Saturday, July 22, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: In Darkling Wood


By Emma Carroll
Delacorte Press, 2017.  Fiction.  231 p.

Fifteen-year-old Alice lives in England with her mother and her younger brother Theo.  When a perfectly matched heart becomes available for Theo's desperately needed transplant, Alice must leave her home and friends to stay with a grandmother who she's never met.  It's bad enough that gruff Grandma Nell can't cook worth a darn, but the fact that she lives in an old countryside cottage with sketchy cell service and no internet connection just makes Alice's separation from her mom and Theo seem more complete.

Nell complicates things further with her intent to cut down the woods around her cottage, and the town neighbors are up in arms, making Alice a very unpopular new schoolmate.  With worrying about her brother, and an unusual new friend trying to convince her that the woods are actually filled with fairies, sensible Alice struggles with the discovery that things are not always exactly what they seem...both in the forest and in her family.  Old letters written by a young girl to her brother during WWI that are threaded through the narrative combined with Alice's technological isolation add to a sense of timelessness with magical results.  Alice develops strength of character in this beautiful story as she finds the courage to form her own opinions and make decisions independent of pressure from both friends and family.

CHARACTER COUNTS: On Our Way to Oyster Bay : Mother Jones and Her March for Children's Rights


On Our Way to Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children's Rights
Written by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Felicita Sala
Kids Can Press, 2016. Informational Picture Book.

I am inspired by individuals who see a cause and fight for it. The most vulnerable groups who don't have the ability to stand up for their own rights need others to represent their cause. I have always been an advocate children and their rights. It is unbelievable to think of time when children were put to work in factories and it was not required that they were educated. Education is power! I believe every child is entitled to an opportunity to be provided with an education.

Kullings description of Mary Harris also known as "Mother" Jones was inspiring to me. Mother Jones saw that children shouldn't be working in these factories. She organized a march to Oyster Bay to visit President Theodore Roosevelt in his summer home. During their march they stopped in New York City and Mother Jones offered a speech to more than a thousand people. We need more people like Mother Jones to stand up for others!

Friday, July 21, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Perritos



Perritos: Un libro para contar y ladrar
by Sandra Boynton
Simon & Schuster Libros Para Niños, 2004.

I'm calling this book a Character Counts read because few things have more character than a Sandra Boynton board book. And these dogs don't disappoint. Join Boynton's rowdy and uniquely individual dogs in counting to 10 in Spanish.

En este libro ilustrado para niños, se puede contar de uno a diez perros. A los niños les gustará que cada perro tiene un ruido distinto.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Lemons


Lemons
By Melissa Savage
Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017. Fiction.

After her mother dies in 1975, Lemonade Liberty Witt is sent to live with the grandfather she's never met in Willow Creek, California - Bigfoot Capital of the World. She's sure that she'll be able to move back to San Francisco to live with her fourth-grade teacher Miss Cotton soon, and so Lem doesn't try to make friends in her new, weird town. Not even with Tobin, her neighbor and the president and founder of Bigfoot Detectives Inc. As Lem reluctantly begins hunting for Bigfoot she finds a family and learns that everyone loses people they love but that shouldn't keep you from making lemonade out of the lemons.

There are a lot of "found family" books in middle grade fiction and a lot of great books to help kids understand grief. What obviously sets this book apart is the Bigfoot hunting - and I really loved it. This book is a tearjerker - no doubt - but it is also humorous enough at parts to still appeal to children. LEMONS exists in a fun world where realism, historical fiction, and fantasy all merge and Melissa Savage deftly handles the difficulty of writing in three genres at once. Lemonade and Tobin are two characters who feel like real children dealing with real, difficult trials (so they are both sometimes frustrating and self-centered) but they are interesting people who overcome a lot - a great model for young readers. This is a humorous and heartwarming read for Bigfoot believers and deniers.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora


The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
by Pablo Cartaya
Viking, 2017. Fiction. 236 p.
Arturo and his large extended family live in a small town in Florida. When their family-run restaurant is threatened by a developer who wants to put up high rise apartments, Arturo, his family, and his new found friend, Carmen, find strength from the words of Arturo's grandparents, and the Cuban poet, Jose Marti, to face the threat to their family business.

This is a heart warming story. Arturo's family feels authentic, and Arturo's relationship with his grandmother is touching. Readers who come from a large close family will have much to chuckle over in the story, while those who don't can get a glimpse into the sweet and challenging life of those who do. This is a great addition to literature portraying the Latino experience and I expect to see it on some of the award lists next winter.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Green Pants


Green Pants
By Kenneth Kraegel
Candlewick, 2017. Picture book.

