Mock-Cotts: Gimme My Medal!

Having recently given a “What’s New in Children’s Lit” staff training I am completely steeped in picture books which, Imo, represent some of the best books being published and, as I tell adult library patrons, are some of the best books in the library. If you don’t know, you better ask a librarian! I’m always surprised by the award committee’s choices so who knows which book will win? But if any of these do…..remember you heard it here.

Let me say right off the top that just about everyone is putting Float at the top of their list. It’s good. But it’s not as good of a story or as visually interesting as any of these below. Moving on.

I just came across this one the other day. First, the illustrations are beautiful with exquisite textural detail. You can’t see all that from the picture so just trust me on this; it’s beautiful. It reminded me of Hello, My Name is Ruby, another book that shows a character dealing with loss, grief and finding their way.

The Song of Delphine

Delphine is a servant girl for the queen. She’s alone in the world and when she’s down she “sings out the loneliness”. So heart-wrenching and precious. The queen’s niece comes and stirs up trouble for Delphine: making messes for her to clean, blaming her for breaking things and even getting her locked up. Wisely, the worst parts of Delphine’s story are shown not told. This softens the harshness of Delphine’s reality for young readers while at the same time being honest with them and true to the story. That respect for the reader and the story is one of the qualities that separates great books from the rest. (Dessert anyone?) As a singer who also has sung out the loneliness, this one resonated with me. I don’t think it has a chance of winning but it certainly deserves to be considered.

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I bypassed this one at first because the cover didn’t grab me. I’m picky about my picture books. If the cover doesn’t grab me, I probably won’t read it. But I eventually read this one and loved it. It’s the simple story of a Vietnamese family in a fishing village. It’s a specific story about a specific culture, but it still feels universal because it’s about the comfort of home and those you love. The beautiful, serene, painterly illustrations drew me in. With so much realistic detail I felt like I could smell the pot of soup on the stove, like I could hear the dog walking across the floor. It was almost a multisensory experience. I also loved the change in perspective throughout where we go from having a bird’s eye view of the scene to a macro close up of what the dog sees. When you consider that this is a debut for the author and only the second book for the illustrator it’s incredible what they accomplished here. I expect it to at least get an honor.

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I love Kevin Henkes. This, in my opinion, is probably his best picture book yet. It’s the story of watching and waiting for something wonderful to happen told from the perspective of toys on the windowsill. Things happen, yet the toys only know part of the story and it’s the reader who’s able to figure it out from the illustrations. There’s so much happening here from the adorable pastel toys to the ever-changing scene outside the window. It feels like a child’s dream, a lovely reminder that there’s wonder all around us if we just look.

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I won’t go into detail about this here since I’ve already talked about it. All I’m going to say is that a story this well done deserves to be recognized.
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I’ve talked about this one before, too. I don’t care what the critics say–it’s a gorgeous, whimsical book with an air of fairy tale about it, and it’s one of the best looking books to come out this year.
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I started this blog talking about this book. It’s a great post. This book is wonderful on so many levels and if there’s any justice in the book world it will get the recognition it deserves.

Honorable Mention

 

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Another one I initially bypassed and ended up really enjoying. There’s a lot to speak of for this book. First, DIVERSE CHARACTERS! And it’s not about them being diverse! They’re not being oppressed! It’s not stereotypical! No cultural misappropriation here! The Reading While White bloggers can’t possibly have a complaint about this story of a little girl who wants a giraffe for her birthday and will go to great lengths to make her case. Cute illustrations, big words, a glossary, text that is actually funny, this book has it all. This will be making the rounds at storytime for sure.

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My library just got this in this week. I’d been waiting to read it for a while. Let me see if I can accurately convey how good this book is. Um………….it rocked. If this book were a rockstar, it’d do a kickass show then smash its guitar at the end in a blaze of pyrotechnics. If it were a comedian it’d do a killer set then drop the mic.

BOOM.

BOOM.

Okay, I may be overselling it just a bit but, hey, it’s a free country. First, the art is amazing. Love the stylized cartoon realism. The endpapers are wonderful with the sunlight shining through the forest. The bear, oh, the bear! Do you know how many picture books feature bears? 24, 847. Just kidding–I don’t know. I made that up but it’s a lot. This may be the best bear ever to be illustrated in a picture book. The grumpy face, the body language is spot on. It’s hilarious and includes humor that adults will appreciate. Definitely check this one out!

