Creatures with Emotions: A Review of How to Be a Good Creature

how to be

How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in 13 Animals
By Sy Montgomery
Illustrated by Rebecca Green
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2018

In ten brief chapters, Montgomery recalls her time with and lessons learned from 13 animals – some known only for days, some beloved family members. Each chapter is part biology lesson, part biographic narrative, and part philosophical reflection on the gift of animals in our lives. Montgomery describes in vivid detail the daily routine of emus in Australia, the playful nature of an octopus living at the New England Aquarium, the charming personality of a pig named Christopher Hogwood, and the ways in which she grew and changed as a person thanks to a variety of family pets. This memoir is unique in its creature focus, and in the full range of emotions displayed by both Montgomery and her animal companions. This heartfelt memoir written for a young audience reminds us we’re all just creatures with emotions. As she states, “A far worse mistake than misreading an animal’s emotions is to assume the animal hasn’t any emotions at all” (p 148). As a read along, read aloud, or part of a larger discussion about our place in the world, How to Be a Good Creature will be at home on many bookshelves.

A Sweet Story to Tackle a Tough Topic: A Review of The Remember Balloons

The Remember BalloonsThe Remember Balloons
Jessie Oliveros
Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Simon and Schuster, August 2018
Ages 5-9

James has a handful of colorful balloons, reminders of his most important days. His parents and grandfather have even more balloons. His dog has one! Each bright balloon holds a special memory—birthdays, weddings, fishing trips—a lifetime of extraordinary moments. As Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, Mom and Dad help James understand memory loss and how he can help keep Grandpa’s stories alive.

A gentle metaphor for aging, memory loss, and dementia to help young readers process what’s happening to a loved one. Oliveros doesn’t shy away from the anxiety, confusion, and anger in James’ reactions; validating those feelings in young and old alike. The black and white pencil drawings of this close-knit, mixed-race family provide an understated counterpoint to the vibrant balloons and the memories within. The subtly in both text and art work well to together in handling such an emotional topic and put the focus on the joy of remembering shared experiences.

New Children’s Fiction Alert!: Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight
Torrey Maldonado
Nancy Paulsen Books, September 2018
Ages 8-12/Grades 3-7

If Bryan could be any superhero, he’d be Batman. Or Black Panther. They’re smart, they think 10 steps ahead, and they’re tough. Bryan’s dad and his older sister, Ava, both say he should be tough: “don’t be soft” they tell him, but his mom keeps him cool and level-headed. She also introduces him to Mike, who is in 7th grade – one year older than him in school – and Bryan thinks he’s pretty tight. Mike loves comics and drawing superheroes just like Bryan, and he doesn’t let school get in the way of having fun.

Slowly, Mike starts asking Bryan to take more and more risks: climbing up to the rooftop of a neighborhood building, ducking the subway turnstiles to take the train for free, skipping school to get the newest Luke Cage comic. Bryan doesn’t feel so good about lying to his parents, especially his mom, but he loves the feeling of freedom that comes with hanging out with Mike.

Bryan’s internal struggle to make the right choices is grounded in Tight’s contemporary Brooklyn setting and in his genuine interactions with strong secondary characters. He genuinely wants to do the right thing, while also wanting to give his friend a chance to choose better as well. Maldonado’s dialogues present a variety of perspectives on peer pressure and the difficulties of navigating friendships as a young person, making it easy to empathize with Bryan.

Do you READ LOCAL?

Sarah Aronson Do you shop at your local farmers market? Support local arts organizations? How about adding “Read local authors” to the list?

Join us on Thursday, Sept 20th when we host Evanston author Sarah Aronson for a chat about local authors and creative ways to incorporate their books into your programming.

Made in Illinois: New Books by Illinois Authors and How to Use Them in the Classroom (and Library)

When: Thursday, September 20th– program starts at 6:15pm

Where: Butler Children’s Literature Center– Crown Library Room 214

RSVP: By September 17th to butler@dom.edu

You can find out more about Sarah, her books, and her love of exclamation points at www.saraharonson.com

Women and Wealth Redistribution: A Review of The Forest Queen

The Forest Queen by Betsy CornwellThe Forest Queen
Betsy Cornwell
HMH/Clarion Books, August 2018

“Steal from the rich, give to the poor” gets a fresh take in this gender-swapped retelling of the classic Robin Hood tale. Sylvie, sixteen and lady of Loughsley Abbey, begins to question her family’s treatment of the people of Loughsley – especially now that her brother, John, is the unforgiving sheriff. With her childhood friend, Bird, she runs away and lives in hiding in the nearby woods. Slowly, others from Loughsley join them in their new community, including a young woman named Little Jane, the midwife Mae Tuck, and others who feared otherwise being jailed for their inability to pay egregious taxes. Sylvie must eventually confront her brother, along with her own complicity in the evils done by her family, and she comes to realize that the changes required for economic justice mean she must take “radical action” and put herself in potential danger for the greater good.
Sylvie and her mission to redistribute wealth among the people of Loughsley are easy to root for, but the additional focus on gender roles, womanhood, and the idea of community as family are what set this retelling apart. Strong secondary characters help to challenge Sylvie and force her to take a strong stand against a system that she would otherwise benefit from, and parallels can be drawn from the injustices in the story to those of today’s world. As Little Jane, who becomes a dear friend to Sylvie says, “If someone doesn’t care whether you live or die, then living itself is rebellion” (p 241). This thoughtful narrative of what can happen when the privileged few horde wealth while the majority struggles to make do with less and less shows the power in a united band of concerned citizens.

Reminder: September B3 is Almost Here!

Our first Butler Book Banter of the academic year is almost here! Please send us an RSVP note at butler@dom.edu or message us on any of our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

When: Thursday, September 6th – We’ll start with snacks at 6:30 p.m., and get into the book discussion from 7-8 p.m.

Where: Butler Children’s Literature Center, Room 214 in Rebecca Crown Library at Dominican University (map here).

Who: Anyone interested in reading, kids’ books, and friendly discussion!

What: Our reading list is as follows (and we invite you to bring any favorite school-themed books for show and tell!):

Young Adult: People Like Us by Dana Mele (Putnam, February 2018)

People like us

Middle Grade: Class Action by Steven B. Frank (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2018)

class action

 

Picture Book: The Secrets of Ninja School by Deb Pilutti (Henry Holt, March 2018)

the secrets of ninja school

See you in September!