Jameson really loves his green pants. They are the only color pants he will wear. If he wears his green pants, he knows he can dunk the ball, dive off the diving board, and dance. When his cousin invites him to be a part of his wedding procession, Jameson is thrilled. Until he realizes that being a part of the wedding means wearing black tuxedo pants. What will Jameson decide to do?

This is a fun story about a spunky little boy with a very specific attachment who has to face a tough choice. The parenting strategies modeled in this book are really great, as Jameson’s mom offers him sympathy and encouragement for his difficult decision, but lets him handle the choice and consequences on his own. Jameson’s solution is very satisfying and will leave readers cheering him on.

Monday, July 17, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Undefeated



Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team 
By Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press, 2017. Informational, 280 p.

Wowzer. That is the first thing that I thought after having finished this older elementary/teen nonfiction book. This is an amazing story. I knew who Jim Thorpe was. I had heard his name and knew he was a legendary sports figure. But really, I didn’t know who Jim Thorpe was. Now I do. Now I know that he was amazing. And the rest of his teammates were amazing as well.

This is the story of Jim Thorpe and the rest of the Carlisle Indian School football team. They were always the underdogs when playing football. White players were allowed to slug or knee them without getting penalized while the Carlisle team had to play clean or risk being tossed out of the game or penalties. There was so much injustice and prejudice that happened during this era. I mean, starting with the fact that these kids were sent to a school that had a mission to take away their culture and identity. They had to fight and work for everything. And it just wasn’t fair.

However, these men raised above all that. They went to games where people stereotyped their team (often using words like “scalp” when describing what they expected to happen to the Carlisle team) or the players (so many of them were nicknamed “chief” by white people). When one player was limping off the field and the coach asked what had happened he explained that he was kneed. When the coach asked what the player said in return he asked the white player (who had kneed him) “Who’s the savage now?” Seriously. This happened.

This nonfiction book is a great example of some really fine people who lived through life throwing harsh punches at them because of their race. They were better than what life gave them. Over and over again it shows that life wasn’t fair. But they were still good people who worked harder than any other team. This is a book about great examples who did not give up in spite of what lot they were given. This is a book about good examples and athletes. This is a book that really shows character counts. Read it. Then you just might say “wowzer” too.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books


Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books
By Michelle Markel
Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Chronicle Books, 2017. Biographical Picture Book.

Although I am surrounded by picture books everyday I have never stopped to think how they came to be. Who started creating and marketing books to children? I have always loved reading picture books and I get excited with brand-new books I have been anticipating. Seeing children engrossed in a book that excites them is definitely a perk to working in the library.  The light in a child's eyes and look of extreme delight all over their face, when I find a specific book a child has asked for, just makes me happy.

Markel's book is a perfect, entertaining description of the inception of children's books. It is written to the children reading it, which I found helped me to easily become part of the story. Carpenter's pictures are fun to look at and the emotions of the characters really came through. A passion for children's book is contagiously portrayed. I am forever grateful for John Newbery and his love for children and creating books for them!

Friday, July 14, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Cuando un elefante se enamora




Cuando un elefante se enamora
by Davide Calì and Alice Lotti
Translated by Ana Sancho Rosales
 Anaya, 2016. Libro ilustrado.

This books is great in English or Spanish. Follow the adorable elephant protagonist through all the stages of love: He wants to get her attention, but he's shy. He tries to diet, bathe, and leave flowers, but it doesn't seem like enough and sometimes feels sad. Then, one day, love comes to knock on his door instead of the other way around. It's super cute.

 ¿Qué ocurre cuando uno se enamora? Cuando un elefante se enamora hace de todo para llamar la atención, se baña todos los días y escribe cartas que nunca envía. Pero cuando menos lo espera ...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: One Last Word: Wisdom of the Harlem Renaissance

One Last Word: Wisdom From the Harlem Renaissance
By Nikki Grimes
Bloomsbury, 2017. Poetry.

This book is timely, lyrical, beautiful, and brilliant - I cannot say enough good things about it. Nikki Grimes is the poet and author of numerous children's books, but I think this is the first of her books I've read where I feel like she could not possibly be any better. This book begins with a short introduction to the Harlem Renaissance, the power of poetry, and Nikki Grimes' own attachment to the movement. She then uses the Golden Shovel form of poetry - which she explains - to re-explore some famous poems by poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

I read this entire book cover to cover in a single sitting, but families could read it at a slower pace and still enjoy it. As soon as I finished, I went back to re-read some of my favorite passages because it was really that good! There are definitely sophisticated themes in this book, and some of the poems may be hard for children to understand at first, which makes this a great read aloud or read-together. I know that I didn't talk about the Harlem Renaissance in school until I was in AP English, but I wish I had learned about it much younger - families could certainly introduce it to their young children much sooner and this is a perfect book to use for that discussion. These poems, and the original illustrations by prominent black artists, are masterful.