A Review of The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

by Hal Patnott

As we start the new semester, we continue to look at titles that stand out for their representation of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s selection, The Pants Project demonstrates inclusiveness, and integrity and respect.

the-pants-project

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2017)

Of all the middle schools that Liv could have attended, of course, Bankridge is the last one in the district with a dress code that forces girls to wear skirts. Although Liv knows he isn’t a girl, he hasn’t found the right moment to tell Mom and Mamma that yet. After all, “It’s not really something you can just blurt out at the dinner table. ‘Please can you pass the ketchup? Oh, and by the way, I think I’m a boy, not a girl.’” When Liv’s best friend ditches him for a group of mean girls, he refuses to stop fighting to change the archaic school rules and with the help of new friends he discovers the courage to be himself.

The Pants Project is a story about identity, friendship, and social justice with a diverse cast of characters. Liv is not alone in his worries about acceptance from his peers. In the end, even his popular friend Jacob has insecurities, but they learn to support each other and overcome their fears together. Clarke maintains a lighthearted and engaging tone with plenty of humor from start to finish. Representation of transgender boys in literature for children is scarce, so this book provides a new and needed perspective. Heartwarming and full of hope, The Pants Project is a valuable addition to every tween collection.

Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reading copy of The Pants Project.

Mock CaldeNott – February 1, 2017

We’re thrilled to bring back the popular Mock CaldeNott for the first Butler Book Banter of 2017, in which we get together just after the REAL Youth Media Awards to deliberate about terrific books that weren’t discussed in the Caldecott Committee, not because they aren’t worthy, but because they’re outside the scope of the real-life award. We’re talking about books published in other countries and/or illustrated by people who are not US citizens or residents. All the books on our list were published in 2016, though.

So, as soon as we’ve finished Monday-morning quarterbacking the actual award winner selections, let’s dig into something a little different! Join us here in the Butler Center from 5:30-7:30 (books and snacks out at 5:30, discussion from 6-7, voting from 7-7:30).

Special thanks to guest co-moderator Keary Bramwell, who spurred us to do this again and did yeoman’s work in helping develop the discussion list. See you on February first!

Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri (Chin Music)

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann (North-South)

Beach Baby by Laurie Elmquist, illus. by Elly McKay (Orca)

The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc (Kids Can)

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston (Candlewick)

Circle by Jeannie Baker (Candlewick)

Gordon & Tapir by Sebastian Meschenmoser (North-South)

The Journey by Francesca Sanna (Flying Eye)

King Baby by Kate Beaton (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine)

Let’s Play by Herve Tullet (Chronicle)

Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi (Chronicle)

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs, illus. by Nizar Badr (Orca)

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Julie Morstad (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter)

 

2016 End of the Year Selections

The semester is coming to an end and so is the calendar year. We’ve read a lot of fascinating books from our 2016 collection and we are happy to present our 2016 End of the Year Selections. This list features Butler Center staff picks from 2016 that would work well for book clubs, gift choices, or personal reading, on a variety of topics. In keeping with our focus on ALSC’s core values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), we’ve intentionally chosen books that exemplify one or more of these values. These books were selected by Diane Foote, Butler Center Curator (informational books), Alena Rivers (picture books and children’s fiction), and Hal Patnott (children’s and teen fiction).

We hope you find something that inspires your reading choices over the coming weeks.

INFORMATIONAL BOOKS 

capital-days

Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital by Tonya Bolden (Abrams, 2016)

The nation’s capital is in the news these days, from the recent presidential election to nuanced issues about how to present (or not present) its history in literature for young people. Here is a factual, welcome volume based on primary source material from the journal of a man born enslaved, who lived through, observed, and wrote about happenings in Washington, DC from 1814 to 1869. Not least remarkable is Shiner’s literacy at a time when it was illegal for slaves to be taught how to read and write. (ALSC Core Values: Inclusiveness, Responsiveness)

circle

Circle by Jeannie Baker (Candlewick, 2016)

