Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review: Hippopotamus Stew by Joan Horton

Book: Hippopotamus Stew and other silly animal rhymes
Author: Joan Horton
Illustrator: JoAnn Adinolfi
Published: 2006
Source: Local Library

Meet a beaver with braces, a billy goat who just can't stop eating, and a sheep plagued by moths! These and more feature in the pages of Hippopotamus Stew. How does a centipede find matching shoes? Just how many tissues does a sniffly elephant require? I know you've been wondering.

So I opened this up and thought, "Oh, wow, more cute animal poems. Ho-hum." Then I started reading. There's an edge to these poems, something in the wit that's like Shel Silverstein at his most enjoyably heartless. You know the kind, where kids are being eaten by lions or crushed by garbage--a sense that the world is both goofy and dangerous, and neither negates the other. The crocodile poem warns of getting too close to a reptile in case you "see a napkin tucked under his chin." In the mosquito poem, the bitten bites back. The anteater reacts in the most logical way to demands from the ants. Hilarious, but with a hint of sharpness about them too.

Illustrator JoAnn Adinolfi uses a number of different media, including collaged photos and watercolor scraps, to illustrate all the different animals. Perhaps it was her style that lead me into thinking these would be fluffy poems, because while the art is vivid and attractive, it's very nonthreatening. She uses lots of curvy lines, round faces, bright colors, and simple features. I did, however, appreciate that the humans shown were not all Caucasian. I think they're good illustrations, well-done and happily kooky, they just don't betray that whisper of darkness that come out in the poems.

I loved this, and I think kids will too. Try these poems as readalouds to preschool and up, or let strong early readers try a few on their own.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

So What Did You Think?

We've had a day, almost two, to think about the awards presented yesterday. What do you think now?

Raise your hand if you were falling-out-of-your-chair shocked at the winner. Yeah, me neither. I've only had the chance to glance through The Lion and the Mouse once, and never sat down to bask in it like I think it deserves. But even that quick glance made me go, "Oh, wow." The heat of the savannah seemed to roll out from the pages. Well done, Mr. Pinkney.

Red Sings from Treetops and All the World had a lot of love in the kidlit world, so neither of those made me goggle. I do wonder why they only picked two honors this year, since I know they've done more in other years.

I was surprised at Mo Willems not winning or honoring in this category, but more because he's Mo Willems than for any particular book--which is a darn good sign that this wasn't the year for another Willems win. I don't read as many easy-readers as I should, so I wasn't too familiar with the winners.

Toon Books is doing very well for itself, I must say. Stinky last year and Benny and Penny and the Big No-No plus Little Mouse Gets Ready this year. Not bad for a fairly young imprint, especially considering that they're getting recognition for the. Methinks their catalog is one to watch.

The Others
Am I alone in being tickled that both the winner and the honor book for the Coretta Scott King illustration medal were Langston Hughes poems set to pictures? Just me then. I've only read The Negro Speaks of Rivers, but it was a lovely book to look at. I felt like sinking into every picture and sitting on the riverbank for awhile.

I always love the Pura Belpre illustrations. From almost all of the books, it's art I want to cut out and hang on my wall. That list also had some of the nonfiction that crept in throughout the awards list. It was a good year for the nonfic all around--not only did YALSA premiere an award just for nonfiction, but true stories got love in a number of the awards, including two of the three Big Ones.

What Does It All Mean?
I sat in on a really fun kidlit chat tonight (#kidlitchat, every Tuesday night on Twitter! Tell 'em I sent you, and they'll go, "Who?") and we talked about the effect of the awards. They certainly bump up sales, was the conclusion, but grown-ups buy books. Not usually kids, especially kids this age.

That said, the awards are for quality, not popularity, and they've never pretended to be otherwise. For those of us who lead, drag, and sometimes keelhaul people toward the right book, the pretty sticker is just one factor to take into account among a host of others.

If you haven't already, tell me what you thought of the winners in the comments!

If you want to see my thoughts on the YA and MG novel winners, stop in at Confessions of a Bibliovore.

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 ALA Youth Media Awards are Here!

The Three You've Been Waiting For

The John Newbery Medal (for the best children's novel of the year)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
(H) Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Philip Hoose
(H) The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelley
(H) Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
(H) The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

The Randolph Caldecott Medal (for the best picture book of the year)
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
(H) Red Sings from Treetops illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman
(H) All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon

The Michael L. Printz Award (for the best YA novel of the year)
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
(H) Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
(H) The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
(H) Punkzilla by Adam Rapp
(H) Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

The Rest of Them (You knew there were more, right? Don't worry, I won't tell.)

