKE since I first laid eyes on this certain picture book masterpiece and am always especially appreciative with the BHB rules which unlike the ones applied by the ALA allow for works by and from countries outside our borders!

    As Frane Lessac is a great friend and a graduate of the same Cliffside Park, New Jersey high school I myself graduated from in the same year (1972) I can only say it is beyond celebratory that her sublime art has been recognized in this manner. The book by Traci Sorell is a gem in every regard and a big triumph for diversity.

    DREAMERS of course is a staggering masterpiece and at this day and age a rightful repudiation of our political leaders. An inspiring saga told in piercing poetry and so beautifully illustrated.

    A majestic trio here.

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