Books We Missed

Calling Caldecott's mock vote opens tomorrow, and we're excited to see what you, our readers, will vote for. Please come on back to the blog tomorrow to vote for your top choices. 

In the meantime, we're taking stock of the books that we wished we had time to include in the discussion but, for one reason or another, didn't get a chance to cover. 

Without further ado, here are the Books We Missed: 

Rock, Rosetta, Rock! Roll, Rosetta, Roll!: Presenting Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Godmother of Rock & Roll
by Tonya Bolden; illus. by R. Gregory Christie
Primary    Harper/HarperCollins    40 pp.
2/23    9780062994387    $18.99

Rosetta Tharpe’s (1915–1973) music would influence some of the biggest stars of the twentieth century — from Chuck Berry and Little Richard to Johnny Cash and Aretha Franklin — and change the sound of American music forever. In a picture-book biography that takes Tharpe from childhood in Cotton Plant, Arkansas (“Little girl. Big guitar”), through her adult career, Bolden’s dynamic second-person text puts readers in Tharpe’s shoes. In tracing her musical successes, readers see her intermingling of musical genres (“mixing it up with Gospel’s Cousin Boogie-Woogie, Cousin Jazz, Cousin Swing, Cousin the big, bad Blues”) and with it the origin of rock and roll. Bolden describes Tharpe the performer as “bold, audacious — in a word, bodacious, whatever the song.” Christie’s acryla gouache paintings use bold contrasting colors to show Tharpe as the center of attention as well as the center of the action: singing, praying, duckwalking, and always with fingers flying on the guitar strings. He contrasts crisp angular lines (of industrial modernity — trains, spotlights, skylines) with elegant curves (of the guitar’s body, of human figures). A detailed timeline, a lengthy author’s note, and brief source notes round out this impressive offering about an often-overlooked figure in American music. Pair with Barlow’s Little Rosetta and Her Talking Guitar (rev. 1/23). ERIC CARPENTER

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Spanish Is the Language of My Family
by Michael Genhart; illus. by John Parra
Primary    Porter/Holiday    40 pp.
7/23    9780823450046    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780823455454    $11.99
Spanish ed.  9780823454464    $18.99

Genhart highlights the love between a grandson and his abuela through their connection with the Spanish language. Narrator Manolo signs up to compete in his school’s Spanish spelling bee. While he practices, Abuela tells him stories of how she was not allowed to speak Spanish in school, recounting the punishment and shame doled out to her and her classmates. After hearing about her experiences, Manolo is more determined than ever to study, and ultimately triumphs at the spelling bee. With a vivid color palette, Parra’s acrylic and digital illustrations bring warmth and brightness to Genhart’s story, which smoothly incorporates Spanish words and phrases within the text. Extensive back matter explains how Spanish was frequently prohibited in schools in the Southwest, especially from the 1930s through 1960s, causing many families not to pass on their language to their children. The National Spanish Spelling Bee, first held in 2011, is an effort “to change the history of negative attitudes toward Spanish and to raise its status in the United States.” A Spanish alphabet, pronunciation guide, and selected references are appended. Concurrently published in Spanish as El español es la lengua de mi familia. YESSICA HURD

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The Making of Butterflies
by Zora Neale Hurston; adapted by Ibram X. Kendi; illus. by Kah Yangni
Preschool    Amistad/HarperCollins    24 pp.
3/23    9780063111585    $9.99

In this board-book adaptation of a pourquoi story chronicled in Hurston’s 1935 anthology Mules and Men, Kendi and Yangni collaborate to introduce young children to the African American folklore tradition and to Hurston’s importance within that tradition. “The Creator wuz all finished and thru makin’ de world,” but then notices that the world looks too bare. So they add “trees and grass and flowers and plants”; when the flowers complain about feeling lonesome, the Creator goes “’round clippin’ li’l pieces offa everything,” thereby creating butterflies. Yangni’s vibrant mixed-media illustrations span a range of settings — rural and urban, historical and current — accompanied by brilliantly colored butterflies throughout. “Butterflies were made to keep de flowers company” is the satisfying resolution. Kendi (who previously adapted a Hurston short story in Magnolia Flower, rev. 11/22) preserves Hurston’s use of Black English, and his closing note provides rich historical context about both Ebonics and the importance of Hurston’s work as a folklorist. KIM PARKER