After all these picture books, I’m going to attempt to read a few chapter books. Next up, a 600-page book about a harmonica. It better be good.

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Scenes from a Weekend….

With a choice of books, blogging or baking, baking is winning. And crafting. One project required glitter and turned out very well. But no matter how much you try to contain the spread of it, almost in spite of your efforts, glitter finds its way everywhere. Thank goodness carpet hides the glitter trail and my job as a children’s librarian has taught me not to worry about it!

Books, coloring and DS9

Books, coloring and DS9

 

Holiday baking round 1....

Holiday baking round 1….

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Friday Favorites

Wow, just a week til Christmas! I haven’t shopped or baked yet. Eh, I’ve got time. I’ll be talking about best books of the year today for a staff training so I thought I’d share what I’m loving right now.

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The title represents the only words used in this book. I really like the concept along with the change in point of view. The illustrations are fun and frenzied. Can’t wait to share this one with my storytimers.

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If you dig jazz this is the picture book for you! It’s about  a rooster who gets tired of cock-a-doodle-do and decides to scat instead. This book rocks. I read this to a group who really got a kick out of all the scatting. Be warned: do practice reading it before doing it with a group because the scat is a real tongue twister. And be prepared to go all out with an over the top performance when reading it aloud. It’s the only way to do this one justice!

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I’ll admit that I passed on this when I first saw it because I didn’t like the cover. After revisiting it, though, I will definitely be using and recommending it. There are so many great things happening here: showing a multiracial family while not making that the focus, the use of big words which build vocabulary for young readers (there’s a even a ‘glossary’ at the end), the methods she uses to make her case that introduce kids to ideas like proposals and pie charts, super cute illustrations and all around the premise of wanting a giraffe for her birthday which no one will relate to more than the picture book crowd. This is one to read!

Finally, here’s your library moment of the day:

Library patrons are so funny. There’s a sign on my desk that lists upcoming holiday closings. And everyday there are patrons who come up and ask me, while I’m sitting at the desk, if we’re closed right now! Ha!

TGIF!

 

Holiday Reads for Everyone

It’s not too late to read these great winter and holiday stories! With new favorites and classics, tender stories and funny ones  and even a parody, there’s something for everyone in this list. Happy Reading!

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And a little more craftiness…….

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Book page ‘ornaments’

Pages from an old book cut with scrapbook scissors and rolled into a cone. Makes for good tree filler!

Pages from an old book cut with scrapbook scissors and rolled into a cone. Makes for good tree filler!

 

 

 

 

Picture Book Palooza!

I’ve been reading a LOT of picture books lately so I couldn’t help but notice the trend of books with black and white illustrations using pops of color or change in perspective to move the reader through the story.

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Lenny & Lucy is the newest title by one of my favorite storytelling teams. Normally I love their books.  Hello, My Name Is Ruby is one of my all time favorites. But L&L, while beautifully illustrated, seemed bizarre and those leaf people are just plain creepy. Sidewalk Flowers is gorgeous. I’d frame and hang every page on my wall if I could. Sadly, it’s not eligible for the Caldecott. Float is getting tons of Caldecott buzz and while it’s telling a good story and shows great use of perspective it’s not nearly as good looking as this book of real and imaginary homes.

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By the way, can we be done nitpicking every. single. book. apart for the slightest hint of ‘racially inappropriate problematic content’? It must be exhausting always finding something to complain about. According to one review, this book is guilty of  “problematic content”. I’m pretty sure the 3-6-year-old crowd doesn’t bring that perspective to books they read. Not every book is an affront to a culture. Sometimes, a story is just a story worthy of being enjoyed on that basis alone.

I’m guilty of judging books, especially picture books, by their covers. If the cover doesn’t grab me I probably won’t read it. I have been proven spectacularly wrong on this in the past but it’s a hard habit to break. So when this book first came across my desk I flipped through it and moved on.

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Then it came to me again and I decided to actually read it while I was at work on the desk. OMG, big mistake because when I got to the end I got teary eyed. This picture book made me cry. In my defense, I’m not a cryer and I most certainly have never, ever, ever cried over a picture book! A quick skim of Goodreads reviews told me I wasn’t alone in that reaction which made me feel a lot less crazy. Oh, the feels in this book will hit you. Hard. Beautiful illustrations and a tender story of love, loss and acceptance. Excellent example of the depth of meaning that can be conveyed within the pages of a picture book. This is picture book storytelling at its best.