The Alex Awards (for ten adult books with teen appeal)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: creating currents of electricity and hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff
Everything Matters! by Ron Currie
The Good Soldiers by David Finkel
The Kids are All Right: a Memoir by Diana, Liz, Amanda, and Dan Welch
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
My Abandonment by Peter Rock
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Stitches by David Small
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson

The Andrew Carnegie Medal (for excellence in children's video)
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus produced by Weston Woods

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards (for the best book about the African-American experience)
Bad News for Outlaws: the remarkable life of Bass Reeves, deputy U.S. Marshall by Vaunda Micheaeux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
(H) Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis
My People illustrated by Charles R. Smith, written by Langston Hughes
(H) The Negro Speaks of Rivers, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, written by Langston Hughes
John Steptoe New Talent
The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement
Walter Dean Myers

The Margaret A. Edwards Award (for the YA author who's made a lasting contribution to the field)
Jim Murphy

The May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award (for an individual in the field of children's literature, who will then present a paper at ALA's Annual Conference)
Lois Lowry

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award (for the best translated children's book)
A Faraway Island by Annika Thor, translated from Swedish by Linda Schenck
(H) Big Wolf and Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme, illustrated by Olivier Tallec, translated from French by Claudia Bedrick
(H) Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahako Uehashi, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano

The Odyssey Award (for the best children's audiobook of the year)
Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo
(H) In the Belly of the Bloodhound by LA Meyers
(H) Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
(H) We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson

The Pura Belpre Award (for the best children's book about the Latino/a experience)
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
(H) Federico García Lorca by Georgina Lázaro, illustrated by Enrique S. Moreiro
(H) Diego: Bigger Than Life by Carmen Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz
Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros illustrated by Rafael López, written by Pat Mora
(H) Diego: Bigger Than Life illustrated by David Diaz, written by Carmen Bernier-Grand
(H) My Abuelita illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Tony Johnston
(H) Gracias Thanks illustrated by John Parra, written by Pat Mora

The Robert F. Sibert Medal (for the best children's nonfiction book of the year)
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone
(H) The Day-Glo brothers: the true story of Bob and Joe Switzer's bright ideas and brand-new colors by Chris Barton
(H) Moonshot: the Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca
(H) Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Philip Hoose

The Schneider Family Book Award (for the best book about the disability experience)
Young Adult Novel
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork
Middle Grade Novel
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Picture Book
Django by Bonnie Christensen

The Theodore Seuss Geisel Award (for the best early reader book)
Benny and Penny and the Big No-No by Jeffrey Hayes
(H) Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day by Kate McMullan
(H) Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends by Wong Herbert Yee
(H) Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith
(H) I Spy Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold

The William C. Morris Award (for the best YA novel by a first-time author)
Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction
Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Philip Hoose
The Great and Only Barnum: the tremendous, stupendous life of showman P.T. Barnum by Candace Fleming
Written in Bone: buried lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally Walker

And now it's all over but the online arguing, and that can go on forever. What made you do a little dance? What was robbed, I tell you, robbed? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Book Review: Baron Von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident

Book: Baron Von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident
Author: George McClements
Illustrator: George McClements
Published: 2008
Source: Local Library

Baron Von Baddie has everything he needs to be a supervillain. He has the glasses. He has the hairdo. He has the lab coat. He has the dastardly inventions and the wicked laugh. He even has a nemesis--Captain Kapow, who always catches him and sends him to jail. (Luckily, Baron Von Baddie always escapes.)

Then one day, he accidentally freezes Captain Kapow with his ice ray. Wow! He finally defeated his nemesis! Baddie goes on a spree of evil, which is fun for the first couple of weeks, but then starts to lose its luster. What could be wrong? Could it be that he--gulp--actually misses Captain Kapow?

I really want to read this aloud for the chance to use different voices and Batman-voiceover sound effects that this story practically demands. It's not just the story that will capture kids' attention. It's the little touches that nudge this from off-kilter to downright kooky. Baron Von Baddie's nefarious plans mainly consist of hijacking ice cream trucks. While on his spree of evil, he changes the days of the week around (and then has to change them back when he misses his birthday). The heat ray is a giant hair dryer. It's all the kind of stuff that sends kids into fits of giggles.