From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider
by Jessica Lanan; illus. by the author
Primary    Roaring Brook    48 pp.
4/23    9781250810366    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781250326034    $11.99

Lanan asks readers to imagine what life would be like as a regal jumping spider as they learn about this creature’s traits and life cycle alongside a young girl who is observing one. The child arrives at an idyllic community garden to play with friends and neighbors. She is unaware that “Jumper,” a regal jumper spider, is watching from the garden fence. With Jumper’s reveal, the illustrations — lush creations in ink, watercolor, and gouache — shift to a spider’s-eye perspective: the fence posts now loom large, a huge chickadee flies menacingly close, and tall green plants are everywhere. As the girl happily explores the garden environment, she climbs, runs, and observes her surroundings through sight and sound. Each activity is then ­paralleled by the hungry Jumper as she moves around the garden in search of prey, and explanations of spider senses — such as acute hearing through fine hairs, eyes that can see all around (demonstrated by an effective gatefold spread), and extraordinary jumping abilities — are provided. In a dramatic action sequence, Jumper finally spots and captures a fly almost as big as she is. Extensive back matter includes additional information about spider anatomy and life cycles, a glossary, and tips for spider observation. DANIELLE J. FORD

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


My Powerful Hair
by Carole Lindstrom; illus. by Steph Littlebird
Primary    Abrams    48 pp.
3/23    9781419759437    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781647005740    $15.54

“Our ancestors say / Our hair is our memories. / Our source of strength.” Lindstrom’s (author of Caldecott winner We Are Water Protectors, rev. 7/20, and an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) authentic storytelling text explains the importance of hair — “Native/Indigenous peoples believe that hair holds strength and power” — and its connection to Mother Earth. An Indigenous girl is eager for her hair to grow. She tells us that her mom kept her own hair short because she was told as a child it was “too wild.” Nokomis (her grandmother) had long hair, but it was cut off at the Indian boarding school she was forced to attend as a child. The text follows the girl as her hair grows longer and longer: “When Nimishoomis taught me / how to fish for the first time, / my hair was at my ears”; “When my baby brother was born, / my hair touched my shoulders.” The intergenerational interaction of family highlights the idea many Indigenous families have that future generations can reclaim what was lost. The narrative’s powerful ending brings this story to a satisfying, hopeful conclusion. Debut illustrator Littlebird (a member of Oregon’s Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) captures the closeness of the family and the strength and determination of the protagonist in bright colors set against woodgrain-like backgrounds. Subtle visual cues in the characters’ facial expressions enable viewers to distinguish emotions as well as depicting the beauty and honor long hair holds for Indigenous people. Appended with an author’s note and a short glossary of Ojibwe words. NAOMI R. CALDWELL

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The Book of Turtles
by Sy Montgomery; illus. by Matt Patterson
Primary, Intermediate    Clarion/HarperCollins    40 pp.
5/23    9780358458074    $19.99

“Sometime around 240 million years ago — about the time of the first dinosaurs, and 9 million years before the first crocodile — the shell invented the turtle.” With this cheekily thought-provoking opening sentence, acclaimed science writer Montgomery introduces turtles to young readers. The text continues with a brief discussion of the anatomy of that shell, a discussion enhanced by Patterson’s clear diagram. This pattern, consisting of short, informative paragraphs written in Montgomery’s easy journalistic style and accompanied by a detailed acrylic-paint illustration complementing the text, continues throughout. There are world records (such as largest, flattest, most colorful, and stinkiest) and details about various turtle talents (such as problem-solving, hunting, and climbing). The fascinating details about each species (southern Vietnam box turtles whistle, the Chinese softshell terrapin urinates through its mouth) set the stage for individual differences. As in previous titles (The Octopus Scientists, rev. 7/15), Montgomery mentions animal personalities and stresses that each creature is unique. Brief biographies of turtle celebrities include Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise; and Fire Chief, a snapping turtle who was rehabilitated after being paralyzed. The account concludes with ways in which turtles help our world and several steps that can aid their declining populations. Appended with websites, a glossary, and a bibliography. BETTY CARTER

