Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Review: The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Book: The Curious Garden
Author: Peter Brown
Illustrator: Peter Brown
Published: 2009
Source: Local Library

Once upon a time, there was a dreary city, where the air was thick with pollution and nobody ever went outside, except Liam. One day, Liam found a struggling little garden in the remains of an elevated railway. With his help, the little garden of moss and wildflowers flourishes, spreading throughout the city and bringing Liam's grey world to life again.

This book kept cropping up on my blogroll, and after reading it, I can see why. The story's very simple, but what makes it really stand out for me are the illustrations. I particularly loved the use of color to subtly bring Liam's world awake. Brown renders the initial pages with muted colors that all seem to have undertones of browns and yellows. After a couple of pages of that, the first introduction of the garden's vivid colors catch your eye, and that color spreads. Everything that the garden and Liam touch seem to brighten up.

The final spread shows the same view as the first, but it took me a few moments to realize that. The colors are completely different--the air clear and blue, the buildings covered with greenery, and most of all, people outside enjoying it. It's rather long for a crowd of preschoolers, but try this one-on-one or with early elementary. Inspired by the real story of Manhattan's High Line, The Curious Garden is a lovely fable about the power of nature to renew.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Moving Targets, Shocking News, and Nostalgia Ahoy

It's that time again, when I cull bits and pieces from around the web for your more-than-possible enjoyment. (Six points if you can identify that musical. Go!)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kidlitosphere Conference 10 Info!

The next Kidlitosphere Conference has been set for October 23 in Minneapolis, Minnesota! Click through to the official KidLitCon10 blog (hello, of course there's a blog!) for all the details.

If you've never been, consider it! If you have, I don't need to convince you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Honor of Father's Day . . .

. . . follow the dancing link (no, it doesn't really dance; sorry about that) to the blog Hot Guys Reading Books. Normally, this photoblog focuses on pictures of good looking men reading (I know! Shocker!)

But all this week, they've featured men reading with, or alongside, their kids. With all the furor about boys who don't read, it's reassuring to know that there are some who do, and grow up to pass it on to their own kids.

I don't know whether to coo or fan myself.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book Review: My People by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr

Book: My People
Author: Langston Hughes
Illustrator: Charles R. Smith Jr
Published: 2009
Source: Local Library

One of Langston Hughes' most emotional and shortest poems is brought to life by Smith's glorious photography of African-American faces--men and women, all ages, smiling, solemn, serene, and silly.

This book won the Coretta Scott King award this year at the ALA Youth Media Awards, and it's richly deserved. Looking over the photographs, I realized to my astonishment that they were all in sepia tones. Somehow, their richness and beauty had overwhelmed my memory of the monochromatic style. My favorite part was the way he used parts of the photographs to illustrate the concepts in the poem. For instance, instead of a starry night for the line, "the stars are beautiful," Smith photographs the sparkling clips in a little girl's dark hair. And "Beautiful, also, the sun" was paired with two shining faces, tipped upward as if to a noonday sun. Wowee.

While the length of this book would ordinarily make me put it in a storytime collection, I stopped. The deep emotions and abstract concepts embedded in the poem text seem above the library's storytime age, as well as the crowd setting. It's a more intimate book, one that asks for discussion and contemplation. I would most definitely read it to a school-age group, along with a discussion of the poem itself, as well as Langston Hughes' life and work. What do you think? Who would you read this book with?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

People of Color Picture Books

This one came to me via the Child_Lit email listserv. There's a new wiki in town, called People of Color Picture Books. As you can tell, it's a resource for picture books featuring people of color. She has it broken down by ethnic group (including one for multiracial, yeah!) and also by age group,

If you're like me and have a devil of a time finding good picture books that feature non-Caucasian protagonists, this could come in handy. This is just starting up, so if you know of jim-dandy picture books that aren't mentioned, get a wikispaces account and add away.

Monday, June 14, 2010

King and King video

And now, rating a 10.0 on the Aww-O-Meter, a fan adaptation of King and King.

All together now . . . awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

King and King is the subject of much controversy, but as this video shows, it's all external. At its heart, this book is the story of two people meeting and falling in love. For kids with two daddies, it's the fairy tale of their own family's beginning.

Thanks to Lee Wind of I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read? for the video.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reading Roundup April 2010

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 13

Review Copy: 1
Library: 12 

Writing: Chicken Little by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley
Delicious snark is the only way to approach this well-known tale of mass foolishness. Sweet, sweet snark.
Illustration: Dinotrux by Chris Gall
They're dinosaurs! And trucks! And also dinosaurs! I think the little part of my brain that's still about four years old just exploded with delight.
Overall: My People by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Charles R. Smith
Just beautiful. I'm not sure I have the words.

Because I Want To Awards
Deftest Book About a Father's Non-Presence: A Father Like That by Charlotte Zolotow
Deliciously Ridiculous: The Emperor of Absurdia by Chris Riddell