Intricately detailed collages bring to life the incredible journey of bar-tailed godwits, a type of shorebird that migrates immense distances. Along the way, various ecosystems are portrayed including the original beach, cities, woodlands, and parklands; subtle environmental messaging appears when a lone bottle mars an otherwise beautiful strand. The tactile look of the collages invite touch, especially on the downy godwit chicks in their nests. (ALSC Core Values: Excellence, Innovation, Inclusiveness)

comics-confidential

Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, and Life Outside the Box edited by Leonard Marcus (Candlewick, 2016)

Graphic novels are often a refuge for reluctant readers, and the best of them offer sophisticated story arcs, fast-paced action, engaging dialogue, and visual elements that help tie these elements together. Now, fans have a compelling reason to dive into informational books: In their own words, graphic novel creators including Kazu Kibuishi, Hope Larson, Gene Luen Yang, and ten more reveal thoughts on their own art and lives, along with an original short graphic piece to keep the visual interest up. (ALSC Core Values: Collaboration, Inclusiveness)

radiant-child

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (Little, Brown, 2016)

At first glance, Basquiat’s energetic, colorful creations seem childlike with their unstructured composition and wild, bold strokes and splashes. Upon closer study they reveal layers of meaning and power that will resonate with young art lovers, along with the compelling story of young Basquiat’s life, put thoughtfully into context here for child readers. (ALSC Core Values: Excellence, Inclusiveness)

we-will-not-be-silent

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolph Hitler by Russell Freedman (Clarion, 2016)

Who better than Newbery and Sibert Medalist Freedman to help readers today understand the climate that first enabled Hitler’s rise to power, then the courage it took on the part of these young people to defy the Nazis? In his trademark factual, non-hyberbolic way, Freedman conveys the terror of these times but doesn’t allow current young readers to become overwhelmed by it. Source notes, an index, clearly captioned archival photos, and picture credits complete the package and make this an example of the very best in nonfiction, for any age. (ALSC Core Values: Leadership, Integrity and Respect)

vietnam

Vietnam: A History of the War by Russell Freedman (Holiday, 2016)

What’s better than one book by Russell Freedman? Two books by Russell Freedman! The Vietnam War marked a turning point in American history; the intertwining issues of domestic policy, foreign policy, geopolitics, and American culture including the maturing antiwar movement, are all effectively addressed here, again, fully supported by clearly captioned and credited photos along with backmatter including a time line, source notes, a glossary, and an index. Now that “fake news” is having an impact on our national discourse, Freedman’s approach is more welcome, and more necessary, than ever. (ALSC Core Values: Inclusiveness, Excellence, Integrity and Respect)

PICTURE BOOKS  

du-iz-tak

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis (Candlewick, 2016)

A group of insects ponders the presence of an unknown plant that continues to grow in front of their home log. An invented language advances the story as readers use context clues from the illustrations to decipher the insects’ conversation. Young children will be enthralled by watching the small yet meaningful changes unfold in the intricately drawn images that carry from page to page in a muted, earth-tone color palette. The insects’ invented argot risks being perceived as “pidgin,” and may distract rather than appeal, but it does present an opportunity for discussions about language and fluency with both children and adults. (ALSC Core Value: Innovation)

maybe-something-beautiful

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

A young girl who loves to draw shares her art with members of her community. She is invited by a muralist to join him in creating a vibrant colored mural on a building in their otherwise gray neighborhood. They are soon joined by their neighbors whose enthusiasm for the project ignites a block party filled with music, dancing and painting the walls, sidewalks, benches and utility boxes. The lively text is complemented by colorful illustrations. Inspired by a true story, Maybe Something Beautiful is a reminder that everyone’s efforts can impact change and that art is a powerful tool for transformation.(ALSC Core Values: Collaboration, Leadership, Responsiveness)

CHILDREN’S FICTION

As Brave As You

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds (Simon and Schuster/Atheneum, 2016)