Using mostly cut paper and the occasional photographed element, McClements brings this fractured comic-book tale to life. It's the kind of style that's more complex than it looks. I've come to expect gleeful fun from George McClements, and Baron Von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident fulfills that expectation and more.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Place Your Bets

The Caldecott award is being presented next Monday, along with all the other ALA Youth Media Awards. This brings me such geeky joy I'm getting up at 5:30 am to watch the webcast. And I value my sleep. (You people on the East Coast can breathe now--it starts at 7:45 EST.) Besides streaming video, the American Library Association is texting and Twittering and Facebooking the proceedings. Frankly, folks, if you're at all connected with books for kids, you won't be able to get away from it.

If you want to know a little more about the Caldecott and its fellow awards, look no further than Susan's recent post at Booklights. I love when she writes such excellent rundowns, since it saves me the work. The lady knows whereof she speaks--she used to work in the bookstore industry and apparently ALA Awards morning was like the invasion of Normandy.

There's a lot of talk about Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse, and I certainly wouldn't gnash my teeth over that. But I'll tell you what I would absolutely love to see: a Caldecott award or honor (excellence in illustration of children's books) for David Lucas' Something to Do. I read this last week and fell in love. No joke. Review soon.

The Geisel award, only a few years old, is another straight-up "excellence in" award, this time for excellence in early readers (named after Dr. Seuss, of course). I'm going to take a wild guess and say Mo Willems is probably going to get at least an honor, which he has almost every year since it was introduced.

Other honorees? Hmmm. I wouldn't be astonished to see some sentimental love for The Frogs and Toads All Sang, some of Arnold "Frog and Toad" Lobel's unpublished poems packaged into a picture book. If Dr. Seuss was the king of early readers, Lobel was the Prime Minister.

For some more guesses, stop in over at 100 Scope Notes and read the interview with Caldecott expert Ed Spicer.

What do you think will get the shiny sticker?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Comment Challenge Starts Today!

MotherReader and Lee Wind are starting the 2010 Comment Challenge today! I could talk about why I like comments (getting and giving) but I'll quote MotherReader instead:
What if I told you that for the cost of a few extra minutes a day, you can boost your blog readership, foster a feeling of connection, and make someone’s day? Does that sound like something you might be interested in?

Well, I’m talking about commenting, and the power is in your hands to make a difference.
The Challenge runs for 21 days, from Friday the 8th through Thursday the 28th. They challenge you to comment on five different kidlitosphere blogs a day and there's a prize drawing for those who hit 100 comments. Plus, y'know, you might get a few extra comments yourself. Zowie!

Commenting more was one of my 2010 blog resolutions, so I'm hoping to succeed at this challenge to create the commenting habit for the rest of the year. Good luck, everyone!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Reading Roundup 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 248
Early Readers: 16

Writing: Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
You know that bumper sticker, "Not all who wander are lost"? That's what this quiet little gem made me think of.
Illustration: This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten, illustrated by Delana Bettoli
With a style reminiscent of Tomie dePaola, Bettoli brings the natural and the supernatural world together in this story of the coming of a King and the birth of a child.
Overall: The Black Book of Colors by Menina Cottin, illustrated by Rosana Faria, translated by Elisa Amado
First published in Spanish, this is the most unique, thought-provoking picture book I've ever run across.

Mostly library copies, although I swapped a few. It's harder to find these online than full-length novels.

This was the year of the Fiction Picture Book Cybils. This was also the year I had to go out and find picture books, because I changed jobs in December 2008 and therefore didn't encounter them every day the way I used to. Doubly difficult to find were early readers. But life was made easier by LibraryThing adding a collections function in June, making it possible to sort books into wishlist, available at the library, etc, and then picture book or storytime or easy reader categories once I'd read them.

What was your favorite thing about this year?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Like You Needed More to Read

Fire up your TBR list, my lambkins, for--yes!--it's time for the Cybils shortlists!

Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books

Fiction Picture Books

Non-Fiction Picture Books

For the rest of the lists, plus some amazing stats from the equally amazing Anne, check out the finalist post at the Cybils blog. Congrats to all the finalists and thank you to all the round one judges!

Reading Roundup December 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 45
Early Readers: 2

Writing: The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger
Illustration: A Perfect Season for Dreaming by Benjamin Alire Saenz, illustrated by Esau Andrade
Overall: Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett

Library: all

Because I Want To Awards
Sweetest Halloween Book: Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Gus Grimly
Sweetest Christmas Book: Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Matt Tavares
Most Unlikely Tag Combination: Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa, illustrated by Junji Koyose (construction and cooking?)
Most Unexpected Ending (and most rewarding second read-through): Tough Boris by Mem Fox, illustrated by Kathryn Brown (although actually the WorldCat synopsis gives it away, but read it anyway)