What were your favorite picture books this year?

 

Books and Beans and Slime, Oh My!

Christmas calls for festivity and has me feeling crafty and bake-y. I want to craft all the things! A few crafty things I’ve done lately…….

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I wanted to do an Advent calendar this year and decided to do one with books. Really outside the box for a librarian, I know. 😉 I chose and wrapped 25 Christmas picture books that represent a diverse variety of stories. Printed some bright numbers and slapped them on. Done. Each day a new one gets opened and read. Yay Christmas!

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I made a new batch of beautiful, taste-safe, gluten-free play dough for the library using this recipe after my normal go-to gluten-free dough stopped working. This recipe calls for rice flour which isn’t cheap but dough lasts for awhile and you’re not going to make it all the time. No photo can accurately show what soft, pliable, white dough this turned out to be. Note: the recipe says to ‘cook’ it but I didn’t. Pouring hot water in the mix worked just fine. 

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I love a sensory bin. Like, LOVE them. I’m a tactile person so that’s probably why I enjoy sensory bins almost as much as the kids do. This bin is sensory awesomeness in a box. I knew I wanted to create a festive red and green bin. TA DA! Here’s how I did it.  I bought six bags of white navy beans. I left one of the bags white to break up the color just a little bit. Then I separated the rest of the beans into several gallon sized Ziploc bags. I used two little bottles of food coloring for the green beans. The beans took the green coloring really well. Making white beans red took a bit more work. Actually, it took two and a half  1oz. bottles of red food coloring for the beans to look red instead of pink. Let the beans sit in the bags for an hour (red beans sat for much longer) then dump the the bags on paper towels, cookie sheets or some such surface and spread them out to dry. Dump them in a bin. I added a pack of medium-sized jingle bells bought at the craft store. The red and the green and the little jingles, what kid wouldn’t want to dive right in?

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This, friends, is Holiday Slime! I’ve made so many batches of slime for the library but this might be my favorite batch of all. If you’ve never made slime, do it! Do it now! It’s simple: 1 part Elmer’s glue to one part water. Mix. If you’re going to color it (food coloring works best but you can also use liquid watercolors) add color while stirring until you get the shade what you want. Then in a separate container mix a teaspoon of borax with 1/4-1/2 cup of warm water. Stir until the borax is dissolved. Next, while stirring slowly pour the borax mixture into the glue mixture. It shouldn’t take long before you’ve a got a ball of slime in your bowl. Give a little kneading to help it come together and make it smooth. I added silver glitter to mine. If you want yours sparkly, it’s easiest to add the glitter to the colored glue mixture before you add the borax mixture. Otherwise, hand your kids some glitter and let them mix it in as they play. Beautiful, bright, sparkly slime never gets old.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got snowflakes to cut. Happy Friday!

Circus Mirandus, a Review

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If you keep up with the children’s book world then you already know that everyone’s talking about this book. It’s received glowing reviews from all the major players (read a few here, here and here), readers and it’s getting lots of award buzz. There’s even talk of making it into a movie. So of course I had to read it. Actually, I listened to it as I usually do with middle grade novels. Let’s face it, sometimes it can be a real chore to slog through a book meant for 10-year-olds. It’s narrated by Bronson Pinchot. For the most part I enjoyed his voice but there were a couple of characters whose voicing really grated on me, i.e. Chintzy.

Balki from Perfect Strangers, remember him?

Nothing ever lives up to the hype; I know this, and yet I still go in with high expectations only to be disappointed after. Here’s the premise:

Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather.

This is an interesting premise which sounds promising. It’s supposed to be a book which “celebrates seeing magic in the world”. The writing is solid, a vivid description here, a nice turn of phrase there. However, for a book about powerful magicians and a magical circus I expected more fantasy, whimsy but instead it felt pedestrian to me, clunky. I was underwhelmed. That might have to do with the complete lack of character development. We’re given very little about the main characters and the character with the most backstory, Micah’s mother, is only talked about in bits of flashback and the climax of her story ends abruptly. All the other characters seem flat. Or it might be a result of the jumps between Circus Mirandus and the real world which happen suddenly and at odd times. Maybe I was underwhelmed because the magic doesn’t seem all that….well, magical. Grandpa’s talent for knot tying plays all through the book and is touted as being magical, but I didn’t get it. I see kids being confused by the ending. What really happened–a grim reality or magic? That’s for other readers to decide. Maybe they’ll enjoy this circus more than I did.