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Caldecott and Newbery 2015

Handicapping the Newbery and Caldecott awards is a favorite pastime (blood sport?) among aficionados of books for children and teens. We gather in hallways, on blogs, around water coolers, to guess and argue and wonder. We postulate, some of us for twelve full months, until the ALA Midwinter meeting’s Youth Media Awards Press Conference when […]

Review of Stonewall

 Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum Middle School, High School     Viking     120 pp. 5/15     978-0-670-01679-2     $16.99 Bausum begins her history of the gay rights movement with a careful, detailed exposition of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, laying out the events leading up to the clash between the […]

Review of In Mary’s Garden

In Mary’s Garden by Tina Kügler and Carson Kügler; illus. by the authors Primary   Houghton   32 pp. 3/15   978-0-544-27220-0   $16.99 As a girl, Mary “was happiest when her hands were busy making, building, creating things.” As she grew up and traveled around the world, those early interests developed into a love for art. She returns […]

Review of Bird & Diz

Bird & Diz by Gary Golio; illus. by Ed Young Primary   Candlewick   26 pp. 3/15   978-0-7636-6660-6   $19.99 An impressionistic story of a “be-bop-a-skoodley” friendship comes together in the juxtaposition of a series of opposites — rendering and abstraction, saturation and resistance, darkness and light — reflecting the special partnership of two distinct musical legends. Golio […]

Review of The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant; illus. by Melissa Sweet Primary    Eerdmans    48 pp. 9/14    978-0-8028-5385-1    $17.50 Apt language and ingenious imagery combine to tell the life story of Peter Mark Roget, creator of the thesaurus. A solitary, though not unhappy, child, Roget spends his time keeping lists and ordering the […]

The Hug Machine: a guest post by Thom Barthelmess

My choice for Caldecott 2015 consideration is Scott Campbell’s delightful, infectious, and secretly sophisticated Hug Machine. This is the kind of book that is easy to miss because it is disguised as a romp. It doesn’t pretend to be serious, and so doesn’t signal our serious attention. It’s up to us to apply that attention. […]

Thom’s Rules of Order: Ten Tips for Good Book Discussion

Many of us who read and consider books for young people in 
some professional capacity know group book discussion to be one 
of the most rewarding parts of the job. Few gratifications compare with enlightened, book-focused repartee in intelligent company. These discussions take many forms, from conversations around a kitchen table or in a college […]

Review of The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening

The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening by Chris Raschka; illus. by the author Primary    Candlewick    40 pp. 5/14    978-0-7636-5806-9    $15.99    g Jazz pioneer and self-proclaimed space case Sun Ra (born Herman P. Blount) gets a portrait as bemusing and sparkly as the man himself in this fantastical tribute. Raschka begins […]

What Makes a Good Book Cover?

We have all seen book covers we don’t like. Some suffer from unfortunate aesthetics, being too busy, poorly rendered, or just plain dull, deterring readers with their intimations of boredom within. Others misrepresent the text they introduce, unintentionally or deliberately promising a book they can’t deliver. The offense of a bad book cover feels especially […]

What Makes a Good Picture Book About Loss?

The three-hankie middle grade novel is a literary tradition as old as time (or at least as old as Charlotte’s Web). Some of these novels consider the sorts of grief, such as the death of a grandparent or the family dog, that children are likely to experience. Others explore very particular situations: the complicated aftermath […]