Twelve-year-old Genie and his older brother Ernie spend a month with their grandparents in North Hill, Virginia while their parents spend time together sorting out their fading marriage. Genie struggles to adapt to an environment unlike his home in Brooklyn and make sense of the growing concerns he has for his parents’ marriage. Readers will laugh and empathize with this coming of age story as Genie deepens his understanding of himself, his family history and his role within the family. (ALSC Core Values: Integrity and Respect)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Alongquin, 2016)

Everyone knows a witch lives in the swamp, because every year the people of the Protectorate sacrifice their youngest child to keep peace with her. What they don’t know is how she transforms the lives of their abandoned children with starlight and magic. A book about the power of stories and the dangers of sorrow, The Girl Who Drank the Moon has enormous heart. (ALSC Core Values: Innovation, Excellence)

snow-white-a-graphic-novel

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan (Candlewick, 2016)

Samantha, or Snow as she becomes known, is sent away to school as a young girl by her cruel stepmother. While she is gone her father passes away and upon her return her own life is threatened by an assassin hired by her stepmother. Snow runs to safety and finds herself in an alley with a band of seven boys who protect her from the evils of their city and Snow’s stepmother. Set in 1928, New York City, Phelan has created an engaging retelling of a classic fairy tale in a graphic novel format. (ALSC Core Value: Innovation)

 TEEN BOOKS

if-i-was-your-girl

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (Macmillan/Flatiron, 2016)

Amanda moves in with her father after her transition for a fresh start and to escape the prejudice in her old town. She wants to fit in at her new school, but she has to decide how much of her past to share with her friends and the boy she is starting to fall in love with. An important book from an authentic voice, Amanda’s story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. (ALSC Core Value: Integrity and Respect)

Saving Montgomery Sole

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (Macmillan/Roaring Brook, 2016)

Montgomery Sole, a girl with a passion for the unexplained, discovers a dark and mysterious stone with the power to punish her enemies. When a new preacher, hell-bent on saving the “American Family” from “sinners” like her moms, moves to town, she must decide what it means to be a hero and whether to risk her friendships by wielding the stone’s dangerous power. This book has a strong theme of overcoming prejudice and taking the high road.  (ALSC Core Values: Leadership, Responsiveness)

CSMCL Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2016

This week we are pleased to share the 4th annual list of the “Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2016,” just released by the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL). The CSMCL is an educational research center that works to “…preserve the richness of the many cultures in the field of children’s and young adult literature” and  “… to provide children, teachers, parents, educators, students, and librarians access to multicultural children’s books with high literary and artistic standards”. CSMCL also houses a non-circulating collection of recent and historically significant, multicultural children’s and young adult books, art works and manuscripts.
 
For the last few weeks the Butler Center has been highlighting books that strongly support ALSC’s core values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This list represents a collection of books that embody each and every one of these core values and is a valuable guide for thoughtful, purposeful gift-giving  for children (and kid lit loving adults).
The “Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2016” was officially released on the CSMCL website at http://www.csmcl.org/best-books-2016 and is also available as a Pinterest board.
 

A Review of The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

by Hal Patnott

Over the last two weeks, we have looked at titles that stand out for their representation of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s selection, The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan, demonstrates three of these values—collaboration, excellence, and innovation.

the-singing-bones

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2016)

A man promises his daughter to the devil. Two children stumble across the house of a witch in the woods. Jealous and spiteful, a queen casts a spell on her step-sons and turns them into swans. Unable to resist his nature, a cat betrays and devours his mouse friend.  Shaun Tan presents a new contribution to the vast treasury of retellings and works inspired by Grimms’ fairy tales. Seventy-five photographed sculptures accompany excerpts from each of the selected tales. Crafted from papier-mâché, air drying clay, and paint, the texture and the shadows in every piece bring to life a haunting atmosphere. In the forward, Neil Gaiman writes, “They feel primal, as if they were made in a long-ago age of the world, when the stories were first being shaped, and that perhaps the sculptures came first.” Along with the plates for seventy-five tales, The Singing Bones includes a forward, a historical introduction by Jack Zipes, an afterward with more details about the art from Shaun Tan, an annotated index, and suggested further reading. This collection is worth exploring for long-time lovers of fairy tales and newcomers alike.