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Beautiful Noise: The Music of John Cage
by Lisa Rogers; illus. by Il Sung Na
Primary, Intermediate    Schwartz/Random    40 pp.
10/23    9780593646625    $18.99
Library ed.  9780593646632    $21.99
e-book ed.  9780593646649    $11.99

A sequence of “what if?” questions pulls the reader into this book about twentieth-century avant-garde composer John Cage. “What if...all the sounds you heard...sounded to you like music?” The answer is always, “Then you’d be like John Cage.” Cage thought all sounds — noises made by appliances, everyday sounds like “dog tags clinking,” and even silence itself — constituted music if you learned to listen. Rogers’s text introduces readers to Cage’s notable and controversial performances, including “4’33” (four minutes and thirty-three seconds of piano silence) and “Fontana Mix” (a staff covered with “curlicues and dots...and squiggles” that invited musicians to interpret into playable notes). Digital illustrations take one sensory experience (sound) and represent it in another (sight) in stunning ways. Bursts of bright colors, shapes, and lines that represent Cage’s music are overlaid onto people, landscapes, and interiors, which are primarily rendered in black, white, and gray; at other times the colorful music peeks through windows or floats in the air, transforming dull backdrops into colorful, riotous expressions that disrupt a stodgy world. Let’s not forget the endpapers, which will absorb the reader’s attention: a table representing sixty different sounds with sixty different representations captures the essence of each. Readers will likely be curious to experiment themselves and “be like John Cage”; author and illustrator notes provide additional context. JULIE HAKIM AZZAM

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Before, Now
by Daniel Salmieri; illus. by the author
Primary    Rocky Pond/Penguin    48 pp.
6/23    9780593461976    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780593461983    $10.99

Salmieri delivers a moving intergenerational story using opposites as its central conceit. Opening pages show a view of Earth from space, reading: “In the dark sky floats a bright planet.” The page-turn zooms in on a seashore “where wet waves crash on a dry stretch of beach.” Next, there’s a city, whose characters are rendered in colored pencil with a sketchy, gestural style. These include “a small person in a big chair,” the protagonist of the story. She is a toddler who appears Asian, with dark hair and peachy-tan skin. Salmieri wisely gives the character signature green clothing, a color symbolic of growth, so that readers can recognize her as she changes throughout the book, from child to teen to professional scientist and woman with a family of her own, all the while incorporating opposites that reflect her interests and experiences (“a loud concert in a quiet field…thick books made up on thin sheets of paper”). At the end, the green-clad woman, her dark hair now white, is shown with a baby in her lap, looking at “an old photo in a new frame / [that] Shows a picture of a small person in a big chair.” It’s an immensely satisfying, full-circle conclusion. MEGAN DOWD LAMBERT

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Jump In!
by Shadra Strickland; illus. by the author
Primary    Bloomsbury    32 pp.
1/23    9781619635807    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781547603152    $13.29

It’s a warm day, and a diverse group of children in a city neighborhood heads to the playground, where “asphalt sizzles in wait, / ropes lie in the corner as bait.” One child calls out “Jump in!” and kids line up to show their jumping style. ­Beginning with the Delancey twins (a.k.a. “the Double Dutch divas”) and basketball aficionado Leroy Jones, each child brings their own flair as they answer the call. As the day continues, other members of the community jump in, including elder Ms. Mabel (“the queen of hopscotch since [she] was one”). Then “my turn at last!” The narrator finally “can put these schoolbooks down and play.” She hits the ­playground with her skateboard and shows how she jumps in. When the ­streetlights come on, it is time for everyone to jump out and go home. Brimming with energy, the colorful textured digital paintings enhance the ­rhyming text. Strickland ­captures the sheer joy found in community play. EBONI NJOKU

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam, Kitty Flynn, and Martha V. Parravano

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