A Review of Same But Different by Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and RJ Peete

By Alena Rivers

The Butler Center continues to feature books from our collections that highlight one or more of the core values of children’s librarianship (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s book, Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express embodies “inclusiveness”, “collaboration” and “responsiveness”.

same-but-different

Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express by Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and RJ Peete (Scholastic, 2016)

Callie and Charlie are the fictional representations of real-life teenage twins, Ryan and RJ Peete. They share their story, which resembles those of many other teenagers on the autism spectrum and their families, to let readers into the intimate thoughts of Charlie, who is autistic and his twin sister, Callie, who is not. Each chapter is told in the alternating voice of each twin as they explore the range of challenges and triumphs typical of young adults but complicated by the life-altering effects of autism.

The story begins with their reflection on how they feel about their first day of school where the twins are separated for the first time as Callie enters 10th grade and Charlie repeats 9th grade. Their separation is met with both a sense of freedom from their constant partnership and trepidation as they experience school without their twin. Callie, who has been a perpetual supporter and advocate for her brother worries that, without her help, Charlie will be too vulnerable and taken advantage of by less sensitive classmates. Charlie is anxious about starting a new routine and being placed in a special education class which comes with its own negative stigma. The Peetes take turns lending their perspective to what it is like to attend school, date, eat meals and vacation together. Both of their voices provide insight into their actions and reveal the rationale behind them, giving readers two sides of the story to consider.

Members of the Peete family have taken on a follow up to their picture book, My Brother Charlie (Scholastic, 2010), told from Callie’s perspective about her 10-year old brother Charlie’s autism. Same But Different is an honest and courageous exploration of the thoughts and feelings shared by their now teenage counterparts. Their story is straightforward and engaging. Their experiences can be appreciated by readers with and without autism. A substantive resource guide on autism and transitioning through adolescence with autism is included with links to websites, guides, fact sheets, education and training opportunities, and videos.

A Review of NewsPrints by Ru Xu

by Hal Patnott

In keeping with our reaffirmation of the core values of children’s librarianship (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership, and responsiveness), we are intentionally highlighting books for children and teens that exemplify one or more of these. Many of the titles will of course be appropriate for more than one core value. We feel today’s entry, NewsPrints, exemplifies “collaboration,” “inclusiveness,” and “leadership.”

newsprints

NewsPrints by Ru Xu (Scholastic/Graphix 2017)

Ten years of war with Grimmaea orphaned the children of Nautilene. Instead of attending school, the girls sell cookies and the boys sell newspapers to fund their food and shelter. Blue, one such orphan, finds a new home as one of the Bugle Boys, selling papers on the street. She loves her family of fellow orphans and respects the Bugle’s dedication to print the truth. The only problem is that Blue isn’t a boy. If anyone finds out her secret, she could lose everything. When Blue meets Crow, a boy who has also been cast aside and denied the opportunity to be himself, she decides to stand up for herself and for her new friend to give others the courage to stop hiding who they are.

NewsPrints, a debut graphic novel by Ru Xu, begins in the midst of action and never slows down as mysteries unravel around Blue. The full-color art and dynamic layouts bring Blue’s world to life. Although the story is set in a made up country with elements of science fiction, Blue’s struggles to be herself, protect her friend, and fight for truth are real. The adults in Blue’s life are complex—while some have good intentions, they don’t’ always do the right thing. Ru Xu crafts a narrative with a strong theme of the need tolerance and inclusiveness without providing overly simplified solutions for how to achieve this. Her characters have to take risks with life-altering consequences, but even when they do, they don’t necessarily save the day. The resolution suggests there is more to look forward to of Blue’s adventure.

Stop by the Butler Center to check out our advanced reader’s copy of NewsPrints.